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

Tafsir Zone

Surah Al-Isra 17:70
 

Overview (Verses 70 - 72)

A Special Honour for Man
 
God has honoured mankind, favouring the human race over many of His creatures. He honoured man when He created him in this particular fashion, giving him a nature that combines the characteristics of clay, from which he was made, and the spirit that was breathed into him. Thus he combines elements of heaven and earth in his constitution. God has also honoured man by placing in Op his nature such faculties that make him able to take charge of the earth, able to be active and make changes in it. Thus human beings initiate and produce new things, combine things together and analyse complex matters in order to elevate life to the highest standard attainable.
 
God has also honoured man by making natural forces on earth subservient to his will and endeavour, and by making other natural forces operating in the universe helpful to him. A further aspect of the honour God has given man is seen in the reception given him when he was first created. It was a reception in which the angels prostrated themselves in a gesture of respect, because God Himself declared that man is to be honoured. Then there comes the additional honour when God states in His book, sent down from on high and which He guaranteed to remain intact for the rest of time, that man is given a position of honour.
 
We have indeed honoured the children of Adam, and borne them over land and sea, and provided for them sustenance out of the good things of life, and favoured them far above many of Our creatures. (Verse 70)
 
“And borne them over land and sea.” This is accomplished by making natural laws fit with human nature and its abilities. Had these laws been at odds with human nature, life would have been impossible to sustain on earth. Indeed man is weak when his strength is measured against the natural forces that operate on land and sea, but man is given the ability to live on earth and to make use of its resources and treasures. This is all an aspect of God’s grace.
 
“And provided for them sustenance out of the good things of life.” (Verse 70) Man tends to forget that whatever sustenance is given to him is indeed granted by God, because its different aspects become familiar to him. He only remembers the different forms of sustenance he is given when he loses access to them. It is then that he realizes the value of what he was given. But man’s memory is short. He soon forgets again all God’s blessings. He forgets what role the sun, air, and water play in sustaining human life. He forgets how important health is to him, and how he is given mobility, senses and reason, in addition to different types of food and drink. Indeed he is placed in charge of a complete world which includes countless blessings.
 
“And favoured them far above many of Our creatures.” (Verse 70) Indeed God has favoured human beings by giving them mastery of this wide planet. Furthermore, He placed in their nature such abilities that make them unique among God’s creatures.
 
One aspect of God’s favour is to make human beings responsible for themselves, accountable for their actions. This is the first quality which distinguishes mankind and makes them worthy of their exalted position on earth: freedom of choice and individual responsibility. It is only fair that people should receive the results of their work and get their reward in the life to come, when everyone’s record is considered:
 
One day We shall summon every community by their leaders. Those who are given their records in their right hands will read their records. None shall be wronged by as much as a hair’s breadth. But whoever is blind in this world will be even more blind in the life to come, and still further astray from the path of truth. (Verses 71-72)
 

This is a scene showing all creatures gathered together. Every group is called by the doctrine it followed in this life, or the messenger in whom it believed, or the leader it followed in this first life. It is called to be handed the record of its actions and the result that determines its reward in the life to come. Whoever is given his record in his right hand will be full of joy, reading through his record and looking carefully at its details. Such people are given their reward in full. Nothing is denied them, even though it may be no larger than a hair’s breadth. On the other hand, a person who chooses in this life to remain blind to all indications of guidance will be also blind to the way of goodness in the life to come. They will be even far more astray. The outcome they will suffer is well known. However, the sūrah portrays them in this overcrowded scene as blind, moving aimlessly, lacking a guide to lead them. They are left like this without a final abode mentioned for them. This is because the blindness and strayness in that difficult situation is a destiny to be avoided at all costs.