God the Almighty bestowed on His Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) a miracle — al- Israa’ wal- Mi’raj (the Night Journey & Ascension) — in order that his honor be increased and that he be revealed one of His grand signs. God the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:
“Holy is He Who carried His bondman by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Aqsa Mosque around which We have put blessings that We may show him Our grand signs; No doubt, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [Qur’an. 17: 1] and: “By the lovely shining star Muhammad, when he descended from the Ascension (Meraj). Your companion neither went astray nor misled. And he speaks not of his own desire. That is not but the revelation that is revealed to him. He was taught by one possessing mighty powers. Possessor of strength. Then that splendid sight proceeded. And he was on the highest horizon. Then that splendid sight drew nearer, then he came close well. So, there was a distance of two hands between the Splendid sight and the beloved (Prophet) but rather less than that. Now He revealed to His bondman whatever He revealed. The heart lied not in what he saw. Do you then dispute with him concerning what he has seen? And indeed, he saw that Splendid sight twice. Near the farthest Lote-tree. Near which is the Garden of Eternity. When that was covering the Lote-Tree, which was covering. The eye deviated not, nor crossed the limit. Certainly, he saw very big signs of his Lord.” [Qur’an. 53: 1-18]
Examination of the Prophet’s Night Journey and Ascension in Islamic literature
A majority of Islamic scholars are in agreement with the fact that the Mi’raj occurred spiritually as well as physically, as the Holy Qur’an clearly points this out in the aforementioned verse using the word ‘abdihi’ [which means His servant/bondman] which incorporates both soul and body. The Qur’an as well as the Prophetic Traditions (Ahadith) discuss the occasion of Mi’raj.
Yet some scholars raise doubts regarding whether the Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a dream or a reality. Most believe in the physical nature of the Prophet’s journey and Ascension, which occurred when he (PBUH) was fully conscious. Those who claim otherwise (that the Mi’raj was only spiritual, not physical) are incorrect in their claim, as God the Almighty is All-Powerful and can raise His Prophet in soul as well as body up to His Arsh (God’s Throne). Although the Ascension and Night Journey are implicitly and overtly discussed in the Holy Qur’an, the Ahadith discuss them more clearly.
Throughout this blessed Journey, the Angel Jibrail (Gabriel) escorted the Prophet (PBUH), who was transported to the Baitul Maqdis and beyond on a Heavenly animal — the Buraq — that is described as larger in size than a donkey but smaller than a mule. The Buraq enabled the Messenger of God (PBUH) to cover vast distances swiftly, a feat no ordinary animal could achieve. At Baitul Maqdis were congregated all of God’s Prophets (who came previously to the earth, to guide mankind), who then prayed behind the greatest and last of His Prophets — Muhammad (PBUH). Subsequently, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended to the 7 Heavens, where he met with the Prophets Adam, Ibrahim, Musa, Yahya, Yaqub, Haroon, Isa, and other Prophets (May the Blessings and Peace of God be upon them).
Beyond the seven Heavens, the Prophet (PBUH) ascended to the Sidrat-al-Muntaha (Lote Tree marking the seventh Heaven’s utmost boundary), which he crossed and conversed with God the Almighty. On the occasion of Mi’raj, the five obligatory prayers were prescribed for all Muslims, a blessing from God specific to the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), as the Ummahs of the previous Prophets had to perform fifty compulsory prayers. Thus, the Prophet (PBUH) completed a miraculous physical and spiritual journey to his Lord and back (Rahman, 2012).
The following reasons may be cited from literature (Qur’an and Hadith) to prove the Mi’raj was both a physical and a spiritual experience:
a) “His mind and heart in no way falsified what he saw” (Quran 53:11).
All verses of the Holy Qur’an are a Wahy (revelation), which is no dream, or spiritual experience or conjecture, but a reality, a message from God the Highest to His Prophet (PBUH), conveyed through the Angel Jibrail.
