The Night Journey: the Spiritual Significance of Isra and Mi`raj

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem

Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Inviolable Mosque to the Far-Distant Mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing. [17: 1]

Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far distant place of worship, whose precincts We have blessed, that We might show him of Our Signs! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer. [17:1]

Allah (swt) has revealed this as the first verse of Quran’s chapter al-Isra, Night Journey, which is also known as the chapter of the Children of Israel or the chapter of Glorification ( Subhan ). In it Allah mentions the Night Journey ( Isra ) in which He called the Prophet (s) to His Divine Presence.

As Allah opened the Holy Qur’an in the Opening chapter Surat al-Fatiha, with the words “ Al-Hamdu Lillah - Praise be to Allah,” in this verse of Surat al-Isra (17:1), He opens the chapter of the Night Journey with, “ Subhana - Glory be to Allah (swt).”

Allah is glorifying Himself saying, “ Subhana alladhi asra’” which means “Glory to Me, the One who brought the Prophet on the Night Journey calling him to My Divine Presence.” This is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Allah is not just reminding us about this event, rather, He is glorifying Himself on account of it. That is because the Night Journey, moving almost instantaneously from Makka to Masjid al-Aqsa and the Ascension, traversing in an incredibly short span of time the worldly domain of this universe and beyond, transcend the laws of physics governing movement. There is no way for any scientist’s mind to comprehend how the Prophet (s) moved across the globe and was then carried to Allah’s Divine Presence. Such a journey is beyond the scope of imagination. Therefore Allah (swt) glorifies Himself saying, “Yes it happened! Glory to Me Who can do this! I am beyond these laws and systems. I am the Creator of all systems.”

Malik bin Anas (r) related that the Prophet (s) said, “I was lying in the hijr (of the Inviolable Mosque of Makka) when someone [the archangel Jibril (as)] came to me and cut open my chest from throat to belly. He removed my heart and cleaned it with the water of the well of Zamzam before putting it back in its place. Then he brought me a white creature called al-Buraq by whose means I was lifted.”

Another narration relates that the two archangels “Jibril and Mika’il (as) came to the Prophet (s) when he was laying down in al-Hijr [of the Inviolable Mosque in Makka] and carried him to the well of Zamzam. They laid him down on his back and Jibril (as) opened his chest from top to bottom, despite which there was no bleeding. He said to Mika’il (as), ‘Get me water from Zamzam,’ which he did. Jibril (as) took the Prophet’s heart and washed it thrice before putting it back. He filled it with faith and wisdom. Then he closed his chest and they took him out from the door of the masjid to where the buraq was waiting.”

Archangel Jibril could have removed the Prophet’s heart miraculously by means of a small opening or without opening his chest at all. Yet we see in this Tradition of the Prophet (s) a hint of how to perform open heart surgery. This same technique of opening the entire chest cavity is used by heart surgeons today.

How did Allah describe the one whom He brought on the Night Journey? He describes him (as) as “His servant.” Abu Qasim Sulayman al-Ansari said that when the Prophet (s) reached the highest levels and distinguished stations, Allah revealed to him, “With what shall I honor you?” The Prophet said, “By relating me to you through servanthood ( ‘ubudiyya ).” This is why Allah revealed this verse of the Holy Qur’an honoring the Prophet (s) by the title “His servant when describing the Night Journey. Allah did not grant such an honor to Moses. Rather He said, “And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst…” [7: 143] referring to Moses (as) by his name. Instead of saying, “ Glory be to Him Who made Muhammad to go …”Allah honored the Prophet (s) by referring to him as “` abdihi “, His servant.”

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