Isra Wa’al Mi’raj – Prophet’s Night Journey & Ascension
Can we see Allah ﷻ ?
To answer this question we would first need to understand the possibilities of His vision. For all human vision Allah ﷻ says: “No human vision can encompass Him, whereas He encompasses all human vision” If we take this verse in isolation, without viewing all other verses of the Quran and prophetic hadith on the subject of vision, then we will conclude that He cannot be viewed. However that is not the case when we take other sources in to consideration. A Prophetic hadith teaches that after the Day of Judgment people of paradise will be gifted with the vision of Allah ﷻ: “You will see your Lord on the Day of Resurrection as you see this (full moon) and you will have no difficulty in seeing Him.” If no human vision can grasp Him then how will we see Allah ﷻ in paradise? Allah ﷻ mentions in another verse of the Quran that He will allow the righteous to have a glimpse of His Majestic Being: “[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant, looking at their Lord.” This verse concurs with the news given in the hadith of His vision as it will become possible on the Day of Judgment.
Difference Between our Physical & Spiritual Visions
We are also reminded in the Quran that once Prophet Musa (alaihi salaam) insisted to look at Allah ﷻ but when he was permitted, he fell unconscious and realized the error of his request: “My Lord, show me [Yourself] that I may look at You." [Allah] said, "You will not see Me…” but when his Lord manifested His light to the mountain He made it crumble.” The difference between the impossibility of one vision and possibility of another is that the former is of earthly nature while latter belongs to the existence of hereafter. The question would then be what makes our earthly vision different from the hereafter vision. Allah ﷻ mentions about a veil that will be removed from the sight of sinners on the Day of Judgment: “You were heedless of this (day of judgment). Now We have removed your veil and so your vision today is sharp.” This implies that human visions will be transformed in a way that would enable us to see the realities that are hidden behind the veils of current physical existence. In a prophetic hadith it is said that: “If the devil had not moved in the human minds (and hearts), they could have surely known the mysteries of heavens.” The worldly attachments, distractions and worries preoccupy our hearts that become veils due to which we are unable to understand and observe mysteries. The Prophet ﷺ also said: “Beware of the firasah (spiritual insight) of a mumin (believer) when he sees, he sees with the nur (light) of Allah.” The hearts of the believers are able to see and understand what the eyes cannot penetrate. As Allah ﷻ has said in the Quran: “Have these people not traveled through the land with hearts to understand and ears to hear? It is not people’s eyes that are blind, but their hearts within their breasts.” The hearts can understand and experience visions what the eyes cannot. There is a tradition of the Prophet ﷺ where he had a vision of Allah ﷻ when he was overtaken by sleep while performing tahajjud (late night prayer): “My Lord, Blessed is He and Most High, came to me in the best of appearances. So he said: 'O Muhammad!' I said: 'Here I am O my Lord! And I am at Your service.” Allah ﷻ appeared to Prophet ﷺ in the most beautiful appearance. Various scholars of Islam have commented on the nature of this dream and its vision. They all agree it to be a true vision as it was a prophetic vision. This vision can be better understood in the light of a hadith qudsi (sacred tradition), where the Prophet ﷺ narrates from Allah ﷻ that: “The heavens and the earth cannot contain Me but in the heart of a mumin (believer) I enter like a guest.” Therefore, hearts are created for the sake of Allah ﷻ and if fully focused towards Him through remembrance and worship will grant us those lights to have visions which the hearts on which shayateen (devils) roam are unable to see due to veils of darkness (sins and ignorance). The difference between the Prophet’s vision in a dream and Prophet Musa’s request is that the former vision took place through a spiritual experience and Musa (alaihi salaam) insisted to viewing with physical sight which as per divine law is not possible during our earthly existence: “You will not see Me…” The only puzzle now left to resolve is if Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did see His Lord in his being physically present before Allah ﷻ which Prophet Musa (a.s) could not.
