سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا
مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى
الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آَيَاتِنَا
إِنَّه هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
Limitless in His Glory is Allah who transported his servant by night from the inviolable House of Worship (at Makkah) to the remote House of Worship (at Jerusalem), the surroundings of which We had blessed, so that We might show him some of our symbols.
For, indeed, Allah alone is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.
(Sura al-`Isra’, Chapter 17:1)
We thank Allah, Our Creator and Sustainer, for affording us this incredible opportunity – of keeping our longstanding Cape cultural tradition of commemorating Layla al-Isra’ wal Mi`raj albeit virtually via social media.
I would like to reflect on a critical lesson we should learn from the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ night journey and his ascent through the heavens, which should inform the disposition of every conscientious Muslim especially during these challenging times.
From the historical perspective, it is paramount for us to appreciate that al-Isra’ wal-M`iraj occurred at one of the most difficult periods in the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, almost exactly one year prior to the hijrah, his migration from Makkah to Madinah.
At this time in his life our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had been grieving the loss of his uncle and protector Abu Talib, as well as his beloved wife and friend, Lady Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her). They were his greatest pillars of support and their demise dealt a devastating blow to his prophetic mission.
This year of great loss and deep sadness in our beloved Prophet’s ﷺ life came to be known as `am al-huzn – the year of sadness or sorrow. Without his uncle to protect him and his wife to support and comfort him, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was left vulnerable in the face of a cruel and relentless enemy. It was because of this precarious position that the Prophet ﷺ decided to leave the hard-hearted Makkans and try to preach his message to the people in the nearby city of Ta’if. But the people of Ta’if were no more receptive to his message – they were hateful and hostile and encouraged street urchins to drive him out of the city.
Traditions inform us that the Prophet ﷺ was insulted, humiliated and stoned until he bled profusely from his wounds and it dripped down at his feet. And as he lay outside the city of Ta’if, crushed with anguish and sorrow, he made one of his most poignant prayers which clearly articulates the state of despair he found himself in at this time:
O my Lord! I complain to you of my weakness, the lack of my resourcefulness and of my humiliation before the people. O most Merciful of those who are merciful. You are the Lord of the oppressed and my Lord. To whom have you entrusted me, to an unsympathetic foe, who receives me with hostility, or to an enemy to whom you have given control over my affair? I do not care for anything as long as you are not displeased with me. Your pardon is that which I desire the most. I seek shelter and assistance in the light of your countenance, which dispels all sorts of darkness and which remedies the condition of this world and the hereafter. To You do I submit until I earn Your pleasure. Everything is powerless without your support.
It was during this time of extreme adversity, when circumstances had become desperate, that Allah sent the Angel Jibril to take Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on the most glorious journey of al-Isra’ wal-M`iraj. Many scholars have therefore concluded that these difficult circumstances provided the impetus for this nocturnal mystical journey and is known as the immediate cause or sabab al-M`iraj.
Al-Isra’ wal-M`iraj as seen from this historical perspective thus represents a pedagogy of hope and reassurance.
Shortly after this uplifting spiritual experience the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ left Makkah and was joyously welcomed to Madinah where he became the leader of a new society whose destiny was to change the fortunes of the Arabian Peninsula forever.
As we commemorate this miraculous journey of our beloved Prophet ﷺ, we must remember that it is not simply a story which is disconnected from us, but that it holds much relevance to our personal lives, especially at this challenging time when we are practising and enduring social distancing, isolation, quarantine and other mitigation strategies to flatten the curve or slow the rate of transmission of the coronavirus. Al-Isra’ wal-Miraj therefore holds a clear lesson for us, that no matter what difficulty we may encounter in our own historical sojourns, we must remain patient and steadfast and never lose hope because without hope there can only be despair.
Notwithstanding the despondency which abounds in our world at this time, it is the responsibility and duty of the conscientious believer to keep the spirit of hope alive in communities and to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.
There are many Qur’anic passages that exhort us in this regard. The most striking of these come from surah al-Inshirah, chapter 94, verses 5–8:
فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْر يُسْرًا
إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
فَإِذَا فَرَغْتَ فَانْصَبْ
وَإِلَى رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ
Verily after difficulty there is ease. After difficulty there is ease. And when the difficulty is over still strive and make your Lord the object of your striving (Q 94:5-8)
During the next few weeks leading up to Ramadan, and while we are patiently practising physical distancing and spending more time in our homes, it may be an opportune time to bond with our spouses and children and use this opportunity to deepen our knowledge of Islam and strengthen our spirituality through making our Salah together as a family.
