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Al-Isra and Al-Miraj (the Ascension)

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Prophet Muhammad‘s night journey from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa is known as Isra. Then the Prophet ascended to the heavens from Masjid al-Aqsa, a journey known as Miraj, meaning ascension. In this article on Islam4u, we will explore these two journeys.

سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًۭا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَـٰتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ

Glory be to the One Who took His servant ˹Muḥammad˺ by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.1

The opening verse of Surah al-Isra begins with the glorification of Allah, free from any deficiency or need. This is appropriate as the verse describes a miracle.

According to some narrations, in the month of Ramadan, on the 17th night, Allah willed to take His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on an extraordinary journey at night, in which he would see blessed sites on earth that were connected to the journey of the prophets, as well as the kingdom of the heavens. Allah would acquaint him with the inhabitants of His heavens and His kingdom, and show him the wonders of His greatness.

*** Please note that we will have a very detailed article on the topic soon***

The Journey

The starting point of the journey: was the Holy Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) in Mecca.

The first destination: Was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the second mosque built on earth, 40 years after the Holy Mosque. It is a place where the prophets of Allah prayed throughout history.

The second destination: the seven heavens

The means of transport: Was the Buraq, which derived its name from lightning. It is a creature from Paradise, and perhaps it was named as such because of its speed, which is as fast as lightning. Through this means of transport, Allah willed that things should occur according to their causes.

The Stations of the Journey

Yathrib (Medina):

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Gabriel came to me and said: ‘Pray.’ So I prayed. He said, ‘Do you know where you have prayed?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You have prayed in the blessed land of Yathrib (Medina), and it is to this place that you will make your migration.’ “2

Mount Sinai:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) continued, “Then I mounted, and we went on as Allah willed until he said to me: ‘Dismount and pray.’ So I dismounted and prayed. He said, ‘Do you know where you have prayed?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You have prayed at Mount Sinai, where Allah spoke to Moses with direct speech.'”3

Bethlehem:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) further said, “Then I mounted, and we went on as Allah willed until he said to me: ‘Dismount and pray.’ So I dismounted and prayed. He said, ‘Do you know where you have prayed?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You have prayed in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem, where Jesus, son of Mary, was born.'”4

Al-Masjid al-Aqsa (The Farthest Mosque):

The Prophet (peace be upon him) continued, “Then I mounted, and we continued until we reached Masjid al-Aqsa (The Farthest Mosque). I tied the Buraq to the same ring that the prophets before me used to tie their animals, then entered the mosque with Gabriel by my side.”5

The Meetings:

Meeting with the Prophets:

During his journey of al-Isra and al-Miraj (the Ascension), the Prophet (peace be upon him) met with the prophets of Allah. He greeted Prophet Adam (peace be upon him), sought forgiveness for him and himself, and Prophet Adam welcomed him, saying: “Welcome, O pious son and pious Prophet, sent in a pious time.” 6

The Prophet also met with Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), who greeted him by saying: “Welcome, O pious Prophet, pious son, sent in a pious time.”

He also met with Prophet Musa (peace be upon him), Prophet Isa (peace be upon him), and other prophets of Allah.7

In the Hadith, it is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “We found Ibrahim, Musa, and Isa gathered together with other prophets of Allah who were brought to me by the angel Gabriel. We established prayer, and I don’t doubt that Gabriel will lead the prayer and when they were in line, he took my hands and brought me forward and I led the prayed without any pride”8

With the Angels:

Angel of Death

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in a hadith about his journey during the Isra and Miraj:

“Then I passed by an angel sitting on a throne, and all of the worlds was spread out before him. In his hand was a tablet of light on which was written a list that he was examining, not looking to his right or left. He greeted me and said: ‘Welcome, O righteous son and righteous prophet sent in the righteous era.’ I asked Jibril (peace be upon him): ‘Who is this?’ He replied: ‘This is the Angel of Death, constantly taking souls.’ I asked Jibril to bring me closer to him, and I greeted him. Jibril then said to him: ‘This is Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy whom Allah sent to His servants.’ The Angel of Death greeted me and welcomed me with peace. He said: ‘Rejoice, O Muhammad, for I see all goodness in your nation.’ I thanked Allah for His blessings and mercy upon me. I then asked the Angel of Death: ‘Do you take the souls of those who die, even after this encounter?’ He replied: ‘Yes.’ I asked: ‘Do you see them and witness their lives?’ He said: ‘Yes, I have the entire world under my control, like a coin in the hand of a person, turning it as he wishes. Every day, I go through every house five times, and when the family of the deceased cries over their loss, I say to them: “Do not cry for him, for I will come back to you till none of you remain”9

The Keeper of Hellfire:

