“The paths to guidance are diverse, as a mercy and kindness from God to His servants, due to the variation in their intellectual, mental, and spiritual insights.”Ibn al-Qayyim
The beauty of Islam is that it welcomes and embraces truth seekers through numerous avenues. Individuals such as Abu Bakr al-Siddiq RA were fast to accept the religion due to the purity of their nature. Others such as Khadijah bint Khuwaylid accepted Islam after recognising the remarkable character of the Prophet PBUH. Some were impressed by the Prophet’s PBUH successes and a fourth segment of believers embraced the religion after witnessing one or more miracles.
Miracles are numerous in Islam. From the splitting of the moon to the weeping tree, and the stones that spoke up, to an increase in food and water, prophetic traditions are replete with such examples.
One of Islam’s greatest miracles is the celestial night journey. Both the night journey – known as Isra – and the ascension – known as Mi’raj – are some of the most powerful reminders of the extraordinary power and might of Allah, and how Allah is capable of manipulating the laws of logic and natural order.
The story might be well known amongst us, yet an annual reminder is always refreshing for a believer.
Whilst it is believed that this event transpired on the 27th Rajab* in the year 621, it is not guaranteed that this was the exact date. Nevertheless, the event happened and has been confirmed by both the Qur’an and Hadith.
“Exalted is He who took His Servant (Prophet Muhammad ﷺ by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.”The Holy Qur’an 17:1
So, What Happened?
Before we discuss what happened, it’s useful to know in what context this event took place. At the time, the Prophet PBUH had hit rock bottom. Not only was his tribe and family continuously giving him a hard time after he declared prophethood, but he had also lost two of the most beloved people in his life – his wife Khadījah and his uncle Abu Talib. Both of them protected and supported him throughout the initial years of prophethood, which according to the prophetic biography were some of the hardest years of his life. His problems did not just stop there. The Prophet PBUH had just returned from his mission to spread Islam in Taif after being mocked and chased out.
The losses, mockery and extreme hardships gave new impetus for yet again another miracle.
One night, as the Prophet PBUH was sleeping, he was awakened by the angel Jibreel and Mikail who prompted him to mount a creature known as Buraq.
The Prophet PBUH said, ‘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’. [Sahih Muslim]
The entire journey was split into two parts. The first part of the journey saw the Prophet PBUH being taken from Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsa, whilst in the second part of the journey, the Prophet ascended to heaven. In other words, Isra is the journey from Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsa and Mi’raj is the journey from Masjid al-Aqsa to the seven heavens.
It was during this remarkable journey that the Prophet PBUH was gifted with the five daily prayers. What started as fifty daily prayers, eventually dropped to five after the Prophet PBUH was prompted by the Prophet Musa AS to ask Allah to decrease the amount. It was during this night that the Prophet PBUH also led all the prophets in prayer in Masjid al-Aqsa.
Upon returning to Makkah, many Muslims and non-Muslims were in utter shock after hearing the news. Many Muslims left the religion, whilst the pagans of Quraysh found a new reason to continue ridiculing the Prophet PBUH, despite his meticulous descriptions of Jerusalem and Masjid al-Aqsa.
“After the Prophet ﷺ was miraculously taken by night to the furthest mosque in Jerusalem, the people began to talk about it. Some of them renounced their faith and belief in him. They looked for Abu Bakr and they said, “Have you heard that your friend imagined he was taken by night to the sacred house?” Abu Bakr said, “Did he say that?” They said “Yes.” Abu Bakr said, “If he said it, then it is the truth.” They said, “Do you believe he went by night to the sacred house and returned before morning?” Abu Bakr said, “Yes. Verily, I believe something even more astonishing than that. I believe he has received revelations from heaven for everything he does.” For this reason, Abu Bakr was named the Truthful, al-Siddiq.”Dala’il al-Nubuwwah
Virtues and Approaching Ramadhan
The Night Journey is a reminder that after hardship comes ease. It also reminds us that the five daily prayers should be deeply appreciated. From among all the blessings and gifts the Prophet PBUH could have returned to earth with, he returned with prayers.
The Night Journey is also a fine reminder that we ought to reconnect with Allah and prepare for the extremely immense and blessed month of Ramadhan. With just over a month to go, this is the time to offer prayers, give in charity and begin fasting. As we approach Ramadhan, let us use the story to of the Prophet’s PBUH hardships and his remarkable journey to motivate ourselves to do more.
Learn how to prepare for Ramadhan here.
When is Isra and Mi’raj (27th Rajab*) 2023?
This year, the 27th of Rajab* coincides with the 18th of February 2023.
*The exact date and year of Isra & Mi’raj is not certain and remains a scholarly debate.