Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sunshine Follows the Rain Lessons from Al-Isra and Al-Miraj

By Idris Tawfiq
Very often in life we go through periods of trial or great sadness, only to look back on them later and see that they were followed by great happiness or periods of growth. There is a saying in English that "sunshine follows the rain".

In the tenth year after the first revelation of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) suffered greatly. First of all, his uncle Abu Talib died. He had loved the Prophet dearly and had protected him from the attacks and the ridicule of the Quraish. To Muhammad, it was a very severe blow.

Then another tragedy followed. His beloved wife, Khadijah, the mother of his children and his friend and companion who had supported him with love and care as Islam grew and spread, died. Muhammad was grief stricken at such a loss.

It was after both of these events that Allah Almighty granted His Prophet an extraordinary favor. Out of the darkness of loss, he was given a great joy and a great confirmation of his role as Messenger.

In the Quran we read what means:

{Glory to Allah who did take His Servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs. For Allah hears and sees all things.} (Al-Israa' 17:1)

In Arabic we call this al-Isra and al-Miraj (The Night Journey and Ascension). It is one of the most extraordinary events to have happened. Allah took Prophet Muhammad on a night journey from the Kabah in Makkah to Jerusalem and then led him through the seven heavens almost to the very throne of Allah Himself.

Muslims celebrate this blessed favor on the 27th night of the month of Rajab.

It began when the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) descended and woke Muhammad from sleep with Buraq, an animal larger than an ass and smaller than a donkey, which could reach the farthest horizon in just one stride. (Al-Bukhari)

They travelled to the mosque in Jerusalem and Muhammad tethered the animal outside the mosque, as all former Prophets had tethered theirs before him. Muhammad then entered the mosque to find assembled there all the former prophets who had ever lived, and he led them in prayer. What a moment of special honor, that Muhammad should stand in front of such an assembly and lead them.

Jibreel then led him from the place we now call the Dome of the Rock and they began to ascend through the seven heavens, encountering former prophets along the way.

In the first level of heaven, Muhammad met Prophet Adam (peace be upon him), who greeted him with As-salamu alaykum. Muhammad replied Wa alaykum as-salam and Adam confirmed that Muhammad was indeed the Messenger of Allah. He also looked to his right and smiled and then looked to his left and wept. Those on his right were the believers and those who caused him to weep were the unbelievers. (Al-Bukhari)

They then moved on to the second level of heaven, where Jibreel asked for the door to be opened and they were greeted with As-salamu alaykum by the prophets Yahya (John the Baptist) and his cousin Isa (Jesus). Muhammad once again returned their greeting and they confirmed that he was the Messenger of Allah.

On the third level Muhammad was greeted by Prophet Yusuf (Joseph), on the fourth level he was greeted by Prophet Idris, and on the fifth level of heaven he was greeted by Harun (Aaron), the brother of Musa (Moses). He returned their greetings and all three Prophets confirmed that Muhammad was the Messenger of Allah.

On the sixth level of heaven Muhammad was met by Prophet Moses who greeted him with a sign of peace and testified that he was the Messenger of Allah. After this, Moses began to weep. He said that he was sad because a younger man had been commissioned as a prophet after him and that man's followers would enter heaven in greater numbers than his own.

When Muhammad reached the seventh heaven he was met and greeted by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), who declared that Muhammad was the Messenger of Allah. Abraham (peace be upon him) was resting against Al-Bayt Al-Mamur, a House of Worship around which circumambulate seventy thousand different angels every day.

After this, Muhammad was led to a most beautiful tree in heaven known as Sidrat Al-Muntaha, whose leaves were the size of elephants' ears and which was covered by golden moths.

The final part of this extraordinary revelation was to be the greatest of all. No man can look upon the face of Allah Almighty, since He is so great and beyond our comprehension, but Muhammad was taken to within a very close distance to the throne of Allah Himself.

Allah Almighty informed His servant that it was now obligatory on all Muslims to perform prayers fifty times a day. After this, Muhammad was led away by Jibreel, no doubt staggered by all that had been revealed to him.

As he was being led away, the Prophet was stopped by Moses, who asked what he had been told by Allah. When Moses was told about the obligation to perform fifty prayers, he said that this was too much and was beyond the capacity of any man, so Muhammad should go back and ask that the number of prayers be made less. (Al-Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad returned to the throne of Allah and asked if the number of prayers could be made less. Allah granted his request and said that the number of prayers obligatory each day should be ten. Moses again said that this was too many and urged Muhammad to return and ask that the obligation be made less.

This time, Allah Almighty reduced the number of obligatory prayers to five each day. Upon seeing Moses again, Moses urged him to ask that the obligation be lightened even more, since the Children of Israel had been asked to do less than this but were unable to fulfill their obligations.

Prophet Muhammad declared that he felt ashamed to ask more from Allah. At that moment, he heard a voice declares, "I have enforced My obligation and made it light for My servants. He who prays these five prayers will be rewarded as if he had prayed fifty. What I decree cannot be changed."

