Whenever Allah sent a Nabi (Prophet), he provided various signs which served as proof that the Nabi was authentic in his claim. These signs took forms of various unusual and wonderful feats being performed by the Nabi by the Will, Power and Command of Allah. These signs are called mu’jizat (miracles). The miracles of the Prophets alayhimus salaam were of such unique nature that no one else was able to perform them, no matter how hard he tried, and he was thus rendered reluctant and helpless and had to admit that the Nabi in question is a Divine Messenger. The word mu’jizah literally means “that which renders powerless or helpless”, and a miracle of a Nabi is called mu’jizah because the feat performed by him cannot be emulated by anyone and disbelievers are therefore left helpless.
Mu’jizat of Prophet Muhammad صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم
The miracles of the previous Prophets ‘alayhimus salaam were mainly of a practical nature and were limited to their lifetime only. The miracles of our Nabi صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم on the other hand were practical in nature as well as intellectual and some of them exist up to this day, well after his demise. Because Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم is superior amongst all the Prophets alayhimus salaam, similarly his miracles are also not only greater in number but are more superior.
One of the greatest and very well-known miracles of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم is his ascension to the heavens and beyond, known as Mi’raj (ascension). This journey apart from being a miracle is a conglomeration of miracles and has been recorded in the Qur’an as well as various books of Hadeeth.
Mi’raj in Hadeeth
Hafiz Ibne Katheer rahmatullahi alayh has recorded the incident of Mi’raj from twenty-five Sahabah رضي الله عنهم. [Tafseer Ibne Katheer Vol. 3 Page 3] The well-known muhaddith, Allamah Zurqani rahmatullahi alayh states that the incident of Mi’raj is narrated by forty-five Sahabah رضي الله عنهم comprising of the Ansar and the Muhajireen. One may ask as to how the Ansar narrated this incident whilst it took place in Makkah before migration? The answer is that this event was so important and well-known amongst the Muslims that the Ansar requested its details directly from Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم as is evident from a Hadeeth reported by Shaddad Ibne ‘Aws رضي الله عنه. He reports: “We said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! How were you taken for a journey by night?'” [Tirmizi] The words ‘We said’ also indicate that the conversation of Mi’raj used to take place in the midst of a large gathering. Another Ansari, Malik Ibne Sa’sa’ah رضي الله عنه narrates the story of Mi’raj in the following words: “The Nabi صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم related to them . . .” [Bukhari] It is clear that the incident of Mi’raj was well-known amongst the Sahabah رضي الله عنهم and is narrated in authentic Ahadeeth.
Mi’raj – Physical or Spiritual
The Mi’raj of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم was physical i.e. with body and soul. He ascended the seven heavens and proceeded beyond that to the Sidratul Muntaha and further physically. In the mind of a mu’min (true believer), a doubt concerning the possibility of a physical ascent to the heavens does not occur. For a believer this is a fact which requires no logical reasoning. What doubt can there be concerning Allah’s power to do as He wishes? Nowadays with the advancement of modern technology the man is orbiting satellites and landing on the moon. If man has advanced so much, is it not possible for the Creator of man to carry His Beloved Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم physically with body and soul into the heavens and back within a very limited part of the night? Of course it is possible!
Mi’raj was Physical
1. “Glorified be He who carried His servant by night . . .” (Qur’an 17:1) This verse from the Qur’an describes the initial stages of the miraculous journey of our Beloved Nabi صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم. One can clearly ascertain from the words of this verse that the Mi’raj was physical: a. Allah ta’ala initiates the verse with the word subhan which means glorified be He Whose Self is pure from all defects and frailties and is above all kinds of weakness and helplessness. He is not dependent upon any means and He is not bound by any physical laws. Those things which look extremely strange to our imagination and which our imperfect wisdom think as quite impossible are not a bit difficult before the Power and Will of Allah. Thus, from the very outset, the event of Mi’raj has been described as extraordinary and the word subhan belies the misconception that the event was only a dream. b. The journey of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم is further expressed by the verb asra which is used for a journey of body and soul in the state of consciousness by night. This same verb is used elsewhere in the Qur’an too. In Soorah Hood and Hijr, the instruction given to Prophet Loot alayhis salaam by the Angels is: “So take away your people in a part of the night.” (11:81, 15:65) Similarly, Prophet Moosa alayhis salaam is ordered by Allah, “Take away my slaves by night.” (44:23, 20:77) In both cases, the Prophets alayhimus salaam are ordered to take their people physically with body and soul and not spiritually in dream. c. The word ‘abd (servant) is used to mean either the body only or body and soul together. It is not used to mean soul only.
2. Another verse of the Qur’an regarding Mi’raj is: “We appointed the vision which we showed thee as an ordeal for mankind.” (17:60) The word ru’ya (vision) is used for two meanings: dream or vision / view / sight. The Commentators of the Qur’an have given examples from Arabic poetry where ru’ya is used to mean vision/seeing and not dream. Imam Bukhari rahmatullahi alayh has narrated from Abdullah Ibne Abbas رضي الله عنهمa the meaning of the word ru’ya in this verse with the following words: “It (the ru’ya) was an actual eye-witness (account) which was shown to Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم the night he was taken on a journey (through the heavens)”. [Bukhari Vol. 6 page 204]
3. It is an accepted fact that when one relates a story or an event but does not say that it was a dream, it is naturally taken as an incident of consciousness. The verse of the Qur’an describing the miraculous journey and the Ahadeeth do not mention or indicate that it was a dream. Hence this incident will be considered physical in the state of awakening.
4. When the kuffar (disbelievers) of Makkah heard the details of the incident of Mi’raj, they rejected it. They jeered at the Muslims, made fun of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم and called him a liar. They asked him to describe the masjid in Jerusalem, which he had never seen before. Had it been only a dream they would neither have mocked at him, nor asked for any evidence. Similarly, there was no reason for their rejection as people often dream of strange things. It is apparent that they were asking for further details knowing that the journey was physical. Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم too, did not say that it was only a dream. Instead he substantiated his physical journey with another miracle which is reported by Bukhari and Muslim from Jabir Ibne Abdullah رضي الله عنه that Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said, “When the disbelievers of Makkah rejected my night journey to Baytul Maqdis and made queries about the details of Baytul Maqdis, I stood in the Hateem and Allah ta’ala opened the veils (between myself and) Baytul Maqdis. I was looking at it and informing them of the details they were asking for.
5. The incident of Mi’raj has been listed amongst the miracles of Nabi صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم. What is so extraordinary about travelling such long distances in a mere dream? This is sufficient to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم travelled from Makkah to Al-Masjidul Aqsa and then ascended the heavens physically with body and soul in the state of awakening within a very limited part of the night.
[by Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat (hafizullah)]