The two journeys

AL-ISRA WA AL-MI’RAJ   سراء والمعراج

WHAT IS AL-ISRA?

  • Literal: It is an Arabic word meaning “a journey by night.”
  • Islamic: It refers to the miraculous night journey of the Prophet ﷺ from Masjid Al-Haram (in Makkah) to Jerusalem, specifically, to the site of Masjid Al-Aqsa.
  • PROOF: “Glory to God who did carry His servant for a journey by night from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our signs. Lo! Only He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.“ [Al-Isra 17:1]

WHAT IS AL-MI’RAJ?

  • Literal: It is an Arabic word meaning an elevator, i.e. an instrument which lifts something up.
  • Islamic: It refers to the second part of the journey, from Masjid Al-Aqsa to a place over the seventh heavens.
  • PROOF: “By the star that goes down; your companion (Muhammad) is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is no less than an inspiration sent down to him. He was taught by One mighty in power; endued with wisdom; for he appeared clear to view; when he was at the highest part of the horizon; then he approached and came closer and was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer. So did Allah reveal unto His servant what He (meant) to reveal. The (Prophet’s) mind and heart in no way falsified what he saw. Will you then dispute with what he saw? For indeed he saw him at a second descent; near the lote-tree beyond which none may pass; near it is the Garden of Abode; behold the lote-tree was shrouded (in mystery unspeakable). His eye never swerved, nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see, of the signs of his Lord, the Greatest.” [An-Najm 53:1-18]

WHEN IT HAPPENED?

  • Al-Isra and Al-Mi’raj refer to two parts of a journey that the Prophet ﷺ took one night.
  • Considered to have taken place after the Prophet’s visit to the people of Taif.
  • Considered by some to have happened just over a year before the Hijrah, on the 27th of Rajab [621 CE].
  • Majority of scholars consider it a physical journey.

THE NIGHT JOURNEY (AL-ISRA)

  • Jibril (aleyhis salam) descended into the Prophet’s room and went over to him [in another tradition, he was in his cousin’s house, Umm Hani Bint Abu Talib].
  • Jibril opened his shirt, cut open his chest, then he removed his heart and washed its inside with Zamzam (a sacred spring in Makkah).
  • After washing it, he brought a gold container filled with Iman (faith) and Hikmah (wisdom), emptied it into the Prophet’s chest and then closed it up all again.

WHY HIS HEART WAS WASHED?

  • To increase his wisdom as well as the strength of his belief to prepare him for that which he had yet to see in the upper world from among the wonders of the creation of Allah.
  • Jibril then nudged him until he awoke and led him outside the house to the gate of K’abah. There he found a strange animal named Buraq which carried him on his journey.

THE FIRST JOURNEY

  • First stop: A land with palm trees called Yathrib and Taybah. He prayed two units there.
  • Second stop: Tur Sina. He prayed two units there.
  • Third stop: Bayt Lahm (Bethlehem), the birthplace of Jesus. He prayed two units there.
  • Finally, they reached Jerusalem. There, the Prophet ﷺ tied Buraq to the same ring on the wall of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa used by the prophets to tie their animals.
  • He entered the Masjid where Allah assembled for him all the prophets and messengers, from Adam to Isa. He then moved forward and led them in prayer. This is an indication that he is the highest in status than all the rest of thems; and that they were all brothers and their religion was one.

WHAT IS BURAQ?

  • Taken from the Arabic word ‘Barq’ meaning a flash of lightning which literally means beam or send out light
  • Named as ‘Buraq’ because of its fast pace
  • Smaller than a horse and bigger than a donkey
  • Light is the fastest traveling in the world at the speed of 700 million miles an hour – proof for the truthfulness of Islam and his prophethood.
  • The Buraq Wall حائط البراق is named as such because this is where he Buraq when he reached Bayt Al-Maqdis.

