The night journey and the ascension of prophet Muhammad
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of t he Worlds, the One Who exists without a place. To Him belong the endowments and proper commendations. May Allah raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad and his kind Al and Companions and protect his nation from what he fears for them. May the Lord of Heavens and Earth grant us the sincere intentions and guide us to the acceptable deeds.
Thereafter, Allah sent the prophets as a mercy to the slaves and supported them with miracles to indicate the truthfulness of their message. Of all the prophets, our Prophet, Muhammad, was blessed with the most miracles. Al-Isra’ and al-Mi^raj are among the many miracles of Prophet Muhammad.
The miracle of al-Isra’ is confirmed in the Qur’an. In Surat al-Isra’, Ayah 1, Allah said:
which means: [Praise be to Allah Who enabled His slave, Muhammad, to make the journey at night from Masjid al-Haram in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, which is surrounded a blessed land.] This journey is also confirmed in the sahih hadith. As such, there is scholarly consensus (ijma^) Prophet Muhammad journeyed in body and soul the night of al-Isra’ from Masjid al-Haram in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsain Jerusalem. Moreover, these scholars indicated the person who denies al-Isra’ is a blasphemer for belying the explicit text of the Qur’an.
Before the Prophet took this night journey, the ceiling of the house in which he was staying was opened, and Jibril descended. He cut open the chest of Prophet Muhammad and washed that open area with Zamzam water. Then he emptied something from a container into the chest of the Prophet to increase his wisdom as well as the strength of his belief. This was done to prepare the Messenger of Allah for that which he had yet to see in the upper world from among the wonders of the creation of Allah.
After the Prophet performed the Evening Prayer (^Isha’), Jibril came to him with a white animal, slightly larger than a donkey yet smaller than a mule. This animal was the buraq,–one of the animals of Paradise. Jibril held the buraq by his ear and told the Prophet to mount it. When the buraq was mounted, the Prophet set forth.
The buraq is a very fast animal; the length of the buraq’s stride is the farthest distance it’s eye can see. The Prophet and Jibril arrived to a land with palm trees. Jibril told the Prophet to dismount and pray, so the Prophet dismounted the buraq and prayed two rak^as. Jibril asked him, “Do you know where you prayed?” and the Prophet answered, “Allah knows best.” Jibril told him, “This is Yathrib; this is Taybah. “.” (These are two names for the city of al-Madinah.) Before the Prophet emigrated to al-Madinah, it was called Taybah and Yathrib. It earned the name al-Madinah after the Prophet emigrated to it.
The buraq continued with the Prophet and Jibril until they reached another place. Again Jibril told the Prophet to get down and pray. The Prophet dismounted there and prayed two rak^as. Jibril informed the Prophet of the name of that place; it was Tur Sina’.
Once again the buraq took off with the Prophet and Jibril. Once again it stopped, and the Prophet dismounted and prayed two rak^as. This was in Bayt Lahm, where Prophet ^Isa (Jesus) was born. Then the buraq continued with the Messenger of Allah until they entered the city of Jerusalem. There the Prophet went to Masjid al-Aqsa. Outside was a ring used by the Messengers of Allah to tie their animals. The Prophet tied his buraq to this ring. Then the Prophet entered the masjid where Allah assembled for him all the Prophets–from Adam to ^Isa. Prophet Muhammad moved forward and led them all in prayer. This is an indication the Prophet is higher in status than all the rest of the prophets and messengers.
1- On Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa, Allah enabled him to see some of His wondrous creations. Allah enabled the Prophet to see the world (dunya) like an old woman. However, this old woman was wearing a great deal of jewelry, and in this there is an indication signifying the reality of the world.
2- Allah enabled the Prophet to see Iblis. The Prophet saw something on the side of the road which did not dare to stand in his way or speak to him. What the Prophet saw was Iblis. Originally, Iblis was a believer and lived with the angels in Paradise. When Allah ordered the angels to prostrate (sujud) to Prophet Adam, Iblis was ordered to prostrate to him as well. The angels prostrated to Adam in obedience to Allah, because angels do not disobey Allah. However, Iblis did not obey, and he objected to the order of Allah. He said, “You created me out of fire, and You created him out of clay. How do You order me to prostrate to him?” So this objection by Iblis to the order of Allah was the first blasphemy he committed.
