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Isra and Miraj

Isra and Miraj: The Miraculous Night Journey 


The Israa and Miraj refer to, two parts of an miraculous journey that Prophet Muhammad  took in one night from Makka to Jerusalem and then an ascension to the heavens.

Israa is an Arabic word referring to Prophet Muhammad's miraculous night journey from Makka to Jerusalem - specifically, to the site of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem - as referred to in Surah Al-Israa in the Quran.

It is believed to have been followed by the Mi'raj, his ascension to heaven. According to some of the Hadith scholars this journey is believed to have taken place just over a year before Prophet Muhammad  migrated to from Makka to Madina, on the 27th of Rajab.

Muslims celebrate this night by offering optional prayers during this night, and in many Muslim countries, by illuminating cities with electric lights and candles.


Following is the translation of the first verse of chapter 17, Al-Israa, from the Quran that refers to this journey, followed by a detailed explanation of the verse by Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi.

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Holy is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque (in Makka) to the farther Mosque (in Jerusalem) - whose surroundings We have blessed - that We might show him some of Our signs 1. Indeed He alone is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Quran 17:1)

1 This is a reference to the event known as Mi'raj (Ascension) and Isra' (Night Journey). According to most traditions - and especially the authentic ones - this event took place one year before Hijrah. Detailed reports about it are found in the works of Hadith and Sirah and have been narrated from as many as twenty-five Companions. The most exhaustive reports are those from Anas ibn Malik, Malik ibn Sa'sa'ah, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and Abu Hurayrah. Some other details have been narrated by 'Umar, 'Ali, 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, 'Abd Allah ibn Abbas, Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, and 'A'ishah among other Companions of the Prophet .

The Quran here only mentions that the Prophet  was taken from the Ka'bah to the mosque in Jerusalem, and specifies that the purpose of the journey was such that God might "show him some of His signs". Beyond this, The Quran does not concern itself with any detail. However, according to Hadith reports, Gabriel took the Prophet  at night from the Ka'bah to the mosque in Jerusalem on a buraq.* On reaching Jerusalem the Prophet  along with other Prophets offered Prayers. (Al-Nasa'i, SunanK. al-Salah, 'Bab Fard al-Salah wa Dhikr Ikhtilaf al-Naqilin...' -Ed.) Gabriel then took him to the heavens and the Prophet  met several great Prophets in different heavenly spheres. (See al-Nasa'i, Sunan, K. al-Salah, 'Bab Fard al-Salah' - Ed.) Finally, he reached the highest point in the heavens and was graced with an experience of the Divine Presence. On that occasion the Prophet  received a number of directives including that Prayers were obligatory five times a day. (Al-Bukhari, K. Manaqib al -Ansar, 'Bab al-Mi'raj ; K. al-Tawhid, 'Bab Kallama Musa Taklima' - Ed.) Thereafter, the Prophet  returned from the heavens to Jerusalem, and from there to the Holy Mosque in Makka. Numerous reports on the subject reveal that the Prophet  was also enabled on this occasion to observe Heaven and Hell. (Al-Bukhari, K. al_Salah, 'Bab Kayfa Furidat al-Salah fi al-Isra' and Ibn Hisham, Sirah, vol. I, p. 404 - Ed.)

It may be recalled that according to authentic reports when the Prophet  narrated the incidents of this extraordinary journey the following day to the people in Makka, the unbelievers found the whole narration utterly amusing. (Muslim, K, al-Iman, 'Bab Dhikr al-Masih ibn Maryam' - Ed.) In fact, even the faith of some Muslims was shaken because of the highly extraordinary nature of the account. (See Ibn Hisham, Sirah , vol. I, p.398 and al-Qurtubi, comments on verse 1 of the surah - Ed.)

The details of the event provided by the Hadith supplement the Quranic account. There is no reason, however, to reject all this supplementary information on the grounds that it is opposed to the Quran. Nevertheless, if someone is not quite convinced and hence does not accept some of the details concerning the Ascension mentioned in the Hadith as true, he should not be considered an unbeliever. On the contrary, if someone were to clearly deny any part of the account categorically mentioned in the Quran, he would be deemed to have gone beyond the fold of Islam.

