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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
Introduction to Tafheem | Glossary | Verbs
Other resources: Maarif | Dawat 

 Surah Al-Isra 17:23-30 [3/12]
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
۞ وَقَضَىٰAnd has decreed
رَبُّكَyour Lord,
أَلَّاthat (do) not
إِيَّاهُHim Alone,
وَبِٱلْوَٲلِدَيْنِand to the parents
إِحْسَـٰنًا‌ۚ(be) good.
عِندَكَwith you
ٱلْكِبَرَthe old age
أَحَدُهُمَآone of them,
كِلَاهُمَاboth of them,
فَلَاthen (do) not
لَّهُمَآto both of them
أُفٍّa word of disrespect
وَلَاand (do) not
تَنْهَرْهُمَاrepel them,
وَقُلbut speak
لَّهُمَاto them
قَوْلاًa word
وَٱخْفِضْAnd lower
لَهُمَاto them
جَنَاحَ(the) wing
ٱلذُّلِّ(of) humility
مِنَ(out) of
ٱلرَّحْمَةِ[the] mercy
وَقُلand say,
رَّبِّ"My Lord!
ٱرْحَمْهُمَاHave mercy on both of them
رَبَّيَانِىthey brought me up
صَغِيرًا(when I was) small."
رَّبُّكُمْYour Lord
أَعْلَمُ(is) most knowing
بِمَاof what
فِى(is) in
تَكُونُواْyou are
فَإِنَّهُۥthen indeed, He
لِلْأَوَّٲبِينَto those who often turn (to Him)
غَفُورًاMost Forgiving.
وَءَاتِAnd give
ذَا ٱلْقُرْبَىٰthe relatives
حَقَّهُۥhis right,
وَٱلْمِسْكِينَand the needy,
وَٱبْنَ ٱلسَّبِيلِand the wayfarer,
وَلَاand (do) not
ٱلْمُبَذِّرِينَthe spendthrifts
ٱلشَّيَـٰطِينِ‌ۖ(of) the devils.
وَكَانَAnd is
ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُthe Shaitaan
لِرَبِّهِۦto his Lord
وَإِمَّاAnd if
تُعْرِضَنَّyou turn away
عَنْهُمُfrom them
رَّبِّكَyour Lord,
تَرْجُوهَاwhich you expect
فَقُلthen say
لَّهُمْto them
قَوْلاًa word
وَلَاAnd (do) not
يَدَكَyour hand
عُنُقِكَyour neck,
وَلَاand not
تَبْسُطْهَاextend it
كُلَّ(to its) utmost
فَتَقْعُدَso that you sit
رَبَّكَyour Lord
ٱلرِّزْقَthe provision
لِمَنfor whom
يَشَآءُHe wills,
وَيَقْدِرُ‌ۚand straitens.
إِنَّهُۥIndeed, He
بِعِبَادِهِۦof His slaves

