Significance of Lailatul Miraj & Isra
Dr. Mozammel Haque
The Night Journey of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is no doubt a miracle. He was taken to Heaven physically in body and spirit in one night. He led the Prophets for prayers at Jerusalem and he saw paradise and the sufferings of people from punishments in hell-fire.
About the Journey, Adil Salahi wrote in his book: Muhammad: Man and Prophet, “One night, as the Prophet was asleep in the home of his cousin Umm Hani bint Abu Talib in Makkah, the Angel Gabriel came and woke him up and took him by hand to the mosque, where he found an animal smaller than a mule but slightly bigger than a donkey. The animal, which was a quadruped, also had two wings and floated easily as he moved with unimaginable speed. The Prophet’s own description of his movement was that ‘he put his foot at the furthest point to his side.’”
“Together, the Prophet and Gabriel rode the animal, which was called Al-Buraq, a name derived from Barq, meaning lightening. In no time at all they reached Jerusalem in Palestine. There the Prophet met Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other noble prophets. He led them all in prayer. He was then brought three cups: one contained milk, another contained wine, and the third contained water. He drank the milk. When he had finished, Gabriel said: “You and your nation are rightly guided.” When they had finished their business in Jerusalem, they flew up to heaven. The Prophet tells us that as they entered each of the seven heavens Gabriel would confirm to its guardian angel that Muhammad had already received his mission. In each heaven he met one or other of the prophets who preached the message of God’s oneness to mankind.”
On this very important topic, I interviewed one of the very well-known Islamic scholars, Dr. Ahmad ibn Saifuddin Turkistani, Professor at the Al-Imam ibn Muhammad Saud Islamic University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, whom I knew since 1982 when he used to give talk on Islam at the Channel Two of Saudi Arabian Television on every Friday after Jummah prayer. Dr. Turkistani is now in London and I interviewed him about Lailatul Miraj and Isra.
Interview with Professor Ahmad ibn Saifuddin
Miraj and Isra are two words and it took place in one and the same night. Describing Miraj and Isra, Professor Ahmad ibn Saifuddin Turkistani said, “Miracle was given to Prophet peace be upon him in his lifetime. This journey carried him very close to the Ars, the throne of Allah the Almighty. It is known that it is not possible for doing for any human being. But Prophet (peace be upon him) had travelled physically by his body and in spirit, not only in spirit as some people may think and interpret.”
More precisely, people wonder whether it was a ‘spiritual’ or physical journey. The Qur’an answers the question clearly. Professor Turkistani quoted the verse of the Qur’an where Allah the Almighty said in Surah entitled The Night Journey or al-Isra: “Limitless in His Glory is He who made His servant go by night from the Sacred Temple (of Makkah) to the further Temple (of Jerusalem) whose surroundings We have blessed that We might show him some of our signs. He alone hears all and sees all.” (Al-Qur’an; 17:1).
“Allah the Almighty took the Prophet (peace be upon him) from Masjid al-Haram to the furthest Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Palestine. In fact, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was challenged by the non-believers. The prophet was telling and they asked him to describe the Masjid al-Aqsa. Allah the Almighty brought in his own vision so he can describe in full detail the Masjid al-Aqsa,” said Professor Turkistani.
Date of Miraj?
Miraj took place after the revelation of the Qur’an. Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan. Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was taken as a prophet. About the exact date of Miraj, Professor Turkistani said, “Qur’an was revealed in the Lailatul Qadar in the month of Ramadan and Miraj took place in the month of Rajab; Allah knows better. There is no definite date. But it could probably in the month of Rajab. When Abu Bakr was told by the unbelievers what Prophet’s (peace be upon him) was saying about his Night Journey into Jerusalem and back again to Makkah at the same night; he believed it. He said it I believed it. Abu Bakr said: “I believe you; you always tell the truth.”
What happened on that Night
Speaking about what happened on that night, Professor Turkistani said, “It is reported in the Hadiths, what he had done at that night. Prophet (peace be upon him) did that night. He went by an animal called al-Buraq from Makkah to Jerusalem and he led prayer at Masjid al-Maqdas. Miraj is like it took him to high heavens where he saw people. You will find this in Hadiths of the Prophet peace be upon him; i.e. that is Miraj.”
Met some of the Prophets
Professor Turkistani said, “Many things took place on that night as the Prophet (peace be upon him) was carried from first heaven to the second heaven until he reached seven heaven and then he reached the curtain, the last curtain, where a person, any human that is the highest position and closest to Allah the Almighty. In that first heaven where Jibrail opens the door for him, he saw Adam (peace be upon him) in the first heaven and he gave Salam and then he went to second heaven where he met Yahya, Zakariya and Issa ibn Mariam (peace be upon them all) and they returned the salam to him. Then he went to third heaven and he saw Yusuf (peace be upon him) and then went to fourth heaven, he saw Idris (peace be upon him) and then he went to fifth heaven and in the sixth heaven he saw Musa (peace be upon him) and then when he passed him he saw him crying and he asked him why you were crying; he said because a young boy who was sent after me went to Paradise and has more believers than my own Ummah; that’s why he was crying. In the seventh heaven he saw Ibrahim (peace be upon him).”
