Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
One of the most important lessons of the journey of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj (Night Journey and Ascension) is that it highlights the high status that Al-Aqsa Mosque has in the Muslim `Ummah. It was to Al-Aqsa Mosque that the Night Journey of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was made and from it that the Prophet’s ascension to the Heavens took place.
The journey of Al-Israa’ was a sign that the leadership of the world would move to the Muslim Ummah. Such leadership was based on mercy and justice, not on oppression and aggression.
Another significant lesson of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj is knowing the importance of Prayer; it is through Prayer that one can directly communicate with his Almighty Lord.
Al-Israa’ was a land-to-land journey that Allah Almighty caused His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to make from Makkah to Jerusalem, that is, from Almighty Allah’s Sacred House to Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Allah Almighty says, “Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant Place of Worship the neighborhood whereof We have blessed.” (Al-Israa’ 17:1) The “Inviolable Place of Worship” mentioned in this verse refers to Allah’s Sacred House and the Far Distant Place of Worship refers to Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Mind that Allah Almighty had blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its neighborhood and referred to it even before the Prophet’s Mosque was built, as the Prophet’s Mosque was established after his immigration to Madinah.
Mind also that when Prayer was ordained on Muslims, Al-Aqsa Mosque was the qiblah to which they were to turn during Prayer. They would turn their faces in Prayer towards it for three years in Makkah, and for 16 months in Madinah before the qiblah was changed to Allah’s Sacred House.
Besides, Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the three mosques to which Muslims are required to dedicate time for visiting; the other two mosques are the Sacred Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque. This shows that Jerusalem is the third sacred place after Makkah and Madinah in Islam.
Allah Almighty wanted to establish and emphasize the significance and sacredness of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Muslims’ hearts so that they do not cede it for anything.
They are to hold it as sacred as both Allah’s Sacred House and His Prophet’s Mosque.
That was why the Muslims [when they were strong] were zealous to keep Al-Aqsa Mosque under their rule and protection.
Hence, Muslims must realize the importance of Jerusalem in their history and the significance of Al-Aqsa Mosque in their religion and life.
Allah Almighty wills that we remember the importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque when we celebrate the anniversary of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj.
This is to remind us of the gravity of the circumstances in which Al-Aqsa Mosque is in this age. We must not give up our responsibility in defending Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem. This is a sacred issue to fight for. Brothers and sisters, we should not, under any circumstances, give up our role in that regard.
The Jews dreamed of establishing a state (in the land of Palestine) and managed to achieve that dream. That being so, we at least must not give up hope that one day we will again have Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem under our control. We should not lose hope of that at all, even if we see surrender embodied everywhere in our status quo.
We must believe that Allah Almighty is with us and that He Almighty will grant us victory and make Islam prevail, as He, Most High, always supports the true believers.
Imams Ahmad and At-Tabarani reported on the authority of Abu Imama Al-Bahilai (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “A group of my nation will keep being in the side of right and victorious over its enemy; no party of their enemy can cause them harm; the only harm that may afflict them is (physical) exhaustion. They would be like so until the Day of Judgment.” The Prophet’s Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) asked, “Where would they be, Allah’s Messenger?” He (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “In Jerusalem and the surrounding vicinity.”
The second most important lesson that we are to learn from Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj is concerning Prayer (salah). It is known that Prayer was ordained on that great night.
It is because of the great importance of Prayer that Allah Almighty ordained it in heaven. He Almighty sent His Messenger to mankind (peace and blessings be upon him) and caused him to go on a night journey and ascend to heaven and the Lote Tree to inform him (peace and blessings be upon him) of the ordinance of Prayer.
Mind that all other ordinances were decreed on the earth. This indicates how important Prayer is in Islam. It symbolizes ascension to heaven; it is the Muslim’s spiritual ascension to heaven.
Thus, Prayer is the gift that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) brought with him from that journey to all Muslims so that they can worship Allah Almighty through it.
Prayer had to do with Al-Aqsa Mosque. Al-Aqsa Mosque was the first qiblah in Islam. If it is true that Al-Israa’ took place in the tenth year of the Prophet’s mission, this would mean that the Muslims’ qiblah in Prayer was towards Al-Aqsa Mosque for three years before the Hijrah to Madinah and 16 months after it.
Then Almighty Allah decreed that the qiblah be changed towards the Sacred Mosque. Allah Almighty says, (So turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and ye (O Muslims), whosesoever ye may be, turn your faces when ye pray) toward it.) (Al-Baqarah 2:143)
When the qiblah was changed, the Jews raised doubts about that. Allah Almighty says, “The foolish of the people will say: What hath turned them from the qiblah which they formerly observed?” (Al-Baqarah 2:142)
The Jews spread rumors that the Muslims’ Prayer [to the first qiblah] was invalid and so would not be rewarded. Allah Almighty refuted their claims as He the Almighty says, “And We appointed the qiblah which ye formerly observed only that We might know him who follow the Messenger from him who turn on his heels. In truth it was a hard (test) save for those whom Allah guided. But it was not Allah’s purpose that your faith should be in vain, for Allah is full of pity, Merciful toward mankind.) (Al-Baqarah 2:143) According to this verse, “your faith” refers to Prayer as Prayer is a symbol of one’s faith.
To sum up, Prayer is the spiritual means through which Muslims can ascend to their Lord. If the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ascended to heaven (once), we, brothers and sisters, could spiritually ascend to there as much as we can through Prayer.
Allah Almighty says in a qudsi (divine) hadith, “I have divided the Prayer into two halves between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks. When the servant says, ‘Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe,’ Allah the Most High says, ‘My servant has praised Me.’ And when he (the servant) says, ‘The Most Compassionate, the Merciful,’ Allah the Most High says, ‘My servant has lauded Me.’ And when he (the servant) says, ‘Master of the Day of judgment,’ He Almighty remarks, ‘My servant has glorified Me.’ And when he (the worshiper) says, ‘Thee do we worship and of Thee do we ask help,’ He Almighty says, ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for.’ Then, when he (the worshiper) says, ‘Guide us to the straight path, the path of those to whom Thou hast been Gracious not of those who have incurred Thy displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray,’ He (Allah Almighty) says, ‘This is for My servant, and My servant will receive what he asks for.’”
Allah Almighty knows best.