Last updated: 4 October 2017 From the section Biography of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
In 620, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) experienced the Isra and Mi'raj, a miraculous journey which took place with the Angel Jibrail (AS). In the first part of the journey, the Isra, he travelled from Al-Masjid al-Haram in Makkah on a winged horse to "the farthest mosque", Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
In the second part, the Mi'raj, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ascended and toured heaven and hell, and spoken with earlier prophets, such as Ibrahim, Musa, and Isa, peace be upon them. The five obligatory prayers were also ordained during this event.
One night whilst sleeping in Al-Masjid al-Haram (Sacred Mosque), angels descended and carried Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and placed him by the wells of Zamzam - a sacred spring in Makkah. From then onward Angel Jibrail (AS) took over.
Heart cleansed by Jibrail (AS)
Angel Jibrail (AS) cut open (the part of his body) between his throat and the middle of his chest (heart) and took all the material out of his chest and abdomen and then washed it with Zam-Zam water with his own hands till he cleansed the inside of his body. Then a gold tray containing a gold bowl full of belief and wisdom was brought and he emptied the container into the chest and throat blood vessels of the Prophet and then closed it (the chest).
All this was done in preparation for the heavenly ascend which the Prophet was to undergo later that night.
Jibrail came to the Prophet (pbuh) with a white horse, slightly larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule. This animal was Al-Buraq - one of the animals of Paradise. Jibrail held Al-Buraq as the Prophet mounted it and they were carried from the Al-Masjid al-Haram (Sacred Mosque) in Makkah to the Al-Aqsa (Distant Mosque) in Jerusalem.
Some believe this event to have been a spiritual one but the majority Sunni consensus is that it was a physical journey.
Milk of human kindness
2. In the same context, there were brought to him two gold vessels. There was milk in one, while the other was full of wine. He was asked to choose either of
them, so he selected the vessel containing milk and drank it. He (the angel) said: "You have been guided on Al-Fitrah or you have attained Al- Fitrah. Had
you selected wine, your nation would have been misled." [It is a symbolic way of saying that good and evil in the form of milk and wine were brought before
the Prophet and he instinctively made a choice for the good. It is very difficult to render the Arabic term ‘Fitrah’ into English. It denotes the original
constitution or disposition, with which a child comes into this world, as contrasted with qualities or inclinations acquired during life; besides it refers to the spiritual inclination inherent in man in his unspoilt state].
Leading other Prophets (pbut) in prayer in Al-Aqsa Masjid
The Prophet and Jibrail arrived to a land with palm trees. Jibrail told the Prophet to dismount and pray - so the Prophet prayed two ra'kats. Jibrail told him this was 'Taybah', in Medinah. They then continued with the journey until they reached another place - Tur Sina - where they Prophet dismounted and prayed two rak'ats again. They repeated this for Bayt Lahm where Prophet Isa (Jesus - pbuh) was born. Finally they reached the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem where the Prophet tethered Al-Buraq to a ring in the gate of the Mosque.
Inside the Al-Aqsa Masjid Allah (SWT) had assembled for him all the Prophets from Adam to Isa (peace be upon them). Prophet Muhammad then led all of them in prayer.
Angel Jibrail then led the Prophet into the heavens on stairs called Al-Mirqat.
When they reached the first heaven Gabriel asked the guardian angel to open the door of heaven.
The dwellers of the Heaven asked, 'Who is it?' He said, "Gabriel." They said, "Who is accompanying you?" He said, "Muhammad." They said, "Has he been called?" He said, "Yes" They said, "He is welcomed."
When it was opened he saw Prophet Adam (pbuh), the progenitor of mankind.
Gabriel said to the Prophet, "He is your father; greet him." The Prophet saluted him and Adam returned his greeting and said, "Welcome, O my Son! O what a good son you are!". Prophet Adam than expressed his faith in Muhammad’s Prophethood.
Behold, he saw two flowing rivers, while he was in the nearest sky. He asked, "What are these two rivers, O Gabriel?" Gabriel said, "These are the sources of the Nile and the Euphrates."
