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1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet

Prayers

Negotiating the Obligatory Prayers

The third holiest site in Islam is a rock underneath the Dome of the Rock, which is part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex on Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Muslims believe that this is the rock from which the Prophet ascended to heaven on a magical night in 621 on the back of a winged-horse named Al-Buraq (also spelled al-Burak) to meet with the Boss. It was during this meeting with God that the number of prayers a believer must perform every day was established.

Following are three lengthy hadiths about this seminal event in the history of both Islam and Paradise. In the first hadith there is no mention of a stopover in Jerusalem. In the second: no al-Buraq and no Jerusalem. The third hadith, probably the most significant, contains both a reference to the winged Pegasus-like horse and Jerusalem.

Narrated Abbas bin Malik:

Malik bin Sasaa said that Allah's Apostle described to them his Night Journey saying, "While I was lying in Al-Hatim or Al-Hijr, suddenly someone came to me and cut my body open from here to here."

I asked Al-Jarud who was by my side, "What does he mean?"

He said, "It means from his throat to his pubic area," or said, "From the top of the chest."

The Prophet further said, "He then took out my heart. Then a gold tray of Belief was brought to me and my heart was washed and was filled (with Belief) and then returned to its original place*. Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me."

(On this Al-Jarud asked, "Was it the buraq, O Abu Hamza?" I (i.e. Anas) replied in the affirmative).

The Prophet said, "The animal's step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight. I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven. When he asked for the gate to be opened, it was asked, 'Who is it?'

Gabriel answered, 'Gabriel.'

It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.'

It was asked, 'Has Muhammad been called?'

Gabriel replied in the affirmative.

Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!' The gate was opened, and when I went over the first heaven, I saw Adam there.

Gabriel said (to me). 'This is your father, Adam; pay him your greetings.' So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious son and pious Prophet.'

Then Gabriel ascended with me till we reached the second heaven. Gabriel asked for the gate to be opened.

It was asked, 'Who is it?'

Gabriel answered, 'Gabriel.'

It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.'

It was asked, 'Has he been called?'

Gabriel answered in the affirmative.

Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!' The gate was opened. When I went over the second heaven, there I saw Yahya (i.e. John) and 'Isa (i.e. Jesus) who were cousins of each other.

Gabriel said (to me), 'These are John and Jesus; pay them your greetings.'

So I greeted them and both of them returned my greetings to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.'

Then Gabriel ascended with me to the third heaven and asked for its gate to be opened.

It was asked, 'Who is it?'

Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.'

It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.'

It was asked, 'Has he been called?'

Gabriel replied in the affirmative.

Then it was said, 'He is welcomed, what an excellent visit his is!' The gate was opened, and when I went over the third heaven there I saw Joseph. Gabriel said (to me), 'This is Joseph; pay him your greetings.' So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.'

Then Gabriel ascended with me to the fourth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened.

It was asked, 'Who is it?'

Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel'

It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.'

It was asked, 'Has he been called?'

Gabriel replied in the affirmative.

Then it was said, 'He is welcomed, what an excellent visit his is!'

The gate was opened, and when I went over the fourth heaven, there I saw Idris. Gabriel said (to me), 'This is Idris; pay him your greetings.' So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.'

Then Gabriel ascended with me to the fifth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened.

It was asked, 'Who is it?'

Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.'

It was asked. 'Who is accompanying you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.'

It was asked, 'Has he been called?'

Gabriel replied in the affirmative.

Then it was said He is welcomed, what an excellent visit his is! So when I went over the fifth heaven, there I saw Harun (i.e. Aaron), Gabriel said, (to me). This is Aaron; pay him your greetings.' I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.'

Then Gabriel ascended with me to the sixth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened.

It was asked. 'Who is it?'

Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.'

It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.'

It was asked, 'Has he been called?'

Gabriel replied in the affirmative.

It was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!'

When I went (over the sixth heaven), there I saw Moses. Gabriel said (to me),' This is Moses; pay him your greeting. So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.'

When I left him (i.e. Moses) he wept. Someone asked him, 'What makes you weep?'

Moses said, 'I weep because after me there has been sent (as Prophet) a young man whose followers will enter Paradise in greater numbers than my followers.'

Then Gabriel ascended with me to the seventh heaven and asked for its gate to be opened.

It was asked, 'Who is it?'

Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.'

It was asked,' Who is accompanying you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.'

It was asked, 'Has he been called?'

Gabriel replied in the affirmative.

Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!' So when I went (over the seventh heaven), there I saw Abraham. Gabriel said (to me), 'This is your father; pay your greetings to him.' So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious son and pious Prophet.'

