سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
Subhānalladhī asrā bi-‘abdihni laylan minal masjidil-harāmi ilal-masjidil-aqsā allādhī bāraknā hawlahu linuriyahu min āyātinā; innahu huwas-samī‘ul- basīr.
Glory be to He who carried His servant on a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose environs We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed, He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing.
(Sūratul Isrā’, No.17, Āyat 1)
The journey of the Prophet from Masjid al-Harām in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsā in Jerusalem was a prelude to the journey of Mi‘raj when he was taken to the Heavens. Thus the event is known as ‘al-Israa wal-Mi’raj,’ – The Night Journey and the Ascension. The journey took place at night and was completed within a short span of time, a miraculous feat during those days.
A few reflections on the verse above include:
1. The word asrā refers to a journey at night. For travel during the day the word sayr is used in Arabic.
2. The word laylan emphasizes the fact that it was at night but also reveals that the entire journey to Masjid al-Aqsā and back to Masjid al-Harām took place within a night. This was a distance of about a thousand miles and would normally have taken days if not weeks to cover.
3. ‘Abdihi denotes the fact that the Prophet was chosen for this journey and given that particular status not just because he was a Prophet, but because he was a true servant of Allah. That is the highest status for a believer. This word also shows that it was a physical journey and not a journey of the soul or a simple vision.
4. The objective of the journey was to show the Prophet the signs of Allah. This would give him further inspiration and tranquility, and energize him more for the upcoming challenges of his mission. Moreover, he was the seal of the Prophets whose nubuwwah would last till the Day of Resurrection.
5. The area around Masjid al-Aqsā is described as blessed. The land itself is holy but the area around it specifically mentioned as blessed referring to the abundance of natural geographical blessings around it in the form of water, trees and greenery, as well as the spiritual blessings of all the Prophets who worshiped Allah ‘azza wa-jall on it.
6. The two qualities (al-samī’ and al-basīr) of Allah mentioned at the end of the verse show that Allah chose the Prophet for this special honor with His full knowledge and awareness of the challenges which the Prophet and his ummah would face.
The night journey of Isrā led Mi‘rāj, i.e the ascent of the Prophet into the Heavens. The verse above points to the significance this night journey. Also, Sayyid Ibn Tāwūs (d. 664 AH) mentions a Hadith in Iqbāl al-A‘māl from Abū Ja‘far, the Second (i.e. Imam Muhammad al-Taqī al-Jawād ‘alyhis salām) that he said: In Rajab, there is a night which is better for the people than all things on which the Sun shines; this is the night 27th in it. In the morning following this night Allah commissioned the Prophethood on the Messenger of Allah (s). When a devotee from our Shī’ah performs the (recommended) acts in this night – may Allah bless you, it will be as if s/he has performed the devotional acts for 60 years. Ibn Tāwūs also mentions that the best deed is reciting ziyārat of Amīrul Mu’minīn (a), i.e. ziyārat of Amīnullāh. (Iqbāl, v. 3, p. 266).
Remember the verse as you celebrate both the night of ‘Isrā and Mi’raj’ as well as the Apostleship of Prophet Muhammad (s) on the 27th of Rajab.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.alketab.org/