Isra and Mi'raj
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The Isra and Miraj (Arabic: الإسراء والمعراج, al-’Isrā’ wal-Mi‘rāj), are the two parts of a Night Journey (Arabic: Lailat al-Mi‘rāj, Persian: Shab-e-Me`raj, Turkish: Mîrac Gecesi) that, according to Islamic tradition, the prophet of Islam, Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621. It has been described as both a physical and spiritual journey. A brief sketch of the story is in sura 17 Al-Isra of the Quran, and other details come from the Hadith, collections of the reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of Muhammad. In the Isra part of the journey, Muhammad travels on the steed Buraq to "the farthest mosque" where he leads other prophets in prayer. He then ascends to heaven in the Mi'raj journey where he speaks to God, who gives Muhammad instructions to take back to the faithful regarding the details of prayer.
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The events of Isra and Mi'raj are referred to briefly in the Qur'an. For greater detail, they have been discussed in Hadith literature, reported sayings of the prophet which supplement the Qur'an. Of the hadith, two of the best known are by Anas ibn Malik, who would have been a young boy at the time of Muhammad's journey of Mi'raj.
Within the Qur'an itself, "Sura Al-Isra", the 17th chapter (sura) was named after the Isra. In it, the first verse briefly describes the Isra. There is also some information in a later verse and another Sura An-Najm, which some scholars say is related to the Isra and Mi'raj.
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.— Quran, Chapter 17 (Al-Isra) verse 1
And [remember, O Muhammad], when We told you, "Indeed, your Lord has encompassed the people." And We did not make the sight which We showed you except as a trial for the people, as was the accursed tree [mentioned] in the Qur'an. And We threaten them, but it increases them not except in great transgression.— Quran, Chapter 17 (Al-Isra) verse 62
And he certainly saw him in another descent,
At the Lote-tree of the Utmost Boundary –
Near it is the Garden of Refuge –
When there covered the Lote Tree that which covered [it]
The sight [of the Prophet] did not swerve, nor did it transgress [its limit].
He certainly saw of the greatest signs of his Lord.— Quran, Chapter 53 (An-Najm), verses 13–18
From various hadith we learn much greater detail. The Isra is the part of the journey of Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem. It began when Muhammad was in the Masjid al-Haram, and the archangel Gabriel (Jibra'il) came to him, and brought Buraq, the traditional heavenly steed of the prophets. Buraq carried Muhammad to the Masjid Al Aqsa, the "Farthest Mosque", in Jerusalem. Muhammad alighted, tethered Buraq to the Temple Mount and performed prayer, where on God's command he was tested by Jibriel. It was told by Anas ibn Malik that Muhammad said: "Jibra'il brought me a vessel of wine, a vessel of water and a vessel of milk, and I chose the milk. Jibra'il said: 'You have chosen the Fitrah (natural instinct).'" In the second part of the journey, the Mi'raj (an Arabic word that literally means “ladder”), Buraq took him to the heavens, where he toured the seven stages of heaven, and spoke with the earlier prophets such as Abraham (ʾIbrāhīm), Moses (Musa), John the Baptist (Yaḥyā ibn Zakarīyā), and Jesus (Isa). Muhammad was then taken to Sidrat al-Muntaha – a holy tree in the seventh heaven that Jabriel was not allowed to pass. According to Islamic tradition, God instructed Muhammad that Muslims must pray fifty times per day; however, Moses told Muhammad that it was very difficult for the people and urged Muhammad to ask for a reduction, until finally it was reduced to five times per day.
The following hadith narrated by Malik bin Sa`sa`ah describes the whole incident of Isra in great detail:
The Prophet said, "While I was at the House in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness, (an angel recognized me) as the man lying between two men. A golden tray full of wisdom and belief was brought to me and my body was cut open from the throat to the lower part of the abdomen and then my abdomen was washed with Zam-zam water and (my heart was) filled with wisdom and belief.
