Qur’anic Roots of the Me’raj
The Heavenly Journey of the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) has been straight-forwardly explained in two Surahs of the Qur’an. In other Surahs as well, we see allusions to this journey.
In the Surah al-Isra – Surah 17 – it is mentioned: Glorified be He who carried His servant at night from Masjid al Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa, the precincts of which We have blessed so that We may show him of Our Signs. Verily He is the All Hearing, the All-Seeing.
(Surah al-Isra’ (17), Verse 1)
From this verse, we come to the conclusion that the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) traveled with his physical body through the worlds of Ascension. Further, by the greatness of the Hidden Power, he was able to complete this journey in a very short span of time.
Allah (s.w.t.) starts His speech with the phrase which denotes the fact that Allah (s.w.t.) is free from all deficiencies – but He does not stop here. Rather, He makes the ascension the reason for His greatness by saying ‘made to travel’ so that others do not imagine that the means of this journey was through causes of the natural world and with normal, ordinary means of transportation. This would have made his journey something that could have been denied. Rather, this journey was accomplished by relying upon the power of Allah (s.w.t.) and His specific and special blessings.
Although this verse states that the start of the journey was from Masjid al-Haram and ended at Masjid al Aqsa, this does not contradict the fact that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in addition to this trip, also had other trips towards the higher world, since another part of the journey of Ascension of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is explained in verses of Surah al-Najm.
Another important part of this verse is that the journey of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was both bodily and spiritually, not just a spiritual pilgrimage, and this is confirmed by the word – His servant – which is used to mean both the body and the spirit. Had it not been so, He would have said – his (Muhammad’s) soul – only. In Surah al-Najm, the event of the Me’raj is explained in more detail.
From the time the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) told the Quraish, ‘I saw the angel of revelation (when he received the first revelation) in his original and pure state’, all the Quraish rose up to mock him.
The Holy Qur’an, in response to the thoughts of the ignorant people replies:
Will you then argue with him about what he saw? He certainly saw him (Jibraeel) during his other ascent to the Lote-tree (in the seven heavens) near which is Paradise. When the tree was covered with a covering, (Muhammad’s) eyes did not deceive him, nor did they lead him to falsehood. He certainly saw the greatest (signs) of the existence of his Lord.
(Surah al-Najm, Verses 12 to 18)
The History behind the Heavenly Journey
The date of the Me’raj of the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) has been recorded by two major Muslim historians, Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham, as being in the 10th year of Be’sah (appointment to Prophethood). The great Muslim historian, Baihaqi has recorded this event as occurring in the 12th year of Be’sah. Others have mentioned it as occurring in the beginning of the Be’sah, and some mentioned it as being between these two dates.
Sometimes, to rationalize between these different views, it is has been said that the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) went on the Me’raj more than once. However, daily Salat was made incumbent, without doubt, occurred before the death of Abu Talib, who passed away in the 10th year of Be’sah. Unmistakably, from the ahadees and books of history, it is mentioned that on the night of Me’raj, Allah (s.w.t.) gave the order of the five daily Salat as being mandatory upon the Islamic Nation.
The Physical Ascension
It has been an on-going discussion and debate for hundreds of years concerning the method of travel of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) during the Me’raj. Many things have been said regarding this journey and its being physical or only spiritual even though from the Qur’an and the ahadith there is no doubt that it was a physical ascension.However, one problem from the point of view of science prevented some people in believing the reality and thus, the Me’raj of the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) was recorded as being simply spiritual. Another group went a step further and believed that this complete event was simply a dream and that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) experienced the Me’raj during his sleep!However, the response of the Quraish, after hearing about the Me’raj of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) clearly shows that the journey through the different worlds was not something that was seen in a dream because then it would have had no meaning and if the Quraish could have just called the dream of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) a lie and they would not have created all the commotion (that they did).Others have said that the Me’raj of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was nothing more than spiritual in meaning and it was because his deep contemplation and thought for the creations of Allah (s.w.t.), the witnessing of the greatness and beauty of His creations, and his being entirely submerged in the thought and remembrance of the Truth, and thus, the physical restrictions and spiritual closeness (that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) encountered) are beyond explanation. However, this type of spiritual ascension and closeness is something that anyone with a clear conscience and pure heart can attain. Nevertheless, the Qur’an relates that this distinct ascension of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is one of the peculiarities of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and this trip which he was taken through was something extraordinary, since many a night did the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) experience a state of spiritual ascension and closeness (to his Creator), whereas this physical Ascension was one that took place on a particular night.
It must be mentioned that the Greek hypothesis which was put forth by Bartholomew, who for close to two thousand years was well recognized in the scientific circles of the east and west, also fell into error. He was of the belief that all physical entities that exist in this world are of two divisions: elemental and celestial. By elemental he meant the four known elements which are: water, earth, wind and fire. The first sphere that comes to our attention is the sphere of the earth, which is the center of the universe. After that, it is the sphere of water, followed by that of the wind, and the fourth, is that of the fire. Each of these four spheres are related to the other. It is from here that the spheres come to an end and the celestial bodies start.
