The night journey
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was now in the eleventh year of his mission. He had strived through some very difficult and testing times. In fact, this was a testing period for all the Muslims, especially since they were suffering so many hardships at the Makkans. However, the Prophet (pbuh) remained steadfast to Islam and his mission. He continued to preach the message of tawheed (worship of one God) in this hostile climate.
There was one important incident that took place during this period. The prophet (pbuh) was taken on a night journey to the farthest mosque in Jerusalem on a journey known as the Isra and then into the heavens known as the Miraj. This was no ordinary journey because normally the journey from Makkah to Jerusalem would take a month if travelling by horse or camel. It would take another month to travel back. The journey into the heavens was totally unheard off and hard for people to understand or accept. The prophet (pbuh) had completed the whole journey to Jerusalem and then into the heavens during a small part of the night.
The Angel Jibrael accompanied Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) throughout the journey. The prophet (pbuh) travelled on an animal called the Buraq which allowed the prophet (pbuh) to travel vast distances in a small period of time. It also allowed him to travel into the heavens, which no normal creature would be capable of. The Buraq is like a horse upon which the passenger would sit.
The prophet (pbuh) was whisked away to the mosque in Jerusalem – Bait ul Maqdis. Here all the prophets were assembled and they prayed salah together behind prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This was a unique event where the most noble of human beings were gathered together in one place. All the prophets from the past were assembled at the same point in time to offer salah behind the last and final messenger.
After the Salah, the prophet (pbuh) was taken away into the heavens. as the prophet (pbuh) ascended the different heavens, he met many prophets and saw many amazing things. This journey through heaven continued through each heaven until he reached the seventh heaven and was taken to a point where he spoke to Allah in person. It is understood that the prophet (pbuh) did not see Allah with his own eyes but instead was taken to the furthest point at the lote tree. Here the prophet (pbuh) was able to speak to Allah.
During his journey there he had met prophets at each heaven and also spoke to them. He met prophets such as Adam (as), Yahya (as), Isa (as), Yusuf (as), Harun (as), Ibrahim (as) and Musa (as). He had the opportunity to speak to these prophets and they acknowledged their faith in the final messenger.
When the prophet (pbuh) spoke with Allah, he was given the command for the believers to pray fifty times a day. as the prophet (pbuh) descended, he met Musa (as) who advised him that this would be difficult for the believers and that he should ask for a reduction in Salah.
The prophet (pbuh) returned to Allah and requested that he got a reduction in the number of prayers. Allah granted the Muslims a reduction to forty Salah and again the prophet (pbuh) returned. However, when he spoke to Musa (as) again, he was advised that forty was too much and the believers would not be able to pray so much. Musa had experience with his people for many years and from this experience he was advising the prophet (pbuh).
Muhammad (pbuh) again returned to Allah and again Allah reduced the number of Salah for the believers. This trip to and fro continued until the prayers were reduced to five Salah. Musa (as) still advised the prophet (pbuh) to request the number of Salah to be reduced further but the prophet (pbuh) was too embarrassed to go before Allah and ask for a further reduction.
The five daily prayers were thus made compulsory upon the believers by the command of Allah. It was the will of Allah that the Salah should be reduced to five Salah in a day but still the people who perform them will receive the full reward for the fifty Salah. The prophet (pbuh) then continued his journey through heaven.
The Prophet (pbuh) was shown some amazing sights including Heaven and Hell. He saw the people that were getting punished for the bad actions they had done in their lives on Earth. These people would suffer many hardships in Hell and would remain in Hell forever suffering these punishments (unless Allah forgave them). In Hell, the punishments were indeed very severe and different type of evil deeds had different punishments.
The prophet (pbuh) was also shown parts of heaven where he saw some of the many delights and ease the good people would be rewarded with. There were many amazing things that no human eyes had seen and would only see in the hereafter. The prophet (pbuh) told his companions about paradise and some of the things in store for the righteous people on Earth.
This had been quite an experience for the prophet (pbuh) and this assembly of all the prophets had never happened before in the history of mankind. The prophet (pbuh) told Umm Hani about this journey and she advised him not to tell the people because they would belie him and try to harm him. However, the truth is the truth and the prophet (pbuh) went and told the people about this amazing journey.
