Miracle of Isra (Night Journey) and Miraj (Ascension)

Dr. Bilal A. Bhat

Miraj is an Arabic noun derives from the root “uruc” that means “to ascent”. In this respect Miraj refers to the instrument of ascending of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from earth to the heavens. Laylat-ul Miraj is the 27th night of Rajab, the blessed night that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) performed the miracle of miraj, the seventh month of Islamic lunar calendar. As the greatest miracle of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that He performed for the dwellers of the earth is His splitting the moon into two, His greatest miracle performed for the dwellers of the heaven is “Ascension”. Allah (swt) has revealed this as the first verse of Quran’s chapter al-Isra, Night Journey, which is also known as the chapter of the Children of Israel or the chapter of Glorification ( Subhan ). In it Allah mentions the Night Journey ( Isra ) in which He called the Prophet (s) to His Divine Presence. Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Inviolable Mosque to the Far-Distant Mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing. [17: 1] As Allah opened the Holy Qur’an in the Opening chapter Surat al-Fatiha, with the words “ Al-Hamdu Lillah – Praise be to Allah,” in this verse of Surat al-Isra (17:1), He opens the chapter of the Night Journey with, “ Subhana – Glory be to Allah (swt).” Allah is glorifying Himself saying, “ Subhana alladhi asra’” which means “Glory to Me, the One who brought the Prophet on the Night Journey calling him to My Divine Presence.” This is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Allah is not just reminding us about this event, rather, He is glorifying Himself on account of it. That is because the Night Journey, moving almost instantaneously from Makka to Masjid al-Aqsa and the Ascension, traversing in an incredibly short span of time the worldly domain of this universe and beyond, transcend the laws of physics governing movement. There is no way for any scientist’s mind to comprehend how the Prophet (s) moved across the globe and was then carried to Allah’s Divine Presence. Such a journey is beyond the scope of imagination. Therefore Allah (swt) glorifies Himself saying, “Yes it happened! Glory to Me Who can do this! I am beyond these laws and systems. I am the Creator of all systems.” Space and time which are bound by laws of nature for humans, are not so bound for Allah. On that night prophet Muhammad (pbuh) bridged time and space and this world, traveling to the heavens by Allah’s will.
“Praise be to Allah Who has taken His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque (Mecca) to the Farthest Mosque (Jerusalem).” (Holy Quran, 17:1)
Allah sent the prophets as a mercy to the slaves and supported them with miracles to indicate the truthfulness of their message. Of all the prophets, our Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh), was blessed with the most miracles. Al-Isra’ and al-Miraj are among the many miracles of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Heavenly Journey of the Prophet of Islam has been straight forwardly explained in two Surahs of the Qur’an. In other Surahs as well, we see allusions to this journey. This journey is also confirmed in the sahih hadith. One night prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sleeping near the Ka’ba in Mecca when the angel Jibreel (A.S) with seventy thousand angels came to him. The angel Jibreel (A.S) ordered by Allah took his arm and led him to the Great Mosque. Waiting for him at the gate was a al-Buraq (the heavenly creature) that being the name of a mount on which prophet (pbuh) travelled to the Rabb (Lord) of power through the land of the angels. The buraq had the body of a horse but the face of a human being, with big black eyes and soft ears. His colour was that of a peacock whose plumage was set with red rubies and corals, on which sat a white head of musk on a neck of amber. His ears and shoulders were of pure white pearls attached with golden chains, each chain decorated with glittering jewels. His saddle was made of silk lined with silver and gold threads. His back was covered with green emerald and his halter was pure peridot. The speed of the buraq is according to his sight. His legs reach wherever his eyes can see. Jibraeel (A.S) said: “Rasool Allah, this night is your night, and your turn has come to shine in the sky of creation. The prophet (pbuh) climbed onto the Buraq and the Angel Jibreel (A.S) stood beside them pointing the way northward toward the city of Jerusalem. With the aide of his steed al Buraq, he traveled to Bait al Muqaddas (founded by Prophet Yaqub (A.S) then finished by his son prophet Sulayman (A.S)), which (at that time) was located in the country of Jordan and is also known as Masjid al Aqsa (the Furthest Masjid). Allah brought Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to Masjid al-Aqsa in Palestine, where he found Abraham (A.S), Moses (A.S) and Jesus (A.S), in a company of prophets assembled for him. