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

Another subtle inference from Allah’s use of the term “` Abdihi” - a construct in the absent form or third person – is the meaning that, ‘He called the Prophet to a void where there was nothing except His Own Presence.’ Allah called the Prophet to a point where there is no place and there is no time, no ‘where’ and no ‘when.’ More miraculous than calling the Prophet (s) to His Presence was His bringing the Prophet’s (s) body and soul, which exist in time and place, to where there is no time and place. Allah brought His sincere servant, our master Muhammad (as), from a physical form of this worldly life to the completely abstract Divine Presence which is beyond any laws of science and physics which govern the universe.

The verse goes on to describe the Prophet’s movement through xxxx stations. Allah’s description of the Prophet (as) as servant ‘ abd, precedes His mention of the two mosques: the Inviolable Mosque (Masjid al-Haraam) and the Far Distant Mosque (Masjid al-Aqsa). Having perfected his character through constant worship, ` ubudiyya, the Inviolable Mosque, or Holy Sanctuary, is here an indication of the Prophet’s (s) having already been elevated beyond all sin. Allah did not say His Servant was taken “from Makka,” rather He said, “from the Inviolable Mosque.” “Inviolable” means that no sin is permitted within its precincts, nor backbiting, cheating, or lying. There one must be ever mindful of Allah’s (swt) Presence. Masjid al-Haraam is a station where those sins which signify the animal life, can never be committed. ‘Aqsa’ in Arabic means ‘the Farthest’. Thus Masjid al-Aqsa here is named as the farthest mosque in relation to Masjid al-Haraam and symbolizes the spiritual realm. The literal meaning is, ‘He brought His servant from Masjid al-Haraam to the mosque at the farthest end.’ Symbolically, Allah brought the Prophet away from that which is forbidden, things of this earthly life, haraam , to the place furthest away from it – al-Aqsa. The furthermost point from the animalistic life is the spiritual dimension.

The contrast between these ‘stations’ is further demonstrated by the famous stone at each of these holy sites. In Masjid al-Haraam the Black Stone is a stone governed by physical constraints, held up in an encasement, having fallen from heaven and been darkened by the sins of humanity. At Masjid al-Aqsa the holy stone marking where the Prophet (as) ascended to the heavens is miraculously suspended in the air, disregarding the physical law of gravity, seeking to leave the earthly pull of gravity to soar towards the Divine Presence.

The subtle meaning derived from the order of the words here is that Allah’s one true servant, the Prophet (s) began from station of `abdiyya, servanthood, for which he was created, allowing him to begin from the station of perfected and flawless character (`ismat) and move from there to the farthest station, the highest rank of all creation, as indicated by the station of the farthest mosque.

Allah brought Prophet Muhammad (s) to Masjid al-Aqsa in Palestine from which most of the prophets hail. There he found all of the prophets gathered there, and they prayed in congregation behind him (as). From there Allah raised him to the heavens, as if saying, ‘O My prophets! I did not raise any one from Masjid al-Aqsa as I am raising Muhammad (s).’ This was in order to demonstrate to them Prophet Muhammad’s (as) ascendancy – unlike any one of them he was not restricted by the laws of this universe.

Allah then moved him from Masjid al-Aqsa by means of the Miraj, lifting him up to His Divine Presence. Why did Allah use the words, ‘ laylan - by night’? Why didn’t He say, ‘ naharan - by day’? ‘ Laylan’ here illustrates the darkness of this world which becomes illumined only by the bright moon of the Prophet (s) to illuminate every darkness.

Subhan alladhee asr’a bi `abdihi laylan . “Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night…” Look at every word of this holy verse. First Allah praised Himself in the third person, in absence. Allah then miraculously moved the Prophet ( asra’ ) from Makka to Masjid al-Aqsa. Then He referred to the Prophet as ‘ ‘abd, servant’, distinguishing him through that elevated title as being related to the spiritual life, not the animal life.

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