Five time Salah was ordained
After that Prophet (peace be upon him) went to Sidratul Muntaha, where he was close to Allah the Almighty, very very close. Allah revealed to him the Five Salah ordained upon Muslims there but he went back because Allah the Almighty first it was revealed fifty prayers day and night. Musa (peace be upon him) told him: ‘Your people would not be able to do it so go back to Allah, go back to your Lord; asked him and he went back again to Allah the Almighty. He kept going back and forth. Allah said there would be five in performance but fifty in rewards; because every hasana is multiplied ten times,” said Professor Turkistani.
Then Professor Turkistani narrated Prophet’s visit to the heavens and other places: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) saw people who were suffering from the punishments from the hell-fire and there were kind of people to receive such punishments. Some Hadiths said in details and some Hadiths always referred to authentic Hadiths.”
Celebration of that Night:
Not to do anything
Speaking about the celebration or observance of that Night of Journey, Professor Turkistani said, “One important thing is the celebration of that night. We do not know any Hadith or any Tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) asking people to celebrate the miracle something that happened. Not even fasting; not even holding sessions where we do this or that. Nothing of that. I advice: not to do anything; because we do not know exactly the date of the Lailatul Miraj. Some historians say it took place one year before Hijra, migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Madinah; some say it was one year two months or four months before Hijra before Prophet (peace be upon him) migrated from Makkah to Madinah.
“I would like people to benefit; benefit is not invented in deen, anything that is added. To celebrate Sab-e-Miraj, in fact, people should do nothing. Thanks Allah that He made Prophet (peace be upon him) go by night from Makkah to Jerusalem. This is one of the evidences of Prophecy. Thanks Allah in any way than celebrate or add things in this regard,” advised Professor Turkistani.
I enquired Lailatul Miraj is a miracle and Muslims want to thank Allah the Almighty for this. Professor Turkistani said, “Thanking Allah or praising Allah is a form of Ibadah or worship and any worship has to be in accordance with the Sunnah; whether the Companions celebrated this or any prayer made for this. So we have to follow Sunnah in this regard. Always thanks Allah the Almighty at any time, not occasion.”
In this connection, Professor Turkistani also mentioned about the celebration of Lailatul Barat, 15th of Shabaan or Maulud-i-Nabi. “We have to be very careful; not to add to these things. Remember all these events that took place at that time. Alhamdo Lillah, they showed the greatness of Islam, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and bounties but in no way we should add to them or trying to change religion.”
“If we want to celebrate these events, at least we should distribute sweets or enjoying our life like Eid as a happy day but in no way first of all as they said we are not sure when it took place. There are reports that it took place in Rajab, there are also reports that it took place in any other month. So there is no particular date we know for certain” said Professor Turkistani.
Comparing with modern science
When people are trying to explain this Night Journey scientifically and compared with modern science, Professor Turkistani said, “We are trying to convince non-Muslims that from one side of the earth to another planets going very very fast way. But Allah the Almighty can do anything that He wanted. We know about the angels. Now the angels are so huge. Jibrael (peace be upon him) has 600 wings and one wing of Jibrael (peace be upon him) can cover the whole horizon. That’s why we need to be very careful comparing this journey with the modern science.”
Universality of the Islamic Message
Writing on this subject, Adil Salahi in his book observed, “At Jerusalem, Muhammad led the other Prophets in prayer. …For the Prophets to pray together at Jerusalem signifies the continuity of their messages and their unity of rank and purpose. Jerusalem thus occupies a unique position as a sacred place for all followers of the Divine religions. That unique prayer of the Prophets led by Muhammad also signifies that as Islam has crowned all Divine messages and brought them to their final form, Jerusalem, the spot revered by all religions, belongs to the Muslims who follow Muhammad, the recognised leader of all Prophets.”
God created all the laws of nature
Majority of Islamic scholars believe that the Prophet peace be upon him did physically, in body and spirit, go on this night journey. But some people may find it hard to believe because it involves preternatural powers. Adil Salahi observed, “The answer is that whatever powers such a journey required, they were easy for God to provide.”
He asked, “Look back only one hundred years and imagine what would have been the reaction of people if someone had told them that anyone would be able to travel the distance between Bahrain and London in a little over four hours, in luxurious comfort.”
“In tackling such events as the night journey, one needs to remember only that they occur because God has willed that they should occur. To Him there is no such thing as ‘nature’ or ‘preternatural’. He has created all the laws of nature, whether they are familiar or not. To Him the operation of all laws is equally easy. What is not understood of His actions is readily accepted, because the fact that His power is limitless is already accepted,” mentioned Adil Salahi in his book mentioned earlier.