“Say, ‘Holy is my Lord! I am not but a man [sent as a] Messenger.’” (Surah Bani Isra‘il, Ch.17: V.94)
Jalees Ahmad, London
After the demise of the Holy Prophetsa, the beauties of Islam continued to spread and people from various religions were entering the fold of Islam. With so many from different religious backgrounds accepting Islam, similar to the case of past religions, many beliefs and notions contrary to the real teachings, influenced by other doctrines, managed to rear their ugly head into the Muslim belief.
Today, a common misconception that non-Ahmadi Muslims have concocted is the issue of the life and death of Jesusas, the son of Mary. Many Muslims believe that the Messiah of the latter days, who was prophesied by the Holy Prophetsa, is none other than Jesusas, who, as they assert, is still alive and will “soon” descend from the heavens.
One argument non-Ahmadi Muslims present to support this false notion is the incident of the Miraj and Isra. They say that the journey the Holy Prophetsa undertook to the heavens was a physical journey. Thus, they allude to the belief that just as God was able to physically raise the Holy Prophetsa towards Himself, so too is the case with Jesusas and therefore, according to them, the matter of Jesus’ physical ascension should not be difficult to accept.
In this article, we will debunk the notion of “physical ascension” and show, through the Quran, ahadith and logical proofs, how the Miraj and Isra were in fact two spiritual journeys and not physical.
It should be clear that the condition Muslims are in today was prophesied by the Holy Prophetsa himself. It is reported that the Holy Prophetsa said that a time would come upon the Muslim Ummah where they would resemble the Jews. Thus, just as the Jews did not accept Jesusas as the Messiah and said that Elijah would physically descend, so too is the condition of the Muslims today, who have rejected Hazrat Ahmadas and say that Jesusas will physically descend.
Before moving on, it is necessary to briefly mention the incident of both the Miraj and Isra. Let it be clear that the Miraj and Isra are two different incidents that occurred during the time of the Holy Prophetsa. The Miraj was the spiritual journey where the Holy Prophetsa was shown the heavens, met with previous prophets and was eventually presented before the royal court of Allah. The Isra is the name of the spiritual journey where the Holy Prophetsa was taken from Mecca to Jerusalem.
As we progress, further references will be provided from ahadith with regard to both incidents.
Beginning with the Holy Quran, let us see what the Perfect Book has said about physical ascension. It is mentioned in Surah Bani Isra‘il that the disbelievers of Mecca expressed their readiness to accept Islam, but first demanded certain signs to be fulfilled. They said to the Holy Prophetsa that they would not believe until he ascended to the sky and brought down a book for them to read. Upon this, God revealed to the Holy Prophetsa:
“Say, ‘Holy is my Lord! I am not but a man [sent as a] messenger.’” (Surah Bani Isra‘il, Ch.17: V.94)
This very emphatically establishes that it is not God’s practice for a man to physically ascend to the heavens and come back to earth. The important point to note here is that God is pointing towards this practice of His.
God openly states in the Quran that He never goes in contradiction of His own practice:
فَلَنۡ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللّٰہِ تَبۡدِیۡلًا ۬ۚ وَ لَنۡ تَجِدَ لِسُنَّتِ اللّٰہِ تَحۡوِیۡلًا
“But you will never find any change in the way of Allah; nor will you ever find any alteration in the way of Allah.” (Surah Fatir, Ch.35: V.44)
Thus, since it is a common practice that man lives his limited days on earth and only returns to God upon his demise, hence it would be wrong and against God’s practice to say and believe that a physical body can be raised to God.
With regard to the Miraj, the Holy Quran, in Surah al-Najm, clearly states:
مَا کَذَبَ الۡفُؤَادُ مَا رَاٰی
“The heart of the prophet lied not regarding what he saw” (Ch.53: V.12)
From this, it is clearly understood that it was a heartfelt vision, not a bodily or physical ascension. For if it were the physical body and physical eyes of the Prophetsa that witnessed this journey then what was the need of the Holy Quran to mention “al-fu‘ad”. Thus, as the Quran mentions the word “al-fu‘ad”, it clearly alludes to the fact that this was a heartfelt journey i.e., spiritual.
