17:2 And We gave Moses the Book, and We made it a guidance for the Children of Israel.
God’s many mentions of Moses in the Qur’an are among the signs of His honoring him and the marks of His love for him. When someone loves someone, he often mentions him. Muṣṭafā said, “When someone loves something, he mentions it much”: When someone loves something he is always mentioning its name and remembering it. Do you not see that the Lord of the world, the lovingly kind Enactor, said to Moses, “I cast upon thee love from Me” [20:39]. Hence you should look at how many times He mentioned Moses in the Qur’an: the promised time of Moses, the Mount of Moses, the promise to Moses, the exile of Moses, the whispered prayer of Moses, the brother of Moses, the sister of Moses, the mother of Moses, the traveling companion of Moses, the sea of Moses, the Pharaoh of Moses, the suffering of Moses, the caressing of Moses. He did not leave anything of the states and character traits of Moses without mentioning it in the Qur’an and making the faithful happy by hearing about it. Thus you will know that much mention is the fruit of the tree of friendship and the mark of the road of friendship.
17:4 And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Book: “You will surely work corruption in the earth twice and you will become high with great height.”
“We ruled and decreed, bringing the work out from the Unseen, so as to show the creatures that all of that was We, and all are We. In the Beginningless were We, in the Endless are We. Good and bad are by Our desire, profit and loss are by Our predetermination, the engendered beings and the newly arrived things are ruled over by Our prescribing and subjugated by Our determining. From the beginningless to the everlasting Our knowledge goes everywhere and We rule and command everything. The existence and nonexistence of you, who are creatures, are the same for the threshold of Our Majesty. We do not benefit from your existence nor are We harmed by your nonexistence. The perfection of Our exaltedness has no need for your obedience.”
17:7 If you do the beautiful, you will have done the beautiful for your own souls, and if you do the ugly, it will be against them.
If you do the beautiful, you will earn your reward, and if you do the ugly, you will attract your punishment. The Real is more exalted than that ornament or stain should go back to Him from the acts of the servant. The exalted majesty of the Unity and the perfection of the Self-Sufficiency is more exalted and purer than that it should be adorned by the obedience of the obedient or stained by the disobedience of the disobedient.
If you come as a good man, you yourself will profit, and if you come as a bad man, you will bring harm upon yourself. He is saying, “For the majesty of Our Unity, the beauty of Our Self-Sufficiency is enough.” If you do the beautiful, you will have done the beautiful for your own souls. This is the degree of the generality of the faithful in their deeds.
As for the degree of the elect in their deeds and states, it is as was said by Abū Yazīd concerning the allusion of this verse: “He who acts for his own soul does not act for God, and he who acts for God does not act for his own soul, nor does he see it.”
Abū Sulaymān Dārānī said, “In this world the doers’ act in various ways, each of them seeking his own share in his deeds. Thus an ignorant person acts in heedlessness, a doer acts out of habit, a fearful man acts in fear, a trusting person acts while detached, a renunciant acts in seclusion, and a sincerely truthful man acts with love. Those who act in God are fewer than the few.”
17:8 Perhaps your Lord will have mercy upon you. And if you return, We will return.
This verse is a strong handhold and a beautiful caress for the hopeful. In other words, “Perhaps He who nurtures you and feeds you with His bounty will have mercy upon you. There is hope that the Lord who created you gratis out of His bounty, who nourished you with His blessings, who kept you in His guarding and solicitude with His gentleness, and who preserved you from blights and disliked things will have mercy on you in the end and finish the work that He Himself began with bounty.” And if you return, We will return. Sahl ibn ʿAbdallāh said, “If you return to fleeing from Us, We will return to taking the path against you so that you will return to Us.” This is just like what Muṣṭafā said, recounting from God: “When I know that occupation with Me has overpowered My servant’s heart, I put My servant’s appetite into asking from Me and whispering to Me. When My servant is like that and he desires to be negligent of Me, I come between him and his negligence of Me.”
17:11 Man supplicates for evil just as he supplicates for good.
Sahl said, “The safest of supplications is remembrance and the abandonment of choice in supplication and asking, for in remembrance there is sufficiency, and perchance man will supplicate and ask for that within which is his destruction, while he is not aware. Do you not see that God says, ‘Man supplicates for evil just as he supplicates for good.’”
