Isra wal Miraj, the night journey & ascension to Heaven – Dr. Yasir Qadhi

After the Year of Sorrow and the trial of Ta’if, Allah blessed the Prophet PBUH with a great miracle. Allah SWT has promised that He’s never going to test or try us except that there will always be ease along with and after that trial [Quran, 94:5-6]. And Allah SWT has told us that those who are patient will taste the fruits of their patience. Therefore, after the lowest of all lows in the life of the Prophet PBUH, it was only natural that he would be gifted by one of the all-time highs. And in some ways, this is *the* all-time high. Of course, there are multiple highs in the life of the Prophet PBUH, but after all of these *personal* losses, Allah blessed him with one of the greatest miracles, or in fact some scholars say this is *the* greatest miracle that the Prophet PBUH has been given *personally* (not the miracle to his ummah) — and that is the incident of al-Isra wal-Mi’raj. And this particular incident has been referenced by Allah twice in the Qur’an — once the Isra, the other time the Mi’raj.

The Definition of al-Isra wal-Mi’raj (الإسراء والمعراج)

So, what is the isra? Linguistically it means “to travel at night.” Therefore al-isra means “the travel that occurred at night.” And in Islamic/seerah terminology, al-Isra (لإسراء) means “the Night Journey that the Prophet PBUH undertook from Makkah to Jerusalem.”

Mi’raj means “the item/mechanism of rising up high.” Therefore al-mi’raj means “the instrument you use to rise up.” Call it a lift or elevator, the apparatus that causes a person to ascend up is what we call al-mi’raj. Al-Mi’raj (المعراج) linguistically refers to the actual apparatus, but in seerah terminology, we refer to it as the actual ascension, i.e., “the Prophet’s PBUH ascension to the heavens.”

So al-Isra is the Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem, and al-Mi’raj is from Jerusalem to the heavens.

References of al-Isra wal-Mi’raj in the Qur’an

This Journey is referenced in the Qur’an in two separate surahs.

As for the Isra, Allah revealed an entire surah, and the surah is called Surah al-Isra. And the surah begins by the famous ayah:

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our Signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing” [17:1].

“Subhana” means “exalted,” “free of imperfection,” “He has no evil nor defect.” And Allah is saying that He is worthy of being praised/venerated because of this Journey. That’s how grand, miraculous, and important the Journey is.

“The One who took His servant.” Here the word “abd/عبد (servant)” is the highest praise Allah has given to the Prophet PBUH. Because in Surah al-Dhariyat, Allah said, “I have created jinn and men for no reason but to worship Me (لي-عبد-ون)” [Qur’an, 51:56]. So Allah is saying in Surah al-Isra that the Prophet PBUH has perfected his worship. No one has perfected the worship of Allah (the purpose of creation) like our Prophet PBUH. And therefore, as Ibn Taymiyyah says: Allah AWJ generally calls our Prophet PBUH not by his name, but by his title, to show his honor and rank. Even in America we use “Mr. President,” “Mr. Senator,” “Your Excellency,” etc., to honor the person — we don’t mention names because there is a title that is given — this is the culture of mankind. Allah SWT refers to the Prophet PBUH sometimes by name (generally in the kalimah shahada, “Muhammadur Rasulullah”), but more often than his name, He refers to him by his title, and that is “abdullah/abdihi” [72:19] [17:1] [18:1] — that our Prophet PBUH is the one who has perfected the worship of Allah.

And then Allah says He has blessed the land around al-Masjid al-Aqsa.

And then Allah tells us the wisdom of al-Isra, “So that We may show him of Our wondrous Miracles.” Notice how لنريه (so that We may show *him*) is in the singular. Thus, the entire Journey of al-Isra is meant for the Prophet PBUH alone. As for us, we simply have to believe that it happened. It was solely for the Prophet PBUH.

