In the name of Allāh, The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful
Allāh says: ﴾Glorious is He who made His servant travel by night from Masjid al-Ḥarām to Masjid al-Aqṣā, whose surroundings we have blessed, to show him some of our signs. Indeed, He is The Hearing, The Seeing.﴿ [al-Isrā 17:1]
The Night-journey (al-Isrā) and the Ascension (al-Miʿraj) took place in the month of Rajab when the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was in the noble city of Makkah. The Night-journey and the Ascension are proven by the words of the Holy Qur’ān—in both the body and spirit of the Messenger ﷺ.
To delve into the wisdom and benefits that were granted to the Muḥammadan nation during his Night-journey and ascension is an integral part of religion. This is why Allāh mentioned it in the Qur’ān; so that its benefits and blessings can envelop the entire nation, the earlier generations and the latter—since the Qur’ān will remain for all of eternity [as shall its blessings].
The Night-journey is proven from the verse: ﴾Glorious is He who made His servant travel by night from Masjid al-Ḥarām to Masjid al-Aqṣā, whose surroundings we have blessed, to show him some of our signs. Indeed, He is The Hearing, The Seeing.﴿ [al-Isrā 17:1]
The Ascension is proven from the verses: ﴾By the star when it descends. Neither did your master stray nor did he err. He does not speak of his own desire. It is but revelation inspired to him. He was taught by the one with immense strength. And of vigour; then he rose to his true form. Whilst he was on the highest horizon. Then he drew near and came down. Until he was two-bow lengths away or closer. Then He revealed to His servant what He revealed. The heart did not lie about what it saw. So will you then dispute him about what he saw? Indeed, he saw him another time. Near the Lote-tree of the furthest boundary. Near it is the Garden of residence. When the Lote-tree was covered by what covered it. The eye did not wander nor did it exceed the limit. Indeed he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord.﴿ [al-Najm 53:1-18]
Allāh started the mention of the story of the Night-journey with the words ﴾Glorious is He﴿ to highlight its majestic nature. And to show that it is impossible for anyone to: traverse lengthy distances in a short period of time; or for the Messenger ﷺ to see those signs; or to gather with all of the Prophets ﷺ in Bayt al-Maqdis, leading them in prayer except by the Will of Allāh, the Lord of the Universes—The one who has power over all things, and how glorious is His power!
One of the wisdoms of the Night-journey and the Ascension was so that the Prophet may reveal to us matters from the unseen realms. He informed us of what he saw and observed there. He is the most truthful of all of Allāh’s creation and so it is as if all those who truly believe in him saw and observed these spectacles with their own eyes.
Allāh said: ﴾asrā bi-abdihi﴿—‘sarā’ means ‘to travel at night’, that is, the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ traveled in the night by the power of Allāh.
Allāh said: ﴾His servant﴿—Not ‘His Prophet’ or ‘His Messenger.’ This was done to show that the Night-journey and the Ascension indicate a station of special proximity granted to our Master Muḥammad ﷺ. He ﷺ reached the highest rank of proximity of all the Prophets. Proximity is only granted according to one’s servitude to the Lord of the Universes. The more complete you are in your servitude, the closer you are to Him.
Since our Master was the greatest of all those who were blessed with the station of servanthood and servitude for Allāh [and he is the king of all servants], therefore he is also the one who is closest to Allāh, thus Allāh showed this proximity by saying ﴾His servant﴿.
One of the Knowers (ʿārif) said in his private prayers to Allāh: ‘O my Lord! How can I become closer to you?’ A voice responded: ‘Draw closer to me with attributes I do not have.’ The Knower pondered then realised that these attributes are humility and brokenness. They are the very essence of servitude.
He said: ‘I knocked on the door of brokenness and humility and went to Allāh, and I left the people standing at other doors.’ That is, these people are standing with their deeds and worship but they are free of humility and submission to Allāh.’ Proximity and empty claims cannot converge just as humility and egoism cannot either.
Allāh said: ﴾Night﴿—[A question arises that] the word ﴾asrā ﴿ already means ‘travelling in the night’ so why has the word ﴾Night﴿ been used again when the ﴾asrā﴿ already implies it.
Know that the Qur’ān does not contain any frivolity nor futile repetition. All of it is foundational and precise. Allāh used the word ﴾Night﴿ in its indefinite form to indicate brevity, that is, the entire journey occurred in a short portion of the night.
The entire journey occurred during the night since the night is to day what the unseen (ghayb) is to the realm of witnessing (ʿālam al-shahādah). Things are absent from one’s sight during the night and since the Night-journey and the Ascension occurred in the Hidden Realm, like the Heavens etc, it was only appropriate for it to have occurred during the night.
Another reason is because the special Mercy of Allāh and His Manifestations occur at night; since the Night-journey and the Ascension was filled with His Mercy and Divine Manifestation, it was befitting that it occur during the night.
