Were the Miraj and Isra physical or spiritual journeys? – Part II
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.
In the first part of this article, 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. In this part, 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 Prophet sa.