The Night Journey and Ascension: Mai’raj

The Night Journey and Ascension: Mai’raj

Festivals are found in almost all cultures and civilizations to commemorate important events and occasions. These include specific days as well as nights.

 
The Night Journey and Ascension: Mai’raj

Festivals are found in almost all cultures and civilizations to commemorate important events and occasions. These include specific days as well as nights.

There are Night festivals in Indian traditions like ‘Nav Ratri’, ‘Shiv Ratri’ to quote as examples. Likewise there are two important nights in the Islamic tradition. One is ‘Shabe Qadr’ (Night of Power/Destiny) on which the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and it falls in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This writer had penned an article for UdaipurTimes.com last year on its occasion.

There is another important night the importance of which will be discussed in this piece to the extent possible and to the extent of my capacity and understanding. Muslims in the sub continent celebrate this night with great religious fervor.

This Night has been called by Qura’n as ‘Isra’a’ (Night Journey from the Holy ‘Kaaba’ in Mecca to another Holy mosque ‘Aqsa’ in Jerusalem) as found in the beginning of chapter 17 of Holy Qura’n titled ‘Isra’ or ‘Bani Israel’. Muslims celebrate this on the night of 26th day of the month Rajab al-Asab-current month- in Islamic Hijri calendar. And the next day, i.e. 27th of Rajab is celebrated as Yaume Mi’raj (the day of ascension to heaven). Muslims in Udaipur observed these on 26th and 27th May 2014.

Introduction

Briefly during the last part of that night Allah took His slave (The Holy Prophet) from the Holy mosque in Mecca (Masjidul Haram in the precincts of which lies “Kaaba’) to a Distant Mosque (Aqsa at Jeruslam) in order to show him His (Allah’s) Great Signs. While this has been mentioned in the Qura’n in the beginning of chapter 17, the experience given or God’s signs shown thereafter in his journey to the utmost boundary of the Universe- called ‘Sidrat al Muntaha’ and translated by exegeses as the Lote Tree- thereafter is elaborated in Verses 1 to 18 of another chapter 53 titled ‘An Najm’ (Stars).

The holy Quran describes this event as follows:

Glory be to Him Who carried His servant from the Sacred Mosque to the distant Mosque the precincts of which We have blessed in order that We might show him some of our signs. (17:1)

As per Islamic faith the holy Prophet (SAWS) was taken by Angel Gabriel from Mecca to Jerusalem where he led prayers attended by all past Prophets (AS) (as per Hadith literature) and thereafter taken to the heavenly journey, heaven after heaven, and ultimately to the place reachable by Angels where the Angel Gabriel stopped and the Holy Prophet alone proceeded to The Utmost boundary. (Supported by Qura’nic verses). Thus the whole event is in two parts: first from Mecca to Jerusalem and then from there to last boundary of the Universe.

Qura’n does not give detail account about what happened at each of the two stages as also each heaven or stage of ascension but Hadith literature give minutest detail. These details though couched in different versions more or less reconcile with each other. Muslim Scholars, however, differ in their opinion as to whether this journey was physical or spiritual. Majority, however, believes that the Holy Prophet (SAWS) experienced this in body and soul.

When the Holy Prophet narrated his experiences to people of Mecca, those hostile to him and Islam, found yet another instance to ridicule them. As a test they asked questions to him about Jerusalem which they knew fully well. The Prophet mentioned everything they asked even though he has never been to that place. Though surprised, the enemies still did not believe. They approached Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) and enquired whether he believed what his friend (The Prophet (SAWS)) was telling? Hazrat Abu Bakr told them that he believes in whatever the Prophet says because he would never tell a lie. He reminded them that it was them who gave him the title of Al-Ameen- Truthful, Most Trust Worthy-and therefore there is no question of dispute about what the holy Prophet (SAWS) says. Despite this the unbelievers continued their harassments.

In order to console the believers The Holy Qur’an testifies Ascension of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon rim) in Surah Najm (Chapter 53):

Then he drew nigh and came down. Till he was at a distance of equal to the length of two bows or even near. And He revealed unto his slave that which He revealed. The heart lied not (in seeing) what it saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what it seeth.

And verily he saw him yet another time by the Lote-tree of the utmost boundary, nigh unto which is the Garden of Abode. When that which covereth did cover the Lote-tree. The eye turned not aside, nor yet was over-bold. Certainly he (the Prophet) saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord. (53:6-8)

Time of the event

As per authentic reports this journey took place one year prior to migration of the holy Prophet to Madina. That means by this time he has been propagating the concept of ‘Tauheed’ (Unity of the Godhead) for almost twelve years by now and despite all efforts made by those hostile to him his message has reached in every corner of Arabia and beyond. There was not a house or a tribe of which at least one person became his adherent. Simultaneously two powerful tribes of Madina had given pledge to him and propagating Islamic message in Madina. It was in this atmosphere of hope that Allah, The Almighty, Blessed him with this Journey.

