AL-MI’RAJ – THE ASCENT OF THE PROPHET
Al-Azhar Magazine – August 1972
The story of the ascent of the Prophet was a great miracle of his prophethood as well as good news foretelling a victory of his followers over their enemies. It is recalled that this historical event took place when the Prophet and his followers were facing cruel persecutions and threats from their opponents. The opposition to his preaching had grown rigid, the Prophet had little success among the people of Makkah.
What important event happened at this Night? This was the night of 27th Rajab in the 11th year of the prophet’s mission. In the ‘Night of Ascent’ the prophet was carried from the sacred Mosque of Makkah to the sacred Mosque of Jerusalem. The Holy Quran says:
سُبۡحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسۡرَىٰ بِعَبۡدِهِۦ لَيۡلاً۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدِ ٱلۡحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلۡمَسۡجِدِ ٱلۡأَقۡصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكۡنَا حَوۡلَهُ ۥ لِنُرِيَهُ ۥ مِنۡ ءَايَـٰتِنَآۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ
(Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant place of worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer. ) (17:1)
The beginning of the verse by the word “Subhan” is indicating that the Cherisher of the universe is exalted over disability. Moreover, the Quran and the other Scriptures narrate the miraculous story of Prophet Solomon (peacebe upon him) with birds, Jinn and the throne of the Queen of Sheba etc. the Quran mentioned in the story of Solomon with the Queen of Sheba:
وَقَالَ فِرۡعَوۡنُ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلۡمَلَأُ مَا عَلِمۡتُ لَڪُم مِّنۡ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيۡرِى فَأَوۡقِدۡ لِى يَـٰهَـٰمَـٰنُ عَلَى ٱلطِّينِ فَٱجۡعَل لِّى صَرۡحً۬ا لَّعَلِّىٓ أَطَّلِعُ
إِلَىٰٓ إِلَـٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّى لَأَظُنُّهُ ۥ مِنَ ٱلۡكَـٰذِبِينَ (٣٨) وَٱسۡتَكۡبَرَ هُوَ وَجُنُودُهُ ۥ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ بِغَيۡرِ ٱلۡحَقِّ وَظَنُّوٓاْ أَنَّهُمۡ إِلَيۡنَا لَا
يُرۡجَعُونَ (٣٩) فَأَخَذۡنَـٰهُ وَجُنُودَهُ ۥ فَنَبَذۡنَـٰهُمۡ فِى ٱلۡيَمِّۖ فَٱنظُرۡ كَيۡفَ ڪَانَ عَـٰقِبَةُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ (٤٠)
(And Pharaoh said: O chiefs! I know not that ye have a god other than me, so kindle for me (a fire), O Haman, to bake the mud; and set up for me a lofty tower in order that I may survey the God of Moses; and lo! I deem him of the liars. (38) And he and his hosts were haughty in the land without right, and deemed that they would never be brought back to Us. (39) Therefor We seized him and his hosts, and abandoned them unto the sea. Behold the nature of the consequence for evil-doers! (40)) ( 27 : 38-40)
This story should remove such doubt about the Ascent of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). If a stalwart of the Jinn was able to bring the throne of the Queen of Sheba unto Solomon from Yemenbefore he could rise from his place, and one, with whom was knowledge of the scripture, has done such work before Solomon’s gaze returned unto him, then how it will be difficult to believe that the Lord of the Worlds carried His Choicest servant and His messenger by night from Makkah to Jerusalem?
But we have to know why this event took place at this particular time in the life of the prophet, and what was the significance of it, and exactly what happened during the space of one year the prophet lost his uncle, Abu Talib, who used to protect him from the aggression of the people of Makkah, and also his wife Khadija, who was a good wife to him, and who used to smooth him for the various difficulties he has to face from the people outside his house.
The loss of these two persons in one year caused a lot of sorrow for the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he called this year the ‘year of sorrow’. After the death of Abu Talib the people of Quraish harassed the Prophet more and more, and when he went home he did not find any one to make it easy for him as Khadija used to do. It was ahard time for the Prophet and it seemed there was no helper or protector in Makkah. Therefore he decided to go the town of “taif’ in which the tribe of “Thaqif” lived, to call them to Islam, hoping that he would find a helper from among them. He started the journey from Makkah to Taif with the servant, Zaid, and the Prophet kept his journey secret, because he did not know the people of Taif would accept his call or not. When he arrived at Taif he began by meeting the head of this tribe, discussing with them the matter of belief, and inviting them to the religion of Islam. But unfortunately their response was not so good, and he had to bear the hardship of receiving their refusal, he asked them to keep his discussion with them as a secret in order to keep the people of Mecca from knowing about this failure in Taif.
