Masjid al-Aqsa was a key station for the Isra and Mi’raj, and the epic events that transpired there on this miraculous night affirm the Masjid’s status as one of Islam’s key spiritual spaces. The commemoration of the Isra and Mi’raj provides us with a cherished opportunity to rekindle our connection to Masjid al-Aqsa and reaffirm our responsibilities towards it, particularly as it continues to bear the burdens of a painful Occupation.
Here are 10 things to know about Masjid al-Aqsa and the Mi’raj:
- The most glorious event in the history of al-Quds
The Isra and Mi’raj constitutes one of the most miraculous episodes in the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺand the most glorious event in the history of Masjid al-Aqsa and al-Quds.
Isra was the rapid night journey of the Prophet (SAW), accompanied by the Angel Jibra’eel (AS), using the Buraq, a swift heavenly creature, from the Ka’bah in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsa in Al-Quds.
This was followed by the Mi’raj or ascension to the Heavens, which was characterised by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ meeting a number of Prophets and conversing with Allah (SWT) directly.
On his return from the heavens, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ again visited al-Quds prior to him returning to Makkah.
The entire journey was a complete bodily experience with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ being in a state of full wakefulness throughout.
- A means to honour the Messenger of Allah ﷺ
The predominant view among scholars is that this journey took place in the 11th year of the Prophetic mission just prior to Hijrah. Others hold that it took place in the 5th year of the mission.
In either case, the journey would have occurred amidst particularly trying times for the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as he encountered harsh opposition to his message from his people.
The trials would have been particularly acute if it occurred just before Hijrah, as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had during this phase, within a short period of time, lost his beloved wife Sayyidina Khadijah (RA) and his uncle Abu Talib – both key supporters of his mission. In addition, he had encountered violent rejection from the people of Taif to whom he attempted to present his message. Taif, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had said was the hardest day in his life.
In this context, Isra and Mi’raj was the moment for Allah (SWT) to console His beloved and to honour him on a grand scale by exhibiting to him His signs and illustrating to him his leadership amongst the Ambiyaa and wider Creation.
- Multiple visits
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ visited al-Aqsa both on the going and return leg of the journey, the latter after having ascended to the Heavens.
He had yet a third opportunity to see the blessed Masjid on his return from this miraculous journey – this time as a vision presented to him by Allah (SWT), when the Quraysh in Makkah disputed the story of the Mi’raj and began to scoff at the notion of having to have travelled to al-Quds and the Heavens and back all in a single evening. They bombarded the Messenger of Allah ﷺ with detailed questions on al-Aqsa to test his narrative. In aid of his Messenger, Allah (SWT) projected Bayt al-Maqdis before the Prophet’s ﷺ eyes, thereby enabling him to describe it to the Quraish in meticulous detail as they posed questions about it.
- The Buraq Wall
The Buraq, the celestial steed upon which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ travelled to al-Aqsa was tied to the Masjid’s Western Wall, which has become known to Muslims ever since as the Buraq Wall.
Sayyidina Anas (RA) relates that the Prophet ﷺ said, “I was brought the Buraq, a tall white beast, bigger than a donkey, smaller than a mule. It could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. I mounted it until I arrived at Bayt Al-Maqdis. I tied it at the ring where the Prophets tied it before [i.e. Buraq Wall or the Western Wall].…”
This ring is believed to have been situated somewhere along the wall where a structure called Masjid al-Buraq is today situated. Visitors to al-Quds can see a symbolic representation of the ring and can pray inside Musalla al-Buraq, with access permitted from an entrance within Masjid al-Aqsa.
- Leader of the Prophets
Masjid al-Aqsa is the only spot on earth where all the Prophets of Allah (SWT) gathered at a single place, at a single time. This occurred on the night of Mi’raj.
The Ambiyaa (AS) were already assembled at Masjid al-Aqsa prior to Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ arriving. Athaan and Iqamah were called out, and rows for salaah were formed in anticipation of an Imam stepping forward. Sayyidina Jibra’eel (AS) led Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ to be the Imam. Upon the completion of two rak’ahs of congregational Salaah, Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ was asked if he was aware of who the congregants were. When he replied in the negative, Sayyidina Jibra’eel (AS) informed him that he had led a congregation that comprised every single prophet that Allah (SWT) had ever sent to the earth.