As for the Mi’raj, Allah references it in Surah al-Najm. He says:

مَا كَذَبَ الْفُؤَادُ مَا رَأَىٰ
أَفَتُمَارُونَهُ عَلَىٰ مَا يَرَىٰ
وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَىٰ
عِندَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنتَهَىٰ
عِندَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَىٰ
إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَىٰ
مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَىٰ
لَقَدْ رَأَىٰ مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَىٰ

“The heart belied not what he saw. Do you then dispute with him concerning what he sees (with the eyes)? And he saw him once again by the farthest Lote-Tree, nearby which is the Garden of Repose. At that time the Lote-Tree was covered with that which covered it. The sight was neither dazzled nor it exceeded the limit, and he saw of the greatest Signs of his Lord” [53:11-18].

In both Surah al-Isra and Surah al-Najm, roughly the same phrases are used, that is, “So that We can show him Our Signs.” Thus, the reason for al-Isra wal-Mi’raj was to show the Prophet PBUH the magnificent Sings of Allah AWJ. It was a personal gift for him and him alone. We just hear about it as a blessing to the Prophet PBUH.

And the timing is perfect as we already said Allah never tests a person and that person passes the test except that he faces the fruits of the test immediately.

Issues Pertaining to the Narrations of al-Isra wal-Mi’raj (and Seerah in General)

The Journey of al-Isra wal-Mi’raj is a little bit problematic from an academic perspective for many reasons. Firstly, there are numerous ahadith about it — over 20 sahaba have narrated; in fact in Bukhari alone there are 6 sahaba who narrate portions of the Journey; in fact if we were to compile all of the ahadith about the Makkan era without al-Isra wal-Mi’raj, and just compile the ahadith about al-Isra wal-Mi’raj, we will find the latter pile to be bigger, subhan’Allah; in other words, it is great that we have so many narrations, but this leads us to some issues:

1. Exaggerations by qussas (قصاص – storytellers) — This story has been taken up by storytellers in earliest of times, and they were known to be exaggerators and fabricators. Therefore this story of al-Isra wal-Mi’raj has been narrated in many obscure books with such vivid details and imagery that is not even true. The academic scholar has to sift through all of these stories. Note before academic Islam became solidified, there was a phenomenon where people would preach to the masses based on ignorance — they made a whole profession out of going from mosque to mosque telling stories. Some of them were complete fabrications about the Prophet PBUH. These were unscrupulous people who just wanted money — after they tell the stories, people would give them money. Their stories became very popular, especially in the 2nd and 3rd generations of Islam until the scholars put an end to this. During this interim, certain stories became very popular and they entered into the literature — the most popular story was that related to al-Isra wal-Mi’raj.

To sift through authentic and inauthentic is relatively easy because we have an exact science in our religion — we go through the chains of narrators etc. And many scholars have done this. But once we even do that, we have another problem:

2. Chronology — We have pieces of a large puzzle. And there is nothing, or very little, to link these pieces together in proper chronological order. There are snippets about the story everywhere, but it’s very difficult to verify the full chronological order. Suppose we try to summarize this lecture — we would narrate the snippets with our own wordings, and it may not be in the right order. The same thing happened with the sahaba. Around 20 sahaba authentically narrated about al-Isra wal-Mi’raj, and sometimes they contradict each other in terms of the timeline of events.

For example, in one version, it’s said Jibril AS comes to the Prophet PBUH while he is in Bayt al-Maqdis (بيت المقدس) and hands him the two vessels of milk and of wine, and the Prophet PBUH chooses between the two. In another version, it’s said Jibril AS hands these two when he is taking him up to the heavens, and he’s in the heavens. What do we do here? Both narrations are authentic so who is correct? Obviously one of the narrators mixed things up. How do we reconcile? Some scholars say it happened twice; others say we follow whichever has the stronger chain. So this is another job that the scholars will always be engaged in.

