Isra’ wal Mi’raj – All you wanted to know
Isra’ wal Mi’raj – A wondrous journey
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
“Glory be to Him, Who took His servant during the night from the Sacred House to the farthest mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; verily He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.” [Al-Isra:17:1]
When did Al-Isra wal Mi’raj take place?
Today is the 27 of Rajab, a significant day in our Islamic history, according to people across the globe it is believed that today is the day of Al-Isra wal Mi’raj.
- Al-Isra refers to the Prophet’s (ﷺ) night journey from Makkah to Jerusalem – specifically, from the Baitul Haram to the precinct of Masjidul Aqsa.
- Al-Mir’aj refer to Prophet’s (ﷺ) ascension from Jerusalem to the heavens and beyond.
The Muhadiths, the scholars and the authority in hadith went through all the Ahadith on Al-Isra wal Mi’raj with regards to the time and date that the event had taken place.
To be honest with you, there are no authentic narrations that confirm that Al-Isra wal Mi’raj actually took place on the 27th of Rajab. Not even one! On the contrary, we have around four narrations that places Al-Isra wal Mi’raj on different times of the year ranging from Rabiul Awwal ( which is the most accepted narration), Rabiul Akhirah, Dhul Qaidah and Ramadan.
Just as the Muhadiths have differed in the month Al-Isra wal Mi’raj took place, they also differ in the year in which it happened. The more famous of narration puts Al-Isra wal Mi’raj as 18 months before the Hijrah. This is more authentic than the actual day and month. Therefore, we can be quite sure that it was not the 27th of Rajab for certain. Having said this, regardless of the exact date, we need to discuss this event.
Historical backdrop to Al-Isra wal Mi’raj
Al-Isra wal Mi’raj is a very momentous event. To give some historic context, the people of Makkah denied the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), they rejected his mission and his message for 13 years. And in that period of intense Dawah, one maybe surprised to know that only 113 people accepted Islam.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was struggling to find a favourable platform where people would listen to him. He kept persevering to deliver the message no matter the cost. For 3 years, his own clan of Makkah boycotted his family and the Muslims. After a very difficult boycott, his uncle Abu Talib passed away and then his beloved wife Khadija (Radiya Allahu Anha). With the death of his uncle, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) lost his public protection against the Quraysh. With the passing away of his beloved wife, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) lost the support and pillar of his house, and the love and comfort of a cherished beloved.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) sought out new people to support his message. He travelled to At-Taif to convey his message, but instead, they were hostile towards him – they insulted him and set the children to rain down stones upon him. He left At-Taif bruised and humiliated. Some of the scholars of Seerah called that year the Aam Al-Huzn (the year of sorrow). As a consolation, Allah bestowed upon the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) this momentous journey of Al-Isra wal Mi’raj.
Events of Isra wal Mi’raj
Malik bin Sa’sa’ah said that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) described to them his Night Journey saying, “While I was lying in Al-Hatim or Al-Hijr, suddenly someone (an angel) came to me and cut my body open from here to here (his chest to the naval). He then took out my heart. Then a gold tray of Iman was brought to me and my heart was washed and was filled (with Iman) and then returned to its original place…” [Bukhari]
First thing to note: Al-Isra was mentioned in the Qur’an from Makkah to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa but Al-Mir’aj (the ascension to through the heavens) is not directly mentioned in the Qur’an though in Surah An-Najm 53:10-18 Allah mentions aspects of Al-Mir’aj. The details about heavenly journey is found in hadith.
Second thing to note: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was prepared for Al-Isra wal Mi’raj. His chest was opened and his blessed heart – the finest and noblest of hearts – was removed and purified once again. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) had his chest opened no less than four times. Once as a child in the care of his foster mother, the second time when he was ten, a third time was when he was made a Prophet and a fourth time was the night of Al-Isra wal Mi’raj in preparation for the wondrous journey. His Baseera was further strengthened for he was about to embark upon the journey through the cosmos and ascend up the heavens of which are seven, pass over Jahannam and Jannah, see the Arash of Allah, and pass even beyond the Sidratul Muntaha (lote tree).
