Me’raj – the Ascension

Mujahidali Sheriff (United Kingdom)

27th Rajab is a very important day in Islam. Historically, there are two great events that occurred on this day. One is the Mab’ath(Delegation of Prophethood) when the Holy Prophet (saww) received his first revelation at the age of 40 years. The other event is Me’raj –the ascension of the Holy Prophet (saww) to the heavens –ten years after Mab’ath at the age of 50 years.

The Me’raj of the Holy Prophet (saww) has been mentioned in two different Surahs (Chapters) of the Holy Quran. Once in the opening verse of Surah Al-Israa (17th Chapter) and the other is in Surah al-Najm (53rd Chapter), verse 77 to 18. As such, some ‘Ulama (Scholars of Islam) opine that the Me’raj took place twice. The first ended at ‘Masjidul-Aqsa’ (The Farthest Masjid) as stated in Surah al-Israa and the second reached him to ‘Sidratul-Muntaha’ (The Ultimate Boundary) as stated in Surah al-Najm. However, other Scholars are of the opinion that Me’raj was only one but in two stages: The first stage was upto ‘Masjidul-Aqsa’ (The Farthest Masjid)   and the second stage was upto ‘Sidratul-Muntaha’ (The Ultimate Boundary). Whatever the case, it is unanimously agreed that Me’raj had indeed occurred.

MASJIDUL-HARAAM & MASJIDUL-AQSA

Allah (SWT) says:

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“Immaculate is He who carried His servant on a journey from the Sacred Masjid to the Farthest Masjid whose environs We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing”. (17:1)

According to this verse, the Me’raj took place from ‘Masjidul-Haraam’ (The Sacred Masjid) to ‘Masjidul-Aqsa’ (The Farthest Masjid).

MASJIDUL-HARAAM

Since the complete city of Makkah was called and referred to as ‘Masjidul-Haraam’, some historians have written that the Heavenly Ascension began from the house of Umm Haani (Sister of Imam Ali) or the house of ‘Aaayesha. Mulla Muhammad Faidh al-Kashani and Ayatullah Naser Makarem state that from the apparent reading of this verse, the Ascension appears to have begun from the actual Masjidul-Haraam. S V Mir Ahmad Ali writes: The Holy Prophet (saww) was in the house of Umm Haani when Jibrael came and took him to Masjidul-Haraam from where the Ascension took place.

MASJIDUL-AQSA

Once again there is some difference of opinion among the Scholars regarding Masjidul-Aqsa.

S V Mir Ahmad Ali states: Al-Aqsa literally means ‘the Farthest’. It is therefore in reference to the Masjid which is in the most distant heaven. Masjidul-Aqsa is only few hundred miles from Masjidul-Haraam, so it cannot be termed as farthest. Moreover, the purpose of Me’raj was to show the Holy Prophet (saww) the wonders and glory of Allah’s Kingdom. Therefore, the journey to Jerusalem appears meaningless.

However, Scholars like Ayatullah Naser Makarem in ‘Tafseer-e-Namoona’; Mulla Muhammad Faidh al-Kashani in his book ‘Me’raj’ and Marhum Syed Zeeshan Haider in his ‘Nuqooshe Ismat’ all state that: This ‘Masjidul-Aqsa’ is the same Masjid in Jerusalem. The Holy Prophet (saww) was first taken there and then lifted to the heavens.

WAS ME’RAJ A PHYSICAL JOURNEY?

The most common question is: Was Me’raj aphysical Ascension or was it a spiritual visual or a dream?

According to Shia’h Scholars and indeed some Sunni as well, the Ascension was physical as well as spiritual which happened by the Might and Power of Allah (SWT). Those who doubt in the physical ascension actually doubt in the very Might and Power of Allah (SWT). According to S V Mir Ahmad Ali, such people therefore also doubt as to how Allah created the universe out of nothing; how could Sayyida Maryam (Virgin Mary) give birth to ‘Isa (as); how could ‘Isa (as) converse to people from his cradle; how could Allah split the sea to save Musa (as) and so forth.

Three simple points prove the fact that Me’raj was a Physical Ascension:

Firstly, if Me’raj was only a spiritual vision or a dream then why should Allah (SWT) make a big deal out of it? Some righteous people too, in this life, have seen numerous things in spiritual vision. As for dreams, we all see them every night. We have also travelled and been to many places in our dreams. Allah (SWT) clearly states:

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“Immaculate is He who carried His servant on a journey”.

Had the Ascension been a spiritual vision or a dream, He (SWT) would have said, ‘Glory be to Him who carried the soul of His servant’.

Secondly, the incident which followed the event of Me’raj proves that the Ascension was physical. Sheikh Sadooq (a.r.) in his ‘Amali’ quotes Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (as) who said, “After Me’raj the Holy Prophet (saww) again returned to Baytul-Muqaddas. There he saw a caravan of Quraysh. They had lost one of their camels and were searching for it. The Holy Prophet (saww) asked them for a glass of water. Drank some of it and poured the rest on the ground. Finally, he (saww) returned to Makkah. In the morning, he (saww) told the Quraysh, ‘In the night, Allah (SWT) took me to Baytul-Muqaddas. There He (SWT) showed me the after effects and the houses of previous prophets. On my return, I met up with a caravan of Quraysh who had lost one of their camels. I requested a glass of water from them of which I drank some and poured the rest on the ground’. Abu Jahl, a staunch enemy said, ‘Ask him how many pillars, lights and Mihrabs are in Baytul-Muqaddas’. At that time Jibrael came and placed the image of Baytul-Muqaddas infront of the Holy Prophet (saww) and he (saww) was able to describe the place accurately. When the people heard this, they said, ‘Let us wait for the caravan of Quraysh to return so that we can ask them’. The Prophet (saww) said, ‘The caravan will return to Makkah around the time of sunrise and there will be an exquisite looking camel infront of them’. People gathered in anticipation for the caravan to return in the morning. When the caravan appeared, at its head was the same beautiful camel the Holy Prophet (saww) had mentioned”.

And thirdly, it is mentioned in the traditions of our Imams (as) that the Ascension was physical and one who does not believe in it, is not a Shia’h. Imam Ja’far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (as) has said, “Whoever denies three things is not our follower: The Physical Ascension; the Questioning in the Grave and the Intercession”.

SOME TRADITIONS ON ME’RAJ

The Holy Prophet (saww) has been reported saying: “I saw an Angel whose appearance was interesting. Half of his body was fire and half of it was ice. Even stronger than this was the fact that neither the heat of fire melted the ice nor the ice put out the flames of fire. This Angel was engrossed in praise of Allah (SWT). I asked Jibrael who he was and he told me that it is his duty to pray for the people of earth”.

The Holy Prophet (saww) met the Angel of Death whom he (saww) asked how he removed the souls of many people at one time when some are in the East and some in the West. The Angel of Death replied, “Your world to me is like a coin in your hand. You can turn it as you please. There is not a single house which I do not visit five times a day and address the people: Do not cry for your dead for I will continue visiting you till no one survives”.

The Holy Prophet (saww) has said, “I heard a sound that really frightened me so I asked what it was. I was informed that it was the sound of a rock which had been thrown into the fire of Hell seventy years ago and it had finally landed in its spot and just settled”.

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