Then Gabriel took him around that Heaven and behold, he saw another river at the bank of which there was a palace built of pearls and emerald. He put his hand into the river and found its mud like musk Adhfar. He asked, "What is this, O Gabriel?" Gabriel said, "This is the Kauthar which your Lord has kept for you." Then Gabriel ascended (with him) to the second Heaven and the angels asked the same questions as those on the first Heaven, i.e., "Who is it?" Gabriel replied, "Gabriel". They asked, "Who is accompanying you?" He said, "Muhammad." They asked, "Has he been sent for?" He said, "Yes." Then they said, "He is welcomed.'' Then he (Gabriel) ascended with the Prophet to the third Heaven, and the angels said the same as the angels of the first and the second Heavens had said.
Nile and Euphrates rivers
3. The Prophet [pbuh] told that he saw two manifest rivers, — the Nile and the Euphrates — and two hidden ones. It appears that the two manifest rivers,
the Nile and the Euphrates, symbolically describe the area in whose fertile valleys, Muhammad’s Message will settle, and the people whereof will always
remain the adherent bearers of Islam that will be passed on from generation to another. They can by no means suggest that they well up from the Garden.
To Adam's right, the Prophet saw some bodies, and to Adam’s left, other bodies. If Adam would look to his right he would laugh, and if he would look to his left he would cry. Adam was seeing the souls of his descendants. Those on his right were his descendants who would die as believers and those on his left were his descendants who would die as non-believers.
The Prophet then ascended to Second Heaven where he met Isa (Jesus) and Yahya (John), peace be upon them, who greeted him and expressed their faith in Muhammad's Prophethood. This process was repeated for all seven heavens where the Prophet met with different Prophet in each heaven.
- Isa (Jesus) and Yahya bin Zakariya (John, son of Zachariya). Both Prophet Isa and Yahya are cousins - their mothers were sisters.
- Yusuf (Joseph)
- Idris (Enoch)
- Harun (Aaron) - brother of Prophet Musa.
- Musa (Moses)
- Ibrahim (Abraham)
Peace be upon all of them.
A curious thing happen when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was leaving Prophet Musa (pbuh). Prophet Musa began to weep. When asked why he was crying, Musa Nobi answered he was weeping because he witnessed a man sent after him as a Messenger (Muhammad) who was able to lead more of his people to the Paradise than he himself did.
In the Seventh Heaven the Prophet saw Prophet Ibrahim with his back against Al-Bayt- al-Ma‘mûr (The Much Frequented House) which is like the Ka'bah. Every day 70,000 angels go there, encompass it, and then exit from it. Once encompassed they would not have their turn again till the Ressurrection. The next day another 70,000 angels go, come out, and never return. This will continue until the Day of Judgment. In this, there is an indication as to the greatness of the numbers of the angels--their numbers are far more than the numbers of the humans and the jinns together.
When he was transported to Heaven, he reported seeing an angel with "70,000 heads, each head having 70,000 mouths, each mouth having 70,000 tongues, each tongue speaking 70,000 languages; and every one involved in singing God's (Allah's) praises." After calculation this would mean the angel spoke 24 quintillion (2.401 × 1019) languages for the praise of Allah. This description is similar word for word to the description of an angel seen by Moses in "The Revelation of Moses"
Sidrat al-Muntaha - the Remotest Tree
In the seventh heaven, Prophet Muhammad also saw Sidrat al-Muntaha (The Remotest Lote Tree), a very big tree of sidr. Each of the fruits of this tree is as large as a big jar and the leaves of this tree are similar to the ears of the elephants.The Tree is extremely beautiful and visited by butterflies made of gold.
Bounties of Paradise and wrath of Hell
Then the Prophet ascended to what is beyond the seven skies; he entered Paradise. He saw examples of the inhabitants of Paradise and how their situation would be. He saw most of the inhabitants of Paradise are the poor people.
In Paradise, the Prophet saw some of the bounties Allah prepared for the inhabitants of Paradise. He saw the Hur ul-^In: females Allah created who are not humans or jinn. They are in Paradise and will be married to those men Allah willed them to marry.
Wildan ul-mukhalladun - the servants of Paradise
The Prophet saw the wildan ul-mukhalladun: creations of Allah who are not human, jinn, or angels. They are a very beautiful creation of Allah whose appearance is like laid-out pearls. They are servants of the inhabitants of Paradise. The least in status of the People of Paradise will have 10,000 wildan ul-mukhalladun to serve him. Each one of them would carry a tray of gold in one hand and a tray of silver in the other hand.
