THIS CHAPTER consists of twelve sections of 111 Meccan verses, except for vv. 26, 32-33, 37 and 73-80 (these are in sections III,IV,VIII-IX) which date from the Madinese period. It was revealed after Stories 28 and before the last verse in The Cow 2, and shortly before the Prophet's Transfer or Hijra to Madina. The title Al-Miraj in Arabic is the singular of Al-Maarij or 'Staircases Upward' which is the title for Chapter 70 (it is also given as Al-Isra,). The celestial journey or ascension to Heaven is celebrated on the twenty-seventh night of the month of Rajab, five weeks before the fast of Ramadan begins. An alternative title to the chapter is The Children of Israel and still another is Glory! taken from the first word (Subhan) in the chapter (and at Section X).
The style at the beginning is closely interwoven. The chapter opens with a solemn announcement of the Prophet's ascension as a lilting symphony which the Italian poet Dante was to use later on in a more elaborate form for his Divine Comedy. An easily obtainable description of this tradition in English is found in Jeffery's Islam, pp. 35-42. Its translation and interpretation are extremely difficult; Ibn-Kathir's is probably the best.
Next there follows moral legislation, including one version of the Islamic "Do Not's" which stresses personal responsibility and the seriousness of associating others in our pure worship of God Alone (II). The treatment of parents and charity are other themes of morality (III-IV). Disbelievers are aptly described in section V. The chapter ends with a long section on how to read the Quran and how to pray (IX-XII); see also I and V. In short, this is one of the most important and sustained chapters in the Quran, and its beauty is inimitable.
In the name of God, the Mercy-giving, the Merciful!
Announcing the Prophet's Ascension
(I)* Glory be to Him Who had His servant travel by night from the Hallowed Mosque to the Further Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so We might show him some of Our signs! He is the Alert, the Observant!
* We gave Moses the Book and granted it as guidance for the Children of Israel: "Do not accept any defender except Me!" * [They were] offspring [of those] whom We put on board with Noah; he was a grateful servant. * We decreed in the Book concerning the Children of Israel: "You will create havoc on earth twice, and display great haughtiness."
** When the first of both warnings came, we despatched servants of Ours to inflict severe violence upon you (all). They rampaged through [your] homes, and it served as a warning which was acted upon. * Then We offered you another chance against them, and reinforced you with wealth and children, and granted you more manpower. * If you have acted kindly, you acted kindly towards yourselves, while if you committed any evil, it was towards [yourselves] as well.
Thus the warning about the next one came along to trouble your persons, and so they would enter the Mosque just as they had entered it in the first place, so they might utterly annihilate anything they overcame. * Perhaps your Lord may show mercy to you. If you should turn back, We will go back (too) and turn Hell into a confinement for disbelievers! * This Quran guides one to something that is more straightforward and reassures believers who perform honorable actions; they shall have great earnings. ** Nevertheless We have reserved painful torment for those who do not believe in the Hereafter.
(II) * Man appeals for evil during his appeal for good; everyman has been so hasty!
* We have granted night and daylight as twin signs. We blot out the sign of night, and grant the sign of daylight to see by so you may seek bounty from your Lord and know how to count the years and other such reckoning. Everything have We set forth in detail.
* We have tied everyman's fate around his neck; and We shall produce a book for him on Resurrection Day that he will find spread open; * "Read your book; today there will be none but yourself to call you to account!"
** Anyone who submits to guidance will be guided only so far as he himself is concerned, while anyone who strays away, only strays by himself. No burdened soul shall bear another's burden.
We have never acted as punishers until We have despatched some messenger: * yet whenever We want to wipe out some town, We order its high-livers so they act depraved in it; thus the Sentence about it is proven to be right and We utterly annihilate it. * How many generations did We destroy since Noah? Sufficient is it for your Lord to be Informed, Observant of His servants' sins!