What occurred on this night was the practical manifestation of status of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ as Imamul Ambiyaa (leader of the Prophets). Whilst many of the Ambiyaa in the congregation were indigenous to Palestine, the choice of Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ as Imam, in spite of al-Quds not being his homeland, affirmed his spiritual authority and denoted that al-Aqsa was now considered part and parcel of his mission’s domain.
- Choosing the natural way
It was also within the Masjid al-Aqsa Sanctuary that Sayyidina Jibraeel (AS) offered the Prophet ﷺ a glass of wine and another of milk to drink. Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺchose the milk, upon which Jibra-eel (AS) congratulated him.
Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah (RA) narrates that the Prophet ﷺsaid, “On the night Allah’s Apostle ﷺ was taken on a night journey (Al-Isra and Al-Miraj), two cups, one containing wine and the other containing milk were presented to him ﷺat Bayt al-Maqdis. He looked at them and took the cup of milk. Angel Jibra’eel said, “Praise be to Allah, who guided you to Al-Fitrah; if you had taken (the cup of) wine, your Ummah would have gone astray.”
Fitrah is defined as the innate nature of man that inclines a person to the truth.
- Gateway to the Heavens
Whereas Allah (SWT) could have easily honoured Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ with a direct trip to the Heavens from Makkatul Mukarammah, the inclusion of al-Quds on both the going and return legs of the journey served to affirm its importance in the Divine scheme of affairs.
Just as was the case with the ascension of Sayyidina Isa (AS), al-Quds revealed its status again as the ‘gateway to the Heavens.’
- Reaffirming the link between Makkah and al-Quds
The journey of Isra and Mi’raj reaffirmed the firm bond between the first and second houses of Allah (SWT) to be established on earth – the Ka’bah and Masjid al-Aqsa, and reunited them under one spiritual leadership.
According to the Ahadeeth, Masjid al-Aqsa was the second Masjid to be established on earth, 40 years after the Ka’bah.
- First witness to the gift of 5 daily Salaah
“…every day, five times a day, Muslims face Mecca—to recognize a prayer launched in Jerusalem.” – Haroon Moghul
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ returned to Masjid al-Aqsa following his illustrious meetings in the skies. He came down endowed with the gift of Salaah – 5 daily prayers bearing the reward of 50. He also was promised forgiveness for his followers who had committed major sins but avoided shirk, and was granted the last verses of Surah al-Baqarah.
Masjid al-Aqsa was the first place on earth to receive these heavenly gifts. According to one opinion, it was on this return leg, that Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ led the Ambiyaa in Salaah.
- A hub and arena of blessings
“Glorified is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Masjid[in Makkah] to the farthest Masjid[in Jerusalem] whose surroundings We have blessed that We may show him some of Our Signs. Indeed, He Alone is All Hearing, All Seeing.” – (Qur’aan 17:1)
This famous verse of Surah Isra affirms the speciality of Barakah as enjoyed by Masjid al-Aqsa and its surroundings – the wider land of Shaam.
This historic Salaah of the collective of the Ambiyaa was performed inside Masjid al-Aqsa, with there being no direct information available to specify the exact location within the Masjid from which it was led. Whilst mentioning the Isra, Allah (SWT) mentions its destination to be ‘Masjid al-Aqsa.’ This provides a compelling definition of the Masjid, divorcing it from incorrect notions some currently hold on what constitutes the Masjid. Structures such as the black-domed Jami al Qibli and gold-domed Qubbatas Sakhra were not present at the time of the Isra. Thus, the Divine reference to al-Aqsa denotes an inclusion of everything within its boundaries, and an affirmation that it is from the blessedness of its land that the Masjid draws its sacredness.
Commenting on the esteemed gathering of the Ambiyaa and its blessedness in relation to al-Aqsa, Sayyidina Ibn Abbas (RA) said, “There is not a single inch in Bayt al-Muqaddas where a Prophet has not prayed or an angel not stood.”
Also significant to note is that Masjid al-Aqsa was not under Muslim control at the time of this miraculous journey, but this did not render it inapplicable as a gathering place nor did it lessen its virtues.
Source: Palestine Information Network (PIN). Follow @firstqiblah on social media or visit www.masjidalaqsa.net