These points raised above illustrate some of the problems the scholars face when studying the seerah. And also, to show that sometimes what one scholar says about the seerah is different from another. In fact, because there are so many narrations and different details about al-Isra wal-Mi’raj, some scholars, including Imam al-Nawawi (إمام النووي) and Ibn Abi Jamra (ابن أبي جمرة), felt that perhaps there were multiple al-Isra wal-Mi’raj — perhaps twice. And this is actually a very common opinion. Many famous scholars of the past said this. They were forced to say this because some of the reports were not reconcilable. However, the majority opinion (including Sh. YQ’s) is that there was only one al-Isra wal-Mi’raj because Allah clearly says in Surah al-Isra, “ليلا”—singular, “one night.” So, it is clear that there is only one al-Isra wal-Mi’raj, and if there are any discrepancies, we try to reconcile them.

Al-Isra: When Did It Occur?

First question — when did it occur? We find in early literature from the tabi’un or tabi-tabi’un some dates, but we don’t have any narration from a sahabi. Most of the early writers, including Ibn Ishaq, who is the number one authority of seerah, said it happened 1 year before the Hijrah. And this is the strongest opinion. Others say 1½, 2, or even 5 years before the Hijrah. However, we have one very important clue from Aisha RA that we can use to eliminate some of the more extreme opinions. Aisha RA authentically said, “Khadija RA died before the salah became fard.” And we know that salah became fard at al-Isra wal-Mi’raj — so the fact that Khadija RA died before salah became fard clearly shows that al-Isra wal-Mi’raj happened in the last 1½ years of the Makkan era. So, it makes complete sense, and this is the majority opinion, that it happened after the Year of Sorrow and before the Hijrah.

As for the month, there are no opinions amongst the early scholars. All the opinions began after the first 200 years. This clearly shows therefore that we don’t know which month it happened in. Some scholars said Rabi’ al-Awwal, some said Rabi’ al-Thani, some said Rajab, some said Ramadan, and some said Shawwal, but none of these opinions have any authentic basis from the sahaba or tabi’un. So forget the day, we don’t even know the month.

The fact that the sahaba didn’t preserve the date shows that they didn’t care what day it occurred, i.e., they understood that what’s important is the details of the incident, not the date. The Muslims don’t commemorate specific days of the year when something happens on it. This is not of our culture.

Al-Isra: Where Did It Happen From?

Second question — where did it happen from? Here we see a difference in opinion; many opinions, all authentic, and 2 of them are in Bukhari itself:

The first report says the Prophet PBUH said, “While I was sleeping in the Hatim, Jibril AS came to me.” This is the most authentic version. (Tangent: al-Hatim/الحطيم = semicircular region outside the Ka’bah that the Quraysh built after the incident of the rebuilding. And it was the wisdom of Allah that the Hatim remained open for everybody — because praying in the Hatim is basically praying inside the Ka’bah.)

Another version is that the Prophet PBUH said, “When I was in my house, I saw the roof opened up and Jibril AS came to me.” This is also authentic. Ibn Hajar says, “This shows that the Prophet PBUH was in his house, and Jibril AS first took him to the Hatim.” This makes sense because why would the Prophet PBUH be sleeping in the open in the Hatim when he has a house in Makkah. So we see that not every contradiction is at face value a full contradiction. In fact, Ibn Hajar makes a good point, that Jibril AS came to the Prophet’s PBUH house and first took him to the Ka’bah to pray two rak’at, and then from there he took him somewhere else. And this is how we reconcile sometimes — to take both narrations at face value.

