The Prophet’s Night Journey
The Prophet’s Night Journey From Makkah To The Farthest Mosque In Jerusalem, And Ascent To The Heavens
Sardar, Ziauddin. “MUHAMMAD: Aspects of His Biography.” Excerpt.
The Islamic Foundation: Leicester, UK. 1982.
On the night of the twenty-seventh Rajab, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was in a deep sleep in a house in Makkah when (Gabriel) woke him up. With the archangel was Al-Buraq: an animal unique in creation. It resembled lightning in swiftness and lustre, was of clear white colour, medium in size, smaller than a mule and taller than an ass, and so quick in movement that it put its feet in the farthest limits of sight. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sat on the back of Al-Buraq and in a twinkling, he travelled from Makkah to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where he led all the Prophets of the past in prayer. He was then taken to the sacred rock, from where he ascended to the Heavens.
Glorified (and Exalted) is He (Allah), Who had His slave Muhammad (peace be upon him) for a journey by night from Al-Haram Mosque (at Makkah) to Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) whose surroundings we have blessed so that we might show him (Mohammed) of our signs, proofs, lessons, etc! Verily, He is All-Hearer, the All-Seer. The Qur’an 17:1
When they reached the first heaven Gabriel asked the guardian angel to open the door of heaven. It was opened and he saw Adam, the progenitor of mankind. The Prophet (peace be upon him) saluted him and the other welcomed him and expressed his faith in Muhammad’s Prophethood. He saw the souls of martyrs on his right and those of the wretched on his left.
Gabriel then ascended with the Prophet to the second heaven, asked for opening the gate and there he saw and saluted John, son of Zachariya (Yahya bin Zakarlya) and Jesus, son of Mary. They returned the salutation, welcomed him and expressed their faith in his Prophethood. Then they reached the third heaven where they saw Joseph (Yusuf) and saluted him. The latter welcomed the Prophet and expressed faith in his Prophethood.
The Prophet, in the company of Gabriel, then reached the fourth heaven where he met the Prophet Enoch (Idris) and saluted him. Prophet Enoch returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood. Then he was carried to the fifth heaven where he met the Prophet Aaron (Harun) and saluted him. The latter returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood.
In the sixth heaven he met Moses (Musa) and saluted him. The latter returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood. Muhammad (peace be upon him) on leaving, saw that Moses began to weep. He asked about the reason. Moses answered that he was weeping because he witnessed a man sent after him as a Messenger (Muhammad) who was able to lead more of his people to the Paradise than he himself did.
Then Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reached the seventh heaven and met Abraham (lbrahim) and saluted him. The latter returned the salutation and expressed faith in his Prophethood. Then he was carried to Sidrat-al- Muntaha (the remotest lote tree) and was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma ‘mar [(the much frequented house) which is like the Ka’bah (Sacred House) encompassed daily by seventy thousand angels, so that the angels who once encompassed it would not have their turn again till the Resurrection]. He was then presented to the Divine Presence and experienced the thrill of witnessing the Divine Glory and Manifestation at the closest possible propinquity. There the Lord revealed unto His servant that which He revealed, and ordained fifty daily prayers for him. On his return, he spoke to Moses that his followers had been enjoined to pray fifty times a day. Moses addressing the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Your followers cannot perform so many prayers. Go back to your Lord and ask for a remission in number.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) turned to Gabriel as if holding counsel with him. Gabriel nodded, “Yes, if you desire,” and ascended with him to the Presence of Allah. The All-Mighty Allah, Glory is to Him, made a reduction of ten prayers. He then descended and reported that to Moses, who again urged him to request for a further reduction. Muhammad (peace be upon him) once more begged his Lord to reduce the number still further.
He went again and again in the Presence of Allah at the suggestion of Moses for reduction in the number of prayers till these were reduced to five only. Moses again asked him to implore for more reduction, but he said: “I feel ashamed now of repeatedly asking my Lord for reduction. I accept and resign to His Will.”
While he (Gabriel) was in the highest part of the horizon, Then he (Gabriel) approached and came closer, And was at a distance of two bows length or (even) nearer. So (Allah) revealed to His slave Muhammad (peace be upon him) through (Gabriel) whatever He revealed The Qur’an 53 : 8-10
Creation moved on to continue its expansion. At sunrise, Muhammad (peace be upon him) sat, remembering Allah, in his particular place in the Haram Mosque. Abu Jahl, his lifelong enemy, came and enquired: “0 Muhammad, have you one of those marvelous tales we hear from you so often to tell us this morning ?” The Prophet described his night journey from Makkah to Jerusalem, the Isra’, and his ascension to the heavens, the Al-Mi’raj. The people of Makkah knew that Muhammad had never been to Jerusalem. Could he describe the city for them? Muhammad obliged.
What about the journey from Makkah to Jerusalem? Did Muhammad see anything en route?
“In the valleys of Makkah,” replied the Prophet, “I met a caravan, one whose camel had taken fright and run away. I warned them of this. Then I saw another caravan that had encamped for the night. Outside the principal tent stood a jar of water with a cover on it. I drank water from the jar and replaced the cover as it was before. This same caravan is now approaching Bayda and will shortly enter Makkah. It is led by a dark grey camel, carrying a double load, one half black and the other of various colours.”
The people of Makkah went out of the city and found a caravan answering to the description given by the Prophet. They questioned the members of the caravan about the jar of water, and obtained satisfactory answers. They even discovered the caravan whose camel had run away, and they confirmed that in that very valley the members of the caravan heard a voice warning them of the camel’s escape.
Abu Jahl asked Abu Bakr, “Do you believe in the extraordinary adventure of your Prophet? He pretends to have accomplished in the night the journey from the sacred Mosque of Makkah to the Al Aqsa Mosque of Jerusalem-there and back!” Abu Bakr’s answer was a cool ‘yes’. “What ever Muhammad says is true and I believe it. If he maintains that he went up to the seventh heaven in one hour and came back in the same space of time, I would still have faith in his declarations”.
Abu Jahl’s attempt to cast doubts into the minds of the believers succeeded only in strengthening their beliefs. The unbelievers of Makkah were astonished at the Prophet’s detailed description of the Jerusalem mosque and his encounter with the caravans. For them truth was bitter. They retaliated by increasing their hostilities towards the Muslims. It became increasingly obvious that the Muslims no longer had any option but to migrate from Makkah. The revelations of the Qur’an prepared Muslims for this move. The revelations after the Mi’raj deal with various issues of state policy-human rights, economic guidance, penal reforms, educational ideals and social relations. All these were pointers towards a new era.