Israa Miraj, The Night Journey of the Rasool (SAW)
The Arabic terms Israa and Miraj refer to two parts of the miraculous journey that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) took in one night from Makka to Jerusalem where he then ascended to the heavens. Israa is an Arabic word referring to Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) miraculous night journey from Makka to Jerusalem: specifically, to the site of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem as referred to in Surah Al-Israa in the Holy Quran while the term Miraj is an Arabic term referring to the Prophet’s (SAW) ascension to the heavens. The Holy Quran states in Surah Al Israa 17:1:
Glory to He Who took His servant for a journey by night from the most sacred mosque to the farthest mosque, whose precincts We blessed, in order that We might show him some of Our signs: for He is the One Who hears and sees all things.
The Night Journey occurred at a difficult time in the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The deliverance of the message of Islam was entering a new phase and the establishment of the Muslim nation was about to begin. Around the time of the Israa and Miraj, the vast majority of Meccans had refused to heed the Prophet’s (SAW) call or accept the message and both his beloved uncle and cherished wife had died. According to some of the hadith scholars, this journey is believed to have taken place just over a year before Prophet Muhammad (SAW) migrated from Makka to Madina on the 27th of Rajab. Some Muslims celebrate this night by offering optional prayers and in many Muslim countries, by illuminating cities with electric lights and candles. Detailed reports about the Night Journey can be found in works of hadith and seerah and have been narrated by as many as twenty-five companions. The most exhaustive reports are those from Anas ibn Malik, Malik ibn Sa’sa’ah, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and Abu Hurayrah. Some other details have been narrated by ‘Umar, ‘Ali, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud, ‘Abd Allah ibn Abbas, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, and ‘A’ishah (RA). Sahih Muslim states in chapter 1, hadith number 313:
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Abu Dharr used to relate that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: The roof of my house was cleft when I was in Mecca and Gabriel descended and opened my heart and then washed it with the water of Zamzam. He then brought a gold basin full of wisdom and faith and after emptying it into my breast, he closed it up. Then taking me by he hand, he ascended with me to the heaven, and when we came to the lowest heaven, Gabriel said to the guardian of the lowest heaven: Open. He asked who was there? He replied. It is Gabriel. He again asked whe he there was someone with him. He replied: Yes, it is Muhammad with me. He was asked if he had been sent for, He (Gabriel) said: Yes. Then he opened (the gate). When we ascended the lowest heaven (I saw) a man seated with parties on his right side and parties on his left side. When he looked up to his right, he laughed and when he looked to his left, he wept. He said: Welcome to the righteous apostle and the righteous son. I asked Gabriel who he was and he replied: He is Adam (peace be upon him) and these parties on his right and on his left are the souls of his descendants. Those of them on his right are the inmates of Paradise and the parties which are on his left side are the inmates of Hell; so when he looked towards his right side, he laughed, and when he looked towards his left side, he wept. Then Gabriel ascended with me to the second heaven. He asked its guardian to open (its gate), and its guardian replied in the same way as the guardian of the lowest heaven had said. He (opened it). Anas b. Malik said: He (the Holy Prophet) mentioned that he found in the heavens Adam, Idris, Jesus, Moses and Abraham (may peace be on all of them), but he did not ascertain as to the nature of their abodes except that he had found Adam in the lowest heaven and Abraham in the sixth heaven. When Gabriel and the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) passed by Idris (peace be upon him) he said: Welcome to the righteous apostle and righteous brother. He (the narrator) said: He then proceeded and said: Who is he? Gabriel replied: It is Idris. Then I passed by Moses (peace be upon him) and he said: Welcome tothe righteous apostle and righteous brother. I said to (Gabriel): Who is he? He replied: It is Moses. Then I passed by Jesus and he said: Welcome to the righteous apostle and righteous brother. I said (to Gabriel): Who is he? He replied: Jesus, son of Mary. