Surah Al-Isra 20-58

{20. On each these as well as those We bestow from the bounties of your Lord. And the bounties of your Lord can never be forbidden. 

21. See how We prefer one above another (in this world), and verily, the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment.}

Allah says: “On each” meaning, on each of the two groups, those who desire this world and those who desire the Hereafter, We bestow what they want “from the bounties of your Lord.” means, He is the One Who is in control of all things, and He is never unjust. He gives to each what he deserves, whether it is eternal happiness or doom. His decree is unstoppable, no one can withhold what He gives or change what He wants. Allah says: “And the bounties of your Lord can never be forbidden.” meaning, no one can withhold or prevent them. Qatadah said, “And the bounties of your Lord can never be forbidden.” “(It means) they can never decrease”. (At-Tabari 17:410)  “And the Bounties of your Lord can never be forbidden”

Al-Hasan and others said, “(It means) they can never be prevented.” Then Allah says: “See how We prefer one above another” meaning in this world, so that some are rich and some are poor, and others are in between; some are beautiful, some are ugly and others are in between; some die young while others live to a great age, and some die in between. “and verily, the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment.” means, the differences between them in the Hereafter will be greater than the differences between them in this world. Some of them will be in varying levels of Hell, in chains and fetters, while others will be in the lofty degrees of Paradise, with its blessings and delights. The people of Hell will vary in their positions and levels, just as the people of Paradise will. In Paradise there are one hundred levels, and the distance between one level and another is like the distance between heaven and earth. It is recorded in the Two Sahihs that the Prophet said:

“The people of the highest levels (of Paradise) will see the people of Illiyin [See Surah Al-Mutaffifin] as if they are looking at distant stars on the horizon.” (Fath Al-Bari 6:368)

Allah says: “and verily, the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment.”

{22. Set not up with Allah any other ilah (god), or you will sit down reproved, forsaken (in the Hellfire).}

Do not associate Anything in Worship with Allah

Addressing those who are responsible among this Ummah, Allah says, “Do not admit any partner into your worship of your Lord.” “or you will sit down reproved” meaning, because of associating others with Him. “forsaken.” means, because the Lord, may He be exalted, will not help you; He will leave you to the one whom you worshipped, and he has no power either to benefit or to harm, because the Only One Who has the power to benefit or to harm is Allah alone, with no partner or associate. Imam Ahmad reported that Abdullah bin Masud said: “The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:

“Whoever is afflicted with poverty and goes and asks people for help, will never get rid of his poverty, but if he asks Allah for help, then Allah will grant him the means of independence sooner or later.” (Ahmad 1:407)

This was also recorded by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi, who said, “Hasan Sahih Gharib”. (Abu Dawud 2:296)

{23. And your Lord has Qada [decreed] that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor reprimand them but address them in terms of honor. 

24. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.”}

The Command to Worship Allah Alone and to be Dutiful to One’s Parents

Allah commands us to worship Him alone, with no partner or associate. The word Qada [normally having the meaning of decree] here means “commanded”. Mujahid said that “And He has Qada” means enjoined. (At-Tabari 17:414)  This is also how Ubayy bin Kab, Ibn Masud and Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim recited the Ayah as: “And your Lord has Wassa [enjoined] that you worship none but Him.” (At-Tabari 17:413)

The idea of worshipping Allah is connected to the idea of honoring one’s parents. Allah says: “And that you be dutiful to your parents.” Here He commands good treatment of parents, as He says elsewhere: “give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination” (31:14) “If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect” means, do not let them hear anything offensive from you, not even say “Uff!” which is the mildest word of disrespect, “and do not reprimand them” means, do not do anything horrible to them. Ata’ bin Rabah said that it meant, “Do not raise your hand against them.” (At-Tabari 17:417) When Allah forbids speaking and behaving in an obnoxious manner, He commands speaking and behaving in a good manner, so He says: “but address them in terms of honor.” meaning gently, kindly, politely, and with respect and appreciation. “And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy” means, be humble towards them in your actions. “and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.” means, say this when they grow old and when they die. Ibn `Abbas said: “But then Allah revealed: “It is not (proper) for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allah’s forgiveness for the idolators…” (9:13) There are many Hadiths which speak about honoring one’s parents, such as the Hadith narrated through a number of chains of narration from Anas and others, which states that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, climbed up on the Minbar, and then said,

“Amin, Amin, Amin.”

