Beyond the Lote Tree, the upmost boundary is a place where, apart from one exception, no human has ever been.
The night journey and ascension through the heavens culminated in Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam moving past the upmost boundary and standing in the presence of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Beyond the Lote Tree is the realm of the Hereafter, Paradise, and the Throne of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
The word miraculous does not go far enough in describing what a wonder this must have been for Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. It is beyond description and beyond imagining. However, the Prophet Muhammad did not see Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala with his eyes, as we learn in the Qur’an, “No vision can grasp Him.” [Al-An’am 6: 103]
One of the companions asked Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam directly if he saw Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, to which he answered, “He is veiled by light, how could I see him?” (Muslim)
The Importance of Prayer
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala spoke to Prophet Muhammad and we have no details of the exchange except that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala enjoined the daily prayers upon Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his followers. From this, we immediately understand the importance of prayer. It is the only command which Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ordained in the heavens; all other decrees originated on earth.
Prayer is a gift from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to those who truly believe in His Oneness. It is a gift full of great blessings and bounties. It establishes and maintains our connection to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has no need of our prayers but we, as helpless human beings, are in great need of feeling connected to Him. In fact, the Arabic word for the five daily prayers is salat, which comes from the root word meaning “connection”.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala enjoined 50 prayers on Prophet Muhammad and his followers. As Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was descending he passed by Prophet Musa who requested to know what had been enjoined. When Prophet Muhammad explained that he had been ordered to pray 50 times per day, Musa ‘alayhi salaam having had been a prophet himself knew from his followers what people could and could not handle in regards to religious obligations, he felt astonished and immediately said,
“Go back to your Lord and ask for a reduction.”
Prophet Musa was sure that the followers of Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would not be able to perform that many prayers. Prophet Muhammad had knowledge, but Prophet Moses at this time had more experience.
Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam accepted the advice of his older brother/prophet, went back into the presence of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and asked for a reduction. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reduced them by ten to forty prayers. Prophet Muhammad descended again; Prophet Musa asked him what happened. When he heard that the reduction was only ten, Prophet Musa sent him back to ask again for a further reduction. This exchange continued until the number of obligatory prayers became five. Prophet Musa suggested a further reduction saying:
“O Muhammad, I know people, your nation will not be able to handle it, go back and ask for the burden on your people to be relieved.”
Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam answered “No.” He felt ashamed to ask for another reduction.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala makes it clear to us that even praying these five prayers can be difficult for some people, but that those who establish the connection and trust that they will one day meet their Lord will find it easy.
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive (to Allah).Who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 45–46]
Mercy, Love and Compassion
This miraculous night concluded with this sign of the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Imagine how hard it would be to pray 50 times a day. Although we learned during this journey that Musa ‘alayhi salaam cried when he realized Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would have more followers than he on the Day of Judgment, we also learn how eager Prophet Musa was to give advice to Prophet Muhammad, and how keen he was to make the practice of Islam easy upon the believers.
The competition between the Prophets was one of love and compassion, and from this we should learn how to treat each other. Although Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us to compete with one another in doing deeds of righteousness, we should encourage and enable one another to do this easily.
“…So strive as in a race in good deeds.” [Al-Ma’idah 5:48]
Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then descended back to the Mosque in Makkah.
The companions of the Prophet were now about to face the biggest test to their faith so far. Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was about to reveal that he had returned from an overnight journey to the farthest Masjid in Jerusalem, a journey that normally took more than one month. He was also about to say he had traveled where no man had gone before, through the heavens and into the presence of Allah.
This was a miraculous journey by night, but would his companions believe him?
And how would his enemies react?
Find out the answer in the final part…
[Slightly modified. Originally posted at onislam.net]