The Meaning of Isra' and Mi'raj in Islam

The Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey and Ascension

Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem. David Silverman/Getty Images

The year 619 A.D. was known as the “Year of Sadness” in Islamic history. The Muslim community was under constant persecution, and in that year the Prophet Muhammad’s beloved wife Khadeeja and his uncle Abu Talib both died. Without Abu Talib’s protection, the Muslim community experienced ever-increasing harassment in Makkah. The Prophet Muhammad visited the nearby city of Taif to preach the Oneness of God and seek asylum from the Meccan oppressors; he was eventually mocked and run out of town.

In the midst of this adversity, the Prophet Muhammad had a comforting experience, which is now known as Isra’ and Mi’raj (the Night Visit and Ascension). During the month of Rajab, the Prophet Muhammad made a night -time trip to the city of Jerusalem (isra’), visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and from there was raised up into heaven (mi’raj). While there, he came face-to-face with previous prophets and received instructions about the number of prayers the Muslim community should observe each day. Muhammad and his followers perceived this as a miraculous journey, and it gave them strength and hope that God was with them despite recent setbacks.

Non-Muslims, and even some Muslims, debate over whether this event was an actual physical journey, or merely a vision. The majority view among Muslim scholars is that Muhammad truly traveled in body and soul, as a miracle from God.

The Isra’ and Mi’raj is not universally observed by Muslims.

Some individuals or communities conduct special lectures or reading about the story and the lessons to be learned from it. Muslims use the time to remember: