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January 13, 2022

A Critical Review of Israa and Miʻraaj in the Light of the Qur-aan

Before we delve into the topic, let us first list the related facts from the Qur-aan in chronological order:

Whoever comes to his Lord with a good deed shall have ten times as much to his credit, while whoever comes with an evil deed shall only be recompensed its equivalent and they shall not be wronged. (Al-Anʻaam 6:160)

1.   Salaah was obligatory from the outset of the Prophetic mission. Although the books of Seerah mention the Prophet SAʻWS and the early believers secretly offering Salaah, the first mention of Salaah in the Qur-aan is in Soorah Al-ʻAlaq when Aboo Jahl tried to stop the Prophet from performing Salaah in the Haram of the holy Kaʻbah: Have you seen him who forbids a slave of Allaah when he performs Salaah? (Al-ʻAlaq 96:9-10) Those verses of Al-ʻAlaq were revealed shortly after the first revelation. It indicates that the Prophet had started offering Salaah in public soon after his appointment as the Messenger of Allaah. He used to go to the holy Kaʻbah and perform Ŝalaah – standing, bowing and prostrating. It is reported (1) that when Aboo Jahl heard that the Prophet prostrates, putting his face on the ground, he swore that if he ever saw the Prophet doing so, he would press the Prophet’s neck under his foot and would scrape his face against the ground. So when he saw the Prophet performing Salaah one day, he walked towards him to do what he had sworn to do, but immediately retreated. When asked about his retreat, he explained that there was something horrible between him and the Prophet that stopped him from advancing towards him. According to some reports, it was a huge camel that he felt would kill him; and according to other reports, it was a huge fire between him and the Prophet that he felt would devour him. After referring to this incident, Allaah SWT re-emphasized to the Prophet:  Not at all! Obey him not, but prostrate to Allaah (in Salaah) and bring yourself closer to Him. (Al-ʻAlaq 96:19)

1  Reported from Aboo Hurairah by Aĥmad, Muslim, Nasaai, etc.

2.   In the Soorahs such as Al-Aʻlaa, Al-Muddaththir, Al-Qiyaamah and Al-Maʻaarij, all revealed in the very early period of the Prophethood, Salaah was mentioned as an act of worship on which salvation of the believers depended and which the Muslims should perform regularly and guard carefully.

3.   Then, in Soorah Qaaf revealed at the beginning of the fifth year of Prophethood Era (PE) (2), the Prophet was commanded:

So be patient over what they say and extol the perfectness of your Lord with praise and gratitude before sunrise and before sunset, also do so during some part of the night and after prescribed prostrations. (Qaaf 50:39-40)

2   All timings of revelations of various Soorahs have been determined in accordance with the comments made by Syed Abul A’la Maududi in the introductions of each Soorah in his Tafseer Tafheemul Qur-aan.

Note that Muffassireen agree that whenever glorification and praise are qualified with prescribed times, it always means Salaah. So, this verse commands Salaah at Fajr, ʻAsr and at night (Maghrib and ʻIshaa).

Soorah Ar-Roome was also revealed in the year of the migration to Abyssinia, around the same time as Soorah An-Najm. It gives the timings of Salaah as follows:

So, glorify Allaah formally (3) with Tasbeeĥ (4) when you are entering upon the evening and when you are entering upon the morning – 18 and only His is gratitude and praise in the heavens and the earth – and at nightfall and when you are at midday (Zuhr). (Ar-Roome 30:17-18).

3  By performing Ŝalaah – the formal worship in Islam.
4  Acknowledging and declaring that He transcends absolutely all weaknesses or limitations that people may ascribe to Allaah SWT, and He is exalted far above any finite attributes people may visualize about Allaah or any human examples people may cite for Allaah SWT.

This verse commands for Salaah at Maghrib, Fajr, ʻIshaa, and Zuhr times. Then, a little later, verse 31 commands believers to establish Salaah.

Also revealed around the same time as Soorah An-Najm and the above-quoted two Soorahs was Soorah Ŧaa Haa wherein five-time daily Salaah was ordered in the following manner:

Therefore, bear patiently what they say, and extol the flawless glory of your Lord with grateful praise before sunrise, before sunset, during some periods of the night, and at the extreme points of the day so that you attain contentment. (Ŧaa Haa 20:130) 

The Salaah times covered by this verse are: Fajr before sunrise, ʻAsr before sunset, ʻIshaa and Tahajjud at night, and Fajr, Zuhr and Maghrib on the extremes of the day.

These verses indicate that five-time daily Salaah was commanded in the 5th year of the Prophethood when these Soorahs were revealed. There is no other place in the Qur-aan where the timings of Salaah have been articulated in as much detail. Ahadeeth inform us that in addition to revealing the timings of Salaah in these revelations, Allaah SWT sent Jibreel to practically demonstrate the five times. One day, he led the Prophet at the earliest time of each Salaah; and the second day, he led the Prophet at the latest (ending) time of each Salaah. This Hadeeth has been reported in all major books of Hadeeth in the chapter “Timings of Salaah”. The Hadeeth does not indicate when this demonstration took place. However, it makes sense to deduce that it would have happened when the timings of Salaah were revealed in these Soorahs in 5 PE.

4.   The Prophet at Sidrah

Soorah An-Najm was revealed in Ramadhaan 5 PE, soon after some believers had migrated from Makkah to Abyssinia some two months earlier in Rajab. The Prophet ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam recited the whole Soorah to the people present in the Haram of the Kaʻbah. His recitation was so effective that, at the end of the Soorah, the Prophet prostrated to Allaah as per His command in the last verse, and all the disbelievers listening to him could not help but prostrate along with him. This news reached Abyssinia as if the Makkans had accepted Islam. Hearing this, some emigrants came back from Abyssinia in Dzul-Qaʻdah of 5 PE to find the condition even worse than before.

The Soorah mentioned a few extraordinary experiences the Prophet had had as the Messenger of Allaah:

1 By the stars when they set, 2 your Companion (Muĥammad) has neither strayed, nor is he misguided, 3 nor does he speak out of a personal inclination. 4 It is simply the revelation that is revealed to him, 5 taught to him by (Jibreel) (5) the one intense in strength, 6 sound in wisdom; he appeared in view, poised, 7 at the highest point on the horizon. 8 Then he approached and descended 9 until he was at a distance of two bow lengths or nearer. 10 Then he revealed to Allaah’s slave (Muĥammad) what he revealed. 11 His (Muĥammad’s) mind did not make up what he saw. 12 So will you dispute with him over what he saw? (53:1-12)

5  Archangel Gabriel

In Arabic, this paragraph consists of very concise and short poetic sentences wherein the pronouns have been mentioned without first mentioning the names of the persons they represent. This is so because there was a discussion going on in the society which this paragraph comments on. The characters involved in this discussion were all known. In such situations, the literary excellence of the Qur-aan required that the context of the discussion going on in the society was used effectively. Thus, the comments were made concisely in such a manner that the audience automatically understood who was being referred to by each pronoun without naming anyone. The following was the context of this discussion:

The Prophet has rejected all of the false gods and recognized Allaah as his only Lord whereby he becomes Allaah’s slave exclusively. He also claims that Allaah has appointed him as His Messenger to give the Makkans the same message of becoming Allaah’s slaves exclusively; and for that purpose, Allaah sends him revelations in His own words through angel Jibreel who comes and teaches him those revelations from Allaah. The Makkans reject his stance and his claims. They assume either something has gone wrong with him so that he is experiencing hallucinations, or he is intentionally making up such stories or perhaps he is learning the text from someone else and then presenting it as a revelation from Allaah SWT.

