سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَـٰتِنَآ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ
Isra 17: 1 Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) [above all that (evil) they associate with Him] Who took His slave (Muhammadﷺ) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) to Masjid Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem), the neighborhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammadﷺ) of Our Ayat (signs). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.
Hadith: Narrated Malik bin Sasaa (R): Rasoolullahﷺ said, “While I was at the Ka’aba in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness, (an angel recognized me) as the man lying between two men. [Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib and Ja’afar bin Abi Talib – RA]. A golden tray full of wisdom and belief was brought to me and my body was cut open from the throat to the lower part of the abdomen and then my abdomen was washed with Zamzam water and (my heart was) filled with wisdom and belief. Al-Buraq, a white animal, smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me, and I set out with Jibreel. When I reached the nearest heaven. Jibreel said to the heaven gatekeeper, ‘Open the gate.’ The gatekeeper asked, ‘Who is it?’ He said, ‘Jibreel.’ The gatekeeper asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibreel said, ‘Muhammad.’ The gatekeeper said, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibreel said, ‘Yes.’ Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!’ Then I met Adam and greeted him, and he said, ‘You are welcome, O son and a Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the 2nd heaven. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibreel said, ‘Jibreel.’ It was said, ‘Who is with you?’ He said, ‘Muhammad’ It was asked, ‘Has he been sent for?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ It was said, ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!” Then I met Esa and Yahya who said, ‘You are welcome, O brother and a Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the 3rd heaven. It was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibreel said, ‘Jibreel.’ It was asked, ‘Who is with you? Jibreel said, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has he been sent for?’ ‘Yes,’ said Jibreel. ‘He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!’ There I met Yusuf and greeted him, and he replied, ‘You are welcome, O brother and a Prophet!’ Then we ascended to the 4th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met Idris and greeted him. He said, ‘You are welcome, O brother and Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the 5th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged. There I met and greeted Haroon who said, ‘You are welcome, O brother and a Prophet”. Then we ascended to the 6th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged. There I met and greeted Musa who said, ‘You are welcome, O brother and a Prophet.’ When I proceeded on, he started weeping and on being asked why he was weeping, he said, ‘O Rabb! Followers of this youth who was sent after me will enter Jannah in greater number than my followers.’ Then we ascended to the 7th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged. There I met and greeted Ibrahim who said, ‘You are welcome, O son and a Prophet.’ Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma’mur (Allahﷻ‘s House). I asked Jibreel about it, and he said, “This is Al Bait-ul-Ma’mur where 70,000 angels pray daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).” Then I was shown Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (a tree in the seventh heaven) and I saw its Nabk fruits which resembled the clay jugs of Hajr (a town in Arabia), and its leaves were like the ears of elephants, and four rivers originated at its root, two of them were apparent and two were hidden. I asked Jibreel about those rivers, and he said, ‘The two hidden rivers are in Jannah, and the visible ones are the Nile and the Euphrates.’ Then fifty prayers were enjoined on me. I descended till I met Musa who asked me, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Fifty prayers have been enjoined on me.’ He said, ‘I know the people better than you, because I had the hardest experience to bring Bani Israel to obedience. Your followers cannot put up with such obligation. So, return to your Rabb and request Him (to reduce the number of prayers.)’ I returned and requested Allahﷻ (for reduction) and He made it forty. I returned and (met Musa) and had a similar discussion, and then returned to Allahﷻ for reduction and He made it thirty, then twenty, then ten, and then I came to Musa who repeated the same advice. Ultimately Allahﷻ reduced it to five. When I came to Musa again, he said, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Allahﷻ has made it five only.’ He repeated the same advice, but I said that I surrendered (to Allahﷻ‘s Final Order)’. Allahﷻ‘s Rasool was addressed by Allahﷻ who said, “I have decreed My obligation and have reduced the burden on My slaves, and I shall reward a single good deed as if it were ten good deeds.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari 4:429]
The month of Rajab is most famous for the incident of Al-Isra wal Mi’raj. The exact date of this journey is unknown; however, all Islamic scholars agree that it took place in the month of Rajab. So, what must we do about this momentous event? The event itself has two aspects.
On one hand Al-Isra wal Me’raj was something that Allahﷻ decreed and bestowed on Rasoolullahﷺ to comfort and honor him at a time when he was grief stricken and sorely tried with hardship upon hardship from the Quraysh. It was a unique honor that Allahﷻ had not granted to any other human being before or after him. It brought great relief, renewal, and resurgence in the spirit of devotion and Da’awa that illuminated the heart of Muhammadﷺ. As the culmination of this elevation, Allahﷻ granted His Messengerﷺ the unique gift of Salah which is the only Hukm (command) of Allahﷻ that was given above the Heavens. Rasoolullahﷺ returned excited, thrilled, and hugely energized.
