Commemorating Ascension, Part 2

Shaykh Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki al-Makki


II. The striving of the scholars in organizing the account of Isra’ and Mi`raj into a single version

The scholars have striven to organize this account and gather its narrations into a single version, at the same making mention of some separate additions, in order to facilitate its perusal and its benefit. In this way they gathered the narrations in one place for the people at large. This is permitted according to the rules of the experts in the field of hadith as stated by them. Many of them have used this method in many instances in which they would join up together the several narrations of different narrators of a single event as was done with the Farewell Pilgrimage and some of the military raids and campaigns. The hadith master al-Shami did this with the account of the Prophet’s Rapture and Ascension as well as the hadith master al-Ghayti and a number of other scholars. This is what al-Shami said on this question in his great book al-Mi`raj for it is useful:

Know — may Allah have mercy on me and you — that each of the hadiths of the Companions [on this subject] contains what the other does not. Therefore I consulted Allah Almighty and concatenated them, thus rearranging the account into a single text so that it would be sweeter to attentive ears, and in order for its benefit to suit all occasions.

If someone says: “Each hadith of the Mi`raj differs from the next and the ascensions may number according to the number of their accounts: why then did you make all of them into a single account?” I say: The author of Zad al-ma`ad [Ibn al-Qayyim] said:

This is the path of the feeble-minded among the literalists of the Zahiri school who are authorities in transmitted texts. If they see in the account a wording that differs from the version of one of the narrators they multiply the occurrence of the event accordingly. The correct view is what the Imams of text transmission have said: namely, that the Mi`raj took place once, in Mecca, after the beginning of Prophethood. It is a wonder how these have claimed that it took place repeatedly. How can they countenance the conclusion that every time, fifty prayers are prescribed upon him then he goes back and forth between Musa and his Lord until they become five, and his Lord says: “I have decreed what is due Me and have reduced the burden of My slaves,” only for him to come a second time with fifty prayers which he decreases again, ten by ten?

The hadith master `Imad al-Din Ibn Kathir said in his history [al-Bidaya wa al-nihaya], after noting that Malik ibn Sa`sa`a’s version did not make mention of Jerusalem:

Some of the narrators would omit part of the report due to its being known, or due to forgetfulness, or because he would mention only what he considered important, or because one time he would feel eager to relate it completely, while another time he would tell his public what is of most use to them.

He who relates every differing narration to a separate occurrence thereby affirming several ascensions has strayed widely and said something indefensible and has not fulfilled his pursuit. The reason is that all the versions contain his meeting with the Prophets and the prescription of the prayers upon him: how then could one defend multiplying these occurrences? This understanding is extremely far-fetched nor was it related from any of the Salaf, whereas if this had indeed taken place several times the Prophet would have reported it to his Community and the people would have transmitted it often.

[We hold, as our Master Shaykh Nazim has said, that the night ascensions of the Prophet to his Lord numbered twenty-three thousand, one in every night of his blessed life.

Some of the evidence for this is in the hadiths whereby he said:

· “My eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep.”20

· “I have a time with my Lord which no Angel Brought Near nor Messenger-Prophet shares with me.”

al-Qari commented on this hadith:

It is inferred from it that what he means by the angel brought near is Jibril, while the Messenger-Prophet is his brother the Friend of Allah [Ibrahim]. Reflect upon this. This hadith also points to the station of self-immersion in the meeting expressed in terms of intoxication, self-effacement, and self-annihilation.21]