We usually look at the night journey as a miraculous experience and a heavenly gift to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his darkest time. However, the night journey was never just for the Prophet (PBUH); it can be a spiritual journey for any Muslim willing to look at it from another perspective.
Marking the occasion of Al-Isra’ and Al-Mi’raj, the following is an extract of an original article published at https://www.dar-alifta.org
The Isra` and Mi’raj, though an exclusive physical experience for Prophet Muhammad, prefigures in many aspects of Islam.
It is possible therefore for Muslims to experience the journey and partake of its spiritual blessings and bounties. The journey may be viewed symbolically to represent our own journey in this world towards resurrection.
Our own spiritual journey in this world to the next, may be seen as reflective of the Prophet’s Isra` and Mi’raj. However, we do not have to travel through space and time to attain the divine presence of Allah or to see His signs.
His signs are everywhere for those who reflect.
He says, “And He shows you (always) His signs” [Quran 40: 81], and “And say, “Praise be to Allah Who will soon show you His signs” [Quran 27: 93].
In many places in the Quran, Allah invites us to ponder His signs. Only those who observe and reflect can see that the universe is entirely composed of the signs of Allah and attest to His truth.
Some of the signs of Allah which we experience everyday are enumerated in the words of Allah,
“It is He who sends down rain from the sky: from it you drink, and out of it (grows) the vegetation on which you feed your cattle. With it He produces for you corn, olives, date-palms, grapes and every kind of fruit: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought…” [Quran 16: 10-13].
The Divine Presence
The Isra` started from the Holy Mosque with certain initiation features. Prophet Muhammad’s heart is washed and purified and filled with wisdom and faith in preparation for his divine meeting with Allah the Almighty.
Similarly, Muslims who wish to attain the divine presence of Allah must purify their hearts, strive in the cause of Allah against all temptations, stand firm in the face of suffering, and demonstrate steadfastness of faith.
Allah the Almighty says,
“And their Lord has accepted of them, and answered them: “Never will I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: Ye are members, one of another: Those who have left their homes, or been driven out therefrom, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain,- verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath;- A reward from the presence of Allah, and from His presence is the best of rewards” [Quran 3: 195].
It is these servants of Allah who will reside in paradise, their faces bright “looking towards their Lord” [Quran 75: 23].
Jarir Ibn Abdullah narrated, “The Prophet came out to us on a night of full moon and said, ‘You will see your Lord on the Day of Resurrection as you see this (full moon)” [Bukhari].
Purity of heart and steadfastness of faith therefore represent our own Mi’raj towards our Lord, the Creator.
This does not however mean that a Muslim who truly wishes to come in the presence of his Lord and commune with Him, must await this splendid reward in the hereafter. Every Muslims can attain divine presence through ritual prayer.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “When any of you stands in prayer, he is in communication with his Lord, so let him pay attention to how he speaks to Him” [Bukhari].
A Univerdsal Message
The fact that Prophet Muhammad led the prophets and messengers of Allah in prayer, demonstrates two things. First, that all the prophets and messengers were sent from Allah. We must therefore believe in all of them and respect them.
Second, the message with which the Prophet came, Islam, is the last of all heavenly religions and, as such, is the universal religion to which all the people must submit until the Day of Resurrection.
The Isra` and Mi’raj carry many great and noble meanings. Those meanings are not only relevant to the Prophet but to all Muslims and believers.
At the Prophet’s time, the journey brought glad tidings to the believers and strengthened their faith.
Similarly, when commemorating this occasion, Muslims are instructed to remember that for us, the Isra` and Mi’raj represents an inward journey towards the depths of our hearts, in search of Allah the Almighty, by which we will be able to realize our ultimate journey towards the eternal bliss of coming in His presence.