By Yūsuf Badāt
The journey of Al-Isrāʾ and Al-Meʾrāj is perhaps the most amazing miraculous journey in human history. This was a journey wherein God, the Almighty, made His beloved prophet, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) travel in bodily [physical] form while awake, from Makkah, Saudi Arabia to Masjid Al-Aqṣāʾ in Palestine and thereafter ascend up to and beyond the seven heavens. Thereafter, he returned to Al-Aqṣāʾ and finally back to Makkah. Every aspect of this journey took place, in a fraction of the night. Subḥān Allāh(Glory be to God)!
“Glory be to God who took His servant by night from the sacred place of worship [at Makkah] to the remote house of worship [at Jerusalem], the precincts of which We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs. Surely, it is He who is All Hearing, and All Seeing.” – (Qurʾān 17:1)
A summary of some facts and events that took place in this miraculous journey are listed here-below:
Year of Travel
This journey took place approximately two years prior to the Prophet’s migration to Yathrib (Madīnah).
Sacred Cleansing Prior to the Journey
The Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was resting in the home of Umm Hānī. Angel Jibrīl with a group of other angels enter the home, take Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to the Kaʾabah, the grand mosque in Makkah. After a brief pause at the Ḥatīm, angles Jibrīl and Mikāʿīl escort Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to the well of Zam Zam. They lay him down, and conduct a spiritual washing of his heart with Zam Zam water.
Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is introduced to his transportation and asked to ride the Burāq. This is an animal somewhat like a donkey or mule in size, white in colour, that travels at the speed of lightning. He ascends the conveyance and begins his journey towards Al-Aqṣāʾ, Palestine.
Stops During the Journey to Al-Aqṣāʾ
On route, Jibrīl asks Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) to make brief stops at Yathrib, Madyan, Mount Sinai and Bethlehem.
Prior to reaching Al-Aqṣāʾ, the Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is shown some of the divine punishments awaiting those who backbite, consume usury, abandon mandatory prayers, do not discharge zakāh, commit adultery, practice theft, betray trusts and preach without practice. He was also shown the splendid rewards for those who do good and spend generously in Godʾs path to please Him.
At Al-Aqṣāʾ, Palestine
Upon reaching Al-Aqṣāʾ in Palestine, the Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) ties his conveyance. He then enters the prayer space of Al-Aqṣāʾ and performs two units of prayer. Thereafter, he sees a large crowd of people who welcome him. The adhān and iqāmah calls to prayer are made. As everyone lines up, angel Jibrīl takes the hand of Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) and brings him forward to lead the congregational prayer. After the prayer, the angel informs him that he has just led all the prophets and also some angels in the ritual prayer. Following this, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) engages in dialogue with the prophets then exits the Al-Aqṣāʾ compound. At this point, some vessels with milk, water, honey and wine are brought to the Prophet Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him). Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is applauded for making the choice to drink the milk.
It is now the time for the Prophet of God, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) to ascend to the heavens and beyond. With a special ladder and on the burāq, in the company of angels, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) ascends. Crossing the seven skies, he is welcomed and greeted by various prophets in the heavens, as follows;
- On the first sky, Prophet Ādam
- On the second, Prophets ʿĪsā and Yaḥyā
- On the third, Prophet Yūsuf
- On the fourth, Prophet Idrīs
- On the fifth, Prophet Hārūn
- On the sixth, Prophet Mūsā
- On the seventh, Prophet Ibrāhīm
- Some reports indicate, an encounter with Prophets Dāwud and Sulayman
(peace and blessings upon all of them)
From there, he is shown the Bayt Al-Ma’mūr, which is the ka’abah for the angels.
After crossing the seven skies, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) witnesses the Sidrat Al-Muntahāʿ, which is the divine lote-tree station that separates the earthly creations and the heavenly creations.
Paradise and Hell
Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is now shown the place of Ṣarīf Al-Aqlām where the heavenly Pen and Tablet that contain God’s decrees, for all his creation, exists. He is thereafter given an impressive tour of both Hell and Paradise.
In the Presence of the Almighty
Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is now honoured with another special conveyance known as the Rafraf. Upon it, he traverses countless curtains of divine light for the grand meeting with the Creator. Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) falls into prostration and directly communicates with the Almighty, devoid of any intermediary being. The Prophet of Islam later described the honourable sight as a grand divine light. During the special meeting with God, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is blessed with accepted supplications, honoured with gifts and divine bounties, including the exceptional gift of ṣalāh (ritual prayer). He is also honoured with the title, “Ḥabīb Allāh” meaning “God’s Beloved”.
Following the grand meeting with God, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) encounters Prophet Mūsā (peace and blessings upon him). Upon his input, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) is blessed by God with reduction of the original 50 prayers to 5 daily prayers. God promises Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) that his followers who are punctual with the daily five will attain the rewards of 50. Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) thereafter returns to Makkah via Jerusalem riding the burāq at the speed of lightning.
Return to Makkah – Back Home
Upon return home to Makkah, in the morning, the Prophet of Islam, Muḥammad (peace and blessings upon him) announces some of the details of his miraculous journey. He is faced with denial, rejection and mockery. Muḥammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is interrogated and found to be accurate in every aspect of the interrogation. Disbelievers ascribe the situation to sorcery. Believers accept the the occurrence as a manifestation of God’s boundless power and might.
(References: Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Fatḥ Al-Bārī, Zurqānīy, Al-Khaṣaiṣ Al-Kubrā, Bayhaqī, Musnad Aḥmad, Musnad Al-Bazzār, Sīrat Al-Muṣṭafā Li-Al-Khāndalwī, A-Bidāyah Wa-Al-Nihāyah, Al-Shifā)
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