Let us now look at the different ahadith pertaining to the incident of the Miraj and see if it gives further evidence for it being a spiritual journey. In one narration of Sahih al-Bukhari (Kitab Bad‘-ul-Khalq), it is mentioned that this vision was shown to the Holy Prophetsa between a state of sleep and wakefulness (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 3207).
In another narration of Bukhari (Kitab al-Tawhid), towards the end of the full hadith regarding the Miraj, it is stated:
قَالَ وَاسْتَيْقَظَ وَهُوَ فِي مَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ
Meaning that the Holy Prophetsa then woke up while he was in the Sacred Mosque (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 7517).
This clearly indicates that it was a dream like vision experienced by the Holy Prophetsa. In the very same hadith, it is stated:
وَهُوَ نَائِمٌ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ
“… while he was sleeping in the Sacred Mosque…”
This means that this journey took place whilst the Holy Prophetsa was asleep in the Sacred Mosque.
And again, it is stated:
وَتَنَامُ عَيْنُهُ وَلاَ يَنَامُ قَلْبُهُ
“… his eyes were asleep but his heart was not asleep…”
In a hadith recorded by Bukhari (Book of Prophetic Commentary on the Quran [Hadith 4855]), it is mentioned that Hazrat Aishara was once asked if the Holy Prophetsa ever saw God with his physical eyes:
يَا أُمَّتَاه هَلْ رَأَى مُحَمَّدٌ صلى الله عليه وسلم رَبَّهُ
Upon this, Hazrat Aishara replied:
لَقَدْ قَفَّ شَعَرِي مِمَّا قُلْتَ
“What you have said makes my hair stand on end!”
Hazrat Aishara went on to say:
“Know that if somebody tells you one of the following three things, he is a liar: Whoever tells you that Muhammadsa saw his Lord, is a liar…”
Then, Hazrat Aishara recited the following verses:
“Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware.” (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.104)
“And it is not for a man that Allah should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a veil or by sending a messenger to reveal by His Command what He pleases. Surely, He is High, Wise.” (Surah al-Shura, Ch.42: V.52)
She further said:
“And whoever tells you that the Prophet knows what is going to happen tomorrow, is a liar.”
She then recited:
“And no soul knows what it will earn tomorrow.” (Surah Luqman, Ch.31: V.35)
“And whoever tells you that he concealed (some of Allah’s orders), is a liar.”
Then, lastly, she recited:
“O Messenger! Convey to thy people what has been revealed to thee from thy Lord…” (Surah al-Maidah, Ch.5: V.68)
Thus, with this substantial evidence, how can anyone state and believe that the Miraj was a physical journey? What greater evidence could be presented than the Holy Quran and ahadith? Even Hazrat Aisha, about whom the Holy Prophetsa said to learn half the religion from, has testified that physical ascension in the night of Miraj did not happen, rather that it was a spiritual journey experienced by the Prophetsa.
However, if someone is still not convinced, then such a person will have to answer the following questions:
In the hadith of the Miraj, it is stated that:
“A golden tray full of wisdom and belief was brought to me…” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 3207)
If this was a physical journey, then one will be forced to accept that wisdom and belief are in fact tangible objects that can be carried on a tray and presented. This obviously goes against logic.
Reading further, the hadith states that the chest of the Holy Prophetsa was cut open and his heart was washed and cleansed with Zamzam water. How obvious can it be that this was not a physical phenomenon, for such actions would then beg more questions, for example, how is it possible? And more importantly, what was the need for it?
Can we be compelled to believe that the Holy Prophet’ssa heart and chest needed to be cleansed, whereas the rest of the Muslim Ummah did not undergo such an incident. Is that to say that they possessed such clean and pure hearts that it was only necessary for the Holy Prophet’ssa heart to be cleansed?
Such a belief and notion is not acceptable. The hadith goes on to say that the Holy Prophetsa then proceeded to enter heaven where he met with previous Prophetsas.