3- On his journey, the Prophet smelled a very nice odor. He asked Jibril about this pleasant scent and Jibril informed him this good smell was coming from the grave of the woman whose duty used to be to comb Pharaoh’s daughter’s hair. This woman was a good, pious believer. One day, as she was combing Pharaoh’s daughter’s hair, the comb fell from her hand. At this she said, “”Bismillah. “Pharaoh’s daughter asked her, “Do you have a god other than my father?” The woman said, “Yes. My Lord and the Lord of your father is Allah.” Pharaoh’s daughter told her father what had happened. Pharaoh demanded this woman blaspheme and leave Islam, but she refused. At that, Pharaoh threatened to kill her children. He brought a great pot of water and built a great fire under it. When the water boiled, Pharaoh brought her children and started to drop them into that pot one after the other. Throughout all this, the woman remained steadfast to Islam, even when Pharaoh reached her youngest child–a little boy still breast feeding–but she felt pity for him. At that, Allah enabled this child to speak. He said to his mother, “O Mother, be patient. The torture of the Hereafter is far more severe than the torture of this life, and do not be reluctant, because you are right.” At this the woman requested Pharaoh collect her bones and the bones of her children and bury them in the same grave. Pharaoh promised her that–then dropped her into that boiling water. She died as a martyr. The good odor the Prophet smelled coming from her grave is an indication of her high status.
4- During his trip, the Prophet saw people who were planting and reaping in two days. Jibril told the Prophet, “These were the people who fight for the sake of Allah (mujahidun). “).”
5- The Prophet also saw people whose lips and tongues were clipped with scissors made of fire. Jibril told the Prophet, “These are the speakers of sedition (fitna) who call people to misguidance.”
6- He also saw a bull which exited a very small outlet, then was trying in vain to return through that small outlet. Jibril told the Prophet, “This is the example of the bad word–once spoken, it cannot be returned.”
7- The Prophet saw people grazing like animals, with very little clothing on their private parts. Jibril told the Prophet, “These are the ones who refused to pay zakat. “.”
8- The Prophet saw angels smashing some people’s heads with rocks. These heads would return to the shape they had been, and then the angels would smash their heads again–and so on. Jibril told the Prophet, “These are the ones whose heads felt too heavy to perform prayer–the ones who used to sleep without praying.”
9- On his journey the Prophet saw people who were competing to eat some rotten meat–ignoring meat that was sliced and unspoiled. Jibril told the Prophet, “These are people from your nation who leave out that which is permissible (halal), and consume that which is forbidden ((haram). “This reference was to the fornicators, that is, the ones who left out the permissible (marriage) and committed sins (fornication).
10- Also, the Prophet saw people who were drinking from the fluid coming from the bodies of the fornicators, (water mixed with blood). Jibril indicated to the Prophet these were the ones who were drinking the alcohol which is prohibited in this world.
11- The Prophet saw people scratching their faces and chests with brass finger nails. Jibril said, “These are the examples of those who commit gossip ((ghibah). “).”
1- After the Prophet took this night journey from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa, he ascended to the upper heavens. The Prophet ascended to the heaven on stairs, called al-mirqat, in which one step is made of gold and the next of silver, and so on. These stairs are veiled from us. The Prophet ascended these stairs until he reached the first heaven. When the Prophet and Jibril arrived at the first heaven, Jibril requested the gate to be opened. The angel assigned to that gate asked Jibril, “Who is with you?” Jibril answered, “It is Muhammad.” The angel asked Jibril, “Was he dispatched? Is it time for him to ascend to the heaven?” Jibril said, “Yes.” So, the gate was opened for him, and Prophet Muhammad entered the first heaven.
There, Prophet Muhammad saw Prophet Adam. To Adam’s right, the Prophet saw some bodies, and to Adam’s left, other bodies. If Adam would look to his right he would laugh, and if he would look to his left he would cry. Adam was seeing the souls of his descendants. Those on his right were his descendants who would die as believers and those on his left were his descendants who would die as non-believers.
