Significance of Isra & Miraj
Dr. Maher Hathout, August 20, 2006

It is very important to ponder over the history before Al Isra wal Miraj event occurred.

Initially the dawah (invitation to islam) was secretive in Mecca due to the fear of back lash because the Meccan society was enjoying status quo and there was a type of hierarchy in their society and they would not accept the Quranic message that claims "All are equal". Mecca at that time was a pilgrimage center; people from neighboring places join every year for carnival to participate in poetry competition and the city of Mecca was generating a lot of revenue and hence the message of Islam was a threat to the Meccans.

The continuous persecutions lead to the first migration of Muslims to Abyssinia. It appears that this migration was not to spread Islam but for the safety to preserve the important elements of Islam.

Quraysh negotiated with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and said that they will make him the King of Mecca, give him the wealth and marry him with the most beautiful woman of that society, which Prophet (PBUH) refused.

The second strategy of Quraysh was to impose an embargo to the entire Banu Hashim's clan of Prophet that included both Muslims and non-Muslims that lasted for three long years. They cut off food supplies to the clan and shut down trade and all social contact with its members. This siege would go on, the Quraysh declared, until the tribe rescinded their protection of Muhammad (PBUH) and handed him over to be punished. This period was considered to be slowest phase of Arabia where the nights were too long and days were too long. This embargo was actually signed by all the tribal leaders of Mecca and the document was hung on the wall of Kaaba.

Historians note that there were five prominent figures of Quraysh with their names, who could not withstand the suffering that the Hashim's clan is undergoing and there was a mutiny. The document that was signed by the
tribal leaders was torn and the embargo was lifted. It is important to note that these five people were non-Muslims and even in current situation whenever there is an opposite camp, which is usually referred to as "the
Other", there will be some in the "the Other" camp who can significantly help Muslims when compared to Muslims themselves. After the mutiny, many more Muslims migrated to Abyssinia.

This event did not end the years of anguish. Soon, two of Muhammad's (PBUH) most important supporters, his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadijah (Ra) died. The Messenger would remember it as the "Year of Grief". With their deaths an exponential increase in physical hardship and humiliation was heaped upon Muhammad (PBUH).

Hoping to find a friendlier audience elsewhere Muhammad (PBUH) made a trip to the city of Ta'if, the city from which his mother came from. But on the contrary, they incited the rabble in the streets to taunt him and throw
stones at him. Prophet's only request to the people of Taif was not to inform Quraysh about his visit to the city of Taif otherwise they will not allow him to return to Mecca. But Quraysh were informed about the Prophet's
visit to Taif.

Prophet (PBUH) return to Makkah from Ta'if was impossible without the renewal of tribal protection. Prophet (PBUH) asked and received protection from a non-Muslim man named Mut'im bin 'Adi. This is again something worth mentioning about another help from a non-Muslim. When people asked the Mut'im bin 'Adi if he is following Prophet's message or just protecting him, he responded that he is just protecting Prophet and not following his
message.

It was in this period of darkness and despondency that Muhammad (PBUH) had the experience of the night journey (Isra') and of the ascent through the heavens (Mi'raj).

Glory be to Him who conducted His servant by the night from the holy mosque (in Makkah) to the distant mosque of al- Aqsa (in Jerusalem) The precincts of which We have hallowed that We might show him a few of our signs Verily He is all hearing all seeing. (Qur'an 17:1)

The difficult period when Muhammad's (PBUH) mission seemed to run into a series of dead ends had reached its lowest point and here comes the Prophet and tells people about his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and from
Jerusalem to Heaven the previous night. The blasphemers belied the Prophet and mocked him, saying, "We need a month to get there and back, and you are claiming to have done all this in one night?" They said to Abu Bakr, "Look at what your companion is saying. He says he went to Jerusalem and came back in one night." Abu Bakr told them, "If he said that, then he is truthful. I believe him concerning the news of the heavens--that an angel descends to him from the heavens. How could I not believe he went to Jerusalem and came back in a short period of time--when these are on earth?"

I think, in my opinion this (Abubakr's attitude) is what we Muslims need to believe in and not getting into the details as to whether the experience was physical or spiritual, which is immaterial and Almighty Allah has the
ability to make this journey happen in a short period of time. One of the purposes of this trip was to retain the true believers. Those who were just hanging out there left Islam and only those solid gold believers stayed and
thereby the Muslim community started growing with great strength.

The Salat (prayer) was the only farida (obligatory) that was told to Muhammad (PBUH) as the duty of Muslims in the heaven and all other faridas were sent down on earth.

Why this detour to Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem and why not straight journey to Heaven from Mecca?

It is to establish the link between Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the earlier Prophets of Islam Abraham, Solomon, David, Moses and Jesus (Peace be up them) who brought the message of oneness of God. Hence Jerusalem is dear and near to every Muslim.


Excerpts from the sunday lecture addressed by Dr. Maher Hathout at the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles on August 20, 2006.