It was said, “O Messenger of Allah, why did you say Amin?” He said:

“Jibril came to me and said, “O Muhammad, he is doomed who hears you mentioned and does not say Salla upon you.” He said, “Say Amin,” so I said Amin. Then he said, “He is doomed who sees the month of Ramadan come and go, and he has not been forgiven.” He said, “Say Amin,” so I said Amin. Then he said, “He is doomed who grows up and both his parents or one of them are still alive, and they do not cause him to enter Paradise.” He said, “Say Amin,” so I said Amin.” (Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 5:550)

Another Hadith

Imam Ahmad reported from Abu Hurrah that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“He is doomed, he is doomed, he is doomed, the man whose parents, one or both of them, reach old age while he is alive and he does not enter Paradise.” (Ahmad 2:346)

This version is Sahih although no one recorded it other than Muslim. (Muslim 4:1978)

Another Hadith

Imam Ahmad recorded Muawiyah bin Jahimah As-Salami saying that Jahimah came to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and said: “O Messenger of Allah, I want to go out to fight and I have come to seek your advice.” He said,

“Do you have a mother?”

He said, “Yes.” The Prophet said,

“Then stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.”

Similar incidents were also recorded by others. (Ahmad 3:429) This was recorded by An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah. (An-Nasai 6:11)

Another Hadith

Imam Ahmad recorded that Al-Miqdam bin Madikarib said that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Allah enjoins you concerning your fathers, Allah enjoins you concerning your mothers, Allah enjoins you concerning your mothers, Allah enjoins you concerning your mothers, Allah enjoins you concerning your close relatives then the next in closeness.” (Ahmad 4:132)

This was recorded by Ibn Majah from the Hadith of Abdullah bin Ayyash. (Ibn Majah 2:1207)

Another Hadith

Ahmad recorded that a man from Banu Yarbu said: “I came to the Prophet while he was talking to the people, and I heard him saying, 

“The hand of the one who gives is superior. (Give to) your mother and your father, your sister and your brother, then the closest and next closest.” (Ahmad 4:64)

{25. Your Lord knows best what is in your souls. If you are righteous, then, verily, He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him in repentance.}

Omissions committed against Parents are pardoned with Good Relations and Repentance

Said bin Jubayr said: “This refers to a man who said something that he did not think would be offensive to his parents.” According to another report: “He did not mean anything bad by that.” (At-Tabari 17:422)  So Allah said: “Your Lord knows best what is in your souls. If you are righteous” He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him in repentance.” Qatadah said: “To the obedient who pray.” (At-Tabari 17:422)

“He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him in repentance.” Shubah narrated from Yahya bin Said from Said bin Al-Musayyib; “This refers to those who commit sin then repent, and commit sin then repent.” (At-Tabari 17:423)

Ata’ bin Yasar, Said bin Jubayr and Mujahid said: “They are the ones who return to goodness.” (At-Tabari 17:424) Mujahid narrated from Ubayd bin Umayr, concerning this Ayah: “This is the one who, when he remembers his sin when he is alone, he seeks the forgiveness of Allah.” Mujahid agreed with him on that. (At-Tabari 17:424)

Ibn Jarir said: “The best view on this matter is of those who said that it refers to the one who repents after committing sin, who comes back from disobedience to obedience and who leaves that which Allah hates for that which He loves and is pleased with.” (At-Tabari 17:425)  What he said is correct, for Allah says, “Verily, to Us will be their return” (88:25). And according to a Sahih Hadith, the Messenger of Allah would say when he returned from a journey, “We have returned repenting, worshipping and praising our Lord.” (Fath Al-Bari 3:724)

{26. And give to the kinsman his due, and to the Miskin (poor), and to the wayfarer. But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. 

27. Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin (devils), and the Shaytan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. 

28. And if you turn away from them and you are awaiting a mercy from your Lord for which you hope, then, speak unto them a soft, kind word.}

The Command to maintain the Ties of Kinship and the Prohibition of Extravagance

When Allah mentions honoring one’s parents, He follows this with the command to treat one’s relatives well and to maintain the ties of kinship. According to the Hadith: “Your mother and your father, then your closest relatives and the next closest.” (Ahmad 2:226) 

According to another Hadith: “Whoever would like to see his provision expanded and his life extended, let him maintain his ties of kinship.” (Muslim 4:1982)  But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift.” When Allah commands spending, He forbids extravagance. Spending should be moderate, as stated in another Ayah: “And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor stingy.”  (25:67) Then He says, to discourage extravagance: “Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin” They have this trait in common. Ibn Masud said: “This refers spending extravagantly when it is not appropriate.” (At-Tabari 17:428) Ibn Abbas said likewise. (At-Tabari 17:429) Mujahid said: “If a man spends all his wealth on appropriate things, then he is not a spendthrift, but if he spends a little inappropriately, then he is a spendthrift.” (At-Tabari 17:429) Qatadah said: “Extravagance means spending money on sin in disobeying Allah, and on wrongful and corrupt things.” (At-Tabari 17:429)

Imam Ahmad recorded that Anas bin Malik said: “A man came from Banu Tamim to the Messenger of Allah and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I have a lot of wealth, I have a family, children, and the refinements of city life, so tell me how I should spend and what I should do.’ The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Pay the Zakah on your wealth if any is due, for it is purification that will make you pure, maintain your ties of kinship, pay attention to the rights of beggars, neighbors and the poor.”