* For anyone who wants the fleeting present, We let whatever We wish to flit past anyone We want it to. Then We set up Hell for him; he will roast in it, condemned, disgraced. * Anyone who wants the Hereafter and makes a proper effort to achieve it while he is a believer, will have their effort gratified. ** Each We shall supply, these as well as those, with a gift from your Lord: your Lord's gift will never be withheld.
* Watch how We have permitted some of them to get ahead of others. The Hereafter will be greater in [conferring] ranks and even greater in attainment.
The Islamic "DO NOTS":
* Do not place any other deity alongside God, lest you sit back, condemned, forsaken.
(III) * Your Lord has decreed that you should worship nothing except Him, and [show] kindness to your parents; whether either of them or both of them should attain old age [while they are] still with you, never say to them: "Naughty!" nor scold either of them. Speak to them in a generous fashion. * Protect them carefully from outsiders, and SAY: "My Lord, show them mercy, just as they cared for me [when I was] a little child!"
** Your Lord is quite Aware of anything that is on your minds; if you behave honorably, then He will be Forgiving towards those who are attentive.
* Render your close relative his due, as well as the pauper and the wayfarer. Yet do not squander [your money] extravagantly; * spendthrifts are the devils' brethren, and Satan has always been ungrateful towards his Lord. * Yet if you have to avoid them, seeking some mercy which you may expect from your Lord, still speak a courteous word to them. * Do not keep your hand gripping at your throat nor stretch it out as far as it will reach, lest you sit back blameworthy, destitute. ** Your Lord extends sustenance to anyone He wishes, and measures it out; He is Informed, Observant about His servants.
Other Moral Legislation
(IV) * Do not kill your children in dread of poverty; We shall provide for both them and you. Killing them is a serious blunder!
* Do not commit adultery. It is shocking and an evil way [to behave].
* Do not kill any soul whom God has forbidden you to, except through [due process of] law. We have given his nearest relatives authority for anyone who is killed unjustly-yet let him not overdo things in killing [the culprit], inasmuch as he has been so supported.
* Do not approach an orphan's estate before he comes of age unless it is to improve it.
Fulfil your oaths; any promise will be checked into.
** Give full measure whenever you measure out anything, and weigh with honest scales; that is better and the finest way of acting.
* Do not worry over something you have no knowledge about: your hearing, eyesight and vital organs will all be questioned concerning it.
* Do not prance saucily around the earth; you can never tunnel through the earth nor rival the mountains in height.
* All that is evil with your Lord, to be hated. * Such is some of the wisdom your Lord has revealed to you.
Do not place any other deity alongside God [Alone] lest you be tossed into Hell, blamed, rejected. ** Has your Lord singled you out to have sons, while He has accepted daughters from among the angels [for Himself]? You are uttering such a serious statement!
(V) * We have already spelled out matters in this Reading so they will notice it, even though it only adds to their disgust.
Paganism, Association Once More
* SAY: "If there were (other) gods along with Him as they say, then they would have sought a way to the Possessor of the Throne. * Glory be to Him! How greatly Exalted is He over anything they may say! * The Seven Heavens and Earth, as well as whoever is in them, glorify Him. Nothing exists unless it hymns His praise; yet you do not understand their glorification. Still He has been Lenient, Forgiving.
On Reciting the Quran
** Whenever you read the Quran, We place a hidden curtain between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter. * We place wrappers over their hearts lest they comprehend it, and dullness in their ears. When you mention your Lord Alone in the Quran they even turn their backs in disgust!
* We are quite Aware as to what they are listening for when they listen to you, and whenever they conspire together, then wrongdoers will say: "You are only following a man who is bewitched!," * Watch what sort of stories they make up about you. They have strayed away and are unable to find a way back. * They say: "When we are bones and mortal remains, will we be raised up in some fresh creation?"
** SAY: "Become stones or iron * or any creation that seems important enough to fill your breasts;" so they will say: "Who will bring us back [to life]?" SAY: "The One Who originated you in the first place."