Then I was made to ascend to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (i.e. the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary [of Paradise]) Behold! Its fruits were like the jars of Hajr (i.e. a place near Medina) and its leaves were as big as the ears of elephants.

Gabriel said, 'This is the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary). Behold ! There ran four rivers, two were hidden and two were visible, I asked, 'What are these two kinds of rivers, O Gabriel?'

He replied,' As for the hidden rivers, they are two rivers in Paradise and the visible rivers are the Nile and the Euphrates.'

Then Al-Bait-ul-Ma'mur** (i.e. the Sacred House) was shown to me and a container full of wine and another full of milk and a third full of honey were brought to me. I took the milk. Gabriel remarked, 'This is the Islamic religion which you and your followers are following.'

Then the prayers were enjoined on me: They were fifty prayers a day.

When I returned, I passed by Moses who asked (me), 'What have you been ordered to do?'

I replied, 'I have been ordered to offer fifty prayers a day.'

Moses said, 'Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day, and by Allah, I have tested people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israel (in vain). Go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your followers' burden.'

So I went back, and Allah reduced ten prayers for me.

Then again I came to Moses, but he repeated the same as he had said before. Then again I went back to Allah and He reduced ten more prayers.

When I came back to Moses he said the same, I went back to Allah and He ordered me to observe ten prayers a day.

When I came back to Moses, he repeated the same advice, so I went back to Allah and was ordered to observe five prayers a day.

When I came back to Moses, he said, 'What have you been ordered?'

I replied, 'I have been ordered to observe five prayers a day.'

He said, 'Your followers cannot bear five prayers a day, and no doubt, I have got an experience of the people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israel, so go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your follower's burden.'

I said, 'I have requested so much of my Lord that I feel ashamed, but I am satisfied now and surrender to Allah's Order.'

When I left, I heard a voice saying, 'I have passed My Order and have lessened the burden of My Worshipers."

Bukhari 58.227


* In a Sahih Muslim hadith, the washing of the Prophet's heart occurred when God's Messenger was a boy.

Anas b. Malik reported that Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upo him) while he was playing with his playmates. He took hold of him and lay him prostrate on the ground and tore open his breast and took out the heart from it and then extracted a blood-clot out of it and said: That was the part of Satan in thee. And then he washed it with the water of Zamzam in a golden basin and then it was joined together and restored to it place.

The boys came running to his mother, i. e. his nurse, and said: Verily Muhammad has been murdered. They all rushed toward him (and found him all right) His color was changed, Anas said. I myself saw the marks of needle on his breast.

Sahih Muslim 1.311

** Bait-ul-Ma'mur is a replica of the Ka’ba in Mecca, and is situated directly above it. Like Muslims on earth, angels are required to make a pilgrimage to this Ka’ba in the sky at least once in their lifetime as immortals, and seventy thousand angels do so every day.


The hadith where the horse al-Buraq is not mentioned. In this account it is Adam who is seen weeping, not Moses.

Narrated Abu Dhar:

Allah's Apostle said, "While I was at Mecca the roof of my house was opened and Gabriel descended, opened my chest, and washed it with Zam-zam water.

Then he brought a golden tray full of wisdom and faith and having poured its contents into my chest, he closed it.

Then he took my hand and ascended with me to the nearest heaven, when I reached the nearest heaven, Gabriel said to the gatekeeper of the heaven, 'Open (the gate).'

The gatekeeper asked, 'Who is it?'

Gabriel answered: 'Gabriel.'

He asked, 'Is there anyone with you?'

Gabriel replied, 'Yes, Muhammad I is with me.'

He asked, 'Has he been called?'

Gabriel said, 'Yes.'

So the gate was opened and we went over the nearest heaven and there we saw a man sitting with some people on his right and some on his left. When he looked towards his right, he laughed and when he looked toward his left he wept. Then he said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious son.'

I asked Gabriel, 'Who is he?'

He replied, 'He is Adam and the people on his right and left are the souls of his offspring. Those on his right are the people of Paradise and those on his left are the people of Hell and when he looks towards his right he laughs and when he looks towards his left he weeps.'

Then he ascended with me till he reached the second heaven and he (Gabriel) said to its gatekeeper, 'Open (the gate).'

The gatekeeper said to him the same as the gatekeeper of the first heaven had said and he opened the gate.

(Anas said: "Abu Dhar added that the Prophet met Adam, Idris, Moses, Jesus and Abraham, he (Abu Dhar) did not mention on which heaven they were but he mentioned that he (the Prophet ) met Adam on the nearest heaven and Abraham on the sixth heaven."

Anas said, "When Gabriel along with the Prophet passed by Idris, the latter said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious brother.'")

The Prophet asked, 'Who is he?'

Gabriel replied, 'He is Idris."

