Isrā’ and Me’raj: Myth or Miracle?

Very often Atheists use the events of Isrā’ and Me’raj or the night journey of the prophet Muhammad,  peace be upon him, from Mecca to Jerusalem, to mock Islam and try to discredit it. They even make fun of the Buraq, saying that Muslim believe in winged horses.

The Arabic word Mo’jeza, means, a miracle which happens in the presence of opponents to subdue and overpower them, any supernatural event that happened to the prophet in the presence of his companions is not called Mo’jezah, because it did not happen in the presence of his enemies.

God Almighty aided his messengers and prophets with many miracles in order to protect them from those who sought to harm them. Supernatural events are difficult for our minds to accept, because they defy the laws of Physics. But we must remember that they are performed by He, who created the laws of Physics, and He therefore has the ability to manipulate those laws if He so wills. And that is easy for Him.

A MYTH, on the other hand, involves a supernatural implausible event or phenomenon that is supposedly performed by someone or something, who CANNOT break the laws of nature, because they are not God, they are not the one who created those laws, nor do they possess the power that only God possesses.

Accordingly, Jesus could never have cured a leper without God’s will, nor could he resurrect the dead without God’s will. And Moses couldn’t have parted the sea without God’s will, nor could his staff have turned into a snake without the will of God. Likewise, Mohammed could not have traveled from Mecca to Jerusalem one night in the span of a few moments, without God’s will.

GOD’S WILL is the one defining factor that differentiates between a myth and a miracle, because it is only God who can perform these supernatural feats that involve breaking the laws of physics and nature. Anyone, who claims that a human being can perform such things, is a disbeliever in God and a believer in myths. Islam came in order to liberate the mind from such myths and superstitions.

Islam liberated the mind from the myth that the universe, in all of it’s perfection and diversity, came to be without the Creator. This is the greatest myth of all. Islam liberated the mind from the myth that God Almighty can be incarnated as one of his creations.

Islam liberated the mind from the myth that idols or amulets can bring about good or bad fortune.
Islam liberated the mind from the myth that women is inferior to man, or innately sinful.
Islam liberated the mind from the myth that a white person is superior to a black person.
These are all myths.

Willing and able 

If I perceived a book lying on a desk, then after leaving and re-entering the room, I found that the book was suddenly on the shelf of the book case, I would ask, “Who put the book on that shelf?” But if I had left Ahmad sitting on a chair in the room and came back to find him sitting on the floor, I wouldn’t ask who had moved Ahmad from the chair to the floor. So why did I ask about who had moved the book, but not asked who had moved Ahmad? It is because the book has neither capability nor will, whereas Ahmad has both capability and will. But capability may sometimes be limited. So if Ahmad happened to be a newborn baby, I would ask who had moved him, because in that case Ahmad does not have the capability to get down from the chair to the floor on his own, even if he has the will to do so. But if Ahmad were a three-year-old, I would not wonder or ask who had moved him, because I know that he is capable of getting off the chair and moving to the floor on his own. If, however, I found Ahmad on top of the cupboard, I would ask who had lifted him up to the top of the cupboard, because his capabilities at that age do not allow him to do that.
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Anyone who believes that God is capable of anything, must know that what we consider to be supernatural things are only supernatural to us, but not to God. For God, they are very easy. Islam asserts the limitless capabilities of God, the Creator, the Almighty, the All-capable, the Omnipotent. As for anyone who casts doubts about these miracles (the miracles of Jesus, the miracles of Moses, the miracles of Mohammad, peace be upon them all), then that person is, in effect, raising doubts upon the capability of God Almighty. If You believe that God is the one who created everything in this universe, all that is in the heavens and the Earth, with all of this precision and perfection, then you must realize that those things are miracles far more complex and immense than the healing a leper, or the parting of the sea, or a journey between two cities in the matter of seconds. God says in the Quran:
“There truly are signs in the creation of the heavens and Earth and in the alternation of night and day, for those with understanding”,
 in other words, “to those who use their minds, those who think and utilize their intellect”.