With the closure of our communal spaces and especially our masajid, let’s strive to transform our homes into sanctuaries and places of worship, where we fortify our homes with dhikr and recitation of the Qur’an. We should embrace these extraordinary times as an opportunity to reset our relationships with the Divine and with those closest to us. I recommend that we allocate the time after the maghrib prayers or any other prayers, to sit together as a family to make dhikr or recite the Qur’an and seek comfort in the devotion and protection of Allah. In Cape Town we have a longstanding tradition of sunan – recommended adhkar and adi`yyah that we recite aloud after every Salah. This is a good time to pass on this excellent tradition to our children and to also reflect on the inspirational meanings of these invocations.
Most of all at this challenging time we need to remain positive and place our trust in Allāh (wa tawakkal ʿalal-Allāh). However, it might be useful to remind ourselves about the true meaning of placing our trust in Allah. The real import of the concept of tawakkal ʿalal-Allāh is beautifully vouchsafed to us in the following instructive prophetic tradition (hadith) in which the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ asked a Bedouin why he did not tie his camel. The Bedouin replied because I have placed my trust in Allah. The Prophet Muhammad taught him not to be reckless but to tie his camel first and then place his trust in Allah.
Anas ibn Malik reported: A man asked, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah”.
عن أنس بن مالك قَالَ رَجُلٌ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ
أَعْقِلُهَا وَأَتَوَكَّلُ أَوْ أُطْلِقُهَا وَأَتَوَكَّلُ
قَالَ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ اعْقِلْهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ
(Sunan al-Tirmidhi -2517)
At this time practicing social distancing is our solemn responsibility, the rest is in the hands of Allah.
Let us continue to offer fervent prayers and du`as for the health of those who are afflicted by the Coronavirus and offer prayers of bereavement for those who lost their lives as a result of this disease. We pray and make du`a that Allah, al-Shafi` – the source of All-Healing, protect and keep us all safe from the Coronavirus (COVID-19). While we remain isolated in our homes, we can use the phone to reach out to our extended families, especially our elders, to check in on them and offer support and assistance where we can.
Please join me in a special supplication at this commemorative time of Layla al-Isra’ wal Mi`raj to appeal to Allah, the Source of all-Healing to grant us healing at this challenging time:
|بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ|
|Bismillāhir raḥmānir raḥīm|
|In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.|
|اَللّٰهُمَّ اَنْتَ الشَّافِىْ|
|O Allah, You are the Healer.|
|لَاشِفَآ ءَ اِلَّاشِفَا ءُكَ|
|Lā shifā a illā shifā-uk|
|There is no healing except that which comes from Thee.|
|شِفَآ ءًالَا يُغَادِرُ سَقَمًا|
|Shifā an lā yughādiru saqamā|
|Provide us with a healing that does not exclude any disease.|
|اِشْفِ مَرْ ضَانَا|
|Heal those of us who are ill.|
|نَسْأَ لُكَ اللّٰهُمَّ اَنْ تَشْفِيَ|
|Nas alu kallā humma an tashfīy|
|We ask You to especially heal those who experience pain and discomfort of the Coronavirus.|
|اَللّٰهُمَّ آنِسْ قُلُوْ بَهُمْ بِنُوْرِ وَجْهِكَ الْكَرِ يْمِ|
|Allāhumma ānis qulūbahum bi nūri wajhikal karīm|
|Comfort their hearts with your Magnificence.|
|اِشْفِ اَجْسَامَنَا وَ اَنْفُسَنَا بِحُبِّكَ وَ رَحْمَتِكَ|
|Ishfi ajsāmanā wa anfusanā bi ḥubbika wa raḥmatik|
|Heal our bodies and our spirit with your Love and Grace.|
|وَاَنْ نَتَوَ كَّلَ دَائِمًا عَلَى رَحْمَتِكَ الْوَاسِعَةِ|
|Wa an nata wakkala dāʾiman ʿala raḥma tikal wāsiʿa|
|And may we forever rely on your inexhaustible Mercy.|
|وَالْحَمْدُ الِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعَا لَمِيْنَ|
|Wal ḥamdu lillāhi rabbil ʿālamīn|
|All praise and thanks are due to Allah alone, Lord of the universe.|