What was the nature of this journey? Did it take place when the Prophet  was asleep or when he was awake? Did he actually undertake a journey in the physical sense or did he have a spiritual vision while remaining in his own place? These questions, in our view, have been resolved by the text of the Quran itself. The opening statement: "Holy is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the farther Mosque... " (verse 1) itself indicates that it was an extraordinary event which took place by dint of the infinite power of God. For quite obviously, to be able to perceive the kind of things mentioned in connection with the event, either in a dream or by means of intuition, is not so wondrous that it should be prefaced by the statement : "Holy is He Who carried His servant by night..." ; a statement which amounts to proclaiming that God was free from every imperfection and flaw. Such a statement would make absolutely no sense if the purpose of it was merely to affirm that God had the power to enable man to have either visions in the course of a dream, or to receive information intuitively. In our view, the words of the experience or a dream vision, was an actual journey, and the observation in question was a visual observation. All was contingent upon God's will that truths be revealed to the Prophet  in this fashion. 

Now, let us consider the matter carefully. The Quran tells us, in clear terms, that the Prophet , went from Makka to Jerusalem and then returned to Makka during the night (obviously, without the use of anything resembling an aircraft), owing to God's power. Now, if we believe this to be possible, what justification can there be to reject as inherently impossible the additional details of the event mentioned in the traditional sources? Statements declaring certain acts to be possible and others to be beyond the range of possibility are understandable if these acts are deemed to have been performed by creatures in exercise of the natural powers with which they are endowed.

However, when it is clearly stated that it is God Who did something out of His power, any doubts about the possibility of these acts can be entertained only by those who do not believe God to be all-powerful.

Those who reject the Hadith as such raise several objections against the traditions concerning this incident. It seams that only two of these objections are worth of any consideration.

First, it is claimed that the contents of the traditions relating to the Ascension imply that God is confined to a particular place. For had that not been the case, it is argued there would have been no need to transport the Prophet  in order for him to experience the presence of God. Second, it is questionable whether the Prophet  was enabled to observe Heaven and Hell and to see people being chastised for their sins even though they had not yet been judged by  God. How is it that people were subjected to punishment even before the coming of that Day when all will be judged?

Both these objections, however, carry little substance, The first objection is to be rejected on the grounds that although the Creator is infinite and transcends both time and place, yet in dealing with His creatures He has to have recourse to the means which are finite and are circumscribed by time-space limitations. This is because of the inherent limitations of man. Hence when God speaks to His creatures, He employs, of necessity, the same means of communication which can be comprehensible to the latter even though His Own speech transcends the means employed in the speech. In like fashion, when God wants to show someone the signs of His vast kingdom, He takes him to certain places and enables him to observe whatever he is required to observe. For it is beyond the power of man to view the universe in the manner God can. While God does not stand in need of visiting a certain place in order to observe something that exists there, man does need to do so. The same holds true of having a direct encounter with the Creator. Although God is not confined to a particular place, man needs to experience His presence at a defined place where the effulgence of His Being might be focused. For it is beyond man's power to encounter God in His limitlessness.

Let us now consider the second objection. That too is fallacious for the simple reason that the objects shown to the Prophet  represented , in symbolic form, certain truths. For instance , a mischievous statement has allegorically been represented by a fat ox that could not return via the small hole through which it had come. (See Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, comments on Bani Isra'il 17:1 - Ed.) Or the other allegory relating to those who indulge in fornication - that they prefer to eat rotten meat when fresh, clean meat is available to them. (Loc.cit ; see also Ibn Hisham, vol. 1 p. 406 - Ed.) The same holds true for the punishments to which sinners will be subjected in the Next Life - they are anticipatory representations of the sufferings to which they will be subjected in the Life to Come. The main point which needs to be appreciated regarding the Ascension is that it belongs to a genre of experience through which each Prophet is enabled to observe- consonant with his standing and mission - aspects of God's dominion of the heavens and the earth. Once the material barriers to the normal vision of human beings are removed, it becomes possible to view physically, the realities which the Prophets are required to summon others to believe in as part of faith in the Unseen. This is done in order to distinguish the Prophets from mere speculative philosophers. For a philosopher's contentions are based on speculative reason and hence are essentially conjectural. Were a philosopher to recognize his true position - the position of a philosopher - he would shrink from testifying to the truth of his contentions. In contrast, what the Prophets say is based on their direct knowledge and observation. They can testify before others with full conviction that whatever they expound are realities which they themselves have directly perceived.

