Me`raj (ascension) Physical or Spiritual
By Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat
Whenever Allah سبحانه التعالئ sent a Nabee (Prophet), he provided various signs which served as proof that the Nabee was authentic in his claim. These signs took forms of various unusual and wonderful feats being performed by the Nabee by the Will, Power and Command of Allah سبحانه التعالئ . These signs are called Mu`jizat (miracles).
The miracles of the Prophets were of such unique nature that no one else was able to perform them, no matter how hard he tried, and he was thus rendered reluctant and helpless and had to admit that the Nabee in question is a Divine Messenger. The word Mu`jizat literally means "that which renders powerless or helpless", and a miracle of a Nabee is called Mu`jizat because the feat performed by him cannot be emulated by anyone and disbelievers are therefore left helpless.
The miracles of the previous Prophets were mainly of a practical nature and were limited to their lifetime only. The miracles of our Nabee صلى الله عليه و سلم on the other hand were practical in nature as well as intellectual and some of them exist up to this day, well after his demise. Because Rasoolullah is superior amongst all the Prophets similarly his miracles are also not only greater in number but are more superior.
One of the greatest and very well-known miracles of Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم is his ascension to the heavens and beyond, known as Me'raj (ascension). This journey apart from being a miracle is a conglomeration of miracles and has been recorded in the Qur`aan as well as various books of Hadeeth.
Hafiz Ibne Katheer
rahmatullahi-alayh has recorded the incident of Me'raj from twenty-five
The well-known muhaddith, Allamah Zurqani rahmatullahi-alayh states that the incident of Me'raj is narrated by forty-five Sahabah comprising of the Ansar and the Muhajireen.
One may ask as to how the Ansar narrated this incident whilst it took place in Makkah before migration? The answer is that this event was so important and well-known amongst the Muslims that the Ansar requested its details directly from Rasoolullah as is evident from a Hadeeth reported by Shaddad Ibne 'Aws. He reports: "We said, 'O Messenger of Allah! How were you taken for a journey by night?" (Tirmizi)
The words 'We said' also indicate that the conversation of Me'raj used to take place in the midst of a large gathering. Another hadith, Malik Ibne Sa'sa'ah narrates the story of Me'raj in the following words:
"The Nabee related to them. . . " (Bukhari)
It is clear that the incident of Me'raj was well-known amongst the Sahabah and is narrated in authentic Ahadeeth.
The Me'raj of Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم was physical i.e. with body and soul. He ascended the seven heavens and proceeded beyond that to the Sidratul Muntaha and further physically. In the mind of a mu'min (true believer), a doubt concerning the possibility of a physical ascent to the heavens does not occur. For a believer this is a fact which requires no logical reasoning. What doubt can there be concerning Allah's سبحانه التعالئ power to do as He wishes?
Nowadays with the advancement of modem technology the man is orbiting satellites and landing on the moon. If man has advanced so much, is it not possible for the Creator of man to carry His Beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم physically with body and soul into the heavens and back within a very limited part of the night? Of course it is possible!
1. "Glorified be He who carried His servant by night. . ." (Qur`aan 17:1)
This verse from the Qur`aan describes the initial stages of the miraculous journey of our Beloved Nabee One can clearly ascertain from the words of this verse that the Me'raj was physical:
a. Allah سبحانه التعالئ initiates the verse with the word subhan which means glorified be He Whose Self is pure from all defects and frailties and is above all kinds of weakness and helplessness. He is not dependent upon any means and He is not bound by any physical laws. Those things which look extremely strange to our imagination and which our imperfect wisdom thinks as quite impossible are not a bit difficult before the Power and Will of Allah سبحانه التعالئ. Thus, from the very outset, the event of Me'raj has been described as extraordinary and the word subhan belie the misconception that the event was only a dream.
b. The journey of Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم is further expressed by the verb asra which is used for a journey of body and soul in the state of consciousness by night. This same verb is used elsewhere in the Qur`aan too. In Soorah Hood and Hijr, the instruction given to Prophet Loot عليه السلام by the Angels is;
"So take away your people in a part of the night." (11:81, 15:65)
Similarly, Prophet Moosa عليه السلام is ordered by Allah سبحانه التعالئ.;
"Take away my slaves by night." (44:23, 20:77)
In both cases, the Prophets are ordered to take their people physically with body and soul and not spiritually in dream.
c. The word 'abd (servant) is used to mean either the body only or body and soul together. It is not used to mean soul only.
2. Another verse of the Qur`aan regarding Me'raj is:
"We appointed the vision which we showed thee as an ordeal for mankind." (17:60)
The word ru`ya (vision) is used for two meanings: dream or vision / view / sight. The Commentators of the Qur`aan have given examples from Arabic poetry where ru`ya is used to mean vision/seeing and not dream. Imam Bukhari rahmatullahi-alayh has narrated from Abdullah Ibne Abbas the meaning of the word ru`ya in this verse with the following words: "It (the ru`ya) was an actual eye-witness (account) which was shown to Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم the night he was taken on a journey (through the heavens)". (Bukhari Vol. 6 page 204)
3. It is an accepted fact that when one relates a story or an event but does not say that it was a dream; it is naturally taken as an incident of consciousness. The verse of the Qur`aan describing the miraculous journey and the Ahadeeth do not mention or indicate that it was a dream. Hence this incident will be considered physical in the state of awakening.
4. When the kuffar (disbelievers) of Makkah heard the details of the incident of Me'raj they rejected it. They jeered at the Muslims, made fun of Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم and called him a liar. They asked him to describe the Masjid in Jerusalem, which he had never seen before. Had it been only a dream they would neither have mocked at him, nor asked for any evidence. Similarly, there was no reason for their rejection as people often dream of strange things. It is apparent that they were asking for further details knowing that the journey was physical. Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم too, did not say that it was only a dream. Instead he substantiated his physical journey with another miracle which is reported by Bukhari and Muslim from Jabir Ibne Abdullah that Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم said, "When the disbelievers of Makkah rejected my night journey to Baytul Maqdis and made queries about the details of Baytul Maqdis, I stood in the Haraam and Allah سبحانه التعالئ opened the veils (between myself and) Baytul Maqdis. I was looking at it and informing them of the details they were asking for.
5. The incident of Me'raj has been listed amongst the miracles of Nabee. What is so extraordinary about travelling such long distances in a mere dream?
This is sufficient to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه و سلم travelled from Makkah to AI-Masjidul Aqsa and then ascended the heavens physically with body and soul in the state of awakening within a very limited part of the night.
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