#352: Isra’ and Mi’raj: Soul and Body

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. Is it true that isra’ and mi’raj only happen on the soul of Rasullullah PBUH or did it involve both the soul and body? Hope for an explanation.

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

Basically, the Isra’ and Mi’raj incident is narrated by Allah SWT in the Quran. Allah SWT states:


سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَـٰرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَـٰتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [1]

Syeikh Tahir bin ‘Asyur said that the journey of Isra’ and Mi’raj is an out of the norm incident (a miracle) where the journey begins and ends in just a part of a night. [2]

Isra’ Mi’raj happens to only the soul or both the soul and body?

Coming back to the above question, in this issue, it is undeniable that there are several different opinions.

Some of them are of the opinion that Rasullullah PBUH journeyed from al-Haram to al-Aqsa Mosque with only his soul and not his body. While another opinion said that the Prophet PBUH went on the journey with both his body and soul.

Among the verses that become the focus in this issue is the statement of Allah SWT:


سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al-Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [3]

When commenting on this verse, Imam al-Tabari said: Scholars have differing opinions regarding how (the methodology) Allah took His Prophet PBUH from Masjidil Haram to al-Aqsa Mosque. Some of them stated: that Allah SWT took him with his body. Thus, the Prophet PBUH journeyed in one night as he rode the burqa from Baitullah al-Haram and headed to al-Aqsa until he arrived there. Then Allah showed him what is wanted in terms of the miracles of His commandments and the greatness of His Sovereignty. Next, he gathered therewith the other prophets and prayed with them. Followed by him ascending to the seventh heavens. Then, Allah SWT revealed His commandment there as He wishes and subsequently, he returned back to Masjid al-Haram on the same night and get to perform the Subuh prayer there.

Next, Imam al-Tabari cited the second opinion that states that Rasullullah PBUH didn’t journey with his body but rather just his soul. This is as narrated by Saidina Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufian, when he was asked about the isra’ of the Prophet PBUH, he answered: It happened through a true dream.

While Umm al-Mu’minin Aísyah R.anha said: “The body of Rasullullah didn’t disappear but Allah SWT took his soul.”

Regarding the statement from Saidina Mu’awiyah and Umm al-Mu’minin A’isyah R.Anha, they are narrated by Muhammad bin Ishak, he said:


حَدَّثَنِي بَعْضُ آلِ أَبِي بَكْرٍ أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ كَانَتْ تَقُولُ مَا فُقِدَ جَسَدُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ أَسْرَى بِرُوحِهِ

“I was told by some of the family of Abu Bakar, A’isyah R.Anha said: The body of Rasullullah PBUH didn’t disappear. However, Allah took his soul.”

This athar is narrated from Ibn Hisyam in his book Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah (2/46). This narration is however criticized by most renowned scholars.  Al-Syeikh ‘Alawi Al-Saqqaf said: This athar is dhaif and it is narrated by Ibn Ishaq with a discontinued sanad. [4]

Furthermore, through this narration, it is clear that Ibn Ishaq didn’t specify who it is from the family of Abu Bakar who told him such. It is considered mubham which means that there is vagueness in the narrator. Even if the person is named, we should analyze the status of the individual, is he thiqah or otherwise. Hence, it is clear that this narration is dhaif and couldn’t be made as an argument or support.

Imam al-Tabari issued his opinion and concluded both the above opinions saying: The accurate opinion according to us is: Indeed, Allah SWT took His slave Muhammad PBUH on a journey from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa as informed by Allah to His slaves. And as it has been made clear from the narrations from the Prophet PBUH, Allah SWT places him on a burqa until the Prophet PBUH arrives by riding it there and praying there (Masjid al-Aqsa) together with the Prophets and Messengers and Allah SWT showed His great Signs.

Thus, there isn’t any meaning for those who hold the opinion: the Prophet PBUH was taken just with his soul and not his body. The reason is if this is the situation, then surely the matter isn’t made as evidence for his prophethood nor could it be argued that it is a miracle and sign that he is the Messenger. Hence, Allah SWT informed it as such in the Quran that He is the one who took His slave on a journey and He didn’t say that He just took the soul of His slave. Thus. A person shouldn’t be excessive in saying what has been stated by Allah with another opinion. [5]

Likewise, Imam al-Tabari also holds the opinion that the sahih and clear evidences showed that Rasullullah PBUH took the journey on an animal named burqa. If the isra’ happened with just his soul, surely, the soul wouldn’t be riding on the burqa. The reason is an animal mount will only bear the weight of something made of matter.

Regarding the journey of the Prophet PBUH on the buraq, it is stated in a hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik R.A where the Messenger PBUH said:

ثُمَّ أُتِيتُ بِدَابَّةٍ أَبْيَضَ يُقَالُ لَهُ الْبُرَاقُ فَوْقَ الْحِمَارِ وَدُونَ الْبَغْلِ

“I was then brought a white beast which is called al-Buraq, bigger than a donkey and smaller than a mule.”

This clearly shows that the Prophet PBUH clearly sees the color, shape and condition brought to the Prophet PBUH. Then the Prophet PBUH narrated that the Prophet PBUH mounted the animal and said:

فَحُمِلْتُ عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ انْطَلَقْنَا حَتَّى أَتَيْنَا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا

“I was mounted on it, and then we went forth till we reached the lowest heaven.” [6]

As stated by Imam al-Tabari previously, the word mounted and sitting on something shows that it happens physically and not just in the form of just a soul. This is the opinion agreed by Imam al-Nawawi when he was commenting on this hadith. He cited the opinion of Imam al-Qadhi ‘Iyadh who said: Scholars have differing opinions regarding the issue of isra’ of Rasullullah PBUH. It is said: All of the incidents happened in a dream. The truth held by the majority of people, most salaf and jurists, the hadith experts and mutakallimin is that the Prophet PBUH took the journey with his body. The athars clearly show this for those who analyzed and did the research. And one cannot change what is apparent. Moreover, there is nothing that is impossible for it to happen that needs an interpretation. [7]

Conclusion

After analyzing several presented opinions above, we are inclined towards the opinion that the incident of isra’ (journey) of Rasullullah PBUH from Masjidil Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa happens with both the soul and body of the Prophet PBUH. This is taking into consideration the analysis of divine revelation as well as sahih hadiths that clearly stated this.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Surah al-Isra’: 1

[2] See Tahrir al-Ma’na al-Sadid wa Tanwir al-‘Aql al-Jadid fi Tafsir al-Quran al-Majid, 14/10

[3] Surah Al-Isra’(1)

[4] See Takhrij Ahadith al-Zhilal, pg. 246

[5] See Jami’ al-Bayan fi Ta’wil Ayi al-Quran, 17/328

[6] Narrated by Muslim (164)

[7] See al-Minhaj Syarh Sahih Muslim, 2/357

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