Miracle of Isrâ' and Mi`râj, Nocturnal Journey and Ascent of Prophet Muḥammad
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
Praise be to God the Creator of the world, the One Who exists without beginning, without end, without location, without a “how” and Who does not depend on time. Nothing resembles Him in anyway and He hears and sees everything without organs. Whatever you imagine, God is different from that. May the elevation in degree and preservation of his community of what he fears for it, be granted to our master Muhammad Al-‘Amin, the Honest One, who called for following Islam, the religion of truth, the religion of all the Prophets: of the First, Adam, to the last Muḥammad.
Commemoration of Isra and Mi`râj, Nocturnal Journey and Ascent of Prophet Muḥammad
Muslims have become accustomed every year to commemorating the miracle of Isra and Mi`râj the night travel and Ascension Prophet Muḥammad ṣalla lLâhou `alayhi wa sallam that takes place during the 27th night of Rajab. During that night God granted His Prophet an eminent miracle.
Among the miracles accorded to the prophet Muḥammad ṣalla lLah `alayhi wa sallam, there is the miracle of the nocturnal journey, Al-'Isrâ', and Ascension, Al-Mi`râj, by which Allâh ta`âlâ raised his Prophet in honor.
Allâh honored His Prophet with the great miracle of ascending through the seven heavens so that he might see the amazing things of the heavenly world.
Allâh is the Creator of the heavens, the earth, the throne, and all creatures, so He does not need them, so He does not dwell in the heavens or the earth, He exists without place and without how and does not depend on time, nothing is like Him and nothing has any resemblance to Him.
Imam Abu Manṣūr al-Baghdadiyy related in his book, Al-Farqu Baynal-Firaq, that Imam `Aliyy, the fourth of the caliphs, may Allâh reward his deeds, said:
« كان الله ولا مكان، وهو الآن على ما عليه كان »
which means: « Allâh existed eternally and there was no place, and He now is as He was [without a place]»
Imam Abu Mansur al-Baghdadiyy also related that Imam `Aliyy said:
« إنَّ الله تَعَالى خَلَقَ العَرْشَ إظْهَارًا لِقُدْرَتِهِ وَلم يَتَّخِذُهُ مَكانًا لِذَاتِهِ »
which means: « Allâh created the `Arsh as an indication of His Power and did not take it as a place for Himself »
The Night Journey Al-Isrâ' and the Ascension of Prophet Muḥammad Al-Mi`râj
Thus the miracle of the nocturnal journey is confirmed by the very text of the Qur'an and of the sure Hadith. It is therefore a duty to believe that Allâh ta`âlâ made his Prophet travel from his honored Mecca to the Al-'AqSâ Mosque by night, may Allâh ta`âlâ protects this place from all evil.
Thereafter, Allâh 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, Muḥammad, was blessed with the most miracles. Al-Isrâ' and al-Mi`râj are among the many miracles of Prophet Muḥammad.
The miracle of Al-Isrâ' is confirmed in the Qur’ân. In Surat Al-Isrâ', Ayah 1, Allâh said:
﴿ سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ البَصِيرُ ﴾
which means: « Praise be to Allâh Who enabled His slave, Muḥammad, to make the journey at night from Masjid Al-Harâm in Makkah to Masjid Al-Aqsâ in Jerusalem, which is surrounded a blessed land.»
This journey is also confirmed in the ṣaḥīḥ Hadîth. As such, there is scholarly consensus (ijma`) Prophet Muḥammad journeyed in body and soul the night of al-Isra' from Masjid Al-Harâm in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsain Jerusalem. Moreover, these scholars indicated the person who denies al-Isra‘ is a blasphemer for belying the explicit text of the Qur'ân.
Before the Prophet took this night journey, the ceiling of the house in which he was staying was opened, and Jibril descended. He cut open the chest of Prophet Muḥammad and washed that open area with Zamzam water. Then he emptied something from a container into the chest of the Prophet to increase his wisdom as well as the strength of his belief. This was done to prepare the Messenger of Allâh for that which he had yet to see in the upper world from among the wonders of the creation of Allâh.