Encounter with Angel Malik, in charge of Hellfire
The Prophet saw other things on the night of his ascension. He saw Malik, the angel in charge of the Hellfire. Malik did not smile at the Prophet when he saw him, and the Prophet asked why. In answer to the Prophet's question, Jibril said, "Malik did not smile since the day Allah created him. Had he smiled for anyone, he would have smiled for you."
Dwellers of Hell
4. He had the opportunity to see Malik, the guardian of Hell, with a cheerless frowning face. Therein, he saw the Hell dwellers, of whom were those who unjustly eat up the property of the orphans. They have flews similar to those of camels, swallowing red-hot stones and then issuing out of their backs. There were also the people who take usury with bellies too big to be able to move around; they are trodden by the people of Pharaoh when these are admitted into Hell. In the same abode, he saw the adulterers offered tasty fatty meat and rotten smelly one but they make option for the latter. The licentious women were also there hanging from their breasts.
Arsh - the Throne of Paradise
The Prophet saw the Throne (^Arsh), which is the ceiling of Paradise. The Throne is the largest creation of Allah in size; Allah did not create anything bigger in size than it. The seven heavens and the earth in comparison to the Kursiyy, are like a ring thrown in a desert, and the Kursiyy in comparison to the Throne, is like a ring thrown in a desert. The seven heavens and the earth in comparison to the Throne are like a seed of mustard compared to the ocean. Allah created the Throne as a sign of His Power and He did not create the Throne to sit on it.
Allah created the Throne to show His Power. It is carried by four angels, and on the Day of Judgment, it will be carried by eight. The Prophet said he was permitted to speak about one of these angels who carry the Throne. In describing this angel, the Prophet told us the distance between his ear lobe and shoulder is the distance a fast-flying bird would cover in 700 years.
In Divine Presence
Then the Prophet ascended beyond Paradise. He reached a place where he heard the creaking of the pens used by the angels who are copying from the Preserved Tablet. It is at that location Prophet Muhammad heard the Kalam of Allah, which is an attribute of the Self of Allah. He heard the Kalam of Allah which does not resemble our speech--so it is not something that occurs bit after bit. It is not letter after letter or a word that comes after another word. Rather, it is an attribute of Allah which is eternal and everlasting. It does not resemble our attributes. The Kalam of Allah has neither silence nor interruptions. It is an attribute of Allah, and it does not resemble the attributes of the creation.
The Prophet understood several things from hearing this Kalam of Allah. He understood the obligation of the fifty Obligatory Prayers.
50 daily prayers negotiated to 5
On his return, he spoke to Musa that his followers had been enjoined to pray fifty times a day. Musa said addressing the Prophet [pbuh] said: "I have experience with the people of Israel, and I know your nation cannot bear that. Go back to your Lord and ask for a remission in number."
The Prophet [pbuh] turned to Gabriel as if holding counsel with him. Gabriel nodded, "Yes, if you desire," and ascended with him to the Presence of Allâh. The All-Mighty Allâh, Glory is to Him, eliminated five prayers. Once again, Musa told the Prophet to ask Allah to lessen the number of prayers. Allah did. Nine times the Prophet made supplication to Allah to lessen these prayers--until these prayers were lessened to five Obligatory Prayers. He then descended and reported that to Moses, who again urged him to request for a further reduction, but this time Prophet Muhammad replied "I feel ashamed now of repeatedly asking my Lord for reduction. I accept and resign to His Will."
Had it not been for Prophet Musa (pbuh) we would've had to pray fifty times a day rather than the five daily vprayers!
Then the Prophet descended till he met Moses, and then Moses stopped him and asked, "O Muhammad ! What did your Lord en join upon you?" The Prophet replied," He enjoined upon me to perform fifty prayers in a day and a night." Moses said, "Your followers cannot do that; Go back so that your Lord may reduce it for you and for them." So the Prophet turned to Gabriel as if he wanted to consult him about that issue. Gabriel told him of his opinion, saying, "Yes, if you wish." So Gabriel ascended with him to the Irresistible and said while he was in his place, "O Lord, please lighten our burden as my followers cannot do that." So Allah deducted for him ten prayers where upon he returned to Moses who stopped him again and kept on sending him back to his Lord till the enjoined prayers were reduced to only five prayers.
