Mi’raj – A Journey of the Soul

Nizami’s Khamsa’s Five Poems, Tabriz, Iran, 1539–43 depicting the Prophet’s ascent into heaven
(Image: British Library Online Gallery)

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.
Qur’an 17:1

Miʿrāj, is the legend of the ascension of Prophet Muhammad into heaven, generally celebrated on the 27th day of Rajab, Laylat al-Miʿrāj (“Night of the Ascension”), although there is no unanimous opinion on the precise date The legend states that the Prophet was taken from Mecca to Jerusalem by Angel Gabriel on a winged, white horse, Buraq, from where he ascends through the seven heavens and is greeted by, and in effect validated by the previous Prophets (Adam, Joseph, Aaron, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus). At the culmination, he sees the lote tree, the Divine Throne, the “house of life” (al-bayt al-mamur – the celestial counterpart to the Kaba).

Amongst the esoteric traditions of Muslims, Mi‘raj is symbolic of the spiritual search leading the soul to the state of spiritual union with the Divine. The story of the journey has constituted a popular theme in Islamic art. “The story of the journey has further entered into universal literature; it is claimed by some scholars, such as Miguel Asin Palacios, that this was the model which inspired Dante’s Divine Comedy.”*

Micheal A. Sells, “Early Muslim Spirituality and Mysticism,” The Muslim Almanac Edited by Azim A. Nanji, Gale Research Inc. Detroit, 1996
*Glossary, The Institute of Ismaili Studies

Compiled by Nimira Dewji

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