The Prophet’s Ascension [Israʾ and Miʿraj]

the ascension [Israʾ and Miʿraj] are the two parts of a Night Journey that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) embarked on during a single night around the year AD 621. Isra means walking or traveling at night; Miʿraj means rising or going up to a high place[1]. This refers to the night journey made by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his household) from Mecca to the Al-Aqṣa Mosque in Jerusalem and from there to the Heavens then back to Mecca in one night is briefly mentioned in two Chapters of the Qur’an[2]. However, details of the story are found in the hadith (the later collections of the reports, teachings, deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad).

The Location of Ascent

From the Qur’anic verse, it is stated that the night journey started from Masjid al­-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa [the Bayt al‑Muqaddas] in Jerusalem. Allah says:

Immaculate is He who carried His servant on a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose environs We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing[3].

Similarly, some of the events that took place during this journey were mentioned in the Qur’an, Allah says:

Certainly, he saw it yet another time, (13) by the Lote Tree of the Ultimate Boundary, (14) near which is the Garden of the Abode, (15) when there covered the Lote Tree what covered it. (16) His gaze did not swerve, nor did it overstep the bounds. (17) Certainly he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord[4].

Time of Mi’raj

In several hadiths, the night of ascension was mentioned to be the 17th night of Rabi’ al-Awwal or the 27th night of Rajab, and in another narration, it is also documented to be the 17th or the 21st night of the month of Ramadan[5].

Method of Mi’raj

There are different opinions on whether the Prophet’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and thence to Heaven was physical, simply spiritual or both. However, since the Holy Prophet (PBUHH) had mentioned that: “During the Mi`raj, I met with the various Prophets; I saw the Angels; Heaven and Hell were shown to me; I was brought to the Arsh and reached to Sidratul Muntaha. I also met people in Heaven who were being showered with the blessings of Allah and also I saw people in Hell who were being punished by the harshest types of punishment; I was also informed as to why they were in such a state.” Thus, it is not possible that the Prophet (PBUHH) went to the Mi’raj in the physical body made of clay alone (as the physical body cannot travel through these various stages). In view of this, the journey was embarked upon by both the physical body and the spiritual.

It is documented that on that night, Gabriel descended on that noble Prophet and brought him a riding animal named “Burāq[6]” and the Messenger of Allah (PBUHH) rode on it and moved towards Jerusalem. He stopped at several places and offered ritual prayers on the way; one in Medina; the place of emigration to which the Messenger of Allah (PBUHH) migrated years later; one in Kufa Mosque; the other in Sinai and Bethlehem – the birthplace of Jesus Christ (PBUH) – and thereafter, he entered Al-Aqsa Mosque and prayed there. And he ascended to Heaven from there.

In the hadiths, it is mentioned that on that night, the material world presented itself to him in the form of a beautiful and pretty woman, but the Messenger of Allah (PBUHH) did not pay attention to it and passed by it.

The Events on Mi’raj

According to the narration reported by Ali ibn Ibrahim in his commentary from Imam Sādiq (PBUH), who reported the Messenger of Allah (PBUHH) saying: “I passed by a group of people who had dishes of lawful and unlawful meats in front of them, but they were eating the unlawful and abandoned the lawful one.” I asked Gabriel: Who are these? He said: “There are people from your community who eat unlawful wealth and abandon the lawful ones.” I also saw people who had lips like those of the camels, and the flesh of their hands was cut and put into their mouths, I asked Gabriel: Who are these? He said: “These are the people who find fault with the people.” I saw other people hitting their heads on stones, and when I asked Gabriel about their situation, he replied: “These are the people who did not pray the evening and Isha prayers and they are sleeping.” I saw people whom fire is being poured into their mouths and coming out of their anus, and when I asked about their condition, he said: “These are the ones who unjustly use the wealth belonging to the orphans.”

And from there, we ascended to the second Heaven and I saw two men similar to each other there. I asked Gabriel: Who are these? He said: They are both cousins of each other; Yahya and Jesus Christ (peace be upon them). And from there, we ascended to the third Heaven and I saw a very handsome man there whose prettiness compared to others was like the full moon of the fourteenth night compared to the stars. When I asked for his name, Gabriel said: This is your brother, Yusuf. I greeted him and he replied to my greeting and congratulated me. In addition, I saw many angels glorifying the Lord there.