He said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, make it less for me.’ He [recited] “And give to the kinsman his due, and to the Miskin (poor) and to the wayfarer. But spend not wastefully in the manner of a spendthrift.” The man said, ‘That is enough for me, O Messenger of Allah. If I pay Zakah to your messenger, will I be absolved of that duty before Allah and His Messenger’ The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Yes, if you give it to my messenger, you will have fulfilled it, and you will have the reward for it, and the sin is on the one who changes it.” (Ahmad 3:136) [Some scholars consider this hadith authentic, although it is not confirmed that its narrator, Said bin Abi Hilal, actually heard this from Anas ibn Malik.]

“Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin” meaning, they are their brothers in extravagance, foolishness, failing to obey Allah and committing sin. Allah said:“and the Shaytan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” meaning, he is an ingrate, because he denied the blessings of Allah and did not obey Him, turning instead to disobedience and rebellion. “And if you turn away from them and you are awaiting a mercy from your Lord” ‘If your relatives and those to whom We have commanded you to give, ask you for something, and you do not have anything, and you turn away from them because you have nothing to give, “then, speak unto them a soft, kind word.” meaning, with a promise. This was the opinion of Mujahid, Ikrimah, Said bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and others.

{29. And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor overextend it (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty. 

30. Truly, your Lord expands the provision for whom He wills and straitens (for whom He wills). Verily, He is Ever All-Knower, All-Seer of His servants.}

Moderation in Spending

Allah enjoins moderation in living. He condemns miserliness and forbids extravagance. “And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck” this means, do not be miserly and stingy, never giving anything to anyone. “nor overextend it (like a spendthrift)” means, nor be extravagant in spending and giving more than you can afford, or paying more than you earn, lest you become blameworthy and find yourself in severe poverty. If you are a miser, people will blame you and condemn you, and no longer rely on you. When you spend more than you can afford, you will find yourself without anything to spend, so you will be worn out, like an animal that cannot walk, so it becomes weak and incapable. It is described as worn out, which is similar in meaning to exhausted. As Allah says: “Then look again: “Can you see any rifts?” Then look again and yet again, your sight will return to you in a state of humiliation and worn out.” (67:3-4) meaning, unable to see any faults. Similarly, Ibn Abbas, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ibn Jurayj, Ibn Zayd and others understood this Ayah as miserliness and extravagance. (At-Tabari 17:423) It was reported in the Two Sahihs from the Hadith of Abu Az-Zinad from Al-Araj that Abu Hurayrah heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, say:

“The parable of the miser and the almsgiver is that of two persons wearing iron cloaks from their chests to their collar-bones. When the almsgiver gives in charity, the cloak becomes spacious until it covers his whole body to such an extent that it hides his fingertips and covers his tracks (obliterates his tracks – or, his sins will be forgiven). And when the miser wants to spend, it (the iron cloak) sticks and (its) every ring gets stuck to its place, and he tries to widen it, but it does not become wide.” (Fath Al-Bari 3:358)

This version was recorded by Al-Bukhari in the Book of Zakah.

In the Two Sahihs it is recorded that Muawiyah bin Abi Muzarrid narrated from Said bin Yasar that Abu Hurayrah said: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“There is no day when a person wakes up but two angels come down from heaven. One of them says, ‘O Allah, compensate the one who gives (in charity),’ and the other one says, ‘O Allah, destroy the one who withholds.’ ” 

Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:

“Wealth never decreases because of Sadaqah (charity). Allah never increases a servant who gives in charity except in honor, and whoever is humble for the sake of Allah, Allah will raise him in status.” (Muslim 4:2001)

According to a Hadith narrated by Abu Kathir from Abdullah bin Amr, who attributed it to the Prophet:

“Beware of stinginess for it destroyed the people who came before you. It commanded them to be miserly, so they were miserly; and it commanded them to cut the ties of kinship, so they cut them; and it commanded them to commit immoral actions, so they did so.” (Ahmad 2:159)

“Truly, your Lord expands the provision for whom He wills and straitens (for whom He wills).” This Ayah is telling us that Allah is the One Who provides or withholds, the Bestower Who is running the affairs of His creation as He wills. He makes rich whomever He wills, and He makes poor whomever He wills, by the wisdom that is His. He said: “Verily, He is Ever All-Knower, All-Seer of His servants.” meaning, He knows and sees who deserves to be rich and who deserves to be poor. In some cases, richness may be decreed so that a person gets carried away, leading to his own doom. In other cases, poverty may be a punishment. We seek refuge with Allah from both.