It is reported in the Ṣaḥīḥayn from Abū Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: ‘[The Mercy of] our Lord descends every night to the skies of the earth in the last third of the night.’
In the narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, it says: ‘When the first third of the night passes.’ That is, when the second third begins. But the majority of the narrations have the wording: ‘In the last third of the night.’ All of these narrations are established.
Allāh’s mercy descends in all parts of the night: Each descent has its own wisdom, its own effect, its own secrets and its own lights.
The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: ‘Allāh says: ‘Who will call me so I may respond to him? Who will ask me so that I may grant him? Who will ask for forgiveness so that I may forgive him?’
And in one narration of Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: ‘Then He will say: ‘Who will lend to the one who is neither destitute nor an oppressor.’
And in the narration of Musnad Aḥmad: ‘Who will ask me for sustenance so I may provide it? Who will ask me to remove a calamity so that I may avert it? [This continues] until dawn breaks.’
Allāh said: ﴾from Masjid al-Ḥarām to Masjid al-Aqṣā﴿. Masjid al-Aqṣā is a place considered to be the cradle of Prophethood. Traversing these distances is an allusion to our Prophet ﷺ traversing the stations of the other Prophets which were gathered for him, and then surpassing them with ‘The Muḥammadan Station’ that was specific to him.
Allāh said: ﴾whose surroundings we have blessed﴿. That is, We have blessed it and its surrounding vicinity.
Allāh said: ﴾to show him some of our signs﴿. This is not referring to the stones, the mountains or the valleys and walls but rather it is The Greatest of Signs which none can see with the power of his vision nor hear with the strength of his ears. Rather, Allāh is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing, who made our Master Muḥammad hear and see whatever signs He had willed for him. This affair is only by the power of Allāh.
Hence why the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said: ‘Then I was raised until I reached the place where I could hear therein the sounds of the pens.’ That is, the hearing of understanding and acquainted, of comprehension and savoring (taladhudh).
The fact that the Night-journey occurred in both body and spirit is proven by the fact that Allāh said: ﴾Made His servant travel﴿ similar to how He said: ﴾So take away my servants at night.﴿ [al-Dukhān 44:23] That is, with their bodies and spirits for the word ‘servant’ (ʿabd) refers to a human with both the body and spirit.
Had the Night-journey and the Ascension only been with the spirit, then why did the disbelievers of the Quraysh reject the possibility of its occurrence for the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ for it is perfectly possible for a human to see various matters in his dreams.
However, they denied and objected to the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ when he said that he had undertaken such a journey at night and returned, to the extent that they demanded evidence for proof. And it is regarding this matter that he said: ‘When the Quraysh belied me, I stood in al-Ḥijar, and then Allāh presented to me Bayt al-Maqdis’, because he did not pass by it such that he had witnessed the walls, courtyards and windows of Bayt al-Maqdis in detail and in their entirety, but this was a grave and severe matter— ‘And then I informed them of its features whilst I looked at it’.
Another incident that indicates to the fact that Night-journey and the Ascension occurred by the body and the soul is what was narrated by Abu Nu’aym in Dalā’il al-Nubuwwah: “Abū Sufyān said to Heraclius: ‘O King! Shall I inform you of a matter which you will instantly be able to dismiss as false?’ He said: ‘What is it?’
Abū Sufyān said: ‘He (i.e. the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ) claims to have left from our sanctified land at night, and then went to your Masjid, the Masjid of Ilyas and returned to us in that very night’. A Roman general then said: ‘I know regarding that night’. Caesar looked at him and said: ‘What do you know?’
He said: ‘On that night, I was not to sleep until I had closed all the doors. Later that night, I closed all the doors except one door which had overwhelmed and overpowered me. As a result, I sought help in this ordeal from my co-workers. Everyone who was present tried to close it but it still overpowered us. We were unable to move it just as one would fail in prevailing over a mountain. I called carpenters to determine what was wrong with the door. They looked at it and said: “The door has become dry and the building is stopping it from closing—we cannot move it until the morning when we will be able to see where it came from.
I went back and left the two doors open. When I woke up in the morning, the stone in the corner of the masjid had been pierced, and it had the indentation of the claw of an animal. I said to my companions: ‘No one closed these doors during the night except a Prophet, and he prayed in our masjid during the night.’
All the Prophets gathered in Bayt al-Maqdis waiting for his arrival. Before he arrived and entered, Gabriel called to the prayer, and so they stood waiting for an Imam. Gabriel came and the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ led them. And the angels do not do anything except by the command of Allāh, just as is said in the Qur’ān: ﴾We only descend by the Command of your Lord﴿ [Maryam 19:64]
The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ is their leader in this world and the hereafter, just as he said: “When the Day of Judgement comes, then I shall I be the leader of all the Prophets and the only one amongst them to offer my intercession.”