Then the Prophet ascended to the second heaven. In this second heaven was where Prophet Muhammad saw Prophets ^Isa and Yahya. ^Isa and Yahya are cousins; their mothers were sisters. They welcomed the Prophet and made supplication (du^a’) for him for good things. The Prophet ascended to the third heaven, where he found Prophet Yusuf. Prophet Yusuf was extremely handsome. Allah bestowed half the beauty on Yusuf. Yusuf received the Prophet with a warm welcome and made supplication (du^a’) for him for good things.
Then the Prophet ascended to the fourth heaven, where he found Prophet Idris. Idris welcomed the Prophet and made supplication (du^a’) for him for good things. In the fifth heaven, the Prophet encountered Harun, the brother of Prophet Musa. In the sixth heaven, he encountered Prophet Musa. Each of these Prophets received Prophet Muhammad with a warm welcome and made supplication (du^a’)’) for him for good things.
Then the Prophet ascended to the seventh heaven, and that is where our Messenger saw Prophet Ibrahim. Prophet Ibrahim is the best of the prophets after our prophet, Muhammad. The Prophet saw Prophet Ibrahim with his back against al-Bayt al-Ma^mur. To the inhabitants of the skies, al-Bayt al-Ma^mur is like the Ka^bah is to us, the inhabitants of the earth. Every day 70,000 angels go there; then exit from it, and never return. The next day another 70,000 angels go, come out, and never return. This will continue until the Day of Judgment. In this, there is an indication as to the greatness of the numbers of the angels–their numbers are far more than the numbers of the humans and the jinns together.
In the seventh heaven, Prophet Muhammad saw Sidrat al-Muntaha–a very big tree of sidr. Each of the fruits of this tree is as large as a big jar. The leaves of this tree are similar to the ears of the elephants. Sidrat al-Muntahais an extremely beautiful tree. It is visited by butterflies made of gold. When these butterflies gather on this tree, its beauty is beyond description.
Then the Prophet ascended to what is beyond the seven skies; he entered Paradise. He saw examples of the inhabitants of Paradise and how their situation would be. He saw most of the inhabitants of Paradise are the poor people .
The Prophet saw other things on the night of his ascension. He saw Malik, the angel in charge of the Hellfire. Malik did not smile at the Prophet when he saw him, and the Prophet asked why. In answer to the Prophet’s question, Jibril said, “Malik did not smile since the day Allah created him. Had he smiled for anyone, he would have smiled for you.”
In Paradise, the Prophet saw some of the bounties Allah prepared for the inhabitants of Paradise. He saw the Hur ul-^In: females Allah created who are not humans or jinn. They are in Paradise and will be married to those men Allah willed them to marry.
The Prophet saw the wildan ul-mukhalladun: creations of Allah who are not human, jinn, or angels. They are a very beautiful creation of Allah whose appearance is like laid-out pearls. They are servants of the inhabitants of Paradise. The least in status of the People of Paradise will have 10,000 wildan ul-mukhalladun to serve him. Each one of them would carry a tray of gold in one hand and a tray of silver in the other hand.
The Prophet saw the Throne (^Arsh), which is the ceiling of Paradise. The Throne is the largest creation of Allah in size; Allah did not create anything bigger in size than it. The seven heavens and the earth in comparison to the Kursiyy, are like a ring thrown in a desert, and the Kursiyy in comparison to the Throne, is like a ring thrown in a desert. The seven heavens and the earth in comparison to the Throne are like a seed of mustard compared to the ocean. Allah created the Throne as a sign of His Power and He did not create the Throne to sit on it.
Allah created the Throne to show His Power. It is carried by four angels, and on the Day of Judgment, it will be carried by eight. The Prophet said he was permitted to speak about one of these angels who carry the Throne. In describing this angel, the Prophet told us the distance between his ear lobe and shoulder is the distance a fast-flying bird would cover in 700 years.
Then the Prophet ascended beyond Paradise. He reached a place where he heard the creaking of the pens used by the angels who are copying from the Preserved Tablet. It is at that location Prophet Muhammad heard the Kalam of Allah, which is an attribute of the Self of Allah. He heard the Kalam of Allah which does not resemble our speech–so it is not something that occurs bit after bit. It is not letter after letter or a word that comes after another word. Rather, it is an attribute of Allah which is eternal and everlasting. It does not resemble our attributes. The Kalam of Allah has neither silence nor interruptions. It is an attribute of Allah, and it does not resemble the attributes of the creation.
