Night Journey – Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Also known as al-Isra and Laylat al-Miraj. Refers to the journey made by Muhammad from the Great Mosque in Mecca to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on a winged horselike creature known as Buraq, followed by Muhammad’s ascension into heaven. Briefly mentioned in the Quran ( 17:1 ) but known primarily through hadith. During the journey, Muhammad traveled with Gabriel to see everything in heaven and earth and then to the Temple in Jerusalem, where he met with Abraham , Moses , Jesus , and other prophets there and led them in prayer. Then Muhammad was shown a ladder, which he climbed with Gabriel up to the Gate of Watchers in heaven, where he met Jesus, John the Baptist , Joseph , Idris , Aaron , Moses, and Abraham. Muslims debate whether this journey was physical or mystical in nature. The result of the journey was the reduction of daily prayers to five from fifty after lengthy debate with Moses. Muhammad argued that fifty prayers per day would represent too great a hardship for believers. Daily prayers were instituted after this event. The Night Journey made Jerusalem the third holiest city in Islam and affirmed the continuity of Islam with Judaism and Christianity. It is celebrated annually on the twenty-seventh of Rajab and is a popular theme for Islamic artwork and legends.