The first person he told the story to, was his Abyssinian Sahabiya Umm Aiman (RA) who was his nurse when he was born and was the only person who knew him and was in his company from the day he was born to the day he passed away. Her response illustrates the second aspect of this miraculous journey. Umm Aiman (RA) said, ‘Ya Rasoolullahﷺ, I believe you, but don’t tell anyone else about this.’ He replied, ‘But I have been commanded to tell the people about it.’ The second aspect of this miracle was that it was a huge test for the people in how well they believed in Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ. When Abu Jahl heard that Rasoolullahﷺ was claiming to have gone from Makkah to Jerusalem and the up into the Heavens, he came running to Rasoolullahﷺ and asked him to narrate the story. When Rasoolullahﷺ finished telling him the story Abu Jahl was delighted and said, ‘I want to bring my friends to listen to you. Will you tell the same story, or will you change?’ Rasoolullahﷺ assured him that he would not change because he was speaking the truth. To make a long story short, a big crowd gathered and when Rasoolullahﷺ told them the story of his journey, not only did the Mushrikeen mock him but some Muslims also apostated and left Islam.
Which brings me to the best of them, As-Sideeq-ul-Akbar Abubakr (R). He was not present in this gathering. Someone went and told him, ‘This is what your friend is saying. What do you say?’ He replied, ‘If he said it, I believe.’ They asked him, ‘How can you believe such a story?’ He said, ‘We already believe something much more. We believe in Allahﷻ, in the Day of Judgment, in Jannah and Jahannam and more, all without seeing. So, what is so difficult about believing this?’ Which brings me to us. Because Al-Isra wal Me’raj was an honor for Rasoolullahﷺ and a test for His Ummah and all humanity. That test continues. There are three questions in this test.
- Do we believe in Allahﷻ, in His Power and that He can do anything?
- Do we believe in our meeting with Allahﷻ?
- Are we willing to show our belief and allegiance by honoring the gift that Allahﷻ sent for us with His Messengerﷺ – As-Salah?
May Allahﷻ help us to stay on the right path, today we see Muslims arguing about Al-Isra wal Me’raj in different ways, some bordering on denial or trying to explain it away in terms of their limited understanding. That is why I call this a test of our belief in Allahﷻ. My answer to anyone with doubts is, ‘Do you believe in Allahﷻ? Do you believe that He has the power to do anything He wants? Do you believe that He created all natural laws and can change whatever He wants? Then what is the problem with believing that Rasoolullahﷺ went on Al-Isra wal Me’raj?’ Remember, my brothers and sisters, this is a question of our Aqeeda and to deny Al-Isra wal Me’raj is Kufr. Let us take the position of Abubakr As-Siddeeq (R) and say, ‘If he said it, I believe.’ He said it and His Rabb also said it. And so, I believe.
The second test is about Salah. Some people ask how we should ‘celebrate’ Al-Isra wal Me’raj. I say, ‘Celebrate it the way Rasoolullahﷺ celebrated it.’ He didn’t hold annual celebrations on 27th of Rajab. He didn’t get people to sing Anasheed nor did he narrate the story again. He honored the gift that Allahﷻ gave him and through him, Allahﷻ gave us. That gift is Salah. Rasoolullahﷺ prayed without fail, even until his last day when he had to be brought to the masjid, on his insistence, with two people helping him to stand. He never left Salah, ever, for any reason. That is the way to celebrate Al-Isra wal Me’raj; by holding fast to the honored gift that Allahﷻ sent us.
Buraydah (R) reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “The covenant (that differentiates) between us and them is the prayer, so whoever abandons it has committed disbelief.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi]
Jabir (R) reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Verily, between a man and idolatry and disbelief is abandoning the prayer.” [Muslim]
Abu’d-Darda (R) stated: “My friend Muhammadﷺ gave me the following advice, “Even if you are chopped up and burnt, do not associate partners with Allahﷻ and do not miss your Fardh Salah deliberately. Allahﷻ will remove His protection from a person who misses his Fardh prayers deliberately.” (Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi)
Abdullah bin Qurt (R) said that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “On the Day of Judgment, a slave will be questioned about his prayers first. If his prayers are good, his other deeds will be good, too. If his prayers are bad, his other deeds will be bad, too.” (Tabarani)
Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Allahﷻ has obligated five prayers. Whoever excellently performs their Wudhu, prays them in their proper times, completes their Ruk’u, Sujood and has Khushu [concentration] has a promise from Allahﷻ that He will forgive him. And whoever does not do that has no promise from Allahﷻ. He may either forgive him or punish him.” [Malik, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and others].
I remind myself and you that Salah is not a burden. It is not a tedious duty to be performed and finished with. It is our bond with Allahﷻ. It is our covenant with Him which reinforces our relationship with Him. Salah is a tool. It is a weapon. It is the greatest resource we have. Let us honor it and use it.