Al-Isra: Opening up of the Chest:

The Prophet PBUH said, “In the Hatim, Jibril AS opened up my chest. And he brought a bowl made out of gold that was full of…” in one version it says, “of zamzam,” in another version, “of Iman.” Again, there is no contradiction since whatever is in the bowl is going to give him Iman, and it can be zamzam. “And he took out my heart, washed it, and put it back.” Note this is the second time this happened. The Prophet’s PBUH heart was taken out twice. Once when he was 4-5 years old, but that time there was a detail that is not mentioned here, that is there was a black spot on the heart, and it was taken out. Now the second time this is happening there is no black spot to take out because it’s already been taken out. Here the purpose of washing the heart is to strengthen the Prophet PBUH for what he is about to see. And that is, as Ibn Hazm says, if another man were to have seen even a fraction of what the Prophet PBUH saw, he would have gone mad. Indeed the Prophet PBUH entered a different world, a different dimension. Allah says in Surah al-Najm:

مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَىٰ

“The sight [of the Prophet] did not swerve, nor did it transgress [its limit]” [53:17].

Al-Isra: Riding al-Buraq:

The Prophet PBUH says, “Then Jibril AS brought me a dabba (دابَّة – beast/animal). It is smaller than a mule and larger than a donkey. Pure white and it was called al-Buraq (البرق) (comes from the root of “lightning,” برق). And it puts its hoof where the eye can see.” Here is where some legends begin — the image of Buraq with wings is not narrated in any authentic literature. This hadith clearly says that the Buraq is a physical creature, a dabba, flesh and blood, which can run much faster than a normal horse. So fast that it jumps as far as the eye can see.

According to Tirmidhi, the Prophet PBUH said, “It had a harness and a saddle.” Jibril AS was holding on to the harness and the Prophet PBUH mounted al-Buraq. Then it’s narrated that al-Buraq jumped up, but Jibril AS yanked the harness and said, “Woe to you, are you not ashamed? For wallahi, no one has ridden you that is more blessed in the Eyes of Allah than your current rider.” Note this shows that al-Buraq has been ridden by other riders/creations. This again shows that the Buraq is a physical creature because it reacted like a normal animal. It also shows that Allah has created things beyond our knowledge, as Allah says in the Qur’an [16:8]. And we mentioned in the last episode how even jinns have beasts and animals — this is of the creation that is amongst us we have no knowledge of them. So how about of the other world? Or how about even al-Buraq, which is a physical creature that lives in the other world? And it’s only brought down for occasions like this, or maybe this was the only time it was brought in this world, we will never know — this is of ilm al-Ghayb. Subhan’Allah.

The Prophet PBUH then said, “I rode him, and he took me until we came to Bayt al-Maqdis.” (And here it’s interesting to note that at this time, there is no sanctuary/structure/mosque/synagogue/temple at Bayt al-Maqdis because Jerusalem was under the Roman control, and the Roman Emperor had basically decreed that this holy sight of the holy temple should be converted into a junkyard/trash dump, a filthy area [because the Christians wanted to make a point to the Jews that they have no respect for their heritage; historically, Christian have been well known to be antisemitic], but when the Prophet PBUH came here, he is seeing the Bayt al-Maqdis as it was — Allah AWJ basically brought about probably the original Temple of Sulayman or something, and the Prophet PBUH was praying there.)

The Prophet PBUH then said, “And I tied al-Buraq to the animal post that is used by the prophets.” This clearly shows that the Prophet PBUH is seeing a structure that is not seen by men at this time. Because obviously, the post that Prophet Sulayman used is not going to be present for 300 years later. Allah AWJ is basically showing the Prophet PBUH the original Bayt al-Maqdis, and the Prophet PBUH is physically there. And this is Allah’s capability beyond our understanding.

Al-Isra: Praying With All Previous Prophets:

The Prophet PBUH then said, “I went inside and prayed two rak’at.” This was before Tahiyyat al-Masjid (تحية المسجد) was legislated in Madinah (later). This shows that the Prophet PBUH was practicing things that were not legislated yet for the ummah.

And here is where we get another minor difference:

One narration says the Prophet PBUH prayed two rak’at and when he turned around, he saw all of the prophets lined behind him. So, the impression we get from this narration is that he didn’t know there were prophets behind him.