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Then I went to Ibrahim (peace be upon him). He said: Welcome to the righteous apostle and righteous son. I asked: Who is he? He (Gabriel) replied: It is Abraham. Ibn Shihab said: Ibn Hazm told me that Ibn ‘Abbas and Abd Habba al-Ansari used to say that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Thereafter he ascended with me till I was taken to such a height where I heard the scraping of the pens. Ibn Hazm and Anas told that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Allah then made fifty prayers obligatory for my Ummah and I returned with that and passed by Moses. Moses, (peace be upon him) said: What has thy Lord enjoined on thy people? I said: Fifty prayers have been made obligatory on them. Moses (peace be upon him) said: Return to thy Lord, for thy Ummah would not be able to bear this burden. Then I came back to my Lord and He remitted a portion out of thut. I then again went to Moses (peace be upon him) and informed him about it He said: Return to thy Lord, for thy Ummah shall not be able to bear this burden. I then went back to my Lord and He said: They are five and at the same time fifty, and what has been said will not be changed. I then returned to Moses and he said: Go back to thy Lord. whereupon I said: I feel ashamed of my Lord. Gabriel then travelled with me till we came to the farthest lote-tree Many a colour had covered it which I do not know. Then I was admitted to Paradise and saw in it domes of pearls, and its soil of musk.
Additional hadith on the subject are included below: Sahih Muslim, chapter 1, hadith number 317:
Narrated Abu al-Aliya:
Ibn Abbas, the son of your Prophet’s uncle, told us that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) had observed: On the night of my night journey I passed by Moses b. ‘Imran (peace be upon him), a man light brown in complexion, tall. well-built as if he was one of the men of the Shanu’a, and saw Jesus son of Mary as a medium-statured man with white and red complexion and crisp hair, and I was shown Malik the guardian of Fire, and Dajjal amongst the signs which were shown to me by Allah. He (the narrator) observed: Then do not doubt his (i. e. of the Holy Prophet) meeting with him (Moses). Qatada elucidated it thus: Verily the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him), met Moses (peace be upon him).
Imam Malik’s Muwatta, chapter 51, hadith number 10:
Yahya related to me from Malik that Yahya ibn Said said, “When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was taken on the night journey, he saw an evil jinn seeking him with a torch of fire. Whenever the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, turned, he saw him. Jibril said to him, ‘Shall I teach you some words to say? When you say them, his torch will be put out and will fall from him.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Yes, indeed.’ Jibril said, ‘Say, ‘I seek refuge with the Noble Face of Allah and with the complete words of Allah which neither the good person nor the corrupt can exceed, from the evil of what descends from the sky and the evil of what ascends in it, and from the evil of what is created in the earth and the evil of what comes out of it, and from the trials of the night and day, and from the visitations of the night and day, except for one that knocks with good, O Merciful!” ‘ Audhu bi wajhi’llahi’ l-karim wa bi kalimati’llahi’t-tammati. Allati la yujawazu hunna barra wa la fajir, min sharri ma yanzil min as-sama, wa sharri ma yaruju fiha, wa sham ma dhara’ fi’l-ard, wa sharri ma yakhruju minha, wa min fitani’l-layli wa’n-nahar, wa min tawariqi’l-layli wa’n-nahar illa tariqan yatruq bikhayr ya Rahman!
Sunan An-Nasai, chapter 5, hadith number 452:
“When the Messenger of Allah (saw) was taken on the night journey, he came to Sidrah Al-Muntaha, which is in the sixth heaven. That is where everything that comes up from below ends, and where everything that comes down from above, until it is taken from it. Allah says: When what covered the lote-tree did cover it!. [53:16] He said: “It was moths of gold. And I was given three things: The five daily prayers, the last verses of Surah Al-Baqarah, and whoever of my Ummah dies without associating anything with Allah will be forgiven for Al-Muqhimat.”* (Sahih) *“The sins of the worst magnitude that drag one into the Fire.” (An-Nihayah)