The Mir-aaj or Ascension of the Holy Prophet of Islam
By Dr. Nizam Ajmir Mohammed
One of the greatest events in the life of the Holy Prophet of Islam was his ascension from earth to the higher sphere. This Mir-aaj or Ascension was a special favour bestowed by Almighty Allaah upon Muhammad (upon whom be peace). Being a Divine favour, it is not, therefore, an event which yields to the materialist interpretation of it as visionary, nor can we accept it as a journey made in the midst of dreams. Very often those who attempt to rationalise the powers of God within the limits of human understanding and achievements are those who have unconsciously fallen under the spell of materialism. The Mir-aaj was a physical ascension into space. To believe that it was a dream or a vision is to deprive it of its significance. God had honoured prophets many times in the past, and through the Mir-aaj He had honoured His last Messenger, Muhammad (u.w.b.p.). Adam was created without parents, Jesus was born without the agency of a father, Abraham was made to survive scorching fire, Jonah lived in the belly of a whale for several days. Moses cast down his rod and this was turned into a serpent, and a princess was transported to King Solomon in the twinkling of an eye. These and the other prophets all had unique experiences in their life. The Mir-aaj of the Holy Prophet of Islam was also an experience of a unique nature. It took place in the 12th year of the Prophet’s mission, on Monday the 27th night of the month of Rajab, and about one year and five months before Hijra or emigration from Mecca to Medina.
On that night the Prophet was at Mecca, staying in the house of his cousin Hind (Umm Hani), daughter of Abu Talib. After he had said the night prayers, he went to sleep. He was then visited by the angel Jibrael who awoke him. The Prophet himself said:
“Whilst I was asleep, he (Jibrael) came to me, and cut me open from my breast to below my navel, took out my heart, washed the cavity with Zemzem water, and then filled my heart with faith and wisdom.”
After this special process of purification, the Holy Prophet, accompanied by the angel Jibrael, went to the Kabah and seated himself in the Hatim of the Kabah. (Hatim is a place near the Kabah surrounded by a low wall). A strange mode of transport was then brought to him. Its colour was white and it was called Bur-aaq. Bur-aaq comes from the Arabic word Barq which means lightning or electricity; Bur-aaq itself being an electrically propelled vehicle. It had eyes of emerald as great as two stars; pearls and other precious jewels adorned its two wings which were strong, multi-coloured and resplendent with light. It was neither a male or female but like angels, a being of a different kind. It stretched as far as the eye could see. The Holy Prophet said,:
“It put its step as long as its eye-sight reached. It was mounted thereon.”
Climbing on the Bur-aaq, Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) was taken to the sacred Mosque of Jerusalem, a journey which in those days normally took a month. Of this journey (called Isra), the Holy Qur’aan says:
“Glory be to God Who did take His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless in order that We might show him some of Our signs; for He is the One Who heareth and seeth all things.” (17:1)
The Sacred Mosque is the Masjidu’l Haram in Mecca, containing the Kabah. The Farthest Mosque is the Masjidu’l Aqsa (Baitul-Muqaddas) at Jerusalem. On reaching the “Farthest Mosque”, the Prophet left the Bur-aaq outside and centered the Mosque. Present there were all the Prophets from Adam to Jesus. They arranged themselves in seven rows, and the Prophet led them in two rakaats of prayers. After this, he again mounted the Bur-aaq, and was transported through the vast expanse of space. Accompanied by the angel Jibrael he visited the seven heavens. In each heaven, they were greeted by the angels, and the Prophet was specially welcomed by them.
In the first heaven, the Prophet saw Adam, and Jibrael said,:
“This is your father Adam, salute him.”
Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) saluted him and he answered it saying,:
“You are welcome, O good Son and good Prophet.”
Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) also saw angels standing in rows, their eyes fixed downwards and reciting praises to Allaah. Jibrael informed him that these angels had no other duty but this, and would continue this worship to the day of Judgment. The Prophet also saw some naked, hungry and thirsty people. They were being dragged to hell. Jibrael said that these were those who were unkind to the poor, not spending their wealth to help the less fortunate members of the community. Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) also saw a number of people being driven on spikes of fire. These were the slanderers and backbiters and those who prevented the righteous people from performing their religious duties. There were also people from whose bodies their flesh was being sliced. These were the ones who were hypocritical of the faults of others and who spoke ill of others in their absence. The Prophet then saw a group of people with very large abdomen, yellow complexion, handcuffs on their hands, and rings on their necks. Because of their heaviness, these people fell prone on their faces whenever they attempted to stand. They were in the midst of severe chastisement. These were the people who took usury and who have been referred to in the Holy Qur’aan as follows:
“Those who swallow usury cannot arise except as he arises when the devil
prostrates by (his) touch.” (2: 275).
From the first heavens, they went to the second. There the Prophet met John and Jesus, and saluted them both, and they returned it with the words:
“Welcome good brother and Prophet.”
Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) saw a large number of angels standing in lines, half bent with hands resting on their knees and eyes fixed downwards (as in Rukoo of Namaaz). They were offering praise to Allaah.
In the third heaven, the Prophet saw a large number of angels, arranged in rows, in a state of prostration and reciting praises to Allaah. Here Rasulullah met Yusuff (Joseph) and Dawood (David) and his son Sulaiman (Solomon). They saluted one another. In the fourth heaven, Hazrat met Idriss. Here he also met Hazrat Israel, the angel of Death, also called Malek-ul-Maut. In the fifth heaven, the Prophet saw angels in prayer and in a state of submission. He also met Haruun (Aaron), the brother of Moses. In the sixth heaven, he met Hazrat Muusa (Moses). They saluted each other. As Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) passed him, Moses wept. The Prophet asked him the cause of his weeping, and he replied,:
“Because one is sent after me, of whose people more will enter paradise than of mine.”
The Prophet also saw many angels reciting verses in praise of Allaah.
They continued their journey and reached the seventh heaven. There the Prophet met and saluted Hazrat Ibrahiim, the “Friend of Allaah” (Khaliil-ul-laah). Ibrahiim saluted him in return saying:
“Welcome good son and good Prophet.”
Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) was taken to the angel Israfiil who would give the signal on the Day of Resurrection. The Prophet then saw the Bait-ul-Mamur or the Much Visited House. This is the Kabah of the Heavens. Here the angels all assemble for congregational prayers. Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) was offered a vessel full of wine, another of
“This is your character and that of your community. The Islamic community will be one that keeps the Golden Mean as milk does for it has neither the intoxicating qualities of wine nor the cloying taste of honey. Truly you are wisely guided. If you had tasted of wine your people would have been drowned in drunkenness and corruption. Milk is of religion: you and your people will be of it.”
Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) was then taken to the Sidratu’l-Mun-taha – The Lote Tree on the Boundary. The tree stands at the seventh Heaven and marks the furthest limit for any human being, angel or creation of God. The Prophet, however, was granted the honour of proceeding further than this point, but he had to go alone. Jibrael told him
“This is the Lote Tree on the Boundary, the Boundary of No Return… If I advance a bit more, display of God’s light will burn me.”
The Bur-aaq then disappeared and Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) mounted another mode of transport called Raf Raf whose colour was all green. Mounting this, Hazrat crossed many screens of light and darkness till he reached near the Presence of Allaah. This meeting has been described in the Holy Qur’aan (53:1-18).
Knowledge of the heavens and the earth was revealed to the Prophet and the mysteries of the universe explained to him. He said:
“Allaah placed the world before me in its most miniature size and I saw the entire world minutely as a man sees the palm of his hand; and I learnt whatever would happen in it till the last Day of Judgement.”
“O Allaah, You took Ibrahiim for la friend. You spoke to Moses face to face; You raised Enoch to a lofty station: You granted Solomon a kingdom such as no one after him has attained; You gave the Psalms to David; What then have You reserved for me, O Allaah?”
