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HomeKhutbaThe amazing journey to Masjid ul Aqsa: isra wal mi'raj

The amazing journey to Masjid ul Aqsa: isra wal mi’raj

“Glory be to the One Who took His servant (Muḥammad SAW) by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” {Surah Al-Isra: Ayah 1}

The event of Isra wal Mi’raj took place in the month of Rajab, just over a year before hijrah (migration to Madinah). Isra refers to the journey by night from Makkah to Jerusalem and Mi’raj refers to the ascension from al Aqsa up to and out of the universe, through the seven heavens.

Many of us are familiar with the event so I’d like to highlight some key lessons:

Why did this event take place at this time? What was the context?

Most of the scholars are in agreement that this event took place 12-16 months before the migration, when the persecution of the Muslims by the Quraysh was at its peak. The Quraysh, who were his tribe and his family, constantly ridiculed, humiliated and oppressed the Prophet (saw) and his followers. Moreover, the Prophet (saw) had just lost his beloved wife Khadijah (ra), and his uncle Abu Talib, who was his protector and ally. In addition to all these burdens, when the Prophet (saw) had travelled to Ta’if to spread the Islamic message, the people of Ta’if had rejected him in the most cruel way, sending their children into the streets to stone him until he left the city.

Having gone through so much grief and suffering, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) was given a truly beautiful and comforting gift. He was transported not only to the Sacred Sanctuary and through the skies, but ultimately into the Divine Presence, the source of all comfort and hope. One of the most important lessons of Al-Isra’ wal-Mi’raj, therefore, is that ‘with every hardship [there will be] ease’ (Surah Ash-Sharh, 94: 5).

Everything good is hard before it gets easy.The challenge of life is intended to make you better,not bitter. Life is about accepting the challenges along the way, choosing to keep moving forward & savoring the journey.

Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger & never last forever. It’s important that we do not measure ourself or others by apparent successes, rather we should consider how many times someone has fallen and got back up again.

Recognise how special this whole event and the special position of Masjid ul Aqsa

When the Prophet (saw) was sleeping in the house of Umm Hani (ra) in Makkah he said, ‘the roof of my house was opened and the Angel Jibril [as] descended’ (Bukhari). He (saw) was then taken to the Hijr, (the semi-circular wall of the Ka‘ba), where Jibril (as) opened his chest, and washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a golden tray full of wisdom and faith, and poured its contents into his(SAW) chest before closing it. [Bukhari]

Imam Ahmad reported from Anas bin Malik that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Al-Buraq was brought to me, and it was a white animal bigger than a donkey and smaller than a mule. One stride of this creature covered a distance as far as it could see. I rode on it and it took me to Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), where I tethered it at the hitching post of the Prophets.”

I remember, on one of my visits to al Aqsa, a reminder was being given by a Shaykh when a lady asked a question about al buraq asking whether it was a donkey or a horse. He responded, with such confidence, I’ll never forget it. He said that when there is a ground threat to the life of the President of the USA, they board a plane – Air Force One – which has state of the art technology capable of refueling midair with onboard electronics hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse, advanced secure communications equipment and 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, with extensive suites, conference rooms, a permanent doctor and galleys which can feed 100 people at a time. If this is the ride of an ambassador of this world, can you imagine the ride for the ambassador of Allah(SWT), the King of all Kings?

At several points along the journey, Jibra’eel (as) stopped Buraq and told the Prophet (saw), ‘Dismount and pray’. The first stop was at the future land of hijrah (Madinah), then Mount Sinai, where Allah (swt) revealed the Torah to Musa (AS), then Bethlehem, where ’Isa (as) was born, then the resting place of Musa (AS), and the narration of Muslim states ‘he was standing praying in his grave’, a stone’s throw away from the holy land of the Blessed Masjid Al-Aqsa (Bukhari).

Finally, the Messenger of Allah (saw) arrived in the holy city of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and at the Blessed Masjid ul-Aqsa where he tied the Buraq to the western wall of the noble sanctuary (Tirmidhi). Waiting inside were all 124,000 Prophets (AS). Jibra’eel (as) led the Prophet (saw) to the front, and he (saw) led them all in prayer in this blessed space. Some narrations state that the angels from the heavens also descended to pray behind all the Prophets in this sacred place.

The Prophet (saw) and Jibril (as) then proceeded to the Noble Rock (as-Sakhrah al-Musharrafah), housed in the golden Dome of the Rock Masjid at the centre of the noble sanctuary, from where he ascended (mi’raj) through the seven heavens.

At each of the heavens he (SAW) met the great Prophets Adam, Isa, Yahya, Aaron, Musa and Ibrahim(may Allah spend peace on all of them).

Then to Bayt al-Ma’mur: Rasoolullah(SAW) said, “Then I was shown Bayt al-Ma’mur. I asked Jibreel about it and he said, This is Bayt al-Ma’mur where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).” [al-Bukhari and Muslim] Then on to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (i.e. a tree in the seventh heaven) and four rivers leading into it, two which were hidden rivers are in Paradise, and the apparent ones (Nile and Euphrates)

The special gift

Then he(SAW) went on to meet Allah(SWT). It was here that fifty prayers were gifted to the Muslims – a special gift which needed a personal meeting, rather than being conveyed like the rest of revelation. The Prophet(SAW) states ”I descended till I met Moses 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 Lord and request Him (to reduce the number of prayers.’ I returned and requested Allah (for reduction) and He made it forty. I returned and (met Moses) and had a similar discussion, and then returned again to Allah for reduction and He made it thirty, then twenty, then ten, and then I came to Moses who repeated the same advice. Ultimately Allah reduced it to five. When I came to Moses again, he said, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Allah has made it five only.’ He repeated the same advice but I said that I surrendered (to Allah’s Final Order)’ Allah (SWT) explained “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.” (Al-Bukhari 4:429)

Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ajiba al-Maliki, May Allah have Mercy upon him, relates, “The contemplative aspect of the Salat is highlighted by the fact that it is in the prayer that the believer meets his Lord, just as the Prophet, Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him, met Him in his Night Journey [al-Isra wal Miraj].

He said: The Prayer is the Ascension of the believer …. there is no doubt that the presence of prayer is the most supreme of all presences, because it is the moment of intimate conversation with Allah and the mine of pure relationship.” {Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ajiba’s Tafsir Fatiha al-Kabir, pg. 244}

Remember, the success that you seek calls you 5 times a day.

Punishments for disobedience to Allah

The ahadith mention that the Prophet was shown people being punished for various types of sins. We should remember these narrations and be careful to stay away from such sins. He saw those who committed adultery and their punishment, those who slandered, those who engaged in Riba and various other sins. For examples:

Then the Prophet went on for a little while. He saw groups of people who had bellies as large as houses, and there were snakes in them which could be seen through their skins. Every time one of those people stood up he would fall again and he would say: “O Allah, don’t make the Hour of Judgment rise yet!” Then they meet the people of Fir`awn on the road and the latter trample them underfoot. (The Prophet said) “I heard them clamoring to Allah.” He asked: “O Jibril, who are these?” He replied: “They are those of your Community who eat up interest. They cannot stand up except in the manner of those whom the Shaytan touches with possession.”

Then the Prophet (SAW) went on for a little while. He saw groups of people whose lips resembled the lips of camels. Their mouths were being pried open and they would be stoned. One version says: A rock from Gehenna was placed in their mouths and then it would come out again from their posteriors. (The Prophet said:) “I heard them clamoring to Allah.” He asked: “O Jibril, who are these?” He replied: “They are those of your Community who eat up the property of orphans and commit injustice. They are eating nothing but a fire for their bellies, and they shall be roasted in it.”

Unshakeable belief – the extremely truthful

On the day following Isra’ and Mi’raj, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. told the story to his cousin Umm Hani. She was shocked and told Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. not to tell anyone else as they would not believe in him. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. left the house and went to Abu Jahl to inform the story of his journey. Abu Jahl called the people of Makkah to listen to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w’s story. The people were shocked and did not believe his story.

Some of them went to Abu Bakr (RA). and told him that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. claimed that he went to Masjid Al-Aqsa and performed his prayer there, and returned to Makkah in one night. The people assumed that Abu Bakr (RA) would give the same reaction and leave the Prophet s.a.w.

However, upon hearing that, Abu Bakr (RA) immediately said, “I believe”. He did not question Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. or doubt whether he was telling the truth. Abu Bakr(RA) told them, “If he (Muhammad (S)) said that, then he is speaking the truth. I believe him concerning the news of the heavens — that an angel descends to him from the heavens. How could I not believe he went to Jerusalem and came back in a short period of time — when these are on earth?” From that moment onward, the Companion, Abu Bakr (RA), was called “as-Siddiq” — because of how strongly he believed all what the Prophet (SAW) said.

The people then demanded from the Prophet (SAW) proof of what he said. They knew that he had never travelled to Jerusalem, so some of them demanded that he describe it. The Prophet (SAW ) was blessed by Allah(SWT) with a vision in which he saw Jerusalem as if he were there, so he was able to describe even it’s smallest details for them. For the others, he told them that on his way to Jerusalem he passed by a stray camel belonging to one of the clans which had camped in a valley. It had escaped from a group of them and he led them to it. He also told them that on his return he passed by the same clan’s caravan and found them all sleeping. They had a drinking vessel with some water in it which they had covered, so he uncovered it, drank its contents and put the cover back on the same way it was. He then informed them that the caravan was on its way to Makkah and he further described its lead camel. So the people rushed out to meet the caravan and found it as he had described. They then asked the clan about the stray camel and the drinking vessel, and they replied, “By Allah! He told the truth, we had camped in a valley which he mentioned and one of our camels had run off. We heard a man’s voice calling us to it until we caught it.” They also mentioned that they had left water in their jug and were surprised to find that it was all gone the next morning.

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