These verses respond that:

  • He is your companion. He has spent his life among you and you yourselves have acknowledged him to be the honest, trustworthy, and wise par excellence. He is still the same most excellent person in all other aspects of his life as you yourselves know. Then, why would he be different in only one matter. The truth is that he is not dishonest even in this matter. Also, he is not experiencing any hallucinations nor is he under any illusion. Just as everyone sees everything clearly when the stars are set and the sun is shining, the experiences about an angel coming and delivering him the revelations from Allaah is as real and clear. And his excellence in character is witness that he has not become perverted in any respect that he would fabricate wrong notions about Allaah. (Verses 1 and 2)
  • What he claims to be from Allaah is really revealed to him from Allaah. He is not saying anything from his own and ascribing it to Allaah. (verses 3 and 4)
  • Verses 5 to 9 talk about the one who teaches him the revelations and describe one encounter of the Prophet with him. The Makkans knew that this referred to Jibreel because that is what the Prophet had been claiming. The word “teaching” for his delivery of the revelation has been used to respond to the speculation that some human being may be teaching these things to the Prophet. The encounter has been mentioned to emphasize that Jibreel has even come to him with revelations in his real form in addition to coming in a human form or remaining invisible while transmitting the revelations.
  • Verse 10 then concludes the point that through this encounter Allaah revealed to him what He wanted to reveal. The verse uses only “He” and “His slave” because the audience knew from the Prophet’s assertions as to Who was the Source of revelation and Whose slave the Prophet was.
  • He has stated his experience exactly as it happened without any distortion from his own thoughts or imagination. (verse 11)
  • Thus, it is highly inappropriate for the Makkans to challenge a factual event that the Prophet had experienced when they have no ground or basis to do so except for their undue scepticism. (Verse 12)

The above interpretation is supported by prominent exegetes of the Qur-aan such as ‘Abdullaah ibn Masʻood, ‘Aaishah, Aboo Hurairah, Qataadah, Mujahid, Ibn Jareer, Ibn Katheer, Raazi, etc. However, some people who do not keep the context of the Prophet’s statements and the Makkan objections in view become confused about the pronouns. They assume that the pronoun “the one who teaches” refers to Allaah SWT. In that case, the attributes and the whole encounter mentioned in verses 5-9 are attributed to Allaah SWT. This speculation disregards the whole context in which these verses were revealed. The Prophet had never claimed receiving revelation directly from Allaah SWT nor had he claimed any direct physical encounter with Allaah SWT.  In fact, the correct view becomes evident and clear from the witness of the Qur-aan itself. The clarification given in these verses as well as the mention of Jibreel’s appearance in his real form was earlier given in Soorah At-Takweer. The parallels of the verses under discussion and the following verses of At-Takweer are so clear that no further comment is needed:

15 Oh no! I swear by the stars that disappear, 16 run their course and hide, 17 and the night when it departs, 18 and the morning when it breathes 19 that it (the Qur-aan) is indeed a word (delivered) by a noble messenger (6) 20 who is powerful, has honourable place with the Owner of the Throne, 21 is obeyed there (in the heavens) and is trustworthy. 22 And (O Makkans) your companion is not crazy, 23 he surely saw him (Jibreel) on the clear horizon. 24 He (your companion) is neither eagerly desirous of unseen; 25 nor is this (the Qur-aan) the utterance of an outcast devil.  (At-Takweer 81:15-25)

6  Gabriel (Jibreel)

As to which incident these two Soorahs are referring to, it must be the incident that took place in the very early days of the Prophethood. It is reported that after the initial revelation, the Prophet was given a few days break (Fatrah) to cope with the stress of this unusual experience. Then, one day, while walking towards his home, the Prophet felt as if someone had called him. He looked around but did not see anyone. He heard the call again and lifted up his head and saw the same angel that had appeared to him in the cave, sitting on a throne in the sky. The Prophet was once again overwhelmed by the experience and worried about the task ahead and arrived home trembling. Once again, he asked for a blanket and lay down wrapped in it. The angel descended and came close to him and revealed the first seven verses of Soorah Al-Mudaththir (7).

7  Abul A’la Maududi, Seerat Sarware ‘Aalam, volume 2, page 146-147, 1979

Some people are reluctant to accept the correct view described above merely because they do not want to accept the notion of Jibreel being the “teacher” of the Prophet. This is a useless and irrelevant discussion because Jibreel was not teaching anything from his own knowledge but only “teaching” the messages sent by Allaah SWT.  Playing that role, Jibreel also taught the Prophet how to perform Salaah and at what times as well as led him in Salaah for that purpose, as reported in Bukhari, Muslims, Aboo Dawood, Tirmidzi, and Muaŧŧaa in their chapters on the timings of Salaah.

Verse 10 is another verse where the confusion of the pronouns arises if the context of the revelation or the context of the overall Islamic teachings is not kept in mind. If someone disregards that context, he may question how the pronouns in verse 10 will apply to Allaah if He was not mentioned by name in the verse. The reality is that some matters are so evident that the audience clearly knows the subject of a pronoun without any prior mention of it in that paragraph. There are many examples of such use of pronouns in the Qur-aan, for example verses 93:1, 56:35, 55:26 and 36:69 use a pronoun for different entities without mentioning the entity at all, merely on the basis of the prior knowledge of the audience. In the case of verse 10 under discussion, it is quite obvious that Allaah is the source of revelation and the Sole Lord whose slave the Prophet was. No Muslim in his right mind would ever think that ‘his’ in “His slave” refers to Jibreel, meaning that the Prophet was Jibreel’s slave.

The next verse mentions another occasion when the Prophet saw Jibreel again in his real form. 

13 And he certainly saw Jibreel in another descent 14 at the Lote Tree of the Ultimate Boundary (8), 15 near which is the Garden of Residence, 16 when there covered the Lote Tree whatever covered it (9). 17 His sight did not swerve, nor did it wander about. 18 He certainly saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord. (53:13-18)

8  The ‘Ultimate Boundary’, Sidratul Muntahaa in Arabic, is usually understood to be the boundary between physical and meta-physical realms. It has something resembling a Lote Tree. Such terms cannot be explained or specifically described by anyone because they are the matters of the unseen realm. The exact understanding of such things is beyond finite human capabilities as human beings are incapable of understanding anything that they have never seen or experienced.
9  When the Prophet saw Jibreel there, the Sidrah (the Lote Tree) was covered with some indescribable phenomena but the Prophet focussed on the signs of his Lord he was shown instead of being dazzled by the scenery or looking around distracted.

