Isra’ wal Mi’raj – All you wanted to know (part 2)
The journey to the heavens
The Prophet (saw) was then taken to the Hijr, the semi-circular wall of the Ka‘bah, where the Prophet (saw) said that Jibril, ‘opened my chest, and washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a golden tray full of wisdom and faith, and having poured its contents into my chest, he closed it’. (Bukhari)
From this spot which is the semi-circular wall of the Ka’bah, the miraculous journey of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) began. He mounted al Buraq, the creature from the Unseen, and accompanied by Jibril, he proceeded to Bait al Maqdis. It is narrated on the authority of Anas bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
I was brought al Buraq, who is an animal white and long, larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule, who would place his hoof a distance equal to the range of version. I mounted it and came to the Temple (Bait Maqdis in Jerusalem), then tethered it to the ring used by the prophets. I entered the mosque and prayed two rakahs in it, and then came out and Jibril brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. I chose the milk, and Jibril said: You have chosen the natural thing. (Muslim)
Arrival in heaven – Adam (AS)
It is important to understand that though the translation of the hadith use the word ‘heavens’ they are translating the Arabic word for skies (samawat), as Allah has mentioned there are 7 skies above the earth. We do not mix this with the concept of heaven which is referred to in Arabic as janaah or jannaat in the plural as there are many levels of jannah.
After leading the prophets in salah, the Prophet (peace be on him) began to traverse space and ascend upwards through the cosmos.
Then he took me to heaven. Jibril then asked the (gate of heaven) to be opened and he was asked who he was. He replied: Jibril. He was again asked: Who is with you? He (Jibril) said: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? Jibril replied: He has indeed been sent for. And (the door of the heaven) was opened for us and lo! We saw Adam. He welcomed me and prayed for my good. (Muslim)
Arrival in second heaven – Eesa and Yahya (AS)
Then we ascended to the second heaven. Jibril (peace be upon him) (asked the door of heaven to be opened), and he was asked who he was. He answered: Jibril; and was again asked: Who is with you? He replied: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. The gate was opened. When I entered ‘Eesa bin Maryam and Yahya bin Zakariya (peace be upon both of them), cousins from the maternal side, welcomed me and prayed for my well-being. (Muslim)
Arrival in third heaven – Yusuf (AS)
Then I was taken to the third heaven and Jibril asked for the opening (of the door). He was asked: Who are you? He replied: Jibril. He was (again) asked: Who is with you? He replied Muhammad (peace be on him). It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and I saw Yusuf (peace of Allah be upon him) who had been given half of (world) beauty. He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being. (Muslim)
Arrival in fourth heaven – Idris (AS)
Then he ascended with us to the fourth heaven. Jibril (peace be upon him) asked for the (gate) to be opened, and it was said: Who is he? He replied: Jibril. It was (again) said: Who is with you? He said: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. The (gate) was opened for us, and lo! Idris was there. He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being (About him) Allah, the Exalted and the Glorious, has said:” We elevated him (Idris) to the exalted position” (Qur’an 19:57). (Muslim)
Arrival in fifth heaven – Harun (AS)
Then he ascended with us to the fifth heaven and Jibril asked for the (gate) to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He replied Jibril. It was (again) said: Who is with thee? He replied: Muhammad. It was said Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and then I was with Harun (Aaron-peace of Allah be upon him). He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being. (Muslim)
Arrival in sixth heaven – Musa (AS)
Then I was taken to the sixth heaven. Jibril (peace be upon him) asked for the door to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He replied: Jibril. It was said: Who is with thee? He replied: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I was with Musa (Musa peace be upon him) He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being. (Muslim)
When I went (over the sixth heaven), there I saw Moses. Gabriel said (to me),’ This is Moses; pay him your greeting. So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, ‘You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.’ When I left him (i.e. Moses) he wept. Someone asked him, ‘What makes you weep?’ Moses said, ‘I weep because after me there has been sent (as Prophet) a young man whose followers will enter Paradise in greater numbers than my followers.’ (Bukhari)
Arrival in seventh heaven – Ibrahim (AS)
Then I was taken up to the seventh heaven. Jibril asked the (gate) to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He said: Jibril It was said. Who is with thee? He replied: Muhammad (may peace be upon him.) It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I found Ibrahim (Abraham peace be upon him) reclining against the Bait ul Ma’mur and there enter into it seventy thousand angels every day, never to visit (this place) again. (Muslim)
Baitul Ma’mur, also known as the “Frequented House”, is located directly above the Ka’ba in the highest heaven. This sacred house is also mentioned in Surat Tur of the Holy Quran, where Allah Almighty says:
“And by the Bait ul Ma’mur (the house over the heavens parable to the Ka’bah at Makkah, continuously visited by the angels)” (52:4)
The Sidrat ul Muntaha and the obligation of 50 prayers
Then I was taken to Sidrat ul Muntaha whose leaves were like elephant ears and its fruit like big earthenware vessels. And when it was covered by the Command of Allah, it underwent such a change that none amongst the creation has the power to praise its beauty. Then Allah revealed to me a revelation and He made obligatory for me fifty prayers every day and night. (Muslim)
The reduction in prayers
Then I went down to Musa (peace be upon him) and he said: What has your Lord enjoined upon your Ummah? I said: Fifty prayers. He said: Return to thy Lord and beg for reduction (in the number of prayers), for your community shall not be able to bear this burden; as I have put to test the children of Isra’il and tried them (and found them too weak to bear such a heavy burden).