Then, the noble Messenger of Allāh ﷺ ascended to the Heavens, just as is narrated in the Saḥiḥayn that he related to them regarding the Night of Ascension: “I was in al-Hatim – or perhaps he said al-Hijar – lying down, when suddenly someone came to me and cut me between here and here [referring to the juncture of the chest and neck – the throat – and his blessed private part] and then removed my heart. Then, a basin made of gold was brought to me, filled with faith (meaning, the prophetic faith exclusively to our Prophet; the gold was from the gold of the Barzakh).
Then, my heart was washed and returned (i.e. placed back into his blessed body), and then I was brought back. After this, a white animal of a size smaller than a mule and larger than a donkey was brought to me; its strides were limited only by the extent of its sight (and its name was Buraq because it was faster than lightning), and I was carried on it, accompanied by Gabriel until Burāq arrived at the lowest heaven. When Gabriel requested the gates of Heaven be opened, it was said to him, ‘Who is this?’ and he said, ‘Gabriel. It was said, ‘Who is with you?’ and he said, ‘Muḥammad’ to which it was asked, ‘Has he been requested?’ (i.e. has Allāh called him to him?) to which he said, ‘Yes’. It was said, ‘Welcome! What an excellent guest has come!’ Then, he opened it.
When I arrived, I saw Ādam and Gabriel said, ‘He is your father, Ādam, so greet him’. I gave salutations and he returned it. Then, he said, ‘Welcome, O righteous son and Prophet!’
Then, Gabriel ascended with me until we arrived at the second lowest heaven, and then he requested the opening of the heaven.”
And in the same manner, he saw the Prophets Īsā and Yaḥyā and gave salutations to them. Then, at the third heaven, he met and greeted the Prophet Yūsuf. Then, at the fourth sky, the Prophet Idrīs. Then, at the fifth sky, the Prophet Harūn.
And by his use of the word, ‘then’ (thumma), there is an implication for the passing of a period of time in each heaven, and in each of these heavens, the noble Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was welcomed by its dwellers and was informed of the specialities of each heaven and so on.
In the sixth heaven, he saw the Prophet Mūsā and when the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ passed him, he began to weep tears of joy. ‘It was said to him, ‘why are you crying?’ He said, ‘I am crying because a boy was sent after me, and his nation will enter Paradise in greater numbers than my own.’
The duration of our Prophet’s Messengership in this world up to this point had been brief, and it is for that reason that there were 120 rows filled with the dwellers of Paradise, and only 80 of the rows were from the nation of Muḥammad and the rest were from the other nations.
Then, in the seventh sky, he saw the Prophet Ibrahim and in Sunan al-Tirmidhī, it says that Ibrahim said, ‘O Muḥammad! Give your nation salutations from me, and inform them that Paradise has pure soil, fresh water and level land. The plants in Jannah grow by uttering, ‘Subḥān-Allāh w’al-Ḥamdu Lillāh wa lā ilāha illa Allāh wa Allāhu Akbar’.
This is why we say: ‘Salutations upon our master Muḥammad and our master Ibrāhīm is the greatest of salutations and greetings’ for mentioning the one who sent salutations upon us in response is necessary. Our master Muḥammad brought the salutations of Ibrahīm to us and had it not been for the fact that he loves us, then he would not send news of this glad tiding with the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ.
It is necessary for the believer to increase his recital of the above litany in the month of Rajab
Thereafter, the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was raised to the Bayt al-Ma’mur (The Prosperous House), and it is visited by seventy thousand Angels every day, who remain thereafter. The Bayt al-Ma’mur is the Qibla of the residents of the seventh heaven and together, alongside the Holy Ka’bah, upon one straight vertical line. The Angels visit it in order to worship. The auspicious opportunity of being able to enter for a second time will not be available for them, but rather, to the other Angels.
Thereafter the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ was raised to The Lote-tree (sidrat al-Muntahā) which marks the circumference of the seventh heaven. All matter ceases here. It is from this point that the Divine Commands descend unto the worlds as it is the central point of distribution.
This is also the place of Gabriel and it is near here where Allāh manifested Himself to His Messenger ﷺ through the Divinely Illuminated Manifestation, as is narrated by Imām Muslim, ‘There is no one amongst the creation of Allāh who is able to describe the beauty of Allāh’
The Angels then gathered around the periphery of the Lote-tree and observed the beauty of the Messenger of Allāh for his noble face is ‘the rising place’ for the Light of Allāh, containing within it the Manifestations of Divine Light.
Allāh manifested Himself to him as Allāh says: ﴾The eye did not wander nor did it exceed the limit. Indeed he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord.﴿
May there be peace and salutations upon our Master Muḥammad and upon his progeny and his companions in their entirety. And all Praise be to Allāh, the Lord of the Universes.
Al-Ḥusaynī, ʿAbd-Allāh Sirāj al-Dīn; Muḥāḍarāt Ḥawl al-Isrā wa’l-Miʿraj
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