The previous sighting of Jibreel was in Makkah, but this one took place somewhere in the universe at the boundary beyond which no creation of Allaah can go, and where the Garden, promised to be the wonderful abode of the believers, is located nearby. What the Prophet observed was so amazing and dazzling that it cannot be described in human language nor is it explainable to the people who have not witnessed it. Whatever it was, the Prophet’s eyes were not dazzled by it nor did he look around in bewilderment or under awe. He was rather focused on the task at hand. The key point is he saw some extraordinary signs of Allaah SWT, which clearly tells that he did not see Allaah SWT Himself.

Logically it is impossible for a finite human being to comprehend, perceive or see the infinite Creator according to Allaah’s laws under which the current universe is operating. It is also clear from verse 18 that the Prophet saw only Allaah’s signs. In addition, it has been clarified in the Qur-aan very emphatically that despite their desire and curiosity, human beings cannot see Allaah SWT.  Prophet Moosa was clearly told, “You cannot see me” (Al-Maaidah 5:143) and believers have also been told, “No vision can perceive Him, but He grasps every look.” (Al-Anʻaam 6:103). Even then, on the basis of some dubious Ahadeeth (10), some people continue to claim that the Prophet saw Allaah SWT, while there are some very strong Ahadeeth reported from ‘Abdullaah ibn Masʻood and ‘Aaishah as well as Aboo Hurairah (11) that clearly and emphatically explain that the Prophet never saw Allaah SWT, and that these verses are about his sighting of Jibreel in his real form.

10  Those attributed to ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Abbas and Anas ibn Malik who were not born or were very small children and their parents were not Muslim at the time of the revelation of these verses; in addition, there are a variety of contradicting and confusing reports attributed to them in this regard.
11  Bukhari Kitabut-tafseer and kitabut-tawheed, Muslim Kitabul-eeman and Musnad Ahmad

It should also be noted that these verses mention the Prophet’s presence only at Sidratul Muntahaa, not any point beyond that.

The purpose of describing this incident is to let the Makkans know that the Prophet is not an ordinary person; and the encounters with Jibreel are not the only extraordinary experiences he has had. He had even experienced some signs of His Lord that are beyond their understanding and that cannot even be described to them in their language. He is not some kind of soothsayer, psychic or fortune-teller who is communicating baseless things because of some pseudo paranormal sources. He is relaying the words brought to him by the chief archangel. Also, he is not a philosopher that is presenting to you a theory he has developed in a conjectural way, but he is sharing his special personal knowledge with you.

The most important point to note is that these verses were part of the original recitation of the Soorah in 5 PE. No one has ever claimed that these verses were revealed some years later and added to this Soorah.

They describe an encounter that has already taken place, indicating that the Prophet saw Jibreel at Sidratul-muntahaa some time before revelation of An-Najm in Ramadhaan of 5 PE.

5.   Then, in Soorah Hoode, the following command is given:

And establish Ŝalaah at the two ends of the day and in the early part of the night. Surely, good deeds do away with evil deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful. (Hoode 11:114)

It should be noted that it was revealed before Soorah Israa or Banee Israeel.

6.   Soorah Al-Anʻaam (165 verses) was revealed before Al-Aʻraaf (206 verses) which was revealed before Soorah Al-Israa, indicating that there was a significant period between the revelation of Al-Anʻaam and Al-Israa. In verse 160 of Al-Anʻaam, Allaah SWT declared his merciful way of rewarding good behaviour:

7. Israa

Israa is mentioned in the first verse of Soorah Al-Israa, also called Soorah Banee Israeel. It is believed to have been revealed sometime in the year 13 PE, about a year before the migration took place in the third month of the 14th year (Rabeeʻul Awwal 1 AH (12)).

Exalted in perfectness and glory is He Who took His slave (Prophet Muĥammad) by night from the Sacred Masjid (13) to the far-away Masjid (14), whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He is the one Who is the Ever-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (Banee Israeel 17:1)

12  Year of Hijrah
13  Al-Masjid-ul-Ĥaraam (meaning sacred, inviolable or hallowed place of God’s worship) refers to the Masjid in which the Holy Ka‘bah is located in Makkah.
14  Far-away Masjid refers to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.

The verse begins with expression of Allaah’s glorification with the word Subĥaana which expresses Allaah’s attribute of being absolutely free from any imperfection, weakness, shortcoming or inability. This expression (Subĥaana) is used when some really amazing, unbelievable and extraordinary manifestation of Allaah’s power, glory and greatness is mentioned or observed. The beginning of the verse in such a manner indicates that some extraordinary matter underscoring the infinite power and superb glory of Allaah SWT is to be mentioned.

The word used for “took by night” is “Asra” followed by preposition “bi” which means physically taking someone on a journey at night. For example, Moosa AS was instructed to march with Banee Israaeel out of Egypt (Ŧaahaa 20:77, Ash-Shuʻaraa 26:52 and Ad-Dukhaan 44:23) and Looŧ was told to take his family at night out of the area designated for destruction (Hoode 11:81, Al-Hijr 15:65) using the same verb and preposition. Thus, the verse is talking about a physical journey where Allaah SWT took the Prophet from Makkah to a distant place and back within a night. This is not a future event but an event that has already occurred at the time of revelation.

“His slave” clearly refers to the Prophet as a person, indicating two things: that Allaah refers to him in a loving style; and that he was transported as a physical person.

The distant or far-away place is also a house of worship (the Qur-aan calls every house of Allaah’s worship a Masjid) which is a physical place not an idea, a plan or allegory. The word used for distant is Aqŝaa which literally means distant, remote, far-away in physical sense. The significant attribute of that remote place is that its surroundings are blessed by Allaah SWT. The area usually mentioned in the Qur-aan in this manner (as being blessed) has been the area of Jerusalem and Palestine (for example, Al-Anbiyaa 21:71, 81 and Saba 34:18). Therefore, it must mean the temple of Solomon, which was also the first Qiblah for Muslims. Although the temple had been destroyed, the temple mount was still known for that reason and it was still used as a Qiblah.

It may be interesting to note that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built upon the mount alleged to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial chamber, and located only about 600 meters away from the Temple Mount, had also been severely damaged since it was set on fire by the Persian conquerors in 614 CE (5 Prophetic Era or PE). In this way, the sacred centres of both the Jews and the Christians were in ruins.

It should be remembered that the distance between the holy Ka’bah and Temple Mount by air is about 1,230 km (765 miles), and for a round trip, it adds up to approximately 2,460 km (1,530 miles). The round trip would have normally taken at least 75-80 days on a camel.

The purpose of the trip was “to show him some of Our signs”. It was not a sight-seeing journey, but sign-experiencing journey. Just as other messengers like Ibraheem and Moosa were shown some signs that were only shown to the messengers of Allaah and were not shown to their followers or general public, our Prophet was also shown some extraordinary signs. This miraculous trip is known as Israa in accordance with the verb used for this journey in the verse under discussion.