They would not agree to this, and their words to him were very rude. One man swore by Allah that if the Prophet Spoke the truth, then he was their superior and should not speak to them, because discussion between them would be unsuitable. But if on the other hand, the prophet was a liar, then he was the inferior of the tribesmen, and it was not suitable for the tribesmen to keep the company of such an inferior.
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) began to leave the town, the people ordered their slaves and naughty children to line the streets on either side of his way and to stone him as he walked, until the Prophet’s blood flowed and covered his heels. His servant Zaid, tried to protect him, but was unable. After the Prophet left the town he was in a most unhappy state, and sat dawn under the shade of some trees.
After this journey, it was clear there was no help at all from anyone on earth for the Prophet. When he came near to Makkah the news of the failure of his journey had got there before him, and he couldn’t enter Mecca without first sending a massage for a man called Al-Mutim Ibn Aswi, asking him to be his protector, as was the custom of the Arab tribes at that time. It was in this situation that the journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and from Jerusalem to Haven took place, to give spiritual aid to the Prophet, and to assure him that Allah was with him always, even if there was no one to help him from the creation; and at the same time, through this journey he saw many signs to show him the power of God, to give him more aid: as the Holy Quran says: “ to show him from among Our signs”
Some people are making doubts and suspicions about the nature of the Ascent, whether the Prophet was carried by night to Jerusalem when he was caught up through the heavens, by bodily and spiritually or it was a spiritual Ascent? In fact there could not be such a doubt about the ability and the command of the Lord of the universe. The Holy Quran says:
نَّمَآ أَمۡرُهُ ۥۤ إِذَآ أَرَادَ شَيۡـًٔا أَن يَقُولَ لَهُ ۥ كُن فَيَكُونُ (٨٢) فَسُبۡحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِى بِيَدِهِۦ مَلَكُوتُ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ وَإِلَيۡهِ تُرۡجَعُونَ (٨٣)
(But His command, when He intendeth a thing, is only that he saith unto it: Be! and it is. (82) Therefor glory be to Him in Whose hand is the dominion over all things! Unto Him ye will be brought back. (83)) (36 : 82-83)
This journey took the place during part of one night, and was over before the dawn broke. On the next day, when the Prophet informed the people of Makkah about this journey they became enraged and the accused the Prophet calling him a liar, and they tried to use the strangeness of this event as proof to persuade people to give up the religion. They even tried to influence Abu Bakr with this: “Do you know what your friend has said? They asked.
“What did he say”? Said Abu Bakr.
“He claims that the he went to Jerusalem during the night and returned before Dawn, they said; A journey of one month each way! How can this be done in a few hours of the night?” Abu Bakr replied “if he said so, then he is telling the truth” the people of Makkah were astonished. “Do you believe him then”? They asked “why not” Abu Bakr answered. “I would believe more than that about him. I believe that the revelation came from heaven.”
On this journey, when the Prophet was taken up to the heaven he received the compulsory prayer, which Muslims performs five times a day.
The Quran describes both the sacred Mosque of Jerusalem and the Holy Mosque of Makah as ‘blessed one’. The Holy Mosque of Makkah is mentioned in the Quran as the first house built for mankind for worship.
At this moment of time, the Muslims all over the world celebrating the ‘Night of the Ascent’ of the Prophet, it is necessary that the celebration should remind them their connection with the Palestine and their obligation to this country.
The prophet classed the Mosques of Makkah, Jerusalem and Madina as of equal value to Muslims. Jerusalem is the second most holy city in Islam. It is considered next in importance to Makkah. Traditions stated that the Prophet ascended to heaven on his horse, ‘Al-Buraq’ from the Rock. His foot print may be seen still. There is a round hole in the middle of the Rock, when the Prophet’s body, it is said to be pierced its way upward and nearby is shown the saddle of Al-Buraq in the shape of several marble fragments.