Note:

*Buraq was the name of the heavenly steed on which the Prophet  rode on his nocturnal journey from Makka to Jerusalem, and then to the heavens (For this nocturnal journey q.v.Mi'raj.)

 Qur'an

 Glory to "Allah" Who did take 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: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things)."  Qur'an 17:1  

 Hadith #1

Narrated Anas bin Malik

The night Allah's Apostle was taken for a journey from the sacred mosque (of Mecca) Al-Ka'ba: Three persons came to him (in a dreamy while he was sleeping in the Sacred Mosque before the Divine Inspiration was revealed to Him. One of them said, "Which of them is he?" The middle (second) angel said, "He is the best of them." The last (third) angle said, "Take the best of them." Only that much happened on that night and he did not see them till they came on another night, i.e. after The Divine Inspiration was revealed to him. (Fateh-Al-Bari Page 258, Vol. 17) and he saw them, his eyes were asleep but his heart was not----and so is the case with the prophets: their eyes sleep while their hearts do not sleep. So those angels did not talk to him till they carried him and placed him beside the well of Zam-Zam. From among them Gabriel took charge of him. Gabriel cut open (the part of his body) between his throat and the middle of his chest (heart) and took all the material out of his chest and abdomen and then washed it with Zam-Zam water with his own hands till he cleansed the inside of his body, and then a gold tray containing a gold bowl full of belief and wisdom was brought and then Gabriel stuffed his chest and throat blood vessels with it and then closed it (the chest). He then ascended with him to the heaven of the world and knocked on one of its doors.

The dwellers of the Heaven asked, 'Who is it?' He said, "Gabriel." They said, "Who is accompanying you?" He said, "Muhammad." They said, "Has he been called?" He said, "Yes" They said, "He is welcomed." So the dwellers of the Heaven became pleased with his arrival, and they did not know what Allah would do to the Prophet on earth unless Allah informed them. The Prophet met Adam over the nearest Heaven. Gabriel said to the Prophet, "He is your father; greet him." The Prophet greeted him and Adam returned his greeting and said, "Welcome, O my Son! O what a good son you are!" Behold, he saw two flowing rivers, while he was in the nearest sky. He asked, "What are these two rivers, O Gabriel?" Gabriel said, "These are the sources of the Nile and the Euphrates."

Then Gabriel took him around that Heaven and behold, he saw another river at the bank of which there was a palace built of pearls and emerald. He put his hand into the river and found its mud like musk Adhfar. He asked, "What is this, O Gabriel?" Gabriel said, "This is the Kauthar which your Lord has kept for you." Then Gabriel ascended (with him) to the second Heaven and the angels asked the same questions as those on the first Heaven, i.e., "Who is it?" Gabriel replied, "Gabriel". They asked, "Who is accompanying you?" He said, "Muhammad." They asked, "Has he been sent for?" He said, "Yes." Then they said, "He is welcomed.'' Then he (Gabriel) ascended with the Prophet to the third Heaven, and the angels said the same as the angels of the first and the second Heavens had said.

Then he ascended with him to the fourth Heaven and they said the same; and then he ascended with him to the fifth Heaven and they said the same; and then he ascended with him to the sixth Heaven and they said the same; then he ascended with him to the seventh Heaven and they said the same. On each Heaven there were prophets whose names he had mentioned and of whom I remember Idris on the second Heaven, Aaron on the fourth Heavens another prophet whose name I don't remember, on the fifth Heaven, Abraham on the sixth Heaven, and Moses on the seventh Heaven because of his privilege of talking to Allah directly. Moses said (to Allah), "O Lord! I thought that none would be raised up above me."

But Gabriel ascended with him (the Prophet) for a distance above that, the distance of which only Allah knows, till he reached the Lote Tree (beyond which none may pass) and then the Irresistible, the Lord of Honor and Majesty approached and came closer till he (Gabriel) was about two bow lengths or (even) nearer. (It is said that it was Gabriel who approached and came closer to the Prophet. (Fate Al-Bari Page 263, 264, Vol. 17). Among the things which Allah revealed to him then, was: "Fifty prayers were enjoined on his followers in a day and a night."