These observations are based purely on the words of the Qur-aan. We will analyze the details from the Hadeeth a little later. So far, it is evident from the verse that Israa was an extraordinary trip manifesting Allaah’s power and glory in which His slave (as a person) was physically taken to Jerusalem and brought back to the holy Kaʻbah at night for the purpose of showing him some special signs which are shown only to the messengers of Allaah.

Some people who deny prophetic miracles claim that this verse alludes to the migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Madeenah. They are utterly wrong. The words of the verse do not allow that meaning at all. The verse is talking about something that has happened, not something that will be happening in the future. This Soorah was revealed in Makkah after the trip had been taken. The migration had not yet taken place. Later on in the Soorah, Allaah SWT alludes that the time for migration is coming and the Prophet was even taught the Duʻaa for migration.

It should also be noted that verse 7 of this Soorah refers to the Roman conquest and destruction of the Temple of Solomon by merely calling it “the Masjid”, clearly indicating which one is the distant Masjid. It was so clear to all Muslims that from the day of the revelation of the Israa verse, Muslims referred to Baytul-Maqdis by the name of Masjid Al-Aqŝaa. When the Prophet prohibited Muslims from undertaking travel for visiting any religious monument except for three places, he also used the same name: Masjidul-Ĥaraam, Masjidul-Aqŝaa and the Prophet’s Masjid. This indicates the common knowledge and usage of Masjidul-Aqŝaa for Baytul-Maqdis, and it also indicates that it is distinct from the Prophet’s Masjid in Madeenah.

Some people speculate that Israa was a travel through time to Ibraheem’s era and that Masjid Al-Aqŝaa referred to the Kaʻbah of Ibraheem’s time. Although the thought is creative, the words of the Qur-aan strongly contradict this view. Aqŝaa means far in physical distance not in time. Both of the mosques referred to in the Qur-aan are distinct entities physically distant from each other, not the same entity in two different eras. Similarly, as explained a few paragraphs ago, “asraa bi” is used for physical transport in space, not for travel in time while remaining in the same place. Hence, people must not ascribe to the verses of the Qur-aan whatever meanings they like. The meanings one derives from the Qur-aan must be naturally derivable from its text. It should also be supported by usage of that word in other places of the Qur-aan.

According to the reports in Ahadeeth, when the Prophet informed people in the holy Ka’bah about his nightly trip, they did not believe the Prophet because of the distance involved and ridiculed him. The Makkans knew that the Prophet had never been to Jerusalem before, but there were some who had been there. To test him for his claim, they asked him pertinent questions about the landmarks and the site specifications. The Prophet answered all of their questions by accurately describing the details they asked about (15).

15  Reported from ‘Abdullaah Ibn Jaabir in Bukhari and Muslim, and from Aboo Hurairah in Muslim

The purpose of the visit was to show the Prophet some signs. One of the signs was that en route he was shown the city of Yathrib to where he would be migrating, establishing Islam completely and totally, making Allaah’s deen supreme, and creating the best society the sun has ever shone over; and which will become the centre of the Islamic movement to spread Islam throughout the world.

It should be remembered that no Masjid or, temple existed at the site at the time of Israa because the buildings were completely destroyed and erased by Romans according to the warning given to them by Allaah through Jesus.

At the site of Baytul-Maqdis, the Prophet met Ibraheem and previous prophets from the descendants of Ibraheem, especially Moosa and ‘Eesa, and led all of them in Salaah (16) as instructed by Jibreel. This was a symbolic act to indicate that he has been granted leadership over all of them and that he is the rightful owner of their heritage. These were the signs he was shown.

16  Reported from Aboo Hurairah, Muslim, Kitabul-Eeman, No 328

In other words, the purpose of the trip was to indicate to the Prophet that his movement was about to reach its next stage where his responsibility would include giving the message of Islam directly to the Jews, in addition to the Arabs. And, by informing people of the Prophet’s trip to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, this verse has declared to the public that:

  • The Prophet’s mission encompasses both branches of the descendants of Ibraheem and the dichotomy between the two branches of the descendants of Ibraheem has essentially ended; and
  • He is the rightful owner and leader of the religious centres of both lines, Baytul-Maqdis and holy Kaʻbah, and the real inheritor of the heritages of Ibraheem and all the previous prophets from among his descendants.
  • The Prophet is presenting both the Arabs and the Jews (Banee Israeel) who claim to be the inheritors of Ibraheem’s heritage an excellent opportunity to join him in establishing Ibraheem’s Deen, the Deen of Allaah, purely and completely on earth.
  • If like Israelites, the Muslims shirk the responsibility of establishing and maintaining the Islamic polity to be established in Madeenah and of spreading it over the globe, they will face the same consequences at the hands of their enemies as Israelites faced at the hands of Babylonians and Romans.

When did Israa Happen (17):

17  Abul A’la Maududi, Seerat Sarware ‘Aalam, volume 2, page 657, 1979

On a calendar starting from the year of revelation as 1 Prophetic Era (PE), the first revelation came in Ramadhaan of 1 PE. Accordingly, there is consensus that the migration to Madeenah (Hijrah) took place in Rabeeʻul-Awwal of 14 PE, the first year of the Hijrah Calendar. However, there is a variety of opinions about the date of Israa. Because of the proximity and close link between the two events, people usually view the Israa date relative to the Hijrah date. The following are some opinions in this respect:

Ibn ‘Abdulbarr and Ibn Qutaibah (20 months before Hijrah) –                                  Rajab 12 PE

Ibn Saʻd one report through Waqdi (18 months before Hijrah)  –                            17 Ramadhaan, 12 PE

Ismaʻeel Suddi (not considered reliable)  –                                                                Shawwal/ Zi-Qaʻd 12 PE

Ibn Saʻd, ʻUrwah ibn Zubair, Zuhri, Baihaqi, Nawawiyy, and Ibn Ĥazm --           17 Rabiʻ-ul-Awwal 13 PE

Moosa ibn ‘Aqabah, Qataadah, Ibn Juraij, ‘amr ibn Shuʻaib (a year before Hijrah) --   Rabiʻ-ul-Awwal 13 PE

Ibnul Muneer and Ibraheem Ibn Ishaaq Al-ĥarbi (11 months before Hijrah) –      Rabiʻ-u-Thaani 13 PE

Ibnul Jawzi (8 months before Hijrah) –                                                                        Rajab 13 PE

There are other opinions claiming it to have occurred 15 months and 6 months before Hijrah. However, as evident from the list above, the most authentic and accepted opinion is that of one year or so before Hijrah. According to the Muffassireen and Seerah scholars (18), Israa was an announcement of Hijrah being at hand. The contents of Soorah Al-Israa bear witness to that view. From that perspective, it could not have been in 12 PE because of its distance from Hijrah. Thus, the most likely date is Rabeeʻul-Awwal 13 PE, perhaps 17th of that month. But if the generally accepted date of 27 Rajab is adopted, it will have to be in 13 PE (8 months before Hijrah) rather than 12 PE (20 months before Hijrah).