Then Moses stopped him when the prayers had been reduced to five and said, "O Muhammad! By Allah, I tried to persuade my nation, Bani Israel to do less than this, but they could not do it and gave it up. However, your followers are weaker in body, heart, sight and hearing, so return to your Lord so that He may lighten your burden."
The Prophet turned towards Gabriel for advice and Gabriel did not disapprove of that. So he ascended with him for the fifth time. The Prophet said, "O Lord, my followers are weak in their bodies, hearts, hearing and constitution, so lighten our burden." On that the Irresistible said, "O Muhammad!" the Prophet replied, "Labbaik and Sa'daik." Allah said, "The Word that comes from Me does not change, so it will be as I enjoined on you in the Mother of the Book." Allah added, "Every good deed will be rewarded as ten times so it is fifty (prayers) in the Mother of the Book (in reward) but you are to perform only five (in practice)."
The Prophet returned to Moses who asked, "What have you done?" He said, "He has lightened our burden: He has given us for every good deed a tenfold reward." Moses said, "By Allah! I tried to make Bani Israel observe less than that, but they gave it up. So go back to your Lord that He may lighten your burden further." Allah's Apostle said, "O Moses! By Allah, I feel shy of returning too many times to my Lord." On that Gabriel said, "Descend in Allah's Name." The Prophet then woke while he was in the Sacred Mosque (at Mecca).
When Muhammad [pbuh] went farther, a Caller was heard saying: "I have imposed My Ordinance and alleviated the burden of My servants." There is however some difference as regards the issue whether the Prophet saw Allâh with his physical eye or not. Some interpreters say that seeing Allâh with his naked eyes was not confirmed. Ibn ‘Abbas, on the other hand, says that the word Ru’ya as used in the Noble Qur’ân signifies the observation with the help of the eye.
Allah's Mercy is greater than His Anger
From the Kalam of Allah, the Prophet also understood that a good deed would be written for the person who intends to do a good deed, even if he did not do it. Also, the good deed performed would be registered for he who performs it as at least ten good deeds--up to 700 good deeds. For some people, Allah would multiply the reward of their deeds more than that.
Additionally, if one performs a bad deed, it is registered for him as one bad deed; yet for he who inclines towards committing a bad deed and then refrains from committing it, a good deed would be registered for him. Here one should note the difference between two matters. If a thought crossed a person's mind about doing something sinful, and this person wavered in this thinking, i.e., considered whether he should do it or not, then he refrained from doing this for the sake of Allah, this is written as a good deed. However, if a person has the firm intention in his heart that he wants to commit a sin, it would be written for him as a sin, even if he does not do it
Glory to "Allah" Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things)." Qur'an 17:1
Convincing disbelievers about Night Journey
5. The ‘Night Journey’ raised a good deal of stir among the people and the sceptical audience plied Muhammad with all sorts of questions. He told them that he saw the camels of Makkan merchants to and fro. He also guided them to some of their animals that went astray. He informed them that he had drunk some of their water while they were fast asleep and left the container covered.
The disbelievers, however, found it a suitable opportunity to jeer at the Muslims and their creed. They pestered the Prophet [pbuh] with questions as to the description of the Mosque at Jerusalem, where he had never gone before and, to the astonishment of many, the Prophet’s replies furnished the most accurate information about that city. He supplied them with all the news about their caravans and the routes of their camels. However, all this increased in them nothing but flight from the Truth, and they accepted nothing but disbelief.
For the true Muslims, however there was nothing unusual about the Night Journey.
The All-Mighty Allâh, Who is Powerful enough to have created the heavens and the earth by an act of His Will, is surely Powerful enough to take His Messenger beyond the heavens and show him those signs of His at firsthand which are inaccessible to man otherwise. The disbelievers on their part went to see Abu Bakr on account of this event, and he readily said: "Yes, I do verify it." It was on this occasion that he earned the title of As-Siddiq (the verifier of the truth).