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The Magnificent Journey: Al-Israa’ wal Mi’raaj

Sh. Yaser Birjas



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Every year, on the night of the 27th of Rajab according to the Islamic calendar (August 10th of this year 2007), Muslims around the world celebrate the magnificent journey of the Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam. They commemorate the miraculous trip the Prophet undertook to Jerusalem, the heart of the ancient world and the center of faith, and then his ascension to the seventh heaven to stand before the Divine and meet with his Lord Subhanahu wa Ta’aala.

Fourteen hundred years ago Al-Israa’ wal Mi’raaj or ‘The Night Journey’ brought to the world something that changed the course of history.

This article is neither about discussing the validity or invalidity of this celebration, nor it is about the argument over the actual date and year this journey took place. Furthermore, it is not designed to create a narrative discussion over the details of this journey, how and what had happened there, or what the Prophet had seen there entirely. Those kinds of discussions must be done separately, and there are many opinions mentioned in books of Seerah and history regarding them. Those who have an ardent desire to explore it further can look it up there insha’Allah.

Our discussion here –from a believer’s perspective- is about the essence of this journey. The subtle messages embedded with every bit of the story. Why did it happen? Why the Prophet Muhammad? Where was he taken during that journey? Why there and not somewhere else?

Why did he meet with the prophets and led them in Salat? Why did Musa salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam interfere with the divine command of Salat for the benefit of the Ummah of Muhammad?

There has been a lot of controversy amongst Muslim scholars over the factual details of this journey, but they argued little, if ever, about the actuality and the certainty of its occurrence. The incident is a fact that has been mentioned in the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Allah said:

“سبحان الذي أسرى بعبده ليلا من المسجد الحرام إلى المسجد الأقصى الذي باركنا حوله لنريه من آياتنا إنه هو السميع البصير”

“Glory to ((Allah)) who did take His servant for a journey by night from the sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts we did bless, – In order that we might show Him some of Our Signs: for He is the One who heareth and seeth (All things).” Al-Israa’ 17:1

The hadith of the Israa’ was narrated with multiple versions in many of the various collections of Hadith, Seerah, and history books. With so many details mentioned therein, despite the questionable authenticity of some, a person can draw a clear and a vivid picture of the whole journey.

Anas narrated a hadith found in Saheeh AlBukhari, in the book of ‘Beginning of Creation’ (Vl. 4, book 54, hadith 429) and in Saheeh Muslim in the book of ‘Iman’ (Book 1, ch. 75, hadith 309)

More details were even provided in other collections of hadith with different degrees of authenticity.

Imam Ibn katheer rahimahullah in his Tafseer (see Ibn Katheer) of the beginning of surah Al-Israa’17, compiled almost all the different narrations of the hadith from more than 15 different companions

He then concluded with a quote from Al-Hafiz Abu Al-Khattab `Umar bin Dihyah from his book At-Tanwir fi Mawlid As-Siraj Al-Munir:
“Even though some reports do not fulfill the conditions of Sahih, nevertheless the Muslims agreed unanimously on the fact that the Israa’ happened, and it was rejected only by the heretics and apostates.

“يريدون ليطفئوا نور الله بأفواههم والله متم نوره ولو كره الكافرون”

(They intend to put out the Light of Allah with their mouths. But Allah will bring His Light to perfection even though the disbelievers hate (it).) Al-Saaf (61:8).”

Many questions arise in the mind of any person who comes across this hadith or the story of the night journey.

To answer these questions we will highlight select parts of the story regardless of their order of events. It is worth noting this discussion on the story of Al-Israa’ wal Mi’raaj is not intended to place any final judgment or form any particular opinion on any of its details. It is only an attempt to open the subject for further research and discussion.

Part One: From Makkah to Jerusalem: Why not the Heavens?

First we must distinguish between the two parts of this journey i.e. the two trips the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam made during that night: the Israa’ and the Mi’raaj.

Al-Israa’: The trip from Makkah to Jerusalem
Al-Mi’raaj: The trip from Jerusalem to Heavens

The English translation of the ‘Israa’ and Mi’raaj’ is commonly simplified with the term ‘The Night Journey’. But that does not make clear the two distinctive trips done during that night. Nevertheless, the term ‘the night journey’ still carries the literal meaning of the first trip the ‘Israa’. Perhaps it can also be said that the second part of the journey the ‘Mi’raaj’ is understood from the same term, since it was done during the same night according to the majority of scholars.

