The amazing event of Isra and Meraj as described in the Noble Quran is not just exhilarating to read, but it also helps us to assess the quantum of illogical interpolations added to this very significant and truthful event by the story tellers and gossip mongers.
The man-written Hadith narration about the Prophet's (sw) journey of Isra and Meraj is very detailed. Briefly put, the tale claims the Prophet Muhammad (sw) met all of the previous prophets, explored every bit of Paradise etc. and Almighty Allah appointed fifty daily prayers for believers. It claims further, Prophet Moses told Prophet Muhammad to request Allah to lessen the number of prayers as fifty would be too much. Prophet Muhammad returned to Allah, and after several requests it was lessened from fifty to five.
Now let's check the contents of the Noble Quran regarding Meraj. What exactly, and how much does the Quran mention about the journey of Isra and Meraj ? Please read the following carefully:
Surah Bani Israel:
"Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far distant place of worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer." (17:1).
"And (it was a warning) when we told thee: Lo! thy Lord encompasseth mankind, and We appointed the sight which We showed thee as an ordeal for mankind, and (likewise) the Accursed Tree in the Qur'an. We warn them, but it increaseth them in naught save gross impiety." (17:60).
"One vigorous; and he grew clear to view When he was on the uppermost horizon. Then he drew nigh and came down Till he was (distant) two bows' length or even nearer, And He revealed unto His slave that which He revealed. The heart lied not (in seeing) what it saw. Will ye then dispute with him concerning what he seeth ?" (53:6-12).
"And verily he saw him yet another time By the lote-tree of the utmost boundary, Nigh unto which is the Garden of Abode. When that which shroudeth did enshroud the lote-tree, The eye turned not aside nor yet was overbold. Verily he saw one of the greater revelations of his Lord." (53:13-18).
In Verse 17:1, "Inviolable Place of Worship" refers to Mecca and "Far distant place of worship" is Jerusalem. The journey from Mecca to Jerusalem is known as "Isra" and from Jerusalem to the Heavens is called "Meraj."
The "sight" as stated in 17:60 refers to the vision of Meraj. From this verse, it's likely that the Prophet got a glimpse of the "Accursed Tree" in Hell. Some have interpreted this tree being the same as the 'Zaqqum tree.' That's likely but cannot be confirmed. In Surah An-Najm, verses 53:6-12 refer to the Prophet's vision at Mount Hira which have nothing to do with Meraj. Verses 53:13-18 of this Surah again refer to the Prophet's vision of the journey of Meraj. Allah refers to this as "one of the greater revelations." In these verses there is an allusion to the Prophet seeing angel Gabriel by the Lote Tree. According to the definition in the dictionary, Lote Tree is the tree in Paradise. In these verses, Allah mentions the of the Lote Tree ("of the utmost boundary") near the "Garden of Abode" (or Paradise).
To sum up the complete event of Isra and Meraj as stated within the Noble Quran in the words of Allah:
- The Prophet was carried from Mecca to Jerusalem.
- Possibly the Prophet saw the Accursed Tree (but not confirmed).
- And during this journey the Prophet saw angel Gabriel by the Lote Tree near the Garden in Paradise.
This is all that is contained within the Quran on the complete event of Meraj. However, this doesn't mean that the Prophet saw nothing more. Maybe he did, and only Allah would know it best. But since He has not mentioned anything else, we cannot presume and circulate our own whims as confirmed information. That would be forgery. We MUST leave it up to the point described by the Noble Quran.
Compared to the concise description in the Quran, the endless intricate details fabricated by the Hadith are quoted below. It's so extensive and different compared to the Quranic description of the same event that it would seem unwarranted, rather a violation, on the part of a believer to accept such stories as 'authentic' which brazenly clash with Quranic facts and principles.