Now, it is important to note what the Quran and hadith say about heaven.
In Surah al-Hijr (Ch.15:49), the Holy Quran clearly states:
لَا يَمَسُّهُمْ فِيهَا نَصَبٌ وَمَا هُم مِّنْهَا بِمُخْرَجِينَ
“Fatigue shall not touch them there, nor shall they ever be ejected therefrom”
Thus, if the Quran states that upon entering heaven, nobody will be removed, then how can our non-Ahmadi brothers claim that the Holy Prophetsa was once in heaven and then removed.
Again, in a hadith, narrated by Hazrat Abu Hurairara, it is clearly mentioned that the Holy Prophetsa stated:
“Allah said, ‘I have prepared for My righteous servants (such excellent things) as no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard nor a human heart can ever think of.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tawhid)
Here, it is clearly stated, “no eye has ever seen, nor any ear has ever heard”.
I ask my non-Ahmadi Muslim brothers and sisters, was the Holy Prophetsa, God forbid, lying upon making this statement?
Thus, it will be against logic and against the noble words of the Holy Prophet to believe that he went to heaven with his physical body.
If such an incident is to be taken literally, more things will require deeper explanation, which only leads to further false ideas and notions being carved. It is as if the non-Ahmadis are continuously carving a sculpture to fit their own narrative.
Such actions resemble what the Jews were accused of doing when they chose certain passages from their scriptures and disregarded the rest.
The main reason why our non-Ahmadi brothers and sisters are adamant that the Miraj was a physical ascension is because they know that once they accept its reality, their claim of Jesusas still being alive in heaven will be rendered null and void and the carved sculpture of their self made narrative will collapse.
In an attempt to prove the physical ascension of Prophet Jesusas, some Muslims today present the journey of the Miraj and Isra in a nonsensical manner to add weight to their baseless notion.
We analysed the spiritual journey of the Miraj through the lens of the Holy Quran, hadith and logical proofs and proved how it was indeed a spiritual journey and not, as other Muslims assert, physical. Proceeding forward, we will focus on the journey of Isra.
Again, our non-Ahmadi brothers and sisters assert that this too was a physical journey. However, like the Miraj, with a close analysis of the Quran, hadith and other sources, ample evidence indicates that this was in fact, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a spiritual journey.
The journey of Isra has been mentioned in Surah Bani Israel:
سُبۡحٰنَ الَّذِیۡۤ اَسۡرٰی بِعَبۡدِہٖ لَیۡلًا مِّنَ الۡمَسۡجِدِ الۡحَرَامِ اِلَی الۡمَسۡجِدِ الۡاَقۡصَا الَّذِیۡ بٰرَکۡنَا حَوۡلَہٗ لِنُرِیَہٗ مِنۡ اٰیٰتِنَا ؕ اِنَّہٗ ہُوَ السَّمِیۡعُ الۡبَصِیۡرُ
“Glory be to Him Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Distant Mosque, the environs of which We have blessed, that We might show him [some] of Our Signs. Surely, He alone is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Surah Bani Israil, Ch.17: V.2)
This verse alone is more than enough to prove that the journey of Isra was spiritual. The words “asraa” and “laylan” clearly indicate that the entire journey took part in one night. The verse further reads that the main reason it occurred was so “that We might show him some of Our Signs.”
A further study of this Surah shows us that this was in fact a spiritual journey as the word “ru‘ya” has been used.
وَ مَا جَعَلۡنَا الرُّءۡیَا الَّتِیۡۤ اَرَیۡنٰکَ اِلَّا فِتۡنَۃً لِّلنَّاسِ
“And We made not the vision which We showed thee but as a trial for men.” (Surah Bani Israil, Ch.17: V.61)
The word “ru‘ya” undoubtedly lays the matter to rest. The word not only means a dream, but according to the context it is used in, can mean a spiritual sight too, meaning that the journey the Holy Prophetsa undertook was a spiritual journey and was a sign shown to him.