وَقَضٰى رَبُّكَ اَلَّا تَعۡبُدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِيَّاهُ وَبِالۡوَالِدَيۡنِ اِحۡسَانًا​ ؕ اِمَّا يَـبۡلُغَنَّ عِنۡدَكَ الۡكِبَرَ اَحَدُهُمَاۤ اَوۡ كِلٰهُمَا فَلَا تَقُلْ لَّهُمَاۤ اُفٍّ وَّلَا تَنۡهَرۡهُمَا وَقُلْ لَّهُمَا قَوۡلًا كَرِيۡمًا‏  وَاخۡفِضۡ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحۡمَةِ وَقُلْ رَّبِّ ارۡحَمۡهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيٰنِىۡ صَغِيۡرًا ؕ‏  رَّبُّكُمۡ اَعۡلَمُ بِمَا فِىۡ نُفُوۡسِكُمۡ​ؕ اِنۡ تَكُوۡنُوۡا صٰلِحِيۡنَ فَاِنَّهٗ كَانَ لِلۡاَوَّابِيۡنَ غَفُوۡرًا‏  وَاٰتِ ذَا الۡقُرۡبٰى حَقَّهٗ وَالۡمِسۡكِيۡنَ وَابۡنَ السَّبِيۡلِ وَلَا تُبَذِّرۡ تَبۡذِيۡرًا‏  اِنَّ الۡمُبَذِّرِيۡنَ كَانُوۡۤا اِخۡوَانَ الشَّيٰطِيۡنِ​ ؕ وَكَانَ الشَّيۡطٰنُ لِرَبِّهٖ كَفُوۡرًا‏  وَاِمَّا تُعۡرِضَنَّ عَنۡهُمُ ابۡتِغَآءَ رَحۡمَةٍ مِّنۡ رَّبِّكَ تَرۡجُوۡهَا فَقُلْ لَّهُمۡ قَوۡلًا مَّيۡسُوۡرًا‏  وَلَا تَجۡعَلۡ يَدَكَ مَغۡلُوۡلَةً اِلٰى عُنُقِكَ وَلَا تَبۡسُطۡهَا كُلَّ الۡبَسۡطِ فَتَقۡعُدَ مَلُوۡمًا مَّحۡسُوۡرًا‏  اِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَبۡسُطُ الرِّزۡقَ لِمَنۡ يَّشَآءُ وَيَقۡدِرُ​ؕ اِنَّهٗ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهٖ خَبِيۡرًۢا بَصِيۡرًا‏ 
(17:23) Your Lord has decreed:25 (i) Do not worship any but Him;26 (ii) Be good to your parents; and should both or any one of them attain old age with you, do not say to them even "fie" neither chide them, but speak to them with respect, (17:24) and be humble and tender to them and say: "Lord, show mercy to them as they nurtured me when I was small." (17:25) Your Lord is best aware of what is in your hearts. If you are righteous, He will indeed forgive those who relent and revert27 (to serving Allah). (17:26) (iii) Give to the near of kin his due, and also to the needy and the wayfarer. (iv) Do not squander your wealth wastefully, (17:27) for those who squander wastefully are Satan's brothers, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. (17:28) (v) And when you must turn away from them - (that is, from the destitute, the near of kin, the needy, and the wayfarer) - in pursuit of God's Mercy which you expect to receive, then speak to them kindly.28 (17:29) (vi) Do not keep your hand fastened to your neck nor outspread it, altogether outspread, for you will be left sitting rebuked, destitute.29 (17:30) Certainly Your Lord makes plentiful the provision of whomsoever He wills and straitens it for whomsoever He wills. He is well-aware and is fully observant of all that relates to His servants.30

25. In the succeeding verses, those main basic principles have been put forward on which Islam desires to build the entire structure of human life. These form the manifesto of the invitation of the Prophet (peace be upon him) declared by him at the end of the Makki stage of his mission, and the eve of the new stage at Al-Madinah so that it should be known to all that the new Islamic society and state were going to be built on such and such ideological, moral, cultural economic and legal principles. (Please also refer to (Ayats 151-153 and E.Ns thereof of Surah Al-Anaam).

26. This commandment is very comprehensive. It prohibits not only the worship of anyone except Allah but also implies that one should obey and serve and submit to Allah alone without question. One should accept His commandments and law alone to be worthy of obedience and His authority to be supreme above all. This was not merely an instruction confined to a religious creed and individual practice but it served as the foundation of the moral, cultural, and political system which was practically established in Al-Madinah by the Prophet (peace be upon him). Its first and foremost principle was that Allah alone is the Master, Sovereign and Law-giver.

27. This verse enjoins that after Allah’s right, the greatest of all the human rights is the right of parents. Therefore, the children should obey and serve and respect their parents. The collective morality of society should make it incumbent on children to be grateful and respectful to their parents, they should serve them as they nursed and brought them up in their childhood. Above all, this verse is not merely a moral recommendation but is the basis of the rights and powers of parents the details of which we find in the Books of Hadith and Fiqh. Moreover, respectful behavior and obedience to and observance of the rights of parents comprise the most important element of the material education and moral training in the Islamic society and civilization. Incidentally, all these things have determined forever the principle that the Islamic state shall make the family life sound and secure by laws, administrative regulations and educational policy and prevent its disintegration.

