THE ELEVENTH YEAR OF PROPHETHOOD

The Aqabah Meeting

It was night. A group of six people from Medina, who were in Mecca visiting the Kaabah, encountered the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) near Aqabah. They were instantly struck by the heavenly glow of the Prophet’s (pbuh) appearance, at which moment the drops of divine compassion began dripping into their hearts, bringing to life the buds of love within, giving them a joy beyond description. Meanwhile, the Light of Being (pbuh) approached to offer them an invitation to Islam, just as he did with others, in accordance with his duty of prophethood.

“Shall we sit awhile and talk?” he proposed.

The six fortunate men from Medina were more than ready for the opportunity to talk to such an awe-inspiring man. Like moths drawn to a light, they quickly formed a circle around the Noble Prophet (pbuh).

Reciting some passages from the Quran, the Prophet (pbuh) called them to Islam, urging them to accept the happiness of both worlds.

The Medinans had heard from their forefathers of a future prophet, of whom they were also frequently reminded by their Jewish neighbors. Thus, when they heard firsthand the call of the Prophet (pbuh), they said to one another in a sense of urgency:

“He must be the Prophet the Jews have been threatening us with. We cannot let the Jews beat us to believing him.”

It only took another look at the Gracious Messenger’s (pbuh) glowing face, which they had admired from the first moment they had set their gazes on him, for the Medinans to wholeheartedly embrace the call. They said the shahadah at once.

The Prophet (pbuh) then asked them whether they would help if he was to migrate to Medina with the Muslims. They replied that the long lasting hostilities between the Medinan tribes of Aws and Khazraj had reached a boiling point, owing to which they could not be of much help if the Muslims were to migrate that very year. But they asked for a year’s delay to assess the situation. With the promise to pass the word of call to the Medinans, they pledged to return for pilgrimage in a year’s time.

The small delegation of Medinans returned home with an entirely different air of joy. Cleansed of the dirt of ignorance, they were now relieved of a burden from their shoulders and were feeling as light as birds. As soon as they came back to Medina, they began explaining the cause of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to the locals and inviting them to Islam, so much so that there was not a single house left in Medina in which the Noble Messenger (pbuh) was not spoken about.[1]

The Third Sharh’us-Sadr: A Preparation for Miraj

On the night of Isra and Miraj—the Night Journey and Ascent to Heaven—before the Noble Prophet’s (pbuh) meeting with the Almighty, for the third time, his pure heart was prepared to receive divine manifestations and his chest filled with faith and wisdom.[2]

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) recalls the event as follows:

“I was lying down between sleep and wakefulness at Hatim, near the Kaabah. Then someone came and cleaved my chest from there to here (pointing from his throat to his abdomen while saying this) and removed my heart. A golden container was then brought, filled with faith and wisdom. My heart was washed with Zamzam water and filled with faith and wisdom, before being returned to its place.” (Bukhari, Bad’ul-Khalq 6; Anbiya 22, 43; Muslim, Iman 264)

A Unique Gift to the Beloved: Miraj

The Isra took place eighteen months before the Hegira.

The Divine gift referred to as the Isra and Miraj is a transcendent blessing beyond all veils placed on mortals that surpasses all comprehension. Space and time as understood in human terms, for instance, were removed, allowing a long journey and innumerable experiences to occur within a mere split second that would otherwise take billions of lifetimes to complete.

The Almighty reveals:

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِى اَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ اِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ اْلاَقْصَى الَّذِى بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ اَيَاتِنَا اِنَّه هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

“Glory be to Him Who made His servant go by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts we have blessed, so that We may show to him some of Our signs. Surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (al-Isra, 1)

To draw attention to the importance and wonder of the event it is soon to express, the verse begins with a glorification (tanzih). Commentators hold that the word سُبْحَانَ (subhane) clears the Almighty of all deficient attributes, used also to express astonishment in the face of the miraculous doings of the Creator. As such, it is also one of the most important words used to remember the Almighty.

In short:

1. The word praises and affirms the miraculous Isra and lays the groundwork for the purification of hearts, protecting it from the fancies of likening Allah (SWT), to creation.

