Al-Isra’ wal-Mi'raj: The Miraculous Journeys

March 16, 2024

In Islam, Isra and Miraj (27th Rajab) is the night in which the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) embarked on the famous night journey and ascension, also known as Miraj. {Glory be to Him, Who journeyed His servant by night, from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, to show him of Our wonders. He is the Listener, the Beholder.}(1 - Al-Isrā’) In this article, we learn about Isra and Miraj's miracle lessons and their significance.

What are Isra and Miraj?

The context in which Isra and Miraj took place is crucial, as the Prophet ﷺ was experiencing a period of great hardship and suffering. The Quraysh, who were his tribe and his family, constantly ridiculed, humiliated, and oppressed the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers. Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) had just faced the Year of Sorrow (’Aam al-Huzn), during which he (PBUH) lost his beloved wife Khadijah, and his uncle Abu Talib, who was his protector and ally. In addition to all these burdens, when the Prophet (PBUH) traveled to Ta’if to spread the Islamic message, the people of Ta’if rejected him most cruelly, sending their children into the streets to stone him until he left the city.

Having gone through so much grief and suffering, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was given a truly beautiful and comforting gift. He was transported not only to the Sacred Sanctuary and through the skies, but ultimately into the Divine Presence, the source of all comfort and hope. One of the most important lessons of Isra and Miraj, therefore, is that ‘with every hardship [there will be] ease’ (The Noble Qur’an, 94: 5).

Al-Isra’: From Makkah to Masjid Al-Aqsa

When the Prophet (PBUH) was sleeping in the house of Umm Hani (ra) in Makkah he said, ‘the roof of my house was opened and the Angel Gabriel [as] descended’ (Bukhari). Scholars reconciling between various narrations say the Prophet (PBUH) was then taken to the Hijr, the semi-circular wall of the Ka‘bah, where the Prophet (PBUH) said that Gabriel (as), ‘opened my chest, and washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a golden tray full of wisdom and faith and having poured its contents into my chest, he closed it’. [Bukhari] The Prophet (PBUH) continued, ‘I was then brought a white beast which is called al-Buraq [from the Arabic word barq, meaning lightning], bigger than a donkey and smaller than a mule. Its stride was as long as the eye could reach. [Muslim] It is narrated by Anas (ra) that Buraq was, ‘saddled and reined, but he shied from him (PBUH). So Gabriel [as] said to him, “Is it from Muhammad (PBUH) that you do this? For nobody has ridden you who is more honorable to Allah than him!” He said, “Then he started sweating profusely”’. [Tirmidhi]

At several points along the journey, Gabriel (as) stopped Buraq and told the Prophet (PBUH), ‘Dismount and pray’. The first stop was at ‘the place of emigration’ i.e. Madinah - and soon after this night the Prophet (PBUH) would meet the Ansar and migrate to Madinah. The second stop was at Mount Sinai, where Allah (swt) revealed the Torah to Musa (as). The third stop was at Bethlehem, where ’Isa (as) was born. The fourth stop was the grave of Musa (as), ‘I happened to pass by Musa [as] on the night of my Night journey by the red sandhill whilst he was standing praying in his grave’ (Muslim). We know that his grave is located, a stone’s throw away from the holy land of the Blessed Masjid Al-Aqsa (Bukhari). This incident clearly shows us an example of what the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said about Prophets (as) after they pass away, ‘The Prophets are alive in their graves’ (Abu Ya‘la).

Arriving at Al-Aqsa

Finally, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) arrived in the holy city of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and he said, ’When we reached Bait al-Maqdis [literally ‘the holy house’ another name for the Blessed Masjid Al-Aqsa] Gabriel (as) pointed with his finger causing a crack in the rock, and he tied the Buraq to it [at the western wall of the noble sanctuary]’ (Tirmidhi). Waiting inside were all 124,000 Prophets (as). Gabriel (as) led the Prophet (PBUH) to the front, and he (PBUH) led them all in prayer in this blessed space.

Al-Mi'raj: The Ascension to the Skies

Prophet Muhammad and Gabriel enter the first heaven and proceed through all seven levels until they reach the throne of God. Along the way, they meet the prophets Adam in the first sky, Yahya and 'Isa in the second sky, Yusuf in the third sky, Idris in the fourth sky, Harun in the fifth sky, Musa in the sixth sky, and Ibrahim in the seventh sky. and visit hell and paradise.

The Divine Meeting

At the end of this journey, the Prophet (PBUH) was brought into the Divine Presence, the ultimate source of strength and relief. It is impossible to imagine the beauty of this scene, or how loved, honored, and humbled the Prophet (PBUH) must have felt.

The Prophet (PBUH) mentioned, "Then fifty prayers were enjoined upon me. I came to Musa and he said: 'What happened?' I said: 'Fifty prayers have been enjoined upon me.' He said: 'I know more about the people than you. I tried hard with the Children of Israel. Your Ummah will never be able to bear that. Go back to your Lord and ask Him to reduce it for you.' So I went back to my Lord and asked Him to reduce it, and He made it forty. Then I went back to Musa, peace be upon him, and he said: 'What happened?' I said: 'He made it forty.' He said to me something similar to what he said the first time, so I went back to my Lord and He made it thirty. I came to Musa, peace be upon him, and told him, and he said to me something similar to what he said the first time, so I went back to my Lord and he made it twenty, then ten, then five. I came to Musa, peace be upon him, and he said to me something like he had said the first time, but I said: 'I feel too shy before my Lord to go back to Him.' Then it was called out: 'I have decreed (the reward for) My obligation, and I have reduced the burden for My slaves and I will give a ten-fold reward for each good deed.'" It was here that Allah gave this Ummah the gift of compulsory Salah, a daily source of strength to Muslims because it allows us to communicate with Allah and draw closer to Him.

Many extraordinary sights were witnessed by the Prophet ﷺ on this journey. It was also a test of faith for the Believers at the time.