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Isra and Meraj (The Prophet's Night Journey)

Isra & Meraj (Based on Authentic Sources) By Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips

Isra literally means a journey by night and Meraj literally means an elevator, i.e., an instrument which lifts something up. But, in Islam, Isra refers to a miraculous night-journey made by the last Prophet (peace be upon him) from Makkah to Jerusalem, and Meraj refers to the vehicle which took the Prophet (peace be upon him) from Jerusalem, up and out of the universe, through the seven heavens, and into the direct presence of Allah.

Towards the end of a calm night, one year before the Hijrah, the roof of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) house split open and angel Jibril (Gabriel) descended into the Prophets (peace be upon him) room. He went over to the Prophet (peace be upon him), opened his shirt and cut open his chest. He then removed his heart and washed its inside with Zam Zam water. After he had completed washing it, he then brought a gold dish filled with iman (faith) and Hikmah (wisdom), emptied it into the Prophets (peace be upon him) chest and then closed it all up. [1]

Jibril then nudged the Prophet (peace be upon him) until he awoke. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) got up, Jibril took a hold of his hand and lead him outside of his house to the gate of Kabah. There the Prophet (peace be upon him) found a strange unearthly animal. It was smaller than a mule but larger than a donkey, white in colour and having a wing on either of its hind legs. He was informed that its name was "Buraq", a name taken from the Arabic word Barq which means a flash of lightning.

Jibril helped the Prophet (peace be upon him) mount it and they set off to the north. Each stride of the Buraq took it to the horizon, and, in no time they reached Jerusalem. There the Prophet (peace be upon him) dismounted and tied the animal to the same ring on the door of al-Masjid al-Aqsa used by the prophets. The Prophet (peace be upon him) entered the Masjid and prayed two Rakahs. When he finished he noticed a group of other prophets also making Salah there. He saw among them Prophet Musa, Prophet Isa and Prophet Ibrahim.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was then told to lead them all in Salah. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) finished this Salah, someone said to him, "This is Malik, the guardian of the Hell-fire, so give him Salams." When he turned around to greet him, the angel gave him Salams before he had time to do so. [2]

Jibril then brought two vessels and presented them to the Prophet (peace be upon him). One was filled with wine and the other filled with milk. The Prophet (peace be upon him) chose the vessel filled with milk and drank from it. Jibril then said, "You have been guided to the Fitrah." [3]

The Ascent (Meraj)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) then left the Masjid and the Meraj was brought for him. Jibril helped him get into it, and it shot up into the heavens and out of the solar system. Travelling at a tremendous rate, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Jibril soon left our galaxy and raced past the other galaxies until they reached the end of the universe. At the end of the universe, they arrived at the boundary of the lowest heaven. Jibril then requested that its gate be opened for them. Jibril was then asked who he was and who was with him. When he informed the guardian angel who they were, he was asked if the Prophet (peace be upon him) had been sent for. When he said that that was so, the guardian said, "Welcome! His coming is good," and the gate was opened.

When they went into the lowest heaven the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw a man sitting with a large group of people on his right and a large group on his left. When the man looked at those on his right he laughed, and when he looked at those on his left he wept. The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Jibril who the man was and Jibril replied, "This is your father Adam, so greet him," When the Prophet (peace be upon him) did so, Prophet Adam returned his Salam and said, "Welcome! Oh good son and good Prophet." Jibril then said, "These people on his right and left are the souls of his descendants. Those of them on his left are the inhabitants of Hell, so when he looks on his right side he laughs and when he looks on his left he cries."

Jibril then took him up to the second, heaven where he met and greeted Prophets Isa and Yahya, up to the third where he met and greeted Prophet Yousuf; up to the fourth where he met and greeted Prophet Idris, up to the fifth where he met and greeted Prophet Harun, and up to the sixth where he met Prophet Musa. When he went on past Prophet Musa, Musa wept, and when he was asked why he wept he replied, "I am crying because more followers of a young man, who was sent as a prophet after my time, will enter paradise than my followers."

He then went on up with Jibril to the seventh heaven, requested entrance and they came upon Prophet Ibrahim leaning with his back against the house of worship called al-Bayt al-Ma'mur. [4]

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) observed approximately seventy thousand angels, entering this heavenly house of worship without seeing any of them leave. Jibril then led the Prophet (peace be upon him) to the lote-tree of the boundary, which he described as having leaves like the ears of elephants and fruits like large earthen-ware jugs. The lote-tree marked the spot, beyond which even Jibril could not go, but Allah permitted Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to go beyond it and spoke to him directly. 