Prophets experience at Sidratal Muntaha (The Highest Point) during Mi’raaj (Ascension)
Allah ﷻ says in the Quran that He invited the Prophet ﷺ to physically journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and then from there in to the heavens to show him signs and mysteries that He willed to reveal to him. The following verses mention an encounter which took place at the highest point, the summit in the heavenly stages called sidratal muntaha (the farthest boundary). At this point even Archangel Jibraeel (Gabriel) (a.s) could not accompany the Prophet ﷺ further, therefore the Prophet ﷺ went himself in to the presence of his Lord Al Mighty. This moment has been mentioned in the Quran: “The (Prophet’s) heart did not lie [about] what it saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he (the Prophet) saw? Indeed he saw him another time.” At this moment the there is a scholastic disagreement among the people of knowledge. Some say that the words: “Indeed he saw him another time” is reference to the vision of angel Gabriel (a.s) in his actual angelic form with several hundred of wings of light. The second opinion that scholars who do not agree with the first say that the words means indeed the Prophet ﷺ had a vision of Allah ﷻ and the words “will you then dispute with him?” means ‘don’t you agree that Allah can show Himself to His beloved Prophet due to him being the most honored in the entire creation?’ The reason for the first view is due to the numerous prophetic traditions in which the companions including his wife Aisha (r.a) asked the Prophet ﷺ if he had seen Allah ﷻ on the night of ascension to which he replied in the negative. Aisha said: "If anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen his Lord (on the night of mi’raj), he is a liar, for Allah says: 'No vision can grasp Him.' (Al Quran 6:103) and if anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen the unseen, he is a liar, for Allah says: "None has the knowledge of the unseen but Allah." However to some companions such as Ibn Abbas (r.a) and Abu Dhar (r.a) who asked the same question, the Prophet ﷺ replied in the affirmative and did not deny the vision. Ibn Abbas (r.a) said “Muhammad saw his Lord.” I said “Did Allah not say: No vision can grasp Him, but He grasps all vision (6:103).” He said “Woe unto you! That is when He manifests His Light (in this world). But Muhammad saw his Lord two times (in reference to Al Quran 53:13).” Muslim recorded that Abu Dharr (r.a) said, "I asked the Messenger of Allah have you seen your Lord' He said ‘I only saw a light.’  The differing views shared by Ayesha (r.a), Ibn Abbas (r.a) and Abu Dharr (r.a) on this matter shows that the Prophet ﷺ did not reveal the same knowledge to all of them. Sheikh Irshad Chishti of South Africa in his booklet called ‘Mi’raj - Seeing the Essence of God’ explains this approach: “If one undertakes a trip overseas and extensively and comprehensively tours a country, and on one’s return one meets different people at different times and places. When the different people ask about the trip, one explains to each according to their mentality and interest. 1. With a businessman one will discuss the economy, businesses, shopping areas and industries etc. 2. With an educationalist one will discuss schools, universities, libraries, etc. 3. With the scholars one will discuss Masjids, Madrasahs, etc. Everything that is experienced and seen is not discussed with everybody. The Holy Prophet (Peace & blessings upon him) said that “one should speak to people according to their level of understanding”. Therefore different narrations exist about the same trip. Each enquirer was explained according to his level of understanding. Abu Jahl (sworn enemy of the Prophet) and the disbelievers asked about ascension and they were told about the Masjid Al Aqsa and caravans seen on the way and nothing more.
Possibilities of the Prophet's vision
It is also claimed by scholars that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ existed with Allah ﷻ in his true nature, in the form of Nur Muhammad (Muhammadan Light) created by Allah ﷻ, before the entire creation came in to existence. Prophet ﷺ once said “O Jabir, the first thing Allah created was the light of your Prophet from His light, and that light remained (lit. “turned”) in the midst of His Power for as long as He wished, and there was not, at that time, a tablet or a pen or a paradise or a fire or an angel or a heaven or an earth. This may explain the Prophets ability to go beyond the sidratal muntaha (farthest boundary) in the heavens, where even Angel Gabriel (alaihi salaam) could not pass, and enter in to Allah’s presence. This may have been possible because of Prophet’s origin in the heavens in the form of Nur (Muhammadan Light) before the beginning of creation. Another possibility is that the Prophet ﷺ experienced vision of Allah ﷻ through the medium of his heart as Allah ﷻ said: “The (Prophet’s) heart did not lie [about] what it saw.” Alternatively it could have been with his physical sight which will become a possibility in the hereafter (Al Quran 75:22-23) and the Prophet’s status in the heavens was that of the hereafter. Most importantly the reason why Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was unique among all Prophets in being honored with experiencing Allah’s vision was due to him being given the greatest status in the entire creation: “your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmuda (a station of praise and glory, i.e. the highest degree in this world and the hereafter!).” All these factors need to be kept in view when understanding the possibility for the Prophet ﷺ to experience the vision of Allah ﷻ.
 Al Quran 6:103
 Sahih al-Bukhari 7436 – Sunnah.com
 Al Quran 75:22–23
 Al Quran 7:143
 Al Quran 50:22
 Ihya Ulum udeen (Revival of the religious sciences) - Chapter 6 Fasting – Imam Ghazzali.
 Jami Tirmidhi - Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3127 – Sunnah.com
 Al Quran 22:46
 Jami Tirmidhi - Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3234 – Sunnah.com
 Ghazzali, Ihya
 Al Quran 7:143
 Al Quran 53:11–13
 Sahih al-Bukhari 7380
Jami Tirmidhi - Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3279 – Sunnah.com
 Tafsir ibn Kathir, Surah 53. An-Najm . Ayah 5, Did the Prophet see His Lord during the Night of Isra
 Soofi, Irshad. 2015. Mi'raj -Seeing the Essence of God . Pietermaritzburg, 03 05. (Soofi 2015)
 Kabbani, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham. n.d. The Light of the Prophet (s). Accessed March 18, 2019. http://sunnah.org/wp/2012/04/17/the-light-of-the-prophet-s/. (Kabbani n.d.)
 Al Quran 53:11
 Al Quran 17:79