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What is Al-Israa’ Wal-Mi’raaj?

What is Al-Israa’ Wal-Mi’raaj?

There is so much to be said about the miraculous event of Al-Israa’ Wal-Mi’raaj–the night journey and ascent to Heaven of the Prophet Muhammad. In this article, we focus on its linguistic meaning, what each word refers to of this exceptional journey, and its mentions in the Quran.


Linguistic Meaning of the words Israa’ and Mi’raaj

Let’s look at the Arabic first: the word إِسْرَاء [israa’] comes from the root letters س ر ي which, in Classical Arabic, carry the meanings of to seep, to spread unobtrusively, to remove, to travel by night. We find these root letters 10 times in the Quran in 3 different forms. The 17th surah (chapter) of the Quran is named Al-Israa’ in reference to the night journey of the Prophet from Makkah to Jerusalem.

The word مِعْرَاج [mi’raaj] comes from the root letters ع ر ج which have the meanings of mounting, ascending, walking with a limp, calling upon, zigzagging; stairs, ladders, ascending roads. They appear 9 times in the Quran in 3 different forms. A surah is named based on these root letters as well: Surah Al-Ma’aarij (70), in reference to the Ways of Ascent of the angels to Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى.


What is Al-Israa’ Wal-Mi’raaj?

Al-Israa’ Wal-Mi’raaj refers to the Prophet’s miraculous Night Journey (Al-Israa’) from the Ka’bah in Makkah to Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem on the Buraq – the special mount for the Prophets – with Jibreel عليه السلام and the Ascent (Al-Mi’raaj) through the seven stages of the heavens to eventually meet Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. It is reported in the narrations that Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى gifted this miracle to Prophet Muhammad during the Year of Sorrow – the difficult year during which his beloved wife Khadijah رضي الله عنها and then his uncle and protector Abu Talib passed away, after having already endured years of persecution, pains and difficulties as he continued to preach and deliver the message of Islam to those around him, including the brutal rejection of the people of Ta’if.


References of Al-Israa’ Wal-Mi’raaj in the Quran

Allah SWT talks about the Night Journey and Ascension to the Heavens in the Quran:

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (17:1)

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لَكَ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ أَحَاطَ بِالنَّاسِ ۚ وَمَا جَعَلْنَا الرُّؤْيَا الَّتِي أَرَيْنَاكَ إِلَّا فِتْنَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَالشَّجَرَةَ الْمَلْعُونَةَ فِي الْقُرْآنِ ۚ وَنُخَوِّفُهُمْ فَمَا يَزِيدُهُمْ إِلَّا طُغْيَانًا كَبِيرًا

“And [remember, O Muhammad], when We told you, “Indeed, your Lord has encompassed the people.” And We did not make the sight which We showed you except as a trial for the people, as was the accursed tree [mentioned] in the Qur’an. And We threaten them, but it increases them not except in great transgression.” (17:60)

وَالنَّجْمِ إِذَا هَوَىٰ ﴿١﴾ مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَىٰ ﴿٢﴾ وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ ﴿٣﴾ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ ﴿٤﴾ عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَىٰ ﴿٥﴾ ذُو مِرَّةٍ فَاسْتَوَىٰ ﴿٦﴾ وَهُوَ بِالْأُفُقِ الْأَعْلَىٰ ﴿٧﴾ ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّىٰ ﴿٨﴾ فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَىٰ ﴿٩﴾ فَأَوْحَىٰ إِلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ مَا أَوْحَىٰ ﴿١٠﴾ مَا كَذَبَ الْفُؤَادُ مَا رَأَىٰ ﴿١١﴾ أَفَتُمَارُونَهُ عَلَىٰ مَا يَرَىٰ ﴿١٢﴾ وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَىٰ ﴿١٣﴾ عِندَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنتَهَىٰ ﴿١٤﴾ عِندَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَىٰ ﴿١٥﴾ إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَىٰ ﴿١٦﴾ مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَىٰ ﴿١٧﴾ لَقَدْ رَأَىٰ مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَىٰ ﴿١٨

“By the star when it descends, (1) Your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred, (2) Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. (3) It is not but a revelation revealed, (4) Taught to him by one intense in strength – (5) One of soundness. And he rose to [his] true form (6) While he was in the higher [part of the] horizon. (7) Then he approached and descended (8) And was at a distance of two bow lengths or nearer. (9) And he revealed to His Servant what he revealed. (10) The heart did not lie [about] what it saw. (11) So will you dispute with him over what he saw? (12) And he certainly saw him in another descent (13) At the Lote Tree of the Utmost Boundary – (14) Near it is the Garden of Refuge – (15) When there covered the Lote Tree that which covered [it]. (16) The sight [of the Prophet] did not swerve, nor did it transgress [its limit]. (17) He certainly saw of the greatest signs of his Lord. (18)” (Surah An-Najm, 53:1-18)


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