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Isra’ and Mi‘raj in Muslim Religious Poetry

Many shu‘ara (poets) have captured the essence of Isra’ and Mi‘raj in their qasaid (religious poems). The love for Rasulullah (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) that each of them manifests is indescribable. The most well-known of these is Sayyid us-shu‘ara (the leader of all the religious poets), Imam al-Busiri who writes about the Isra’ and Mi‘raj in the seventh fasl (part) of his Qasida al-Burda (The Poem of the Prophet’s Mantle). Let us gain barakaat (blessings) by reciting just two verses of the Burda.

Sarayta min haramin laylan ilā haramin
kamā saral badru fī dājin min az-zulami

Wa bitta tarqā ilā an nilta manzilatan
min qābi qawsayni lam tudrak wa lam turami

You travelled by night from one sacred Masjid to another
like the full moon that travels through darkness

And you completed the ascent until you reached the position
(of nearness of a distance) of only two bow lengths
     (such nearness) that has never been achieved nor sought.

More recently, Shaykh Hasan Muhammad ‘AbdAllah Shaddad ‘Umar Ba ‘Umar composed the Nahj al-Burda, a qasida with the same rhyme and rhythm as the Burda of Imam al-Busiri. He devotes its ninth fasl (part) to Isra’ and Mi‘raj, displaying his special love for the gift of Salah (Prayer) which our Beloved Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) received on Mi‘raj.

Another well-known qasida of Imam al-Busiri in praise of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) is his Hamziyya, a qasida all of whose 456 verses end and rhyme in the letter hamza. He devoted four verses to Isra’ and Mi‘raj.

Imam Yusuf ibn Isma‘il an-Nabhani followed in the footsteps of Imam al-Busiri and composed a Hamziyya Alfiyya, a qasida with (approximately) a thousand verses all rhyming in the letter hamza. His fasl (part) on Isra’ and Mi‘raj has 30 verses.

Imam al-Barzanji composed a poetical biography of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) with his birth as its main theme. It is in seventeen parts, all of its verses ending and rhyming in the letter nūn. The twelfth part is on Isra’ and Mi‘raj.

Imam al-Barzanji composed another biography of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) in poetic prose with nineteen parts, all of its verses rhyming in the letter . The fourteenth part is on Isra’ and Mi‘raj.

Mzee bin ‘Ali Muhammad of Comoro Islands has translated this biography in kiSwahili poetry. He also composed a 112 verse Mi‘rajiyya in kiSwahili on Isra’ and Mi‘raj. A poem that is exclusively on Isra’ and Mi‘raj is called a Mi‘rajiyya.

Imam ‘Ali bin Muhammad al-Habshi composed a biography of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) in poetic prose titled Simtud Durar (A Necklace of Pearls) with the birth of the Prophet as its main theme. It is in fifteen parts. Its twelfth fasl (part) is on Isra’ and Mi‘raj.

Shaykh Ahmad Marzuq’s ‘Aqida al-‘Awamm (Muslim Creed for one and all) is a Mathnawi in Arabic with 57 rhyming couplets in which the rhyme keeps on changing from one couplet to the next. He devotes five verses to Isra’ and Mi‘raj.

Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman bin Shaykh ‘Umar ‘Ali al-Qādirī penned a resounding and popular qasida with forty verses all of which begin and end with the name Muhammad. Hence it is called Qasida Muhammadiyya. Ten of the verses talk about Isra’ and Mi‘raj.

Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s Mathnawi in Farsi (Persian) is a commentary on the Qur’an and the Hadith. In it, he has written with great love and devotion about Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam), especially about his Isra’ and Mi‘raj.

Then we have Bedil’s memorable and very popular qasida in Urdu in praise of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam), each of whose verses ends in the attributive title of RasulAllah (the Prophetic Messenger of Allah). After every verse, the congregation responds:

Rabbi sallim ‘ala RasulAllah
Marhaba marhaba RasulAllah

O Lord, bless the Prophetic Messenger
Welcome! Most Welcome! O Prophetic Messenger

Its three heart-warming verses on Mi‘raj are:

Ghul thaa aflaak par kay aa-ay hudur
Marhaba marhaba RasulAllah

Jaakay Sidra pay reh gha-ay Jibrail
Milay Mawla say jaa RasulAllah

Thaa na waa ghayr kya he surat thi
Ya woh Khaliq thaa ya RasulAllah

The heavens buzzed with excitement that the Prophet had come
Welcome! Most Welcome! O Prophetic Messenger of Allah

Sayyidina Jibril remained at the lote-tree
The Prophetic Messenger of Allah went on to meet the Lord

There was no one else there! What an indescribable State!
There was only The Creator Allah and His Prophetic Messenger.

To repeat, poems that are exclusively on the subject of Isra’ and Mi‘raj are called Mi‘rajiyya. Many such Mi‘rajiyya have been composed in Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, and other languages. For example, Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahman bin Ahmad az-Zayla‘i composed a Mi‘rajiyya in Arabic with 18 verses. Imam Ahmed Raza Khan composed a Mi‘rajiyya in Urdu with 66 verses. Let us gain barakaat (blessings) from its last six verses (translation is by Professor G.D. Qureshi).

Then the distinguished guest was taken to paradise.
The stars of paradise felt honoured to see the glory of their Arabian moon.

The Arabian moon was accorded a glorious welcome joyfully.
All the heavenly flowers became daffodils and the chandeliers shone more brightly.

The spirit of ecstasy edged him on but the sense of humility checked him modestly.
A real conflict of emotions: “To advance or just to stay there reverently”.

Allah’s omnipotence be praised! His truthful moon shone at millions of stations on his way. Even then he returned home by dawn before starlight faded away.

Take pity on Raza, O our intercessor and Allah’s Messenger of mercy!
Grant him a small share from the gifts distributed during the Mi‘raj journey.

My mission is to praise the Prophet. My aim is to achieve his pleasure.
The poetic rhymes and refrains have no value. Mustafa’s love is my true pleasure.

And who can forget the verse of Imam Ahmad Raza Khan on Isra’ and Mi‘raj in his memorable Salams, salutations to Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam)?

Shabay Asra kay dulha pay daaim durud
Nawsha-ay bazmay Jannat pay lakhon salam

Perpetual blessings on the Bridegroom of the night of Isra’
A million salutations on the guest of honour of Paradise.

Such a voluminous amount of poetry exists on the Isra’ and Mi‘raj of our Beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) that one could never do full justice to the task of explaining it. It is fitting to conclude this section perhaps by reciting two verses from the Qasida ad-Dakhiliyya composed by Imam ‘AbdAllah bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad. This qasida has great spiritual and historical significance as it has been engraved (in part) in the Rawda (Paradise, resting place) of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) in Masjid an-Nabawi in Madina.

‘Alayka Salātullāhi yā Sayyidan sarā
Ilallāhi hattā marra bis-sab‘i wal hujbi

Wa qāma bi aw adnā fa nāhīka rif‘atan
wa majdan samā hattā anāfa ‘alash-shuhbi

Allah’s blessings be on you O master who travelled by night
To Allah until he passed the seven heavens and all the veils

And your position of (a distance of two bow lengths) “or even less”
Is enough exaltation and a gallery so high as to vie with the stars.

(Translated by Brother Mahdy ‘Ali in consultation with Shaykh Ahmad Dualle).

Sallu ‘alan Nabi
Allahumma salli wa sallim ‘alayh

Invoke (Allah’s) blessings on the Prophet
May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him.