Significance of Al Isra
AL-Isra’ is the defining moment for Muslims in emphasizing the significance of Jerusalem. It is a clear indication that Allah chose Jerusalem over any other place on earth from which to take the Prophet ﷺ on the Night Journey. More specifically, ﷲ could have taken the Prophet ﷺ directly from Makkah to the heavens but instead ﷲ chose this city which He has blessed. Thus, it should become apparent to the Ummah that Jerusalem holds barakah or blessings and this should remain at the forefront of our minds. It is also of note that Jerusalem did not become important to Muslims because of the Night Journey but rather the Prophet ﷺ was taken via Jerusalem because of its prior importance. Jerusalem is thus eternally tied to the consciousness of the believers.
The taking of the Noble Prophet ﷺ to Jerusalem indicates several factors:
- This was to link the first Masjid built on earth, the Ka‘bah, with the second Masjid built on earth, Masjid al-Aqsa.
- During the Night Journey, the Prophet ﷺ became the imam of the two Blessed sites of the Ka‘bah and al-Aqsa, when neither were under his control. This was to show the Islamic heritage of both of these cities and the need to bring them under Islamic rule.
- The ascent of the Prophet ﷺ beyond the Sidrat al-Muntaha, where even Jibra’il (AS) could not go, is a clear indication of his high status.
- The Night Journey binds the Ummah to the two qiblahs which were united through this journey. The Muslims’ first qiblah (the direction in which to face when in prayer) for approximately 14 years was Jerusalem, and thereafter it has been the Ka‘bah. It is no coincidence that these two holy places were linked through the Prophet’s ﷺ journey via Jerusalem.
- It also serves to link the universal significance of the Prophet ﷺ, the Ka‘bah and Jerusalem. Al-Isra’ bound the Prophet ﷺ and these two holy places together during this one great night.
The events that took place in al-Aqsa are of profound importance and further show the magnitude of al-Isra’ and the significance of Jerusalem:
- The Prophet ﷺ led the Salaah in al-Aqsa with all the other Messengers of Allah (AS) who have been sent to earth praying behind him. This historic and exclusive event, the only one of its kind to our knowledge, placed the Prophet ﷺ as the leader of the Prophets (AS). This honourable elevation of the Prophet ﷺ adds a significant dimension to both our understanding of Jerusalem and al-Isra’.
- Al-Aqsa became the only known site on the entire planet where all the Prophets (AS) and the Messengers (AS) performed Salaah together at one given time, led by the final Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
- It is extremely significant that Allah assembled all the Prophets and Messengers (AS) in Jerusalem, as this indicates the inclusiveness of Islam, whereby Islam does not undermine nor differentiate between the Prophets and Messengers.
- The presence of all the Prophets and Prophet Muhammad ﷺ leading the salaah also indicates the finality of Allah’s message to humanity. On this night, while all the Prophets and Messengers (AS) respected the leadership of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, he ﷺ was also acknowledged as being the final Messenger, whose responsibility it was to complete the message that had begun with Adam (AS)
- The fact that Allah chose to make al-Aqsa a station in this incredible journey is worthy of note; and it must be recalled that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ not only stopped at al-Aqsa on his journey from Makkah to the Sublime Throne, but he also stopped there on the return journey. The visit of the Prophet ﷺ to Jerusalem before returning to Makkah adds permanency to the importance of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa. This undermines the arguments of those who contend that the importance of Jerusalem ceased after the ascension. This fact indicates the importance of Jerusalem until the end of time for the believers.
- Besides al-Aqsa being a station in the Night Journey, the fact that such major events took place there rather than anywhere else highlights the primacy of al-Aqsa.
The Virtues of Praying and Charity
Ibn al-Jawzī and Abū Bakr al-Wāsītī stated that many scholars of Islam believe that it is not only the reward for prayers in al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf (al-Aqṣā Sanctuary) that are multiplied as compared to prayers elsewhere, but the reward for all good deeds are multiplied. Similarly, the punishments for bad deeds in this Holy area are also believed to be multiplied. The rationale behind increasing the virtues is clearly to imbibe within the believers a sense of love, affection and a need to incline towards these Holy sites. The increased merits in praying at al-Aqṣā Sanctuary are a clear signal for the believers to frequent al-Aqṣā Sanctuary and ensure its well-being.
Virtues of praying
Abū Dardā’ (RA) relates that the Prophet ﷺ said,
“A prayer in Makkah is worth 100,000 times, a prayer in my Mosque (Madinah) is worth 1,000 times, and a prayer in al-Aqṣā Sanctuary is worth 500 times, more than anywhere else”. [Al-Ṭabarānī, al-Bayhaqī and al-Suyūṭī]
Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar (RA) relates, I asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Apostle of Allah, tell us the legal injunction about (visiting) Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).” The Apostle of Allah ﷺ said, “Go and pray there. If you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps”. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī]
Anas ibn Mālik (RA) relates that the Prophet ﷺ said,
“The prayer of a person in his house is a single prayer; his prayer in the Masjid of his tribe has the reward of twenty-five prayers; his prayer in the Masjid in which the Friday prayer is observed has the reward of five hundred; his prayer in the Masjid al-Aqṣā (i.e. al-Aqṣā Sanctuary) has a reward of five thousand prayers; his prayer in my Masjid (the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah) has a reward of fifty thousand prayers; and the prayer in the Sacred Masjid (Ka‘bah) at Makkah has a reward of one hundred thousand prayers”. [Tirmidhī and Ibn Mājah]
Abū Dharr (RA) reported that he asked the Prophet ﷺ, “O Prophet of Allah, which Masjid was built first on earth?” The Prophet replied, “The Sacred Masjid of Makkah”. Abū Dharr again asked, “Which was next?” The Prophet said, “The Masjid al-Aqṣā”. “How long was the period between them?” Abū Dharr asked. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Forty years”. Apart from these, offer your prayers anywhere when it is time to pray, although excellence is in praying in these Masajids”. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī]
Virtues of performing I‘tikāf
If a person makes a vow to perform i‘tikāf (seclusion for worship) in the Masjid al-Ḥaram (in Makkah), the Prophet’s Masjid (in Madinah), or in the Masjid al-Aqṣā (in Jerusalem), they should fulfil their vow, as the Prophet ﷺ said:
“One should not undertake journeys except to three mosques: the Masjid al Ḥaram, the Masjid al-Aqṣā, or this Masjid (the Prophet’s Masjid)”. If someone vows to perform i‘tikāf in another Masjid, it is not obligatory on him to fulfil it in that Masjid and he may perform that i‘tikāf in any Masjid, for Allah did not specify any particular place for His worship, and there is no superiority of one Masjid over another (with the exception of the three Masajids mentioned earlier). It has been confirmed that the Prophet ﷺ said: “A prayer in my Masjid is superior to one thousand prayers in any other Masjid but the Masjid al-Ḥaram (in Makkah), and a prayer in that Masjid is superior to a prayer in my Masjid by one hundred prayers”. Thus, if someone makes a vow to perform i‘tikāf in the Prophet’s Masjid, he may fulfil it in the Masjid al-Ḥaram since that one is superior to the Prophet’s Masjid. [Fiqh al-Sunnah]