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The Magnificent Journey: Al-Israa' wal Mi'raaj

Yaser Birjas

category: Aqeedah

source: Muslimmatters.org

reads: 9700

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13. For indeed He saw Him at a second descent,
14. Near the Lote-tree beyond which none may pass:
15. Near it is the Garden of abode.
16. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded (in Mystery unspeakable!)
17. (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong!
18. For truly did He see, of the Signs of His Lord, the Greatest!

Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, "When the Messenger of Allah was taken on the journey of Israa', he ascended to Sidrat Al-Muntaha, which is a tree in the sixth heaven, and where everything terminates. Everything which ascends from the earth is held there and then is taken afterwards, and everything that descends to the earth is held there and then is taken down" (Reported by Ahmad and Muslim).

There is some debate Sidrat Al-Muntaha was found in the seventh heaven (according to the hadith of Anas and most narrations) or in the sixth (according to the hadith of Ibn Mas'ud). The second trip, the ascension to the seventh heaven, did indeed happen even though Ibn Masoud used the term 'Israa' to speak about the Mi'raaj.
Since the two trips happened during the same night journey, the term 'The night journey' was assumed to be for both.

Trip one was the 'Israa' or 'the journey by night'. This trip was clearly defined in the Qur'an in surah Al-Israa' 17:1. It was the journey of the Prophet on the back of Al-Buraaq the animal which carried him that night from Al-Masjid Al-Haraam (the sacred masjid) in Makkah to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (the farthest masjid) in Jerusalem.

Trip two was the 'Mi'raaj' i.e. the 'ascension' or 'the stairway, ladder or elevator'. This trip was mentioned in surat Al-Najm 53, and the hadith cited earlier. The transportation used in this trip is not clear. Some narrations suggested that Al-Buraaq was used again in this trip, but a hadith from Abu Sa'eed Al-khudree mentions a different method, a 'stairway' or a 'ladder'.

Al-Bayhaqi in Dalael Al-Nubuwwah narrates, the Messenger salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: "The Mi'raaj was brought to me. It is the 'stairway' which the souls of the children of Adam ascend on. No creation has ever seen anything of such beauty as of the Mi'raaj."

This hadith was also narrated in other collections of hadith, however, all of them cited the same source, Abu Haroun AlAbdi on the authority of Abu Sa'eed. Abu Haroun is deemed to be weak and unreliable. Nevertheless, Ibn Katheer accepted the Mi'raaj as the way of ascension.

Ibn Katheer rahimahullah asserts this in his summary of the whole story. After the compilation of all the different narrations he said: "Then the Mi`raj was brought to him, which is a 'stairway' or a ladder with steps which one climbs up. So he went up on it to the first heaven, then he went up to the rest of the seven heavens."

This hadith is very clear on the method. The word Mir'aaj is used here to name the stairway as well as to describe the ascension.

In light of the hadith of Abu Sa'eed according to Ibn Katheer, the linguistic meaning of the word itself in the Arabic dictionary, and considering the miraculous nature and beauty of this Mi'raaj, could this Mi'raaj be viewed as a heavenly escalator, shining with silver and gold? [1]

Is Jerusalem truly the earthly gate to heaven? Was that the reason why the Mi'raaj was stationed there? Why did the Prophet have to stop in Jerusalem on his way to the seventh heaven? Couldn't he just travel from Makkah straight to heaven?

Perhaps an indication to the answer can be found in a different hadith. Imam Ahmad, Ibn Majah and other scholars reported that Maymoonah bint Sa'ad or Sa'eed, a servant of the Prophet, asked: O Messenger of Allah! Give us an answer (judgment) on Bait Al-Maqdis –Jerusalem-? He said: "The land of Mahshar –congregation- and Manshar –resurrection. A land where you should go visit, and pray therein…"

Al-Sindi in his commentary on Ibn Majah said: "That means on the Day of Qiyaamah (Resurrection) people will be directed to move towards (Jerusalem) for their congregation as indicated by other ahadith."
Imam Muslim narrated a hadith from Hudhayfah in which the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam counted ten signs of the Day of Judgment. One of the signs of Day of Judgment mentioned in the hadith was the fire which will erupt in Yemen and then move the people as they escape it until it gathers them all into their 'Mahshar' i.e. congregation station.

AlMubarakpuri in his commentary on Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, after narrating the above hadith, quoted Imam Al-Qaree saying: "Some say that the land of congregation will be Al-sham (Jerusalem and its surrounding) based on a report from an authentic hadith. But it seems that the congregation will start there or maybe the land will expand in order to fit all the creation of the world."

From the above narrations it seems that Jerusalem i.e. Bait Al-Maqdis is the land of congregation 'AlMahshar'. Whether this congregation is happening before the actual start of the Hour or after the resurrection begins the conclusion is the same. Eventually people will be taken to the earthly station of their congregation before their ascension to heaven. And that earthly station is Bait Al-Maqdis.

Jerusalem or Bait Al-Maqdis was and still is the seat of divine revelation and center of faith. Many Prophets and Messengers of Allah resided there. Others were commanded to make it the destination of their immigration. During the time period of Banu Israel (the children of Israel) prophets once ruled the land and when one died another succeeded him, all by divine assignment. The divine connection was constant and had suffered no interruption for so many generations. For that reason it was made Qudus, or a sacred and purifying land.

Abul Waleed AlBaji in Al-Muntaqaa, a commentary on AlMuwatta' by Imam Malik, said about Bait Al-Maqdis: "The reason the people of Bait Al-Maqdis were privileged with such a title (holy or purifying land) was when they once acted upon the obedience of Allah. They had many prophets amongst them and the rest were companions of the prophets. This was probably because they had been commanded to reside and remain there in Jerusalem.

Similar to this is the order of Hijrah (immigration) to Madeenah which was given to the early Muslims. Residency in Madeenah has since become a source of purification to its residents, purifying them from their sins."

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