On 27 Rajab, Muslims remember Isra’ and Miraj, the miraculous Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad. The exact date of the event is uncertain, but the majority of scholars place it at 12 to 16 months before the Hijrah.
One night, Prophet Muhammad was sleeping near the Ka’bah in Makkah, when the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) came to him, woke him up and, taking him by the arm, led him to Al-Buraq, a beast resembling a horse with two huge wings springing from its back.
From Makkah, Al-Buraq took off toward Jerusalem. There, the Prophet was met by all the other Prophets. He dismounted, tethered Al-Buraq to a ring in the gate of Jerusalem, and led them in Prayers.
Two vessels were then brought to him, one containing milk, the other wine. Muhammad drank the milk. Jibreel said:
“O Muhammad, you enjoy what is pure. Surely you will guide your people to the right path.”
This journey demonstrates God’s might and ability to make possible the impossible. The concepts of time and space as we understand them do not apply, and what applies cannot be perceived by our limited faculties.
Led by the Angel Jibreel, the Prophet began his ascent through the seven heavens, where he reached Sadrat Al-Muntaha, the remotest lote tree, symbolizing the end of worldly knowledge. He was then taken before the Divine Presence.
The Obligation of Prayer
Allah (God) enjoined the Muslims to perform Salah (ritual Prayers) 50 times a day. After his audience with Allah, Muhammad met Moses, who asked him how many Prayers were laid upon his followers.
When the Prophet replied 50, Moses told him, “the congregational Prayer is heavy and your people are weak”. He advised him to go back and ask Allah to reduce them.
Muhammad made several trips back and forth, and each time, the Merciful reduced the number till finally He reduced it to 5 Prayers a day and if they are performed properly the worshiper will be given credit for 50.
The Prophet continued his descent till he arrived back in Makkah. When he told the people what had happened to him, Muslims who were weak in faith doubted the Prophet’s report. Yet when his friend and long supporter Abu Bakr was asked to take a stand on the issue, he replied:
“If Muhammad said it happened, then it must have happened. I believed him when he first talked about his divine revelation, why should I doubt him now?”
Thus on this occasion Abu Bakr earned the title of As-Siddiq (the Veracious).
A Trial of Faith
…and We appointed the vision which We showed thee as an trial for mankind… (Quran 17:60)
This miracle was the first serious trial for the companions’ faith when they were confronted with an issue that cannot be measured empirically. For the Prophet, after seeing Allah’s signs, his faith was established on certainty.
The trip from Makkah to Jerusalem was not chosen haphazardly. This area is known as the cradle of all religions and Muhammad’s message encompasses all the preceding ones.
This miraculous journey establishes several facts. First, the status of the Prophet Muhammad, as he was chosen to lead all the prophets in prayer, and to go where no one else, not even Jibreel, was allowed.
The journey also establishes the sanctity of Jerusalem, because it is the point where the earth and sky meet and from there the Prophet ascended to heaven. Therefore, the whole of Jerusalem and not only the mosque is considered in the eyes of Muslims a sacred place to behold and cherish after Makkah and Madinah.
As in the time of the Prophet, Muslims now are facing all sorts of trials and their faith is being constantly tested.
On this blessed occasion let us recall that our faith is the only real thing; it is our life-saver in this sea of turmoil surrounding us. I am convinced that we are invincible as long as our belief in Allah and in the Message of His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is intact.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)