2. It emphasizes that the Almighty is remote from deficient attributes of any kind, especially for those who deem the Miraj impossible.

The verse goes on to draw attention to night. Isra was a night journey. Most of the Revelation came at night time. Again, it is the night in which groundbreaking events, whether good or bad, take place. Likewise the pre-dawn is the time of the tahajjud salat, a voluntary yet a peak act of worship.

As for the blessings of the Farthest Mosque, or Masjid’ul-Aqsa, and its surroundings, commentators have referred to them as:

1. The blessings of both the world and the hereafter. The Mosque is surrounded by greenery and rivers.

2. It has been the home of many prophets and hence has been blessed over and over with divine revelation.

3. The further blessings it has received through being a destination for the Isra.

During this journey, Allah (SWT), made His messenger witness many extraordinary events.

That night at Masjid’ul-Aqsa, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) led the salat before the entire host of prophets.[3]

Abu Hurayrah (r.a) narrates that on the night of Isra, the Noble Prophet (pbuh) was brought two bowls, one of wine, the other of milk. After a momentary look, the Prophet (pbuh) chose the bowl of milk, upon which Jibril said, “Praise be to Allah who has guided you to that which suits man’s reason for existence. Had you chosen the bowl of wine, your nation would have deviated.” (Muslim, Iman 272, Ashribah, 92)[4]

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was thus representing the whole of his ummah, as their source of inspiration. Milk stood for natural disposition (fitrah), while wine stood for love of the world.

The Quran states:

وَمَا يَنْطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى

“…Nor does he speak out of desire” (an-Najm, 3) whereby the Almighty informs us that the Noble Prophet (pbuh) never did anything of his own doing.

Allah, glory be unto Him, is the Absolute Doer, and thus the Prophet (pbuh) had submitted completely to Him. Here, by making him prefer milk, the Almighty guided His Messenger to the greatest virtue. This event depicted in the hadith also hints at the supreme blessing upon the ummah of the Noble Messenger (pbuh).

Taken from the Masjid’ul-Haram to the Masjid’ul-Aqsa with the night walk referred to as Isra, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was honored with ascension to the heavens, the Miraj. Guided by the Archangel Jibril, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) went as far as the Sidrat’ul-Muntaha, the Lote-Tree.

The Noblest of Creations (pbuh) recounts the experience as follows:

“I was at Hatim, by the Kaabah, between sleep and wakefulness, when Buraq, an animal larger than a donkey yet smaller than a mule, was brought to me. With its forelegs, it could leap as far as it could see. I was mounted on it. Jibril led us to the nearest heaven and asked for its gates to be opened.

‘Who is it?’ a voice asked from behind.

‘Jibril’.

‘Who is with you?’

‘Muhammad’.

‘Has he been delivered the invitation of Miraj?’

‘Yes!’

‘In that case welcome…How wonderful a visit!’

The gates were then opened. When we passed through, I saw a man waiting. ‘This is your father Adam. Greet him!’ it was said. I greeted him. He responded, after which he spoke:

‘Welcome, virtuous son, virtuous Prophet!’

Then Jibril elevated me to the second heaven. There I saw Yahya and Isa (a.s), the two maternal cousins.

I was further raised to the third heaven, where I saw Yusuf (a.s). And afterward to the fourth, where I saw Idris (a.s), then to the fifth where I saw Harun (a.s), and finally to the sixth, in which Musa (a.s) was waiting.

‘Virtuous brother, virtuous Prophet…Welcome!’ he said.

But after we passed him, he began weeping.

‘Why do you weep?’ he was asked.

‘I weep because the young man who became prophet after me will have more of his followers enter Paradise than mine!”[5]

Then Jibril took me to the seventh heaven, where we saw yet another man.

‘Greet your father Ibrahim!’ Jibril said.