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) dismounted the Buraq and led all the prophets (alaihi salaam) in prayer at the site of the Dome of the Rock. Prophet Adam (A.S) spoke saying: – “Praise be to Allah who created me with His hands and ordered the angels to prostrate for me and brought out all the prophets from among my descendants!” Then Nuh (A.S) said: – “Praise be to Allah who accepted my prayer and saved me and my people from drowning with my ship with the help of the angels, and honoured me!” Then Ibraheem (A.S) said: – “Praise be to Allah who took me as His friend and gave me a huge kingdom, and gave me prophets for descendants, and saved me from the fire of Namrood, and made it cool and safe for me!” And Musa (A.S) said: – “Praise be to Allah who spoke to me without an intermediary and chose me for His message, and made me victorious over Pharaoh with the help of his angels, and gave me the Torah which Jibraeel taught me how to write, and adorned me with His love.” And Dawood (A.S) said:- “Praise be to Allah who revealed the Psalms to me, and softened the iron between my hands and all other elements, and chose me for His Message!” And Sulaiman (A.S) said:- “Praise be to Allah who has made subject to me the winds, the jinn, and human beings; who taught me the language of birds; who gave me a kingdom which he never gave to anyone after me, and supported me with all his angels.” And Isa (Jesus) (A.S) said:- “Praise be to Allah who sent me as a Word from Him to the world, taught me the Torah and the Gospel, made me cure the deaf, the dumb, and the leper, made me bring back to life the dead by His permission, and supported me with Jibraeel (A.S) and all His angels.” And Muhammad (pbuh) said:- “All of you praised your Rabb (Lord) and I praise Him also, Who sent me as a Mercy for human beings and revealed the Quran to me, expanded my breast, took out my sins, raised me up, made my Nation and all human beings the best that could be, and called me ‘Kind and Merciful'”! And Jibraeel (A.S) said:- “That is why, Muhammad (pbuh) you are the last of Prophets and a Mercy for human beings. After the prayer, three vessels, containing milk, wine and water were brought before Muhammad (pbuh). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) only drank from the vessel containing milk. Jibreel (A.S) then said, “Oh Muhammad (pbuh), you enjoy what is pure and keep away from what is impure. Surely you will guide your people to the path of Allah.” Led by the angel Jibreel (A.S), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began his ascent through the seven heavens where he saw many other prophets. There was Adam (A.S) in first paradise, Yahya (A.S) and Isa (A.S) in second paradise, Yusuf (A.S) in third paradise, Idris in fourth paradise, in the fifth paradise he (pbuh) saw Hawwa (the mother of human beings), Maryam (the mother of Isa), Yukabid (Musa’s mother), Assia (the wife of Pharaoh). The fifth lady looked like a sun among stars (an angel representing daughter of Muhammad (pbuh) Fatima). Haroon (A.S), Musa (A.S), Ibrahim (A.S), Jesus (A.S), Nuh (A.S) and many others. In the sixth paradise he (pbuh) saw prophet Musa and in the seventh paradise he (pbuh) saw prophet Ibrahim (A.S). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) greeted all prophets and they greeted him back with the best greeting of heaven. When Muhammad (pbuh) ascended to the top of the Universe he saw a mighty Throne. The Buraq stopped and Muhammad (pbuh) dismounted and found himself before a solitary Lote tree. The Lote Tree (sidrat al-muntaha) marks the end of all earthly knowledge and beyond it no one knows what exists except Allah. Then Allah showered a divine light upon the Lote tree that was extremely bright, yet the prophet held his gaze on the tree and said, “I take refuge in the Light of your Grace: Oh Allah Almighty.” At the Lote Tree Muhammad (pbuh) received for Muslims the instructions for salat, the last section of Surah al-Baqarah and the command from Allah that each Muslim should pray fifty times a day. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was also shown the depths of Hell and saw many horrible things. He saw people that had their stomachs enlarged so big that they could not stand. As they lay on the ground suffering the Prophet was told that these were the people who kept orphans away from the property that was rightfully theirs and used it for themselves instead. The Prophet also saw people that had two plates of meat before them. One had freshly cooked meat that was good to eat while the other had meat that was spoiled and stinking. These people were eating only the rotten meat. The Prophet was told that they were the ones who used to commit adultery and fornication. There was another set of people who tried to speak but every time they opened their mouths to do so a sharp knife was there to cut their tongues out. The prophet (pbuh) was told that these were people that always spoke evil behind the backs of their fellow Muslims. The Prophet then began his descent back to Earth. As he passed downward Musa stopped him and asked, “How many prayers have been laid upon you?” “Fifty”, Muhammad (pbuh) replied. Musa then said, “The congregational prayer is a heavy weight and your people are weak. Return to your Lord and ask Him to lighten the load for you and your people.” Muhammad (pbuh) took the advice from his friend and went back to Allah to ask for a reduction in the number of daily prayers. Allah took away ten prayers and Muhammad (pbuh) again began his descent to Earth. Musa (A.S) stopped the prophet again and told him that the number of prayers was still too much. Muhammad (pbuh) returned to Allah several times to get the number of prayers reduced until it was down to only five daily prayers. Musa (A.S) again said this was too much but Muhammad (pbuh) said, “I have returned to my Lord so many times and asked Him so much that I am ashamed. I will not go again, but I have His assurance that whoever performs the five daily prayers will be given credit for fifty.” The Prophet (pbuh) continued his descent from Heaven to Jerusalem. It was from this same path that he traversed that he returned, and upon coming back, once again visited to Bait al Muqaddas, proceeded on to Makkah and then to his home. On the return trip, he came across a trade caravan from the tribe of the Quraish who during their journey had lost one of their camels which they were searching for. The Prophet (pbuh) drank from the water that the people of the caravan had with them and by the rising of the morning sun, reached back to the house of Umm al Hani. From there the prophet returned to Mecca. It was still night when he reached the place where he had been sleeping only a short time before. The night journey to Jerusalem came to be called Al-Isra’a and Muhammad’s (pbuh) ascent into Heaven is known as Al-Mi’raj.
Ibn Ishaq related, quoting Umm Hani as his source, that she said, “It was from nowhere but my home that the Messenger of God (pbuh) made his night journey. He slept that night after having made the final evening prayer. When it was just before dawn he woke up and when it was morning we prayed together and he said, ? O Umm Hani, last evening I prayed with you in this valley, then I went to Jerusalem and prayed there. And now here I am having said the morning prayer with you, as you see.’ “He then arose to leave, but I took hold of the hem of his cloak and said, ? O Messenger of God, do not make that statement to the people; they will surely disbelieve you and do you harm.’ “But he replied, ? By God, I will certainly tell it to them!’ In the evening, in a gathering of the people of the Quraish, Prophet lifted all the curtains of the secrets of the Me’raj and his journey and opened their minds to this event. The word of his travels spread from mouth to mouth amongst all the groups, and now more than ever, the Quraish were upset (with him). The Quraish, as was their old time habit, belied the Prophet (pbuh) and in the gathering, a man stood up and asked if there was anyone in Makkah who has seen Bait al Muqaddas so that he could ask the Prophet (pbuh) in regards to the physical building. Not only did the Prophet (pbuh) describe the physical particularities of Bait al ¬Muqaddas, rather, he even informed them of the event that took place between Makkah and Bait al Muqaddas and it was not long after that the travelers (of that caravan) reported the exact events (as had occurred). Sincere Muslims supported and defended him. One of the prophet’s (pbuh) best friends was Abu Bakr (R.A). After hearing about the prophet’s (pbuh) famous journey Abu Bakr (R.A) said, “If Muhammad (pbuh) says it then it must be true. Why should we doubt him? He tells me that the Quran comes from Heaven all the time and I know him to be speaking the truth. That is more than what you are questioning him about today.” It is concluded that after the night journey the prophet (pbuh) had new strength and confidence. He was sure he could carry out his mission and guide people to the path of Islam. This was also the time that people in Medina heard about the new religion called Islam. They invited the prophet to their city and a few years later he made the Hijra to that city. The wonderful night of Isra’a and Mi’raj helped the prophet and the Muslims to become stronger in their faith which enabled them to overcome the idol-worshiping Meccans. The night journey of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was filled with trials and tribulations and (instances) of Allah’s power and authority; it provides a lesson for men of intelligence, guidance, a mercy and an affirmation for those with faith and belief.
(The author writes regularly on Islamic and environmental topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are his own bhat_bilal@rediffmail.com)

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