The ascension of Prophet Muhammad into heaven, Mi’raj, is generally celebrated on the 27th day of Rajab, although there is no unanimous opinion on the precise date. In this legend, the Prophet was prepared for his meeting with God by the archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) one evening while he was asleep near the Kaʿba, the sacred shrine of Mecca. The Prophet’s heart was purified by removing all traces of error and doubt, and was filled with wisdom and belief.
The legend states that the Prophet was taken from Mecca to Jerusalem by Angel Gabriel on a winged, white horse, Buraq, from where he ascends through the seven heavens and is greeted by, and in effect validated by the previous Prophets (Adam, Joseph, Aaron, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus). At the culmination, he sees the lote tree, the Divine Throne, the “house of life” (al-bayt al-mamur – the celestial counterpart to the K’aba).
Amongst the esoteric interpretations of Islam, Mi‘raj is symbolic of the highest spiritual stage, leading the soul to the state of spiritual union with the Divine. The story of the soul’s journey towards true knowledge has constituted a popular theme in Islamic art and poetry.
The twelfth-century poet, Farid al-Din Attar expressed his reverence for the event:
“When he [Muhammad] perceived the end
in the beginning,
He heard a call, a message from the Friend.
A call came from the Essence of the All:
“Leave soul and body, transitory one!
You, O My goal and purpose, enter now
And see My Essence face to face,
In awe, he lost his speech and lost himself –
Muhammad did not know Muhammad here,
Saw not himself – he saw the Soul of Souls,
The Face of Him who made the universe!”
James W. Morris, The Mi’raj and Ibn ‘Arabi’s Own Spiritual Ascension
Micheal A. Sells, “Early Muslim Spirituality and Mysticism,” The Muslim Almanac Edited by Azim A. Nanji, Gale Research Inc. Detroit, 1996
Compiled by Nimira Dewji