28. These three articles are meant to impress that a man should not reserve his earnings and his wealth exclusively for his own person. He should do his utmost to fulfill his own necessities of life in a moderate way and render the rights of his relatives, neighbors and other needy persons as well. This attitude will help create the spirit of cooperation, sympathy and justice in the collective Islamic life. Thus every relative will cooperate with the other and every rich person will help the needy in his neighborhood and a wayfarer would find himself an honorable guest among generous hosts. The conception of rights should be so extensive that every person should consider that all other human beings have rights on his person and his property so that he should serve them with the idea that he is rendering their rights and is not doing any favor to them. In that case one would beg pardon of the other if he was unable to serve him and would pray to God to send his blessings upon him to enable him to serve His servants.

These articles of the Islamic manifesto were not merely confined to moral teachings but these formed the basis of the commandments of Zakat and voluntary charity. The laws of inheritance and of making will and endowments were based on these articles. The rights of the orphans were determined by these and it was made obligatory on every habitation to entertain a wayfarer gratis for at least three days. Subsequently the whole moral system was formed so as to create the feelings of generosity, sympathy and cooperation. So much so that the people began to realize the importance of and observe voluntarily the moral rights which could neither be demanded legally nor enforced by law.

29. “And do not keep your hand fastened to your neck”, means: Do not be parsimonious. “Nor outspread it altogether widespread” means: Do not be extravagant. The Quran desires the people to follow the golden mean, i.e. they should neither be so parsimonious as to prevent the circulation of wealth nor so extravagant as to destroy their own economy. On the contrary, they should learn to behave in a balanced manner so that they should spend money wherever it should be spent and refrain from becoming spendthrifts so as to involve themselves into trouble. As a matter of fact, it is ingratitude towards Allah’s favor to spend money for the sake of show, luxury and sinful acts and similar things which are neither man’s real necessities nor useful. Therefore, those people who spend money lavishly on such things as these are the brethren of Satan.

These clauses too, are not merely meant to be moral instructions for individuals. They are intended to safeguard the Islamic society against extravagance by moral instruction, collective pressure and legal restrictions. Accordingly, in the Islamic state of Al-Madinah, practical steps were taken to safeguard the community against extravagance. First, many forms of extravagance and luxury were forbidden by law. Secondly, legal measures were taken against it. Thirdly, social reforms were introduced to put an end to those customs which involved extravagance. The government was empowered to prevent people from the obvious forms of extravagance. Above all, Zakat and voluntary charity helped to break parsimony and the lust of hoarding money. Besides these measures, a public opinion was created that enabled the people to discriminate between generosity and extravagance and thrift and parsimony: so much so that parsimonious people were looked down upon as ignominious and the thrifty people were regarded as honorable. This moral and mental attitude became a part and parcel of the Muslim society, and even today the parsimonious people and hoarders are looked down upon in the Muslim society, while the generous people are respected everywhere.

30. That is, man cannot realize the wisdom of the disparity of wealth among the people. Therefore, man should not try to interfere by artificial means with the natural distribution of wealth. It is wrong to level down natural inequality or to aggravate it by artificial means so as to make it unjust. Both the extremes are wrong. The best economic system is that which is established on the divine Way of the division of wealth.

As a result of the realization of the wisdom of economic disparity, no such problems arose which might have made that disparity an evil in itself so as to demand the creation of a classless society. On the contrary, in the righteous society established at Al-Madinah on these divine principles which are akin to human nature, the economic differences were not artificially disturbed. But by means of moral and legal reforms these became the means of many moral, spiritual and cultural blessings and benefits instead of becoming the means of injustice. Thus, the wisdom of the disparity created by the Creator of the Universe was practically demonstrated at Al-Madinah.