Almighty Allaah replied:
“O Muhammad, I am taking you as a friend, just as I took Ibrahiim as a friend. I am speaking to you just as I spoke face to face with Moses. I am giving you the opening chapter of the Noble Qur’aan, and the closing verses of the chapter on The Cow,
“These passages are from the treasure house of My Throne, and I have granted them to no Prophet before you. I am sending you as a Prophet to the white people of the earth and to the black people and the red people, to all men and spirits, since never before you have I sent a Prophet to all of them. I shall send you down the key to all books and guardian over them, the Qur’aan, which we ourselves have set apart. I shall exalt your memory.”
Rasulullah then visited paradise and afterwards, hell. The Prophet then said:
“The religious duty of saying fifty prayers was laid upon me and my community, and so I departed. I looked up, and behold something had passed between us; a veil of light was drawn in front of Him, blazing brilliantly for a distance that none but Allaah can know. So intense was the glow that had the veil been rent at any point, it would have burnt up all of God’s creation. Then the green carpet on which I was seated floated down with me, gently rising and falling through the lofty region till it brought me back to Jibrael, who helped me to step off it. Then the carpet floated up again until it disappeared from sight.”
On his return, he met Moses who asked:
“What have you been commanded?”
The Prophet replied:
“Fifty prayers every day.”
Moses said to him:
“Verily your people will not be able to perform fifty prayers every day. By God, I have had experience with people before you, and had to strive hard with the children of Israel. Return to your Lord and ask Him to lighten this for your community.”
Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) returned, and ten prayers were taken off. However, on returning, Moses told him the same as he said before, so the Prophet went back and God remitted ten others. Moses ages expressed the view that this would be difficult for the followers. The Prophet returned to Allaah several times. Prayers were reduced until five prayers per day were ordered. Allaah said
“O Muhammad, it shall be five prayers per day and night, but each prayer will count as ten, so that will sum up to fifty prayers. They are five, but they will count as fifty, for with Me no sentence changes.”
As Rasulullah passed by Moses, he informed him. Moses advised him to return to Allaah for a further reduction, saying:
“Your community will never be able to perform five prayer services daily.”
The Prophet replied,:
“I have asked Him till I am quiet ashamed. I cannot return to Him again. I am satisfied, and resign the work of my people to Allaah.”
As the Prophet passed out the heavenly spheres, a crier called out:
“I have established My Divine commandments, and have made them easy for My Servants.”
Thus was accomplished the Mir-aaj or Ascension of the Holy Prophet of Islam.
The next morning the Prophet announced the news to the People. They jeered at him. However, Abu Bakr immediately believed in every detail of the Prophet’s narration. Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) said:
“O Abu Bakr, you believe in every detail of my narration?”
Abu Bakr replied:
“Hazrat, I do believe. If Allaah can send Jibrael thousands of times to the earth, He can also take you to the heavens.”
It was then that Abu BAkr received the title of “Siddiq” (“Virtuous”).
The people gathered around the Prophet in large numbers, trying to extract from him details of his space journey. They knew that he had never been to Jerusalem so they asked him to describe the Bait-ul-Muqaddas or Mosque at Jerusalem. Muhammad (u.w.b.p.) accurately described the Mosque to the people.
The night journey baffled the minds of the people. This is not surprising since it was an event whose nature was far in advance of the age during which it took place. The human mind was not yet fully developed to think in terms of space-vehicle and space-travel, and penetration into the spheres of the unknown world. As a result, some people considered it a dream; others maintained that it was a state of hallucination, while a few believe that the event was purely a spiritual one in which the soul had left the body and had experienced a spiritual flight. However, the majority of Muslims consider the Mir-aaj as a physical event.
Through the Mir-aaj, five prayers per day were made compulsory for Muslims, and the Holy Prophet of Islam was also able to give to his followers, an account of heaven and hell. Through the Mir-aaj, the Holy Prophet also pioneered space-travel. The internationally renowned Muslim poet and philosopher Iqbal was greatly inspired by the Mir-aaj, and wrote his immortal book, Javid Nama, in which he takes his readers into space, accompanied by his mentor Jalaludin Rumi.
Modern space-scientists have drunk deep from the same fountainhead of inspiration, and are attempting to conquer time and space as the Holy Prophet had so successfully done fourteen hundred years ago.