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Offline Reader Questions

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Isra / Meraj
« on: March 29, 2012, 11:00:59 AM »
Salam brother,

I wanted to know about the "Meraj"ascension of the Prophet to the heavens that the Secondary Sources describe. I find the details difficult to believe.


Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Isra / Meraj
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2012, 11:22:08 AM »
Salamun Alaikum.

The story of the Prophet's visit to heaven in the manner commonly understood is nowhere to be found in the Quran. These stories were transmitted by later tradionalists imparting different information centuries after the death of the Prophet.

Ibn Ishaq (Islam's earliest historian on the Prophet's biography) made use of different narratives that reached him in reference to the event and 'stitched' them together. It is what Ibn Ishaq left us with regards this narrative that is the main source of Muslim understanding today.

What level of trust one should place on one historian (Ibn Ishaq) who collected different traditions relating to an incident nearly 150 years after the death of the Prophet and piecing to them together is admittedly problematic.

At times Ibn Ishaq provided the names of his sources, sometimes 3rd person references, sometimes no names, sometimes he referred to 'other' stories, sometimes he just passed on the information of others without any verification and at times he simply concealed the identity of the sources altogether.

Please find below an example of the popular story of the 'Night Journey' of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Ascent to Heaven'. Note in particular, how Ibn Ishaq acquires the information:
 

Some Authorities Given:

"Ziyad b. 'Abdullah al-Bakka'i from Muhammad b.Ishaq told me the following"
"The following account reached me from 'Abdullah b. Mas'ud and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, and Aisha the prophet's wife, and Mu'awiya b.Abu Sufyan, and al-Hasan b. Abul-Hasan al-Basri, and Ibn Shihab al Zuhri and Qatada and other traditionalists, and Umm Hani' d. of Abu Talib. It is pieced together in the story that follows, each one contributing something of what he was told about what happened ..."
  [1]
 
3rd Person Reference:

"I was told that al-Hasan said that the apostle said: 'While I was sleeping ..."
"I was told that Qatada said that he was told that the apostle said: 'When I came up ..." 
[2]
 
No Names Given

"A traditionalist who had got it from one who had heard it from the apostle told me that the latter said: "All the angels who met me when I entered the lowest heaven ..." [3]

Reference to Stories:

"In his story al-Hasan said: 'The apostle and Gabriel went their way until ..." [4]
 
Sometimes just passing on the information of others without any verification:

"According to what I have heard 'Abdullah b. Masud used to say: Buraq, the animal whose every stride ..." [5]
 
Concealing the identity of the sources:

"One whom I have no reason to doubt told me on the authority of Abu Sa'id al-Khudri: I heard the apostle say, ..." [6]

Please see below a link which deals with Ibn Ishaq as a historian and cites examples relevant to your question.

IBN ISHAQ
http://quransmessage.com/articles/ibn%20ishaq%20FM3.htm

I hope that helps, God willing.

Regards,
Joseph.


References:

[1]   GUILLAUME. A, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, Oxford University Press, Page 181 Highlights in black text are my own insertions and are for clarification and emphasis only.
[2] Ibid., Page 182
[3] Ibid., Page 185
[4] Ibid., Page 182
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., Page 184

'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell