Al-Isra and Al-Mi’raj – Part 3
وَبَرَكَاتُهُ اللهِ وَرَحْمَةُ عَلَيْكُمْ السَّلاَمُ
In the seventh heaven, the prophet saw many things. However, as we do not have one continuous timeline of the Mi’raj, we may not know exactly in what order these events took place, but only what the events were.
As the prophet ascended through the heavens, he met many angels who gave salaam to him. And all of them had an aura of happiness or joy, and greeted the prophet with a smile. However, there was one angel who was brought to give salaam to the prophet who did not smile and was completely sombre, and this was Malik – the gatekeeper of Jahannam. And so the prophet asked Jibrael (AS) why he was like this, and Jibrael responded, ‘He has never smiled or laughed since he has been created. Were he to have smiled for anybody it would have been you.’
As well as this, at some point in either the sixth or the seventh heaven, the prophet was also given three gifts. And these were: the last two ayat of Surah Baqarah, the blessing that any member of the prophet’s ummah would enter Jannah as long as they had not committed shirk, and the 5 salahwaat. Now, we know the salawaat were decreed upon the prophet directly by Allah in their meeting, however for the other two gifts we are not sure if that is moment when it happened or if they were given to him as some other point. And so there are some opinions that state that the last two ayat of Surah Baqarah are the only two ayat recited directly to the prophet by Allah, however we cannot be sure of this.
Now, after the prophet entered the seventh heaven and met Ibrahim (AS), he ascended even further upwards where he saw the Sidrat Al-Munthaha. Now a sidra is a type of tree that is known for its large, shade-giving branches, and munthaha means at the end. So the Sidrat Al-Munthaha is the Lote Tree at the Very End. And the prophet narrates that the fruits of this tree were as large as the water jars of Hajar – which essentially means they were the size of large barrels – and the leaves were like the ears of an elephant. And Jibrael (AS) rose with the prophet even higher till they reached the Sidrat Al-Munthaha, and the prophet reported that, ‘It was enveloped by moving colours. I don’t know what those colours are.’ Another narration adds to this, ‘One of the things that it was enveloped by were butterflies made of gold.’ And in another version, ‘When it was enveloped by what it was enveloped by, it kept on changing until nobody could describe it for you.’ So this shows us that the form of the tree was so otherworldly that the prophet found it difficult to describe in retrospect, but it gives us an indication of the majesty and dynamism of the tree.
So what was the purpose of the Sidrat Al-Munthaha? We have very little information about this, however we know that this was the last thing that the prophet saw before he went up to meet Allah. And we also know that everything that Allah raises up – such as du’as, good deeds, salah – stops at the Sidrat Al-Munthaha and is absorbed, and everything that Allah sends down – such as his mercy and even rain – originates from it. As well as this, at the base of the Sidrat Al-Munthaha there are four rivers, two of which were hidden from the prophet, and two of which were open. And the prophet asked Jibrael (AS) what they were, to which he responded, ‘As for the hidden ones, they are in Jannah. And as for the visible ones, they are the River Nile and the Euphrates River.’ And so this tells us that the Nile and the Euphrates are blessed rivers, and this makes sense as the very first civilizations began on the shores of those two rivers, and the area that they occupy is known as The Cradle of Civilisation. We also know that the two rivers in Jannah are Al-Kawthar and Al-Salsabeel, both of which are mentioned in the Quran.
Now a point to mention about the location of the Sidrat Al-Munthaha: in one narration the prophet says that he reached the tree in the sixth heaven, however in other narrations he says it was in the seventh heaven. Now, as these are direct contradictions, some scholars say that the trunk of the Sidrat Al-Munthaha begins in the sixth heaven, however its canopy and leaves are in the seventh heaven. And this also makes sense in relation to other narrations.
And it was here that the prophet Muhammad ﷺ also saw Jibrael (AS) in his original form. And this had only ever happened twice in the entirety of the prophet’s life. And the prophet narrated that Jibrael had 600 wings – which was the greatest number of any angel – and from his feathers were dripping pearls and corals. And the prophet saw him in the highest place, closer than two bows length. And this is mentioned in the Quran, and affirmed in a narration by Aisha (RA).
Now from here the prophet was raised even higher, until he could even hear the pen writing.
What was this pen? The first thing that Allah created was the pen, and then he told it to write. So the pen asked Allah, ‘What should I write?’
And Allah responded, ‘Write everything that will happen until the Day of Judgement.’ And so the pen has no scribe, and it writes directly from the orders of Allah, by Allah.
Now it is reasonable to make the assumption that from the Sidrat Al-Munthaha, the prophet ascended alone. And this is because in the narration, there is no mention made of Jibrael (AS) who had previously been taking the prophet up, and from what we know there is no angel above the Sidrat Al-Munthaha. And so it is also reasonable to assume that the prophet rose to a level that no other creature of Allah has even risen to.
And it was here that the prophet met Allah. As to what was said however, there is no record; the prophet kept the details of this meeting to himself, and this shows us that it is not something for us to know. However, what we do know is that here Allah gave the prophet the gift of the 50 salahwaat.
And so the prophet began to return, and when he reached the sixth heaven he once again met Musa (AS). And Musa asked, ‘What did your Lord tell you for your ummah?’
And the prophet replied, ‘My Lord told me that I should tell my ummah to pray 50 times a day.’
At this, Musa said, ‘Go back to your Lord and ask him to lower this, because I have more experience than you with the Bani Israel and your ummah will not be able to do 50 times a day.’
And so the prophet looked at Jibrael (AS) for his opinion, and Jibrael nodded to him. So the prophet returned to Allah, and here there is a difference of opinion on whether Allah lowered the number of salawaat by 5 or by 10. But the main point is that he lowered them. And so the prophet returned to the sixth heaven, however Musa was not content and told Muhammad ﷺ to return and ask for it to be lowered once again. And this went on and on until finally the prophet returned with 5 prescribed daily salawaat. Once again Musa told him to return as he believed this still to be too much for the prophet’s ummah, however this time Muhammad ﷺ said, ‘I have gone back and forth until I am embarrassed now. But I am content and happy.’ When he said this, the voice of Allah called out, ‘My fardh has been established, and I have made things easier for my servants. It is 5, but it shall be rewarded with 50.’ And this shows us two things: first, the exulted status of the salah – that the prophet was taken all the way to the creator to be given it, rather than it descending upon him – and it also reminds us of the purpose of our creation, which is to worship Allah. Because if we were to have to pray 50 salawaat a day we would literally be praying every 30 minutes (even through the night!), and this would leave not time for anything except the worship of Allah. And so the fact that it was lowered to 5 is a blessing and an ease upon us, and so we should always remember our true purpose and hold the fardh salah in high esteem.
Dr.Yasir Qadhi’s Seerah of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 022