1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet
Most believers are familiar with the Prophet’s flight to heaven on a Pegasus-like flying horse. His stopover in Jerusalem, before getting back on al-Burak the wonder horse for the short flight to Paradise, consecrated the rock from which he took off as the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
Paradise, in the Koran, is just above the clouds held up by invisible pillars. It would have taken only a few flaps of the wings of the powerful animal that was al-Burak to get to the lowest of the seven levels.
Jerusalem is about 762 miles (1,235.82 km) as a flying-horse flies. The Prophet said that "the animal's step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight.” Even so, with God's Messenger hanging on for dear life, it would have taken some time to reach Jerusalem.
We know that Gabriel showed up with al-Burak after the Prophet had turned in for the night. Taking into account the return trip, this did not leave much time to meet with his counterparts from the Bible, negotiate the prayers, and take a guided tour of the seven levels of Paradise and the seven levels of Allah’s Hell, which are described in some detail in the Koran, details that could only have come from an eyewitness.
Religious scholars have argued the trip probably occurred in a dream which would negate any flying time (if in a dream, why the horse?).
Still, there was so much to do and see that the Prophet could not have taken it all in with just a few hours of sleep, or even fewer hours if he was awake, especially considering the expanse of Paradise and the formidable, forbidding territory of Hell.
So why do we know so much about both places? The answer is in the hadiths.
We now know from the sayings of Prophet that Allah projected visions of Heaven and Hell, which only His Messenger could see, at various times during the day, most often during eclipses; and that at night He took His Messenger on out-of-this-world tours of both places in palpable dreams.
Theoretically, when unbelievers die, they are not sent to Hell until Judgement Day; in the meantime, they are left to be tormented in their graves. However, in many of the Prophet’s visions, like in the following, God’s Messenger reports seeing an unbeliever burning in Hell, instead of being tormented in his grave.
Lahai is from what Islam calls the Time of Ignorance i.e. the time before Islam. Luhai had the temerity to free animals as offering to his god, as opposed to cutting their throats and letting them cruelly bleed to death as is the Muslim tradition.
Once the sun eclipsed and Allah's Apostle stood up for the prayer and recited a very long Sura and then bowed for a long while and then raised his head and started reciting another Sura.
Then he bowed, and after finishing, he prostrated and did the same in the second Raka and then said, "These (lunar and solar eclipses) are two of the signs of Allah and if you see them, pray till the eclipse is over. No doubt, while standing at this place I saw everything promised to me by Allah and I saw (Paradise) and I wanted to pluck a bunch (of grapes) therefrom, at the time when you saw me stepping forward. No doubt, I saw Hell with its different parts destroying each other when you saw me retreating and in it I saw Amr bin Luhai who started the tradition of freeing animals (set them free) in the name of idols."
Lahai, instead of awaiting Judgement Day and due process in the cramp confines of his tomb underground, is, according to God's Messenger, dragging his intestines through Hell.
Narrated Said bin Al-Musaiyab:
Al-Bahira was an animal whose milk was spared for the idols and other deities, and so nobody was allowed to milk it. As-Saiba was an animal which they (i.e. infidels) used to set free in the names of their gods so that it would not be used for carrying anything.
Abu Huraira said, "The Prophet said, 'I saw Amr bin Amir bin Luhai Al-Khuzai dragging his intestines in the (Hell) Fire, for he was the first man who started the custom of releasing animals (for the sake of false gods).'"
During a solar eclipse God's Messenger mentions the interrogation that takes place in the grave where Amr bin Luhai should have been.
Narrated Asma bint Abu Bakr:
I came to Aisha the wife of the Prophet during the solar eclipse. The people were standing and offering the prayer and she was also praying.
I asked her, "What is wrong with the people?"
She beckoned with her hand towards the sky and said, "Subhan Allah (Glorious is God)."
I asked her, "Is there a sign?"
She pointed out, "Yes."
So I, too, stood for the prayer till I fell unconscious and later on I poured water on my head.