The Prophet added, "I passed by Moses and he said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious brother.'

I asked Gabriel, 'Who is he?'

Gabriel replied, 'He is Moses.'

Then I passed by Jesus and he said, 'Welcome! O pious brother and pious Prophet.'

I asked, 'Who is he?'

Gabriel replied, 'He is Jesus. Then I passed by Abraham and he said, 'Welcome! O pious Prophet and pious son.'

I asked Gabriel, 'Who is he?'

Gabriel replied, 'He is Abraham.

The Prophet added, 'Then Gabriel ascended with me to a place where I heard the creaking of the pens.'

Ibn Hazm and Anas bin Malik said: The Prophet said, "Then Allah enjoined fifty prayers on my followers when I returned with this order of Allah, I passed by Moses who asked me, 'What has Allah enjoined on your followers?'

I replied, 'He has enjoined fifty prayers on them.'

Moses said, 'Go back to your Lord (and appeal for reduction) for your followers will not be able to bear it.' (So I went back to Allah and requested for reduction) and He reduced it to half.

When I passed by Moses again and informed him about it, he said, 'Go back to your Lord as your followers will not be able to bear it.'

So I returned to Allah and requested for further reduction and half of it was reduced. I again passed by Moses and he said to me: 'Return to your Lord, for your followers will not be able to bear it.

So I returned to Allah and He said, 'These are five prayers and they are all (equal to) fifty (in reward) for My Word does not change.'

I returned to Moses and he told me to go back once again.

I replied, 'Now I feel shy of asking my Lord again.'

Then Gabriel took me till we reached Sidrat-il-Muntaha (Lote tree of; the utmost boundary [of Paradise]) which was shrouded in colors, indescribable.

Then I was admitted into Paradise where I found small (tents or) walls (made) of pearls and its earth was of musk."

Bukhari 6.345

The most important account, the one with a stopover in Jerusalem, is actually a hadith recorded by the second most respected hadith collector, Sahih Muslim. In this hadith the Prophet is offered a choice of wine, milk or honey at the beginning of the journey rather than towards the end of his sojourn in Paradise. (Please note, Sahih Muslim does not use quotes.)

It is narrated on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: I was brought al-Buraq Who is an animal white and long, larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule, who would place his hoof a distance equal to the range of version.

I mounted it and came to the Temple (Bait Maqdis in Jerusalem), then tethered it to the ring used by the prophets.

I entered the mosque and prayed two rak'ahs in it, and then came out and Gabriel brought me a vessel of wine and a vessel of milk. I chose the milk, and Gabriel said: You have chosen the natural thing. Then he took me to heaven.

Gabriel then asked the (gate of heaven) to be opened and he was asked who he was. He replied: Gabriel.

He was again asked: Who is with you?

He (Gabriel) said: Muhammad.

It was said: Has he been sent for?

Gabriel replied: He has indeed been sent for. And (the door of the heaven) was opened for us and lo! we saw Adam. He welcomed me and prayed for my good.

Then we ascended to the second heaven. Gabriel (peace be upon him) (asked the door of heaven to be opened), and he was asked who he was. He answered: Gabriel; and was again asked: Who is with you?

He replied: Muhammad.

It was said: Has he been sent for?

He replied: He has indeed been sent for. The gate was opened.

When I entered 'Isa b. Maryam and Yahya b. Zakariya (peace be upon both of them), cousins from the maternal side. welcomed me and prayed for my good.

Then I was taken to the third heaven and Gabriel asked for the opening (of the door).

He was asked: Who are you?

He replied: Gabriel.

He was (again) asked: Who is with you?

He replied Muhammad (may peace be upon him).

It was said: Has he been sent for?

He replied He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and I saw Yusuf (peace of Allah be upon him) who had been given half of (world) beauty. He welcomed me prayed for my well-being. Then he ascended with us to the fourth heaven.

Gabriel (peace be upon him) asked for the (gate) to be opened, and it was said: Who is he?

He replied: Gabriel.

It was (again) said: Who is with you?

He said: Muhammad.

It was said: Has he been sent for?

He replied: He has indeed been sent for.

The (gate) was opened for us, and lo! Idris was there. He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being (About him) Allah, the Exalted and the Glorious, has said:" We elevated him (Idris) to the exalted position" (Qur'an 19:57).

Then he ascended with us to the fifth heaven and Gabriel asked for the (gate) to be opened.

It was said: Who is he?

He replied Gabriel.

It was (again) said: Who is with thee?

He replied: Muhammad.

It was said Has he been sent for?

He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and then I was with Harun (Aaron-peace of Allah be upon him). He welcomed me prayed for my well-being. Then I was taken to the sixth heaven.

