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

The message of Prophet Muhammad (s) completed and perfected both the physical discipline and jurisprudence ( shariah ) of Musa and the spirituality ( rawhaniyya ) of ‘Isa. The shariah of Musa relates to the worldly life and the spirituality of ‘Isa relates to the heavenly life. By passing from the worldly life, represented by the Night Journey, to heavenly life, represented by the Ascension, the Prophet (s) was carried on these two wings. No prophet was carried on both except our master Muhammad (s).

In his Musnad Imam Ahmad said that the Dajjal (Anti-Christ) would be prevented from entering four places: Masjid al-Haraam in Makka, Masjid an-Nabawiyy in Madina, Masjid al-Aqsa and Tur, Mount Sinai where Moses used to speak to Allah.

Imam Ahmad says in his Musnad that Maymuna said she asked the Prophet about Bayt al-Maqdis. He said, “It is the place of Judgment Day where everyone will be called. Come to it and pray in it because one prayer in it is like 1,000 prayers anywhere else.”

In another hadith the Prophet said that “One prayer in Masjid an-Nabawiyy is like 10,000 prayers elsewhere. One prayer in Masjid al-Haraam is like 100,000 prayers elsewhere.”

In another narration of Ahmad one of the Prophet’s wives asked what one should do if they are not able to go to Masjid al-Aqsa. He said, “If someone is not able to go let them send lamp oil there to give light in the mosque. If anyone sends lamp oil to light the mosque it is as if you went and prayed there.”

According to this hadith one can send something to the mosque from far away attain the reward of one having reached the masjid despite not going there oneself, this though it is not a human being, but only four walls. This is one of many text proofs that intercession in Islam is accepted.

Allah mentioned in the Holy Qur’an “whenever Zakariya entered the sanctuary to (see) her, he found with her food. He said: O Mariam! whence comes this to you? She said: It is from Allah. Surely Allah gives to whom He pleases without measure.” [3: 36] Allah then stresses the importance of this place, “ There did Zakariya pray to his Lord…” [3: 37] as one in which prayers are answered, having become holy as Maryam’s place of worship. Here we see that a place, whether a mosque or a sanctuary, once it becomes holy, can provide blessings and rewards to those who worship in it or send oil to, in the case of Masjid al-Aqsa. This is for a place, consisting of nothing more than four inanimate walls, what then of asking a pious person for dua? That is the case of the intercession of the Prophet (s).

There is another narration from Abu Dawud in which the Prophet was asked by Abu Dharr which was the first masjid placed on earth. The Prophet replied, “Al-Masjid al-Haraam.” (The mosque Sayyidina Ibrahim made in Makka). Then he asked which was next. “Masjid al-Aqsa.” (in Jerusalem). Abu Dharr asked how much time was in between the two. “Forty years. Sayyidina Ibrahim made the Mosque in Makka, Sayyidina Y’aqub founded Masjid al-Aqsa then his son Sayyidina Sulayman finished it.”

One of the great scholars of Quranic exegesis, al-‘Ala’i said, ‘On the Night of Ascension the Prophet had five different vehicles. The first was the Buraq, a winged creature which carried him from Makka to Masjid al-Aqsa. The second was the Ascension by which the Prophet (s) reached the sky of this world, as- sama’ ad-dunya .’ There are two explanations for Mi`raj: either the Buraq carried the Prophet (s) up or a ladder that descended and took the Prophet up very rapidly. ‘The third vehicle was the wings of angels taking the Prophet up to the seventh heaven. The fourth vehicle was the wings of Jibril (as) from the seventh heaven to sidrat al-muntaha . The fifth vehicle was ar-raf raf to ka`ba kawsayn .’ The Prophet (s) stopped in ten different stations: the seven heavens and the eighth at the Furthermost Lote Tree, sidrat al-muntaha. The ninth is where he heard the sound of the angels’ pens writing people’s actions. The tenth level was at the Throne. And Allah knows best.’ ( Tafsir ruh al maani. Al-alusi. Dar al-fikr. Tafsir surat bani israil )

Allah supports His prophets with miracles ( m’ujizat ) to be able to go beyond the laws of physics and beyond the constraints of our human realities. If Allah grants a miracle we should not view it as something improbable otherwise we will be like scientists who cannot understand anything beyond the physical laws of the universe.

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