When someone remembers constantly and abandons choice in supplicating and asking, the best of his wishes will be freely given to him and the blights of asking and choice will fall away from him. The Prophet said, recounting from his Lord, “When someone’s remembrance of Me keeps him too busy to ask from Me, I will give him the best of what I give to the askers.”
17:13 And every man, We have fastened his omen to his neck. And We shall bring forth for him, on the Day of Resurrection, a book he will meet wide open.
What is appropriate for each person was fastened to his neck and written out for him in the Beginningless. One had the crown of felicity placed on his head, the tree of his hope-filled with fruit, the bounties brought out, the night of separation taken away, the day of union brought forth. By the decree of wretchedness, another had the blanket of ill fortune pulled over his head and he was wounded by the sword of deprivation and fastened down with the spikes of rejection. Yes, this apportioning happened in the Beginningless; nothing will be increased and nothing decreased. What can be done, for the Greatest Judge wanted it this way. The poor Adamite who has no awareness of his own Beginningless, and who sits heedless of his own Endless! Between what was and what will be, he has been taken by the sleep of heedlessness. He will awake from the sleep of heedlessness on the day when he is handed the book of his deeds. And We shall bring forth for him, on the Day of Resurrection, a book he will meet wide open, a book whose pen is his tongue, whose ink is his saliva, whose paper is his bodily parts and joints, and which he himself has dictated from beginning to end. The angels are the scribes and the witnesses against him, and not one letter will be added or subtracted. It will be said to him,
17:14 Read thy book! Thy soul suffices thee today as a reckoner against thee.
“Read your book and see your own deeds.” If you deny one letter of it, that very bodily member from which that deed went forth will testify against you, as God says: “On the day when their tongues, their hands, and their feet bear witness against them concerning what they were doing” [24:24]. This is why He says, “Thy soul suffices thee today as a reckoner against thee,” that is, as a witness of what came from you against you. It has been said that the books are two: One is written by the angel against the servant, and that is his words and deeds; the other is written by the Real against Himself, and that is His pardon and mercy toward the servant. If the beginningless solicitude takes the servant by the hand, His reckoning with him will be from the book of His own mercy, not the book of the servant’s deeds. This is just like what has come in the traditions: When the servant’s book is placed in his hands, it is said, “Read thy book!” The servant looks into the book and sees written on the first page, “In the name of God, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful.” God says, “My servant! I have taken account of it and I have forgiven you through My bounty and mercy. In the Beginningless, I wrote mercy for you and said about Myself, ‘Forgiver of sins and Accepter of repentance’ [40:3].”
Thy soul suffices thee today as a reckoner against thee. ʿUmar Khaṭṭāb said, “Take an accounting of yourselves before you are brought to account, weigh your deeds before they are weighed, and prepare for the Greatest Exposure.” Anyone who is aware of the Tribunal of Wrongdoing and the calling to account at the resurrection, who has found a whiff of the recognition of the states and terrors of that day, should know that whatever was his companion during his days—little and much, spots and specks—its talk will be asked from him tomorrow and he will be called to account for it. Hence today he should lift the veil of heedlessness away from his road and keep his deeds and words straight in keeping with the yardstick of the Shariah. From his days he should ask for truthfulness in interaction before he is made present at the tribunal of the King of Kings and his activities and moments of rest are compared with the scale of justice; if there are any deficiencies or losses, one hundred thousand proximate holy ones will open the truthful tongue of bearing witness against him. In shame, he will seek the road of flight, but there will be no place to flee.
The story is told that a father said to his son, “Whatever you say to people today and whatever you let pass over your tongue, tell it all to me at the time of the night prayer, and expose to me your activities and moments of rest.” That night at prayer, with great effort and suffering and complete self-exertion, the boy told his father about that one day of words and deeds. The next day he asked him to do the same thing. The boy said, “Protect me, father! Lay upon me any suffering and toil you want, but do not ask me this one thing, for I am unable to bear it.” His father said, “You poor boy! My goal is for you to be awake and aware and for you to fear the standing place of calling to account and the exposure of the resurrection. Today you cannot bear taking account of one day with your own gentle father. How will you be able to bear being called to account for a whole lifetime tomorrow—with severity and contention that do not leave aside even the spots and specks?”