All praise belong to Allāh. We thank Him for the blessings of Islām, His guidance and faith in Him and all of His unlimited bounties. We seek refuge with our Lord from temptations, either apparent or hidden. I bear witness that there is no deity but Him, having no associates, and testify that our Master and Prophet Muḥammad is His Servant and Messenger. May the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him, his family, his companions, and all those who will follow them in righteousness till the Day of Judgment.
Dear worshippers of Allāh! We are still passing through the month of Rajab. In today’s Khuṭbah, our focus shall be geared towards sharing some thoughts with you on the great event of al-Isrā’ wal Mi῾rāj, which refers to an amazing journey undertaken by the best of creation—our beloved Prophet Muḥammad (SAW). The specific date of this blessed journey is not known. There are different opinions. However, the opinion that it took place on the 27th night of the month of Rajab prevails over other opinions, and is generally accepted by Muslims all over the world. The first leg of this journey called al-Isrā’ refers to the night journey from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām in Makkah to al-Masjid al-Aqṣā in Jerusalem. We find this mentioned in the first āyah of Sūratu’l-Isrā’.
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آَيَاتِنَا إِنَّه هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
Glory be to Him who took His slave on a journey by night from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām to al- Masjid al-Aqṣā, whose surroundings We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing” (Q. 17:1)
The reference to the second leg of the journey—al-Mi῾rāj or the ‘ascension’ is made in Sūratu’n-Najm.
وَلَقَدْ رَآَهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَى عِنْدَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنْتَهَى عِنْدَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَى إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَى مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَى لَقَدْ رَأَى مِنْ آَيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَى
And, indeed, he (Muḥammad) saw him (Jibrīl) a second time; by the lote-tree of the farthest limit, near which is the Garden of Abode; when the lote tree was covered in mystic splendor. His (Muḥammad) eye did not waver nor did he look away. He saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord. (Q.53:13-18)
These references in the Qur’ān are speaking about the miraculous journey which took Muḥammad (SAW) from Mecca to Jerusalem and thereafter to the farthest place in the heavens, known as Sidrat ul-Muntahā, where Muḥammad (SAW) was brought to be in Allāh’s divine presence.
There is no Ḥadīth evidence from the Sunnah, or from the practice of the Ṣaḥābah that emphasizes additional ‘ibādah on that particular night or the day preceding or following it. However, the occasion itself is very significant and invites us to remember it and draw useful lessons from it.
What is the background of al-Isrā’ wal-Mi῾rāj? The occasion of al-Isrā’ wal-Mi῾rāj may be thought of as the transition from the Meccan phase to the Madinan phase. It represents a paradigm-shift in the mission of our beloved Prophet Muḥammad (SAW)—a shift from the phase of non-violent passive resistance in Mecca to the phase of confrontational active resistance in Madīnah.
During the ten long years of preaching in Makkah, the Prophet (SAW), his companions, and the small community of believers were subjected to all kinds of humiliation, abuses, imposition of economic sanctions, and boycott by the larger community of Makkah. As if this was not enough, following the deaths of his uncle Abū Ṭālib and his beloved wife, Khadījah (RA), both of whom had been supportive of him to the utmost; plots were hatched to eliminate the Prophet (SAW).
Aware of these developments, the Prophet (SAW) decided to move the base of his da῾wah work from Makkah to Ṭā’if, a town in one of the suburbs of Makkah. Accompanied with Zayd ibn Ḥārithah, he proceeded to Ṭā’if to spread Allāh’s words. The cruel inhabitants of Ṭā’if not only rejected his call but also drove him out, throwing stones at him to the point that he left Ṭā’if with his feet bleeding and his heart broken. This was one of the most difficult periods he had faced in his missionary work.
Disappointed and saddened, and no one to turn to for help, he turned to his Lord for help and support. A most powerful and touching prayer emerged from the lips of the Prophet (SAW) expressing his weakness and helplessness before his Lord. He cried out,
O Allāh! to You I complain of my weakness, of my helplessness and of my lowliness before people.” O Most Merciful of the Merciful. You are the Most Merciful of the Merciful. You are the Lord of the weak and You are my Lord. “Under whose care have you placed me? Under an enemy who oppresses me or under some far off stranger who has been empowered over me? If you are not displeased with me, then I care not. However, your ease is better for me. I seek refuge with the glory of your light, which the heavens and earth are lit from that your anger does not befall on me, nor your displeasure descends on me. To you is the supplication until you are pleased, and there is no control or power except by you”.
To pacify the Prophet (SAW), Allāh (SWT) responded to this du῾ā’ in an unusual way. He called him to His divine presence. This—brothers and sisters, is the background to the occurrence of the night journey followed by the ascension, and the Prophet’s coming to the divine presence of the Lord of the worlds.
Under the protection of a mushrik—a polytheist by the name of Mut῾am ibn ‘Alī, the Prophet (SAW) left Ṭā’if for Makkah. The stage was being set for the Prophet (SAW) and his followers to migrate from Makkah to Madīnah. It was during this period of time that one night the Angel Jibrīl asked Muḥammad (SAW) to mount a white, winged horse-like creature named Burāq. The Burāq took him to al-Masjid al-Aqṣā in Jerusalem, where gathered together in one place were the prophets from Ādam (AS) to ‘Īsā ibn Maryam (AS). Muḥammad (SAW) led them all in prayer, as a token of confirmation of being the seal of all prophets and messengers of Allāh (SWT).