The source of this confusion can be traced back to the translation of the name of Surah Al-Is’raa, which in the dictionary means ‘the journey by night’. The word Israa’ identifies the first trip and is mentioned in the first Ayah. The second trip, however, was not mentioned there but in another surah.

Besides the details of the Mi’raaj which were mentioned in many ahadith, the Qur’an also mentions it in Surah al-Najm 53: 13-18, proving its occurrence.

Allah said:

“ولقد رآه نزلة أخرى * عند سدرة المنتهى * عندها جنة المأوى * إذ يغشى السدرة ما يغشى * ما زاغ البصر وما طغى * لقد رأى من آيات ربه الكبرى*”

13. For indeed He saw Him at a second descent,
14. Near the Lote-tree beyond which none may pass:
15. Near it is the Garden of abode.
16. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded (in Mystery unspeakable!)
17. (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong!
18. For truly did He see, of the Signs of His Lord, the Greatest!

Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, “When the Messenger of Allah was taken on the journey of Israa’, he ascended to Sidrat Al-Muntaha, which is a tree in the sixth heaven, and where everything terminates. Everything which ascends from the earth is held there and then is taken afterwards, and everything that descends to the earth is held there and then is taken down” (Reported by Ahmad and Muslim).

There is some debate Sidrat Al-Muntaha was found in the seventh heaven (according to the hadith of Anas and most narrations) or in the sixth (according to the hadith of Ibn Mas’ud). The second trip, the ascension to the seventh heaven, did indeed happen even though Ibn Masoud used the term ‘Israa’ to speak about the Mi’raaj.
Since the two trips happened during the same night journey, the term ‘The night journey’ was assumed to be for both.

Trip one was the ‘Israa’ or ‘the journey by night’. This trip was clearly defined in the Qur’an in surah Al-Israa’ 17:1. It was the journey of the Prophet on the back of Al-Buraaq the animal which carried him that night from Al-Masjid Al-Haraam (the sacred masjid) in Makkah to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (the farthest masjid) in Jerusalem.

Trip two was the ‘Mi’raaj’ i.e. the ‘ascension’ or ‘the stairway, ladder or elevator’. This trip was mentioned in surat Al-Najm 53, and the hadith cited earlier. The transportation used in this trip is not clear. Some narrations suggested that Al-Buraaq was used again in this trip, but a hadith from Abu Sa’eed Al-khudree mentions a different method, a ‘stairway’ or a ‘ladder’.

Al-Bayhaqi in Dalael Al-Nubuwwah narrates, the Messenger salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam said: “The Mi’raaj was brought to me. It is the ‘stairway’ which the souls of the children of Adam ascend on. No creation has ever seen anything of such beauty as of the Mi’raaj.”

This hadith was also narrated in other collections of hadith, however, all of them cited the same source, Abu Haroun AlAbdi on the authority of Abu Sa’eed. Abu Haroun is deemed to be weak and unreliable. Nevertheless, Ibn Katheer accepted the Mi’raaj as the way of ascension.

Ibn Katheer rahimahullah asserts this in his summary of the whole story. After the compilation of all the different narrations he said: “Then the Mi`raj was brought to him, which is a ‘stairway’ or a ladder with steps which one climbs up. So he went up on it to the first heaven, then he went up to the rest of the seven heavens.”

This hadith is very clear on the method. The word Mir’aaj is used here to name the stairway as well as to describe the ascension.

In light of the hadith of Abu Sa’eed according to Ibn Katheer, the linguistic meaning of the word itself in the Arabic dictionary, and considering the miraculous nature and beauty of this Mi’raaj, could this Mi’raaj be viewed as a heavenly escalator, shining with silver and gold? [1]

Is Jerusalem truly the earthly gate to heaven? Was that the reason why the Mi’raaj was stationed there? Why did the Prophet have to stop in Jerusalem on his way to the seventh heaven? Couldn’t he just travel from Makkah straight to heaven?