He (the Holy Prophet) said: I went back to my Lord and said: My Lord, make things lighter for my Ummah. (The Lord) reduced five prayers for me. I went down to Musa and said. (The Lord) reduced five (prayers) for me, He said: Verily thy Ummah shall not be able to bear this burden; return to thy Lord and ask Him to make things lighter.
I then kept going back and forth between my Lord Blessed and Exalted and Musa, till He said: There are five prayers every day and night. O Muhammad, each being credited as ten, so that makes fifty prayers. He who intends to do a good deed and does not do it will have a good deed recorded for him; and if he does it, it will be recorded for him as ten; whereas he who intends to do an evil deed and does not do, it will not be recorded for him; and if he does it, only one evil deed will be recorded. I then came down and when I came to Musa and informed him, he said: Go back to thy Lord and ask Him to make things lighter. Upon this the Messenger of Allah remarked: I returned to my Lord until I felt ashamed before Him. (Muslim)
Reflection on the narration
We are shown the reality of life after death. The previous prophets and messengers interacted with the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) both on the earth in Bait al Maqdis and in the heavens. He met Adam in the first heaven, Eesa and Yayha on the second, Yusuf on the third, Idris on the fourth, Harun on the fifth, Musa on the sixth and Ibrahim on the seventh.
If you want to teach your child a lesson, especially if they are a bit lazy, you might say to them that they have to clean the whole house – all the rooms upstairs, downstairs, the bathrooms, kitchen and even the driveway and garden. They will protest that this is too much and swear that they will be better, and more obedient. Then you might say they do not have to do the garden. At this, they child will protest again, and say it is still too much, they cannot possibly manage it all, so then bit by bit you reduce their chores till they only have to clean the living room or bedroom. The psychology behind this is to make them appreciate what all that you do for them, and how much they should be doing. It is to make them more obedient and appreciate their parents more. The child becomes aware that their responsibility could have been much greater, but their parents have been generous towards them. They are grateful that all they have to do is one room and they promise they will make it shine.
Similarly when we realise that no amount of worship can ever repay Allah Almighty for His favours to us, we appreciate that 5 salah is very little compared to what He deserves and what He could have commanded us to do.
Salah – the souvenir of the journey
The Prophet (peace be on him) returned from his journey, with a souvenir for the Ummah, which was the daily salah.
Though the command to pray had been there from the outset, it was not five times. Salah was not yet an obligation for the Muslims even though Jibril taught him and subsequently the companions how to pray since the very beginning of the mission. The actual obligation to pray five times was issued 18 months before the migration.
The command that came direct from Allah without intermediary
It is very significant that all our commands came through Jibril, with the exception of salah, which was given directly to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) without any third party. It is no coincidence, that the Salah is our 1-to-1 communication with Allah without intermediary.
It is the highest form of worship. ALL of the prophets participated in the salah for the relationship with Allah has always been through salah.
The ascension of the soul
The salah has come to raise us, to elevate us. It is the ascension of our soul to Allah. Performing the five prayers connects the servant with his Lord. Anas bin Malik narrated:
“On the Night of Isra, fifty prayers were made obligatory upon the Prophet. Then it was decreased [on the recommendation of Prophet Musa] until it was made to be five. Then it was called out: ‘O Muhammad! Indeed My Word does not change; these five prayers will be recorded for you as fifty.'” [Tirmidhi] So the five daily prayers are equivalent to fifty in reward.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) received the obligation for salah above the seventh heaven. This shows how elevated salah is, which descended to us from heaven. Every time we pray, we should leave the world with its worries, sadness and troubles and travel to heaven and our Creator. It should bring us comfort and tranquility. Every salah is a Miraj to its Lord.
Sidrat ul Muntaha – The Lote Tree
The Prophet (peace be on him) went to Sidrat al Muntaha, a Lote tree, which marks the end of the seventh heaven, where he encountered Allah Almighty alone.
Then I was made to ascend to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (i.e. the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary) Behold! Its fruits were like the jars of Hajr (i.e. a place near Medina) and its leaves were as big as the ears of elephants. Gabriel said, ‘This is the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary).
Behold! There ran four rivers, two were hidden and two were visible, I asked, ‘What are these two kinds of rivers, O Gabriel?’ He replied,’ As for the hidden rivers, they are two rivers in Paradise and the visible rivers are the Nile and the Euphrates. (Bukhari)
Here the Prophet (peace be on him) was said to be blessed with the vision (baseera) of his Lord, a blessing which no one else will receive until they enter Paradise. Indeed, he is the most honourable of Allah’s creation.