Al-Buraq, a white animal, smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me and I set out with Gabriel. When I reached the nearest heaven. Gabriel said to the heaven gatekeeper, 'Open the gate.' The gatekeeper asked, 'Who is it?' He said, 'Gabriel.' The gatekeeper asked,' Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel said, 'Muhammad.' The gatekeeper said, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel said, 'Yes.' Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!' Then I met Adam and greeted him and he said, 'You are welcomed O son and Prophet.'
Then we ascended to the second heaven. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel said, 'Gabriel.' It was said, 'Who is with you?' He said, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been sent for?' He said, 'Yes.' It was said, 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!" Then I met Isa (Jesus) and Yahya (John the Baptist) who said, 'You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet.'
Then we ascended to the third heaven. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel said, 'Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is with you? Gabriel said, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been sent for?' 'Yes,' said Gabriel. 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!' (The Prophet added:). There I met Joseph and greeted him, and he replied, 'You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet!'
Then we ascended to the 4th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met Idris and greeted him. He said, 'You are welcomed O brother and Prophet.'
Then we ascended to the 5th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in previous heavens. There I met and greeted Aaron who said, 'You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet".
Then we ascended to the 6th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Moses who said, 'You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet.' When I proceeded on, he started weeping and on being asked why he was weeping, he said, 'O Lord! Followers of this youth who was sent after me will enter Paradise in greater number than my followers.'
Then we ascended to the seventh heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Abraham who said, 'You are welcomed O son and a Prophet.'
Then I was shown al-Bait al-Ma'mur (i.e. God's House). I asked Gabriel about it and he said, This is al-Bait al-Ma'mur where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).'
Then I was shown Sidrat al-Muntaha (i.e. a tree in the seventh heaven) and I saw its Nabk fruits which resembled the clay jugs of Hajr (i.e. a town in Arabia), and its leaves were like the ears of elephants, and four rivers originated at its root, two of them were apparent and two were hidden. I asked Gabriel about those rivers and he said, 'The two hidden rivers are in Paradise, and the apparent ones are the Nile and the Euphrates.'Then fifty prayers were enjoined on me. I descended till I met Moses who asked me, 'What have you done?' I said, 'Fifty prayers have been enjoined on me.' He said, 'I know the people better than you, because I had the hardest experience to bring the Israelites to obedience. Your followers cannot put up with such obligation. So, return to your Lord and ask Him (to reduce the number of prayers).' I returned and asked God (for reduction) and He made it forty. I returned and (met Moses) and had a similar discussion, and then returned again to God for reduction and He made it thirty, then twenty, then ten, and then I came to Moses who repeated the same advice. Ultimately God reduced it to five. When I came to Moses again, he said, 'What have you done?' I said, 'God has made it five only.' He repeated the same advice but I said that I surrendered (to God's Final Order)'" God's Apostle was addressed by God, "I have decreed My Obligation and have reduced the burden on My servants, and I shall reward a single good deed as if it were ten good deeds.
It is narrated on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said: I was brought al-Buraq, who is an animal white and long, larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule, who would place his hoof a distance equal to the range of vision. I mounted it and came to the Temple (the Temple Mount in Jerusalem), then tethered it to the ring used by the prophets. I entered the mosque and prayed two rak'at in it, and then came out and Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. I chose the milk, and Gabriel said: You have chosen the natural thing.
Then he took me to heaven. Gabriel then asked (the gate of heaven) to be opened and he was asked who he was. He replied: Gabriel. He was again asked: Who is with you? He (Gabriel) said: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? Gabriel replied: He has indeed been sent for. And (the door of the heaven) was opened for us and at first heaven we saw Adam. He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being.
Then we ascended to the second heaven. Gabriel (peace be upon him) (asked the door of heaven to be opened), and he was asked who he was. He answered: Gabriel; and was again asked: Who is with you? He replied: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. The gate was opened. When I entered Jesus and John (peace be upon them), maternal cousins, welcomed me and prayed for my good.
Then I was taken to the third heaven and Gabriel asked for the opening (of the door). He was asked: Who are you? He replied: Gabriel. He was (again) asked: Who is with you? He replied Muhammad ( peace be upon him). It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and I saw Joseph (peace be upon him) who had been given half of (world) beauty. He welcomed me prayed for my well-being.