18  Ibid note xv

This ends the description of the Prophet’s trip mentioned in the verse under discussion. However, the Muslim scholars and Books of Tafseer link this verse to the Prophet’s trip to the heavens as well. That trip is called Miʻraaj.  For the discussion about Miʻraaj, refer to section 8.

8. Mi'raaj

The reports about Miʻraaj are found in a variety of Ahadeeth, all of which taken together claim that along with Israa, the Prophet was also taken to the heavens from Jerusalem on the same night. He traversed all seven heavens until he reached Sidratul-muntahaa where Allaah talked to him directly and granted him the following (19):

a)   Fifty-times daily Salaah, which was later reduced to five times.

b)   The last two verses of Soorah Al-Baqarah.

c)   All sins to be forgivable except Shirk

d)   When a person intends to do something good, he is given one credit, but when he actually performs the good act, he is credited 10 times the value of his good act. However, if someone intends to do something bad, he is not debited until he executes his intention. At that time, he is debited only one time the harm of his bad deed.

19  Ibid note xv

However, these assertions contradict the agreed upon facts about the Qur-aanic revelations. The place where this communication is told to have taken place is Sidratul-Muntahaa, which is mentioned only in Soorah An-Najm. But according to Soorah An-Najm, the Prophet only saw some great signs of Allaah. There is no mention of any direct bestowal of Qur-aanic revelation. All revelations of the Qur-aan came only through Jibreel.

Also, we have already shown in point 6 above that Soorah An-Najm describes the Sidrah event as something that had already taken place before the revelation of the Soorah. Accordingly, the Prophet saw Jibreel at Sidratul-Muntahaa before the revelation of An-Najm in 5 PE. The irony is that all scholars and Seerah writers refer to soorah An-Najm when talking about that part of their Miʻraaj story, but conveniently ignore the fact that those verses were revealed more than seven years before the Israa verse. They do not address the issue caused by the time difference between the revelations of the two Soorahs. Let us assume for the sake of argument that it was a combined event and that the Prophet was taken to Jerusalem and to Sidratul-muntahaa at the same night, it could have happened only in two ways:

a)   The combined event occurred in 5 PE, and the Sidratul-Muntahaa segment of the journey was mentioned at that time in An-Najm, but the Israa part was ignored for eight years until it was revealed in Soorah Israa. This obviously does not make sense and no one would agree with it. 

b)   The combined event occurred in 13 PE and the Israa aspect was mentioned in a fresh Soorah while the Sidratul-Muntahaa aspect was inserted in a Soorah that was revealed eight years ago. This will mean that An-Najm was being recited for 8 years without verses 13-18. If they were inserted eight years later, many people would have noticed, remembered and reported this change. There are no reports of such an insertion.

Someone may quote the example of Soorah Muzzammil about which it is reported that the first section was revealed during the early part of the mission in Makkah, but the second section of the Soorah was revealed in Madeenah. First of all, the second section is altering a command given in the first section, so they naturally belonged together. Secondly, reports of such insertion are found in the books of Hadeeth. The serious question about the issue under discussion is: why would one event be broken apart and mentioned at two totally different places without any clue for them to be associated with each other? Is that in line with the attribute of the Qur-aan being “clear” in conveying its teachings and messages? Obviously, this possibility does not make any sense from any perspective.

The reality is that there were two events: one about the experience at Sidratul-Muntahaa; and the other involving a journey to Jerusalem. The two separate events were mentioned in the Qur-aan after they had occurred in the respective soorahs revealed at that time of their occurrence. The first was mentioned in Soorah An-Najm that was completely revealed in Year 5 PE, without any subsequent insertions 8 years later; the second was stated in in Soorah Israa around the year 13 PE (20). That is the most reasonable and sensible view aligned properly with the way the Qur-aan was revealed and compiled by Allaah SWT.

20  Abul A’la Maududi, Seerat Sarware ‘Aalam, volume 2, page 644, 1979 and Shibli No’maani / Sulaiman Nadvi, Seeratun-Nabi, volume 3, page 223- 226, 1984

Another point to note is that if it was a combined trip, the Prophet’s seeing Jibreel descending at Sidrah does not make sense because Jibreel was traveling with the Prophet from the start of the journey. In addition, when the Prophet mentioned to the disbelievers about his trip, he mentioned only Israa. Had Miʻraaj taken place at that time, he would have also mentioned that part frankly and bravely.

Thus, the opinion that Israa and Miʻraaj are two separate events is valid, as against the generally accepted opinion that considers it as one combined event. As for Miʻraaj, it must have taken place before Ramadhaan 5 PE because that is when An-Najm was revealed. Imam Zuhri has also been reported as claiming that Miʻraaj occurred in 5 PE, as mentioned in Imam Nawawiyy’s Sharĥ of Ŝaĥeeĥ Muslim and in Qasŧalaani’s Mawahib Ladunniyah (21). It is possible that it happened on 27 Rajab (the generally accepted date) in 5 PE, soon after the first migration to Abyssinia earlier in Rajab of that year.

21  Shibli No’maani / Sulaiman Nadvi, Seeratun-Nabi, volume 3, page 225, 1984

Scholars (22) have indicated that Miʻraaj was one of those experiences to which Allaah SWT exposes His messengers in order that they witness some matters of Ghayb (unseen) that they invite others to believe in. They invite people on the basis of the knowledge they receive from Allaah as well as the personal knowledge they gain through some extraordinary supernatural experiences. That is how they are different from philosophers who present their theories merely on the basis of conjecture, speculation and deductive logic based on ignorance. The examples of the extraordinary experiences of the messengers are: Ibraheem’s slaughtering of his pet birds, cutting them into pieces and calling them, and they came flying to him (Al-Baqarah 2:260); and Moosa’s experiences at Mount Sinai (Al-Aʻraaf 7:143) and his experiences on a trip with a special slave of Allaah (Al-Kahf 60-82). Obviously, the messengers are provided with these experiences at the early stages of their missions. The mention of showing Ibraheem “the nature of Our universal kingdom so that he reasons with his people and he himself attains certitude” was at a very early stage of his mission, as mentioned in verse 75 of Al-Anʻaam. From that perspective, the best time for the Miʻraaj experience was when he had already gone through the early stages of his training as the Messenger, and just before the opposition was becoming intensified, not after 12-13 years of struggle when he had already gone through the toughest challenges of his mission and of preaching the unseen realities. To meet the suggested objectives, the Miʻraaj would have occurred before 5 PE, rather than in 13 PE.