If not to astonish people, then what was it?

Historically, the event of the night journey was mainly a means of condolence, or a message of comfort from God Almighty towards his prophet after he had endured several tragic events in his life – the death of his uncle, Abu Taleb, a non Muslim supporter who protected him, then his beloved wife, Khadijah, who believed him when people rejected him and supported him when others abandoned him, both of whom were of great support to him in hostile Mecca at that time. The year they both died was called the year of agony. During the same time period, he also traveled to Al-Ta’ef, a nearby city, calling it’s people to worship the One true God and abandon idolatry, but he was treated very badly by it’s inhabitants. A mob chased him out, stoning him and insulting him. He sat down outside the city invoking God saying:
“Only to you I complain from my weakness, from my lack of reason and from being underestimated by people, O most Merciful , did You surrender me to an enemy who abuses me or to a kin who owns me. If this is not a punishment from You then I don’t care, except that I would enjoy your welfare more. I seek refuge with your light, which shines upon the heavens and the earth and that cleared the darkness and fixed all matters in this life and the hereafter from your wrath and anger. I glorify you continuously until You are pleased with me. There is no power except from you.”
So, God Almighty comforted him with this event. It was not a “miracle” to overcome his opponents and convince people to accept Islam, on the contrary, people hesitated more when they heard about it, and it is narrated that some newly converted Muslims did not believe it when they were told of the event, and actually left Islam after hearing about it.

Do Muslims believe in winged horses?

Then we come to the problem of the description of the Buraq, which is the creature that carried the Prophet, peace be upon him, during the journey to Jerusalem. It is described as being a creature, whose size was somewhere between that of a donkey and a horse, and having a gigantic stride. Now, if we were to describe a rocket, which travels from Earth to the moon, emitting a blast of smoke and fire, if we described that to a person living 400 years ago, let alone 1400  years ago, which is when the prophet lived, what do you think he would say? He would say it was pure fiction. There is nothing called a rocket, there is nothing of that description in all of the vast expanse of the earth, and certainly there is nothing that emits a cloud of fire and smoke, and travels to the heights of the moon.  People from the medieval age, who have never encountered an airplane and have no knowledge of them, if they had seen them, they might describe them as giant metallic birds that scream loudly in the sky and which carry people in it’s belly to distant countries in a matter of few hours. Such a thing sounds like science-fiction even to us, in this present day. But it goes to show how, that which we have no knowledge of, can seem unreal even when it is commonplace.
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It all boils down to one question: Is God capable of bringing about such an event or not? If someone doesn’t believe in God, then he will definitely not believe in such events, and I would not expect him to believe in miracles, when he does not even believe in the existence of He, who is capable of performing such miracles. So for a Muslim to go on and on, trying to convince an atheist to accept the existence of miracles, is a complete waste of time. A person must first believe in God and in His limitless capabilities. As for someone who believes in God and in his capabilities, then it becomes a matter-of-fact for him to believe in such miraculous things, because these miracles, however amazing, are all minute in comparison to the creation of the heavens and earth, and all that they comprise. Actually, the most important aspect of the Night Journey of the Prophet and his Ascension is something that many people overlook! Listen to this verse. It says:
“Glory to Him who caused His servant to travel from the sacred place of worship to the furthest place of worship, whose surroundings we have blessed.”
The most important thing in this verse is that it forms an eternal bond between the sacred mosque in Mecca and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The verse also affirms that all of Palestine is blessed land when it says: “whose surroundings we have blessed.” We must ask ourselves: if Al-Aqsa mosque is demolished, what will we say to our children and grandchildren when they read that verse and ask what the Al-Aqsa mosque is? What would we tell them? Do we say, “This is the very first Qibla or direction to which Muslims turned to in prayer, it is the second mosque that was ever built on the face of the Earth, and the third most important mosque after those in Mecca and Medina, it is the place to which the Prophet (PBUH) was taken during his miraculous night journey, Al Israa, and it is also the mosque that your father and his generation abandoned and lost?” This verse lays a very great responsibility upon our shoulders.