“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsaa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing”. [Surah al-Israa/17, v:01]
This verse talks about the most remarkable miracles of Muhammad (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), the night journey (Israa). This journey, which is usually known as Mi’raaj which comes from an Arabic word that literally means “ladder”. This night journey had two phases:
1. The horizontal or ground journey from the Kaabah in Makkah, to the historic mosque in Jerusalem, Masjid al-Aqsaa. It was here by a miracle of Allah that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) led the Ambiyaa ‘Alayhim-us-Salaam (Prophets of Allah) in salaah (prayer).
2. The vertical or heavenly journey from Al-Aqsaa to the seven heavens and divine throne.
The purpose of this journey we are told was to show the greatness and power of Allah ‘Azza wa Jall. Allah mentions, “And [remember, O Muhammad], when We told you, “Indeed, your Lord has encompassed the people.” And We did not make the sight which We showed you except as a trial for the people, as was the accursed tree [mentioned] in the Qur-aan. And We warn them, but it increases them not except in great transgression”. [Surah al-Israa/17, v:60]
This journey was not a dream but one felt undertaken by Rasoolullaah (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) in body and soul. There are many proofs in Qur-aan and Hadeeth that support this belief.
al-Israa (Ground Journey)
A hadeeth from Saheeh Muslim begins “One night I was asleep, in the Hijr near al-Ka’bah (the semi-circular space under the waterspout which is open on both sides on the Northwest side of the Ka’bah) when I was woken by Jibreel. He informed me of the Diving will and took me to the well oz Zam-Zam, where upon he opened by chest and poured wisdom and faith into it. Then he sealed it. I was then presented with a beautiful Buraaq. This is an animal larger than a mule but smaller than a horse. I mounted it…” And so began the israa. It is mentioned that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) dismounted the Buraaq and tied it at the gate of the mosque, using the ring by which the Prophets tied it before him. One narration states that Jibreel (‘Alayhi-as-Salaam) came to the Rock (this is the rock that the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem is built over) and placed his fingers in it, piercing it, then he tied the Buraaq using the spot he had hollowed out.
Rasoolullaah (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) prayed two raka‘ats (cycles) of prayer and did not tarry long before a large throng of people had gathered. The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) recognised all the Ambiyaa (Prophets), some standing in prayer, some bowing, some prostrating. Then a caller called out to the prayer and the final call to prayer was made. They rose and stood in lines, waiting for the one who would lead them. Jibreel (‘Alayhi-as-Salaam) took the hand of the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and brought him forward. He led them in two raka‘ats of prayer.
al-Mi’raaj (Heavenly Journey)
There are more than one narration of the Mi’raaj. We describe one here for the sake of brevity.
Narrated by Anas ibn Sa’sa‘ah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu): The Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said, “While I was at the House (al-Ka’bah) in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness, (an angel recognised me) as the man lying between two men. A golden tray full of wisdom and belief was brought to me and my body was cut open from the throat to the lower part of the abdomen and then my abdomen was washed with Zam-zam water and (my heart was) filled with wisdom and belief.
Al-Buraaq, a white animal, smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me and I set out with Jibreel. When I reached the nearest heaven. Jibreel said to the heaven gate-keeper, ‘Open the gate.’ The gatekeeper asked, ‘Who is it?’ He said, ‘Jibreel.’ The gate-keeper, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibreel said, ‘Muhammad.’ The gate-keeper said, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibreel said, ‘Yes.’ Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!’ Then I met Aadam and greeted him and he said, ‘You are welcomed O son and a Prophet.’
Then we ascended to the second heaven. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibreel said, ‘Jibreel.’ It was said, ‘Who is with you?’ He said, ‘Muhammad’ It was asked, ‘Has he been sent for?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ It was said, ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!’ Then I met ‘Eesaa (Jesus) and Yahya (John the Baptist) who said, ‘You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet.’
Then we ascended to the third heaven. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibreel said, ‘Jibreel.’ It was asked, ‘Who is with you?’ Jibreel said, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been sent for?’ ‘Yes,’ said Jibreel. ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!’ (The Prophet added:). There I met Joseph and greeted him, and he replied, ‘You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet!’
Then we ascended to the fourth heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met Idrees and greeted him. He said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and Prophet.’
Then we ascended to the fifth heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in previous heavens. there I met and greeted Haaroon (Aaron) who said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet’.
Then we ascended to the sixth heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Moosaa (Moses) who said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet.’ When I proceeded on, he started weeping and on being asked why he was weeping, he said, ‘O Lord! Followers of this youth who was sent after me will enter Paradise in greater number than my followers.’
Then we ascended to the seventh heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Ibraaheem (Abraham) who said, ‘You are welcomed o son and a Prophet.’
Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma’moor (i.e. Allah’s House). I asked Jibreel about it and he said, ‘This is Al Bait-ul-Ma’moor where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).’
Then I was shown Sidrat al-Muntahaa (i.e. a tree in the seventh heaven) and I saw its Nabk fruits which resembled the clay jugs of Hajr (i.e. a town in Arabia), and its leaves were like the ears of elephants, and four rivers originated at its root, two of them were apparent and two were hidden. I asked Jibreel about those rivers and he said, ‘The two hidden rivers are in Paradise, and the apparent ones are the Nile and the Euphrates.’
Then fifty prayers were enjoined on me. I descended till I met Moses who asked me, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Fifty prayers have been enjoined on me.’ He said, ‘I know the people better than you, because I had the hardest experience to bring Bani Israel to obedience. Your followers cannot put up with such obligation. So, return to your Lord and request Him (to reduce the number of prayers.’
I returned and requested Allah (for reduction) and He made it forty. I returned and (met Moses) and had a similar discussion, and then returned again to Allah for reduction and He made it thirty, then twenty, then ten, and then I came to Moses who repeated the same advice. Ultimately Allah reduced it to five. When I came to Moses again, he said, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Allah has made it five only.’ He repeated the same advice but I said that I surrendered (to Allah’s Final Order)’.
Allah’s Apostle was addressed by Allah, “I have decreed My Obligation and have reduced the burden on My slaves, and I shall reward a single good deed as if it were ten good deeds”. [Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Hadeeth No. 429, Book 54, Vol. 4]