Shab-e-Miraj or Isra Night observed in the Holy Month of Rajab by Muslims all over the world. Every year on the night of 26th of Rajab according to the Islamic calendar, Muslims observe Shab-e-Miraj (Isra Night) in which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) went on a special journey to meet the Creator of this Universe Allah Almighty, crossing seven skies on the heavenly animal named ‘Al-Buraq.’ The Isra Night is also mentioned in Holy Quran in these words: “Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Quran, 17:1)
Mi’raj (Ascension) and Isra’ (Night Journey). According to most traditions – and especially the authentic ones – this event took place one year before Hijrah. Detailed reports about it are found in the works of Hadith and Sirah and have been narrated from as many as twenty-five Companions. The most exhaustive reports are those from Anas ibn Malik, Malik ibn Sa’sa’ah, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari and Abu Hurayrah. Some other details have been narrated by ‘Umar, ‘Ali, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud, ‘Abd Allah ibn Abbas, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, and ‘A’ishah among other Companions of the Prophet .
The Quran here only mentions that the Prophet was taken from the Ka’bah to the mosque in Jerusalem, and specifies that the purpose of the journey was such that God might “show him some of His signs”. Beyond this, The Quran does not concern itself with any detail. However, according to Hadith reports, Gabriel took the Prophet at night from the Ka’bah to the mosque in Jerusalem on a buraq.* On reaching Jerusalem the Prophet along with other Prophets offered Prayers.(Al-Nasa’i, Sunan, K. al-Salah, ‘Bab Fard al-Salah wa Dhikr Ikhtilaf al-Naqilin…’ -Ed.)Gabriel then took him to the heavens and the Prophet met several great Prophets in different heavenly spheres. (See al-Nasa’i, Sunan, K. al-Salah, ‘Bab Fard al-Salah’ - Ed.) Finally, he reached the highest point in the heavens and was graced with an experience of the Divine Presence. On that occasion the Prophet received a number of directives including that Prayers were obligatory five times a day. (Al-Bukhari, K. Manaqib al -Ansar, ‘Bab al-Mi’raj ; K. al-Tawhid, ‘Bab Kallama Musa Taklima‘ – Ed.) Thereafter, the Prophet returned from the heavens to Jerusalem, and from there to the Holy Mosque in Makka. Numerous reports on the subject reveal that the Prophet was also enabled on this occasion to observe Heaven and Hell. (Al-Bukhari, K. al_Salah, ‘Bab Kayfa Furidat al-Salah fi al-Isra‘ and Ibn Hisham, Sirah, vol. I, p. 404 – Ed.)
It may be recalled that according to authentic reports when the Prophet narrated the incidents of this extraordinary journey the following day to the people in Makka, the unbelievers found the whole narration utterly amusing. (Muslim, K, al-Iman, ‘Bab Dhikr al-Masih ibn Maryam’ - Ed.) In fact, even the faith of some Muslims was shaken because of the highly extraordinary nature of the account.(See Ibn Hisham, Sirah , vol. I, p.398 and al-Qurtubi, comments on verse 1 of the surah - Ed.)
The details of the event provided by the Hadith supplement the Quranic account. There is no reason, however, to reject all this supplementary information on the grounds that it is opposed to the Quran. Nevertheless, if someone is not quite convinced and hence does not accept some of the details concerning the Ascension mentioned in the Hadith as true, he should not be considered an unbeliever. On the contrary, if someone were to clearly deny any part of the account categorically mentioned in the Quran, he would be deemed to have gone beyond the fold of Islam.
What was the nature of this journey? Did it take place when the Prophet was asleep or when he was awake? Did he actually undertake a journey in the physical sense or did he have a spiritual vision while remaining in his own place? These questions, in our view, have been resolved by the text of the Quran itself. The opening statement: “Holy is He Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the farther Mosque… ” (verse 1) itself indicates that it was an extraordinary event which took place by dint of the infinite power of God. For quite obviously, to be able to perceive the kind of things mentioned in connection with the event, either in a dream or by means of intuition, is not so wondrous that it should be prefaced by the statement : “Holy is He Who carried His servant by night…” ; a statement which amounts to proclaiming that God was free from every imperfection and flaw. Such a statement would make absolutely no sense if the purpose of it was merely to affirm that God had the power to enable man to have either visions in the course of a dream, or to receive information intuitively. In our view, the words of the experience or a dream vision, was an actual journey, and the observation in question was a visual observation. All was contingent upon God’s will that truths be revealed to the Prophet in this fashion.