Tafsir Zone - Surah 17: Al-Isra (The Night Journey )

Tafsir Zone

Surah Al-Isra 17:53

Overview (Verses 53 - 54)

Man’s Open Enemy
After it has described their attitude of ridiculing God’s promise and the Prophet’s message, the sūrah turns away from those who deny the life to come and resurrection. It has something to say about the believers, instructing the Prophet to direct them to say only what is best. They should always be in the habit of saying a good word: “Tell My servants that they should always say that which is best. Satan tries to sow discord between them. Satan is indeed man’s open foe.” (Verse 53)
“Tell My servants that they should always say that which is best.” It is a general order that applies in all situations and positions. They should choose the best to say. In this way they will be able to spoil Satan’s attempts to undermine the bond of mutual love that exists between them. Indeed he always tries to sow the seeds of discord between them, helped by an impolite word said by one person, followed by a similarly rude answer by another. Thus the atmosphere of love and brotherhood is spoilt, only to be replaced by an air of alienation, estrangement and even hostility. A good word always helps to clear the air and heal grievances.
“Satan is indeed man’s open foe.” (Verse 53) He tries to build on every slip of a person’s tongue to spread an air of alienation between brothers. Good words simply foil his attempts and protect the bond of brotherhood among all believers.
The sūrah then returns to those unbelievers who responded to the call to rise on the Day of Judgement. All destiny is in God’s hands: He may forgive or punish. They will have to face God’s judgement. The Prophet is no more than a Messenger. He is not their protector against God’s will: “Your Lord is fully aware of what you are. If He so wills, He will bestow His grace on you; and if so wills, He will inflict punishment on you. We have not sent you, Prophet, to be their guardian. Your Lord is fully aware of all beings that are in the heavens and earth.” (Verses 54-55) God’s knowledge is absolute. Whatever He may determine of punishment or forgiveness is based on His knowledge. The Prophet’s mission is completed when he has conveyed his message. God’s knowledge encompasses all that is in heaven and earth, including the angels, prophets, human beings and jinn, as well as other creatures which are known only to God.