Thus, the Holy Quran itself has testified that this journey was a “ru‘ya” and a spiritual journey. To briefly explain the journey, Isra is the name of the spiritual journey where the Holy Prophetsa was taken from Mecca to Jerusalem on, what is described as, a beautiful white animal, larger than a donkey, but smaller than a mule, named Burraq.
When the Holy Prophetsa reached Jerusalem, he tied the animal and entered the mosque, where he met with the past prophets, in which Abrahamas, Mosesas and Jesusas in particular have been mentioned, and led them in prayer. Following this, Gabrielas, who was with the Holy Prophetsa, presented two cups (some narrations cite three cups). One cup filled with milk and the other with alcohol. The Holy Prophetsa chose the cup of milk, upon which Gabrielas said, “Thanks be to Allah Who guided you to the fitrah [i.e. Islam]; if you had taken the wine, your followers would have gone astray.” (Sahih al–Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, 4709)
In another narration of Ibn Jarir on the account of Hazrat Anasra bin Malik, it is mentioned that during the journey, after moving only a short distance, the Holy Prophetsa saw an old woman. Upon seeing her, he asked Gabrielas who she was, but Gabrielas gave no answer to his question and told him to carry on moving.
Proceeding forward, a man called the Holy Prophetsa by name in order to invite his attention to himself. Upon this, Gabrielas again said to keep moving forward and not to heed the call. Later, the Holy Prophetsa was greeted by a group of people and upon this, Gabrielas told the Holy Prophetsa to respond to the greetings of peace.
Examining the ahadith, we find clear indications that this incident was a spiritual journey. In Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, Hazrat Imam Bukharirh narrates an incident that took place after the Isra.
When the disbelievers of Mecca were told about the journey of Isra, naturally, as was their practice, they rejected and did not believe that the Holy Prophetsa travelled to Baitul Maqdas.
Those who had previously gone and visited Jerusalem asked the Holy Prophetsa to describe what he had seen. The Holy Prophetsa, knowing that it is not absolutely vital for a dream and vision to resemble the apparent structure and outlook of Jerusalem, became worried.
The Holy Prophetsa, in reality, was not aware of the famous landmarks in Jerusalem, except for what he was shown in the dream. Upon this, God Almighty then brought the actual scene of Jerusalem before the Holy Prophet’ssa eyes and started narrating what he was seeing, which silenced the infidels of Mecca. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, Hadith 4710)
From this narration, it is apparent that the Isra was a spiritual vision, for if the Holy Prophetsa had actually seen Jerusalem with his physical eyes, then what was the need to be worried and why would God need to show him a vision to help him describe what he had already seen with his physical eyes?
Going over these points of the Holy Quran and hadith, it is clear that the Isra, like the Miraj, was a spiritual journey.
However, any person who is not convinced will then have to answer the following questions and instances that occurred during the journey. After the Holy Prophetsa had finished leading the prophets in congregational prayer, Gabrielas explained and said that the old woman he saw was the world, the voice he heard was in fact Satan and the group that greeted him included Prophet Abrahamas, Prophet Mosesas and Prophet Jesusas. (Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra MA, Seal of the Prophets, Vol. I, p. 274)
Now, any individual who claims that this was a physical journey should clarify how the world could physically transform into an old woman. Is this to say that at one particular moment in time, the Earth somehow transformed into an old woman? Is this really a logical statement? If that is the case, where were they travelling to if not Masjid Aqsa?
Another unfathomable point which needs explanation is that if the Isra was a physical journey, are we to believe that the prophets who all prayed behind the Holy Prophetsa were revived in their physical form? If this is what people believe, as Jesusas was particularly mentioned in this journey, does this mean that he (Jesus), as non-Ahmadi Muslims believe, came back down in his physical body then ascended once again?
Thus, understanding the principles of God’s law, along with the evidence provided from the Holy Quran, ahadith and logical proofs, it becomes evident and emphatically clear that both the Miraj and Isra were two different spiritual signs shown to the Holy Prophetsa.