From the other narration that we have, the Prophet PBUH says, “I saw myself with the other prophets. And there was Musa AS praying; and he was a tall, strong, and muscular man of a brownish color like someone from the tribe of Shanu’ah (شنوءة). And I saw Isa ibn Maryam AS standing and praying; and the one who looks most like Isa is Urwah ibn Mas’ud al-Thaqafi (عروة بن مسعود الثقفي).” So the Prophet PBUH is trying to describe the prophets for his sahaba. In another narration, the Prophet PBUH said Isa was whitish in color which means he was basically Caucasian looking (of course the Arabic word used is “red,” but the Arabs used to call white people “red,” and sometimes “yellow,” because that is how they perceived that type of whiteness). The Prophet PBUH also said, “His hair glistened with water as if he had come out of a steam bath, and he is a rather short man compared to Musa AS.” And then he said, “I saw Ibrahim AS standing and praying; and the one who resembles him the most is your own companion”—meaning the Prophet PBUH himself. (In another hadith, he said, “I could not see anyone more closely resembling Ibrahim AS than myself, and I could not see anyone more closely resembling myself than Ibrahim AS,” i.e., Ibrahim AS and our Prophet PBUH were almost mirror images of each other in their physical appearance.) “And then it came the time for salah and I was put the Imam of them.” So this version has it that the Prophet PBUH knew exactly what is going on.

This is difficult to reconcile. There are two versions. Did he know? Did he not know? Allah knows best.

The main point is he is leading the prophets. And what’s interesting is that all the prophets he saw are already standing and praying. This shows us the importance of salah — even after death the prophets are praying. In fact, the Prophet PBUH said, “When I was going to al-Isra, I passed by the grave of Musa AS and I saw him standing and praying.” This is enough of an indication of the blessings of salah. (Note: This means the Prophet PBUH met Musa AS 3 times during al-Isra wal-Mi’raj. Twice during al-Isra: once at his grave and another at Bayt al-Maqdis. Then one more time during al-Mi’raj at the 6th heaven (later). [After seeing Musa at his grave, Allah SWT took Musa to Bayt al-Maqdis, and then to the 6th heaven. Musa AS doesn’t need al-Buraq because he is already in the spirit form.])

The fact that the Prophet PBUH becomes the Imam of all the prophets clearly shows he has been given an unparalleled and unequaled honor, that is that not only is he Sayyid al-Anbiya (سيد الأنبياء) and Imam al-Mursalin (إمام المرسلين), but also the Leader of all the ummahs (because every prophet is the Leader of their ummah, and the Prophet PBUH is leading their Leaders AS), as he said in a hadith, “I am the Leader (Sayyid) of all of the children of Adam on the Day of Judgment, and I am not saying this to boast (or being arrogant).”

Another point is that the scholars say the prophets were all standing in one row (they were in the spiritual form so there was no space barrier as it is, so they were literally standing in one long row consisting of 120,000+ prophets & 310+ messengers), and this proves another point which is that all the prophets are the same in one sense —لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ, “We make no distinction between any of His messengers” [Quran, 2:285]— but they are different in another sense —تِلْكَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ, “Those messengers — some of them We caused to exceed others” [Quran, 2:253]—. How do we reconcile these two verses? Indeed, the prophets all pray to one God in the same way, their message is the same, but amongst themselves some are better than others, and our Prophet PBUH is the best of all of them.

