REFLECTIONS ON THE ISRA’ AND MI’RAJ
by Amany Shalaby, Ph.D.
PART 1 of 3
In the Name of Allah, The Grantor of Universal Compassionate,
the Grantor of Spiritual Mercy
“Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad ) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) to the farthest mosque (in Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him of Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.” (Qur’an 17/1)
As we are commemorating the Isra’ and Mi`raj, it is important to reflect on the deep meanings of such great events and find lessons for ourselves to apply in our lives here and now. The reflections offered in this letter do not in any way deny the physical and spiritual miracle that occurred to Prophet Muhammad (sa), but they are meant to help us follow his footstep in hope to unite with him in the Garden where we can witness the Divine Face.
The Isra’ and Mi`raj are important events that happened to Prophet Muhammad (sa) which signify spiritual meanings for all of us. The word Isra’ means “causing to walk at night,” and it refers to the event when Allah took Prophet Muhammad (sa) in a night journey from al-Masjid al-Haram (The Sanctuary) in Makkah to al-Masjid al-Aqsaa (the farthest mosque) in Jerusalem where all the prophets and messengers since the time of Adam (as) to Jesus (as) had gathered to pray with him.
They all prayed together led by Prophet Muhammad (sa). Afterwards. The Prophet (sa) was taken in an ascent from one heaven to another where he met different prophets until he arrived at the Final Abode and became aware of the Divine Presence. It was at that event that prayer (salat) was revealed and made obligatory upon all who accept to follow the Path to Allah.
The word Isra’ also carries the meaning of delight and revealing secrets. Thus, with every step the Prophet (sa) took in his night journey and ascension (Isra’ and Mi`raj) there was a delighting secret that was revealed to him and to us through him.
The Isra’ was a journey in the physical world and the Mi`raj was a journey beyond the world.
The Isra’ was in the material dense realm (Mulk or `alam kathif) while the Mi`raj was to the spiritual subtle realm (Malakut or `alam latif) then to the realm of Divine Power (Jabarut) and finally to the Lahut (Divine Presence). It was a journey from the creation with all of its levels to the Creator.
These events are an invitation for all of us to follow the Path of the Prophet (sa) and transcend the realm of the creation to be conscious of the Divine Presence.
The Isra’ started by two angels coming to the Prophet (sa) at night and splitting his chest open, taking his heart out and washing it with faith then returning it to its place. The Prophet (sa) was ordered to circumambulate the Ka`bah seven times.
Similarly, we must open our hearts and let it be washed by faith, by the remembrance of Allah and by trusting Him and be circumambulating our focus, our lives and our actions around the Divine Essence.
After circulating the Ka`bah, Angel Jibril [Gabriel] brought a ride to the Prophet (sa) called “al-Buraq.” The word Buraq is from the root verb “baraqa” which means “to flash” as in lightening “barq”.
The Prophet (sa) said that whatever the Buraq sees it attains. The Prophet (sa) and Angel Jibril [Gabriel] (as) mounted the Buraq and it took them with the speed of light to al-Masjid al-Aqsaa (the farthest mosque). He dismounted the Buraq and tied it where all the prophets used to tie their rides.
Similarly, whatever your sight is, that is your pursuit you would attain. If your pursuit is the physical realm that is all you would get, and if your pursuit is the spiritual realm then that is all you would get, and if your pursuit is extra ordinary power that is all you would get and if your pursuit is to be at the Presence of the Beloved then that is what you would get and Allah makes it happen in the speed of light.
Al-Masjid al-Haram symbolizes the holy sanctuary of your individuality while The Farthest Masjid symbolizes the sacred individualities of others. You need to ride the ride which Allah provided you with, that is the Divine Guidance, given through the prophets and messengers of Allah and explained by all the guides that interpreted their way.
You must tie your ride, your motion in this world, to where all the prophets had tied their motions [i.e. the Divine Guidance] to enter into the sacred realm of unity and make your interaction a prayer in which the godly qualities are presented and the Divine Essence is remembered.
This means to move from your sacred state after receiving guidance to connect with the sacred souls of others, especially those who may appear far from you.
Similarly, just as the Prophet (sa) gathered with all the Prophets (sa), you need to unite with the sacred souls in all people. When the Prophet (sa) led all the prophets who passed away in prayer it signified that he carried the message after them in this world and so has their support.
Similarly, you need to carry the Divine Message after the prophets and after the passing away of our guide, Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal [guide of the Shadhiliyya Sufi Order, founding teachings of The University of Sufism].
We must carry the Divine Message, the Message of all the prophets, the message of peace, love, mercy, justice and freedom by following the Divine Law and the Way which they described for us, through Divine Revelation, in order to attain the gnosis they had attained and reach the truth and be the representative of its mercy to the worlds.
To continue reading, click here to forward to Part 2 of Reflections on the Isra’ and Mi’raj.