They will wag their heads at you and say: "When will it be?" SAY: "Perhaps it is near! * Some day He will call on you, and you will respond in praise of Him. You will assume you have lingered for only a little while."
(VI)* Tell My servants that they should say whatever is politest. Satan stirs up trouble among them; Satan is an open enemy to man!" * Your Lord is quite Aware of you (all); if He wishes, He will show you mercy, while if He wishes,
He will punish you, We have not sent you as a trustee over them. ** Your Lord is quite Aware of whoever is in Heaven and Earth. We have made some prophets excel over others, and given David the Psalms.
* SAY: "Invoke those whom you claim to have besides Him: they do control any means of removing harm from you, nor for changing * Even those whom they appeal to, crave access to their Lord, vying to nearest. They hope for His mercy and fear His torment. Your Lo torment is something to beware of.'
* No town exists but We shall act as its Destroyers before Resurrect Day, or as its Punishers by means of severe torment. That has recorded in the Book. * Nothing has prevented Us from sending except that early men rejected them. We sent Thamud the she-camel to open their eyes, yet they mistreated her. We merely send signs in order to frighten [people]. ** Thus We told you: "Your Lord embraces [all] kind." We granted the vision which We showed you only as a test for mankind, as well as the Tree that is cursed in the Quran. We let them feel afraid; yet it only increases great arrogance in them.
Iblis OR Diabolis
(VII) * When We told the angels: "Bow down on your knees before Adam," they (all) knelt down except Diabolis. He said: "Am I to bow down on my knees before someone You have created out of clay?" *He said [further] : "Have You considered this person Yourself whom You have honored more than me? If You will postpone things for m Resurrection Day, then I shall bring all but a few of his offspring un mastery."
* He said: "Go away! Any of them who follows you will have your reward; it is such an ample reward! * Entice any of them whom you can with your voice. Set upon them with your cavalry and your manpower. Share wealth and children with them, and promise them anything. (Yet Satan merely promises them illusion.) ** As for My servants, you will have no authority over them; your Lord suffices as a Trustee."
* Your Lord is the One Who propels ships for you at sea, so you may seek some of His bounty. He has been so Merciful towards you! * Whenever some adversity strikes you at sea, anyone you appeal to besides Him leaves [you] in the lurch; yet whenever We bring you safely to port, you (all) turn away evasively. Man has been so thankless!
* Do you feel so safe that He will not let a slice of land cave in beneath you, or send a sandstorm down on you? Then you will find no agent to act on your behalf! * Or do you feel so secure that He will send you another chance at it, and drive a smashing gale against you which will drown you because you have disbelieved? Then you will not find any follower in it to [help] you against Us. ** We have dignified the Children of Adam and transported them around on land and at sea. we have provided them with wholesome things and favored them especially over many of those whom We have created.
(VIII) * Some day We shall call forth all mankind along with whoever has led them, Those who are given their book in their right hand, will read their book and not be harmed one bit; while anyone who has been blind in this [life] will remain blind in the Hereafter, and go even further astray .
* They almost lure you away from what We have revealed to you, in order to invent something else against Us; then they would adopt you as a bosom friend! * If we had not braced you, you might have almost inclined a little bit towards them. ** Then We would have made you taste a double share of life and a double one of dying; then you would not have found any supporter for yourself against Us! * They almost scare you off the earth, to exile you from it. Yet they would never survive you except for a short while.
* [Such has been] the practice with any of Our messengers whom We have sent before you. You will never find any chance in Our course!
(IX)* Keep up prayer from the decline of the sun, until twilight a night;
and [observe] the Reading at daybreak, since reading [the Quran] at daybreak will be witnessed!
* At night, wake up and pray during it[s reading] as an extra bonus for yourself; perhaps your Lord will raise you once again to a praiseworthy standing.
** SAY: "My Lord, let me enter through a proper entrance and leave by an honest exit! Grant me supporting authority from Your presence."