Al-Isra: Milk vs. Wine:

Then the Prophet PBUH said after he finished, “Jibril AS presented two utensils. One of them has milk, the other has wine.” (Side note 1: As we said, there’s a minor difference between two authentic narrations here. In one version, Jibril AS presents the utensils right now; and in another, Jibril does this when they ascend up to the heavens.) (Side note 2: Remember, up until this time wine has not yet been made haram.) Jibril AS hands him the two utensils and says, “Choose, and choose for your ummah,” i.e., the choice will affect not just the Prophet PBUH, but also his ummah. The Prophet PBUH chose the milk and Jibril AS said, “You have chosen the fitrah.” And there is a huge symbolism here. The difference between wine and milk is very profound:

Milk comes pure from the animal, as Allah says, “We give you drink from what is in their bellies — between excretion and blood — pure milk, palatable to drinkers” [Quran, 16:66]. And in a hadith, “Nothing substitutes for both food and drink other than milk.” So milk is a blessed delicacy that Allah mentions in the Qur’an; and the Prophet PBUH praised and used to love it. It’s nourishing and nutritious.

What is wine? Wine is corrupted, fermented, and filthy. It is something that was pure but then bacteria have infested it. Wine literally stinks. And what does it do? Is it nourishing? Wholesome? No. It corrupts you. It makes you act foolish. One of the sahaba said, “Wallahi, even if wine had not been prohibited, any intelligent man would have avoided it.”

Compare and contrast what is milk vs. what is wine. The Prophet PBUH chose that which is pure, comes from the pure, and sustains you purely; versus the wine that is corrupt, that is corrupted, and that corrupts the body. And Jibril AS said, “This is for your ummah,” i.e., “Your ummah will also be pure, upon the fitrah.” (Side note: In one hadith, the Prophet PBUH said, “Every child is born upon the fitrah,” i.e., every child is pure and good. The base instinct of men is good, not evil.)

Al-Mi’raj: Ascending Through the Gates of Heavens:

Then the Prophet PBUH says, “Jibril AS asked permission for the door of the heaven to open.” The gatekeeper asked, “Who is it?” “It is Jibril.” “Do you have anyone with you?” “Yes, I have with me Muhammad [PBUH].” “Has he been sent for (does he have permission to pass)?” “Yes.” And then the door opened up. And for every single one of the seven heavens this exact same conversation happened with each of the gatekeepers.

This shows there are doors to the heavens that are locked, and each door has a gatekeeper. And the gatekeeper is not allowed to let anyone pass unless they have permission. And because these are angels and they cannot lie, there’s no special code needed — Jibril AS simply has to say yes, and it will open up.

So, this is al-Mi’raj now. (Note the Buraq is still tied to the post, as after the Mi’raj the Prophet PBUH will use it to go back to Makkah.)

The Difference Between Sama (Heaven) and Jannah (Paradise):

Before moving on, we will explain what these seven heavens are. What is sama (سماء – heaven) (plural: samawat [سماوات])? And what is Jannah (جنة – Paradise/Garden) (plural: Jannat [جنات])? Many people confuse Jannah with sama, but these are two separate words and two separate concepts. Allah says, “[Allah has] created seven samawat one on top of the other” [67:3]. Now, samawat are physical heavens above us. And in the opinion of Sh. YQ, everything we see around us, i.e., the billions of stars and galaxies, are all within the very first and lowest layer of heaven. How do we get this opinion? (1) Allah says in the Qur’an, “We have beautified the Sama al-Dunya (سماء الدنيا) with its lamps and its lights” [67:5]. (2) In Bukhari, the Prophet PBUH said, “Jibril AS took me until we finished the Sama al-Dunya, and *then* he asked permission for the door to open.” So, one plus one.

And then beyond Sama al-Dunya is the 2nd level of the sama, beyond that is the 3rd, and so on until we get to the highest level.

Now what are the Jannat? The Jannat are the Gardens/Paradise that are promised as the reward for the believers. Where are they? There are two interpretations. One interpretation is that the Jannat consist of hundreds of thousands of layers, and the place they occupy is the 7th heaven (7th sama). Another interpretation is that the Jannat begin in the 6th and work its way up to the 7th. And there are evidences for both, but at the end of the day, this is ilm al-ghayb (علم الغيب – knowledge of the unseen). The bottom line is the Jannat are at the top of the samawat.

