Israa (Parts 1 and 2)

Israa – As Mentioned in the Qur-aan

Usually at this time of the year (Islamic Calendar), Muslims talk about an extra-ordinary event in the life of our Rasool. It is usually called Israa and Mi‘raaj or just Mi‘raaj. This has been a favourite topic at the Pakistan Forum where people have been expressing extremist views for or against this remarkable event. Inshaa Allaah, we will explore a moderate and balanced view fully supported by the Holy Qur-aan. Today, we will talk about Israa; and, Inshaa Allaah next week, Mi‘raaj will be discussed.

Israa is mentioned in the first verse of Soorah Banee-Israaeel in the following words:
Subhaan-alladzi asraa bi‘abdihee laylam min-almasjidilharaami il-almasjidil aqsa-alladzi baaraknaa howlahoo linuriyahoo min aayaatinaa.

Glorified is He Who transported His slave at night from Masjidul-Haraam (Ka‘bah) to Masjidul-Aqsaa the surroundings of which We have blessed, in order to show him Our signs.

Now let us see what each word stands for:

Subhaan-alladzi (Glorified is He Who …) – Subhaan expresses Allaah’s amazing Glory which is infinitely perfect and is absolutely free from any weakness, shortcoming or inability. The expression is used when something really amazing, unbelievable and extraordinary is mentioned, observed or performed.

Asraa (followed by an object with a preposition bi) – meaning transported, took the person on a journey or physically took afar. This verb has been used in the Qur-aan only at six places. In all other five places, it has been used as a command (asri) to the messengers to take their followers physically away from the place of their residence; (11:81, 15:65, 20:77, 26:52 and 44:23). The use of the verb Asraa bi… here indicates that it was a physical journey not a vision or a transcendental experience.

Bi‘abdihee – The person taken away was only one, Allaah’s slave, Muhammad, the Messenger of Allaah.

Laylan – the journey happened at night, from Al-Masjidil-Haraam (the Masjid containing the Holy Ka‘bah), to Al- Masjidil Aqsaa – (A faraway Masjid, a place of worship that was far away from the Ka‘bah). Like the Holy Ka’abah, it must have been an existing place of worship at the time of the journey, not something built later on.

Alladzi baaraknaa howlahoo – (Surrounding of which We have blessed). This determines the location of the faraway Masjid. The only area mentioned in the Qur-aan in this manner (as being blessed) has been the area of Jerusalem and Palestine (7:137, 21:71, 21:81 and 34:18). This also helps us determine “Masjid Al-Aqsaa” mentioned here being the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, which was the second House of Allaah built after the Holy Ka‘bah. Although destroyed by Romans, its ruins still existed and its only remaining wall was still revered as the symbol of the Temple.

linuriyahoo min aayaatinaa – to show him Our signs. This identifies the purpose of the trip. Just as other messengers like Ibraaheem and Moosa were shown some signs that were specific to the Rasools and were not shown to their followers or common people, our Rasool was also shown some extraordinary signs.

It is clear from the above that this was a very extraordinary trip to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem on which Rasoolullaah was taken at night to be shown special signs which are shown only to the messengers of Allaah.

Those who think that this verse alludes to the migration of Rasoolullaah from Makkah to Madeenah are grossly mistaken. The words of the verse do not allow that meaning. In addition, the context of the verse also does not allow that meaning. This Soorah was revealed in Makkah after the trip had been taken. The migration had not yet taken place. Later on in the Soorah, Allaah SWT alludes that the time for migration is coming and the Prophet was even taught the Du‘aa for migration.

Now that the nature of the night journey is established purely on the basis of the Qur-aan, we can safely get the details of the journey and the reaction of the kuffaar on the news of the journey from the Hadeeth. The details from Hadeeth include what the Prophet did when he was in Jerusalem, the caravans he saw on his way back, and the way he described his trip and gave evidence for his claim to the people who were testing him for this purpose.

Israa -- Details from Ahaadeeth

As shown in my previous post, the Holy Qur-aan mentions Rasoolullaah’s night journey from Ka‘bah to Jerusalem as an extraordinary experience. However, it does not give much detail. The details are given in Ahaadeeth (plural of Hadeeth). I did not include the details from the Ahaadeeth to keep the article brief. Today, I will briefly list some of the points mentioned in the Ahaadeeth that relate to Israa only. The details and questions about Mi’raaj will, Inshaa Allaah, be discussed in my subsequent articles.

