The Miraculous Journey of the Prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem
Al-Azhar Magazine – August 1975
The sacred Mosque of Mecca was the first house of worship in history, built for mankind on the earth, as the Holy Quran says:
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيۡتٍ۬ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِى بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكً۬ا وَهُدً۬ى لِّلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ
(Lo! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Mecca, a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples;) (3 : 96)
This mosque was rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ismael.
About Al-Aqsa the Quran says “ … Al- Aqsa Mosque, the precincts of which We have blessed….”. Al- Aqsa Mosque was built by Jacob, renewed by David, and completed by Solomen. It is reported that Abu Dharr one asked the Prophet: “ What is first mosque built on earth? The Prophet answered ; “ The sacred Mosque ( of Mecca)”. Which came next ?“ Al-Aqsa Mosque ( of Jerusalem)”. How long was there between them? “ Forty Years”. According to Imam Zarkashi, Solomen only renewed Al-Aqsa Moosque. It was Jacob, Issac’s son, who established it after Abraham and Ismael had rebuilt the Ka’aba at Mecca.
The Night of 27th of Rajab, in the 11th year of the Prophet’s mission was a notable turning point in the history of Islamic Call. In that night the Prophet was carried from the “ Sacred Mosque” of Mecca to the “ Sacred Mosque” of Jerusalem, and hence he ascended to heaven. This event, known in the history of Islam as “ Al- Isra-wal-Mirag’ ( the night Jounrey and the Ascent), was a great miracle of the Prophet as well as good news for telling a victory of Muslims over their enemies. It also closely connected the Al-Aqsa Mosque of Jerusalem with the sacred mosque of Mecca. The Holy Quran refers to this event:
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)
This Quranic verse refers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque as being closely connected with two very important occasions in Islamic history: the Night Journey of the Prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem, and his Ascent to heaven. In the Night Journey Al Aqsa mosque was the termination and in the ascensions it was the beginning. The two journeys closely related to God’s mission to people, to the rise of the bright light of religious guidance and to the struggle of Apostles for worshipping One God the Creator of the Universe.
We have seen in the above Quranic verse that God has blessed precincts of Al-Aqsa Mosque. This blessing is manifested by religious and material appearances; being the place of worship of Prophets and their Qiblah, and being abundant in fertile soils, in Rivers and orchards. On his journey to Al-Aqsa Mosque, as it quoted in the tradition, the Prophet went past the Mount Sinai where God spoke with Prophet Moses and offered a prayer. He also went past the Bethlehem the birth place of Christ and offered a prayer there. Reaching Jerusalem he found Abraham, Moses and Christ among a crowd of Prophets and led them in pray. Then he ascended to heaven where he witnessed some of the great signs of his Lord.
It was, therefore necessary that the celebration of the Night of Ascent should remind the Muslims all over the world the significance of this event in the history of Islamic Call, and their connections with Mecca and Jerusalem, and their obligations to these holy places. For the first three years of his mission, the Prophet preached only to his family and to his intimate friends. At the end of the third year he received the Command of God to preach his mission in public.
The Quraish and the enemies of the Prophet were now alarmed that his preaching took serious revolutionary movement and their power and prestige were at stake. They accordingly decided upon an organised system of persecution. Inspite of cruel persecution and threats, the little company of Muslims grew in number. It was then the enemies became actively hostile. At the season of the pilgrimage they posted men on all roads leading to Ka’ba to warn the tribes against the Prophet who was preaching in their midst. In order to prevent the Prophet from his duty they tried to bring him to compromise, offering to accept his religion if he would so modify it as to make room for their gods as intercessors with Allah. They also offered to make him their king if he would give up attacking idolatry. His reply was, always, full of life and full of faith, saying : “I am neither desirous of riches nor ambitious nor of domination; I am sent by God who has ordained me to announce glad tidings onto you. I give you the words of my Lord. I admonish you; If you accept the message I bring you, God will be favourable to you both in this world and the next. If you reject my admonitions I shall be patient and I leave God to judge between you and me”.