The meaning of the celestial bodies are the nine celestial planets, which just like the various skins of an onion, are related to one another but do not have the ability of tearing nor becoming united (as one). There is not a single creature which by its own leave is able to traverse within these boundaries, since this would call for the separation of the levels of the celestial bodies. Since the physical Me’raj involved travelling upwards from this world, and passing through the four levels of the elemental world and then piercing through the celestial boundaries – one after the other until all four had been split, and since this act was not correct according to the scientific beliefs of the Greeks, thus the physical Me’raj too was not possible (according to the theory of Bartholomew).
In reality, this theory held weight for that time period in which the hypothesis of artholomew had strength and a following. Fortunately, his ideas which were completely baseless, have been made apparent today and have lost all of their value.The same goes for the scientists who study Natural Science and try to find a tangible reason for everything that happens and for every event that occurs and who look for a natural or scientific consequence – their ideas too have lost their value. Similarly, those people who accepted the hypothesis of artholomew were at the forefront of denying the Me’raj of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and thought that the heavenly journey went against the scientific and natural laws of today – natural laws such as: the law of gravity of the earth; its speed of travel of 25,000 miles per hour; the weightlessness of an object that is outside of the airspace of earth; the fact that it is not possible to breathe the air that is outside our atmosphere; the various cosmic rays; meteorites and air pressure; and the speed of light that goes at the speed of approximately 300,000 kilometers a second; and other such examples.Fortunately however, it must be known that through scientific research and investigation, the space scientists of the East and the West, by launching the very first rocket in the year 1957, named Sputnik, were able to demonstrate to mankind with ease, that they could overcome such problems as the gravitational pull, cosmic rays, problems with breathing in space, and others, through various technologically designed and built equipment and instruments.Even today, the space science research is ever increasing and the scientists and researchers are confident that in a matter of time, they will be able to place life on one of the planets in our solar-system; just as today, they have opened up the exploration to the moon and the planet Mars.
These scientific progresses and advancements in technology and industry are a clear proof that such a celestial travel (that of the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) on the night of Me’raj) is possible and can not be classified as something that was impossible.
That which is certain and in which there can be no doubt is the fact that everything mankind can do today through various human created ways and means, the Prophets (a.s.) were able to perform by the grace of Allah (s.w.t.) and without the apparent and external means.
Therefore, we see that the Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.) by the will of Allah (s.w.t.) was taken on the Me’raj, and all that exists in it belongs to Him and He is the designer and fashioner of this amazing and perfectly arranged system. It is He who has given the earth its’ gravitational pull, has given the sun its cosmic rays, and it is He who has given the air its various levels; and anytime He wants to, He is able to take all of these back and put a halt to them all. Also, it must be known that in reference to miracles, natural events and the power of mankind, all of these are independent issues and never can the infinite power of Allah (s.w.t.) be compared to the limited power and ability of mankind.
Bringing alive those who are dead, converting a staff into a snake, splitting the moon, keeping alive the Prophet Yunus in the belly of a whale in the depths of the ocean, and many other miracles such as these which have been mentioned in other heavenly books, confirm the fact that no uncertainty can be placed on the Me’raj of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Thus, all of the natural occurrences and all the external obstacles were demolished and conquered by the intention of the Maintainer of the Universe. His will and intention are not only limited to issues that are impossible – rather, any time that He wishes to perform any action, He is able to – whether mankind has the ability to perform it or not.
Further, that person, who in recognizing Allah (s.w.t.) has reached to that level of true cognizance of his Creator and the attributes and characteristics which are exclusive to Him, and who recognizes Allah (s.w.t.) as the One who is Eternal, Ever-Lasting and the All-Powerful Creator whose power and intention is above all things, will much more quickly accept (these facts and occurences). Other people (who have not reached to that level of cognizance of their Creator), through a little bit of study and research and with a deep and precise understanding along with the correct outlook on the world too will accept and acknowledge the truth.
The treatise of the Me’raj according to the narration of Faiz al-Kashani, is a collection of traditions taken from the speech of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) as compiled by the late Muhaddis and great Philosopher and Thinker Faiz al-Kashani as taken from his well known book, “Nawadir al-Akhbar” which is a collection of ahadith on the topic of Usul al-Deen.
It goes without saying that the complete collection of ahadis in regards to the Me’raj can be read in Behaar al-Anwar from Allamah Majlisi, volume 18, page 282; volume 26, page 86; volume 36, page 162 and 245;
volume 39, page 158; volume 70, page 6; volume 76,
page 146 and 184, and volume 93, page 93.
Ameerul Momineen, Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.) said – Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.a.) informed: O Ali! Those who love me and love you and love the Imams from your sons, should thank Allah for the legitimacy of their birth, because no one loves us but those who are legitimate, and no one hates us but those who are illegitimate.
(Bashaarah al-Mustafa Le Shiah al-Murtaza, vol. 2, p. 150; Al-Amaali, p. 475; Elal al-Sharaae, vol. 1, p. 141)