Truth and Falsehood
* And SAY (too):
"Truth has come and falsehood vanished;
falsehood is so perishable!
* We send down something from the Quran [to serve] as healing and a mercy for believers, while wrongdoers are only increased in loss.
* Whenever We show man some favor, he avoids it and drifts off to one side; while whenever evil touchcs him, he acts desperate. * SAY: "Everyone acts according to his own disposition. Your Lord is quite Aware as to who is best guided along the Way.
The Holy Spirit
(X) ** They will ask you about the Spirit.
SAY: "The Spirit [operates] at my Lord's command, while you have been given only a smattering of knowledge." * If We so wished, We would take away anything We have inspired you with; then you would not find anyone you could rely on against Us with it * except for some mercy from your Lord, His bounty towards you has been great! * SAY: "Even if men and sprites organized to produce something like this Reading, they would never bring anything like it no matter how much assistance they lent one another." * We have set forth every [kind of] parable for mankind in this Reading; yet most men refuse to do anything except disbelieve.
Disbelief OR Skeptics
** They say: "We will never believe in you unless you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us, * or have a garden full of datepalms and grapevines and make rivers gush forth plentifully through the midst of them, * or you cause the sky to fall in pieces on us just as you claim, bring God and His angels to vouch for you, * or you have a luxurious house built, or soar up into the sky; we will never believe in your climbing up there until you bring down a book for us to read."
SAY: 'Glory be to my Lord! Am I anything but a human messenger?"
(XI) * Nothing prevents men from believing whenever guidance comes to them except that they say: "Has God despatched a mortal as a messenger?" ** SAY: "If there had been angels calmly walking around on earth, we would have sent an angel down from Heaven as a messenger for them."
* SAY: "God suffices as a Witness between me and you (all). He is Informed, Observant about His servants." * Anyone whom God guides, remains guided, while you will never find any sponsors besides Himself for those He lets go astray. We will summon them face down on Resurrection Day, blind, dumb and deaf; their lodging will be Hell. Every time it dies down, We will make it blaze up again for them. * Such will be their reward for disbelieving in Our signs and saying: "Once we are bones and mortal remains, will we be raised up again in some fresh creation?"
* Do they not consider that God, Who has created Heaven and Earth, is Able to create the like of them? He has set them a deadline there is no oubt about, yet wrongdoers refuse to do anything except disbelieve. *** SAY: "Even if you controlled the treasures of my Lord's mercy, you would still hold them back in dread of overspending [them]. Man is so grudging!"
Moses and the Children of Israel
(XII) * We gave Moses nine clear signs. Ask the Children of Israel about how, when he came to them and Pharaoh told him: "I think you areout of your mind, Moses!", * he said: "You know that no one except them Lord of Heaven and Earth has sent these down as insights. I think you are doomed, Pharaoh!"
* He wanted to scare them away from the land, so We drowned him and everyone who accompanied him. * Later on, We told the Children of Israel: 'Settle down in the land. When the promise about the Hereafter comes along, We will bring you in as a rabble."
How to Read the Quran
** We have really sent it down, and it has come down for the Truth. We have sent you only as a newsbearer and warner; * and for a Reading which We have divided up so you can read it to people in sittings. We have sent it down as a successive revelation.
BOW DOWN HERE
* SAY: "Believe in it, or do not believe in it;" those who have already been given knowledge fall down bowing with their faces [on the ground]whenever it is recited to them, * while they say:
"Glory to our Lord!
Our Lord's promise has come true!
* They fall down with their faces [on the ground], weeping and it increases them in reverence.
How to Pray
** SAY: "Appeal to God, or appeal to the Mercy-giving: whichever [name] you may invoke, He still has the Finest Names. Do not shout in your prayer nor say it under your breath; seek a course in between.
SAY: "Praise be to God Who has adopted no son and has no partner in control." He needs no protector against pettiness. Magnify Him greatly!