Allah The Exalted revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) the last verses of Surah al-Baqarah and promised him that the major sins of his followers would be forgiven if they did not commit Shirk. Allah also made Salah compulsory fifty times per day for the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers. On the Prophets (peace be upon him) return he passed by Prophet Musa who asked him what worship had been prescribed for him. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) informed him, Musa said, "Your people are not capable of doing fifty daily prayers. I swear by Allah that I have tested men before your time and tried my best with the Israelites, so go back to your Lord and ask Him to make things lighter for your people."

The Prophet (peace be upon him) did so and Allah reduced it by ten, but Musa suggested that he return and request a further reduction for the same reason, so he returned. The Prophet (peace be upon him) continued going back and forth between his Lord and Musa until Allah said, "They are five prayers everyday, Muhammad, each being rewarded as ten, so that makes fifty times of prayer. He who intends to do a good deed and does not do it will have a good deed recorded for him, and if he does it, it will be recorded for him as ten; whereas he who intends to do an evil deed and does not do it will have nothing recorded against him, and if he does it, only one evil deed will be recorded against him." When he came down and Musa told him to go back, he replied, "I have asked my Lord till I am ashamed to face Him. I am now satisfied and I submit." [5]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was then taken into Paradise and he reported that he saw in it domes of pearls and that its soil was made of musk. [6]

He was also taken to Hell and Allah showed him scenes from the future. He saw in the Hell-fire people receiving terrible punishments for various sins. The Prophet (peace be upon him) then took the Meraj and descended with Jibril to al-Masjid al-Aqsa. From there he mounted the Buraq and returned to his home in Makkah where he found his bed still warm.

The Return

The following morning, the Prophet (peace be upon him) went to the Quraysh tribal meeting place, and when Abu Jahl came up to him, he informed him of his journey. Abu Jahl then called all the people to hear the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) story, and when he related it to them, they stared at him in amazement and disbelief.

Some Muslim converts whose iman was weak left Islam and returned to Kufr, because of the incredible tale which the Prophet (peace be upon him) had told. Some of the people ran to Abu Bakr and told him that his companion, Muhammad (peace be upon him), claimed that he went to Jerusalem, made Salah there, and returned to Makkah in one night. Abu Bakr told them that they were lying about the Prophet (peace be upon him), because the story was too strange, but they told him that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was at the Kabah telling it to the people. 

When they told him that, they were sure that he would also leave Islam, because it was obvious to them that Muhammad (peace be upon him) must be lying. But Abu Bakr told them "By Allah, if he actually said that, he has told the truth. There really is nothing to be amazed about, for he has told me that information comes to him from Allah, from the sky to the earth, in an instant during the night or day and I believe him. And that is even more strange." Because of that statement of Abu Bakr, the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave him the title of "as-Siddiq (the truthful)."

The people then demanded from the Prophet (peace be upon him) proof of what he said. They knew that he had never travelled to Jerusalem, so some of them demanded that he describe it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) became worried, as he had forgotten most of its details. He had only been there at night and had not paid much attention to its details. But, Allah blessed him with a vision in which he saw Jerusalem as if he were there. So he was able to describe even its smallest details for them. [7]

For the others, he told them that on his way to Jerusalem he passed by a stray camel belonging to one of the clans which had camped in a valley. It had escaped from a group of them and he led them to it. He also told them that on his return he passed by the same clans caravan and found them all sleeping. They had a drinking vessel with some water in it which they had covered, so he uncovered it, drank its contents and put the cover back on the same way it was.

He then informed them that the caravan was on its way to Makkah and he further described its lead camel. So the people rushed out to meet the caravan and found it as he had described it. They then asked the clan about the stray camel and the drinking vessel, and they replied, "By Allah! He told the truth, we had camped in the valley which he mentioned and one of our camels had run off. We heard a mans voice calling us to it until we caught it." They also mentioned that they had left water in their jug and were surprised to find that it was all gone the next morning.

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References:

[1] Reported by Anas Ibn Malik and Abu Dharr and collected by al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol 9, pp 449-450, no, 605) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.) vol.1, pp. 103-4, no.313).

[2] Reported by Abu Hurayrah and collected by Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.) vol.1, p.110, no. 328). 

[3] Reported by Abu Hurayrah and collected by Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.) vol.1, p.108, no. 322).

[4] It is a house of worship in the heavens used by the angels after which the Ka'bah was designed.

[5] Reported by Anas ibn Malik and collected by al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol.9, pp 449-54, no. 608). 

[6] Reported by Ibn Hazm and Anas and collected by al-Bukhari (Sahih Al-Bukhari (Arabic-English), vol. 9, pp.449-54, no 608) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol. 1, pp. 103-4, no. 313). 

[7] Reported by Jabir and collected by al-Bukhari and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol.1, p. 104, no. 326).
 

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

.سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ         

Exalted is He who took His Servant 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.  (Surah Al-Isra Ayah 1)

Jerusalem

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