During the 12th year of the Prophet Muhammad’s (p) propagation of Islam in Makkah, one of the most significant events in the lifetime of the Prophet took place. Allah recounts this journey in the Quran:
[17:1] Glory be to the One Who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose surroundings We have blessed, so that We may show him some of Our signs.
This journey was called the Mi’raj, or the ascension, but what exactly happened during this ascension?
One night after the Isha prayers, the Prophet was asleep in the house of Umm Hānī, the daughter of Abū Ṭālib, which was in the vicinity of the Ka‘ba, when he was woken up by the angel Gabriel who had brought a lightning fast horse with wings named Burāq for the Prophet to ride on. The Prophet rode this horse which took him from the sacred mosque in Makkah to Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. When he arrived there, he climbed on a rock and began his ascension into the heavens.
As he journeyed through the different levels of heavens accompanied by Gabriel, the Prophet (p) was welcomed by rows of angels, as well as numerous Prophets. Through his journey he met many Prophets such as Prophet Adam, Prophet Yaḥya, Prophet Īsa, Prophet Yūsuf, Prophet Idrīs, Prophet Hārūn and Prophet Mūsa – peace be upon all of them.
He also witnessed the state of many evildoers and how they were being punished in hell for the various crimes they had committed. As Prophet Muhammad continued to ascend, he reached the highest levels of heaven, and there came a point where Gabriel halted, and informed the Prophet: “I can go no further, or my wings will burn.”
This was where a large enigmatic lote tree was located, which marked the end of the seventh heaven. Beyond this, only the Prophet had the capacity to ascend and it was here that he engaged in conversation with Allah as it is mentioned in the Quran:
[53:8-18] Then he drew nearer and nearer until he was within two bows’ length or even nearer, whereat He revealed to His servant whatever He revealed. The heart did not deny what it saw. Will you then dispute with him about what he saw?! Certainly he saw it [the greatest signs] yet another time, by the Lote Tree of the Ultimate Boundary, near which is the Garden of the Abode, when there covered the Lote Tree what covered it. The gaze did not swerve, nor did it overstep the bounds. Certainly he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord.
During his conversation with Allah, many things were revealed to the Prophet, including most importantly the obligation of the daily prayers, and he witnessed many great signs of his Lord, By the end of this journey, the Prophet returned back to Masjid al-Aqsa on the Burāq and then to Makkah before the time of Fajr.