The Miracle of the Prophet’s Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem & the Heavenly Ascent
Extract from Qadi Iyaad’s al Shifa
[Qadi Iyaad presents different rich opinions relating to the journey that were narrated down to each group, while he and the subject matter experts hold that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, started the spiritual ascent by vision which in turn graduated him to the final miraculous actual ascent in both body and spirit, and that final state is what caused the debate of the unbelievers to flair, since a vision is incontestable.]
Speaking of the miraculous Night Journey (al Isra) of Sayyidina RasulAllah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his conversation with Allah, his Vision, his being the Leader of all the Prophets, his ascent to the Lote-Tree of the Utmost Limit(Sidrat Tree), close to the Garden of Refuge, and speaks of the greatest Signs of Allah seen by him during his Journey
Another of Sayyidina RasulAllah’s very special qualities are made known to us as a result of this event, due to which we learn more of the exalted degrees bestowed upon him on account of it. This miraculous event is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and further details are made known to us in the authentic Hadith. Allah Most High says:
“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.” [Qur’an 17:1]
And: “By the Star when it goes down. Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him: he was taught by one Mighty in Power, Endued with Wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form); While he was in the highest part of the horizon: Then he approached and came closer, And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; So did (Allah) convey the inspiration to His Servant what He (meant) to convey. The (Prophet’s) (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he saw? For indeed he saw him at a second descent, Near the Lote-tree beyond which none may pass: Near it is the Garden of Abode. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded (in mystery unspeakable!) (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see, of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest!” [Qur’an 53:1-18]
Muslims have absolutely no doubt about the occurrence of this great, miraculous event because Allah Himself in His unchangeable Word, the Holy Qur’an, testifies to it. There are a great number of authentic Hadith that elaborate upon its detail and marvels to acquaint us yet further with the very special qualities of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Some of the information has already been made known to you, dear reader, in previous chapters, however Allah-willing (inshaAllah), we will enlighten you with more indications in regards to its magnitude.
Sayyidina Anas ibn Malik tells us that he was told by the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,“Buraq was brought to me. It was a white animal, somewhat taller than a donkey, yet smaller than a mule. Its step extended a distance that equalled the range of its vision. I mounted and rode it until I was brought to Jerusalem. I tied it to the ring that the Prophets used and thereafter entered the masjid where I prayed two units of prayer.
When I came out, Jibra’il brought me two vessels, one of milk and the other of wine. I chose the one containing milk and Jibra’il said, “You have chosen the upright nature.” Then he ascended with me to the first Heaven and asked for it to be opened, and a voice asked, “Who is it?” He replied, “Jibra’il”. Then the voice asked, “Who is with you?” Jibra’il replied, “Muhammad”. The voice inquired, “Was he sent for?” and he answered, “He was sent for”, whereupon the door was opened for us and I found Adam who welcomed me and supplicated for me.
Then we ascended to the second Heaven and Jibra’il asked for it to be opened, and a voice inquired, “Who is it?” and he replied, “Jibra’il” and the voice asked “Who is with you?” To which he replied, “Muhammad”. It was asked, “Was he sent for?” and he answered, “He was.” And the door was opened for us, and there I found my cousins, Isa the son of Maryam, and Yahya the son of Zakariyya. They welcomed me and supplicated for me.
Then we ascended to the third Heaven and the same thing happened, and the door was opened for me and I met Yusuf. He had been given half of all beauty, and he too welcomed me and supplicated for me.
Then we ascended to the fourth Heaven and the same thing occurred. There I found Idrees and he welcomed me and supplicated for me. (Of Idris) Allah says, “Idrees; indeed, he was a man of truth and a Prophet.” [Qur’an 19:56]
Thereafter, we ascended to the fifth Heaven and the same occurred. Harun was there and he welcomed and supplicated for me.
Then, we ascended to the sixth Heaven, and the same thing occurred, and there I found Musa who welcomed and supplicated for me.
Thereafter we ascended to the seventh Heaven and the same thing occurred and I found Ibrahim leaning against the Bayt al Ma’mur (the Much-frequented House) pilgrimaged by seventy-thousand Angels in the Heavens who enter but do not emerge until the Day of Judgement.
Then he took me to the Lote-Tree of the Utmost Limit (Sidrat ul Muntaha): its leaves are like the ears of elephants and its fruits are like earthenware vessels. When a Command from Allah covers it, that which is covered is transformed in such a way that no creature is capable of describing on account of its absolute beauty. Then, Allah revealed to me what He revealed and He obligated to me fifty prayers during each day with its night.