What is the origin of al-Masjid al-Aqṣā? We learn from the Qur’ān that
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِلْعَالَمِينَ
The first House established for mankind was that at Makkah, a place of blessing and guidance for all beings. (Q. 3:96)
Prophet Ibrāhīm (AS) had built the Ka῾bah in Makkah with his firstborn son Ismā῾īl (AS). He had also established a place of worship in Jerusalem. This place would later be known as Bethel, which in the Hebrew language means ‘The House of Allāh’. Forty years after the construction of Ka῾bah, Ibrāhīm (AS) expanded the Bethel and called it al-Masjid al-Aqṣā which means ‘the farthest Masjid’ because of its far distance from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām in Makkah. Both these mosques are considered holy, blessed and interlinked with one another, making it incumbent upon the Muslims to protect their sacredness from any intervention, invasion, destruction, or occupation. This is an amānah or a trust entrusted to the Muslim ummah.
From al-Masjid al-Aqṣā, Muḥammad (SAW) and Jibrīl (AS) began the final leg of their journey, up to the heavens. This is known as the Mi῾rāj or ascension of the Prophet. While travelling upward toward his destination at Sidrat ul-Muntahā, the Prophet (SAW) met Ādam, Yaḥyā, ‘Īsā ibn Maryam, Yūsuf, Idrīs, Hārūn, Mūsā, and Ibrāhīm (peace be upon them all) at each of the seven heavenly stations as they affirmed and expressed faith in his Prophethood.
At Sidrat ul-Muntahā, the Prophet (SAW) witnessed the ‘Much Frequented House (al-Bayt al-Ma῾mūr), a replica of the Holy Ka῾bah on earth. Different sets of angels perform Ṭawāf around al-Bayt-al-Ma῾mūr everyday. Engulfed in the glory and light of the divine presence, Muḥammad (SAW) experienced an indescribable ecstasy; an inexpressible joy, bliss, and delight. He and his followers were given the gift of fifty daily prayers, which were later reduced to five, but the reward of the reduced five prayers was kept equivalent to that of fifty prayers. May Allāh (SWT) help us to offer our daily prayers and may He accept them with His mercy and grace. Allāhumma Amīn.
أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمينَ وَالمُسْلِمَاتْ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
I say this and ask Allāh for forgiveness for me and you, so invoke Him for forgiveness, for He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.
الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين
All thanks and praises belong to Allāh the Lord of the Worlds. And may the constant blessings and mercies of Allāh be upon the leader of the Prophets, his entire household, companions and the entire Muslim ummah.
Al-Isrā’ wal-Mi῾rāj not only signifies the end of the period of persecution and passive resistance through transition to Madīnah, but also signifies the role of leadership of the Muslim ummah over Makkah and Jerusalem. It so happened that as a result of children of Israel’s constant breach of their covenant made with Allāh, and their other crimes and transgressions, the two thousand years old leadership role of the ummah of Mūsā (AS)—the children of Israel was transferred to the ummah of Muḥammad (SAW). This happened about two years after the hijrah when the Prophet (SAW) and his followers were ordered to change their Qiblah from al-Masjid al-Aqṣā in Jerusalem to al-Masjid al-Ḥarām in Makkah. The incident of the change of Qiblah (Taḥwīl al-Qiblah) manifested the creation of a new Muslim ummah and the consequent marginalization of the children of Israel.
This shift in leadership is very significant to the Muslims because after Muḥammad (SAW), it is the Muslims who assume the role of conveying the message of truth. Allāh’s Sunnah of preferring one ummah over another is based on how it conducts itself. There was a time when the children of Israel were given preference over all other nations.
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَنِّي فَضَّلْتُكُمْ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ
O Children of Israel, remember how I blessed you and favored you over other people” (Q. 2:47)
This was followed by a time when the children of Israel fell into disgrace for rejecting the signs of Allāh, for killing the prophets of Allāh, and for their constant disobedience and transgressions. Praising the newly installed Muslim ummah, Allāh says,
كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ
You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and have iman in Allāh. (Q.3:110)
The significance of the whole episode of al-Isrā’ wal-Mi῾rāj can hardly be over emphasized. The incidents that took place during this journey show the significance of the occasion while providing useful lessons at the same time.
Let me conclude by mentioning some of the things the Prophet (SAW) witnessed during the event of the Great journey. He was presented with milk and wine. He chose the milk and it was said, ” You have chosen the fitrah, had you chosen the wine, your nation would have been misled. He saw Malik, the keeper of Hell, with a cheerless frowning face. He saw Paradise and the Fire. He saw those who unjustly consume the property of orphans with snouts similar to those of camels. They will be swallowing red hot stones and coming out of their backs. He. also saw those taking interest and usury with their bellies too big to be able to move around. He saw the adulterers also in the hell, offered a tasty fatty meat and rotten smelly one but they chose the latter. The licencious women were hanging from their breast.
Brothers and sisters in Islām! If we recognize our lowliness, Allāh will actualize His Majesty and Lordship (Rubūbiyyah) in our lives. But if on the other hand we boastfully claim independence, strength, and control for ourselves, we will be left to our whims only to make us finally realize that it is He who is in charge and not we. May Allāh (SWT) give us the tawfīq to live and die as Muslims, submitting to Him alone.
O Allāh, please confer Your blessings and grant peace upon our Prophet Muḥammad (SAW), his family and all of the companions.
O Allāh, we seek you favour to make us amongst those who speak in kindness, say all that is good and work according to it, and thus be beneficial to themselves, their community and homeland.
O Lord of the Worlds, we beseech You to be pleased with us and guide us to that which avail Your satisfaction.
May Allāh have mercy on the honourable martyrs of our county, gather them with the righteous.
May Allāh make their dwelling with the ones upon whom Allāh has bestowed favour of the prophets and the steadfast affirmers of truth, O the Most Gracious the Most Forgiving.
By Dr. Raji Mubeen.