Ascension: The Celestial Journey of the Messenger ﷺ

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Marked the Beginning of a New World Order

On the 26th night of Rajab in the tenth year of our blessed Messenger’s (ﷺ) earthly mission, a momentous miracle took place, the Isra wal Miraj, the Ascension. A miraculous journey of trillions of miles but in seconds. Its purpose was to show him the cosmic secrets and Allah’s power. The ascension of the Messenger (peace be upon him) has puzzled philosophers and perplexed poets for centuries. But its obvious aim was to mark the beginning of a new world order based on morality and spirituality.

Glory to the Majestic Lord who took His noble servant on a night journey from the sacred Masjid to the Far Away Masjid – whose surroundings we made holy – to show him Our signs, He is the Hearing the Seeing” (Al-Isra:1).

This verse is introducing a miracle of the Messenger (ﷺ) the Miraj or the Ascension, a night journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and from there to the celestial heights, finishing in the Divine presence. It showed the universal nature of Prophet Muhammad’s (ﷺ) message, a declaration that it was global. It was heralding the new age and forecasting the splendid future of Islam.

The New World

This new world order was founded on the ten Commandments: worship Allah, care for parents, give to the needy, do not commit the seven deadly sins, wasting wealth, being a miser, murder, adultery, cheating, blind imitation and arrogance (see Al-Isra 23-36). The horizontal phase of the journey begins from the Kaaba in Makkah to the historic masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. The second was the vertical phase from Al-Aqsa to the Divine throne. The purpose of this journey was “to show him Our signs”. The hadith literature gives graphic details of this momentous journey. The verse begins with the Divine attribute, “Subhan”, the Glorified.

According to astronomers, the universe is 93 billion light years in size, (a light year is 6 trillion miles) an incredible distance. You may be wondering how such an enormous distance was covered in seconds. Look no further, since the Majestic Lord took His servant from the Sacred Mosque to the Far Away Mosque. The one who is flawless, without defect or weakness, the Glorified, who can create things from nothing by the mere command of ‘kun’ (be) and ‘fa-yakun’ (it becomes). By using the Divine name “Subhan”, doubts vanish, and certainty prevails. Hence the denial of the Miraj is not the denial of the miraculous journey, but the power of Allah.

The Ascension 

Detailed narratives According to Ibn Kathir, forty-five Sahaba narrated them. The Messenger (ﷺ) says: “One night I was asleep, in the Sacred Masjid when Jibril woke me up and informed me of the Divine will. He took me to the well of Zamzam, my chest was opened and filled with wisdom and faith. Then I mounted a beautiful horse-like animal, the Buraq.” It travelled at phenomenal speed. The Messenger (ﷺ) was soon at the second precinct of Masjid al-Aqsa. There He met and led all the prophets of the past ages in congregational prayer.

This marked the end of the horizontal phase of the journey. From here, the Messenger (ﷺ) ascended the heavens. In the first heaven, he met Adam who greeted Him with love and affection in the words, “Welcome O righteous Son!” Then he continued to the second heavens, where he met Isa and Yahya, then the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and finally the seventh heaven where was greeted by Ibrahim.

The journey continued beyond the heavens until He reached the Kaaba of the Angels (Bait al Ma’mur), from here he (ﷺ) went to the Lote tree, the boundary of the universe. This is the focal point of Divine grace. Even Jibril isn’t permitted here. The Messenger (ﷺ) mounted a new vehicle, the Rafraf (A Green cushion) and continued alone, but where to? That is beyond the point of human grasp. The Majestic Quran alludes to it, in Surat al-Najm, verse 8: ‘Then he drew near, very near, like two bows lengths or even closer.’ What happened there is also in the realm of mystery. We are just told that He (Allah) revealed to His servant what he revealed.

Conclusion

At the end of Rajab Imams talk about this Ascension to remind us of its significance (18th February will be that night). The five daily prayers were introduced as a daily devotion. If Islam is the circle, the prayer is the centre point. If Islam is the tree, the prayer is the fruit. And if Islam is a body, the prayer is the soul. No wonder the Lord took such care of announcing it. Science cannot explain it. Perhaps, Einstein’s theory of relativity and the notion of time-space worms may give a hint to the mystery of the Ascension. Allama Iqbal the poet of Islam aptly expressed its philosophy in a couplet, he wrote: “I learnt from the Ascension of the chosen one that the universe is within human grasp.”

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