Then I descended to Musa who advised me saying, “Go back to your Lord and ask Him to lighten it, your nation will never be able to do that. I tested the Children of Israel and know from experience.” So I went back to my Lord and requested, “My Lord, lighten it for my nation.” So He reduced it by five, and I returned to Musa and told him, “He reduced it by five for me.” Musa said, “Your nation will not be able to do that, go back again and asked Him to lighten it.” I kept going and coming between my Lord and Musa until Allah said, “Muhammad, they are five prayers throughout each day with its night. Each prayer counts as ten, equivalent to fifty prayers. Whosoever intends to do something good, but does not do it, a good action will be written for him. If he does it, ten will be written for him. Whosoever intends to do something bad and does not do it, nothing will be written against him. If he does it, then one bad action will be recorded.” Then I returned to Musa and told him and he said, “Go back to your Lord and ask Him to lighten it.” Whereupon I said, “I have gone back to my Lord so often that I am shy before Him.”
A fine detail of the preparatory Heavenly Ascent was narrated by Abu Dharr, who tells us that the Messenger of Allah,peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “The roof of my house was split open, and Jibra’il descended and opened my chest and washed it with water from Zamzam. Then he brought a gold dish filled with wisdom and belief and poured it into my chest and then sealed it. He took me by the hand and ascended with me to the Heavens.”
Qadi Iyaad continues to throw more light up the Night Journey by drawing our attention to the reports of several Companions:
Ibn Shihab reports: “Every Prophet except Adam and Ibrahim said to me (i.e. Sayyidina RasulAllah): “Welcome to the righteous Prophet and the righteous brother”. Adam and Ibrahim said: “A righteous son.”
Sayyidina ibn Abbas reports that the Prophet said, “Then he (Jibra’il) ascended with me until I reached a level plain where I heard the scratching of pens.” To this, Sayyidina Anas added, “Then he (Jibra’il) ascended with me until I reached the Lote-Tree of the Utmost Limit, and it was covered in colors that I did not recognize, thereafter I was brought into the Garden.”
Malik ibn Sa’sa’a tells us of the Prophet’s, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, conversation with Musa: he said, “When I passed Musa, he wept. He was asked, “Why do you weep?” He replied, “Lord, this is a young man who was sent after me, and more of his nation will enter the Garden than those of my nation.” Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah tells us, “Then he (the Prophet) travelled until he reached Jerusalem where he dismounted. He tied his mount to the Rock and prayed with the Angels. After the prayer, they asked, “Jibra’il, who is this with you?” He replied, “This is Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, the Seal of the Prophets.” Whereupon they inquired, “Has he been sent already?” To which he replied, “Yes”. And they said, “May Allah give him a long life as a brother and a caliph, an excellent brother, an excellent caliph!” Thereafter he met the spirits of the Prophets who praised their Lord and he mentioned what each of them said. They were Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, Dawud and Sulayman.” Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah went on to say, “Muhammad praised his Lord, the Mighty, the Glorified, and said, “You have all praised your Lord, and I will praise Him: Praise be to Allah who has sent me as a Mercy to the worlds and as a bringer of glad tidings and as a Warner for all mankind. He has sent down the Criterion on me that clarifies all things. He has made my nation (ummah) the best nation, and He has made my nation a median nation. They are the first and the last. He opened my chest for me and removed my burden from me. He has elevated my prominence and made me an Opener and a Seal.” Ibrahim said, “That is why Muhammad is better than you.”
Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reports (that Sayyidina RasulAllah said): “He brought me to the Lote-Tree of the Utmost Limit, which is in the sixth Heaven. Whatever rises from the earth to it reaches it and touches a part of it. Whatever falls from above it reaches it and touches part of it. Allah says, “When there covered the Lote Tree that which covered [it].” [Qur’an 53:16]
Ar Rabi ibn Anas narrates, “I (i.e. Sayyidina RasulAllah) was told, “This is the Lote-Tree of the Utmost Limit. Each of your nation who travels your Path will reach it. It is the furthest Lote-Tree. From its roots spring rivers of sweet water, rivers of unsalting milk, rivers of wine, a delight to its drinkers, and rivers of pure honey. The tree is so huge that it would take a rider seventy years just to ride across its shadow. One leaf from it would shade creation, light and Angels cover it.” Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah explained that this refers to the Words of Allah, “When there covered the Lote Tree that which covered [it].” [Qur’an 53:16]
Allah told him, “Ask,” and Sayyidina RasulAllah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, replied, “You took Ibrahim to be a close Friend and You gave him an immense kingdom. You spoke directly to Musa and gave Dawud an immense kingdom and made iron malleable for him, and You subjected the mountains to him. To Sulayman, You gave an immense kingdom and subjugated men, jinn and satans to him, and the winds and gave to him a kingdom the like of which none after him would have. To Isa, You taught the Torah and the Gospel and permitted him to heal the blind and the leper. You protected him and his mother from the accursed Satan so that he would find no way against them.” Allah then said to him, “I have taken you as a close Friend and a Beloved. In the Torah it is written, “Muhammad is the Beloved of the Merciful”. I have sent you to all people and made your nation such that none will be permitted to speak until they have all testified that you are My Worshipper and My Messenger. I made you to be the first of the Prophets to be created and the last to be sent. I have given you the seven dual verses (Mathani or seven oft-repeated verses),and I did not give them to any Prophet before you. To you I have given the seals of the “Cow” chapter (Surah al Baqarah i.e. the last verses)from the treasure under My Throne, and these I did not given to any Prophet before you. I have made you an Opener and a Seal.”
