Posted by: Dawud Israel | October 20, 2010

Contemplating the Ascension

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Bismillah, alhamdulillah wa salat wa salam ala rasulullah.

“Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was the beloved, and of all creation he was the most intense in longing for his Lord because of the sincerity of his love. The Real knew of his longing for Him and the paucity of his patience for witnessing Him. Thus he hastened that vision to him, before granting it to all of the prophets and messengers (alayhim salam). That only increased his longing for him. Do you not see how he chose when given a choice (to continue living or to do)? He said, “Rather the Most Exalted Companion (Rafiq al-A’la!).” (1)

I began memorizing hadith this summer and well I would repeat them to myself, I would contemplate them. Often I would wonder as to the meanings of the words of the best of creation. But I would also try and think of it in relation to many issues on my mind- one that compelled me was that of the Isra wa’l Miraaj- the Ascension. The quote above made me think how profoundly this would’ve affected the life of Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam, this single greatest event in human history and how perhaps, there would be something of that yearning and memory of the Isra, even if its subtle, colored into even the simplest words of Rasulullah salallahu alayhi salam?

The Greeting and Meeting with Allah

We think of giving salams to our brothers and sisters in Islam as if its something very ordinary. But the salams is a familiar practice that is prominent in the exceptional situation of the Miraaj. What would you say to Allah if you meet Him? We’d all be a little speechless, after all, He knows our most secret thoughts. The salams that we give to the mumineen is a preparation of the salams we will give to al-Mumin, Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

al-badi’u bis-salam al-bari’u minal kibr

The first to render salams is without pride. (Bayhaqi)

This is a very simple encouraging hadith for being sociable with each other and to put down our pride and arrogance. This is a human trait to think of oneself as important enough that others should give you salams, rather than you give them salams first. But in the context of the Isra wa’l Miraaj, the meaning is a bit more profound. When Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam entered the Divine Presence it was he who first initiated the salams. This is significant because we know that all Majesty and Glory belong to Allah- none can claim the right to have pride but Allah, since everything is His creation. Hence, it was our Beloved Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam who first gave the salams, and not Allah- because if Allah is without pride then there is a problem, but also because this is Mustafa salallahu alayhi wasalam, and he is without pride and this is the perfection of his noble character. What we should note then is how Allah and His Beloved Messenger are familiar with each other even before this meeting, Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam knows Allah, knows the Sunnah of Allah and Allah knows His Messenger (salallahu alayhi wasalam) in such an intimate way that it shows this is more than meeting between man and Maker.

inna awlan-nasi billahi min bada ahum bisalam

The closes to Allah of people is the one who begins the salam. (Abu Dawud)

If my friend gives salam first then it is an indication of the place his heart is in- that he hastens to give the salams because of the reward attached and because he is free of pride. In the context of the Isra wa’l Miraaj, the first salam that was rendered to Allah in His presence was that of Sayyiduna Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam. Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam is closest to Allah. What were the words that were given in this salam to Allah? Those familiar words we recite in our salaat whilst sitting in iftirash:

Our Nabi salallahu alayhi wasalam initiated the greeting to his Lord:

At-tahyatu lillahi was-salatu wat-tayibatu

All compliments, all physical prayer,
and all worship are for Allah.

Allah azza wa ja’al replied:

as-salam alayka ayuhanabiyu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu
Peace be upon you, Oh Prophet,
and Allah’s mercy and blessings.

And our Nabi salallahu alayhi wasalam responded:

was-salam alayna wa la ibadalahi saliheen
Peace be on us and on all righteous slaves of Allah.

Our Nabi salallahu alayhi wasalam initiates the greeting, Allah returns it with a dua for Nabi salallahu alayhi wasalam but Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam whose foremost concern is the welfare of the believers, extends Allah’s dua to the Muslims. Its remarkable that even in God’s Holy Presence our Prophet salallahu alayhiwasalam is remembering the Muslims in the dunya, while he is in the world of the akhira, which alone says something about how sincerely and earnestly he Rasulullah Salallahu alayhi wasalam, cared for us.

The Prayer and the Ascension

Whilst in that meeting with Allah subhana wa ta’ala we were given the command for 50 prayers in a day. But as we all know the story of the advice of Musa alayhi salam to reduce the amount. It is interesting to note the respect Rasulullah salallahu alayhi wasalam has for Musa alayhi salam who is his elder, having come before and having experience. It shows the relevance of worldly knowledge even in the Heavens, the concern for the weaknesses of those who live in the mundane dunya is a characteristic of those in Heaven. This is proof that concern for others is indeed of heavenly origin and a characteristic of those who dwell in Heaven. From this we can also see that even in the Heavens the need for process is important- our Rasul salallahu alayhi wasalam went back and forth until the number stopped at 5 prayers a day. It was a gradual process, a deliberation and a journey of sorts for the caring of the ummah- and this too reflects the importance of sabr and taking one’s time is also of heavenly origin and relevance. And alhamdulillah, we all know that our prayers are what will have a big impact on our judgment on Yawmul Qiyama- one can be weak yet if they have the prayer they can be saved- yet here Allah, Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasalam and Musa alayhi salam have compassion upon us, by lowering the salat number- subhanallah they have compassion even upon God’s greatest compassion and generosity- the prayer.

The hadith mention:

as salah mirajul mumin

The Prayer is the Ascension of the believer.

This hadith is where we come to participate somewhat as well in the Isra. If the prayer is the Isra of the believer, then it will help us achieve a meeting and closeness to Allah. It is hard to make that leap between prayer and Isra- how is my prayer like something as fantastic as the Isra wa’l Miraj? But we can look at the characteristics of the Isra wa’l Miraaj of our Nabi salallahu alayhi wasalam and use those characteristics to fill in the gaps- the brotherhood of the prophets, the contemplation of Heaven and Hell, the importance and heavenly origin of compassion and sabr as noted above, the fact that nothing is instantaneous even in Jannah, and that the whole Ascension can take place in what is only but an instant in this world- in such a small amount of time, so even in a split second in our prayer we can experience a powerful spiritual opening- and that is not difficult for Allah. There is much more to contemplate and ponder over- for that I would point readers to this read.

There is much more I wanted to write, but its such a huge topic that I’ll stop here or else it will never finish.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


1 The Subtleties of the Ascension. Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, trans. Frederick S. Colby. Fons Vitae.


  1. I’m not a scholar and this post was not an explanation of the hadiths- just a contemplation and reflection on them.

  2. MashaAllah, this was a beautiful read. JazakAllahu Khair.

  3. […] Bismillah, alhamdulillah wa salat wa salam ala rasulullah. "Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) was the beloved, and of all creation he was the most intense in longing for his Lord because of the sincerity of his love. The Real knew of his longing for Him and the paucity of his patience for witnessing Him. Thus he hastened that vision to him, before granting it … Read More […]

  4. jazakhallah khair! loved it

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