Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem!
“As-salámu ‘alaikum wa rahmatul láhi wa barakátuh!”

My Dear Brothers and Sisters. Some people believe that the Isra’ and Mi’raj occurred on On 27th Rajab. Others disagree about the date, saying no one knows for certain. Allah knows best. But no Muslim disagrees about the essence of Prophet Muhammad’s Isra’’ and Mi’raj: his Mystical Night Journey and his Ascension into the Heavenly Spheres. May Allah’s peace and mercy and blessings be ever upon him. The Holy Quran alludes to this momentous occasion in the first verse of Sura Bani Isra-eel:

    “Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem! Sub’haanal lathee Asraa-ab’dihee laylam-minal masjidil haraami ilal masjidil aq’saa, al-lathee baarak-naa hawlahoo linuriyahoo min aayaatinaa. Innahoo huwas Samee-;ul Baseer!”

    “Glory to [Allah] Who did take His Servant on a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We sanctified; in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for Allah is He who hears and sees everything.”

This momentous event occurred more than 14 centuries ago. Then, as now, it aroused the sceptics and cynics to dismiss it as a fantasy, as a delusion. How can someone travel hundreds of miles in one night, and then claim to have travelled through the heavens to the throne of God? Then, as now, the true Believers have the same answer: He Who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing can do whatever He pleases. He can part the oceans to save the followers of Moses. He can drown Pharaoh in that same ocean. He can flood the world while saving Noah in the Ark. He can turn to the roaring flames that are licking at the feet of Prophet Abraham, and decree: “Fire, be cool!” And, Abraham can walk out of the fire with no burns. Allah can change the properties and behaviour of any part of His creation. He is not enslaved by the natural laws that He, Himself, wrote. He’s the Author. He can edit them as and when He pleases.

A man was once asked, can Allah pass a camel through the eye of a needle? He answered: Not only can Allah pass a camel through the eye of a needle; if He decided to put the whole dunya, the whole earth through the eye of a needle that’s easy for Him. He says: Kun, faya koon! … Be! And it is!

Centuries ago, this might have seemed fanciful. But nowadays, every physicist and scientist accepts that if the universe began with a big bang 14 billion years ago, then all matter and energy, all time and space must have been extremely dense, and concentrated within an incredibly small area, smaller than the head of a pin, and certainly, smaller than the eye of a needle. Today every self-respecting scientist believes that. But many of them hesitate to go one step further. Who created the Big Bang? Was it spontaneous? Did time and space all begin by accident? So many scientists have difficulty in taking that crucial next step. That is, to accept that this big bang did not just happen by chance. Everything follows the Will of Allah. When Allah decrees a thing, He only has to say, Kun! Faya koon! …. Be! And it is! Soob’haanal-Laah!

In the short time we have, I want deal with 3 points

    The narrative of the Isra and Mi’raj
    The significance of Mi’raj
    and the Gift of the Mi’raj.

The narrative is well known: it has a horizontal aspect and a vertical aspect. The horizontal aspect is the journey itself, from Makka to Jerusalem and back, in one night. The vertical aspect is the Ascension from Jerusalem to the heavens into the very presence of Allah, the Glorified and exalted.

We are told that one night, the Prophet Muhammad sws was asleep near the Kaaba, when the archangel Jibreel [Gabriel] awoke him, washed his heart and placed him on Buraaq, a mystical winged horse. Buraaq could travel from horizon to horizon in one leap. Accompanied by Gabriel, they rode to Jerusalem where they met the earlier Prophets. Prophet Muhammad led them in prayer and then he and Gabriel travelled upward through the seven heavens, meeting and greeting all the earlier Prophets along the way, until Gabriel stopped by “the lote tree of the furthest extremity, the utmost boundary”’ sidratul muntahar . Here Gabriel left Prophet Muhammad sws because not even angels could go further than this point. This is where Prophet Muhammad sws proceeded on his own until he was, as the Quran says, “Qaba qawsain,” two bows-length from Allah. [Let us remember that words are so inadequate We are trying here to describe what is infinitely beyond description, beyond our strongest imaginings] The Holy Quran simply uses an evocative description: “His vision did not waver, nor did the eyes deny what they saw…” This was the absolute nearest any human being has ever come to the Divine. Allah the Glorified and Exalted, and Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings on him, alone at last, face to face. No interlocutors, no distractions. Creator and created, indeed, the best of His creation in direct communion with his Lord. Again in the words of the Holy Quran, Prophet Muhammad sws saw, “of the Signs of His Lord, the Greatest.”

We are told that Nabi Muhammad sws then descended to earth. He returned from his meeting with Allah, carrying this blessed Gift of the Mi’raj, the Prayer, the Salaah, as we know it today. At first he had instructions that Muslims are required to pray 50 times each day. But when Musa Alayhis salaam, Prophet Moses, said that this would be too difficult, Prophet Muhammad sws went back several times till Allah reduced it to 5 times a day. Again Moses said that 5 daily prayers was too much, people are lazy and rebellious. But Prophet Muhammad sws replied that he was too embarrassed to go back and ask Allah for a further reduction. So there we have it. This gift of the 5 daily prayers, is a direct gift of the Mi’raj, over 14 centuries ago.