After the Prophet performed the Evening Prayer (`Isha'), Jibrîl came to him with a white animal, slightly larger than a donkey yet smaller than a mule. This animal was the burâq, one of the animals of Paradise. Jibrîl held the burâq by his ear and told the Prophet to mount it. When the buraq was mounted, the Prophet set forth.
The burâq is a very fast animal; the length of the burâq‘s stride is the farthest distance it’s eye can see. The Prophet and Jibrîl arrived to a land with palm trees. Jibrîl told the Prophet to dismount and pray, so the Prophet dismounted the burâq and prayed two rak`ahs. Jibril asked him: « Do you know where you prayed? » and the Prophet answered: « Allâh knows best.» Jibrîl told him: « This is Yathrib; this is Taybah. ». These are two names for the city of al-Madinah. Before the Prophet emigrated to Al-Madînah, it was called Taybah and Yathrib. It earned the name Al-Madînah after the Prophet emigrated to it.
The burâq continued with the Prophet and Jibrîl until they reached another place. Again Jibrîl told the Prophet to get down and pray. The Prophet dismounted there and prayed two rak`ahs. Jibrîl informed the Prophet of the name of that place; it was Tûr Sina'.
Once again the burâq took off with the Prophet and Jibrîl. Once again it stopped, and the Prophet dismounted and prayed two rak`ahs. This was in Bayt LaHm, where Prophet `Isâ' (Jesus) was born. Then the burâq continued with the Messenger of Allâh until they entered the city of Jerusalem. There the Prophet went to Masjid Al-Aqsa. Outside was a ring used by the Messengers of Allâh to tie their animals. The Prophet tied his burâq to this ring. Then the Prophet entered the masjid where Allâh assembled for him all the Prophets from Adam to `Isâ'. Prophet Muḥammad moved forward and led them all in prayer. This is an indication the Prophet is higher in status than all the rest of the prophets and messengers.
1- On Prophet Muḥammad’s journey from Masjid Al-Harâm to Masjid Al-AqSâ, Allâh enabled him to see some of His wondrous creations. Allâh enabled the Prophet to see the world (dunya) like an old woman. However, this old woman was wearing a great deal of jewelry, and in this there is an indication signifying the reality of the world.
2- Allâh enabled the Prophet to see Iblis. The Prophet saw something on the side of the road which did not dare to stand in his way or speak to him. What the Prophet saw was Iblis. Originally, Iblis was a believer and lived with the angels in Paradise. When Allâh ordered the angels to prostrate (sujud) to Prophet Adam, Iblis was ordered to prostrate to him as well. The angels prostrated to Adam in obedience to Allâh, because angels do not disobey Allâh. However, Iblis did not obey, and he objected to the order of Allâh. He said: « You created me out of fire, and You created him out of clay. How do You order me to prostrate to him? » So this objection by Iblis to the order of Allâh was the first blasphemy he committed.
3- On his journey, the Prophet smelled a very nice odor. He asked Jibrîl about this pleasant scent and Jibrîl informed him this good smell was coming from the grave of the woman whose duty used to be to comb Pharaoh’s daughter’s hair. This woman was a good, pious believer. One day, as she was combing Pharaoh’s daughter’s hair, the comb fell from her hand. At this she said: « Bismillâh ». Pharaoh’s daughter asked her: « Do you have a god other than my father? » The woman said: « Yes. My Lord and the Lord of your father is Allâh. » Pharaoh’s daughter told her father what had happened. Pharaoh demanded this woman blaspheme and leave Islam, but she refused. At that, Pharaoh threatened to kill her children. He brought a great pot of water and built a great fire under it. When the water boiled, Pharaoh brought her children and started to drop them into that pot one after the other. Throughout all this, the woman remained steadfast to Islam, even when Pharaoh reached her youngest child - a little boy still breast feeding - but she felt pity for him. At that, Allâh enabled this child to speak. He said to his mother: « O Mother, be patient. The torture of the Hereafter is far more severe than the torture of this life, and do not be reluctant, because you are right. » At this the woman requested Pharaoh collect her bones and the bones of her children and bury them in the same grave. Pharaoh promised her that–then dropped her into that boiling water. She died as a martyr. The good odor the Prophet smelled coming from her grave is an indication of her high status.