In another version it reads, “The Messenger of Allah was given three things: he was given the five prayers, the seals of Surah al Baqarah, and the pardoning for the major sins of his nation for each of his nation who did not associate anything with Allah.” Allah says, “His heart did not lie [about] what it saw.” [Qur’an 53:11] Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Mas’ud tells us that the Messenger of Allah saw Jibra’il in his reality and described him as having six hundred wings.
Sharik ibn Abi Namr says that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, saw Musa in the seventh Heaven, then he was taken higher to that of which Allah has knowledge. Musa said, “I did not think that anyone would be raised above me.”
Sayyidina Anas tells us that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, prayed with the Prophets in Jerusalem. He also tells that he said, “One day when I was sitting, Jibra’il came to me and nudged me between my shoulders, whereupon I arose and ascended to a tree in which there was something similar to two birds nests. He sat in one and I sat in the other, and it grew until it filled both the east and west. If I had wished, I could have touched the sky. I looked around and glanced at Jibra’il and it appeared to me as if he was a piece of transparent cloth. I recognized the superiority of his knowledge of Allah over mine. Then the Gate of Heaven was opened and I saw a blinding light and a veil dropped below me. The pearl and ruby split open and Allah revealed to me what He wished to reveal.”
Imam Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, informs us, “When Allah wanted to teach His Messenger the Call to Prayer(Adhaan), Jibra’il came to him with a mount called Buraq. As he went to mount it, it shied away from him and Jibra’il said,”Be still, by Allah, no Worshipper has ever ridden you who is more honored before Allah than Muhammad.” Then he mounted and rode it until it brought him to the veil just below the Merciful, whereupon an Angel came out of the veil and the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, inquired, “Jibra’il, who is this?” He replied, “By the One who has sent you with the truth, I have the closest station to Allah of all creatures, yet I have not seen this Angel from the time I was created until this moment.” The Angel said, “Allah is the Greatest! Allah is the Greatest!” Then a Voice came from behind the veil saying, “My worshipper has spoken the truth, I am the Greatest, I am the Greatest!” The Angel then said, “I bear witness that there is no God except Allah” and a Voice from behind the veil said, “My Worshipper has spoken the truth, there is no God except Me,” and the rest of the Call to Prayer was mentioned, although he did not mention the response to the words, “Come to prayer, come to success.” After this, he said, “Then the Angel took Muhammad by the hand as a guide so that he was the prayer leader for the inhabitants of the Heavens, including Adam and Nuh.”
The grandson of Al Hussain tells us that, “Allah honoured Muhammad above the inhabitants of the Heavens of the earth.”
Dear reader, we must understand that it is the creatures who are veiled in this life, not the Creator, because He is never absent but eyes never reach Him, whereas He reaches the eyes. The Creator, Exalted is He, is not connected with anything that might veil Him because veils are defined by physical senses and reflective lights on substances. He veils the eyes, the inner eyes, and the perception of His creatures how and when He wills as He has said. However, on the Day of Judgement, Allah will be seen by the elite amongst the believers in Paradise, but not with the physical method of this life’s sighting because Allah is removed from directions and is neither contained by either space or location. Allah tells us, “On that Day, there shall be radiant faces, gazing towards their Lord.” [Qur’an 75:22-23] Whereas the unbelievers are veiled from this rank, as Allah said, “No indeed, on that Day they shall be veiled from their Lord.” [Qur’an 83:15]
The preceding Hadith speaks of an Angel “coming out of the veil”, therefore it is understood that it is a veil which veils what is beyond it and so the Angels cannot grasp the power and immensity of Allah nor yet the wonders of what He created of the earthly life and the Angelic world of the whole universe beyond that point. This is an indication that the veil is not particular to the Essence, rather to the creation. Ka’b explained that it is there at the Lote-Tree of the Ending, that the knowledge of the Angels ends, and it is there that they find the command of Allah and their knowledge does not extend further than that point.
The Hadith says, “Then a Voice (having no direction) came (as if ) from behind the veil saying (not heard by the ear, rather by the heart): My worshipper has spoken the truth, I am the Greatest, I am the Greatest!”
From this, it is understood that the Angel does not hear the words of Allah here, rather they are from behind a veil. Allah says, “It does not belong to any human that Allah should speak to him except by Revelation, or from behind a veil, or that He sent a Messenger to reveal whatsoever He will by His permission. He is the High, the Wise.” [Qur’an 42:51] The meaning of this is that he does not see Allah, his eye is veiled from seeing Him.