{31. And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them as well as for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin.}

Prohibition of killing Children

This Ayah indicates that Allah is more compassionate towards His servants than a father to his child, because He forbids killing children just as He enjoins parents to take care of their children in matters of inheritance. The people of Jahiliyyah would not allow their daughters to inherit from them, and some would even kill their daughters lest they make them more poor. Allah forbade that and said: “And kill not your children for fear of poverty.” meaning, lest they may make you poor in the future. This is why Allah mentions the children’s provision first: “We shall provide for them as well as for you.”

In Surat Al-Anam, Allah says: “kill not your children because of poverty.” (6:151) “We provide sustenance for you and for them” (6:151) and, “Surely, the killing of them is a great sin.” means, a major sin. In Two Sahihs it is recorded that Abdullah bin Masud said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, which sin is the worst?’ He said,

“To appoint rivals of Allah when He has created you.”

I asked, ‘Then what?’ He said,

“To kill your child lest he should eat with you.”

I asked, ‘Then what?’ He said,

“To commit adultery with your neighbor’s wife.” (Fath Al-Bari 8:13)

{32. And come not near to unlawful sex. Verily, it is Fahishah (immoral sin) and an evil way.}

The Command to avoid Zina (Unlawful Sex) and Everything that leads to it

Allah says, forbidding His servants to commit Zina or to approach it or to do anything that may lead to it: “come not near to unlawful sex. Verily, it is a Fahishah (immoral sin)” meaning a major sin, “and an evil way.” meaning, a terrible way to behave. Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Umamah saying that a young man came to the Prophet and said, “O Messenger of Allah! Give me permission to commit Zina (unlawful sex).” The people surrounded him and rebuked him, saying, “Stop! Stop!” But the Prophet said,

“Come close” 

The young man came to him, and he said,

“Sit down”

so he sat down. The Prophet said,

“Would you like it (unlawful sex) for your mother?”

He said, “No, by Allah, may I be ransomed for you.” The Prophet said,

“Neither do the people like it for their mothers.”

The Prophet said,

“Would you like it for your daughter?”

He said, “No, by Allah, may I be ransomed for you.” The Prophet said,

“Neither do the people like it for their daughters.”

The Prophet said,

“Would you like it for your sister?”

He said, “No, by Allah, may I be ransomed for you.” The Prophet said,

“Neither do the people like it for their sisters.”

The Prophet said,

“Would you like it for your paternal aunt?” 

He said, “No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger! may I be ransomed for you.” The Prophet said,

“Neither do the people like it for their paternal aunts.” The Prophet said,

“Would you like it for your maternal aunt?”

He said, “No, by Allah, O Allah’s Messenger! may I be ransomed for you.” The Prophet said,

“Neither do the people like it for their maternal aunts.”  Then the Prophet put his hand on him and said,

“O Allah, forgive his sin, purify his heart and guard his chastity.” After that the young man never paid attention to anything of that nature. (Ahmad 5:256)

{33. And do not kill anyone whose killing Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause. And whoever is killed wrongfully (not by mistake), We have given his heir the authority. But let him not exceed limits in the matter of taking life. Verily, he is helped.}

Prohibition of Unlawful Killing Allah forbids killing with no legitimate reason

It was reported in the Two Sahihs that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said:

“The blood of a Muslim who bears witness to La ilaha illallah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, is not permissible (to be shed) except in three cases: a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder), an adulterer who is married, and a person who leaves his religion and deserts the Jama’ah.” (Fath Al-Bari 12:209)

The following is recorded in the books of the Sunan: “If the world were to be destroyed, it would be of less importance to Allah than the killing of a Muslim.” (Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi 4:256) “And whoever is killed wrongfully, We have given his heir the authority.” The authority is over the killer. The heir has the choice; if he wishes, he may have him killed in retaliation, or he may forgive him in return for the payment of the Diyah (blood money), or he may forgive him with no payment, as is reported in the Sunnah. The great scholar and Imam Ibn Abbas understood from the general meaning of this Ayah that Muawiyah should take power, because he was the heir of Uthman, who had been killed wrongfully, may Allah be pleased with him, and Muawiyah did eventually take power, as Ibn Abbas said on the basis of this Ayah. This is one of the stranger of matters. “But let him not exceed limits in the matter of taking life.” They said: this means the heir should not go to extremes in killing the killer, such as mutilating the body or taking revenge on persons other than the killer. “Verily, he is helped.” means, the heir is helped against the killer by the Shariah and by divine decree.