I greeted him to which he replied:

‘Virtuous son and virtuous Prophet…Welcome!’ he said, before continuing, ‘Send my greetings, Muhammad, to your followers and let them know of the beauty of the soil of Paradise, the sweetness of her waters, and the vastness of her land. But tell them to plant more trees here. The trees of Paradise are planted merely through saying, ‘Subhanallah wa’l-hamdu lillah wa la ilaha illallahu wallahu Akbar’ (Glory and thanks are for Allah; there is no god but Allah and Allah is the Greatest)’.

I was then raised to a Tree, whose fruits were as huge as the Hejr pots of Yemen, and leaves like elephant ears.

‘And this…is the Sidrat’ul-Muntaha’, Jibril uttered.

There flowed four rivers; two inward and two outward.

‘What are these called, Jibril?’ I asked.

‘The two inward rivers belong to Paradise. As for the outward ones, one is the Nile and the other the Euphrates’”[6] (Bukhari, Bad’ul-Khalq, 6; Anbiya, 22, 43’ Manaqib’ul-Ansar, 42; Muslim, Iman, 264; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 94; Da’wat, 58; Nasai, Salat, 1; Ahmad, V, 418)

It follows that upon reaching the Sidrat’ul-Muntaha, Jibril said:

“From this point onward, Messenger of Allah, you are on your own!”

“Why, Jibril?” asked the Prophet (pbuh).

“The Almighty allows me passage only up to this point. If I take a single step further, I will burn to ashes!” (Razi, XXVIII, 251)

The Noble Prophet (pbuh) continued the rest of the journey on his own. He was blessed with extraordinary manifestations, and honored above all with the vision (jamal) of the Almighty.

To properly describe these amazing experiences in words is as impossible as trying to reduce a truth beyond imagination to the level of human comprehension. The manifestations, whose true nature remains an eternal secret between the Almighty and His Beloved, took place strictly within the conditions of the supersensible world, alam’ul-ghayb.

With that said, these magnificent secrets manifested between the Glorious and His Noble Prophet display the boundless blessings of the Creator to those who receive His revelations.

The Miraj also carried the Divine aim of ridding the sorrow that had filled the Prophet’s (pbuh) heart following the cruelties he endured at Ta’if, to make room for happiness.

Since the Miraj took place beyond space and time, it is impossible for human understanding to completely grasp this Divine manifestation. Forcing the imagination in hope of grasping such delicate and unique matters is strongly advised against.

Once in the dimensionless realm of the Almighty during the Miraj, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), with an exceptional Divine gift that surpassed all those given to previous prophets, experienced a manifestation described as:

فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى

“So he was at the measure of two bows or closer still.” (an-Najm, 9)

Remembering that despite being among the great prophets, experiencing only an inkling of this manifestation was enough to make Prophet Musa (a.s) faint, one can get an idea of the sublime rank of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) next to Allah, the Glorious, and the special authority and power he was given.

In the sacred valley, for his feet to share in the blessings of the site and participate in that honor, Prophet Musa (a.s) was asked to remove his shoes. But at the Night of Miraj, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was in a sense told to:

“Walk on the covering of the Highest Heaven with your shoes, so that the Heaven is honored with their dust, and that the light of the Heaven is blessed with your presence .” (Bursawi, V, 370)

Poet Kemal Edib Kürk­çü­oğ­lu gives an elegant voice to the excitement of the heavens over the ascension of the Prophet (pbuh):

At the night of Miraj, for staring at his face,
To the ground, in gratitude, the heavens fall prostrate…

Below is the Almighty’s description of the Miraj:

وَالنَّجْمِ اِذَا هَوَى

 “By the Star when it goes down…” (an-Najm, 1)[7] The chapter begins with an oath to emphasize the truth of the Miraj against the possible denials of the nonbelievers. This is supported by what follows after the vow:

مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَى. وَمَا يَنْطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَى. اِنْ هُوَ اِلاَّ وَحْىٌ يُوحَى. عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَى. ذُو مِرَّةٍ فَاسْتَوَى. وَهُوَ بِاْلاُفُقِ اْلاَعْلَى.