Imagine for a moment, what would Islam have been like without the salaah, without precisely detailed formal prayers. Our faith would have been little more than an academic exercise, something to tickle the intellect; a belief system with some quaint notions about the meaning and purpose of life, but with no pivotal connection between Creator and created. Salaah is what makes Islam more than just a good idea, but a functioning, purposeful relationship between Allah and His servants.

Before the Mi’raj Muslims had no idea as to how and when they should pray. Now we not only know how and when, but also, most importantly, we must remember the reason, the ‘why’ part. Why do we pray? Why 5 times a day? Why not just once?

Salaah is not a human invention. It’s not the product of Prophet Muhammad sws’ imagination. It’s planned and prescribed by Allah Himself. It’s our divinely designed means of communication with God. This is how He wants us to turn to Him, 5 times a day, amidst all our distractions and mundane pursuits of daily life. He does not want us simply to go into seclusion in a temple or monastery to remember Him, once in a while. He wants us to remember Him constantly, in the marketplace, in our offices, in our homes and during our leisure time. Right there in the midst of life’s distractions, we must keep our spiritual compass. We must maintain our moral integrity. This is the real challenge. While we are busy enjoying Allah’s blessings, we must never forget to thank Him. Salaah is our formal link with our Creator. It brings our body, mind and soul into complete harmony and submission to Allah. Properly performed, it helps us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Our hearts fill with stillness, serenity, sakina, and we develop a yearning to be close to Allah. We long to be in that blissful presence just as our beloved Prophet Muhammad had on the Mi’raj. Salaah is our own Mi’raj. Perhaps it’s the nearest we’ll ever be to Allah.

With heads touching the ground, all limbs pointing towards Makka, all our thoughts and feelings and desires focussed on Allah, this is the magical moment when we become the connecting-point between time-space and eternity. In prostration, sujood, we humble creatures of dust, when we’ve shut off body, mind and soul to everything else except His Presence, we can become like lightning-rods that connect heaven and earth. In that moment of sheer and absolute surrender, we become truly, Allah’s khaleefah, His vice-regent, on the earth. Brothers and sisters, when we pray properly, as Allah decrees, then great things become possible. Let’s not neglect our prayers. Let’s not rush through them like some necessary but unwelcome habit like we’re brushing our teeth or washing the dishes. Let’s concentrate, meditate and rejuvenate with this wonderful gift of our personal Mi’raj. Let’s pray properly, with meaning and feeling. In Salaah we’re in the grand audience hall of the Lord of the universe. Let’s show him our love, courtesy and respect.

Alhamdu lillahi Rabbil ‘Aalameen. Was-salaatu was-salaamu alaa Khairil mursaleen. Muhammadin-nabeey-yil Ummiy-yee, wa-‘alaa aalihee, wasah-bihee, aj-ma’een.

Ammaa ba’ad:

Innalláha wa malaaikata yusallúna alan nabi. Yá ay yuhal latheena ámanu sallú alayhi wasalli mú tas leema. Allahumma salli alá Muhammad, wa ala áli Muhammad, kama salayta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali Ibrahim. Allahumma barik ala Muhammad, wa alaa áli Muhammad, kama barakta ala Ibrahim, wa ala ali ibrahim. Fil ála meen, innaka hameedun majeed.”

Part Two:

Sub’ hanallahi wal hamdu lillah, wala hawla wala quwwata illah billah yu althi yual theem.

“All glory is for Allah, and all praise is for Allah; There is no power and no strength except with Allah.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

When we Muslims pray, we enjoy a very special relationship with Allah. While others need intermediaries, we need no priest, no rabbi, Archbishop or even a Pope that stands between us and Allah. We worship Him directly and He answers us directly. Allah says “I listen to the prayer of everyone who calls me. Let them also then, listen to My call, so that they may walk on the straight way.”

Although 70,000 veils separate us from Allah, nothing separates Him from us. He says that He is “closer to us than our jugular veins.” What more do we need in the way of assurances and security? Without prayer, without regular, intimate contact with Allah, we would be exposed to all kinds of dangers, to body and soul. Prayer, salaah brings us intimately close to Allah. It brings us in to safety and security. We should never neglect our prayers.

Brothers and sisters, to conclude our khutbah:

InnaAllaha, Yamuru bil adel, wal ihsaan, wa eetaa-i zil qurba; wa yanha anil fuhshaa-i, wal munkari walbaghi; ya-idzukhum lallakum tathak-karoon. (Sura 16:90),

“Surely Allah commands justice, good deeds and generosity to others and to relatives; and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, so that you may be reminded.”

Fadth kuroonee adth kurkum, wash kuroolee walaa tak furoon [2:152].

“and remember Me: I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject faith.”

wala thikrul-Laahi akbar, Wal-Laahu ya’lamu maa tasna’oon.” [29:45].

“and without doubt, Remembrance of Allah is the Greatest Thing in life, and Allah knows the deeds that you do.”

Ameen. Aqeemus salaah!

By Arshad Gamiet
Royal Holloway, University of London - delivered 8 August, 2008)