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The Mi'ráj of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWS)
His ascent to the heavens on the heavenly 'ladder'
 
 

"...there descended the Mi‘ráj right from the sky to the earth. It was decorated with gold, silver, chrysolite and red rubies. I have never seen anything as beautiful and as good as the Mi‘ráj on this earth.”
(Prophet Muhammad)

al-Isrá wal-Mi‘ráj an-Nabi: The True Version of Events
al-Mi‘ráj an-Nabi: Ascent to the Seven Heavens
al-Mi‘ráj an-Nabi: Descriptions of Jannah
al-Isrá wal-Mi‘ráj an-Nabi: The Three Modes of Transport
Illustrations of the Mi’ráj by at-Tabari
al-Mi‘ráj an-Nabi: Its Spiritual Significance


al-Isrá wal-Mi‘ráj an-Nabi: The True Version of Events

 The ascension (Mi‘ráj) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) to the seven heavens (samawát) is a widely celebrated event in the muslim calendar. In narrating the events however, people differ firstly on whether it really was a physical or a non-physical ascension. As for sufis (gnostics) and the sunni majority, they generally agree that it was a physical journey. Secondly, there is the issue of the actual means of transport. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) travelled on a heavenly animal called Buráq from Makkah to Jerusalem. But thereafter, some narrations either fail to describe the Mi‘ráj as the vehicle (markab) in which he ascended from Jerusalem or do so inadequately, skipping some details and immediately place him as ascending to heaven with Jibril (A.S.) (Gabriel). Some even mistakenly claim that he ascended on Buráq. Here is an outline of the true version of events leading up to the ascension, which occurred in the waking state under full consciousness with both body and soul, as narrated by Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him):

Initial Placing

 Muhammad (S.A.W.) was in the house of Umm-i-Hani (R.A.) the daughter of Abu Talib on the night of Monday 27th Rajab in the eighth year of prophethood.

At the Door

 There is a knock at the door. Fatima (R.A.) then 9 years old opens the door to find a ‘man’ “who was very well dressed and had two green ‘wings’.......”.
 The man asks for Muhammad, who recognises him as the Archangel Jibril (A.S.). After salutations, Jibril (A.S.) requests: “O my Beloved, come, wear your clean clothes and calm your heart! Verily, in this night your Lord Allah Almighty is calling you, Who neither slumbers nor sleeps.”
 So the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) prepares himself for meeting Allah (S.W.T.)

Alam Nashra Laka Sadrak (HQ 94:1)

 The incident of the opening of the chest is said to have occurred at this point, according to the companion Malik bin Sa’Sa (R.A.)

Muhammad on Buraq
Mounting Buráq

 The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) describes: “There at the field, I met a horse-like animal called Buráq ....... It is an animal like no other. It is smaller than a mule, larger then a donkey and white in colour. It had a human face and was the most beautiful beast compared with all the creatures of this world. Its mane was decorated with pearls and its ears with green emeralds. Its eyes looked like the stars and were sparkling like the sun .......”
 Jibríl (A.S.) told the Holy Prophet: “Proceed O Beloved of Allah and ride on it.”

The Night Journey (Isrá) Begins

 The Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) continued: “The Buráq called me and I mounted on it. We began our journey at a great speed through the midst of the sky .......”

On the Way

 Ibn Abbas and other narrators describe how the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) stopped to pray at important religious places along the way to Jerusalem. These were Wad al-Aqiq in Yathrib, Madyan, Bethlehem and Mount Sinai. There is also the trial involving the people who appealed to the Prophet to offer him ‘advice’ along the way.

Arrival in Bayt al-Maqdis

 Muhammad (S.A.W.) continues: “Then my companion Jibríl led me into Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).”
 Three glasses, of milk, wine and water were offered to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) to choose from. He chose wisely, drinking from the glass of milk. Jibríl (A.S.) explains the significance of the choices .......

Buráq was tied

 Upon arrival, Buráq was tied to a “hitching-post which all the prophets before me had used” (see hadith of Abú Sa’íd narrated by Imam Baihaqi)

Prayer in Masjid al-Aqsa

 According to other traditions, such as that narrated by Imam Baihaqi, it is here in Masjid al-Aqsa that all the previous prophets were assembled and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) led them in prayer.