“…Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled; Nor does he speak out of desire. It is naught but revelation that is revealed. He was taught by one Mighty in Power, endowed with Wisdom: for he appeared, in a stately form, while he was in the highest firmament.” (an-Najm, 2-7)

The word istiwa, translated as ‘appearance in a stately form’ above, literally means to cover, to encompass or to straighten up. Together with the consideration that it is Jibril (a.s) who is the subject of the verb, the majority of commentators tend to instead attribute the verb to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), in which case it highlights the highness of his value and rank. So the Prophet (pbuh) straightened up at the highest horizon and:

ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّى

“Then he approached and came closer…” (an-Najm, 8) That is to say, as a result of Divine attraction, the Noble Prophet was drawn higher; even higher than the rank where he was.

Thus, during the Miraj, the Prophet (pbuh) not only aligned to the highest horizon, he also drew nearer to the Allah (SWT). Then the affect of divine attraction increased more and more, until the Prophet (pbuh) suddenly passed to the other side of the highest horizon:

فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ اَوْ اَدْنَى

“So he was the measure of two bows or closer still.” (an-Najm, 9)

قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ اَوْ اَدْنٰى

‘The measure of two bows or closer’ is a simile used to express a supersensible reality in sensory terms. It has reference to a common practice among Arabs before the coming of Islam. The custom was that whenever two parties made an agreement on a matter, each party would take out a bow, and placing them jointly on top of one another, would shoot a single arrow with the two bows. This acted as a symbol of solidarity, indicating that whatever one liked from then on so would the other, and reason for one’s anger would also serve as reason for the other’s.

Thus comprising both physical and spiritual closeness, qaba qawsayn, or the measure of two bows, is a sublime reality that surpasses human comprehension. The Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh) got so close to his Lord at that instant that all mediums ceased to be, and in a direct fashion:

فَأَوْحٰىٓ إِلٰى عَبْدِهِ مَآ أَوْحٰى

“…He revealed to His servant what He revealed…”(an-Najm, 10)

What is meant by this ‘revealing’ has been explained as:

1. Salat. One of the most important aspects of the Miraj is that it was then that the five daily salats were made obligatory. With the advise of Prophet Musa (pbuh), the Noble Prophet (pbuh) kept on insisting the Almighty, as a result of which the number of daily salats, fifty to begin with, were dropped to five. With this, however, the Allah (SWT), promised to reward a single deed with ten rewards, hence the reward of fifty salats in return for the five. Afterward, Allah, glory be to Him, added:

“Whoever intends to do a good deed but cannot, shall still receive a reward for his good will. If he does, then he will have ten rewards recorded in his name.

And whoever intends to commit something bad, but does not, shall reap no sin. If he does commit it, he will be imputed that one sin!” (Muslim, Iman, 259)

Owing to the repeated pleas of the Prophet (pbuh), the Almighty decreased the number of daily salats, fifty to begin with, to five, as is explained in a lengthy hadith. What this means is that although the rights of the Creator, or huququllah, in fact require man to worship Him fifty times a day, being boundlessly merciful, the Creator has relieved man of nine tenths of this responsibility. Considering the ayah:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“I have created the jinn and men only that they might worship Me” (az-Zhariyat, 56) declares that the essential activity for mankind is to worship the Creator, it could be understood that the amount of this responsibility has been reduced in consideration of the generally weak nature of man; yet it also means that although it is not obligatory, there is more than good reason, for those who can, to voluntarily offer more salats, which is not prohibited by any means.

In addition to the five obligatory daily salats, and as the natural outcome of what has been explained above, mature believers offer voluntary salats like the ishraq and awwabin, and give special importance to getting up at night for tahajjud. But in order for these voluntary acts of worship to be performed only by those with the zest and power to do so, with the repeated pleas of the Prophet (pbuh), the obligatory salats were in the end reduced to five a day from the fifty they were to begin with.

2. The Prophet (pbuh) was given the promise that:

“No Prophet before you and no followers before your followers shall enter Paradise!” (Razi, XXVIII, 248)

3. The final two verses of Chapter Baqarah were revaled.

A hadith narrated by Muslim states that:

“During the Miraj, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was given three blessings: the five daily salats, the ending of chapter Baqarah and the good news that the major sins of his followers, except for shirk (ascribing partners to Allah) would be forgiven…” (Muslim, Iman, 279)

That said, only Allah (SWT), and His Messenger know the nature of the said ‘revelation’ of Miraj.

