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Al-Isra: Narrating the Unthinkable

Question and answer details
Aja
2013/06/02
I read a lot about the story of Al-Isra and AL-Miraj, but I am confused about the reaction of the people of Quraish. Would you please shed some light on this point?
Adil Salahi
Answer
Salam Aja,


Thank you fro your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.


Since you read a lot about Al-Isra and Al-Miraj, I think there is no need to narrate the whole story here again.


As for your specific question, the Prophet, after receiving the gift of prayers, returned to Makkah, having been absent only for part of the night. He returned just before dawn.


On this unique trip, he witnessed the expanse of the universe as well as the link between our life in this world and the greater and larger life of the other world. God also wanted him to see other signs and symbols which filled his blessed heart with unshakeable faith.


Since he was taken on that unique journey from the house of his cousin Umm Hani', where he was staying that night, it was to her house that he returned. Everyone in the house soon woke up. When they had finished their dawn prayers, the Prophet told Umm Hani' about his journey.


A firm believer, she accepted what the Prophet related as true. When he was about to leave, intending to go to the mosque, she stopped him, saying: "I fear that people would not believe you if you tell them what you have just told me." The Prophet made clear his intention to tell them "even though they would not believe me".


When he was sitting in the mosque, he was totally absorbed in his thoughts. Abu Jahl, the arch-enemy of Islam, noticed that and came up to him to ask: "Any news?" The Prophet replied: "Yes. I was taken last night to Jerusalem." Making sure that he had heard him correctly, Abu Jahl asked: "To Jerusalem?" The Prophet's clear answer came in the affirmative.


Realizing that there was a chance to consolidate the opposition to Muhammad and his message, Abu Jahl asked him: "If I call the others to come over, would you repeat to them what you have just told me?" Unhesitatingly, the Prophet said: "Yes." Thus Abu Jahl did what the Prophet intended to do, that is, to gather the people so that he would tell them about his journey.


When the Prophet had finished his story, everybody was expressing disbelief in one way or another. Some people clapped, some put their hands over their heads and others jeered. One of them asked about the caravan the Quraish had sent to Syria. The Prophet gave a detailed answer on its conditions and specified its arrival time.


They went out at the appointed time and, to their surprise, there was the caravan in exactly the same condition the Prophet had described. Yet, that did not influence or weaken their opposition to the Prophet.


As the Prophet's account of his journey was completed, there were many unbelievers going around into every quarter in Makkah to relate what sounded to them the most incredible story ever told. Some of them went straight to Abu Bakr, the Prophet's closest friend, to tell him and to find out what his reaction would be.


Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) first accused them of bringing him false stories. When they assured him that Muhammad actually claimed to have made the return journey to Jerusalem overnight, Abu Bakr's answer was: "If he has actually said this, he is telling the truth." When they expressed their amazement that he would believe such a singular story, Abu Bakr said: "What is so surprising? I believe him when he says something even more incomprehensible. He says he receives revelations from God and I believe him."


Abu Bakr then went to the mosque where people were still gathered around the Prophet expressing their disbelief. He asked the Prophet whether he made the statement that he went to Jerusalem and came back on the same night. When he heard the Prophet's affirmative reply, Abu Bakr said: "I believe you; you always tell the truth." Then he asked the Prophet to describe Jerusalem.


As the Prophet went on with his description, Abu Bakr kept repeating his words: "I believe you; you always tell the truth." The Prophet was so pleased with Abu Bakr that he gave him the title As-siddiq, which denotes 'a true and firm believer'. This was Abu Bakr's most cherished title which he kept for the rest of his life.


A small number of people rejoined the unbelievers after accepting Islam. The Prophet, however, was not influenced by their apostasy. He continued to preach his message with unshaken determination.


Two points need to be made here: the first concerns the example provided by the Prophet for all advocates of Islam. He faced the Quraish with his story, fully aware that he would be accused of telling lies. That did not influence his determination to do what was required of him.


The interests of his message came first. People's accusations could not weaken his resolve.


The point is that people may accept the idea of revelations but turn away from Islam for lesser reasons. In this case they found it difficult to accept the idea that God could take His Messenger on a journey like this while they believed that He would inspire him with His words, sending down His angel messenger to convey His message.


In other cases, people may opt for disbelief for even less important reasons. That, however, should not weaken our resolve to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet and his noble companions.


There is no doubt that the night journey was a very effective morale booster for the Prophet. He was, after all, a human being who shared in all human emotions of sorrow, grief, pleasure and delight. Only a short time earlier he had lost his wife Khadijah, who was his main source of comfort, and his uncle Abu Talib, who ensured that Muhammad received all the support and protection to which he was entitled, according to the traditions of the Arabian society. Then came that disappointing trip to Ta'if, which was intended to broaden the base of the Islamic message.


It is only natural that Muhammad should feel downhearted after those three major jolts which affected both his personal and his public life. There was no question that his sorrow would affect his faith. Nevertheless, his losses were, by human standards, of huge proportions. Hence, a comforting gesture which gave him first-hand experience of the smallness of this world in relation to the wider universe, and the triviality of what one may experience in this life in relation to what lies in store in the next life, would, as the expression goes, do him the world of good.


There is no doubt that his Night Journey had a lasting effect on the Prophet. It boosted his confidence in himself and in his message. It enhanced his aspirations and helped put his efforts in the service of his faith on a higher level. Subsequent events show that there was a marked change in his attempts to set the course for his message.


I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


Salam.


Useful Links:


Al-Isra: Universality of the Islamic Message


 Significance of Al-Isra and Al-Miraj


The Night Journey: Sometimes It Causes Me to Tremble


 
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