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THE ASCENSION

The Ascension is one of the greatest miracles of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. The Prophet realized a spiritual perfection and full refinement through belief and worship and, as a reward, God took him to His holy Presence. Escaping from the imprisonment of ‘natural’ laws and material causes and rising beyond the limits of bodily existence, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, crossed distances swiftly and transcended all dimensions of the material world until he reached the holy Presence of God.

Multi-dimensional existence

Atomic physics has changed many notions in physics and established that the material world is a dimension or an appearance of existence. Besides this world, there are many other worlds or dimensions of existence, each of which has its own particularities. Einstein put forward the notion that time is only one of the dimensions of existence. Science has not yet drawn the final conclusions about existence and new findings and developments continually change our view of it. Therefore, especially in our day, it is completely illogical to question the event of Ascension. People have difficulty in understanding how one can penetrate all time at the same moment as a single point. In order to understand this subtle matter, consider the following analogy.

Imagine that you are standing with a mirror in your hand, with everything reflected on the right representing the past, while everything reflected on the left represents the future. The mirror can reflect one direction only since it cannot show both sides at the same time as you are holding it. If you wish to reflect both directions at the same time, you will have to rise high above your original position so that left and right directions are united into one and nothing remains to be called first or last, beginning or end.

In the Ascension, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, must have moved with the speed of the spirit and he traveled through all time and space and all dimensions of existence in a very short period. During that heavenly journey, he met with the previous Prophets, saw angels and beheld the beauties of Paradise and the terrors of Hell. He also observed the essential realities of all the Qur’anic issues and the meanings and wisdom of all the acts of worship. He went as far as the realms where even the greatest of angels, Gabriel, cannot reach and was honored with vision of God’s ‘Countenance’ free from any qualitative and quantitative dimensions and restrictions. Then, in order to bring humanity out of the darkness of material existence into the illumined realm of belief and worship, through which they could realize a ‘spiritual’ ascension each according to his capacity, he returned to the world where he was made subject to all kinds of persecution.

(NOTE: Belief in the Prophet’s Ascension is the result of belief in the pillars of faith and draws its light and strength from those pillars. For sure, the Ascension cannot be proved independently to irreligious atheists who do not accept the pillars of faith, because it is impossible to discuss the Ascension with those who neither know God, nor recognize the Prophet, nor accept the angels, and who deny the existence of the heavens. Firstly, those pillars must be proved. Since this is so, in the following we shall address the believer who, since he deems it unlikely, has doubts about the Accession. However, from time to time we shall turn to the atheist who is the third party in our discussion and is in the position of listening, and speak to him.

The Qur’an declares:

Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) to Masjid al-Aqsa, the neighborhood of which We have blessed, that We might show him of Our signs. Surely He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (al-Isra’, 17.1)

Then he drew nigh and came down, till he was two bows’ length or even nearer, and He revealed unto His servant what He revealed. The heart (of His servant) lied not (in seeing) what he saw. (al-Najm, 53.8-11)

In the Name of God, the merciful, the Compassionate.

Glory be to Him Who transported His servant by night from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa’, the environs of which We had blessed, so that We might show him some of Our signs. Surely He is the One Who is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (al-Isra’, 17.1)

It is naught but a revelation revealed. One with mighty power taught it, one exalted in wisdom and strength: he rose, while he was in the highest horizon. Then he approached and came nearer. He was at a distance of two bows’ length or even nearer. And He revealed unto His servant what He revealed. The heart did not falsify what he saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he saw? Surely he saw him (another time when) he (Gabriel) descended, near the Lote-tree of the farthest limit, beside it is the Garden of Abode. It was when what enveloped the Lote-tree enveloped it. The eye did not waver, nor did it stray. Truly did he see some of the greatest signs of his Lord. (al-Najm, 53.4-18)

Out of the vast treasury of the first mighty verse above, we shall only describe two points which the pronoun He in Surely He is refers to as a principle of eloquence, since they are included in our present concern here.

After mentioning the journey of the noble Beloved of God, upon him be the best of blessings and most perfect peace, from Masjid al-Haram in Makka to Masjid al-Aqsa’ in Jerusalem, which was the beginning of his Ascension, the Wise Qur’an concludes: Surely He is the One Who is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. Together with this phrase itself, the pronoun in the Surely He is, which alludes to the furthest point of the Ascension indicated by the verses from sura al-Najm (sura 53), refers either to Almighty God or to the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings.

If it refers to the Prophet, according to the rules of rhetoric and the relationship between the pronoun and its antecedent, the meaning is this: this journey, which is apparently particular, is in reality so comprehensive and signifies such universal ascent that the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, heard and saw during it all the signs of the Lord and the wonders of Divine art which caught his sight and encountered his ears as the results of the manifestations of Divine Names in universal degrees as far as the Lote-tree of the farthest limit and the distance of two bows’ length. Thus, through its conclusive phrase, the verse describes that particular journey as the key to understand a (higher) journey that is universal and full of extraordinary events.

If the pronoun in Surely He is, refers to God Almighty, the meaning is this: in order to call a servant of His on a journey to His presence and entrust him with a duty, after sending him from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa’, which is where the Prophets gather, and causing him to meet with them and showing that he is the absolute, indisputable heir of the principles of the religions of all the Prophets, He took him through both the external and inner dimensions of His dominion as far as the Lote-tree of the farthest limit and the distance of two bows’ length.

For sure, he was a servant and that journey was a particular ascension. However, since he was given a Trust which is connected to the whole of the universe, was accorded a light which would change the colour of the universe, and also had with him a key with which to open the door to eternal happiness, Almighty God describes Himself as the One Who hears and sees all things so that His world-embracing, comprehensive and all-encompassing wisdom in the Trust, the light, and the key, might be observed and understood.

This mighty truth contained in the Ascension may be dealt with under four heads or four principles:

Why was the Ascension necessary?

What is the reality of the Ascension?

What is the wisdom in the Ascension?

What are the fruits and benefits of the Ascension?


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