Quran 17:16′ When We Wish To Destroy A Town…’ – Noah

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Quran 17:16 – “And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction.”

As usual Islamophobes cut and paste verses of the Quran and deceptively leaving its context out. Another thing they do, they interpret the verse with their own understanding so to misguide people who are not familiar with Islam. The above verse is used by critics that it encourages Muslims to wage war against the innocent. However, if we read the next verse after 17:16, the destruction that God sends is not from humans i.e., God does not command people to wage war. The Destruction that is mentioned is that God destroys them Himself. Example, this Biblical verse below gives a good example to understand Quranic verse 17:16,

In Noah’s day – Genesis 6:5, 11,12 …’And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.’

What happens next is that God Almighty destroyed those people who were evil with the flood. When we get to read the verse in context it is about God sending his Divine punishment on people. Read the next verse (17:17),

17:16 And when We intend to destroy a city, We command its affluent but they defiantly disobey therein; so the word comes into effect upon it, and We destroy it with [complete] destruction.
17:17 And how many have We destroyed from the generations after Noah. And sufficient is your Lord, concerning the sins of His servants, as Acquainted and Seeing.

Commentary

Mualana Muhammad Ali

16a. These words are sometimes misunderstood. Allah does not command people to transgress, for it is plainly stated in 7:28: ‘Allah enjoins not indecency’: and again in 16:90: ‘He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion’. The meaning is clear: Allah sends them commandments to do good, pointing out the right way through His Prophets, but as they are accustomed to lead easy lives, they transgress those commandments, and are punished. [1]

Tafsir Ibn Abbas

[17:16] (And when We would destroy a township We send commandment to its folk who live at ease) We send commandments to its leaders and tyrants to obey; it is also said that this means: We increase the number of its chiefs, tyrants and wealthy people; and it is also said that this means: We rouse against them their tyrants and leaders, (and afterward they commit abomination therein) they commit acts of disobedience therein, (and so the Word (of doom) hath effect for it) its destruction takes effect, (and We annihilate it with complete annihilation) We completely destroy them.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an

18 Here a definite form of Divine procedure for the destruction of a people has been stated. When the well-to-do people of a habitation become disobedient, it is a portent that it is doomed to destruction. After their persistent and continuous transgression, the well-to-do people become so obdurate in their disobedience that they begin to discard the instinctive dictates of their conscience. The same thing has been stated in v. 16: “When We decree that a habitation should be destroyed We give Commands to its well-to-do people and they show disobedience.” This is because Allah has created conscience for the guidance of man. Therefore, the dictates of conscience are really the commands of Allah. Thus it has become quite obvious that by “When We decree that a habitation should be destroyed” is not meant that Allah intends to destroy it without any reason. It is destroyed because after their disobedience “that habitation incurs Our just wrath and We totally exterminate it.” The habitation deserves such a punishment because its common people follow the well-to-do people who are the factual leaders of a community and are mainly responsible for the corruption of the community. At first the well-to-do people commit acts of disobedience, wickedness, mischief, cruelty and tyranny and then the common people follow them and incur the torment of Allah. Incidentally, this is a warning for every community that it should be very discreet and prudent in choosing and electing its leaders and rulers, for if the latter are mean and wicked, they will inevitably lead the community to destruction. [2]

References:

[1] The Holy Quran Arabic Text with English Translation, Commentary and comprehensive Introduction [Year 2002 Edition] by Maulana Muhammad Ali page 567
[2] Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an – The Meaning of the Qur’an http://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/17/index.html#sdfootnote18sym

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