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in a hadith about his journey during the Isra and Miraj: “I did not see any angel who did not smile at me, till I met an angel I did not see greater than him and appeared angry. I asked Jibril: ‘Who is this?’ He replied: ‘This is Malik, the keeper of Hellfire, who has never smiled since Allah entrusted him with it.’ I greeted him, and he greeted me with peace and gave me glad tidings of Paradise. I asked Jibril: ‘Can he show me Hellfire?’ Jibril said: ‘O Malik, show Muhammad Hellfire.’ So he uncovered it and opened a door from which emerged a bright flame that soared into the sky. I thought it would consume me. I said to Jibril: ‘Ask him to cover it again.’ “10

Entering Paradise

Red Ruby castle

In the Hadith, it is narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I entered Paradise and saw a palace made of red rubies. Its interior could be seen from the outside, and its exterior could be seen from its light. Inside were two houses made of pearls and jasper. I asked Jibreel, ‘Whose palace is this?’ He replied, ‘This is for those who speak kindly, fast regularly, feed the hungry, and pray at night while others sleep.”11

Angels inquiring about Ali (peace be upon him)

Imam al-Sadiq has narrated the following about the ascension of the Prophet (peace be upon him), “The angels gathered and came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in groups. Then they asked, ‘O Muhammad, how is your brother Ali doing?’ He replied, ‘He is doing well.’ They said, ‘If you see him, convey our greetings to him.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Do you know him?’ They replied, ‘How could we not know him? Allah has taken your covenant and his from us! We pray for you and for him.’ ”12

The Tree of Tuba and Fatima (peace be upon her)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to frequently kiss Fatima (peace be upon her) and say, “When I was taken to heaven, Jibreel brought me fruit from the Tree of Tuba, and I ate it. Allah transformed it into water in my body. When I returned to the earth, Khadijah conceived Fatima, and whenever I kissed her, I smelled the fragrance of the Tree of Tuba.”13

The Veil of Light and the Imams (peace be upon them)

From Imam al-Rida (peace be upon him) through his forefathers, from the Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him), and from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his family): “…when I reached the veils of light, Gabriel said to me, ‘Proceed, O Muhammad, and leave me behind.’ I said: ‘O Gabriel, are you leaving me in such a place?’ He replied, ‘O Muhammad, my limit set by Allah is up to this place. If I go beyond it, my wings will burn for exceeding my Lord’s boundaries.’ I continued through the light until I reached where Allah wanted me to be. I was called, ‘O Muhammad!’ I replied: ‘At your service, my Lord, and my happiness. Blessed and exalted are You.’ I was called again, ‘O Muhammad, you are My servant, and I am your Lord. Worship Me and rely on Me, for you are My light among My servants and My messenger to My creation. You are My proof over My creatures. For you and those who follow you, I have created My Paradise, and for those who oppose you, I have created My Hell. For your successors, I have made My honor obligatory, and for their followers, I have made My reward obligatory.’ I said, ‘O Lord, who is my successors?’ I was called, ‘O Muhammad, your successors are those written on the leg of My Throne. I saw – while I was before my Lord – twelve lights on the leg of the Throne, and in each light, there was a green line with the name of one of my successors. The first of them was Ali ibn Abi Talib, and the last was the Mahdi of my nation. I said, ‘O Lord, these are my successors after me.’ I was called, ‘O Muhammad, these are My friends (and your successors) and My chosen ones, My proofs after you over My creatures. They are your successors and your caliphs, and the best of My creation after you. By My might and majesty, I will certainly empower My religion through them, and I will certainly raise My word through them. I will purify the earth from My enemies through the last of them, and I will grant him authority over the east and west of the earth. I will make the winds subservient to him, and I will make the difficult clouds humble for him. I will elevate him in the ranks, and I will support him with My army, and I will help him with My angels until My call is raised high and the creation is gathered under My oneness. Then, I will make his kingdom everlasting, and I will rotate the days among My friends until the Day of Resurrection.”14

References:

  1. Surah Al-Isra, Verse 1.
  2. Al-Qummi, Ali ibn Ibrahim, Tafsir al-Qummi, edited by Tayyib al-Jaza’iri, Maktabat al-Huda, Najaf, 1387 AH, Vol. 2, p. 3.
  3. The previous source, Vol. 2, p. 4.
  4. The same source as above.
  5. The same source as above.
  6. Al-Tabataba’i, Muhammad Hussein, Tafsir al-Mizan, (edition and location unknown), Vol. 13, p. 10.
  7. The previous reference, pp. 12-13.
  8. Al-Qummi, Ali ibn Ibrahim, Tafsir al-Qummi, Vol. 2, p. 4.
  9. Al-Majlisi, Muhammad Baqir, Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 56, p. 172.
  10. The same source as above.
  11. The same source, Vol. 90, p. 169.
  12. Al-Saduq, Muhammad ibn Ali, Ilal al-Shara’i, p. 313.
  13. The previous source, Vol. 18, p. 364.
  14. The previous source, Vol. 1, p. 6.
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