The Hadith on Meraj:
A narration attributed to Anas bin Malik reports:
“ The night Allah's Apostle was taken for a journey from the sacred mosque (of Mecca) Al-Ka'ba: Three persons came to him (in a dream while he was sleeping in the Sacred Mosque before the Divine Inspiration was revealed to Him...they came on another night, i.e. after The Divine Inspiration was revealed to him. (Fateh-Al-Bari Page 258, Vol. 17) and he saw them, his eyes were asleep but his heart was not...So those angels did not talk to him till they carried him and placed him beside the well of Zam-Zam...He then ascended with him to the heaven of the world and knocked on one of its doors. The dwellers of the Heaven asked, 'Who is it?' He said, "Gabriel." They said, "Who is accompanying you?" He said, "Muhammad." They said, "Has he been called?" He said, "Yes" They said, "He is welcomed." ... Then Gabriel took him around that Heaven and behold, he saw another river at the bank of which there was a palace built of pearls and emerald. He put his hand into the river and found its mud like musk Adhfar. He asked, "What is this, O Gabriel?" Gabriel said, "This is the Kauthar which your Lord has kept for you." Then Gabriel ascended ... On each Heaven there were prophets whose names he had mentioned and of whom I remember Idris on the second Heaven, Aaron on the fourth Heavens another prophet whose name I don't remember, on the fifth Heaven, Abraham on the sixth Heaven, and Moses on the seventh Heaven because of his privilege of talking to Allah directly. Moses said (to Allah), "O Lord! I thought that none would be raised up above me."... But Gabriel ascended with him (the Prophet) for a distance above that, the distance of which only Allah knows, till he reached the Lote Tree (beyond which none may pass) and then the Irresistible, the Lord of Honor and Majesty approached and came closer till he (Gabriel) was about two bow lengths or (even) nearer. (It is said that it was Gabriel who approached and came closer to the Prophet. (Fate Al-Bari Page 263, 264, Vol. 17). Among the things which Allah revealed to him then, was: "Fifty prayers were enjoined on his followers in a day and a night." Then the Prophet descended till he met Moses, and then Moses stopped him and asked, "O Muhammad ! What did your Lord en join upon you?" The Prophet replied," He enjoined upon me to perform fifty prayers in a day and a night." Moses said, "Your followers cannot do that; Go back so that your Lord may reduce it for you and for them." So the Prophet turned ... till the enjoined prayers were reduced to only five prayers...The Prophet returned to Moses who asked, "What have you done?" He said, "He has lightened our burden: He has given us for every good deed a tenfold reward." Moses said, "By Allah! I tried to make Bani Israel observe less than that, but they gave it up. So go back to your Lord that He may lighten your burden further." Allah's Apostle said, "O Moses! By Allah, I feel shy of returning too many times to my Lord." On that Gabriel said, "Descend in Allah's Name." The Prophet then woke while he was in the Sacred Mosque (at Mecca). Sahih Bukhari 9:93:608 ”
The above Hadith is not just ridiculous but a waste of time for every truth-seeker who seeks guidance from Allah only.
"And strive for Allah with the endeavour which is His right. He hath chosen you and hath not laid upon you in religion any hardship;" (22:78).
Allah has confirmed the truth that He has placed NO hardship in religion. Hadith clearly mocks the Quran by repudiating Allah's confirmation, claiming Allah appointed 50 daily prayers for mankind. Hadith also ridicules the Prophet, pretending he commuted between Allah and Moses several times to lessen the number of prayers on Moses' advise, portraying the image of man scrambling helplessly hither and thither. Accepting such malicious stories would amount to disloyalty toward Allah and the rejection of His assertion that He has placed no hardship in religion. We all know that it would be impossible for anyone to sit down for prayers 50 times in a single day comprising of 24 hours. If we can perceive something as simple as this, is it ever possible that Allah wouldn't? Surely that would be a thoroughly incorrect and rude presumption on our part. HE is the All-Knowing and HE is aware of our capabilities and shortcomings far better than we ourselves are.
Some have inquired if this event was physical or spiritual. Again, that cannot be confirmed as the Quran does not touch this aspect. It could be either. Different individuals may harbor different opinions, which is fine. But no one has the authority to declare a final ruling. That is only the prerogative of Allah. I personally think the likelihood is it was spiritual .... probably. This does not mean it was a dream as one might hastily assume. A dream is a common experience. The Night Journey was surely NOT a common happening. It was very unique, one of its kind. A spiritual journey would mean, journey of the soul without the body as in the case of death. But in death the separation of the soul and body is permanent in earthly life, until the Day of Resurrection. In an event like Meraj, it could have been for a few minutes or a few hours according to our calculation. The precise duration of Meraj is known to Allah only. The month and time of this event have also not been disclosed.
To conclude, Verse 17:1, Verse 17:60 and Verses 53:13-18 comprise of the complete and authenticate description of the Prophet's Night Journey to the heavens. A ny additions must be taken as annexations and discarded. As careful and conscientious believers, it's our duty and responsibility not accept anything beyond what's mentioned in the Noble Quran concerning the incident of Meraj, and everything else.