What is obvious here however is that Prophet (pbuh) witnessed the manifested experiences of Miraj, not as a dream, but as a reality supported by the certainty in his heart. That is:

مَا كَذَبَ الْفُؤَادُ مَا رَاَى. اَفَتُمَارُونَهُ عَلَى مَا يَرَى.

“The heart lied not in seeing what it saw. Now will you dispute with him as to what he saw?” (an-Najm, 11-12)

Upon returning from the Miraj, from that unique post to which no man can attain, where he met his Lord and underwent many extraordinary experiences, the Prophet (pbuh) saw Jibril (a.s) where he had left him, once again, in his true form, near the Sidrat’ul-Muntaha.

وَلَقَدْ رَاَهُ نَزْلَةً اُخْرَى. عِنْدَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنْتَهَى.

“For indeed, he saw him at a second descent; near the Lote Tree beyond which none may pass.” (an-Najm, 13-14)

The ayah hints at the higher rank of the Prophet (pbuh) in comparison with Jibril (pbuh). Indeed, Jibril (a.s) had to remain at the spot where he remarked ‘only a step further and I will burn’, while the Prophet (pbuh) was able to go further. This is made all the more clear by the Prophet’s encounter again with Jibril (a.s) on the way back.

عِنْدَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَى. اِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَى.

“Near it is the Garden of Refuge, when that which shrouded did enshroud the Lote Tree.” (an-Najm, 15-16)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was later asked what he saw that enshrouded the Sidrat’ul-Muntaha.

“I saw it enshrouded by golden moths, with an angel seated on each of its leaves invoking Allah.” (Tabari, XXVII, 75; Muslim, Iman, 279)

Ibn Abbas (r.a) commented that the Almighty rewarded Musa (a.s) by talking to him, Ibrahim (a.s) by befriending him, and Muhammad (pbuh) by the honor of Divine vision, in a way whose nature remains unknown to us. (Tabari, XXVII, 64)

For eyes to be fixed unswervingly on the Beloved is the peak of adab, that is to say, courtesy.

مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَى. لَقَدْ رَاَى مِنْ اَيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَى.

“His sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong; for truly he did see the Greatest of the Signs of his Lord!” (an-Najm, 17-18)

As understood by these ayah of the Quran, the Noble Prophet (pbuh) was allowed to pass beyond the Sidrat’ul-Muntaha, beyond which no being, including Jibril (a.s) had passed before. Taking place there was a union, described simply as ‘the measure of two joined bows or closer’, whose true nature however remains forever hidden from human understanding.

During this union, the Sultan of Prophets (pbuh) stood witness to realities too great for words to articulate, and saw the splendid signs of the lordship of the Almighty, and the grandeur of His majesty that could only be attained through inner experience, that is mushahadah or witnessing.

The interpretation of most commentators here is that the Noble Prophet (pbuh) saw the Almighty with the eye of the heart. (Tabari, XXVII, 63)

Narrated by Ibn Abbas (r.a), the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is known to have said:

“I indeed saw Him, the Almighty!” (Ahmad, I, 285; Haythami, I, 78)

In another instance, upon being asked whether he saw the Almighty during the Miraj, the Messenger of Allah replied:

“I saw a Light!” (Muslim, Iman, 292)

Only Allah, glory be to Him, knows the essence of the matter.[1]

We have many narrations from the Prophet (pbuh) regarding his experiences during the Isra and Miraj, some of which we shall mention now.

During the Miraj, the Prophet (pbuh) saw a group who had swollen lips, like camels. Standing over them were officials given the duty of cutting their lips and stuffing their mouths with stones.

“Who are they, Jibril?” asked the Prophet (pbuh).

“They are those who used to unjustly seize the properties of orphans”, Jibril replied. (Tabari, XV, 18-19)

Afterwards, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) encountered another group, digging their copper nails into their own faces and chests.

“Who might they be?” the Prophet (pbuh) again asked.