After the prayer, Allah's Apostle praised and glorified Allah and said, "Just now I have seen something which I never saw before at this place of mine, including Paradise and Hell. I have been inspired (and have understood) that you will be put to trials in your graves and these trials will be like the trials of Ad-Dajjal (the false messiah), or nearly like it (the sub narrator is not sure of what Asma said). Angels will come to every one of you and ask, 'What do you know about this man?'
A believer will reply, 'He is Muhammad, Allah's Apostle, and he came to us with self-evident truth and guidance. So we accepted his teaching, believed and followed him.'
Then the angels will say to him to sleep in peace as they have come to know that he was a believer.
On the other hand a hypocrite or a doubtful person will reply, 'I do not know but heard the people saying something and so I said the same.'"
During a solar eclipse the Prophet reached for some fruit from a most unlikely place, then thought better of it. The following may also be an indication that what God's Messenger was experiencing was akin to an all-encompassing illusion for him to think he could grab a bite to eat from a garden in Paradise during the eclipse prayer.
Narrated Abdullah bin Abbas:
One solar eclipse occurred during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle. He offered the eclipse prayer. His companions asked, "O Allah's Apostle! We saw you trying to take something while standing at your place and then we saw you retreating."
The Prophet said, "I was shown Paradise and wanted to have a bunch of fruit from it. Had I taken it, you would have eaten from it as long as the world remains."
A short narration about visions and eclipses:
Narrated Abdullah bin Abbas:
The sun eclipsed and Allah's Apostle offered the eclipse prayer and said, "I have been shown the Hellfire (now) and I never saw a worse and horrible sight than the sight I have seen today."
One of the horrors that the Prophet saw during the eclipse of the sun was women who, like Lahai, should have been in their abysmal graves, not burning in Hell (expect more hadiths about women burning in Hell, undeniably a favourite topic of the Prophet).
Narrated Abdullah bin Abbas:
During the lifetime of Allah's Apostle, the sun eclipsed. Allah's Apostle offered the prayer of (the) eclipse) and so did the people along with him. He performed a long Qiyam (standing posture) during which Surat-al-Baqara could have been recited; then he performed a prolonged bowing, then raised his head and stood for a long time which was slightly less than that of the first Qiyam (and recited Qur'an).
Then he performed a prolonged bowing again but the period was shorter than the period of the first bowing, then he stood up and then prostrated. Again he stood up, but this time the period of standing was less than the first standing.
Then he performed a prolonged bowing but of a lesser duration than the first, then he stood up again for a long time but for a lesser duration than the first.
Then he performed a prolonged bowing but of lesser duration than the first, and then he again stood up, and then prostrated and then finished his prayer. By then the sun eclipse had cleared.
The Prophet then said, "The sun and the moon are two signs among the signs of Allah, and they do not eclipse because of the death or birth of someone, so when you observe the eclipse, remember Allah (offer the eclipse prayer)."
They (the people) said, "O Allah's Apostle! We saw you stretching your hand to take something at this place of yours, then we saw you stepping backward."
He said, "I saw Paradise (or Paradise was shown to me), and I stretched my hand to pluck a bunch (of grapes), and had I plucked it, you would have eaten of it as long as this world exists. Then I saw the (Hell) Fire, and I have never before, seen such a horrible sight as that, and I saw that the majority of its dwellers were women."
The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is the reason for that?"
He replied, "Because of their ungratefulness."
It was said. "Do they disbelieve in Allah (are they ungrateful to Allah)?"
He replied, "They are not thankful to their husbands and are ungrateful for the favors done to them. Even if you do good to one of them all your life, when she seems some harshness from you, she will say, "I have never seen any good from you.' "
(For more or less the same story told by a different narrator see A Palace in the Sky.)
God’s Messenger was not fond of man's best friend. He almost had them all exterminated when Gabriel did not show up when expected and the Prophet blamed a puppy.
Aisha reported that Gabriel (peace be upon him) made a promise with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to come at a definite hour; that hour came but he did not visit him. And there was in his hand (in the hand of Allah's Apostle) a staff. He threw it from his hand and said: Never has Allah or His messengers (angels) ever broken their promise. Then he cast a glance (and by chance) found a puppy under his cot and said: 'Aisha, when did this dog enter here?
