17: The Night Journey (Bani-Israel)
This chapter consists of twelve sections of 111 Meccan verses, except for vv. 2 6, 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 AI-Mi'raj in Arabic is the singular of Al-Ma'arij or Staircases Upward which is the title for Chapter 70 (it is also given as Al-Lsra'). 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 (Snbhan) 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 Corned p. An easily obtainable description of this tradition in English is found
in Jefferv'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 Qur'an 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 Qur'an and its beauty is inimitable.