The Night Journey: When the Unseen is Revealed
The Night Journey and the Ascension to heaven was not a miracle confined in time or limited with space and it was not an event that simply passed by because this miracle still stands as an eye witness with all its encompassing lessons and benefits. This miraculous event still serves as a flowing spring from which the Ummah benefits to solve their current problems through seeking the Prophetic guidance.
Although the miracle of the Night Journey falls in the realm of the unseen, God made it possible for the Prophet to witness it for real. Therefore, the unseen became visible and witnessed with the Prophet’s eyes. It was the kind of the unseen that his eyes saw, his mind realized and his heart absorbed to teach the whole creation that the Prophet reached the ultimate levels of faith and certitude.
The Prophet’s journey from Makkah to Jerusalem which was followed by his blessed ascension to heavens until he reached his ultimate destination where no man ever crossed in only few hours then went back to his bed to find it still warm is a one time event that has no similar in the history of mankind.
When it comes to the Prophet’s Night Journey, God says, “Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad) for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest mosque (in Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad) of Our signs. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer.” (17:01)
So it was such a fine and delicate moment which transcends both time and place and therefore could not be realized with human senses. It was a divine gift and heavenly consolation to the beloved Prophet Muhammad when the realm of the unseen was revealed and became a witnessed reality during his instant journey from Makkah to Jerusalem.
The miracle of the Night Journey is not subjected to the cosmic laws as it is considered an exception to the rule because the One who created time and space has folded them both for the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This miracle is inexplicable in terms of the laws of nature as it went out of both the realm of human capacity of understanding and cosmic laws. In the Night Journey, there was a partial deviation from the natural cosmic laws and a limited unfolding to the world of the unseen before the eyes of the Prophet. As a matter of fact it is quite possible for man in our age to travel from the East to the West in a relatively short time which asserts the miraculous nature of the Night Journey in our age.
The miracle of the Night Journey includes an exposure of places that are far away in such brief moment. Whoever has knowledge of the divine power and the nature of Prophethood does not find any of these things surprising because nothing stands in the face of divine power as all matters are at equal footing before the divine power of God. Therefore what humans are used to see and witness with their limited senses and natural weaknesses is not the ultimate judge with which one could measure divine powers. Also connecting with heaven is one of the characteristics of prophethood and this matter entails divine revelations and heavenly awards that God only grants to those He chooses from among His messengers.
Reaching the heavenly realm with any means possible is not stranger than being connected with the Lord of the worlds and for this reason the Prophet’s companion, Abu Bakr, immediately believed the miraculous journey saying, “I have believed him in a matter further than that, I believed him in conveying the divine message from heaven”. In this statement, Abu Bakr acts upon his deep faith stating that this matter is not some sort of an exaggerated event which occurred out of mere imagination but it rather falls under regular matters considering the nature of the relationship between God and His messengers.
Part of revealing the unseen for the Prophet is that when he went back to his hometown in Makkah and received heavy arguments from the polytheists who did not comprehend the miraculous journey, they asked him to describe the Aqsa mosque so God in turn revealed before his eyes the sacred mosque for him to describe it in details.
The Night journey also reveals the unity of all divine messages and the origin of monotheism as all God’s messengers came with the message of Islam. God says, “Say (O Muslims), "We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma'il (Ishmael), Ishaque (Isaac), Ya'qub (Jacob), and to Al-Asbat [the twelve sons of Ya'qub (Jacob)], and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and 'Iesa (Jesus), and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam)." (2:136)
Prophet Muhammad during his miraculous journey had met with previous prophets and led them all in praying; an act which indicates that this Ummah follows all previous prophets and believes in them all and it also indicates that the last ring of the chain of messengers is well connected to the first ring.
If God sent His messengers with old and new testaments, He sent Prophet Muhammad with His last testament and final message. God says, “And (remember) when Allah took the Covenant of the Prophets, saying: "Take whatever I gave you from the Book and Hikmah (understanding of the Laws of Allah, etc.), and afterwards there will come to you a Messenger (Muhammad) confirming what is with you; you must, then, believe in him and help him." Allah said: "Do you agree (to it) and will you take up My Covenant (which I conclude with you)?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses (for this)." (3:81)
It was narrated by Abu Hurairah that the Prophet said, “My position in relation to the other prophets is like this: A man built a house, completing it and adorning it well except for a place of one brick. When the people entered the house, they marvelled at its beauty and said, But for the place of this one brick (how much more splendid the house will be) I am this final brick and I am the seal of all prophets” (Bukhari and Muslim).
This miraculous journey became an icon which transcends both time and place to ascertain the fact that Islam is God’s final religion and it is the religion with which all messengers were sent to guide people. The event of the Night Journey is a miraculous message which lasts till the Day of Judgment. It is an event with which we should remind ourselves and remember to honor the time in which it occurred and the place from which it started and to which it ended and the most important of all is to honor the Prophet with whom all creation was honored.