Mi’ráj: The Heavenly ‘Ladder’

 The first part of the journey from Masjid al-Haram (the Sacred Mosque in Makkah) to Masjid al-Aqsa (the Distant Mosque in Jerusalem) (Holy Quran 17:1) is what constitutes al-Isrá (the Night Journey). The second part al-Mi’ráj (the Heavenly Ascent) concerns the journey through the seven ‘heavens’ (samawát). The description of the ‘vehicle’, in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) embarked during the intervening period for his ascent is to be noted:

 In regard to the Mi’ráj, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) describes: “Then my companion Jibríl took me into the desert, and there descended the Mi’ráj right from the sky to the earth. It was decorated with gold, silver, chrysolite and red rubies. I have never seen anything as beautiful and as good as the Mi’ráj on this earth.”
 
 Mi’ráj ( XAj®ø ) literally means a ‘ladder’, ‘stairs’ or like the ‘handle’ of a ladder on which angels or souls ascend. It is derived from the arabic root < X -i - ™ > meaning ‘to ascend, mount, or rise.’ Buráq having been tied to the post was not used for the ascent to the skies beyond planet earth. It is evident that the Mi’ráj was the vehicle or ‘space-ship’ (markab), the mode of transport in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) ascended* to heaven. Relate also with Prophet Yaqúb’s (Jacob’s) ‘ladder’ mentioned in the Holy Bible. The ‘stairs’ or ‘steps’ to ‘heaven’ refer to the few steps that were laid on to ascend to board the craft (if not using the ‘beaming-up’ port of entry), much like steps used to board aeroplanes nowadays. It is also worth noting that any such thing coming down from the sky was considered very much a part of it. Thus, the vehicle was ‘heavenly’ and boarding it therefore meant ‘ascending to heaven’. Note also, from what follows, that the ‘first heaven’ had not yet been reached. The Mi’ráj is to take them there, blessed be they.

Ascension to the First Heaven

 The Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) continues narrating: “Then Jibríl hugged me in front of himself and he asked me to hold him tight. Then we boarded the Mi’ráj. On our way, my eyes saw people worshipping and I also saw angels who were so many that they could not be counted. They were all praising and glorifying Allah Almighty. Then I saw stars swinging and they appeared as gigantic mountains. Finally, we reached the first heaven, which is called ‘as-Samá ad-Duniya’. All this happened as fast as the twinkling of an eye .......”

* Further ahadith in support of the claim that the Mi’ráj was the vehicle of ascension:

 “When I had finished what I had to do in Jerusalem, then the Mi’ráj was brought to me. I had never seen anything more beautiful than it ....... My companion (Jibríl) took me up on it until we reached one of the gates of ‘heaven’ .......” (Ibn Isháq)

 “.......Then Jibríl and I entered Bait al-Maqdis, where I prayed. Then the Mi’ráj was brought to me” (Abu Sa’íd al-Khudri’s hadith as quoted in Ibn Isháq’s book and in Imam Baihaqi’s al-Dalá’il)

 “The Mi’ráj was brought to him (Muhammad Mustafa) from Jannat al-Firdaws. It was adorned with pearls, and there were angels on its right and left.” (Abú Sa’íd in Sharaf al-Mustafá)
 
More than one Ascension

 The variance between different reports of the event is compounded by the fact that there was not only one but several ascensions. The one described above was the first and therefore most momentous ascension. Subsequent to this, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) had numerous trips on board the Mi’ráj as well as ‘non-physical’ ‘soul-only’ journeys (known as ‘astral projections’). “The Prophet (S.A.W.) made several ascents, some whilst he was awake and some in dreams” (Abú Sa’íd in Sharaf al-Mustafá). Some reports suggest that there were as many as 12,000 such ascensions. Al-Wáqidi’s report for example describes a journey on a Mi’ráj which ascended from Makkah in “the area between al-Maqám and Zamzam.”


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