Ahaadeeth tell us that:

  1. The mode of transportation used was named by the Rasool to be ‘Burraaq’. This name is derived from ‘Barq’ meaning ‘lightening’. He also described that each step of the Burraaq covered as much a distance as could be seen. In other words, the travel happened at or around the speed of light which was described to people of that time in the terms they could relate to and understand.
  2. Jibreel was his companion and guide for the journey.
  3. Before going to Jerusalem, he was shown Yathrib and told that it would be his destination to where he would migrate and where he would establish the Islamic state and complete his mission. He was also taken to Mount Sinai where Moosa had talked to Allaah SWT and received Towraat (Torah).
  4. On their way to Jerusalem, they passed a caravan. One of their camels ran away. The prophet stopped and told the people about the whereabouts of their camel.
  5. In Jerusalem, at the Temple site, he lead all the past prophets and messengers (present there in spirit) in a special two raka‘at Salaah.
  6. On his way back, they met another caravan. The Prophet drank water from their water container and left it in such a position that the use would be noticeable. The basic objective of this stop was to leave behind traces for independent verification of his claim of the trip when people doubt his unique experience.
  7. The prophet told the people of Makkah about the two caravans and their locations. Subsequent reports from those caravan people, confirmed the Prophet’s claims.
  8. Makkans knew that Rasoolullaah had never been to Jerusalem before. To test him for his claim, they asked him pertinent questions about the landmarks and the site specifications. The Prophet answered all of their questions by accurately describing the details they asked about.

Comments on the first Post

Although I had very clearly shown through solid evidence from the Holy Qur-aan that nightly journey of Israa was a physical journey to a physical place which was far from Ka‘bah and was located in the blessed surroundings and although I had also indicated that the only place mentioned with that title in the Qur-aan is the area we know as Jerusalem and Palestine, since posting of that article, people have raised some questions.

One person thinks that because the word ‘Palestine’ or ‘Jerusalem’ is not mentioned in the Qur-aan, the ‘blessed’ land cannot be that area. If one reads, with open mind and willingness to understand, the verses I had quoted as evidence of Palestine being the blessed land, he will see that those verses refer to the place where Banee-Israaeel and their prophets had settled. Was that not the area we call Palestine?

Another objection was that Palestine has been land of bloodshed and turmoil, how can it be regarded as blessed? Those who raise this kind of objections should direct their questions to Allaah SWT and the Holy Qur-aan, because it is the Qur-aan that has used that title for that land. I am not presenting my personal view. People who raise this kind of questions should either show me from the Qur-aan itself that it has not called that area the blessed vicinity, or should raise their objection to Allaah.

This remark is to let questioners realize that before raising an objection, they should think to whom they are questioning. Here is my answer. The Qur-aan does not give reasons for its pronouncements; however, the commentators of the Qur-aan try to explain things like that. They think that the Palestine was regarded blessed because it was the seat of the most of the Prophets and Messengers and was, in that sense, spiritual headquarters for the world for thousands of years. It was also blessed because it was fertile land with abundance of good quality produce (land of milk and honey). Now, if later on, it became a battle zone because of the misdeeds of Banee Israeel, why would the land be blamed for that?

One person has suggested that that Israa was a travel through time to Ibraaheem’s era and that Masjid Al-Aqsaa referred to the Ka‘bah of Ibraaheem’s time. Although the thought is creative, the words of the Qur-aan strongly contradict this view. Aqsaa means far in physical distance not in time. Both of the Masaajid referred to in the Qur-aan are distinct entities physically distant from each other, not the same entity in two different eras. Similarly, as explained by me in the previous post, the word Asraa bi… is used for physical transport in space, not for travel in time while remaining in the same place. We must not ascribe to the verses of the Holy Qur-aan whatever meanings we like. The meaning we derive from the Qur-aan must be naturally derivable from the text. It should also be supported by usage of that word in other places of the Qur-aan.

The fact that the original temple was in ruins except for a wall (Wailing Wall) and that a church was built on a part of its ruins is irrelevant. Its association with the prophets of the past was still the important aspect, not its building. It should also be remembered that the legitimate houses of worship of the true followers of previous prophets have been called Masjid by the Qur-aan.

As to what were the special signs that were shown to the Prophet on this trip will be discussed in detail after Mi’raaj discussion.

This closes the discussion on Israa.

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