Perhaps an indication to the answer can be found in a different hadith. Imam Ahmad, Ibn Majah and other scholars reported that Maymoonah bint Sa’ad or Sa’eed, a servant of the Prophet, asked: O Messenger of Allah! Give us an answer (judgment) on Bait Al-Maqdis –Jerusalem-? He said: “The land of Mahshar –congregation- and Manshar –resurrection. A land where you should go visit, and pray therein…”

Al-Sindi in his commentary on Ibn Majah said: “That means on the Day of Qiyaamah (Resurrection) people will be directed to move towards (Jerusalem) for their congregation as indicated by other ahadith.”
Imam Muslim narrated a hadith from Hudhayfah in which the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam counted ten signs of the Day of Judgment. One of the signs of Day of Judgment mentioned in the hadith was the fire which will erupt in Yemen and then move the people as they escape it until it gathers them all into their ‘Mahshar’ i.e. congregation station.

AlMubarakpuri in his commentary on Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, after narrating the above hadith, quoted Imam Al-Qaree saying: “Some say that the land of congregation will be Al-sham (Jerusalem and its surrounding) based on a report from an authentic hadith. But it seems that the congregation will start there or maybe the land will expand in order to fit all the creation of the world.”

From the above narrations it seems that Jerusalem i.e. Bait Al-Maqdis is the land of congregation ‘AlMahshar’. Whether this congregation is happening before the actual start of the Hour or after the resurrection begins the conclusion is the same. Eventually people will be taken to the earthly station of their congregation before their ascension to heaven. And that earthly station is Bait Al-Maqdis.

Jerusalem or Bait Al-Maqdis was and still is the seat of divine revelation and center of faith. Many Prophets and Messengers of Allah resided there. Others were commanded to make it the destination of their immigration. During the time period of Banu Israel (the children of Israel) prophets once ruled the land and when one died another succeeded him, all by divine assignment. The divine connection was constant and had suffered no interruption for so many generations. For that reason it was made Qudus, or a sacred and purifying land.

Abul Waleed AlBaji in Al-Muntaqaa, a commentary on AlMuwatta’ by Imam Malik, said about Bait Al-Maqdis: “The reason the people of Bait Al-Maqdis were privileged with such a title (holy or purifying land) was when they once acted upon the obedience of Allah. They had many prophets amongst them and the rest were companions of the prophets. This was probably because they had been commanded to reside and remain there in Jerusalem.

Similar to this is the order of Hijrah (immigration) to Madeenah which was given to the early Muslims. Residency in Madeenah has since become a source of purification to its residents, purifying them from their sins.”

Such reports attesting to the virtue of Madeenah can be found in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Muslim and other collections of hadith.

It is not surprising at all why the Messenger of Allah had to stop in Jerusalem on his way to heavens. It is obvious that he needed to arrive at the gate to heavens and that was in Jerusalem.

The arrival of Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam at Jerusalem had many implications on the concept of religious guidance and leadership. His physical arrival there when there was no mention of him or his message amongst the people of the Holy Land – except for few high priests- meant a lot to the universality of his message. His historical meeting with the prophets and messengers of Allah and especially the prophets of Banu Israel was another sign that the winds of change were about to blow. This was an announcement of a new establishment, the establishment of a new chapter in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It has now received a new addition to its tradition, a Muslim tradition. His arrival at Jerusalem was the beginning of the story, the story that changed the course of history.

Coming up:

Part Two: Ascending the throne of religious leadership

A thematic examination for the surah 17 would probably tell why.

Surah 17, Al-Israa’ is also called the chapter of ‘Banu Israel’ or ‘The Children of Israel’. It is not coincidence that the beginning of this surah which speaks about the incident of Israa’ was followed by the destiny of the chosen ones ‘The Children of Israel’.
Al-Israa’or that night journey happened to take place in Jerusalem, the home of the children of Israel.


[1] See the commentary of Abdullah Yusuf Ali at the very beginning of surah 17 Al-Israa’ and the influence of this Mi’raaj literature on the medieval literature of Europe, according to Professor Miguiel Asin in his book ‘Islam and the divine comedy’.