“His vision did not stray, nor did it go wrong, his heart did not lie about what it saw, certainly, he saw the greatest signs of His Lord” [An-Najm: 53:18]
These are scenes from the unseen world, which we cannot penetrate with our intellect. In this journey, the authentic opinion is that the Prophet (peace be on him) saw Allah Almighty, however we do not know if he saw Him with his eyes or with his heart.
There is another opinion that he did not actually see Allah Almighty, which was held by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her).
When he was asked if he had seen Allah, the Prophet (peace be on him) replied, Nurun anna ara:
‘He is light wherever I look, I see him’. (Bukhari)
All of this took place between Isha and Fajr, during which time the Prophet (peace be on him) passed jannah and jahannum and the river of al Kawther in Jannah. Anas bin Malik narrated:
“The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said: “I saw a river in Paradise, whose banks had tents were made of pearl. I said: “What is this O Jibril?’” He said: “This is Al-Kauthar which Allah has granted you.” [Tirmidhi]
All this took place between Isha and Fajr. The name Buraq comes from barq, which has its roots in light and means lightning, flash or bolt. It travelled as fast as the eye could see in one stride, so it was travelling faster than the speed of light.
It takes 8 minutes for the light of the sun to reach us, and at that speed, it would have taken 4.5 years to reach the nearest star, which is Alpha Centuri. When we get to the speed of light, time slows down to a halt. Buraq was going even faster than this, which is how the Prophet (peace be on him) was able to get to the highest Jannah and back faster than this, and not much time had passed on earth.
This is an example of Allah’s divine power – He can do all things. We are so accustomed to the pattern of cause and effect and the laws of creation that we tend to forget the presence of divine power in everything.
There is widespread misconception that the Prophet (peace be on him) said to Jibril to come forward, but he said that if he were to go forward he would get burned. This is a fabricated narration.
Another famous misconception is that the At-Tahiyaat was revealed during the Miraj, and that this was his conversation with Allah Almighty. As he did not know what to say, he said, ‘All the best compliments and the prayers and the good things are for Allah.’ Then Allah Almighty replied: ‘Peace and Allah’s Mercy and Blessings be on you, O Prophet!’ and the angels said, ‘Peace be on us and on the pious slaves of Allah’ And the Prophet added, ‘I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and I also testify that Muhammad is Allah’s slave and His Apostle.’
The words fit beautifully into this story of their conversation, however there is no authentic evidence to support this narration. It may be a nice story, but not every nice story can be attributed to the Prophet (peace be on him).
A test for the ummah
The miracle of the Isra wal Miraj was so hard for many of the community to believe it caused much tension. They accused the Prophet (peace be on him) that he was lying or touched by jinn and shaytan. When they challenged him, he felt sad because he could not remember the details that were evident in dark. However Allah Almighty created a vision of it for him on the palm of his hand, so he could see it and describe it clearly. He was able to describe the caravan belong to Quraysh and one of the camels which was lost in the desert.
Abu Bakr’s unstinting belief in the Prophet’s (peace be on him) veracity earned him the title Al Siddiq. Aisha reported:
After the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was miraculously taken by night to the furthest mosque in Jerusalem, the people began to talk about it. Some of them renounced their faith and belief in him. They sought Abu Bakr and they said, “Have you heard that your friend imagined he was taken by night to the sacred house?” Abu Bakr said, “Did he say that?” They said yes. Abu Bakr said, “If he said it, he has spoken the truth.” They said, “Do you believe he went by night to the sacred house and returned before morning?” Abu Bakr said, “Yes. Verily, I believe what is even more astonishing than that. I believe he has received messages from heaven for everything he does.” For this reason, Abu Bakr was named the Truthful, al-Siddiq. (Dala’il al-Nubuwwah)
Designated worship for Isra wal Mir’aj
Do we have any special ibadah from the Sunnah to mark the occasion Isra wal Mir’aj? Do we fast on the day of Isra wal Mir’aj? Simply said. No.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) never fasted on the 27thRajab because it was to do with the Isra wal Mir’aj. He never did this nor did he ever recommend his companions to do this. There is not one authentic tradition to support fasting on the 27th of Rajab or any Ibadah ascribed to that day. So we need to be careful not to invent or do anything outside the parameters of the Shari’ah.
However, it is a good opportunity to spread knowledge about this occasion, but it is not Eid. We only have two Eids in our Islamic calendar.
We ask Allah to enable us to always adhere to the Qur’an and Sunnah and to be amongst those who uphold the truth despite disagreement and despite all the challenges we have and are facing. We ask Allah to enable us to support the truth wherever it is, be truthful, and deliver the message of Allah and His Messenger (peace be on him).
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – delivered to Al Manar New Muslims 2021
Transcribed by Abu Shama
- Growing up as a young Muslim (part 2)
- Growing up as a young Muslim (part 1)
- Being good neighbours
- Mirroring the Prophet (peace be upon him)
- Knowing Allah through His Beautiful Names – Al Jameel, Al Jaleel, Al Kareem
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September 22, 2023
September 21, 2023