4- During his trip, the Prophet saw people who were planting and reaping in two days. Jibrîl told the Prophet: « These were the people who fight for the sake of Allâh (mujahidun). »
5- The Prophet also saw people whose lips and tongues were clipped with scissors made of fire. Jibrîl told the Prophet: « These are the speakers of sedition (fitna) who call people to misguidance.»
6- He also saw a bull which exited a very small outlet, then was trying in vain to return through that small outlet. Jibrîl told the Prophet: « This is the example of the bad word-once spoken, it cannot be returned. »
7- The Prophet saw people grazing like animals, with very little clothing on their private parts. Jibrîl told the Prophet: « These are the ones who refused to pay zakat. »
8- The Prophet saw angels smashing some people’s heads with rocks. These heads would return to the shape they had been, and then the angels would smash their heads again and so on. Jibrîl told the Prophet: « These are the ones whose heads felt too heavy to perform prayer–the ones who used to sleep without praying. »
9- On his journey the Prophet saw people who were competing to eat some rotten meat-ignoring meat that was sliced and unspoiled. Jibril told the Prophet: « These are people from your nation who leave out that which is permissible (Halâl), and consume that which is forbidden (Harâm). » This reference was to the fornicators, that is, the ones who left out the permissible (marriage) and committed sins (fornication).
10- Also, the Prophet saw people who were drinking from the fluid coming from the bodies of the fornicators, (water mixed with blood). Jibrîl indicated to the Prophet these were the ones who were drinking the alcohol which is prohibited in this world.
11- The Prophet saw people scratching their faces and chests with brass finger nails. Jibrîl said: « These are the examples of those who commit gossip (ghibah). »
1- After the Prophet took this night journey from Masjid Al-Harâm to Masjid Al-AqSâ', he ascended to the upper heavens. The Prophet ascended to the heaven on stairs, called Al-Mirqat, in which one step is made of gold and the next of silver, and so on. These stairs are veiled from us. The Prophet ascended these stairs until he reached the first heaven. When the Prophet and Jibrîl arrived at the first heaven, Jibril requested the gate to be opened. The angel assigned to that gate asked Jibril: « Who is with you? » Jibril answered: « It is Muḥammad. » The angel asked Jibrîl: « Was he dispatched? Is it time for him to ascend to the heaven? » Jibrîl said: « Yes. » So, the gate was opened for him, and Prophet Muḥammad entered the first heaven.
There, Prophet Muḥammad saw Prophet Adam. To Adam’s right, the Prophet saw some bodies, and to Adam’s left, other bodies. If Adam would look to his right he would laugh, and if he would look to his left he would cry. Adam was seeing the souls of his descendants. Those on his right were his descendants who would die as believers and those on his left were his descendants who would die as non-believers.
Then the Prophet ascended to the second heaven. In this second heaven was where Prophet Muḥammad saw Prophets `Isâ' and YaHya. `Isâ' and YaHya are cousins; their mothers were sisters. They welcomed the Prophet and made supplication (du`a‘) for him for good things. The Prophet ascended to the third heaven, where he found Prophet Yûsuf. Prophet Yûsuf was extremely handsome. Allâh bestowed half the beauty on Yusuf. Yusuf received the Prophet with a warm welcome and made supplication (du`a‘) for him for good things.
Then the Prophet ascended to the fourth heaven, where he found Prophet Idrîs. Idrîs welcomed the Prophet and made supplication (du`a‘) for him for good things. In the fifth heaven, the Prophet encountered Hârûn, the brother of Prophet Mûsâ. In the sixth heaven, he encountered Prophet Mûsâ. Each of these Prophets received Prophet Muḥammad with a warm welcome and made supplication (du`a‘) for him for good things.