Then the Prophet descended till he met Moses, and then Moses stopped him and asked, "O Muhammad ! What did your Lord en join upon you?" The Prophet replied," He enjoined upon me to perform fifty prayers in a day and a night." Moses said, "Your followers cannot do that; Go back so that your Lord may reduce it for you and for them." So the Prophet turned to Gabriel as if he wanted to consult him about that issue. Gabriel told him of his opinion, saying, "Yes, if you wish." So Gabriel ascended with him to the Irresistible and said while he was in his place, "O Lord, please lighten our burden as my followers cannot do that." So Allah deducted for him ten prayers where upon he returned to Moses who stopped him again and kept on sending him back to his Lord till the enjoined prayers were reduced to only five prayers.

Then Moses stopped him when the prayers had been reduced to five and said, "O Muhammad! By Allah, I tried to persuade my nation, Bani Israel to do less than this, but they could not do it and gave it up. However, your followers are weaker in body, heart, sight and hearing, so return to your Lord so that He may lighten your burden."

The Prophet turned towards Gabriel for advice and Gabriel did not disapprove of that. So he ascended with him for the fifth time. The Prophet said, "O Lord, my followers are weak in their bodies, hearts, hearing and constitution, so lighten our burden." On that the Irresistible said, "O Muhammad!" the Prophet replied, "Labbaik and Sa'daik." Allah said, "The Word that comes from Me does not change, so it will be as I enjoined on you in the Mother of the Book." Allah added, "Every good deed will be rewarded as ten times so it is fifty (prayers) in the Mother of the Book (in reward) but you are to perform only five (in practice)."

The Prophet returned to Moses who asked, "What have you done?" He said, "He has lightened our burden: He has given us for every good deed a tenfold reward." Moses said, "By Allah! I tried to make Bani Israel observe less than that, but they gave it up. So go back to your Lord that He may lighten your burden further." Allah's Apostle said, "O Moses! By Allah, I feel shy of returning too many times to my Lord." On that Gabriel said, "Descend in Allah's Name." The Prophet then woke while he was in the Sacred Mosque (at Mecca).

 Hadith #2

Narrated Abu Huraira

On the night Allah's Apostle was taken on a night journey (Miraj) two cups, one containing wine and the other milk, were presented to him at Jerusalem. He looked at it and took the cup of milk. Gabriel said, "Praise be to Allah Who guided you to Al-Fitra (the right path); if you had taken (the cup of) wine, your nation would have gone astray."



﴾ دعاء ﴿ 
 
 (اللهم أعطنا من صفوة آدم (عليه السلام
 (ومن شجاعة نوح (عليه السلام
 (ومن خُلة إبراهيم (عليه السلام
(ومن صدق إسماعيل (عليه السلام
(ومن رضا إسحاق (عليه السلام
 (ومن حلم يعقوب (عليه السلام
(ومن عفة يوسف (عليه السلام
 (ومن فصاحة صالح (عليه السلام
(ومن تسبيح يونس (عليه السلام
 (ومن صبر أيوب (عليه السلام
 (ومن حكمة لقمان (عليه السلام
 (ومن مزامير داود (عليه السلام
 (ومن شُكر سليمان (عليه السلام
 (ومن بينة هود (عليه السلام
 (ومن قوة موسى (عليه السلام
 (ومن فصاحة هارون (عليه السلام
 (ومن علم الخضر (عليه السلام
(ومن دعاء زكريا (عليه السلام
(ومن بر يحيى (عليه السلام
(ومن ورع عيسى (عليه السلام
(ومن خُلق محمد (صلى الله عليه وسلم
 
اللهم صلى وسلم وبارك عليه وعلى جميع الأنبياء
والمرسلين وعلينا معهم برحمتك يا أرحم الراحمين
 
 

Related :
Shab-e-Barat

The Holy Prophet
(صلى الله عليه وسلم)
once asked Hadrat Jibrael,
(عليه السلام)

“O Jibrael !
(عليه السلام)
How old are you”?

Jibrael al-Ameen
(عليه السلام)
replied,

“O Rasoolullah
(صلى الله عليه وسلم)
I don’t know how old I am, 
but I do know that in the Fourth Covering,
(حجاب)
I saw a star shine once every 70,000 years,
and I saw this 72,000 times.”

The Holy Prophet
(صلى الله عليه وسلم)
then said,
______________________________
_____
و عزة ربي انا ذالك الكوكب

“By the honour of Allah
(سبحانه و تعالى) I was that star.” 
______________________________
_____
[Tafseer Rooh al-Bayaan, Vol. 1, Page 974]
Thus the Noor of our Beloved Prophet
(صلى الله عليه وسلم)
was created before anything else.

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