Then he ascended with us to the fourth heaven. Gabriel (peace be upon him) asked for the (gate) to be opened, and it was said: Who is he? He replied: Gabriel. It was (again) said: Who is with you? He said: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. The (gate) was opened for us, and lo! Idris was there. He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being (About him) The Exalted and Glorious God has said:" We elevated him (Idris) to the exalted position" (Qur'an xix. 57).
Then he ascended with us to the fifth heaven and Gabriel asked for the (gate) to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He replied: Gabriel. It was (again) said: Who is with you? He replied: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and then I was with Aaron for my well-being.
Then I was taken to the sixth heaven. Gabriel (peace be upon him) asked for the door to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He replied: Gabriel. It was said: Who is with you? He replied: Muhammad. It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I was with Moses (peace be upon him) He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being.
Then I was taken up to the seventh heaven. Gabriel asked the (gate) to be opened. It was said: Who is he? He said: Gabriel It was said. Who is with you? He replied: Muhammad (peace be upon him.) It was said: Has he been sent for? He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I found Abraham (peace be upon him) reclining against al-Bait al-Ma'mur and there enter into it seventy thousand angels every day, never to visit (this place) again.
Then I was taken to Sidrat al-Muntaha whose leaves were like elephant ears and its fruit like big earthenware vessels. And when it was covered by God's Command, it underwent such a change that none amongst the creation has the power to praise its beauty.
Then God revealed to me a revelation and He made obligatory for me fifty prayers every day and night. Then I went down to Moses (peace be upon him) and he said: What has your Lord enjoined upon your people? I said: Fifty prayers. He said: Return to your Lord and beg for reduction (in the number of prayers), for your community shall not be able to bear this burden as I have put to test the Israelites and tried them (and found them too weak to bear such a heavy burden).
He (the Holy Prophet) said: I went back to my Lord and said: My Lord, make things lighter for my people. (The Lord) reduced five prayers for me. I went down to Moses and said. (The Lord) reduced five (prayers) for me, He said: Verily your people shall not be able to bear this burden; return to your Lord and ask Him to make things lighter.
I then kept going back and forth between my Blessed and Exalted Lord and Moses, till He said: There are five prayers every day and night. O Muhammad, each being credited as ten, so that makes fifty prayers. 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 not be recorded for him; and if he does it, only one evil deed will be recorded.I then came down and when I came to Moses and informed him, he said: Go back to your Lord and ask Him to make things lighter. Upon this the Messenger of God remarked: I returned to my Lord until I felt ashamed before Him.— Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 309
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: That he heard God's Apostle saying, "When the people of Quraish did not believe me (i.e. the story of my Night Journey),
I stood up in Al-Hijr and God displayed Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing it to them while I was looking at it."