“They are those who through gossiping and backbiting used to mess about with the honor and dignity of others.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 35/4878)

Soon afterward, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) also saw the fornicators on earth wretchedly eating away at carcass, the usurers afflicted with swollen guts, and women who had murdered the children they had conceived through fornication, miserably hung from either their breasts or upside down from their feet.[2]

It is for such reasons the Light of Being (pbuh) once remarked:

“If you knew what I know, you would surely laugh less and cry more.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 5/12)

Again, regarding one of his visions during the Miraj, the Gracious Prophet (pbuh) once said, “On the night of Miraj, I saw the Gates of Paradise inscribed with the words:

Charity shall be rewarded tenfold but loans eighteenfold’.

‘Why is giving loans superior to giving charity?’ I then asked Jibril.

‘…Because one who asks for charity more often than not asks despite having money. But one who seeks a loan seeks it out of need.’” (Ibn Majah, Sadaqat, 19)

In another hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) recounts:

“During the Miraj, I paused at the Gates of Paradise and looked inside. Its dwellers were mostly the poor, while the rich were detained for questioning. Those judged to enter hellfire were then commanded to be taken away. Then I paused at the Gates of Hell. Most of its dwellers were women.” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 51; Muslim, Zuhd, 93)

The hadith serves as a caution, especially for women, to protect themselves from behavior that could lead them to Divine punishment.

While on the subject of Miraj, we must touch upon another matter, that is to say, even though human beings can only think of past recollections to the extent allowed by the Almighty, prophets are endowed with knowledge of the present and future, in addition to the past. The Prophet’s (pbuh) informing of the circumstances of the hereafter in the ‘past’ tense, is thus simply a demonstration of this fact.

In fact in the miraculous night of Miraj, in which he was relieved of all past, present and future limitations, the Prophet (pbuh) gazed at forthcoming events of great consequence, expressing them in the ‘past’, as if they had already happened. One of these is about Abdurrahman ibn Awf (r.a) of the Ashara Mubashshara, one of the Ten Promised with Paradise while still alive.

“That night I saw Abdurrahman crawling on all fours entering Paradise.

‘Why are you coming so slowly?’ I asked him.

‘Due to the greatness of my wealth, I was subjected to such hardships that would have made toddlers turn gray. So much so that at one stage I thought I would never see you again…” (Muhammad Parsa, Faslu’l-Khitab, p. 403)

It was only after the Hegira to Medina, where he became rich that Abdurrahman ibn Awf (r.a) heard about this. Without further ado, he quickly went to Aisha (r.ha) to ask whether the Prophet (pbuh) had really said such words. Upon receiving a positive response, Abdurrahman (r.a) was so ecstatic that he gave away his caravan, which had just arrived from Damascus loaded with goods, in charity for the sake of Allah (SWT).

The Prophet (pbuh) indeed stood witness to numerous Divine signs in the course of the Miraj. One hadith even states, “I ascended so high that I could hear the squeaking of the pens (of destiny).” (Bukhari, Salat, 1)

That is the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was taken to such a high post that he could hear the sounds of the pens recording the destiny of the universe and gain acquaintance with realities beyond comprehension.

Judging from the above hadiths, it is obvious that during the Miraj, the Prophet (pbuh) was virtually living the past, the present and the future intertwined, all at once.

A Few Subtle Points from the Miraj

1. Right before the Noble Prophet (pbuh) embarked on the journey, there was the sharh’us-sadr. This indicates that a spiritual ascension requires a pure heart, in which nothing but the Divine light resides. Only after the heart is rid of its density will the manifestations of Divine secrets make their way.

2. The Isra simply exhibits the eternal power and majesty of the Almighty in carrying His servant through a unique journey.

3. Another point is that having been granted following the painful and distressing journey of Ta’if, the Miraj was an indication of better days to come.

4. All the obligatory deeds made mention in the Quran were delivered through Jibril (pbuh). But as an exception, salat was commanded directly by the Almighty during the Miraj. This hints at a different kind of mystery in salat and its exceptional importance among other deeds.

