Date and origin of Al Isrâ’ wal Miʿrâj

Date and origin of Al Isrâ’ wal Miʿrâj (Isra and Miraj)

Isra and Miraj is scheduled for the following dates: 

Saturday February 18, 2023
Wednesday February 7, 2024
Monday January 27, 2025 

The date may be shifted by one day, depending on whether or not the crescent moon marking the start of the month is taken into account.

Al Isrâ’ wal Miʿrâj - The nocturnal journey and ascension of the Prophet Muhammad

Also spelled: Isra and Miraj, Mi'raj, Al-Isrâ' wal-Mi'râj, إسراء nocturnal journey, معراج ascension.

This festival takes place from 27 to 28 Rajab (7th month of the Muslim year). It celebrates al Isrâ' the night journey of the Prophet, from Mecca to Jerusalem, followed by the ascension, al Miʿrâj, of the Prophet towards the divine throne.

Al 'Isrâ' took place eighteen months before the Hegira not far from the Kaʿba. It was around 621 CE, at the height of the persecutions inflicted on him by the Meccans, that Muhammad revealed to his faithful his nocturnal visit to Jerusalem and his ascension to heaven from the Rock (sakhra) on which he was raised later the Dome of the Rock (692) built by the Umayyad caliph ʿabd al-Malîk ibn Marwān (646-705).

Different surahs of the Koran recall al ‘Isrâ’ and al Miʿrâj:

Surah XVII, al-‘Isrâ’, The Night Journey, verse 1; both the title of this surah and its first verse speak explicitly of this nocturnal journey:

“Glory to him who made his servant travel by night, from the sacred mosque to the distant mosque in order to show him one of our signs”;

Surah LIII, an-Najm, The Star, verse 1 to 18; the first 18 verses of this surah speak of Miʿrâj, the Ascension:

1. By the star in its decline!

2. Your companion has not gone astray or been misled

3. and he utters nothing under the influence of passion;

4. it is nothing other than an inspired revelation.

5. What did [the Angel Gabriel] of prodigious strength teach him,

6. gifted with sagacity; it was then that he showed himself in his real [angelic] form,

7. while he was on the upper horizon.

8. Then he came closer and went even lower,

9. and was two bowshots away, or even closer.

10. He revealed to His servant what He revealed.

11. The heart has not lied in what it has seen.

12. Do you then dispute with him what he sees?

13. Yet he saw it, during another descent,

14. near the Sidrat-ul-Muntahā,

15. near it is the garden of Ma'w?:

16. at the time when the lotus was covered with that which covered it.

17. the view has in no way deviated or exceeded the measure.

18. He saw well some of the great wonders of his Lord.

Surah LXXXI at-Takwîr, The Bent Sun, verses 19 to 25 deal with the Miʿrâj, the Ascension:

19. That the Koran is the word of the illustrious envoy* (*The angel Gabriel).

20. Mighty with the master of the throne, firm,

21. Obedient and faithful.

22. Your fellow citizen is not possessed.

23. He saw clearly on the top of the sky,

24. And he does not suspect the mysteries that are revealed to him.

25. These are not the words of the demon chased with stones.

The Miʿrâj in the hadîth

The story of this journey is recounted in a hadith (saying of the Prophet) which deals with prayer and its prescriptions. Prophetic tradition reports several events that occurred during this trip. Ibn Ishaq (704-767), author of the oldest sîra, biography of the Prophet, recounts this journey. According to Muslim tradition, shortly before the Hegira, the Prophet made a miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in the company of the archangel Jibrîl, Gabriel.

This event is called ‘Isrâ’. In the holy city of Jerusalem, according to Tradition, the Prophet led a prayer session with a group of ancient prophets, including Ibrahim (Abraham) and ʿIsa (Jesus). Then on a winged beast named Burâq, he ascended to heaven and spoke with God without seeing him. The stories of Isra* and the ascension, Miʿraj, indicate that it was on the occasion of this event that the number of daily prayers required for every Muslim was set at five.

Jerusalem and the Miʿrâj

Jerusalem finds a special place in Muslim tradition. This is where al Miʿrâj took place; the place is also linked to the revelation of one of the great pillars of Islam, prayer and this city was chosen as the first qibla (direction of prayer) well before Mecca. Also, Islam has made this city its second spiritual pole, after the Haramayn, Mecca and Medina.

The Miʿrâj literature brings together three miraculous stories concerning the Prophet.

That of his purification by the angels who open his chest and cleanse his heart of all sin; that of the night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem on al-Burâq; and finally the ascension which includes the visit to the seven heavens, with a look at the underworld, the arrival at the Throne, the dialogue with God, the visit to paradise, the return to Mecca.

The celebration of Miʿrâj

The celebration of Miʿrâj gave rise to popular literature in prose or verse. The theme of Miʿrâj is sometimes part of the literature of muʿjizât, poems written in praise of the Prophet.

This theme is part of Mawlid (festival which celebrates the birth of the Prophet) in Ghana. In Indonesia, the celebration of Miʿrâj takes place at the mosque where the preacher begins with prayers followed by a sermon and explains passages from the Quran XVII, 1 and LIII, 9 in the light of famous commentaries. He also cites the Mawlid of al Barzanji, a poem which celebrates the Prophet, composed by Jaʿfar b. Hasan al-Barzanji (d.1119/1765).

Standing, out of respect for the Prophet, the assembly sings this mawlid. Still in Indonesia, tradition dictates that the imam also commemorates the Miʿrâj in his khutba, the Friday prayer which precedes and follows the 27th rajâb.

Further read : Miracle Al 'Isrâ' wa l-Mi`râj Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Mouḥammad

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