Al-Mi’raj: Greeting the Prophets:

What happened at each level of the heavens as the Prophet PBUH ascends:

  1. The 1st heaven — There was a man standing. The Prophet PBUH described him as being tall and huge. Jibril AS said, “This is your father, Adam AS, so say salam to him.” So the Prophet PBUH did so and Adam AS responded, “Welcome, O noble son, and O noble prophet.” [From episode 23]: In one narration, it’s said the Prophet PBUH saw many people surrounding Adam. On the right side was one group; on the left side another group. And when Adam saw the people to the right, he was happy, and when he saw those on the left, he began to cry. The Prophet PBUH asked Jibril about this. Jibril said, “These are all of the children of Adam. The people on the right are the people of Jannah, and the people on the left are the people of Jahannam.”
  2. The 2nd heaven — There was Yahya AS and Isa AS. And the Prophet PBUH was told, “This is Yahya and Isa, say salam to them.” So, the Prophet PBUH did so, and they said, “Welcome, O noble brother, and O noble prophet.”
  3. The 3rd heaven — There was Yusuf AS, and it was the same dialogue. And here is where the Prophet PBUH said the famous statement, “I saw Yusuf, and lo and behold, it was as if he had been given half of all beauty.”
  4. The 4th heaven — There was Idris AS who also said, “Welcome, O noble brother, and O noble prophet.”
  5. The 5th heaven — There was Harun AS, and the same things are said.
  6. The 6th heaven — There was Musa AS, and the same things are said. (And in other narration, the Prophet PBUH described Musa as being stout, tall, muscular, and brownish.) When the Prophet PBUH went up, Musa began to cry. He was asked, “Why are you crying?” Musa said, “I am crying because this ghulam (غلام – young man) who was sent after me shall have a larger following that will enter Jannah than my own ummah.” (Note 1: It’s an Islamic jealousy here — we can and should be positively jealous for people who excel in hasanat [حسنات – good deeds], e.g., qari [قارئ – reciter] of the Qur’an, hafidh [حافظ – memorizer] of the Qur’an, alim [عالم – scholar], generous rich man, etc.) (Note 2: The Prophet PBUH is 51 or 52 here; and Musa died when he was 130+; so the Prophet PBUH is a young boy [ghulam] in his eyes.)
  7. The 7th heaven — The Prophet PBUH said, “I saw Ibrahim AS and he was sitting with his back leaning on al-Bayt al-Ma’mur (البيت المعمور – the Frequented House).” Jibril AS said to me, “This is your father, Ibrahim AS, say salam to him.” So the Prophet PBUH did so and Ibrahim responded, “Welcome, O noble son, and O noble prophet.” Note only Adam and Ibrahim responded in this way; the rest said “brother.”
Deriving Wisdoms From Each of the Meetings:

There appears to be some wisdom in this ordering. Why these prophets in this order? Realize this order, contrary to popular misconception, has nothing to do with the blessings of the prophets. Some people try to say Adam AS has the least blessing, but that is not the case at all. What appears to be the case is that these are basically welcoming committees/parties; Allah SWT sent some of the noblest and most famous prophets to simply greet the Prophet PBUH as he comes in. The Prophet PBUH is basically being given a royal, red carpet welcome. And in each of these 7 choices there seems to be some wisdom:

1. Adam AS — It is befitting that he is the first to greet the Prophet PBUH because he is the father of, not just all the prophets, but all of mankind. And by seeing Adam, what you remember is that he was a man whom Allah SWT chose with Jannah, but he had to leave Jannah, but eventually he shall be returning to Jannah. And in this there is a symbolism: Indeed if Adam left the holiest place in the Next/spiritual world, the Prophet PBUH has to leave the holiest place in this world (Makkah). He will have to be expelled from Makkah like his father Adam was expelled from Jannah.