The Prophet understood several things from hearing this Kalam of Allah. He understood the obligation of the five Obligatory Prayers. At first, Allah obligated fifty prayers. When Prophet Muhammad encountered Musa, Musa told him to make supplication (du^a’) to his Lord to ease the obligation of fifty (50) prayers, because his nation could not handle that. Musa said, “I have experience with the people of Israel, and I know your nation cannot bear that.” So the Prophet asked his Lord to lessen these prayers for his people. Five prayers were eliminated. Once again, Musa told the Prophet to ask Allah to lessen the number of prayers. Allah did. Nine times the Prophet made supplication to Allah to lessen these prayers–until these prayers were lessened to five Obligatory Prayers. So Prophet Musa was a great benefit to us. Had we been obligated to pray fifty prayers a day, this would have been a difficult matter for us.
From the Kalam of Allah, the Prophet also understood that a good deed would be written for the person who intends to do a good deed, even if he did not do it. Also, the good deed performed would be registered for he who performs it as at least ten good deeds–up to 700 good deeds. For some people, Allah would multiply the reward of their deeds more than that. Additionally, if one performs a bad deed, it is registered for him as one bad deed; yet for he who inclines towards committing a bad deed and then refrains from committing it, a good deed would be registered for him. Here one should note the difference between two matters. If a thought crossed a person’s mind about doing something sinful, and this person wavered in this thinking, i.e., considered whether he should do it or not, then he refrained from doing this for the sake of Allah, this is written as a good deed. However, if a person has the firm intention in his heart that he wants to commit a sin, it would be written for him as a sin, even if he does not do it.
The Prophet Returns to Makkah
After all these matters took place with the Prophet, he returned to the city of Makkah. Some scholars said the Prophet’s journey took about one-third of the night, i.e., his journey from Makkah to Jerusalem, then to the heavens and what is above them, and then back to Makkah The next day the Prophet told the people what happened to him the previous night. The blasphemers belied the Prophet and mocked him, saying, “We need a month to get there and back, and you are claiming to have done all this in one night?” They said to Abu Bakr, “Look at what your companion is saying. He says he went to Jerusalem and came back in one night.” Abu Bakr told them, “If he said that, then he is truthful. I believe him concerning the news of the heavens–that an angel descends to him from the heavens. How could I not believe he went to Jerusalem and came back in a short period of time–when these are on earth?” At that, the Companion, Abu Bakr, was called “as-Siddiq”–because of how strongly he believed all what the Prophet said.
The blasphemous people questioned the Prophet: “If you are truthful, then describe to us Masjid al-Aqsa and its surroundings.” They asked this because they knew Prophet Muhammad had never been there before the previous night. Allah enabled the Messenger to see Masjid al-Aqsa, and he described the masjid and its surroundings in exact detail. Moreover, the Prophet said, “On my way back, I saw some of your shepherds grazing their animals in a particular location. They were searching for a camel they had lost.” The Prophet continued by giving the description of the camel. When these shepherds came back, they told their people what happened to them–precisely as the Prophet had already told them.
These blasphemers admitted the Prophet’s description was exact. Despite that, they were still stubborn and rejected the faith. They did not accept Islam. Only those whom Allah willed to be guided, will be guided. The person whom Allah did not will to be guided, will not believe–regardless of how much explanation or how many proofs he is shown. The person whom Allah willed to be guided, surely he will be a believer. Many people witnessed miracles and still did not believe. Many people witnessed the miracle of the Prophet’s splitting of the moon. Those who refused to embrace Islam said, “This is magic. Muhammad played a magic trick on our eyes.” They even asked the people of a faraway land who witnessed the moon split in two. Despite this, they still did not believe. They said, “The magic of Muhammad is powerful; it even reached the faraway lands!” This was their response to witnessing a miracle–instead of believing and becoming Muslims.
We ask Allah that we would all die as Muslims. We ask Allah to bestow on us the bounty of entering Paradise without torture.
And Allah knows best.