The bitterness of Idolatry was increased by the firmness of the Prophet and the refusal of his uncle Abu Talib to stop his protection to Muhammad ( Peace be upon him ). As well as by the conversion of Umar, one of their stalwarts. The Quraish were now decided to ostrasize the Prophet’s whole clan and protectors. With that purpose they, in the seventh year of the mission, towards the end of 616 A.D, formed an alliance against the descendants of Hashim and Muttalib. They bound themselves by a document which was deposited in the Ka’ba, to affect that not to enter into any contract of marriage with the Hashimytes or to buy and sell with them. Then, for three years the Prophet was shut up with all his kinfolk in their stronghold in one of the mountain passes which run down to Mecca.
The tenth year of his mission is called in the history of Islam as the ‘Year of Mourning’ ( Aam al-huzn) for loss of his venerable protector Abu Talib, and his cherished wife Khadijah. Thus the Prophet lost in Abu Talib the guardian of his youth who had hitherto protected him against enemies as he lost in Khadijah his most encouraging companion.
With saddened heart, yet full of trust, he determined to turn to some other field to preach his mission. Accompanied by his faithful servant. Zaid, he went to ‘Thayef’. He spoke to the people about his mission. They rejected his words and they drove him from the city; and the rabble and the slaves followed, hooting and pelting him with stones. Wounded and bleeding footsore and weary he sat under the shade of some palm trees.
Such was the crucial condition of that period of the Prophet’s mission when the most remarkable event of the ‘Night Journey and Ascension’ took place. This miraculous journey was so arranged by Allah the Almighty for very good reasons; it was intended to steady the Prophet in response to his prayer and supplications, as well as to foretell the beginning of a bright future.
Having returned to Mecca from these two journeys, the Prophet went to Quraish in the morning and told them the story. Some of them believed, and some disbelieved. When people went to Abu Bakr and told him the news, he said to them: “By God, if he says so, then its true”. He then headed for the Prophet and said: “ O Prophet of Allah, have you told these people that you visited Jerusalem over night ?”. The Prophet replied:“ Yes. Then Abu Bakr, who had visited it before asked the Prophet to describe it to him. Whenever the Prophet described anything to him, Abu Bakr said: “ That is true, I testify that you are the messenger of Allah”. On that blessed journey, the prayer which is the main pillar of the religion was ordained.
We find the above mentioned quotations of the Quranic verses and the Traditions of the Prophet that Jerusalem is one of the jolliest spots on the earth and dear to hearts of all Muslims. This holy city and its shrines remained under the care of the Muslims till Palestine was occupied by the British during the first world war in 1915.
As regards the significance of the prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, AnasIbn Malik related that the Prophet said: A Man’s performance of prayer in his own house counts as one prayer, his prayer in the Mosque counts as twenty five prayers. If he performs it in a congregational mosque, it counts as five hundred prayers. If he perfomrs it in Al-Aqsa Mosque it counts as five thousand prayers and if he does it in My mosque ( at madina) it counts as fifty thousand prayers but if he perfoms it in Sacre Mosque ( at Mecca) it counts as a hundred thousand prayers. The Prophet is quoted by Mymoonah, in reply to her question, if it is ordained for Muslims to travel to Al-Aqsa Mosque ; as saying; “ Go to it and pray there in, otherwise send oil with which to light its lamp”.
Muslimsare deeply attached to this great spiritual and religious monument of Jerusalem for those glorious meanings, and are accustomed to give it due regards and care throughout the ages. The reverence paid to it by muslims is not intended for worldly an imperialistic aim. Their purpose is the propogation of the principles connected with this sacred spot as well as the principles of justice, right, freedom, and the establishment of peace and Concord under the aegis of the noble principles of the religion of God. Since the Islamic conquest, the Muslims have been, and are still keen to liberate and defend this Holy city against all aggressors. The Holy Prophet is quoted by Abu Huraira as saying: “Pilgrims journeys are to be made only to three mosques: my Mosque, the Sacred Mosque and Al-Aqsa mosque”.
The Al-Aqsa mosque was the first Qibla of Muslims and remained so for 16 months after which the Prophet received the revelation from God to turn their faces in prayer towards the Ka’ba. Thus we see that Jerusalem is closely connected with the history, the precepts, the most important events and the sacred things of Islam.