Isra and Mir’aaj
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
Ummul Momineen Sayyidina Aa’isha (RAnha) once asked Prophet (SAW): “Ya Rasul Allah, every morning had brought a new test and trial for you, which would you say was the hardest day in your life?” Tears came to his eyes and he (SAW) replied: “I don’t have a grievance, but the hardest day of my life was the day in Taa’if.” Historians are stunned at the courage and endurance of Prophet (SAW), and write that no other Prophet or Messenger was ever put to such an agonizing trial. Readers visiting that heart wrenching moment in Prophet (SAW)’s biography are amazed and moved by the grace of Prophet (SAW)’s lofty character in fulfilling the mission of Prophethood.
In the then prevalent social system of Makkah, if a Quresh chieftain gave refuge to a person, no one could dare harm that refugee as it was the binding on the entire society. Abu Talib, a Quresh leader at that time, had provided protection to his nephew Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who was treated with respect in spite of general opposition to his (SAW)’s mission. In the tenth year of Prophethood, the Quresh chieftain died and soon after Ummul Momineen Khadijat-ul-Kubrah (RAnha) passed away. That year is known as the “Aam-ul-huzn”, i.e. the year of sorrow in the life of Prophet (SAW). The vacuum created by the sad death of two key figures left Prophet (SAW) exposed to the intense opposition of Makkans. When persecution reached its height and the mushrikeen and kuffar made life unbearable for him, Prophet (SAW) thought to invite the tribe of Banu Thafeeque to the fold of Islam. They lived in the neighboring city of Taa’if. He (SAW) had spent his early childhood in the tribe of Bani Sa’ad to which belonged his baby sitter Halima Sa’adia. The tribe lived not too far from Taa’if. Keeping the association of his early childhood in view, Prophet (SAW) hoped that people of Taa’if would give him a sympathetic ear. Taa’if was an important city of groves and gardens and its people were well off. Aayah 31 of Surah Zukhruf mentions it in these words: “[The Quresh exclaimed] Why was this Qur’an not sent down to a distinguished man, from either of the two cities.”
Reaching Taa’if, Prophet (SAW) first went to meet the leaders of the Thaqueef and invited them to embrace Allah’s Deen. Contrary to Prophet (SAW)’s expectation, they not only rejected his invitation, but mocked at him and commissioned street urchins and slaves to taunt, tease and abuse Prophet (SAW). Howling from the road sides, they threw stones at him. Injured and bleeding, he (SAW) took refuge in a garden in Taa’if’s out skirts. Sitting under a palm tree, he submitted a supplication to Allah (SWT). Each word of his du’a is charged with his passionate love with Allah (SWT), his dedication to the cause of Islam and commitment to the mission of Prophethood. Each word reflects extreme humility and helplessness of a devotee and servant. In humiliation, pain and suffering, he submitted his pleas to Allah (SWT). He begged for mercy and sought help from Him. Languages are too poor to translate the current of emotions embedded in the moving eloquence which spontaneously came to his (SAW) lips. Shoes soaked in blood, hungry and thirsty, tired and exhausted, subjected to a tortuous treatment that no Prophet had ever met, he (SAW) addressed Allah (SWT) as such:
“Ya Allah, I submit to You the state of my weakness, lack of my means and resources, and the absence of respect for me in the sight of people. Ya Allah, You are the most Merciful. You are the Lord of the oppressed, and You are my Lord too. To whom would You leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me? Or to an enemy whom You have given power to humiliate me? I care least for any hardship if you are not displeased with me. Your pleasure alone is my sole objective. My comfort lies in the Peace if granted from You. I seek refuge in Your light, which illuminates all the darkness and on which depends this world and the next. I pray to You to please give refuge and save me from the state where Your wrath may descend upon me and I become the object of your anger. I seek my comfort in Your pleasure. There is neither power nor strength except in You.”
At this point Allah (SWT)‘s angel controlling the mountains was sent to seek permission from Prophet (SAW) to squeeze Taa’if’s in between the two mountains on either side of the city. Mercy to the worlds (SAW) did not want any thing bad to happen to people of Taa’if. He said: “No, I hope that Insha Allah some one from among their off spring will believe and worship one Allah alone as against any one else sharing power with Him.”
Prophet (SAW) returned to Makkah, and like before, its residents opposed Prophet (SAW) with even greater intensity and unleashed propaganda against his mission. It was then that Prophet (SAW) was granted Isra and Mi’raaj, i.e., ascension to the Heavens. During the night, he (SAW) was taken to Kabat-ulLah, and from there to Masjid-e-Aqsa as per Aayah 1 of Surah Bani Isra’eel:
“Glory to Him who made His servant travel by night from the sacred place of worship to the furthest place of worship, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him some of Our signs: He alone is the All Hearing, the All Seeing.”
Prophet (SAW) visited the many important places in the seven heavens, met earlier Prophets and Messengers, and observed many signs of Allah (SWT), the mention of which is in Aayah 17-18 of Surah An-Najm: “His sight never wavered, nor was it too bold, and he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord.”
This was the special honor bestowed upon Prophet (SAW) as a reward for the treatment he met at Taa’if. This was not only an ordinary incident, but it carries within its fold immeasurable significance. Surahs Isra and An-Najm revealed in connection with Miy’raaj show that he (SAW) is the Prophet of Masjid-e-Haraam, and Masjid-e-Aqsa, the Imaam of the east and the west, the inheritor of teachings of all the earlier Prophets, and the leader and guide of the entire human race until eternity.
Yaqoob (AS) was the son of Ishaque (AS), and his title was Isra’eel. Bani Isra’eel’s Qiblah was Bait-ul-Maqdis. The second son of Ibrahim was Isma’eel, (AS) whose Qibla was Kabah-tu-llah. It means that earlier Prophets born in Arab or Syria were either the Imaam of one or the other, not both. Allah (SWT) gave Prophet (SAW) the leadership of both and thus he (SAW) came to be known as the Prophet of the Qiblatain. Ibrahim (AS)’s inheritance which remained divided for centuries between the two sons was combined in the person of the last and final Prophet Muhammad (SAW). And that is why Prophet (SAW) was commanded to pray in the direction of Bait-ul-Maqdis and later in the direction of Kabat-ulLah. (Seerat-un-Nabi, by Sayyed Sulaiman Nadvi).
Social and political leadership is limited to particular people or geographical region and always time centered. The unique event of Mi’raaj is a declaration that the scope of Prophet (SAW)’s leadership is eternal and universal.
Insha Allah, more significance of Isra and Mi’raaj will be discussed later.