The Night Journey and the Ascension was a great blessing
bestowed upon Muhammad, the Prophet of God.† It was a journey beginning at the Holy
Masjid in Mecca, then moving overland to Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and finally
continuing up through the seven heavens into the presence of God, the Almighty.
†As we travel up through the seven heavens with Prophet Muhammad, it is
important to remember that the places he visits are not part of Paradise.
In the English language, we generally use the word heaven
to mean the spiritual plane of eternal happiness, the reward for a righteous
life and the opposite of hell, the place of eternal punishment.† However, this
was not always the case; the word heaven comes from the Old English word heofon, †used to denote the
sky, which is the area above the earth where the celestial bodies are. †Eventually,
heaven lost its original meaning and came to imply Paradise.† In Arabic, however,
there have always been two separate words used, sama and jennah.†
The word sama is used for the skies above us, and they are part of the
temporary world which will be destroyed on the Day of Judgement.† The word jennah,
however, denotes Paradise, the land of eternal bliss, the permanent home of the
righteous believers, and the opposite of Hell.
ďThen He completed and finished from their creation as seven
heavens in two Days and He made in each heaven its affair.† And We adorned the
nearest heaven with light sources to be an adornment, as well as to guard.† Such
is the Decree of Him the All-Mighty, the All-Knower.Ē (Quran 41:12)
ďTheir Lord gives them glad tidings of a Mercy from Him, and
that He is pleased, and of Gardens (jennah) for them wherein are
everlasting delights.† They will dwell therein forever.† Verily, with God is a
great reward.Ē (Quran 9:21-22)
The Wonders of God
Prophet Muhammad ascended into the heavens from the rock
now housed in the familiar golden dome that has become the symbol for Jerusalem.† This is a journey that no other human had ever made or has made since.† It
demonstrates Godís ability to bring the seemingly impossible into being.† Here,
the concepts of time and space as we know them do not apply, and it is beyond our
human capabilities to understand the true omnipotence of God. †In his sayings
and traditions, Prophet Muhammad described the size of the heavens; the first
heaven, as compared to the second, is similar to a small ring in the desert, and
he continued this narrative until he described the sixth heaven as being the size
of a ring in the desert compared to the seventh heaven.† The magnitude of this
is unimaginable.† Our earth, and what we call the universe, is contained within
the first heaven.† Even with the scientific knowledge of the 21st
century, we have no idea how big this is, how far the universe extends, or what
wonders it contains.
Prophet Muhammad travelled with the Angel Gabriel up
into the heights of the heavens. †Together they came to the gate of the first
heaven, where Angel Gabriel sought permission to enter.† The gatekeepers asked,
ďWho is it?Ē †to which Gabriel replied, ďIt is I, GabrielĒ.† The gatekeepers
then asked who was accompanying him; when they were told it was Muhammad, they
asked if he had been given his mission to guide all of mankind to the worship
of One God.† Angel Gabriel answered in the affirmative, so the angels welcomed Prophet
Muhammad, called his arrival a pleasure, and opened the gate.
Greeting the Prophets
Prophet Muhammad tells us that he saw his father Adam,
the father of all of mankind.† He greeted him with the greeting of all Muslims,
- Assalamu alaikum (may peace be upon you).† Adam returned the greeting
and expressed his faith in Muhammadís prophethood.† He called him his pure son,
the pure prophet.† Imagine the pleasure that this meeting must have given to
both men.† After thousands of years, Adam was able to see his son Muhammad, the
greatest of his descendents.† Muhammad was able to look into the eyes of the
father of mankind. †The wonders however were only just beginning.† Angel Gabriel
and Prophet Muhammad then ascended to the second heaven.
At the gate, Angel Gabriel again sought permission to
enter. †When the gatekeepers learned Prophet Muhammad had been given his
mission and was trying to enter, they welcomed him and opened the gate.† There
Prophet Muhammad saw the two cousins, Prophet John (known in Christian
traditions as the Baptist) and the Messenger of God, Prophet Jesus;† Prophet
Muhammad exchanged greetings with them.
Prophet Muhammad and Angel Gabriel ascended once more to
the gates of the third heaven.† At each gate, the same exchange took place.†
When the gatekeepers had established that it was Angel Gabriel in the company
of Prophet Muhammad, who had indeed been given his mission, they gave
permission to enter.† Here, in the third heaven, Prophet Muhammad met Joseph
and described him as an embodiment of half of all beauty.
As Prophet Muhammad met the Prophets in each heaven, he
exchanged greetings with them, and this was always Assalamu alaikum, the
greeting of peace used by all those in submission to the One True God.† In the
fourth heaven, Prophet Muhammad met Prophet Idris, whom God described in Quran (19:57)
as being elevated to a very high level.† In the fifth heaven, he met Prophet Aaron,
the brother of Moses.† At each meeting, the Prophets expressed their faith in
Muhammadís prophethood. †In the sixth heaven, Prophet Muhammad met Moses.
Whenever Prophet Moses is mentioned in the Quran or in
the narrations of Prophet Muhammad, we know that something important is about
to be described.† After the two Prophets had exchanged greetings and Prophet
Moses had expressed his faith in Muhammadís prophethood, Moses started to weep.†
When he was asked why, he replied: ďA young man has come after me, and more of
his followers will enter paradise then my followersĒ.
Until the advent of Islam, Prophet Moses had had the
largest following of any Prophet.† Moses cried, and from this, we can
understand that there was a type of rivalry between the Prophets; but it was
not a competition filled with jealousy or envy. Rather, it was filled with
compassion.† As we move further into the journey, we will see the love and
compassion Prophet Moses had for Muhammad and his followers.† Prophet Muhammad
and Angel Gabriel then ascended into the seventh heaven.