Salat is indeed the pillar of religion. The maturation awaiting there is to be found in no other act. The rank of salat among other acts of worship is like the rank of the vision of the Almighty as compared to other blessings of the Hereafter. Insofar as salat is the Miraj of Believers, the moment in which servants are closest to the Lord are those in which they perform salat in deep submission and concentration. Salat is where the servant meets his Creator while still in this life. It is owing to such reasons that the Prophet (pbuh) said that ‘salat was the light of his eye’[3], urging his followers even in his final breath ‘to hold fast to’ the primary deed of worship.[4]

5. The opening of the gates of heavens for the Noble Prophet (pbuh) during the Miraj showed that his prophethood was not confined to Mecca and Ta’if, but that he was the Prophet of the Universes, whose mission extended to the whole world and even to the heavens beyond.

6. The Miraj marks the final point of maturity for man, showing the final border of spiritual perfection a human being could ever attain to.

7. As a journey from the Masjid’ul-Haram to the Masjid’ul-Aqsa in Jerusalem, the Isra reinforces the already strong ties between these two great spiritual centers, which were blessed with being home to numerous prophets in history. Also expressed through the journey is that encompassing all heaven-sent religions before it, Islam is the only remaining true religion in the sight of the Almighty. Another indication of this is the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) leading of the entire prophets in salat at the Masjid’ul-Aqsa.

The Reception of Miraj

When time came to tell the Meccan idolaters of the Isra and Miraj, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) voiced his worries to Jibril (a.s):

“But my tribe will not believe me!”

“Abu Bakr will. He is the Siddiq (the Confirmer)”, Jibril (pbuh) assured. (Ibn Saad, I, 215)

Once they heard of it, the idolaters refused offhand to accept the Miraj. Making the most of the opportunity, they began spreading a storm of rumors around the town, in hope of turning Muslims away from their faith by questioning the credibility of the Prophet (pbuh). They even went to Abu Bakr (r.a), who to their dismay however, responded with an unshakeable loyalty to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh):

“Whatever he says is right…for there is no chance of him lying! I will believe without hesitation in whatever he says!”

“So you really think that he went to Masjid’ul-Aqsa and back in a single night?” the idolaters asked mockingly.

“Yes…What’s there to be surprised about? Greater still, he tells me he receives news from the Almighty every day and night…and I still believe him.”

Afterward, Abu Bakr (r.a) went next to the Prophet (pbuh), by the Kaabah at the time, and listened to the experiences from first hand, to which he remarked:

“You speak the truth, Messenger of Allah!”

Made joyous by Abu Bakr’s reaction, the Prophet (pbuh) said with a smile with enough glow to light up the entire universe:

“You are indeed the Siddiq, Abu Bakr!”

From that day on, Abu Bakr (r.a) came to be known as the Siddiq.

The remainder of the Companions also followed in the footsteps of Abu Bakr (r.a) in confirming the Noble Prophet (pbuh) regarding the Miraj.

Unable to confound the believers, the idolaters this time resorted to testing the Prophet (pbuh). They interrogated him regarding Masjid’ul-Aqsa. The Almighty then presented a vision of the Sacred Temple before the eyes of the Prophet (pbuh), gazing at which he answered one by one the questions posed by the idolaters. (Bukhari, Manaqib’ul-Ansar, 41; Tafsir, 17/3; Muslim, Iman, 276)

Still unconvinced, the idolaters then posed another question.

“Then tell us, Muhammad, about the caravan of ours we are expecting from out of town, about which we do care more than we ever cared about Masjid’ul-Aqsa!”

“I stumbled upon the caravan of so and so clan over at that valley. Frightened by the growl of a wild beast, a camel of theirs had run away. I showed them where it was…

And near Dajnan, I saw the caravan of the clan. The men were asleep. They had a bottle full of water, which they had topped with a cover. I lifted the cover and had a drink. Then I put it back over the bottle, leaving it as it was before. The caravan should now be heading down the Tanim slope from Bayda. Leading the caravan is a brownish male camel, carrying two sacks, one black and the other spotted.”