With this the Night Journey and Ascension were over. Muhammad returned to Makkah the next morning and narrated all that had happened to him. When some of the Quraish heard what he said they laughed out loud, calling him a madman.

Those who had visited Jerusalem asked him to describe it, trying to catch him out, but he was able to describe the place perfectly. He was also able to tell them of a caravan which he had seen travelling from Jerusalem to Makkah, with exact details of the number of camels and what they were carrying.

The very same caravan arrived in Makkah when he said it would, but even this was not enough to persuade those who refused to believe.

For ourselves, we can take the words of Abu Bakr, the Prophet's closest companion and the one who would succeed him as leader of the Muslims, as an explanation of what had happened. "If he said so, it must be true."

These words of total trust in Prophet Muhammad earned Abu Bakr the title As-Siddiq, one who believes. It is enough for us, too, to accept from our Prophet what he tells us to be true. If only we were as prompt in listening to what he tells us.

As we try our best each day to live as good Muslims, let us rejoice that our beloved Prophet was confirmed as Allah's Messenger by all previous Prophets. Let us rejoice that we have been given the gift of five prayers each day, and that we receive the reward of praying fifty prayers if we perform them well.

And let us resolve to listen attentively to whatever our Prophet says. If he said so, it must be true.
Idris Tawfiq is a British writer who became Muslim a few years ago. Previously, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom. Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest. He now lives in Egypt



The Qur'an states: "If someone shuts his eyes to the remembrance of the All-Merciful, We assign him a satan who becomes his bosom friend." (Surat az-Zukhruf, 36)

Allah reveals that those who turn their backs on religion become the friends of Satan. In another verse this fact is set out in these words: "Children of Adam! Do not let satan tempt you into trouble as He expelled your parents from the Garden, stripping them of their covering and disclosing to them their private parts. He and his tribe see you from where you do not see them. We have made the demons friends of those who do not believe." (Surat al-A'raf, 27) Satan brings those he makes friends with under his control and directs them in the ways of his own loathsome moral values.

People who win the friendship of satan instead of the approval of Allah are deprived of a great many blessings. One of these losses is the way that such people never have true friends. Friendship is a blessing given by our Lord to those who take Him as their friend. As revealed in the verse, "Your friend is only Allah and His Messenger and those who believe: those who perform prayer and give the alms, and bow." (Surat al-Ma'ida, 55), Allah grants these people the friendship of devout believers.

Satan's friendship, on the other hand, leaves a person permanently alone. That is because satan tells those he adopts as friends that lies, deviance, rebellion, denial and hatred are pleasant things. People under the influence of satan approach those around them with just that moral understanding. They will primarily act according to their own interests and agenda. Such a person's best friend is him or herself. It is therefore impossible for such people to build true and permanent friendships as alluded to in the Qur'an.

In a society which does not live by the moral values of the Qur'an, it is very hard to find a reliable and sincere friend from whom to seek help, to whom to entrust property or valuables or money or to confide in. Furthermore, this situation has become so widely accepted that many regard it as an immutable fact of life.

It is impossible for people to be at ease in such an insecure environment. That is because even when a friend seems to have been found, there always exists the danger that these "friends" may in fact be acting out of self-interest. This scenario is therefore far removed from true friendship. Some people look upon one another with envy in relation to jobs, cars or homes which they may covet. They may wish to achieve superiority over the other. They therefore take advantage of even the slightest opportunity to locate each others' weaknesses and rise above one another.

People who behave with such an understanding are aware that they are living in a most untrustworthy and insincere environment. They are perfectly aware that they have no friends in the true sense of the word. Yet since they fail to seek a solution by living by the moral values of the Qur'an, they are unable to escape their predicament. Neither will these people who fail to turn to the true path have any friends in the Hereafter. They will find the same uneasy, insincere, insecure environment they experienced in the world but multiplied many times over in the Hereafter. The position in the Hereafter of those who take satan as their friend in this world is revealed by our Lord:

Therefore here today he has no friend. (Surat al-Haqqa, 35)

They will be bundled into it head first, they and the misled, and every one of Iblis's regiments. Arguing in it with one another, they will say: "By Allah, we were plainly misguided when we equated you with the Lord of all the worlds. It was only the evildoers who misguided us and now we have no one to intercede for us; we do not have a single loyal friend." (Surat ash-Shu'ara', 94-101)

Believers' friendships with one another are very powerful and long-lasting. That is because it is their sincere faith in and fear of Allah which bring believers together and make friends out of them. As revealed by our Lord in the verse:

"Hold fast to the rope of Allah all together, and do not separate. Remember Allah's blessing to you when you were enemies and He joined your hearts together so that you became brothers by His blessing. You were on the very brink of a pit of the Fire and He rescued you from it. In this way Allah makes His signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be guided." (Surah Al 'Imran, 103)

Believers are brothers. For that reason, the friendship based on faith continues, by the will of Allah, both in this world and for ever in the life of the Hereafter.

"Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger will be with those whom Allah has blessed: the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. What excellent company such people are!" (Surat an-Nisa', 69)