In fact, Al-Israa‘ and Al-Mi`raj is full of lessons and significant messages to all humans—Muslims and non-Muslims. It proves that Islam is a universal religion. It says that Islamic message is continuation of all previous divine messages. Prophet Muhammad’s leadership to other prophets in Prayer refers to the fact that he is the final prophet that all nations should follow so as to succeed both in this world and the world to come.
To elaborate, we would deal with this blessed journey from the following dimensions:
1. Its Time and Incidents
as for its exact date, it is still controversial and no agreement has been reached. However, the majority of jurists are in favor of a date between 16-12 months prior to migration to Madinah.
It was during this period that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) found himself made to have a night journey from the Ka`bah to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. Then he was borne to the celestial regions where he witnessed the seven heavens, met the Prophets of yore and saw the remarkable signs of divine majesty about which the Qur’an says: (The eye turned not aside nor yet was overbold, verily he saw one of the greater revelations of his Lord” (An-Najm 53: 17-18)
Occurrence of the event at that time was meant to confer dignity upon the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It signified something like viands of higher regale in order to console and alleviate the feelings of distress caused to him by the persecution of the pagans at Ta’if. After the incident of Al-Israa‘ and Al-Mi`raj, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told the people about his nocturnal journey, but the Quraysh mocked him and shook their heads stating that it was inconceivable and beyond the bounds of reason. When Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) saw the Quraysh accusing the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) of falsehood, he said, “What makes you wonder about it? If he said this, then it must be true. By Allah, he tells me that the revelation descends upon him from Heaven in a flash or in an instant during the day or night and I believe him. This is even more unimaginable and difficult than what seems to astound you.”
2. Real Significance of Al-Israa‘ and Al-Mi`raj
the journey of Al-Israa‘ and Al-Mi`raj did not occur in a routine or ordinary run of things only to demonstrate the profound phenomena of the Kingdom of Allah in the Heavens and the earth to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) of Islam. More than that, such a prophetic journey of tremendous importance alludes to a number of other significant and complex realities of far-reaching concern to humanity.
the two Qur’anic chapters (Surahs) of Al-Israa‘ and An-Najm revealed in connection with this heavenly journey indicate that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was charged with the office of prophethood for both the Houses of Allah, those in Jerusalem and Makkah, and was sent as the leader of the East and the West or the entire human race until the end of time. As the inheritor of all the Prophets of old, he represented the fulfillment and consummation of mankind’s religious development. His nightly journey from Makkah to Jerusalem expresses, in a figurative way, that his personality conformed and alluded to the oneness of Al-Masjid Al-Haram at Makkah and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa at Jerusalem. That all the Prophets arrayed themselves behind him in Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa shows that the doctrine of Islam, preached by him, was final, universal and all-comprehensive, meant for every class and section of human society throughout the ages.
the event is, at the same time, indicative of the comprehensiveness of the prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the place accorded to his followers in the great task of humanity’s guidance and the distinctive character of his message.
Frankly speaking, the incident of Al-Israa‘ and Al-Mi`raj represents a demarcation line between the regional, limited and variable rules of divine guidance entrusted to the Prophets of old and the global, comprehensive and abiding principles of faith conferred to the universal leader of human race. Had the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) been a sectional or regional guide, a national leader, the savior of any particular race or the restorer of the glory of any particular people, there would have been no need to honor him with ascension to the Heavens nor would he have been required to perceive the hidden phenomena of the Heavens and the earth. Nor would it have been necessary to create a new link between the celestial and the earthly surface of the Divine Kingdom; in that case the confines of his own land, his surroundings environs and the times would have been sufficient enough and there would have been no need for him to divert his attention to any other land or country. Neither his ascension to the most sublime regions of the Heavens and to the “Lot-Tree of the Farthest Limit” or even the nocturnal journey to the far away Jerusalem, then in the grip of the powerful Christian Empire of Byzantium, would have been necessary at all.
the journey of Al-Israa‘ and Al-Mi`raj of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was a divine proclamation that he had nothing to do with the category of national or political leaders whose endeavors are limited to their own country and nation, for they serve the nations and races to which they belong and are a product of their time, they serve the need of a particular juncture. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) of Islam, on the contrary, belonged to the luminous line of the Messengers of Allah (peace and blessings be upon them all) who communicate the inspired message of Heaven to the earth. They are links between Allah and His creatures.
3. The Prescription of Prayer
On this occasion, Allah made fifty Prayers a day obligatory for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his followers. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) constantly implored Allah for the reduction of the Prayers until the Lord was also pleased to limit these to only five times daily. The Lord was also pleased to declare that whoever properly performs these five times daily Prayers would be recompensed for all the fifty daily Prayers enjoined earlier.