Anas bin Malik narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “I was brought an animal that was larger than a donkey and smaller than a mule, whose stride could reach as far as it could see. I mounted it, and Jibril was with me, and I set off. Then he said: ‘Dismount and pray,’ so I did that. He said: ‘Do you know where you have prayed? You have prayed in Taibah, which will be the place of the emigration.’ Then he said: ‘Dismount and pray,’ so I prayed. He said: ‘Do you know where you have prayed? You have prayed in Mount Sinai, where Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, spoke to Musa, peace be upon him.’ So I dismounted and prayed, and he said: ‘Do you know where you have prayed? You have prayed in Bethlehem, where ‘Eesa, peace be upon him, was born.’ Then I entered Bait al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) where the Prophets, peace be upon them, were assembled for me, and Jibril brought me forward to lead them in prayer. Then I was taken up to the first heaven, where I saw Adam (ﷺ). Then I was taken up to the second heaven where I saw the maternal cousins Isa and Yahya (ﷺ). Then I was taken up to the third heaven where I saw Yusuf (ﷺ). Then I was taken up to the fourth heaven where I saw Harun (ﷺ). Then I was taken up to the fifth heaven where I saw Idris (ﷺ). Then I was taken up to the sixth heaven where I saw Musa (ﷺ). Then I was taken up to the seventh heaven where I saw Ibrahim (ﷺ). Then I was taken up above seven heavens and we came to Sidratul Muntaha and it was covered with mist. I fell down prostrate and it was said to me: ‘(Indeed) The day I created the heavens and the Earth, I enjoined upon you and your Ummah fifty prayers, so establish them, you and your Ummah.’ I came back to Ibrahim and he did not ask me about anything, then I came to Musa and he said: ‘How much did your Lord enjoin upon you and your Ummah?’ I said: ‘Fifty prayers.’ He said: ‘You will not be able to establish them, neither you nor your Ummah. Go back to your Lord and ask Him to reduce it.’ So I went back to my Lord and He reduced it by ten. Then I came to Musa and he told me to go back, so I went back and He reduced it by ten. Then I came to Musa and he told me to go back, so I went back and He reduced it by ten. Then it was reduced by ten. Then it was reduced to five prayers. He (Musa) said: ‘Go back to your Lord and ask Him to reduce it, for two prayers were enjoined upon the Children of Israel but they did not establish them.’ So I went back to my Lord and asked Him to reduce it, but He said: ‘The day I created the heavens and the Earth, I enjoined fifty prayers upon you and your Ummah. Five is for fifty, so establish them, you and your Ummah.’ I knew that this was what Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, had determined so I went back to Musa (ﷺ), and he said: ‘Go back.’ But I knew that it was what Allah had determined, so I did not go back.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]
Reflection on the narration:
- The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) experienced Al-Isra wal Mi’raj with his body and soul, he travelled physically upon Al-Buraq whose appearance is between a horse and a mule. Al-Buraq despite being an animal can travel at unimaginable speed, perhaps beyond the speed of light – with each stride, it could reach as far as it could see. He rode Al-Buraq from Makkah to Baitul Maqdis and then to the heavens.
- Allah has sanctified some places – He selected these places over other places. The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) dismounted and prayed in a number of places of significant historic importance. These are places where deeds are multiplied manifold by the virtue of its significance. Abu al-Darda narrated that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) stated, “A prayer in the Masjid al-Haram is akin to one hundred thousand prayers, a prayer in my mosque is like a thousand prayers, and a prayer in the Baitul Maqdis is like five hundred prayers [in reward].” [Tabarani: Mu`jam al-Kabir] “The prayer in congregation is twenty seven times superior to the prayer offered by person alone.” [Bukhari]
- The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) prayed as an Imam in Baitul Maqdis, he led all the prophets in the worship of Allah. This shows (i) the status of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and (ii) that all the Prophets and Messengers are part of the same mission. The mission of spreading the knowledge of Tawhid. The significance of all the Prophets praying behind the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) shows that his Shari’ah is the only one to follow from here onwards. He is the seal of the Prophets.
