Holy Prophet's (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) Journey by Night
(Isra' and Mi'raj)
Of the multi-myriad nights that have fallen upon the earth, there is one particular night that turned into a great light. The whole firmament on that night was appareled in a superb robe of brightness. The resplendent luster of that night is not the figment of any poetic imagination. It was not a dream, nor a reverie, nor a trance, nor a fantasy. It was as lively and real as life itself.
On that night by the will of Allah, the physical laws came to a halt for Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam). There was no force of gravitation. Immeasurable distances were conquered instantly. Time had become timeless. All veils were raised from between the earth and the heavens. The space and the outer space became fathomable for a human being; the righteous Man and the Righteous Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam). It was the night of Isra' and Mi’raj, or his nightly journey from Makkah (Masjid-il-Haram) to Jerusalem (Masjid-il-Aqsa) and the Celestial Ascension thence, and back.
The night we are talking was the night of the most exalted miracle associated with the benign personage of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu alayhi wasallam). There is consensus that it was the twenty-seventh night of the month of Rajah, sometime shortly before his migration to Madinah. The event of Isra' is described in Qur'an Majeed, thus:
-- “Glory to (Allah) who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque (in Makkah) to the Farthest Mosque (in Jerusalem) whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs.......”
Onward from Masjid-il-Aqsa began his Heavenly Ascension, or Mi'raj, which took him to the seven heavens, the heavens about which Qur'an Majeed speaks:
“See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another”. [71:15]
His Mi'raj raised him to the farthest point in the high heaven, that is the Lote-tree. This part of his journey is described in Qur'an Majeed in the following verses:
'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 revelation 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: 7hen he approached and came closer, and was at a distance of two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; so did (Allah) convey the revelation to His Servant, (conveyed) what he (meant) to convey. 7he (Prophets (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) 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 decent, 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 swayed, nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see of the Signs of his Lord, the Greatest!' [53:1-18]
With Body and Soul
The expression of the Qur'anic verses and the continuously narrated sayings of the Holy Prophet (Sallalahu alayhi wasallam) establish that Isra' and Miraj were not a journey of the spirit alone, but of the Prophet's '(Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) body and soul together. The very first word, Soob-haa-na, points to the startling proclamation of an unusual phenomenon, because this Arabic word is used to draw prompt attention to a wonder of some extraordinary happening of magnificence. Were Isra' and Miraj confined to the soul, that would mean going up only in a dream. It would, as such, amount to nothing to wonder about. A dream can be experienced by .any human being, visualizing in his mind during sleep, not with his eye, scenes out of the ordinary.
Dreams of the Prophet of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) are true dreams no doubt, but there is nonetheless a difference between the reality itself and its perception in a dream. The latter constitutes true reflection of the reality, or a faithful image of the Truth, but not the Reality or the Truth itself. Dreams are the creatures of sleep, when the eye is not at work. Isra' and Miraj cannot be handiwork of dream when Qur'an Majeed clearly refers to seeing with eyes:
'(His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! For truly, did he see of the Signs of his Lord. 7he Greatest'.
Sometimes astray voices are raised to contend that the journey was only a spiritual experience. However, those who have firm faith in the word of Allah and the sayings of his Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam), would reach the only conclusion that it was a physical journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and hence to the Heavens, and back. Those who raise doubts about it, in fact, deny the supreme power and doubt the omnipresence of almighty Allah and his absolute control over the domain of possibilities.
Shah Waliullah's View
In comparatively recent times, Hazrat Shah Waliullah ('alaihir rahmah) dwelt at some length on the miraculous phenomenon of Isra' and Miraj. He said that this event occurred to the holy Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) body in a woken state. It was at a point midway between the spiritual and the Physical where the imperatives of these two states consummated. In this process, the soul began to extend its sphere of dominance over the body and the body, under intense spiritual motivation, started to influence the affairs of the soul. Thus the two together went to the high heaven up to the point where even angels cannot reach.
In the Qur'anic verses, there is the pointer of Servant 'Abd' which obviously refers not to the soul alone, but to the combination of body and soul.
Besides, Sahih Muslim has it that the last verses of the Qur'anic chapter Al-Baqarah (The Cow) were revealed to the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) while he was in the high heaven. Revelation of Scripture did not take place in a state of sleep of the recipient messengers. It does not relate to an inert and effortless interplay of imagination in the sub-conscious but to a state of intelligent perception. Such a state of human understanding cannot be related to sleep. This goes to prove that when 'Isra abd Miraj took place, the body and soul of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) were held together.
Writing about substantial reality of the spirit, a scholar of our time has said:
'Matter has the capacity to nurture an entity in its lap that is on the plane of the supernatural. No wall or remembrance exists between the natural and the supernatural, and there is nothing to prevent a material being from transforming into an extra material being through a gradual evolution'.
This statement points to a meta-physical relationship between the motive forces latent in the body and soul; but almighty Allah is the creator of physical laws and phenomena, not subservient to them. He says: 'Be', and it simultaneously comes to pass. Isra' and Mi'raj took place in a wink, because that was his will and his will overruled the normal physical laws ordinarily applicable to man, time and space.
Isra'and Miraj of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is the most sublime miracle associated with him. It was a response to the call from Allah for the indoctrination of divine purposes, and to inculcate, in his Prophet the sum total of his scheme of things. It was to let him see Allah's signs with his own eyes, to gain the most definite knowledge, and to have access to the truth of assured certainty. It was the happiest combination of 'ain-ul-yaqeen, 'ilm-ul-yaqeen. and haq-qul-yaqeen.
For us there is a lesson that with righteousness of the self and fear and love for Allah, one can look forward to achieving, in the sight of Allah, the highest status as his creature and servant. The poet of the east, Iqbal, has summed up the miraculous phenomenon of Miraj of the holy Prophet Muhammad (Saliallahu alayhi' wasallam) in his beautiful couplet which, in translation reads:
'From chosen Prophet's celestial Ascension, I have learned the lesson:
That the heaven on high -
Is well within human reach'. [Yaqeen International]
Women of Piety
I take oath by Allah and say:
'Give women Deeni education and then see their superiority. You will then witness in them intelligence, understanding and even accomplishment in such worldly affairs which pertain to them. Women who possess degrees of B.A. and M.A. cannot vie in understanding and intelligence with women who have acquired Deeni knowledge, Yes, in deception and schemes the western-educated women may be ahead. But, remember, that words of intelligence will emanate from women of piety' [Hadhrat Masihullah]