Then the Prophet ascended to the seventh heaven, and that is where our Messenger saw Prophet Ibrâhîm. Prophet Ibrâhîm is the best of the prophets after our prophet, Muḥammad. The Prophet saw Prophet Ibrâhîm with his back against Al-Bayt Al-Ma`mûr. To the inhabitants of the skies, Al-Bayt Al-Ma`mur is like the Ka`bah is to us, the inhabitants of the earth. Every day 70,000 angels go there; then exit from it, and never return. The next day another 70,000 angels go, come out, and never return. This will continue until the Day of Judgment. In this, there is an indication as to the greatness of the numbers of the angels their numbers are far more than the numbers of the humans and the jinns together.
In the seventh heaven, Prophet Muḥammad saw Sidrat Al-Muntaha a very big tree of sidr. Each of the fruits of this tree is as large as a big jar. The leaves of this tree are similar to the ears of the elephants. Sidrat Al-Muntaha is an extremely beautiful tree. It is visited by butterflies made of gold. When these butterflies gather on this tree, its beauty is beyond description.
Then the Prophet ascended to what is beyond the seven skies; he entered Paradise. He saw examples of the inhabitants of Paradise and how their situation would be. He saw most of the inhabitants of Paradise are the poor people .
The Prophet saw other things on the night of his ascension. He saw Mâlik, the angel in charge of the Hellfire. Mâlik did not smile at the Prophet when he saw him, and the Prophet asked why. In answer to the Prophet’s question, Jibrîl said: « Mâlik did not smile since the day Allâh created him. Had he smiled for anyone, he would have smiled for you. »
In Paradise, the Prophet saw some of the bounties Allâh prepared for the inhabitants of Paradise. He saw the Huru l-^In: females Allâh created who are not humans or jinn. They are in Paradise and will be married to those men Allâh willed them to marry.
The Prophet saw the wildan ul-mukhâlladûn: creations of Allâh who are not human, jinn, or angels. They are a very beautiful creation of Allâh whose appearance is like laid-out pearls. They are servants of the inhabitants of Paradise. The least in status of the People of Paradise will have 10,000 wildan ul-mukhâlladûn to serve him. Each one of them would carry a tray of gold in one hand and a tray of silver in the other hand.
The Prophet saw the Throne (`Arsh), which is the ceiling of Paradise. The Throne is the largest creation of Allâh in size; Allâh did not create anything bigger in size than it. The seven heavens and the earth in comparison to the Kursiyy, are like a ring thrown in a desert, and the Kursiyy in comparison to the Throne, is like a ring thrown in a desert. The seven heavens and the earth in comparison to the Throne are like a seed of mustard compared to the ocean. Allâh created the Throne as a sign of His Power and He did not create the Throne to sit on it.
Allâh created the Throne to show His Power. It is carried by four angels, and on the Day of Judgment, it will be carried by eight. The Prophet said he was permitted to speak about one of these angels who carry the Throne. In describing this angel, the Prophet told us the distance between his ear lobe and shoulder is the distance a fast-flying bird would cover in 700 years.
Then the Prophet ascended beyond Paradise. He reached a place where he heard the creaking of the pens used by the angels who are copying from the Preserved Tablet. It is at that location Prophet Muḥammad heard the Kalam of Allâh, which is an attribute of the Self of Allâh. He heard the Kalam of Allâh which does not resemble our speech so it is not something that occurs bit after bit. It is not letter after letter or a word that comes after another word. Rather, it is an attribute of Allâh which is eternal and everlasting. It does not resemble our attributes. The Kalam of Allâh has neither silence nor interruptions. It is an attribute of Allâh, and it does not resemble the attributes of the creation.
