“Shab E Miraj” refers to the nocturnal journey of Prophet Muhammad from the Great Mosque of Mecca to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and thereafter to the heaven, on the same night. The journey Prophet took around 621 CE is believed to be both physical and spiritual journey.
Muhammad completed his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and finally to heaven, mounted on a magical horse known as Al Buraq in Muslim mythology. The night is also called “Isra and Miraj”, “Lailat al Miraj” and is celebrated on the 27th day of the Islamic calendar month of Rajab, which is the seventh month.
Shab E Miraj 2019
Shab E Miraj or Lailat al Miraj will be begin on the night of 12th April 2019, Thursday; however, the festival is celebrated also on the following day i.e. Friday, 13th April 2019.
When is Shab E Miraj Celebrated?
Shab E Miraj is celebrated on the 27th day of Islamic calendar month of Rajab – the seventh month of Islamic calendar. It falls on the same day as per the Islamic calendar but the date as per the Gregorian calendar varies, corresponding between the months of April and May. The variation is attributed to the fact that – Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar (moon based), while Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar (Sun based).
“Miraj” is an Arabic word which means “ascent” in English. Thus, in this context it refers to the ascent of Prophet Muhammad to heaven. “Shab” on the other hand, means “night”. Therefore, the name Shab E Miraj refers to the night of ascent of Prophet Muhammad to heaven. The fateful night is also called as Isra and Miraj, where Isra refers to the Prophets journey from Great Mosque at Mecca to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Similarly, “lailat” is also an Arabic word meaning “night”; therefore, Lailat-al-Miraj also means the “night of ascent”.
History of Shab E Miraj
The events of the fateful night of Shab E Miraj are mentioned in the holy Quran and have been discussed in details in Hadith literature. The nocturnal journey that the Prophet took sometimes around 621 CE has been narrated in the Hadith by two of his disciples – Anas ibn Malik and Ibn Abbas, both were young boys at the time of Prophet’s journey to heaven.
The holy Quran describes the journey that the Prophet took from sacred Masjid to the farthest Masjid. Though, there is no specific name of the farthest Mosque provided, it is believed beyond doubt by Muslim scholars that it is “Al-Aqsa” mosque in Jerusalem.
However, there was no building at the location during Muhammad’s lifetime. It was just a place where Muhammad prostrated to Allah while reaching from the great Mosque. With regards to the Prophet’s worship of Allah, the place was considered sacred.
After the demise of Muhammad, a prayer house was built by Rashid Caliph Umar at the place in Jerusalem, where Prophet Muhammad prostrated to Allah, before further moving towards heaven with Gabriel. Since then the structure was reportedly destroyed by earthquakes, and the structure that stands today was built by Fatimid caliph “Ali az-Zahir” in 1033 CE.
Custom and Tradition of Shab E Miraj
The custom and tradition of celebrating this festival varies among Islamic communities. Some people celebrate it by spending whole night in listening or reading the Isra and Mi’raj story at any of the mosque or home. They decorate their houses and whole area of the celebration with the candles, electric lights and many other means. They also prepare some delicious foods, sweets and etc to celebrate their festival with great joy and happiness. Elder people of the family or community vastly explain the Mohammad’s life story to their children and other family members.
According to the Gregorian calendar, Prophet Mohammad lived in the region of Saudi Arabia during 570 CE to 632 CE and took by the Allah to the heaven during 620 CE. His first part of journey called as Isra (from Mecca to mosque) second part of journey called Mi’raj (from mosque to heaven). Both of his journeys are commemorated as the festival of Isra and Mi’raj by all the Muslim community worldwide.
Isra – Muhammad’s Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem
The part of Muhammad’s nightly journey from the great Mosque of Mecca to Jerusalem is known as Isra. It started when angel Gabriel came with Al Buraq to meet Muhammad at the great mosque. Al Buraq was the traditional steed of the prophets. Subsequently, Buraq carried Muhammad from the great mosque to Jerusalem at the place where present day Al Aqsa mosque (the farthest mosque) stands.
On reaching the place Muhammad alighted from Buraq and tethered it to the Haram esh- Sharif, a sacred hill located in Old Jerusalem and in the vicinity of present day Al Aqsa mosque. Muhammad performed prayer to Allah and is also believed to be tested by Gabriel.
One of the disciples of Muhammad, named Anas ibn Malik had narrated that three vessels were presented by Gabriel to Muhammad and he was asked to choose any one of them. One vessel contained wine, another contained water and the last one had milk. Muhammad chose milk, which resembles the inner instincts (fitrah).
Miraj – Ascent to the Heaven
Miraj is the second part of Muhammad’s night journey. In Arabic Miraj literally means “ladder”. Gabriel reportedly took Muhammad to seven stages of the heaven. Muhammad is also believed to have met earlier prophets, Abraham, Moses and Jesus during the journey. The Prophet was taken to a large lote tree, which is a deciduous shrub tree marking the end of seventh heaven. Holy Quran mentions the tree as “Sidrat al-Muntaha”.
It is believed that Gabriel extracted the heart of Muhammad and washed it with holy water of zumzum before ascending to heaven with him. While travelling through the seven stages of heaven, Muhammad met other Prophets on each level. On the first level he met Adam, on the second he met John the Baptist and Jesus, on third he met Joseph, on fourth he met Idris, on fifth he met Aaron, on sixth he met Moses and on the seventh and last he met Abraham.
While on the seventh heaven Gabriel stopped at the holy tree while Muhammad proceeded to meet Allah. Muhammad was instructed by Allah that all Muslims must pray for at least fifty times in a day. On his way back to earth Muhammad met Moses, who told him that praying for fifty times in a day, would be impossible for any Muslim to follow.
Mosses instructed Muhammad to go back to Allah for a reduction. Latter is believed to have travelled nine times between Moses and Allah, before the prayers were reduced to five times a day. Moses again asked Muhammad to get it further reduced, but the latter relented, stating that he is thankful for five times and thinks that five times of prayer is required by any Muslim to keep his faith in Islam and Allah.
Shab E Miraj Celebrations
Shab E Miraj is celebrated by the Muslim community in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey or elsewhere, by the Muslim community. Though, in India Shab E Miraj is a restricted holiday, in Muslim majority nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh, it is a compulsory holiday. The celebration; however, differs from community to community or from nation to nation.
Some Muslims customarily offer prayers on the night while some indulge in lighting up their houses and streets. Disciples throng to mosques to perform Salah (Namaz) and to listen to the story of Muhammad’s transition to heaven. They are told about the spiritual cleansing of Muhammad’s heart by Gabriel, by the holy water of zumzum. People also feast on delicacies after performing Salah.
Significance of Shab E Miraj
Many Muslim clerics believe that the journey the Prophet took that night, mainly the Miraj (from Jerusalem to heaven) was not a physical one but rather a spiritual one. It indicates the journey of the soul and also the potential of a human to be elevated above materialistic surroundings and meet the almighty.
Shab E Miraj also has much religious significance for the Muslims, as it is from the story of Shab E Miraj that the tradition of observing Salah five times a day has been inferred. It also gives the Muslims an insight into the devotion and beliefs of Muhammad and inspires them to follow the same discipline and devotion.