22  Tafheemul-Qur-aan, Abul A’la Maududi, volume 2, page 590; and Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Seeratun-Nabi, volume 3, page 221-222, 1984

This opinion is further supported by the reports about the way the five-time daily Salaah was obligated. The Ahadeeth indicate that it happened during the Miʻraaj trip. If it is true, then the Miʻraaj must have taken place in 5 PE because the five-time daily Salaah was already ordered in Soorahs revealed just before or around the same time as Soorah An-Najm in the 5th year of the Prophethood (PE), as shown in point 3 above. Therefore, although the Salaah was obligatory from the day the Prophetic mission started, the five-time daily Salaah was obligated around 5 PE, not in 13 PE, according to the chronology of the revelations of the Soorahs. All major books of the Hadeeth consistently report that Jibreel led the Prophet on two days to show to him the beginning and ending times of Salaah. Syed Abul Aʻla Maududi has indicated (23) that it happened the day after the Israa event but none of the books of Hadeeth indicate any timing of when it happened. Obviously, this must have happened before or immediately after the verses about Salaah were revealed around 5 PE, not eight years afterwards.

23  Abul A’la Maududi, Seerat Sarware ‘Aalam, volume 2, page 660, 1979

Also, it is claimed that Allaah’s merciful decision of rewarding tenfold for the good actions but counting an evil action only once was communicated at the night of Israa, while the fact is that it had already been revealed in Soorah Al-Anʻaam verse 160, as mentioned in point 6 above. Thus, it was also not something related to the trip in 13 PE.

Let us also examine the claim that the last two verses of Al-Baqarah were revealed to the Prophet at Sidrah, the timing of which has been established to be in 5 PE as shown above. First of all, the words of the Qur-aan in Soorah An-Najm only describe that the Prophet saw some great signs of his Lord, not that he was given any special message during that experience. Secondly, the verses of the Qur-aan were revealed according to the need of the Islamic movement and their formation in the forms of Soorah used to happen within a short period. It is well known that that the rest of the Soorah (284 verses) was revealed in the first two years after Hijrah, which begs the question: did these two verses stay on their own for about 11 years without being annexed to any Soorah while in the meantime a substantial number of Soorahs were being revealed?  Was that how the Qur-aan was revealed and compiled? Finally, these two verses are clearly of Madeenan style, not of the style of the revelations that were being sent down in 5 PE. Even the mention of “discrimination among the messengers” was not a relevant subject matter until the Jews of Madeenah discriminated against the Prophet and refused to believe in the last Messenger, an Ishmaelite, and had also previously adopted the attitude of picking and choosing in whom to believe and in whom not to believe. Moreover, the duʻaa in the last verse is clearly of relevance to a stage when the Muslims were to be bestowed systems and commands to be implemented in their new home. The duʻaa requests that the burden or responsibility (Iŝr) of commands and rules mercifully be made not as heavy as that which was laid upon Banee Israeel. It is in line with one of the functions of the Prophet to remove the extra burdens put on the Israelites (24). Thus, these verses could not have been revealed at Sidrah in 5 PE, more than eight (8) years before Hijrah and the availability of a place to implement Islamic systems. They might have been revealed in Makkah when the Muslims were being prepared for Hijrah and for a direct encounter with Israelites, but not at Sidrah in 5 PE.

24  Al-A‘raaf 7:157

The fact is that those who consider Israa and Miʻraaj as one combined event and those who have reported them as such have been mistaken. Different events and experiences have been confused with each other. Israa (which was limited to a journey on earth), Miʻraaj (which had already happened eight years earlier) and some allegorical visions that were shown to the Prophet from time to time were all cobbled together into one story, introducing many inconsistencies along the way.

Reliable Ahadeeth about Miʻraaj

Most of the reporters of the Ahadeeth on Israa and Miʻraaj are either those who were not-yet-born or were small children when these events happened or those who were from Madeenah without any direct knowledge of the Makkan events. In addition, the “how it happened” and “what was experienced” kind of aspects of these trips, which are the main subject matter of these Ahadeeth, are beyond human understanding, and thus their details cannot be deduced on the basis of logic or explained by common sense. For such transcendental matters, it becomes highly probable that as the narration moves through the chain of reporters someone would let his natural tendency to enhance the story use some imaginative speculation. For these reasons, it is critical that extreme care is taken in examining the reports from people who were not witness to the events. The most reliable reports would be those narrated by a solid chain of the most reliable narrators from the prominent companions who quoted the Prophet directly, of which there are not many.

The two reporters who are among notable companions are Aboo Dzar and Malik ibn ŜaʻŜaʻah. As for Aboo Dzar Ghifaari, when he became Muslim the Prophet told him that he would be emigrating to a place of date palms and which hopefully would be Yathrib. So, he was told to go back to his tribe, preach Islam in his tribe and then join him after migration (25). This indicates that he converted to Islam after Israa but before Bayʻah of ‘Aqabah, although there are reports that he was one of the earlier Muslims. As for Malik ibn ŜaʻŜaʻah, he was from Madeenah. The third person who has reported the most detailed accounts is Anas ibn Malik who was nine to ten years old when he was assigned to serve the Prophet in Madeenah. In some of his reports, no source is quoted, and in others he quotes Aboo Dzar or Malik ibn ŜaʻŜaʻah. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas who was born three years before Hijrah, shortly before Israa, and was 13 when the Prophet passed away, is the other person who has reported in detail. Some brief reports on some aspects of these trips have also come from Aboo Hurairah, Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullaah, and ‘Abdullaah ibn Masʻood. There are others who have reported bits and pieces, but it is hard to ensure that those reports are really about Israa and Miʻraaj or other experiences in the life of the Prophet.

25  Abul A’la Maududi, Seerat Sarware ‘Aalam, volume 2, page 539, 1979

The following is the Hadeeth reported from Aboo Dzar:

Anas bin Malik said that Aboo Dzar used to narrate that Allaah’s Messenger said:

“While I was at Makkah the roof of my house was opened and Jibreel descended, opened my chest, and washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a golden tray full of wisdom and faith and having poured its contents into my chest, he closed it. Then he took my hand and ascended with me to the nearest heaven, when I reached the nearest heaven, Jibreel said to the gatekeeper of the heaven, ‘Open (the gate).’ The gatekeeper asked, ‘Who is it?’ Jibreel answered: ‘Jibreel.’ He asked, ‘Is there anyone with you?’ Jibreel replied, ‘Yes, Muhammad is with me.’ He asked, ‘Has he been called?’ Jibreel said, ‘Yes.’ So the gate was opened and we went over the nearest heaven and there we saw a man sitting with some people on his right and some on his left. When he looked towards his right, he laughed and when he looked toward his left he wept. Then he said, ‘Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious son.’ I asked Jibreel, ‘Who is he?’ He replied, ‘He is Adam and the people on his right and left are the souls of his offspring. Those on his right are the people of Paradise and those on his left are the people of Hell and when he looks towards his right he laughs and when he looks towards his left he weeps.’”

