REFLECTIONS ON THE ISRA’ AND MI’RAJ
by Amany Shalaby, Ph.D.
PART 2 of 3
In the Name of Allah, The Grantor of Universal Compassionate,
the Grantor of Spiritual Mercy
The following is a continuation from Part 1 of Reflections on the Isra’ and Mi’raj, an article written for us by Amany Shalaby, Ph.D., faculty of UOS, author, speaker, presenter, translator, teacher of Islamic and Sufi studies worldwide.
After the Prophet (sa) finished praying with the prophets, he was offered a cup of wine and a cup of milk. He chose the cup of milk, and Angel Jibril [Gabriel] told him that he has chosen al-Fitrah (innate nature) which is inclined to choose that which is natural, unchanged, pure, beautiful, and leads to growth.
Angel Jibril [Gabriel] asserted that if the Prophet (sa) had chosen wine his whole Ummah (nation) would have been ruined. This means that we too, must choose that which is in our innate nature, which holds the godly qualities in order to grow and attain spiritual maturity (rushd).
Angel Jibril [Gabriel] took the Prophet (sa) and ascended with him to heavens, politely taking permission at the gate of every heaven where the Prophet (sa) met different prophets.
It is important to understand that the Prophets were not in higher degree one above the other so one who is in the first heaven is lower than the one in the seventh. For Allah said we should not make separation between them and in the Qur’an, Allah said He favored each with gifts distinguished from the other.
In this sense, each prophet exceled above others in particular way and others exceled above him in particular ways so at the end they were equally and uniquely favored; for they were like stars each designated his orbit and around them are their followers where they served as pools or magnets attracting people to Allah in different ways.
Likewise, we need to be polite as Angel Jibril taught us and to respect the space, or sacred orbit, of every individual and see everyone as equal and witness how Allah favored each and every one of us with particular gifts uniquely designated for him/her.
In the First Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met Adam (as), the father of humanity. This station symbolizes the realization of the unity of origin which unifies the whole creation and unifies humanity.
We are all brothers and sisters who have one father, Adam, and one mother, Hawa’ [Eve], and One Creator. This realization is the first step towards the truth.
The prophet (sa) saw countless people standing to the right and to the left of Prophet Adam (as). When Adam (as) would look to the right he would rejoice, seeing those who are following the Path and when he would look at the left he would weep, seeing the people who are straying from the Path. Similarly, we have to develop that empathy towards others.
In the Second Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet `Isa [Jesus] (as) and prophet Yahya [John the Baptist] (as). According to the Qur’an, `Isa was given the title “the word of Allah” (kalimatul Allah). And Yahya was asked to take the Holy Book with strength.
Similarly, we need to follow the Divine Word, which is not only in the revealed Holy Books, but is also ingrained in our fitrah (innate nature) and to be strong in holding it, following the Divine Guidance which includes seeking forgiveness and rectifying our mistakes when we commit sins.
In the Third Heaven, the Prophet (as) met prophet Yusuf [Joseph] (as) who was given half the beauty and was titled “as-Sidiq”, the genuine one. We too, must be sincere in our pursuit of the godly qualities in order to be beautified.
In the Fourth Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Idris [Enoch] (as) who was known to be raised to a higher place and given the secret of writing on the sand. Likewise, when we follow the Divine Guidance, with sincerity and strength, our unique purpose and gifts would be revealed to us. We can serve and this servitude would raise us to the orbit or heaven.
In the Fifth Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Harun [Aaron] who was described as the supporter for prophet Musa [Moses] (as). Likewise, when we start to serve our purpose using the unique gifts which Allah granted for us, we will find those who support us.
In the Sixth Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Musa [Moses] (as) who was known as the one who spoke with Allah (kalimu Allah).
When we rise and start to fulfill our purpose, we can hear the Divine Speech, not only hearing the true interpretation of the Holy Qur’an, but also hearing the language of our innate nature which follows the Divine Law. We would also hear the “Live Speech of Allah”, that is the cosmos including all the events that come to us and all the people we interact with. This means, we will find meanings, purposes, guidance and wisdom in interacting with the world.
In the Seventh Heaven, the Prophet (sa) met prophet Ibrahim [Abraham] (as), who was known as “Khalilu Allah” or the intimae friend of Allah, the one who was penetrated by the godly qualities with Divine Love. Similarly, through loving Allah and yearning to be with Him, we become opened to be adorned by the godly qualities and feel proximity to Allah.
After this point, Angel Jibril told Prophet Muhammad (sa) that he cannot ascend further with him; for if Jibril would have ascended he would be burnt but if the Prophet would ascend he would become near to the Divine Essence.
In Sufism, Angel Jibril is known as “the inflator of forms”. This means that the Prophet (sa) was able to ascend beyond all physical forms and spiritual essence to a state of pure consciousness of the Divine Presence, the Creator of all forms and images. He transcended all the realms and reached that proximity through his individual consciousness that is a quanta of the Divine Awareness.
Similarly, each of one of us can, through our pure individual consciousness, gain access to the Divine Awareness and communicate directly with Allah. Notice that the forms and pictures cannot ascend or be burnt which means that Allah speaks through them from behind their subtle veils, revealing His Beautiful Names by which we can become aware of The Unifying Presence.
The Qur’an mentions that the Prophet (sa) saw the Lote Tree where the Abode Garden (Janatul al-Ma’wa) is. This symbolizes the tree of creation. It is said in the Qur’an that Allah overwhelmed the Lote Tree, meaning that the Divine Qualities overwhelm the creation and for the one who can witness that, he becomes aware of the Divine Essence from which the whole creation issues as live speech. Once this is witnessed, no form or image can cause the heart to waver or get confused by the multiplicity of Divine Expressions manifesting in the creation.
To continue reading, click here to forward to Part 3 of Reflections on the Isra’ and Mi’raj.