Gabriel (peace be upon him) asked for the door to be opened.

It was said: Who is he?

He replied: Gabriel.

It was said: Who is with thee?

He replied: Muhammad.

It was said: Has he been sent for?

He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I was with Musa (Moses peace be upon him) He welcomed me and prayed for my well-being.

Then I was taken up to the seventh heaven.

Gabriel asked the (gate) to be opened.

It was said: Who is he?

He said: Gabriel

It was said. Who is with thee?

He replied: Muhammad (may peace be upon him.)

It was said: Has he been sent for?

He replied: He has indeed been sent for. (The gate) was opened for us and there I found Ibrahim (Abraham peace be upon him) reclining against the Bait-ul-Ma'mur and there enter into it seventy thousand angels every day, never to visit (this place) again.

Then I was taken to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha whose leaves were like elephant ears and its fruit like big earthenware vessels. And when it was covered by the Command of Allah, it underwent such a change that none amongst the creation has the power to praise its beauty.

Then Allah revealed to me a revelation and He made obligatory for me fifty prayers every day and night.

Then I went down to Moses (peace be upon him) and he said: What has your Lord enjoined upon your Ummah?

I said: Fifty prayers.

He said: Return to thy Lord and beg for reduction (in the number of prayers), for your community shall not be able to bear this burden. as I have put to test the children of Israel and tried them (and found them too weak to bear such a heavy burden).

He (the Holy Prophet) said: I went back to my Lord and said: My Lord, make things lighter for my Ummah.

(The Lord) reduced five prayers for me. I went down to Moses and said. (The Lord) reduced five (prayers) for me, He said: Verily thy Ummah shall not be able to bear this burden; return to thy Lord and ask Him to make things lighter.

I then kept going back and forth between my Lord Blessed and Exalted and Moses, till He said: There are five prayers every day and night. O Muhammad, each being credited as ten, so that makes fifty prayers. He who intends to do a good deed and does not do it will have a good deed recorded for him; and if he does it, it will be recorded for him as ten; whereas he who intends to do an evil deed and does not do, it will not be recorded for him; and if he does it, only one evil deed will be recorded.

I then came down and when I came to Moses and informed him, he said: Go back to thy Lord and ask Him to make things lighter.

Upon this the Messenger of Allah remarked: I returned to my Lord until I felt ashamed before Him.

Sahih Muslim book 1 hadith 309

There were no eyewitnesses to the Prophet’s departure from Mecca, his landing in Jerusalem, his takeoff for heaven or his return flight to Mecca the following morning; and of course there is no historical or archaeological evidence of any kind to back up his story which may explain why Islamic scholars have speculated that the journey never took place in reality but occurred in a dream.

For the Prophet and his Host, it was not a dream. God's Messenger described this journey to sceptical Meccans the next day. Even with Allah providing visual aids to help His Messenger recall what he had seen, many believed he had gone insane.

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:

That he heard Allah's Apostle saying, "When the people of Quraish did not believe me (i.e. the story of my Night Journey), I stood up in Al-Hijr (the unroofed portion of the Ka'ba) and Allah displayed Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing it to them while I was looking at it."

Bukhari 58.226

It was only after he remembered seeing a caravan from the air (which shortly arrived in Mecca) that some of the accusations of insanity were withdrawn.


It is from this one visit to Paradise that we have the only eye-witness account of what Jesus and Moses may have looked like. In one hadith Jesus has the "lank hair"; in another it is Moses.

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet said, "On the night of my ascent to the Heaven, I saw Moses who was a tall brown curly-haired man as if he was one of the men of Shan'awa tribe, and I saw Jesus, a man of medium height and moderate complexion inclined to the red and white colors and of lank hair ..."

Bukhari 54.462

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "On the night of my Ascension to Heaven, I saw (the prophet) Moses who was a thin person with lank hair, looking like one of the men of the tribe of Shanua; and I saw Jesus who was of average height with red face as if he had just come out of a bathroom. And I resemble prophet Abraham more than any of his offspring does.

Then I was given two cups, one containing milk and the other wine. Gabriel said, 'Drink whichever you like.'

I took the milk and drank it.

Gabriel said, 'You have accepted what is natural, (True Religion i.e. Islam) and if you had taken the wine, your followers would have gone astray.' "

Bukhari 55.607

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet said, "One should not say that I am better than Jonah (i.e. Yunus) bin Matta." So, he mentioned his father Matta.

The Prophet mentioned the night of his Ascension and said, "The prophet Moses was brown, a tall person as if from the people of the tribe of Shanu'a. Jesus was a curly-haired man of moderate height."

He also mentioned Malik, the gate-keeper of the (Hell) Fire, and Ad-Dajjal.

Bukhari 55.608