From there, we went up to the fourth Heaven and I saw a man and when I asked Gabriel of him, he said: He is Idris whom Allah brought there. Thereafter, we went to the fifth Heaven and I saw an old man there who was surrounded by a group of his community and when I asked who he was. Gabriel said: It is Hārūn ibn Imrān.

Then we went up to the sixth Heaven and I saw a tall and dark-coloured man there who said: The children of Israel think that I am the dearest of Adam’s children in the sight of Allah, but this man [i.e., Muhammad] is dearer to Allah than I am, and when I asked Gabriel: Who is he? He said: Your brother, Moses, the son of Imran[7].

Thereafter, we went to the seventh Heaven, and I did not meet an angel there except that he said: O Muhammad, perform cupping and enjoin your nation to do the same[8]. In addition, I saw a man with black and white hair sitting on a throne there. Gabriel said: He is your father, Abraham. I greeted him and he answered and congratulated me. I saw the likes of the angels that I had seen in the previous Heavens there. Then I saw seas of light that dazzled the eyes with brilliance, the seas of darkness and obscurity and the seas of shivering snow and ice. And when I was afraid, Gabriel said: This is just a part of Allah’s creation.

And it is mentioned in a hadith that the Holy Prophet (PBUHH) said: “When I reached the veils of light, Gabriel stopped moving and said to me: Go ahead!” In another hadith, he (PBUHH) said: “When I reached a place known as ‘Sidra al-Muntaha’, Gabriel stood still there and left me alone and said: Go!” I said: O Gabriel, will you leave me alone in such a place and abandon me? He [Gabriel] said: “O Muhammad, this is the last point that Almighty Allah has appointed for me to ascend, and if I go higher than this, my feathers will get burned.”

Returning from Mi’raj

After the Mi’raj, the Prophet (PBUHH) once again returned to Bayt al­Muqaddas and there he met up with a Caravan from the tribe of Quraish. This group had lost one of their camels and was busy searching for it. The Prophet (PBUHH) asked them for a glass of water, drank some of it and poured the rest of it on the ground. Finally, he returned to Makkah.

When the morning came, he told the Quraish: “In the night, Allah took me to Bayt al‑Muqaddas and in that land, He showed me the aftereffects and the houses of the previous Prophets. On my return, I met up with a Caravan from the Quraish who had lost one of their camels; I requested a glass of water from them of which I drank some of it, and the rest I poured onto the ground.”

Abu Jahl who was one of the staunch enemies of the Noble Prophet said: “Ask him (the Prophet) how many pillars, lights and Mehrabs are in Bayt al‑Muqaddas.” At that time, Jibra’il came to the Prophet (PBUHH) and placed an image of Bayt al‑Muqaddas in front of him, with which he was able to answer all the questions posed to him. When the people of the Quraish heard this, they said, “Let us wait until the Caravan returns and we can ask them.” The Prophet (PBUHH) replied to them, “The Caravan will return to Makkah around the time of sunrise and in front of the Caravan will be an exquisite-looking camel.”

Once the morning came, everyone was in anticipation for the Caravan to arrive. They said, “The sun is rising but the Caravan still has not arrived!” Just as this was said and the sun began to rise above the horizon, the Caravan appeared. At the head of the Caravan, the same beautiful-looking camel that the Prophet had mentioned, could be seen[9].

References

[1] . Khan, Asad. “The Miracle of Isra (Night Journey) and Miraj (Ascension”

[2] . Cf. Qur’an 17 [Surah Isra]: 1; Qur’an 53 [Surah Najm]: 12-18.

[3] . Qur’an 17: 1.

[4] . Qur’an 53: 12-18.

[5] .  Seyed Hashim Rasuli Mahallati, The Life of Prophet Muhammad, p. 26.

[6] .  Buraq: the name of the ride that the Prophet (s) was on during his Mi’raj. Historians state that the body of it was similar to that of a horse while the head resembled that of a human being.

[7] . Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 18, p. 326.

[8] . Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 18, p. 326.

[9] . Sheikh Saduq, Amali Saduq, Page 363, Section 69, Hadith 1

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