The Makkans were ecstatic, finally prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said something that was unbelievable and they could use this to attack and ridicule the prophet (pbuh). The words and the message of the prophet had always been clearly the truth and he spoke words of such wisdom and guidance. However, the night journey was different because it was very difficult for the Makkans to grasp. How could the prophet (pbuh) travel a two-month journey in such a short time? How could the prophet (pbuh) ascend into the heavens? They would use this experience to ridicule the prophet (pbuh) and call him a liar.
The Makkans taunted Muhammad (pbuh) and asked him many questions. They laughed at him and claimed that he was making this whole experience up. They asked him many questions but this did not satisfy their curiosity. In fact, they began to taunt Muhammad (pbuh) more - saying how could he make a journey to Jerusalem in such a short time – it just wasn’t possible.
Muhammad (pbuh) told them details of his journey and about how he had seen some caravans on their way back to Makkah. He told them some incidents that had taken place where camels had gone missing and he had guided the people there. He described the caravans and the camels that were leading them in great detail. He also gave them many accurate details of the mosque in Jerusalem, even though the Makkans knew that the prophet (pbuh) had not travelled there prior to this experience. The travellers later confirmed all these details but still they refused to believe the prophet (pbuh).
There were some Muslims who had accepted Islam but wouldn’t believe this journey had taken place. Some Muslims left the folds of Islam whilst others, such as Abu Bakr, had their faith increased. This experience was a test from Allah for all the people. Some people of weak faith left Islam but the true Muslims of deep faith and understanding recognised the truth. They remained steadfast as ever to Islam and the prophet’s teachings.
Some Makkans went to Abu Bakr and said that your companion (Muhammad) is relating some amazing stories. Abu Bakr accused the Makkans of lying and making up stories about the prophet (pbuh). He then added that if they were telling the truth that the prophet (pbuh) made this journey then the journey must be true. He said that Muhammad (pbuh) would never lie and that the journey was true. He reasoned, if the Qu'ran can come to the prophet (pbuh) in an instance from the high heavens to the Earth then why is it unbelievable that the prophet (pbuh) can ascent into the heavens in such a short time?
After this incident, Abu Bakr was given the title of as-Siddique (the truthful). This journey to the heavens had a number of effects on the people. The first was that the Muslims of weak faith had left Islam, leaving only the cream of the Muslims. Secondly, the details about the caravan and Jerusalem were later confirmed by the travellers which highlighted the truth of the prophet's words.
The traders from the caravans related the same incidents as the prophet (pbuh) had said and also the caravans fitted the description the prophet (pbuh) had given. The description of Jerusalem was also confirmed to be accurate. Some of the Makkans accepted that the prophet (pbuh) had spoken the truth and had indeed gone on this journey. However, the Makkans continued to mock and insult the Muslims and made things more difficult in Makkah for the Muslims.
As time had gone, the conditions were becoming more hostile for Muhammad (pbuh). The Makkan community had made things very difficult for the Muslims and progressively things became worse. The death of Abu Talib had been one major turn point for the mission of Muhammad (pbuh) with hostilities against the Muslims increasing many folds. However, he remained undeterred and continued to preach the message of truth to the people.
Muhammad (pbuh) knew that Islam was the truth, he had full faith in Allah and even when things were at their worst, he knew that Allah would give them success. Allah had appointed Muhammad (pbuh) as a prophet and had promised that Islam would conquer their hearts. Muhammad (pbuh) was just a warner and a guide; the success of his mission was in the hands of Allah. Allah would grant this mission success and Islam would prevail above all else.
The Hajj would be approaching soon and the prophet (pbuh) would soon be preaching to the many tribes that would come to perform the Hajj. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would take the opportunity to tell the people about Allah and the purpose they were created for. He would encourage the people to leave idol worship and all the evil things they did. He would offer them a chance to repent from their past sins and reform their lives by accepting Islam.
The Makkans were also ready; they would ridicule the prophet (pbuh) calling him a liar, a poet or invent some other lie against him. They would encourage the people to ignore the prophet (pbuh) and to keep away from him. They would warn the people to avoid listening to anything Muhammad (pbuh) said because he recited words of magic!
Even though the prophet (pbuh) was finding his mission very challenging in this more hostile environment, one significant event was going to take place this Hajj which would have a great and significant bearing on the future of the Muslims in Makkah and indeed on Islam itself. This event would see the first major step towards the spread of Islam and acceptance of the religion by a dedicated and appreciative people.
Last Hajj some people from Yathrib had accepted Islam. What was the condition of these few Muslims and how successful had they been teaching their people about Islam? This too would soon be revealed when they returned to perform the Hajj this year.
More next week, Inshallah.