CHOOSING THE FITRAH AND THE LESSONS FROM IT

  • While in Jerusalem, Jibril brought 2 bowls (vessels) and presented them to the Prophet and requested him to choose one to drink.
  • One was filled with wine and the other with milk and he chose the latter means that the milk was a sign, being easy to drink, good and tasty and while the wine is the mother of all evil. Milk and wine is a symbolic way of saying good and evil.
  • Jibril said to him: “You have been guided to the Fitrah (compatible with nature)”  meaning that he had chosen the religion of Islam and Istiqamah (being steadfast on the straight path).
  • From that incident, it was clear that any intoxicant, whatever it may be, was prohibited in Islam forever. Why? Imbibing it befogged the mind which is the most precious gift Allah Almighty has endowed man with.

THE SECOND JOURNEY

HE MET SOME PROPHETS IN THE HEAVENS

All of them received him warmly and wished him well.

  • The lowest heaven: Adam
  • The second heaven: Isa Ibn Maryam (Jesus) and Yahya (John The Baptist)
  • The third heaven: Yusuf (Joseph). The Prophet told him: “You are given half of the beauty.” (The other half was given for the whole world)
  • The fourth heaven: Idris (Enoch)
  • The fifth heaven: Harun (Aaron)
  • The sixth heaven: Musa (Moses)
  • The seventh heaven: Ibrahim (Abraham)

SOME OF THE CREATIONS THAT HE SAW

  • He saw examples and bounties of the inhabitants of Paradise and how their situation would be. Most of them are the poor people

  • Hur-ul-Ain—females specially created who will be married to men whom Allah willed them to marry
  •  Wildan-ul-Mukhalladun—beautiful creations whose appearance is like laid-out pearls who are servants of the inhabitants. The least in status of its inhabitants will have 10,000 Wildan-ul-Mukhalladun to serve him. Each one of them will carry a tray of gold in one hand and a tray of silver in the other hand .
  • He saw 4 rivers, 2 manifest (Nile and the Euphrates in this world) and 2 hidden (Kawthar and Zanzabil in Paradise).
  • He saw the world (Dunya) like an old woman, who was wearing a great deal of jewelry.
  • He saw Iblis on the side of the road which did not dare to stand in his way or speak to him.
  • He smelled a very pleasant scent coming from the grave of a pious woman whose duty was to comb the hair of Pharaoh’s daughter.
  • He saw people planting crops in one day and harvesting in the following day. They are those who fought for justice and freedom.
  • He was also taken to Hellfire and saw Malik, the angel-in-charge there, who did not smile at him when he saw him.
  • He saw people whose lips and tongues were clipped with scissors made of fire. They are the speakers of sedition (Fitnah) who call people to misguidance.
  • He saw a bull which exited from a very small outlet, then was trying in vain to return through that small outlet. This is the example of the bad word that once spoken, it cannot be returned.
  • He saw people grazing like animals, with very little clothing on their private parts. These are the ones who refused to give Zakat.
  • He saw angels smashing some people’s heads with rocks then would return to the original shape, and then the angels would smash their heads again, and so on. These are the ones whose heads felt too heavy to perform prayer, the ones who used to sleep without praying.
  • He passed by a group of people who had in their positions saucepans of well-cooked and good-looking meat and other utensils. They had odious and repulsive foul raw meat.
  • He passed by people whose genitals and buttocks were partly parched up. They were grazed like camels and cattle and their food was cow dung, palm-tree oil, kneepan and pebbles from hell fire. Upon asking about them, he was told that they were the people who begrudged the poor and indigent their rights.
  • He also passed by a group of people who had fingernails made of copper. They scratched their faces and chests continuously. Archangel, Gabriel, informed him that those people used to engage in slander and gossip and by so doing defamed others.
  • He passed by people whose genitals and buttocks were partly parched up. They were grazed like camels and cattle and their food was cow dung, palm-tree oil, kneepan and pebbles from hell fire. Upon asking about them, he was told that they were the people who begrudged the poor and indigent their rights.
  • He also passed by a group of people who had fingernails made of copper. They scratched their faces and chests continuously. Archangel, Gabriel, informed him that those people used to engage in slander and gossip and by so doing defamed others.

