Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raaj (The Night and Ascension Journey)
Stated by the Quran (17:1 and 53:13-18), Islam’s holy scripture, and by the authentic Hadeeth (quotes of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), the Night Journey, Al-Israa’ and the Ascension journey (Al-Mi`raaj) are the two parts of a journey that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) took in one night around the year 621. While some Muslims consider it a spiritual journey made in a vision, the majority believes it was a physical journey, evidenced by the fact that the Prophet named all the caravans that were travelling between Mecca and Jersulam that night and he described Jerusalem accurately though he had never been there.
After reaching Jerusalem, the Prophet met with and lead in prayer, at the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, all the other Prophets and Messengers of God, from Adam to Jesus, peace be upon them. Hadeeths report that he described some of the prophets. He said that he looked a lot like Abraham, that Adam had a dark skin and that Jesus had very oily hair.
Starting off on a rock in the site of the Dome of the Rock, the Prophet was ascended to heaven. He was accompanied by archangel Gabriel. As he visited each heaven, he would see sites and people and would ask Gabriel about them and Gabriel would tell him what the sites mean.
Then, at the last heaven, Gabriel said to Muhammad, “You can ascend farther up but if I try, I’d burn.” No creature has ever been there before. The Prophet ascended up and saw God. God greeted the Prophet, blessed him and gave him the mandate of the formal, ritual prayers of Islam.
Scholars have offered several purposes for that miraculous journey. Some said it was consolation for the Prophet, who in that year had lost his beloved wife, Khadeeja and his uncle Abu-Taalib, who was his protection from the violent opposition of his tribe, Quraysh, and his mistreatment at At-Taa’if, a close-by city he went to calling them to Islam. Others said the purpose of the trip was to highlight the paramount importance of prayer and to give all Muslims a chance to have a similar experience to that of the Prophet. Several scholars have described prayer as the “ascension of the believer.”
The event is commemorated each year on the eve of the 27th of the seventh lunar month, Rajab. It is regarded as one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar. Though not required, many Muslims bring their children to the mosques, where the children are told the story, pray with the adults, and then afterward food and treats are served.
In a sermon I attended recently, the imam (preacher) mentioned three more lessons we can learn from that wonderful event,
- No matter how hard times are, there is good news reserved for us from God. Good times ahead.
- The connection between Mecca and Jerusalem is solid and was never severed as many Jews claim when they said that Hagar and her son Ishmael were “outcast” to the desert. Even today, Islamophobes and adversaries of Islam keep trying to isolate and alienate Islam and reject that it is part of the family of monotheist religions and Muhammad (PBUH) is part of the family of Prophets.
- The quick move from Mecca to Jerusalem is a good omen to Muslims that Islam will reach Jerusalem and will spread fast and wide.
Do we know anything about the burak, the vehicle of the journey, which I’ve read somewhere described as a winged horse? Is that true, or is it a wrong translation?
I found only one reference to Al-Buraaq in Al-Albaani’s book which he rated Hasan (OK). It describes it as a white, tall beast of burden. That’s all. All other references are either weak or fabricated.
I can’t find any authentic mention of it anywhere in the six acknowledged books of Hadeeth. If someone can, please reply.
The word Buraaq comes from the Arabic verb برق (bariqa) which means to appear suddenly and brightly and quickly disappear, like the English verb to flash. That is why lightning is called Al-Barq in Arabic.