Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Night of Ascension


O son, it was indeed a privilege to sit before Habib Ali Zainal Abiden listening to him expound the surahs related to Isra' wal Mikraj. May Allah grant us plenty of understanding on this unique experience of the Beloved of Allah, Muhammad s.a.w.
Habib Ali prayed so for the attendees; he also said 'one who goes out seeking 'ilm (knowledge) will definitely get more than if 'ilm were to come to one. If knowledge had to travel to get to you, it would not give you as much as it would give you when you take the trouble to come to it.' Yet I can only afford to share partial of what Habib Ali had eloquently spoken about the wonderful Night of Ascension.

Almost all of Surat al-Isra' was revealed in Makkah save a few in Madinah. Isra' is a word from Ibrani language 'Abdun' meaning servant. 'Abdihi' also meaning servant is the word used in the first verse of Surat al-Isra' describing the journey Muhammad underwent from Masjidil Haram to Masjidil Aqsa. Muhammad as we know, is Habibullah, is a Nabi. Allah s.w.t could have employed other names when referring to His Beloved. He, exalted and glorified is He, did not in this verse address Muhammad as Rasulihi, Nabiyihi or Habibihi but abdihi. As a matter of fact, as related by Habib Ali Zainal Abiden, God once asked Muhammad how best He could honor him. Muhammad, whose humility is beyond anything, said, suffice that he is regarded as God's servant. Hence the term 'abdihi' in this surah is meant to honor Muhammad's position in the highest maqam as a servant of Allah.
"Subhanallazi isra bi 'abdihi lailan minal masjidil harami ilal masjidil aqsa..."
لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَآ إِنَّهُ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلبَصِيرُ

"Glory be to Him Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque; the environs of which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. Indeed He is the Hearing, the Seeing."

The episode of Isra wal Mikraj is mentioned in two surahs, one in Surat al-Isra as quoted above, depicting the first part of the journey, the earthly portion from one sacred mosque to another one situated at a considerable distant. While, the heavenly aspect of Muhammad's journey is stated in the earlier verses of Sura an-Najm.

"By the Star when it sets, your companion has neither gone astray, nor has he erred; nor does he speak out of [his own] desire. It is but a revelation that is revealed, taught to him by one of awesome power, possessed of vigour; and he stood upright, when he was on the highest horizon. Then he drew near and drew closer still, until he was within the length of two bows away or [even] nearer, whereat He revealed to His servant what he revealed. The heart did not deny what he saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he saw? And verily he saw him another time by the Lote-tree of the Ultimate Boundary, near which is the Garden of the Retreat, when there shrouded the Lote-tree that which shrouded [it], The eye did not swerve, nor did it go beyond [the bounds].Verily he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord."

Habib Ali Zainal Abiden highlighted the significance of the verses preceeding those verses which described the Mikraj. The ayat before the opening of Sura an Najm is Sura at Tur 48-49 where Allah had asked Muhammad to be patient and not be sad: "So wait patiently (O Muhammad) for the Decision of your Lord, for verily, you are under Our Eyes; and glorify the Praises of your Lord when you get up from sleep. And in the night time also glorify His Praises - and at the setting of the stars." Likewise, prior to the first verse of Sura al-Isra, are two ayats from Sura an-Nahl 127-128: "And endure you patiently (O Muhammad), your patience is not but from Allah. And grieve not over them and be not distressed because of what they plot. Truly Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are Muhsinun (good doers)."

Muhammad before being granted the honorable invitation of Isra' wal Mikraj had gone through tough times. He and Bani Hashim was boycotted for three years, no one was allowed to sell food to his family, no one was allowed to marry his clan unless Bani Hashim surrendered Muhammad's life; Abu Talib, his dear uncle had died; his most beloved wife Khatijah died too and his hijrah to Tha'if was not welcomed. But in most part Muhammad was despondent because he could not continue spreading Islam in Makkah. Not giving up hope, he supplicated to Allah of his weaknesses. He said, 'O Allah, as long as you are not angry with me, I do not mind.' God certainly was not angry at His Beloved. In fact, He wished to raise the Prophet to a high maqam after he had gone through much difficulties. Muhammad was abdun makmur, a servant who is subject to order from the Lord. And Muhammad is under His eyes - "So wait patiently (O Muhammad) for the Decision of your Lord, for verily, you are under Our Eyes..."(At-Tur, 48) Habib Ali Zainal Abiden said, when someone says 'Aina ya...' it means the person is not going to focus on anything else but the matter in front of his eyes. In this case, Allah said, 'bi aq yunina' - 'under Our Eyes'. Indeed, to Allah, Muhammad was everything and the Night of Ascension proved that Muhammad is much loved by Allah the Almighty.

A heap of thanks to KL Ba'lawi (host Ben & Ina) for organizing the Majlis 'Ilm AND thanks to Sis Irena for sharing the Qasidah Burdah video.

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