Dazzled by the response they received, the idolaters exclaimed, “By Lat and Uzza, this will decide whether he says the truth!” Hoping to find inconsistency in the words of the Prophet (pbuh), they rushed to the Tanim slope and waited for the caravan. Not long after the caravan became visible from a distance, they remarked, dejected:

“There is the caravan…led by a brownish camel!”

Upon an even closer inspection, the found the camel was exactly as it had been described. They then asked the caravan members of the water bottle the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) had described. They confirmed that they had a bottle full of water under cover, which they found emptied some time later.

On a side note, that the Prophet (pbuh) had a drink of water is one indication that the Isra and Miraj was a journey both physical and spiritual.

The idolaters then asked the other group of the runaway camel.

“That’s true! We were shaken by a growl in that valley, upon which a camel of ours fled. Someone then began calling us to the camel. We found the camel right where he told us and seized it!”

Some of them even said that they had recognized the voice as “Muhammad’s”

There was not a single question that the idolaters had left unasked to the Noble Prophet (pbuh), from the amount of camels in the caravan to the number of shepherds. The Prophet (pbuh) answered each of them correctly, as just like Masjid’ul-Aqsa, the caravan had also been brought to his gaze. But those with hearts locked to the truth continued in their stubborn ways and merely remarked, “This has got to be magic!” (Ibn Hisham, II, 10; Ibn Sayyid, I, 243; Haythami, I, 75; Bayhaqi; Dalail, II, 356)

The Almighty declares:

أَفَعَيِينَا بِالْخَلْقِ الْأَوَّلِ بَلْ هُمْ فِي لَبْسٍ مِّنْ خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ

“Were We then fatigued with the first creation? Yet they are in doubt with regard to a new creation.” (Qaf, 15) What could be easier for the Glorious Allah, who has created everything out of nothing, than to raise His servant to the Isra and Miraj? Only a lack of common sense could explain why one deigns not to accept this.

Again, the pitiable idolaters of Mecca had balked at believing the Isra, once again making fun of the Prophet (pbuh). But now their inappropriate behavior was to forever cost them the blessing of having the Noble Prophet (pbuh) nearby. Time had now come to take this blessing away from the Meccans who never knew how to appreciate it. Instead, they chose to go too far in their ungrateful and unjust treatment of a Prophet, for whose sake they had been created in the first place.

There was really one thing left to do: For Allah (SWT), to take the Noble Messenger (pbuh) away from them and award him to another people who could better appreciate such a blessing.

Indeed, not long after the fateful journey of Ta’if, the Almighty had already sent to His Beloved Messenger (pbuh) the forerunners of an exceptional people longing to pledge allegiance to him.

[1].      See Ibn Hisham, II, 38; Ibn Saad, I, 219; Haythami, VI, 40.

[2].      See Bukhari, Salat, 1; Muslim, Îman, 263.

[3].      Ibn Saad, I, 214.

[4].      Also see Bukhari, Tafsir 17/3, Ashriba 1, 12; Nasâî, Ashriba, 41.

That Islam is a religion of natural prediposition was confirmed with the Isra and Miraj, testifying that the books of heavens shall never be disclosed to the spiritually corrupt, ailing with the diseases of the heart.

[5].      Musa’s (a.s) weeping should not be understood as caused by jealousy, but rather from sorrow caused by not being able to attain that state of perfection.

[6].      According to one view, the witnessing of the Nile and Euphrates in Paradise by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) is an allusion to Islam flourishing on Earth and becoming sovereign over the fertile lands through which the Nile and the Euphrates flow, by which those regions will be saved from the fire worshipping of the Persians and Trinity doctrine of the Byzantines; and for generations to come, the dwellers of these areas will become the flagbearers of tawhid and lend an invaluable service to Islam.

[7].      The commentators have provided various explanations regarding the star (an-najm) by which the Almighty swears. Among the most significant of these is the interpretation that ‘the star’ is the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) himself or the gradually revealed verses of the Holy Quran. In light of this, the meaning of the oath is:

By Muhammad Mustafa, who ascended upon and descended down the Miraj!

By the time of the disclosure of each Divine dispensation during the revelation of the Quran!