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Ascent to Heaven



Week 4 Response: Illustrations of the Miraj

Medium: Digital Art

In this illustration, I have depicted the ascent of Muhammad to the heavens to meet with God. The illustration depicts Muhammad on a winged creature in the presence of white light emanating from the figure of Muhammad and God in top right corner. On the left, I have drawn a minaret to highlight the debate of namaz prayers that God and Muhammad argued upon, where Muhammad bargains to reduce the number of prayers.

The Prophet’s ascension to the Heavens in only alluded to in the verse of chapter 17, “Praised be He who travelled by night with His servant from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque upon which we have sent down our blessing, that We might show him some of Our signs”.

From the readings of week 4, “Following God’s Beloved: Prophet Muhammad as the Ideal Muslim” in Infidel of Love, Professor Ali Asani explains the incidence of Miraj as told by Ibn Ishaq, one of the earliest biographers of Muhammad’s life. The account goes as follows: “One night the Prophet is awoken from by the angel Gabriel and asked to mount Buraq, a part human/part animal winged creature. Riding Buraq and accompanied by Gabriel…Finally, he comes to the highest heaven where he is blessed with a beatific vision—a face to face meeting with God.”

In my illustration, I have highlighted the Nur of Muhammad which in the presence of God makes the light verse discussed in class, pertinent because in class we discussed how the light of Muhammad is a primordial light bits and pieces of which had been attributed to every prophet. The source of Muhammad’s light is God.

“Light upon Light; God guides to His Light whom He wills. And God strikes similitudes for man, and God has knowledge of everything” (24:35)

In my illustration, I have also depicted the story of bargaining with God the number of namaz prayers that was to be compulsory on Muslims by drawing a minaret in which Muslims say their prayers. From the readings the account goes as follows: “…on his journey back to earthly realms after his encounter with God, Muhammad meets Moses. During their conversation, Muhammad tells Moses that God has commanded his followers to pray fifty times a day. Upon hearing this, Moses, based on his experience with his followers, urges Muhammad to return to God and request a reduction in the number as Muslims would never be able to fulfill such an onerous prayer requirement. Muhammad then goes back and forth between God and Moses negotiating the number of required prayers till they are reduced to five”. (Pg. 130, Ali Asani, Infidel of Love)

Lastly, the question remains whether the ascent of the Prophet Muhammad was a spiritual or a physical experience? Muslims are divided upon the argument and claim that if it was a spiritual experience than why was Buraq needed to ascend to heaven. In my illustration, I have also just shown Muhammad being able to see God. Even Angel Jibrael who accompanied Muhammad on the ascent, didn’t go to the last level because Angel Jibrael represents intellect. We have seen in class that mystics describe the ascension as possible just because Muhammad had completely abandoned his ego. Mystics also believe that events like mi’raj are common among spiritual mystics who have themselves no ego as “in the presence of God there can be only one ego” that of God.

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