Then he ascended with me till he reached the second heaven and he (Jibreel) said to its gatekeeper, ‘Open (the gate).’ The gatekeeper said to him the same as the gatekeeper of the first heaven had said and he opened the gate. Anas said: “Abu Dzar added that the Prophet met Adam, Idrees, Moosa, ‘Eesa and Ibraheem, but he (Abu Dzar) did not mention on which heaven they were at except that he (the Prophet ) met Adam on the nearest heaven and Ibraheem on the sixth heaven.” Then Anas continued, “When Jibreel along with the Prophet passed by Idris, the latter said, ‘Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious brother.’ The Prophet asked, ‘Who is he?’ Jibreel replied, ‘He is Idris.” The Prophet added, “I passed by Moosa and he said, ‘Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious brother.’ I asked Jibreel, ‘Who is he?’ Jibreel replied, ‘He is Moosa.’ Then I passed by Jesus and he said, ‘Welcome! O pious brother and pious Prophet.’ I asked, ‘Who is he?’ Jibreel replied, ‘He is Jesus. Then I passed by Ibraheem and he said, ‘Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious son.’ I asked Jibreel, ‘Who is he?’ Jibreel replied, ‘He is Ibraheem (26).

26  I have removed a sentence added by Ibn Shahab from Ibn ‘Abbas to show only what Aboo Dzar reported.

Ibn Ĥazm and Anas bin Malik said (27):

The Prophet said, “Then Allaah enjoined fifty prayers on my followers when I returned with this order of Allaah, I passed by Moosa who asked me, ‘What has Allaah enjoined on your followers?’ I replied, ‘He has enjoined fifty prayers on them.’ Moosa said, ‘Go back to your Lord (and appeal for reduction) for your followers will not be able to bear it.’ (So I went back to Allaah and requested for a reduction) and He reduced it to half. When I passed by Moosa again and informed him about it, he said, ‘Go back to your Lord as your followers will not be able to bear it.’ So I returned to Allaah and requested a further reduction and half of it was reduced. I again passed by Moosa and he said to me: ‘Return to your Lord, for your followers will not be able to bear it. So I returned to Allaah and He said, ‘These are five prayers and they are all (equal to) fifty (in reward) for My Word does not change.’ I returned to Moosa and he told me to go back once again. I replied, ‘Now I feel shy of asking my Lord again.’ Then Jibreel took me till we reached Sidratul-Muntahaa, which was shrouded in colors, indescribable. Then I was admitted into Paradise where I found small (tents or) walls (made) of pearls and its earth was of musk.” (Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 345)

27  It is difficult to say whether it is an addition from Anas or continuation of what Aboo Dzar used to say.

The following is the Hadeeth reported from Malik ibn ŜaʻŜaʻah.

The Prophet said, “While I was at the House in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness, (an angel recognized me) as the man lying between two men. 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. Burraaq, a white creature, 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 gate-keeper, ‘Open the gate.’ The gatekeeper asked, ‘Who is it?’ He said, ‘Jibreel.’ The gate-keeper, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Jibreel said, ‘Muhammad.’ The gate-keeper 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 welcomed O son and a Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the second 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 ‘Eesa and Yahya (John) who said, ‘You are welcomed, O brother and a Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the third 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!’ (The Prophet added): There I met Yoosuf and greeted him, and he replied, ‘You are welcomed, 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 welcomed O brother and Prophet.’ Then we ascended to the 5th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in previous heavens. There I met and greeted Haroon who said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet”. Then we ascended to the 6th heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Moosa who said, ‘You are welcomed O brother and a Prophet.’ When I proceeded on, he started weeping and on being asked why he was weeping, he said, ‘O Lord! Followers of this youth who was sent after me will enter Paradise in greater number than my followers.’ Then we ascended to the seventh heaven and again the same questions and answers were exchanged as in the previous heavens. There I met and greeted Ibraheem who said, ‘You are welcomed o son and a Prophet.’ Then I was shown Al-Baytul-Ma‘moor. I asked Jibreel about it and he said, This is Al-Baytul-Ma‘moor 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).’ Then I was shown Sidratul-Muntahaa and I saw its fruit 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 Paradise, and the apparent ones are the Nile and the Euphrates.’ Then fifty prayers were enjoined on me. I descended till I met Moosa 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 Banee Israeel 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 Allaah (for a reduction) and He made it forty. I returned and (met Moosa) and had a similar discussion, and then returned again to Allaah for reduction and He made it thirty, then twenty, then ten, and then I came to Moosa who repeated the same advice. Ultimately Allaah reduced it to five. When I came to Moosa again, he said, ‘What have you done?’ I said, ‘Allaah has made it five only.’ He repeated the same advice but I said that I surrendered (to Allaah’s Final Order)’” Allaah’s Messenger was addressed by Allaah, “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.”

These are the most detailed reports on the subject other than the report from Anas himself. These narrations are clearly talking about Miʻraaj, and not a single word has been uttered about Israa. The two (Israa and Miʻraaj) are combined only in Anas’ own reports.

Other Ahadeeth indicate that the Prophet was shown Jannah and the river of Kawthar as well. The point that is abundantly clear from the above two narrations and other related Ahadeeth is that as opposed to the physical experience of Israa, the Miʻraaj is an event whereby the Prophet was explained some unseen realities through a series of allegorical but intense, vivid apparitions or spiritual experiences. Thus, it was neither a physical journey nor merely a vision, but a vivid paranormal experience. Many prominent persons in the past have held this view about Miʻraaj. Hafiz Ibn Qayyam has written the following in this respect in Zaadul-Maʻaad:

“Ibn Ishaaq has reported from ‘Aaishah and Muʻaawiyah that the Prophet’s soul was taken without his body being lost (body was still alive on earth). The same view has been reported from Al-Hasan Al-Baŝri.” Then, he explains: “They do not mean that it was a dream, but that the soul itself was taken for Miʻraaj.”

Among the recent scholars, Shah Waliullaah Muhaddith Dehlavi and Amin Ahsan Islahi held the same opinion. Shah Waliullaah even provides explanations of the allegorical aspects of the event (28). 

28  Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Seeratun-Nabi, volume 3, page 248-250, 1984

Inconsistencies Contained in Ahadeeth:

Unfortunately, most of the scholars have accepted that it was a combined event, ignoring the strong evidence against this view, and then have combined all of the variety of the reports they encountered, and created one story out of it. This has been done despite the fact that the Ahadeeth related to the event taken together indicated the following inconsistencies among the various reports:

a)   Where did the journey start from? Some reports say the Prophet was sleeping in Ĥaŧeem of holy Kaʻbah, while others say he was sleeping in his own house, or a house in Shiʻbu Abee Ŧaalib or Umm Haani’s house (Fakhitah bint Abee Taalib). However, his staying at UMM Haani’s house is suspect for two reasons: she was not Muslim at that time, as she accepted Islam only after conquest of Makkah (29); and her husband Hubayrah ibn ‘Amr was so anti-Islam and anti-Prophet that rather than accepting Islam at the conquest time, he fled to Najran.

b)   There are three reports about the Prophet’s condition at the time of event: He was lying down but awake, he was in a condition between sleep and wake, and he was asleep but awaken by the angel. One Hadeeth from Anas ends with: “And then he woke up and he was in the Masjidul- Ĥaraam”, implying the experience happened in sleep; but one person (Shareek) in the chain of reporters is not considered dependable. This Hadeeth reported in Kitabut-Tawheed in Bukhari even mentioned that there were three angels who visited him one night before he started receiving the revelations and then they came on the night of Israa (13 years later), one of them being Jibreel, did he not come to the Prophet for 13 years?

