In the Name of Allah, The Grantor of Universal Compassionate, the Grantor of Spiritual Mercy
“Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad ) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) to the farthest mosque (in Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him of Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.” (Qur’an 17/1)
As we are commemorating the Isra’ and Mi`raj, it is important to reflect on the deep meanings of such great events and find lessons for ourselves to apply in our lives here and now. The reflections offered in this letter is not in any way denies the physical and spiritual miracle that occurred to Prophet Muhammad (sa) but it is meant to help us follow his footstep in hope to unite with him in the Garden where we can witness the Divine Face.
The Isra’ and Miraj are important events that happened to Prophet Muhammad (sa) which signifies spiritual meanings for all of us. The word Isra’ means “causing to walk at night” and it refers to the event when Allah took Prophet Muhammad (sa) in a night journey from al-Masjid al-Haram (The Sanctuary) in Makkah to al-Masjid al-Aqsaa (the farthest mosque) in Jerusalem where all the prophets and messengers since the time of Adam (as) to Isa (as) had gathered to pray with him. They all prayed together led by Prophet Muhammad (sa). Afterwards. The Prophet (sa) was taken in an ascent from one heaven to another where he met different prophets until he arrived at the Final Abode and became aware of the Divine Presence. It was at that event that prayer (Salat) was revealed and made obligatory upon all who accept to follow the Path to Allah. The word Isr’a also carry the meaning of delight and revealing secrets. Thus, with every step the Prophet (sa) took in his night journey and ascension (Isra’ and Mi`raj) there was a delighting secret that was revealed to him and to us through him.
The Isra’ was a journey in the physical world and the Miraj was a journey beyond the world. The Isra’ was in the material dense realm (Mulk or alam kathif) while the Mi
raj was to the spiritual subtle microcosmic realm (Malakut oralam latif) then to the realm of Divine Power (Jabarut) and finally to the Lahut (Divine Presence). It was a journey from the creation with all of its levels to the Creator. It is an invitation for all of us to follow the Path of the Prophet (sa) and transcend the realm of the creation to be conscious of the Divine Presence.
The Isra’ started by two angels coming to the Prophet (sa) at night and splitting his chest open, taking his heart out and washing it with faith then returning it to its place and he was ordered to circumambulate the Ka`bah seven times. Similarly, we must open our hearts and let it be washed by faith, by the remembrance of Allah and by trusting Him and be circumambulating our focus, our lives and our actions around the Divine Essence.
After circulating the Ka`bah, Angel Jibril brought a ride to the Prophet (sa) called “al-Buraq” and the word Buraq is from the root verb “baraqa” which means “to flash” as in lightening “barq”. The Prophet (sa) said that whatever the Buraq sees it attains. The Prophet (sa) and Angel Jibril (as) mounted the Buraq and it took them with the speed of light to al-Masjid al-Aqsaa (the farthest mosque). He dismounted the Buraq and tied it where all the prophets used to tie their rides.
Similarly, whatever your sight is, that is your pursuit, you would attain. If your pursuit is the physical realm that is all you would get, and if your pursuit is the spiritual realm then that is all you would get, and if your pursuit is extra ordinary power that is all you would get and if your pursuit is to be at the Presence of the Beloved then that is what you would get and Allah makes it happen in the speed of light.
Al-Masjid al-Haram symbolizes the holy sanctuary of your individuality while The Farthest Masjid symbolizes the sacred individualities of others so you need to ride the ride which Allah provided you with, that is the Divine Guidance, given through the prophets and messengers of Allah and explained by all the guides that interpreted their way. You must tie your ride, your drive, your motion in this world, to where all the prophets had tied their motions [i.e. the Divine Guidance] to enter into the sacred realm of unity and make your interaction a prayer in which the godly qualities are presented and the Divine Essence is remembered. This means to move from your sacred state after receiving guidance to connect with the sacred souls of others, especially those who may appear far from you. Similarly, just as the Prophet (sa) gathered with all the Prophets (sa), you need to unite with the sacred souls in all people. When the Prophet (sa) led all the prophets who passed away in prayer it signified that he carried the message after them in this world and so has their support. Similarly, you need to carry the Divine Message after the prophets and after the passing away of our guide, Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal. We must carry the Divine Message, the Message of all the prophets, the message of peace, love, mercy, justice and freedom by following the Divine Law and the Way which they described for us, through Divine Revelation, in order to attain the gnosis they had attained and reach the truth and be the representative of its mercy to the worlds.
After the Prophet (sa) finished praying with the prophets, he was offered a cup of wine and a cup of milk. He chose the cup of milk, and Angel Jibril told him that he has chosen al-Fitrah (innate nature) which is inclined to choose that which is natural, unchanged, pure, beautiful, and leads to growth. Angel Jibril asserted that if the Prophet (sa) had chosen wine his whole Ummah (nation) would have been ruined. This means that we too, must choose that which is in our innate nature, which holds the godly qualities in order to grow and attain spiritual maturity (rushd).
Angel Jibril took the Prophet (sa) and ascended with him to heavens, politely taking permission at the gate of every heaven where the Prophet (sa) met different prophets. It is important to understand that the Prophets were not in higher degree one above the other so one who is in the first heaven is lower than the one in the seventh, for Allah said we should not make separation between them and in the Qur’an, Allah said He favored each with gifts distinguished from the other. In this sense, each prophet exceled above others in particular way and others exceled him in peculiar ways so at the end they were equally and uniquely favored; for they were like stars each designated his orbit and around them are their followers where they served as pools or magnets attracting people to Allah in different ways.
Likewise, we need to be polite as Angel Jibril taught us and to respect the space, or sacred orbit, of every individual and see everyone as equal and witness how Allah favored each and every one of us with peculiar gifts uniquely designated for him/her.
In the First Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met Adam (as), the father of humanity. This station symbolizes the realization of the unity of origin which unifies the whole creation and unifies humanity. We are all brothers and sisters who have one father: Adam and one mother Hawa’ and One Creator. This realization is the first step towards the truth. The prophet (sa) saw countless people standing to the right and to the left of Prophet Adam (as). When Adam (as) would look to the right he would rejoice, seeing those who are following the Path and when he would look at the left he would weep, seeing the people who are straying from the Path. Similarly, we have to develop that empathy towards others.
In the Second Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Isa (as) and prophet Yahya (as). According to the Quur’an, Isa was given the title “the word of Allah” (kalimatul Allah). And Yahya was asked to take the Holy Book with strength. Similarly, we need to follow the Divine Word, which is not only in the revealed Holy Books, but is also ingrained in our fitrah (innate nature) and to be strong in holding it, following the Divine Guidance which includes seeking forgiveness and rectifying our mistakes when we commit sins.
In the Third Heaven, the Prophet (as) met prophet Yusuf (as) who was given half the beauty and was titled “as-Sidiq”, the genuine one. We too, must be sincere in our pursuit of the godly qualities in order to be beautified.
In the Fourth Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Idris (as) who was known to be raised to a higher place and given the secret of writing on the sand. Likewise, when we follow the Divine Guidance, with sincerity and strength, our unique purpose and gifts would be revealed to us and we can serve and this servitude would raise us to the orbit or heaven, and our actions in this world of sand will be guided.
In the Fifth Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Harun who was described as the supporter for prophet Musa (as). Likewise, when we start to serve our purpose using the unique gifts which Allah granted for us, we will find those who support us.
In the Sixth Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Musa (as) who was known as the one who spoke with Allah (kalimu Allah). When we rise and start to fulfill our purpose, we can hear the Divine Speech, not only hearing the true interpretation of the Holy Qur’an, but also hearing the language of our innate nature which follows the Divine Law, and we would also hear the “Live Speech of Allah”, that is the cosmos including all the events that comes to us and all the people we interact with. This means, we will find meanings, purposes, guidance and wisdom in interacting with the world.
In the Seventh Heave, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Ibrahim (as), who was known as “Khalilu Allah” or the intimae friend of Allah, the one who were penetrated by the godly qualities with Divine Love. Similarly, through loving Allah and yearning to be with Him, we become opened to be adorned by the godly qualities and feel proximity to Allah.
After this point, Angel Jibril told Prophet Muhammad (sa) that he cannot ascend further with him; for if Jibril would have ascended he would be burnt but if the Prophet would ascend he would become near to the Divine Essence. In Sufism, Angel Jibril is known as “the inflator of forms”. This means that the Prophet (sa) was able to ascend beyond all physical forms and spiritual forms to a state of pure consciousness of the Divine Presence, the Creator of all forms and images who commands angel Jinril to form them. The Prophet (sa) transcended all the realms and reached that proximity through his individual consciousness that is a quanta of the Divine Awareness. Similarly, each of one of us can, through their pure individual consciousness, gain access to the Divine Awareness and communicate directly with Allah. Notice that the forms and pictures cannot ascend or they are burnt which means that Allah speaks through them from behind their subtle veils, revealing His Beautiful Names by which we can become aware of The Unifying Presence.
The Qur’an mentions that the Prophet (sa) saw the Lote Tree where the Abode Garden (Janatul al-Ma’wa) is. This symbolizes the tree of creation. It is said in the Qur’an that Allah overwhelmed the Lote Tree, meaning that the Divine Qualities overwhelms the creation and for the one who can witness that, he becomes aware of the Divine Essence from which the whole creation issues as live speech. Once this is witnessed, no form or image can cause the heart to waver or get confused by the multiplicity of Divine Expressions manifesting in the creation.
Allah revealed the obligatory Salat (prayer) to Prophet Muhammad (sa) which given to us as a gift to connect us to Allah, As the Prophet (sa) described it is our means to ascension. In the beginning the obligatory prayers were supposed to be fifty but prophet Musa (as) told prophet Muhammad (sa) to ask Allah to reduce the number of the obligatory prayers because people would not be able to do it and as prophet Muhammad (sa) kept asking Allah, Allah responded and made them five prayers but Allah granted tenfold blessings for each prayer performed and made the five equivalent to fifty.
After the revelation, the Prophet (sa) returned to al-Masjid al-Aqsa and untied his Buraq and returned to his home to find his billow still warm. This signifies that after spiritual retreat, or pausing to connect with Allah, we need to return to resume our activities in the world and do not become ascetics but try to serve.
It is recommended that we fast and do extra act of worship at the night commemorating the Isra’ and Miraj, such as doing the Khalwah (retreat) in hope to ascend like the Prophet (sa) beyond the physical realm of dense forms, the spiritual realm with subtle images, and beyond the pursuit of extraordinary power, to become aware of the Divine Presence, realizing our poverty before Allah, and our dependence on the Divine Essential Presence for our own existence. In this way, we become mere servants to Allah, enslaved to the Divine Beautiful Attributes such as peace, mercy, love, justice and freedom and we realize our need for tawbah (returning in repentance) when we experience lacking such godly qualities. Allah (swt) honors the attitude of poverty (faqr) and servitude (ubudiyyah) and draw the possessor of such qualities near and make him/her delight in being intimate with His Essence.
Finally, it is important to mention that the reward of praying in al-Masjid al-Haram (the Ka`bah) and in al-Masjid al-Aqsa is 100,000 fold equivalent to the reward praying in other places. This is because Allah had chosen these places to remind people of Him, and be prayers areas of His prophets and made it a portal to attract large number of people for prayers and remembrance so they have “barakah” or special energy that people can receive.