The Muslim majority claim that the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) meraj (ascent to the heavens) was spiritual, not physical – his body was on the earth all the time even as the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) soul was on the ascent in a dream state.
The Muslim majority draws its spiritual / dream state Meraj theory from reports that claim that his bed was still warm, and the like.
- Quran rejects spiritual Meraj
Even the apparent of the Quranic verse rejects spiritual Meraj:
سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَى بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ البَصِيرُ
Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs; surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing. (Surah Bani Israil (17): 1)
The Holy Quran clearly mentions بِعَبْدِهِ. No one believes this to mean spiritual as عَبْدِ refers to one in the flesh and blood i.e. physical. If we take عَبْدِ to mean spiritual, then wherever this word appears in the Holy Quran, it must be taken as spiritual, an impossible proposition.
- Meraj rejects the ‘mortal theory’ of the Muslims
Some Muslims downplay (rather degrade) the status of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) by claiming he (s.a.w.a.) is a mere mortal (Say: I am only a mortal like you…).
To this group we say – if indeed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is a mere mortal like other Muslims, how do they explain the Meraj? Are other Muslims blessed with the Meraj of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Meraj proves that Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) enjoys a rank far beyond the perception of anyone, including Allah’s chosen prophets (a.s.) and angels who were awestruck by his presence and stature in Meraj.
The meaning and interpretation of Quranic verses has been twisted to take Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as a mere mortal to lower him (s.a.w.a.) to the position of the ‘caliphs’, Sahabah and monarchs of Bani Umayyah and Bani Abbas.
- Apparent is no excuse to reject Ghaib
The apparent cannot be used to rule out the hidden or ghaib. If the bed of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is warm (apparent) it cannot be basis for ruling out physical Meraj (ghaib).
There are many instances in history where the apparent is misleading, particularly so in the case of infallibles (a.s.) and their miraculous deeds.
For instance, on the Day of Khaibar, Umar asked Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) based on what was apparent to him:
O Ali you uprooted the door while you were hungry (and unwell) for three days. Did you uproot it with (apparent) mortal force?
Ali (a.s.) replied: I did not uproot it with mortal strength, rather I uprooted it with divinely gifted strength (Ghaib)…
- Madinah al-Maajiz v 1 p 426
- Behaar al-Anwaar v 21 p 40
The past nations too often confused the apparent with the Ghaib. The entire Christian nation believes that it was Prophet Esa (a.s.) who was crucified on that day, because apparently that is what they witnessed. But the entire Muslim nation rejects this even though not a single Muslim was present on that day. This is because the Muslim nation knows from the Holy Quran that the apparent was very different from the Ghaib and what appeared to the Christians was not Prophet Esa (a.s.) but someone else (Yahuda / Judas).
وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَـكِن شُبِّهَ
And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Esa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him… (Surah Nisa (4): 157)
Ironically, the Muslim nation believes in Ghaib related to Prophet Esa (a.s.) even though they were not present at the time but does not believe in physical Meraj of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) even though they belong to his nation!
- Allamah Amini’s (r.a.) reply to the skeptics
The illustrious scholar and defender of Imamat – Allamah Abdul Husain Amini (r.a.) – responds to the skeptics of physical Meraj:
The correctness of the report of Meraj is only in the bodily nature of the journey. There are numerous consecutively transmitted reports to this effect, and it is from the necessary beliefs of religion. Else if we deny the bodily nature of Meraj, there is a question mark even on the correctness of the incident of Asif Ibn Barkhiyya (a.s.) in the Noble Quran. If it is possible for ‘Ifreet’ from the jinn to summon the throne of Bilqees before Sulaiman (a.s.) could rise from his place…, then it is even more appropriate for Allah to grant nobility to His proximate one by granting him power on things that He has not granted others…’
- Al-Ghadeer v 5 p 30
Indeed, if Muslims can believe in the Ghaib related to past prophets like Asif Ibn Barkhiyya (a.s.) and even the jinn ‘Ifreet’ and their ability to physically transport the awesome throne of Bilqees in a fraction of a second, what stops them from believing in the physical Meraj of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)?
- Physical Meraj among necessary beliefs of Islam
Belief in correct Meraj as backed by Quran and reliable Sunnah is among the necessary tenets of religion.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) cautions:
He is not from our Shia who rejects four things:
- Questioning in the grave
- Creation of Paradise and Fire
- Sifat al-Shia p 51
In another report, Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) warns:
One who rejects Meraj, has rejected Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
- Sifat al-Shia p 51
It must be noted that the these beliefs form part of necessary articles of religion because Muslims (at the time of the Imams till date) either reject these beliefs or do not accept them as ordained by Allah in the Noble Quran and by the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in the Sunnah. For more on the subject, interested readers can refer to Al-Fusul al-Mukhtarah of Shaikh Mufeed chap 118.
Physical Meraj is not a matter of debate given that the Holy Quran has advanced examples of such Ghaib-related incidents in the past nation. Muslims believe in all these incidents related to Ghaib. Hence it is surprising they find it necessary to justify Meraj as a dream or spiritual journey only to justify some unverified reports on Meraj by the Sahabah and wives.