Palestine is one the Holiest spots on the earth and dear to the hearts of all Muslims. The passing years only retained original place of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) in the faith of Islam, and increased the respect and reverence in which it is held by all Muslims.
Today Jerusalem appeals to the Muslims all over the world to perform their obligatory duty towards this holy city. It is now occupied and ruled by an enemy determined to irrevocable change its physical appearance and drive out its sons ruthlessly. These objectives are being pursued in many ways with the utmost speed. Now Jerusalem struggles to survive. Only the immediate concreted the world over will save Jerusalem from the demographic and spiritual obliteration by the hands of the Zionist Israelites.
The Surah Al-Isra of the Quran begins with the verses relates to the story of the prophet’s journey by night from Makkah to Jerusalem, when he was ascended to the heavens. This was followed by verses, relate to the story of Israelites:
وَءَاتَيۡنَا مُوسَى ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ وَجَعَلۡنَـٰهُ هُدً۬ى لِّبَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ أَلَّا تَتَّخِذُواْ مِن دُونِى وَڪِيلاً۬ (٢) ذُرِّيَّةَ مَنۡ حَمَلۡنَا مَعَ نُوحٍۚ إِنَّهُ
كَانَ عَبۡدً۬ا شَكُورً۬ا (٣) وَقَضَيۡنَآ إِلَىٰ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ فِى ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ لَتُفۡسِدُنَّ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ مَرَّتَيۡنِ وَلَتَعۡلُنَّ عُلُوًّ۬ا ڪَبِيرً۬ا (٤)
فَإِذَا جَآءَ وَعۡدُ أُولَٮٰهُمَا بَعَثۡنَا عَلَيۡڪُمۡ عِبَادً۬ا لَّنَآ أُوْلِى بَأۡسٍ۬ شَدِيدٍ۬ فَجَاسُواْ خِلَـٰلَ ٱلدِّيَارِۚ وَكَانَ وَعۡدً۬ا مَّفۡعُولاً۬ (٥) ثُمَّ رَدَدۡنَا
لَكُمُ ٱلۡڪَرَّةَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ وَأَمۡدَدۡنَـٰكُم بِأَمۡوَٲلٍ۬ وَبَنِينَ وَجَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ أَڪۡثَرَ نَفِيرًا (٦) إِنۡ أَحۡسَنتُمۡ أَحۡسَنتُمۡ لِأَنفُسِكُمۡۖ وَإِنۡ أَسَأۡتُمۡ فَلَهَاۚ فَإِذَا
جَآءَ وَعۡدُ ٱلۡأَخِرَةِ لِيَسُـۥۤـُٔواْ وُجُوهَڪُمۡ وَلِيَدۡخُلُواْ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدَ ڪَمَا دَخَلُوهُ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ۬ وَلِيُتَبِّرُواْ مَا عَلَوۡاْ تَتۡبِيرًا (٧)
(We gave unto Moses the Scripture, and We appointed it a guidance for the children of Israel, saying: Choose no guardian beside Me. (2) (They were) the seed of those whom We carried (in the ship) along with Noah. Lo! he was a grateful slave. (3) And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Scripture: Ye verily will work corruption in the earth twice, and ye will become great tyrants. (4) So when the time for the first of the two came, We roused against you slaves of Ours of great might who ravaged (your) country, and it was a threat performed. (5) Then we gave you once again your turn against them, and We aided you with wealth and children and made you more in soldiery. (6)(Saying): If ye do good, ye do good for your own souls, and if ye do evil, it is for them (in like manner). So, when the time for the second (of the judgments) came (We roused against you others of Our slaves) to ravage you, and to enter the Temple even as they entered it the first time, and to lay waste all that they conquered with an utter wasting. (7))
(17 : 2-7)
After a year of the event of the Ascent, the prophet and his followers migrated to madina. It should be remembered that the Hijrah does not mean flight or migration. It was a clear division of the Prophet’s mission, and greeting to the new future of the true faith. The Muslims were promised by God to enter Makkah in peace and safety.
This entry was materialised soon and the Prophet entered his native city as conqueror without bloodshed and he proclaimed a general amnesty. Thus, the miraculous Ascent of the prophet and his migration were so arranged by Allah, the Almighty, for very good reasons.