Tonight marks the night when our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and Love be upon him, ascended to the seven heavens with the guidance of the archangel Gabriel. His ascension took place from Jerusalem, where he was carried into the heavens on a flying horse named Al-Buraq. This miraculous night journey is one of the most important events in Islamic history because it not only established daily prayer in the Muslim way of life, but also tested the Faith of Muhammad’s companions. Traveling to Jerusalem, leading prayer with all the Abrahamic Prophets, and being carried into the Seven Heavens seemed unbelievable to many people at the time. How could anyone believe him?
When the Prophet returned from his journey, fellow Muslims even doubted what the Prophet was saying. Some people approached the Prophet’s friend, Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) and said, “Look at what your companion is saying. He says he went to Jerusalem and came back in one night!” Abu Bakr replied, “If Muhammad said it happened, then it must have happened. I believed him when he first talked about Divine Revelation, why should I doubt him now?” On this occasion, Abu Bakr earned the famous title of “As-Siddiq” (the Truthful).
Al-Miraj was discussed at my Mosque a few months ago and I remember the speech was so moving that it made me reevaluate certain things in my life. As many of my friends know, I felt that my spiritual journey truly began in 2002 when I started to persistently and diligently question everything. In that time, I felt that I discovered the importance of prayer by actively questioning it: Why do we pray? Because we’re told, or because we truly understand the significance of detaching from the material world and reminding ourselves to be mindful of Allah’s Greatness and Omnipresence?
Over the years, prayer has been a special part of my life and I always strive to capture the true essence of it rather than doing it ritualistically. But there was something different about the speech that was given at my Mosque a few months ago. We were taught that prayer was given to us by Allah as a Gift. It was a reminder, yes, I recalled reading in the Qur’an several times that prayer is for our benefit, but at the same time, it was a new perspective. As the speaker put it, “Allah told Muhammad, ‘Tell your followers that if they want to experience Miraj, this is it, salaat (prayer).'”
As I reflect on Al-Isra and Al-Miraj, I think about all the wonderful people I’ve met in the past year or two and how grateful I am for knowing them and calling them my friends. It’s a beautiful thing to share some of my spiritual experiences with friends who can relate to them, and it’s also great to be awestruck by all the beauties that unfold before us every day (we just have to do our best to be mindful of them). Beauties that we often call “coincidences” and then overlook them without realizing how significant and special those experiences are. Today, for example, I found a quote that I’ve been searching for for a quite some time now. And I found it in a book that resonates with special meaning to me. It’s by an Islamic mystic (Sufi) woman in the late 9th century:
Being in the company of one’s spiritual brethren in this world is the consolation for being in the abode of materiality. ~ Oum Abdullah
It’s so easy to get discouraged in the motions of life, but it’s a blessing to have your true friends around; people who listen, care, and understand. Just like the Prophet’s ascension to the seven heavens, this kind of friendship, brother/sisterhood, and Love cannot be measured empirically. I feel with all my heart that the friendships I’m blessed with are transcendent of the materialistic world that tries to keep us stressed, afraid, worried, and sad.
May Allah bless our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, his family, his companions, and all of the Prophets. And may Allah bless you, my dear friends :)
Peace, Love, and Light