Meaning of Mi’raj

The literal translation of the Arabic word Mi’raj as ‘journey’ does not communicate the whole substance covered under this term. It is not a mere traveling and observing various things during its course. Rather it takes place when The Almighty summons His Prophets (AS) for execution of His Commands. It was the Mi’raj of Prophet Moses (AS) when he was given ‘Ten Commandments’ for reform. Again it was Mi’raj of Prophet Jesus (AS) when he was summoned to ‘The Mount’ where he was given ‘Twelve Commandments’ which he enunciated in his ‘Sermon of the Mount’. Likewise it was a Mi’raj of Prophet Mohmmed(SAWS) to get Commandments from The Almighty.

The message or ‘Commandments’ received by the Holy Prophet (SAWS) from this Journey is recorded in Chapter 17 (Bani Israel or Isra’) of Qura’n-word by word. A look into these, keeping in view the historical aspects, would lead to the conclusion that before the foundation of an Islamic Society guidelines were being given by The Almighty on which the Prophet and his companions will have to proceed. The Prophet (SAWS) migrated to Madina soon and started working for the foundation of a just Islamic Society based on these Commandments.

The Fourteen Commandments

In the first part of chapter 17 of holy Qura’n are contained warning and admonitions for the disbelievers. In the second part the Commandments are given. Simply paraphrased these are:

1. Worship of Allah alone and in His Domain no one else is included.

2. In society importance of family must be protected as nucleus, children to be obedient to and serve their parents, relatives be sympathetic and helpers to each other.

3. Poor and handicaps of society and those who are away from their homes and are in need of help should not be left un attended by others of the society.

4. Wealth should not be wasted unnecessarily. Those who do like this are friends of Shaitaan.

5. Do not be extravagant. Do not be miser and do not accumulate wealth in such a manner that it creates difficulties for others.

6. Allah has made provision for all according to His wisdom. Men should not try to alter this arrangement by resorting to his artificial ways. Allah knows His arrangements better. Allah has made available provision for this generation and He will make the same for the next also.

8. To fulfill desires indulgence in adulteration, fornication and other vices are vicious ways. These must be curbed and the means which lead to these vices should be closed.

9. Allah has sanctified life of a human being. Therefore, no one should be killed except according to the laws framed by Allah. Do not kill yourself nor kill anyone else.

10. Properties of orphans should be guarded and protected till they stand on their own. Their Rights must be protected and preserved.

11. Keep your pledges and contracts intact. Man is accountable before Allah for his oaths and commitments.

12. In transactions keep every measure and balance accurate.

13. Do not do a thing or act the knowledge of which you do not have. Do not do a thing based on doubt and conjectures. For everything in your power you are responsible and accountable to Allah as to how you have used your capabilities.

14. Do not walk with pride and arrogance. With arrogance neither can you wipe out earth below nor can you become higher than mountains.

These are not only the moral precepts but a programme of action on which to build a just society.

Five Times Daily Prayers

Along with the above mentioned 14 point program, Allah, The Almighty, also made obligatory for Muslims the five times daily prayers.

Through these prayers they inculcate piety and the right morality and remind themselves on five occasions of a day that Allah is The Lord of Universe and everyone is His slave and he/she is accountable to Him there by keep pride and arrogance at bay.

It is a well known fact that Mosque ‘Aqsa’ at Jerusalem and the precinct where it stands has a great place of honour and importance for all the three Abrahamic religions namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Muslims used to pray facing this Mosque prior to its change to “Kaaba’ in Mecca and is known as Qibla-e-Awwal’ meaning the first Qibla. After Masjid ul Haram at Mecca and Masjid ul Nabavi at Madina, Aqsa is the third most revered mosque of Islam.

The idea of putting this up is to let interested readers know about commonality in religious precepts in Islam with other faiths. It also intend in reminding the Muslim readers the importance attached to this festival.

As said in the beginning this narrative is as per the writer’s understanding. For mistakes and wrong interpretation the writer seeks pardon from God, The Almighty.

P.S.

1. There are customary salutations which the Muslims put after the names of their Prophets. Where ever

used they are:

AS-Alayhis/Alaihumus Salam

SAWS-Salalaho Alihi a Wa Aalihi Salam

RA-Radhi Allaho Anhu

2. Where missed the same may be used appropriately.

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