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

These miraculous events happened on the Night of the Night Journey and Ascension, Laylat al Isra wal Miraj. The many hadith of Isra were authenticated by numerous huffaz (hadith masters) such as Ibn Shihab, Thabit al-Banani, and Qatada. Some scholars have different opinions on when this night occurred. Imam Nawawi said that it happened in Rajab. In ar-Rawda, Nawawi says it happened 10 years and 3 months after the beginning of the prophecy, while in Fatawa he states it was after five or six years of prophecy. Whatever the case, all scholars say that the Isra and Miraj took place both in body and spirit.

Allah said in the Holy Qur’an

75. So also did We show Ibrahim the malakut kingdom and glories behind the magnificent powers and laws of the physical universe that he might have certitude.

76. When the night covered over him he saw a star. He said ‘This is my lord.’ But when it set he said, ‘I do not love those that set.’

77. When he saw the moon rising in splendor he said, ‘This is my lord.’ But when the moon set he said, ‘Unless my Lord guides me I shall surely be among those who go astray.’

78. When he saw the sun rising in splendor he said, ‘This is my lord.’ But when the sun set he said, ‘O my people, I am innocent and free from the sin of you giving partners to Allah.

79. ‘For me I have set my face firmly and truly towards the One Who created the heavens and the earth, and I am not one who gives partners to Allah.’ (Al-An’am 6:75-79).

Allah opened the kingdom of heavens and earth to Sayyidina Ibrahim without an Isra or Miraj. He opened Prophet Ibrahim’s baseera (spiritual vision) to see the wonders of the universe from where he was on earth. Allah showed him what is beyond the laws of the physical universe through the eyes of his heart. Yet immediately after this verse where Allah has shown Ibrahim the glories behind the physical universe, in verse 76 Ibrahim sees a star and says, ‘This is my lord!’ In verses 77 and 78 he similarly “mistakes” the moon and sun for his lord.

Allah showed Ibrahim (as) the truth, and he is conveying the heavenly message. If he tried to directly present unseen spirituality to those who worship only physical objects, they would not understand it. How could he explains the heavens and glorifying the Lord to those who only understand literal meanings and physicality and not interpretative meanings or spirituality? Ibrahim was trying to gently tell the people ‘don’t worship the stars, or moon, or sun. Go beyond what you can see physically.’ Ibrahim knew the reality of the universe as Allah had shown it to him. The verses of the stars, moon, and sun are for the non-believers, to slowly build up their beliefs. They rejected anything beyond the comprehension of their minds. He wanted everyone to be under Allah’s mercy so he was trying to let them understand by process of elimination that there is a spiritual dimension. He eliminated the star (something small), then the moon, then the sun (the biggest heavenly body). This means don’t run after things of this worldly life but run after the spiritual dimension which is beyond the laws of the physical universe.

In our time, materialistic scientists and certain narrow minded Islamic sects try to negate spirituality, the fourth dimension, which Allah showed to Ibrahim (as). Those rejecting the spiritual dimension of Islam are falling into the same trap as the people of Ibrahim. The Prophet (s) said, ‘ akhwaf ma akhafu ala ummati ash-shirk il-khafi what I fear most for my community is the hidden shirk (associating partners to Allah).’ For a person to be prideful of himself. Sayyidina Ibrahim was shown the realities of this universe and tried to guide his people to Allah. Finally, in verse 79 he reaffirms his true belief in Allah and his turning away from worldly distractions. From his place on earth, Ibrahim was shown by Allah (swt) the malakut of heavens and earth.

Sayyidina Musa did not see this malakut , but he was able to hear and talk to Allah from Mount Sinai. Although Ibrahim was granted to see in spiritual dimensions, and Musa was granted to hear Allah directly, both of their bodies were still on earth and subject to its physical laws. Sayyidina Ibrahim’s vision and Sayyidina Musa’s hearing went beyond the physical through the power of the soul, but their bodies did not move beyond the physical world.

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