SIDRAT-UL-MUNTAHA (LOTE TREE OF THE UTMOST BOUNDARY)

  • Jibril lead him to this very big tree of Sidr, having leaves like the ears of elephant and fruits like large earthen-ware jugs of Hajar (i.e. near Madinah). Extremely beautiful tree, visited by butterflies made of gold.
  • This is the spot, beyond which Jibril could not go further. So they parted from each other because Jibril was afraid lest his wings be burnt. The Prophet was permitted to go beyond it.

HE THEN ASCENDED BEYOND 7 HEAVENS (PARADISE)

  • It was reported that he saw in it domes of pearls and its soil was made of musk.
  • He reached a place where he heard the creaking of the pens used by the angels who are copying from the Preserved Tablet.
  • This is where he heard the  speech (Kalam) of Allah which does not resemble our speech.
  • So it is neither something that occurs bit after bit nor a letter after letter nor a word that comes after another word. It has neither silence nor interruptions.
  • Rather, it is an attribute of Allah, which is eternal and everlasting and does not resemble the attributes of His creation.
  • Allah legislated the 5 daily prayers. It was initially 50 prayers reduced gradually to 5. If one performs the five daily prayers, he will be rewarded as though he performed 50 prayers

THE DAY AFTER THE JOURNEY

THE DISBELIEVERS’ REACTION

  • When he told the Makkans about this journey, they did not believe him. They argued saying that it took them a month to travel on camels to the Ash-Sham (today Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine).
  • They forgot that Allah cannot be restricted by time and space (distance).
  • They went further to challenge him to describe the Bayt Al-Maqdis.
  • They asked him about the caravan coming from Ash-Sham.

ABU BAKR WAS CALLED “AS-SIDDIQ”

  • It would be difficult for anyone to describe precisely any edifice he visits unless someone warns him beforehand that he would be interviewed.
  • Even if you are keen to notice everything, still it would be difficult to describe it meticulously. He started describing the mosque exactly as it was, while Abu Bakr was confirming the description.

A SOLACE FOR HIM AFTER 3 TRAGIC INCIDENTS

  1. The death of his paternal uncle, Abu Talib (the full brother of his father)
  2. The death of his beloved wife, Khadija Bint Khuwaylid
  3. Taif’s obstinate rejection of his mission as he tried to explain Islam to them

WHY IT HAPPENED?

1. During this night journey, Allah wanted to show the Prophet ﷺ the link between Makkah and Jerusalem.

  • Many prophets and messengers were born in Jerusalem
  • They came with the same message from the same source – to worship Allah (The One True God) alone and to refrain from associating Him with partners. – “… all messengers are brothers and their religion is one.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

2. By His ascension, Allah wanted to teach him a lesson that no matter how much he suffered; he had Allah’s protection from malicious and mischievous pagans.

  • Life is full of ups and downs, which play a very big role in shaping man. – “…so, verily, with every difficulty there is relief.” [Ash-Sharh 94:5-6]
  • If you abide by the commandments of God, He will come to your rescue no matter how powerful your enemies might be.

MORAL LESSONS

  • Belief in  God gives you self-confidence that saves you from wicked people. If you are in trouble, resort to God for succor and solace.
  • No matter how much you suffer for your faith, time will come when you will be victorious if you are sincere
  • In whatever situation you may be, act within the parameters of the commandments of God
  • If the whole world gathers to harm you, they can’t unless God wills
  • Do not be overwhelmed by human power. Be always closer to God. Aim high, trust in God and never surrender
  • Seek what is beneficial to you and avoid evil. Use your time wisely and keep away from slander and gossip
  • It is also a highly significant reminder to us of the special gift from God in terms of 5 daily prayers

LINK/S

  • Seerah of Prophet Muhammad by Dr. Yasir Qadhi – Night Journey and Ascension to Heavens (Part 21, Part 22, Part 23)

REFERENCES

  1. “Islamic Studies” Book I by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, published by IIPH
  2. “The Miracle of Al-Isra and Al-Mi’raj” published by IPC/Kuwait
  3. Article on “Al-Isra and Al-Mi’raj” researched by Hassan Taha Bwambale, Education Manager, AWARE Center
  4. Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar) by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri
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