c)   Some reports (from Aboo Dzar) do not mention the use of Burraaq at all, others claim both Jibreel and the Prophet riding it. Some of them specify Jibreel sitting in the front and the Prophet behind, others claim vice versa.

d)   Some reports mention his going to the heavens first, while the others mention his going to Jerusalem first.

e)   Some reports mention that Burraaq was tied where it used to be tied while transporting previous prophets; others mention that Jibreel used his finger to create a hole in a stone to tie it.

f)   Some reports mention that the Prophet rode Burraaq to the heavens, others mention that he went up a ladder and one mentions that Jibreel took him by the hand to the heavens.

g)   Most of the reports mention that the Prophet entered Baytul-Maqdis (the Temple of Solomon) next to the place where the Burraaq was tied to the rock. The temple next door did not exist; rather, its ruins were being used as a dump site. The only building around there was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that is situated about half a kilometre (600 metres) from the Rock.

h)   It is reported that in Jerusalem, the Prophet was presented with a choice of drinks, from which he selected milk. Different reports claim different choices: water and alcohol; water, milk and alcohol; milk and alcohol; milk and honey.

i)   Some reports deny the Prophet leading any Salaah (30), others mention him leading all of the previous prophets in a two Rakaʻah Salaah when he descended from heaven, and still others claim that he led Salaah both before ascending and after descending.

j)   Nasaai includes a report that the Prophet was first taken to Madeenah, then to Mount Sinai, then to Bethlehem and then to Jerusalem. A report in Baihaqi replaces Mount Sinai with the tree in Madyan under which Moosa rested after running from Egypt. Major books of Hadeeth do not mention any detour.

k)   There are also variations in which prophet was met on which heaven;

l)   For getting the Salaah reduced from 50 to five, some mention that the Prophet made three trips back and forth from Moosa in the sixth heaven to Sidrah, some claim five trips and others increase it to 10 trips.

m)   Some claim that the Sidrah is after the seven heavens, others claim that it is in the sixth heaven.

n)   Some indicate Sidrah as the final destination, others claim that Jibreel stopped there but the Prophet proceeded further.

o)   Some mention four gifts given (communicated) at Sidra, others mention three, some others only mention being shown around without being given any revelations, instructions or news.

29  Ibn Jareer al-Tabari, Tareekh al -Rasul wal-Mulook, v39, 197 and al-Waqidi, Kitaabul Maghaazi, 417. Some people are of the opinion that she was Muslim but was hiding her faith. In either case, it would not have been possible for her to host the Prophet at her house.
30  Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Seeratun-Nabi, volume 3, footnote on page 233, 1984

Obviously, all of the reports are not true; there are many confusions and errors in these reports and quality of the reports is not of the standard expected of Ahadeeth. It is a mixture: there are definitely some valid reports that pertain to Miʻraaj and some that pertain to Israa; and there are also some invalid reports or invalid additions to valid reports. Syed Sulaiman Nadvi has indicated that some of the reports that give details about the Prophet’s encounters and experiences on the night of Miʻraaj quoted by many scholars in their writings on the subject are highly questionable because of some persons in the chain of narrators in some of those reports. He identifies Kalbi (liar), Aboo Jaʻfar Razi (dependable but extremely careless in reporting questionable reports), Aboo-Haroon ‘Abdi (called a bigger liar than Firʻawn), and Khalid ibn Yazeed ibn Abee Malik (liar) (31). Although he strongly believes in a physical Miʻraaj, he defiantly questions the authenticity of many reports narrated by some renowned names such as Waqdi, Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Jareer Tabari, Ibn Abee Haatim and Baihaqi.

31  Ibid page 234 and 241.

Conclusion

So, how should the Muslims deal with this issue in the face of such inconsistent reports?

It is quite clear that the Qur-aan talks about two events that took place some eight-years apart and were mentioned in the Soorahs revealed immediately after those events. As for the details given in the Ahadeeth, it may be possible to sort the reliable information from unreliable and the Israa related points from Miʻraaj related points. For example, it is possible that Israa took place from the Kaʻbah on Burraaq when he was fully awake, but Miʻraaj from a house when he was in some kind of trance, and it was only a vision-like paranormal or spiritual experience. However, this exercise will be quite difficult and arbitrary. Thus, instead of trying to determine exactly what happened, we should focus on the objectives of the events and the lesson they convey to us.

The Qur-aan mentions these events for specific purposes which we have explained in our Tafseer of the respective verses. The Qur-aan does not deal with the “how” aspects, which is the subject matter of these Ahadeeth. In our opinion, the best policy in such controversial matters is to accept whatever the Qur-aan presents exactly as described, concentrating on the objectives of their mention, without trying to pinpoint the specifics of “How did these events happen?” We know that Allaah SWT has His infinite ways to make these events happen and we also know that we do not have enough knowledge or capability to understand His ways. The reports about “how” are human efforts to describe in their own finite words and according to the limited knowledge something beyond human understanding. Thus, such reports cannot be taken literally. It is best to accept the matters as described in the Qur-aan and be content with it. Had the “how” details been worth pursuing or beneficial, Allaah and the Prophet and his prominent companions would have taken time to educate a wide variety of the Muslims about them at that time. If we review the contents of these reports, they do not provide us any information that can be useful to increase our Eeman or help us improve our practice of Islam.

We should also learn some important lessons about our attitude towards Ahadeeth. Some people have adopted an attitude that if something is reported in a Hadeeth, it must be accepted on its own without further scrutiny or consideration to other related factors. While Ahadeeth are a treasure of precious Islamic knowledge, we need to keep the following in mind to properly benefit from them:

  • Ahadeeth are human reports subject to human frailties, especially in matters that are of a transcendental nature. People are reasonably good on reporting do’s and don’ts, physical actions and methodologies. Thus, Ahadeeth in those matters are usually clear and crisp. In addition, those matters are communicated from generation to generation by the continuous actions of the Ummah. Thus, such Ahadeeth are dependable and actionable. Different practices reported in those Ahadeeth reflect flexibility that can be adopted in executing those actions in different ways, as reported from the Prophet. However, care must be taken in the matters of a transcendental or metaphysical nature. In those matters, we should depend on the Qur-aan and not accept anything that is not aligned with the Qur-aan, and even the Ahadeeth aligned with the Qur-aan should not be taken literally. This is because Ahadeeth are in human words, while the transcendental matters we are talking about (32) are beyond human understanding and fall into the Mutashaabihaat category.
  • No human work can be perfect. Although Bukhari is one of the most authentic and reliable human works, even in such an authentic book, there are a few Ahadeeth that have questionable and inconsistent content. Thus, the contents of Ahadeeth that have come to us through the reliable chain of narrators should still be scrutinized against the Qur-aan.
32  Such as the description of the means of transporting the Prophet from Makkah to Jerusalem or those used for his ascension.
Posted in Seerah on January 13, 2022 by Ayub Hamid

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