Shab e Miraj or the Night of Journey carries great significance in Islam. It was the night when the Prophet (PBUH) was carried to the Heavens and experienced several miracles along the way.
This night is also known as the event of “Isra and Miraj” which essentially denotes two parts of the journey. Isra, which means ‘walking in the night’, refers to the first part of the Prophet’s (PBUH) journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was visited by the angel Jibrael and was carried to Masjid-al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem) on “buraq”, the steed of the prophets.
The second part of the journey is known as Miraaj, which in the literal sense means “ladder”, and it alludes to the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) ascension to Heaven itself. From Jerusalem, the Prophet (PBUH) was then transported to Paradise on his steed, where he roamed all seven levels of paradise and met a number of the prophets who had come before him, which included Adam (AS), Musa (AS), Isa (AS), Yahya (AS), Yusuf (AS), Ibrahim (AS) and many others. Upon reaching Sidra-tul-Muntaha in the seventh heaven, a tree marking the very end of paradise and the beginning of the abode of Allah (SWT), Jibrael halted as his entry was forbidden and let the Prophet (PBUH) pass. Here, our beloved Prophet (PBUH) got a chance to meet the Almighty and converse with Him. It is on this night, that the Prophet (PBUH) achieved a state of closeness with Allah (SWT) that is beyond human measure.
The event of Isra and Mairaj took place on the 27 night of the Islamic month of Rajab when Allah Almighty sent Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to bring him to Allah.
‘Isra’ means ‘walking in night’ and ‘Mairaj’ means to “ascend“. Therefore, the Isra and Mairaj event represent the whole journey of Prophet (PBUH) from His house to the higher skies and from there on backwards.
The night started off with Angel Jibrael appearing before the Prophet (PBUH). One night as the Muhammad (PBUH) was asleep in the Kabah, Angel Jibrael appeared and cleaned his heart and stomach out with Zam Zam. Subsequently he took Muhammad (PBUH) from the Masjid al Haram in Makkah to the Masjid al Aqsa in Jerusalem. The mode of transportation used for this commute in the middle of the night was Burraq, a white mule like animal. On reaching Masjid al Aqsa, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) realized that all the other Prophets, who came before him, were already present there. Over here Muhammad (PBUH) led all of the Prophets in prayer.
Subsequently, Angel Jibrael took him to the Heavens. On each level, he met Prophets and greeted them. On the top most level, he came across Prophet Ibrahim (AS) who was leaning against a Lote Tree.
The Lote Tree refers to Sidrat al-Muntaha which is a lote tree in Jannah that marks the end of the seventh heaven. No being can cross this point. Muhammad (PBUH) was the only one allowed. Even Angel Jibrael did not accompany him past this point.
Allah (SWT) revealed to Muhammad (PBUH) that all Muslims were to pray 50 times a day. As Muhammad (PBUH) was going back, Musa (AS) told him that 50 prayers were too many so Muhammad (PBUH) requested Allah (SWT) to reduce the number of prayers. Allah (SWT) reduced the mandatory prayers to 45 but Musa (AS) still thought they were too many so eventually on Muhammad’s (PBUH) request, Allah (SWT) reduced the number of prayers to 5.
It was during this Ascent that the 5 daily prayers were made obligatory on all Muslims.
When Muhammad (PBUH) returned from the Miraj and told the whole incident to the people, a lot of them mocked him saying that he was lying. So he described the Masjid al Aqsa to the people, his story was corroborated by that of the travelers who had been to the city of Jerusalem. Thus proving that Muhammad (PBUH) was speaking the truth, as always.
Although this journey has religious significance in Islam, the Prophet PBUH never celebrated it nor did he ever instruct his Ummah to celebrate it.
The sole purpose of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) miraculous journey to the Heavens was an act of declaration about the exalted status of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the realm of Islam and testified to the irreplaceable position he held in the eyes of Allah (SWT) and His creation.
However, the date of this journey is still unclear as there is no concrete indication in any Sahih hadith for its exact occurrence. It is thought to have taken place somewhere between the Prophet’s visit to Taif and the time of the Hijra, around the 27th of the Islamic month of Rajab, but this date is not officially recognized by Islamic scholars.
Layla-tul-Miraj serves as a witness to Allah’s (SWT) infinite grandeur and power and His bond with His creation. Allah (SWT) sent the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as a gift to His creation, an exemplary figure and role model for every human to look up to. This night marks itself as a test of faith in mankind and enjoins them to believe in the truth of all that Allah (SWT) is and all that only He is capable of.
Layla-tul-Miraj holds great significance in the lives of Muslims across the globe, where the Prophet’s (PBUH) ascension is remembered and the ultimate purpose of it is recollected. It is considered one of the most sacred of miracles of the Almighty, which He chose to bestow upon Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and only him.