The Prophet understood several things from hearing this Kalam of Allâh. He understood the obligation of the five Obligatory Prayers. At first, Allâh obligated fifty prayers. When Prophet Muhammad encountered Mûsâ, Mûsâ told him to make supplication (du`a‘) to his Lord to ease the obligation of fifty prayers, because his nation could not handle that. Mûsâ said: « I have experience with the people of Israel, and I know your nation cannot bear that. » So the Prophet asked his Lord to lessen these prayers for his people. Five prayers were eliminated. Once again, Mûsâ told the Prophet to ask Allâh to lessen the number of prayers. Allâh did. Nine times the Prophet made supplication to Allâh to lessen these prayers until these prayers were lessened to five Obligatory Prayers. So Prophet Mûsâ was a great benefit to us. Had we been obligated to pray fifty prayers a day, this would have been a difficult matter for us.
From the Kalam of Allâh, the Prophet also understood that a good deed would be written for the person who intends to do a good deed, even if he did not do it. Also, the good deed performed would be registered for he who performs it as at least ten good deeds-up to 700 good deeds. For some people, Allâh would multiply the reward of their deeds more than that. Additionally, if one performs a bad deed, it is registered for him as one bad deed; yet for he who inclines towards committing a bad deed and then refrains from committing it, a good deed would be registered for him. Here one should note the difference between two matters. If a thought crossed a person’s mind about doing something sinful, and this person wavered in this thinking, i.e., considered whether he should do it or not, then he refrained from doing this for the sake of Allâh, this is written as a good deed. However, if a person has the firm intention in his heart that he wants to commit a sin, it would be written for him as a sin, even if he does not do it.
The Prophet Returns to Makkah
After all these matters took place with the Prophet, he returned to the city of Makkah. Some scholars said the Prophet’s journey took about one-third of the night, i.e., his journey from Makkah to Jerusalem, then to the heavens and what is above them, and then back to Makkah The next day the Prophet told the people what happened to him the previous night. The blasphemers belied the Prophet and mocked him, saying: « We need a month to get there and back, and you are claiming to have done all this in one night? » They said to Abu Bakr: « Look at what your companion is saying. He says he went to Jerusalem and came back in one night. » Abu Bakr told them: « If he said that, then he is truthful. I believe him concerning the news of the heavens–that an angel descends to him from the heavens. How could I not believe he went to Jerusalem and came back in a short period of time–when these are on earth? » At that, the Companion, Abu Bakr, was called « As–Siddîq » because of how strongly he believed all what the Prophet said.
The blasphemous people questioned the Prophet: « If you are truthful, then describe to us Masjid Al-AqSâ and its surroundings. » They asked this because they knew Prophet Muḥammad had never been there before the previous night. Allâh enabled the Messenger to see Masjîd Al-AqSâ, and he described the masjid and its surroundings in exact detail. Moreover, the Prophet said: « On my way back, I saw some of your shepherds grazing their animals in a particular location. They were searching for a camel they had lost. » The Prophet continued by giving the description of the camel. When these shepherds came back, they told their people what happened to them-precisely as the Prophet had already told them.
These blasphemers admitted the Prophet’s description was exact. Despite that, they were still stubborn and rejected the faith. They did not accept Islam. Only those whom Allâh willed to be guided, will be guided. The person whom Allâh did not will to be guided, will not believe-regardless of how much explanation or how many proofs he is shown. The person whom Allâh willed to be guided, surely he will be a believer. Many people witnessed miracles and still did not believe. Many people witnessed the miracle of the Prophet’s splitting of the moon. Those who refused to embrace Islam said: « This is magic. Muḥammad played a magic trick on our eyes. » They even asked the people of a faraway land who witnessed the moon split in two. Despite this, they still did not believe. They said: « The magic of Muḥammad is powerful; it even reached the faraway lands! » This was their response to witnessing a miracle instead of believing and becoming Muslims.
We ask Allâh that we would all die as Muslims. We ask Allâh to bestow on us the bounty of entering Paradise without torture.
And Allâh knows best.
الحمد لله رب العالمين