- The reality of life after death. The Prophets and Messengers interacted with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) both on the earth in Baitul Maqdis and in the heavens. He met Adam in the first heaven, Isa 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.
- The centrality and significance of Salah – 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. 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. This obligation was prescribed without intermediaries to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) in the heavens on the night of Mir’aj. The Salah has come to raise us, to elevate us, to be our ascent to Allah. By performing the five prayers, it 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.
- Sidratul Muntaha, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) went to a place where no other being has ever been before or visited thereafter. He was blessed with the vision of his Lord, a blessing which no-one else will receive until they enter Paradise. Indeed, he (ﷺ) 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]. He is the complete guide who has both knowledge and experience of the end destination – Allah. So we follow him completely as a guide to take us by hand to Allah.
- All of this took place in a few instants. So little time had elapsed which is an example of Allah’s divine power – that 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.
The sanctity of Baitul Maqdis
Allah has mentioned that Baitul Maqdis and its surrounding area as blessed area. The events of Al-Isra wal Mi’raj demonstrated the importance of Baitul Maqdis for Muslims. It is in Baitul Maqdis that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) led all the Prophets of Allah in prayer, it is from there he went on Al–buraq to the seven heavens. It was the first Qibla for the Muslims and the third holiest site. Around 100 of the companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) are buried in its precincts.
Today, Baitul Maqdis is the scene of much tension and conflict in the Middle East. The Israeli government have expelled many Palestinians from their homes and made them refugees. The Israeli government since 1948 have been trying to take the Baitul Maqdis from the Muslims but the people of Palestine are marching against this.
The United Nation’s general assembly under resolution 194 states that if Palestinian people wanted to return, they have the right to return to their land peacefully in a moment of their choosing. Since that time of expulsion in 1948 until today, a return has not happened. Instead, it’s been one offensive aggression after another in a bid to grab more land day by day from the Palestinians.
Gaza has been under siege since 2006 because democracy has given something they do not expect or do not like. Gaza, which is only 25 miles by 8 miles, has around 2 million people living in it under siege since 2006. Palestinians are forcefully displaced from their land and oppressed and left to wither away.
What are we doing about it? What is the Arab League doing about it? What is the International Community doing about it? Everyone is watching. The international community is asking people to be calm and exercise control. The most they do is condemnation which results in empty words and does not change the situation for the Palestinian people. Allah has said in the Qur’an:
“O you who believe! Be patient in adversity, and vie in patience with one another, and be ever ready [to do what is right], and remain conscious of God, so that you may achieve success.”[Al-Imran: 3:200]
Allah is giving us a formula for success, have patience, compete with your enemy who is also exercising patience, protect your frontiers and have Taqwa of Allah. The people of Palestine are doing this. They are protecting their frontiers. Insha’Allah, they will achieve success one day.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
“A group among my Ummah will continue to uphold the truth and prevail, and those who oppose them will not be able to harm them, until the command of Allah comes to pass.”[Sunan Ibn Majah]
A group of this Ummah will stay withholding the truth; they will not be harmed despite people letting them down, despite people who disagree with them. When I read this hadith, it never occurred to me that our Ummah will let down the people of Palestine. This is what the Prophet (ﷺ) is saying. They are letting them down by being silent. They are letting them down by not giving them support and aid. They are letting them down by not siding with them despite having no disagreement. We have Baitul Maqdis which is a point of agreement rather than disagreement. We should do our best to support the people of Baitul Maqdis and Palestine.
So what should we do? We need to learn about our history. We need to learn more about the importance of Baitul Maqdis and teach our children about it, that it is our sacred land, our first Qibla, in which the Prophet (ﷺ) visited and led all the Prophets, and from which the Prophet (ﷺ) made his night journey to the heavens. We need to raise the awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people and help them humanitarian aid and effort to ease their difficulties. Most certainly, we should pray for them and everyone who are living under occupation and oppression. May Allah free the oppressed.
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 (ﷺ) 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.
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 (ﷺ).
Khutba delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim April 2018
Transcribed by Abu Shama
January 15, 2021