2. Isa AS and Yahya AS — Perfect second candidates because they are chronologically the closest to the Prophet PBUH. No prophets came after Yahya and Isa until Prophet Muhammad PBUH. So they are peers. And there’s a symbolism here: Their own people tried to kill the both of them, and they succeeded in killing Yahya (John the Baptist). They cut his head off in Bayt al-Maqdis per the New Testament. They even tried to kill Isa AS. So there is a clear symbolism: Allah is saying to the Prophet PBUH that he isn’t the only one whose people tried to harm. If that didn’t bring the point home, the next heaven has Yusuf AS:

3. Yusuf AS — His own blood brothers tried to harm him. But eventually, they repent and re-accept him back. Therefore, the symbolism here is: Your own blood relatives who have expelled you shall come back, i.e., they will accept your faith eventually. And subhan’Allah, who did the Prophet PBUH quote when [in later seerah] he conquered Makkah, when the Quraysh asked, “What will you do with us?” He quoted Yusuf AS, “No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you” [Quran, 12:92].

4. Idris AS — The only thing we know about Idris is what Allah says about him in the Qur’an, “We have raised him to a high place” [19:57]. And that’s all we need to know. Our Prophet PBUH is also being told, “We have raised your rank” [Quran, 94:4].

5. Harun AS — Harun and Musa both have similar reasons. They were despised by their own people, and then eventually accepted.

6. Musa AS — He has the second largest ummah after our Prophet PBUH; and he is the one that has the most similar experiences to our Prophet PBUH. His experience is unrivaled amongst the prophets; and in fact, when our Prophet PBUH met him during this Journey, he had a lot more experience than even our own Prophet PBUH. And in many authentic hadith, the Prophet PBUH said, “Indeed Musa was hurt more than I was, but he was still patient”—he said this to continue to remind himself.

(Remember, these are heavens and not Jannat. All the prophets will be in the highest levels of Jannah. Right now, they have been taken from their places and been brought to these samawat to be welcoming parties for the Prophet PBUH. Otherwise, they are still in their graves, standing and praying. The only exception is Isa, who had to come down to meet the Prophet PBUH. This is symbolic since Isa AS will come down to earth near the End of Times. Jannah has not been occupied since Adam AS has left it, and won’t be occupied until after the Day of Judgment.)

7. Ibrahim AS — The Prophet PBUH is being shown his own ancestor who is the highest of all the prophets. (Musa AS was indeed very high, he was “Kalimullah [كليم الله – the One Whom Allah Spoke to]”; but Ibrahim AS was even higher, he was “Khalilullah [خليل الله – the Close Friend of Allah].” In a hadith, the Prophet PBUH said, “Allah has only taken me and Ibrahim as a khalil.” So only two people reached this status.) The fact that Ibrahim is sitting with his back on al-Bayt al-Ma’mur (the Frequented House) is very appropriate. What is al-Bayt al-Ma’mur? Allah referenced it in the Qur’an, in verse [52:4]. And in an authentic hadith (the one and only authentic hadith about al-Bayt al-Ma’mur [there are different versions, but in essence only one hadith]), the Prophet PBUH said, “It is a House similar to the Ka’bah (or in another version, “It is the Ka’bah of the heavens,”) positioned right above the Ka’bah on earth, such that if it were to fall, it would fall on the Ka’bah on the earth. And every single day since Allah has created the creation, 70,000 angels enter al-Bayt al-Ma’mur to [basically] do tawaf and pray, and they never return. And every single day this happens.” (Subhan’Allah, this happens since the beginning of time until Allah knows when; so we will never be able to count the number of angels.) Ibrahim AS is the one who built the Ka’bah on earth, so it is only befitting that he is associated with the Ka’bah in the heavens — as we said in previous lectures, “الجزاء من جنس العمل (The reward will be in accordance with what one has done).”


[Transcribed by Br. Safwan Khan & Faizan]

[Revised by Br. Syed Haq & MAR, February 2020]