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Regarding the Statement of God – "And We granted the vision (Ascension to the heavens) which We made you see (as an actual eye witness) was only made as a trial for the people." (17.60) – The sights which God's Apostle was shown on the Night Journey when he was taken to Bait al-Maqdis (i.e. the Temple Mount) were actual sights, (not dreams). And the Cursed Tree (mentioned) in the Quran is the tree of Zaqqum (itself).— Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 228
Narrated Abu Huraira: On the night God's Apostle was taken on a night journey (Mi'raj) two cups, one containing wine and the other milk, were presented to him at Jerusalem. He looked at it and took the cup of milk. Gabriel said, "Praise be to God Who guided you to Al-Fitra (the right path); if you had taken (the cup of) wine, your nation would have gone astray."— Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 69, Number 482
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said: "While I was walking in Paradise (on the night of Mi'raj), I saw a river, on the two banks of which there were tents made of hollow pearls. I asked, "What is this, O Gabriel?' He said, 'That is the Kauthar which Your Lord has given to you.' Behold! Its scent or its mud was sharp smelling musk!" (The sub-narrator, Hudba is in doubt as to the correct expression.)— Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 583
It is narrated on the authority of Abdullah (b. Umar) that when the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) was taken for the Night journey, he was taken to Sidrat al-Muntaha, which is situated on the sixth heaven, where terminates everything that ascends from the earth and is held there, and where terminates everything that descends from above it and is held there. (It is with reference to this that) God said:" When that which covers covered the lote-tree" (Qur'an, Iiii. 16). He (the narrator) said: (It was) gold moths. He (the narrator further) said: The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) was given three (things): he was given five prayers, the concluding verses of Surat al-Baqara, and remission of serious sins for those among his people who do not associate anything with God.— Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 329
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Masjid al-Aqsa, the farthest mosque
The place referred to in the Quran as "the farthest mosque" (Arabic: المسجد الأقصى, al-Masğidu 'l-’Aqṣà), from Al-Isra, has been historically considered as referring to the site of the modern-day Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. However, the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was not built during Muhammad's lifetime. The Jerusalem interpretation was advanced even by the earliest biographer of Muhammad – Ibn Ishaq – and is supported by numerous aḥādīth. The term used for mosque, "masjid", literally means "place of prostration", and includes monotheistic places of worship but does not lend itself exclusively to physical structures but a location, as Muhammad stated "The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying ...". When Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem after Muhammad's death, a prayer house was rebuilt on the site. The structure was expanded by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and finished by his son al-Walid in 705 CE. The building was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt, until the reconstruction in 1033 by the Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir, and that version of the structure is what can be seen in the present day.
Many Western historians, such as Heribert Busse and Neal Robinson, agree that Jerusalem is the originally intended interpretation of the Quran. Muslims used to pray towards Jerusalem, but Muhammad changed this direction, the Qibla, to instead direct Muslims to face towards the Kaaba in Mecca after the revelation of these verses of the Quran:
And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful. We have certainly seen the turning of your face, [O Muhammad], toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you [believers] are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer]. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.— Quran, Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah) verse 143-144
The Lailat al Mi'raj (Arabic: لیلة المعراج, Lailätu 'l-Mi‘rāğ), also known as Shab-e-Mi'raj (Persian: شب معراج, Šab-e Mi'râj) in Iran, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and Miraç Kandili in Turkish, is the Muslim festival celebrating the Isra and Mi'raj. Some Muslims celebrate this event by offering optional prayers during this night, and in some Muslim countries, by illuminating cities with electric lights and candles. The celebrations around this day tend to focus on every Muslim who wants to celebrate it. Worshippers gather into mosques and perform prayer and supplication. Some people may pass their knowledge on to others by informing them The story on how Muhammad's heart was purified by an archangel (Gabriel) who filled him with knowledge and faith in preparation to enter the seven levels of heaven. After prayer (salat, where the children can pray with the adults if they wish) food and treats are served.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque marks the place from which Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven. The exact date of the Journey is not clear, but is celebrated as though it took place before the Hijra and after Muhammad's visit to the people of Ta’if. It is considered by some to have happened just over a year before the Hijra, on the 27th of Rajab; but this date is not always recognized. This date would correspond to the Julian date of February 26, 621, or, if from the previous year, March 8, 620. In Shi'a Iran for example, Rajab 27 is the day of Muhammad's first calling or Mab'as. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and surrounding area, marks the place from which Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven, is the third-holiest place on earth for Muslims.
Many sects and offshoots belonging to Islamic mysticism interpret Muhammad's night ascent – the Isra and Mi'raj – to be an out-of-body experience through nonphysical environments, unlike the Sunni Muslims or mainstream Islam. The mystics claim Muhammad was transported to Jerusalem and onward to seven heavens, even though "the apostle's body remained where it was." Esoteric interpretations of Islam emphasise the spiritual significance of Mi'raj, seeing it as a symbol of the soul's journey and the potential of humans to rise above the comforts of material life through prayer, piety and discipline.
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The revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad [includes] his Night Journey, an out-of-body experience where the prophet was miraculously taken to Jerusalem on the back of a mythical bird (buraq)....
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