Al-Israa’: It Is All About the Unseen

Belief in the Unseen is an essential part of a Muslim’s creed. Every Muslim must believe in all whatever Allah told us about in the Qur’an and through the Porophet’s Sunnah. In the Qur’an we are told that belief in the Unseen is the first characteristics of the righteous:

{This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah; Who believe in the Unseen} (Al-Baqarah 2:3).

However, such belief is not a pretext for not working hard or a justification for defeatism. Belief in the Unseen is a test for the believers that ascertains their faith.

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Test of Faith

Believing in something unseen is a challenge that not everybody can take. It requires strong belief in the omnipotence of Allah. He has the upper hand in every affair in this world and the world to come.

The story of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj is an example of that test to which Muslims were put.  For the whole story is all about belief in the Unseen.

The wisdom of Al-Israa’ is summed up in the very words of Allah: that {We might show him of Our tokens!} (Al-Israa’ 17:1). Also the wisdom of Al-Mi`raj is clearly stated in the Qur’an: {Verily he saw of the greatest signs of his Lord} (An-Najm 53:18).

The word subhan (sublime, exalted) mentioned in the beginning of Surat Al-Israa’ gives the impression that this journey was something unusual. It should not be subject to the normal laws of the earth nor to the laws of time and place.

It is Allah Who arranged for that journey. Part of the world of the Unseen has become visible for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This is implied in the word li-nuriyahu {that We might show him}, not li-nuriyahum (that We might show them).

Reactions to News of the Journey

When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) returned to Makkah, he told the people about what happened to him the previous night. Their reactions followed one of two courses: Some utterly rejected his story while others gave it their utmost belief.

The people of the Quraish did not believe him and mocked him, “It takes us a month to go to there and back and you claim that you went there and back in one night?”

On the other hand, when Abu Bakr was told what had happened to the Prophet, he said his oft-repeated words:

“If he said that, then he is truthful. I believe him concerning the news of the heavens. How could I not believe that he went to Jerusalem and came back in a short period of time when these are on earth?”

From that moment Abu Bakr was given the name As-Siddiq, the Verifier of the Truth.

It is unfortunate that in the 21st century there are many people who doubt the authenticity of the event of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj. One finds little difference between this stance and that of the Quraish.

In fact, this rejection in modern times is worse than that made by the Quraish. At least, the means of transportation in the Prophet’s time made it difficult for the people to understand this overnight journey to a place hundreds of miles away. Such speed is easy to conceive with today’s technology.

And, after all, we should remember that it is Allah, the Creator of the heaven and earth, Who arranged for this journey, and He Almighty is the One Who speaks about it in the Qur’an. This leaves no room for doubt or question.

About Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Dr. Mohsen Haredy holds a PhD in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait, and a contributing writer and counselor of Reading Islam. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University.