She said: By Allah, I don't know He then commanded and it was turned out.
Then Gabriel came and Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to him: You promised me and I waited for you, but you did not come, whereupon he said: It was the dog in your house which prevented me (to come), for we (angels) do not enter a house in which there is a dog or a picture.
Sahih Muslim 24.5246
Cats, however, don’t appear to have been a problem considering what he saw in another eclipse-inspired vision. Also, returning to the idea that God's Messenger may have been hallucinating, in the following hadith, the Prophet asks (God or Gabriel, it has to be assumed) why the woman in Hell is being lacerated by a cat.
Narrated Asma bint Abi Bakr:
The Prophet once offered the eclipse prayer. He stood for a long time and then did a prolonged bowing. He stood up straight again and kept on standing for a long time, then bowed a long bowing and then stood up straight and then prostrated a prolonged prostration and then lifted his head and prostrated a prolonged prostration. And then he stood up for a long time and then did a prolonged bowing and then stood up straight again and kept on standing for a long time. Then he bowed a long bowing and then stood up straight and then prostrated a prolonged prostration and then lifted his head and went for a prolonged prostration.
On completion of the prayer, he said, "Paradise became so near to me that if I had dared, I would have plucked one of its bunches for you and Hell became so near to me that [I] said, 'O my Lord I will be among those people?' Then suddenly I saw a woman and a cat was lacerating her with it claws. On inquiring, it was said that the woman had imprisoned the cat till it died of starvation and she neither fed it nor freed it so that it could feed itself."
In the absence of eclipses, God's Messenger was often distracted at the most opportune or inopportune times depending on your point of view, such as during question and answer sessions about Islam.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Apostle came out as the sun declined at mid-day and offered the Zuhr prayer. He then stood on the pulpit and spoke about the Hour (Day of Judgment) and said that in it there would be tremendous things. He then said, "Whoever likes to ask me about anything he can do so and I shall reply as long as I am at this place of mine."
Most of the people wept and the Prophet said repeatedly, "Ask me."
Abdullah bin Hudhafa As-Sahmi stood up and said, "Who is my father?"
The Prophet said, "Your father is Hudhafa."
The Prophet repeatedly said, "Ask me."
Then Umar knelt before him and said, "We are pleased with Allah as our Lord, Islam as our religion, and Muhammad as our Prophet."
The Prophet then became quiet and said, "Paradise and Hell-fire were displayed in front of me on this wall just now and I have never seen a better thing (than the former) and a worse thing (than the latter)."
In another hadith, perhaps a variation of the previous one, it is clear that the Prophet was not always pleased to be pelted with questions.
Once the people started asking Allah's Apostle questions, and they asked so many questions that he became angry and ascended the pulpit and said, "I will answer whatever questions you may ask me today."
I looked right and left and saw everyone covering his face with his garment and weeping.
Behold! There was a man who, on quarreling with the people, used to be called as a son of a person other than his father. He said, "O Allah's Apostle! Who is my father?"
The Prophet replied, "Your father is Hudhaifa."
And then Umar got up and said, "We accept Allah as our Lord, and Islam as (our) religion, and Muhammad as (our) Apostle; and we seek refuge with Allah from the afflictions."
Allah's Apostle said, "I have never seen a day like today in its good and its evil for Paradise and the Hell Fire were displayed in front of me, till I saw them just beyond this wall."
Even prayers were not free from Divine interruptions.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet led us in prayer and then went up to the pulpit and beckoned with both hands towards the Qibla of the mosque and then said, "When I started leading you in prayer, I saw the display of Paradise and Hell on the wall of the mosque (facing the Qibla). I never saw good and bad as I have seen today."
He repeated the last statement thrice.
Bukhari 12. 716
Frightening the ones who love you:
Narrated Abu Bakra:
Allah's Apostle said: "The sun and the moon are two signs amongst the signs of Allah and they do not eclipse because of the death of someone but Allah frightens His devotees with them."