The Prophet (PBUH) used to narrate his dreams to his Sahaaba (companions) in the morning: He never said the Night Journey and Ascension was a dream. Furthermore, Qur’an 53: 10 mentions the phrase “Asra bi’Abdihi” (abdihi – “His servant”) which must comprise soul as well as body. If it was only the Prophet’s soul that experienced Mi’raj, God would have used the word “Ruh” in the aforementioned Ayah. (The soul departs from the body upon death). Hence, the Prophet (PBUH) went physically to the Heavens.
b) Umme Hani (May God be pleased with her) reported that when she awoke that night, the Prophet (PBUH) wasn’t in his bed, and on searching for him, he couldn’t be found. If the Mi’raj was a dream, or spiritual experience or vision, he would not have left his bed.
c) On his return to earth, the Prophet (PBUH) was asked: “Oh Rasulgod ((Blessings and Peace of God be upon you), how did the earth look from up there?” He replied: “A dinar in a sea of sand.” In those days, nobody was aware that our earth was globular in shape, within a galaxy. What astronauts found only some years back was seen and related by the Prophet (PBUH) nearly fifteen centuries ago!
d) Verse 17:1 of the Qur’an offers another proof regarding the physical nature of the Prophet’s (PBUH) Ascension; God says: “Glory to (God) who did CARRY His servant…” Were it a vision or a dream or a spiritual experience, there would have been no need to have the Buraq transport him, as animals and all other means of transport do not transport the soul or spirit, but actual physical BODIES.
e) Hence, denying that the Mi’raj was a reality and an actual physical journey means denying the Prophet (PBUH) and the Word of God (i.e. the Holy Qur’an) (Ahmad, 2002).
Its significance to Muslims:
The Meraj — a Physical Ascent
Some salient aspects regarding the Ascension (Mi’raj), the journey the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) undertook on 27th Rajab (the 7th Islamic month), in the year prior to migrating to al-Madinah al-Munawwarah (Yathreb), at 52 years of age, will clear the mind of all doubts regarding the physical nature of the Prophet’s ascent, in complete consciousness, wakefulness, and alertness. This event marked a key milestone in Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life, and has become a very significant reminder of God’s special consideration for the Ummah of Muhammad (PBUH), in reducing the daily prayers to five times.
a) On this day, God the Almighty honored his beloved Prophet (PBUH) by calling him up to the Heavens, showing him all in the cosmos, and tutoring him in numerous sciences. (Einstein’s relativity theory can explain how two hours spent in space are equivalent to several years on earth). The Prophet (PBUH) said he spent twenty-seven years in the Nightly Journey and Ascension, while his bed on earth was still warm when he returned).
b) On this day, it was made mandatory for Muslims to perform Salah (prayer) 5 times a day. The daily prayers were reduced from 50 times to 5 times specifically for the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), with the reward for 5 times of prayer being equivalent to that of 50 times of prayer.
c) On this day, a very important conversation between God and His Messenger (PBUH) took place, which Muslims recite several times a day in the tashahhud (the Declaration of Faith) in their prayers, when they sit in qa’da following the second sajdah (prostration). The tashahhud is also called A-tahiyyat (i.e., greetings), as the Prophet (PBUH) greeted His Lord on his own behalf as well as on that of his Ummah (followers).
The Prophet’s (PBUH) chest was reported to have been opened, and his heart was removed, washed by the angels and reinserted into his body. After crossing the seven Heavens, accompanied by Angel Jibrail (Alaih — is — Salam), meeting the other Prophets (Blessings and Peace of God be upon them) and reaching the lote-tree of the seventh Heaven (Sidratul muntaha), Jibrail and the Prophet parted as the former claimed his wings would burn if he dared go further. Here onward, the Prophet (PBUH) journeyed alone until he reached a distance of two bow-lengths (i.e., roughly 100 to 150 yards) (Qabi Qawsain Q53:9), from the Arsh (Throne) of God the Almighty, and presented his greetings to his Lord. Their conversation ran thus:
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Greetings to God, and all praises and reverence.
God (Glorified and High is He): Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and Mercy and Blessings of God.
The Prophet (PBUH): Peace be upon us and upon all the righteous servants. I bear witness that there is no deity to be worshipped except God.
God: I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.
Then all Angels and everyone else present within the Heavens echoed the following: O. God, shower thy blessings on Muhammad and on his descendants.
This conversation is repeated several times daily in Salah during tashahhud, thereby being a constant reminder of Mi’raj.
The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Prayer is the Mi’raj of the Mu’minin.” (The term ‘Mu’minin’ refers to Muslims who, with strong conviction, declare as well as practice faith).
Ahmad, J. (2002). Prophet Muhammad’S Physical Ascension (Me’Raj) To the Heavens In The Light Of Science and the Qur’An. Al-Ameen, 4(1).
Rahman, H. (2012, October 11). Prophet Muhammad’s (PUBH) Me’raj (Ascension). Retrieved from http://hafizur-nyc.blogspot.com.ng/2012/10/prophet-muhammads-pubh-miraj.html
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