Sh. Yaser Birjas is originally from Palestine. He received his Bachelors degree from Islamic University of Madinah in 1996 in Fiqh & Usool, graduating as the class valedictorian. After graduating, he went on to work as a youth counselor and relief program aide in war-torn Bosnia. Thereafter, he immigrated to the U.S. and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He is also an instructor at AlMaghrib Institute, where he teaches popular seminars such as Fiqh of Love, The Code Evolved, and Heavenly Hues.



  1. Avatar


    August 8, 2007 at 1:43 PM

    I’ve been looking for this perspective on journey of Al-Israa’ wal Mi’raaj for sometime, Great First Post!

    Jazakumallahukhair Shaykh Yaser! We can’t express how excited we are that you joined MM!

    -your students @ youthmatters

  2. Amad


    August 8, 2007 at 1:46 PM

    Mashallah, that’s the first time I have read this angle of the the miraculous journey!


  3. Avatar


    August 8, 2007 at 1:50 PM

    Wow mash’Allah. Its just awesome. I know you do not want to go into tangents, but I can not resist asking a question, did prophet Muhammad PBUH led souls of other prophets in prayer, or were they resurrected to be in the prayer or were they in some special condition other than these two?

  4. Avatar

    Dispatches Undercover Mosque - FAKE!!!

    August 8, 2007 at 2:34 PM

    UK police are investigating and reporting Channel 4 to the proper authorities over the way how the “Undercover Mosque” program was edited and purposely distorted.

  5. Avatar


    August 8, 2007 at 2:35 PM

    as salamu`alaykum Sh Yaser!

    mashaAllah…it’s a beautiful article :) We miss you here ya sheikh!

  6. Avatar


    August 8, 2007 at 3:12 PM

    Masha’Allah, an amazingly insightful post! I never knew that Jerusalem was really the “earthly gate to Paradise”… I’d just assumed that the reason for the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) went there was simply due to historical significance, and so that he could lead the other Prophets (‘alaihumus-salaam) in salaah to “prove” (although that doesn’t seem like the right word to use) the importance and magnificence of his position as Khaatim al-Anbiyaa.

  7. Avatar


    August 9, 2007 at 9:53 PM

    can we fast on this day? was wondering if its sunnah cuz iv heard alot of people saying that!

  8. Pingback: Laylatul Mir’aj « Writeous Sister Speaks

  9. Avatar


    August 11, 2007 at 10:49 PM

    MashaAllah great article, Shaykh Yaser. Looking forward to your next article.

  10. Pingback: Aaminah Hernández

  11. Pingback: Laylatul Mir’aj 1429 « Aaminah Hernández

  12. Pingback: Al-Israa' and Al-Mi`raj - LI Islamic Forum

  13. Avatar


    August 1, 2008 at 9:14 AM

    MashAllah a great article, indeed. Can’t wait for the next part.

    I have a question related to the following:

    His physical arrival there when there was no mention of him or his message amongst the people of the Holy Land – except for few high priests– meant a lot to the universality of his message.

    When you say “except for few high priests”, is it implying that a few high priests knew about the arrival of the Prophet (Pbuh) in Jerusalem or they knew of the coming of the Prophet (Pbuh) in Makkah/Medinah.

    JazakAllah Khair

  14. Avatar


    August 1, 2008 at 9:46 AM

    Salaam Alaikum –

    my question is the same as brother Faisal above –

    I have read narrations, with little support that say – some people saw the gate of Masjid AlAqsa open when the night custodian locked it, there were marks on the ground to show an animal was stabled outside the masjid that none has ever seen before, there were other things….

    are those narrations related to that of “except a few high priests” ?

  15. Avatar

    Selena Gomez

    March 26, 2009 at 6:05 PM

    Wow I love This wonderful story!!!!

    AND SEND IT HERE!!!!!!!!

    • Amad


      March 26, 2009 at 7:04 PM

      Selena, I am glad to see your enthusiasm. Are you a Muslim already or interested in converting? If you have questions or need any help regarding Islam, you can always contact info at muslimmatters dot org and one of the sisters who writes for MM can help you out…

      My only suggestion is that if you are thinking of becoming a Muslim, don’t wait too long because only Allah knows when our time here ends, so we should rush towards goodness.

  16. Avatar

    Dr. Abd Lateef Abd Fatah

    December 12, 2009 at 11:02 AM

    jazakum llah khaeran. shukrah. ma salam

  17. Avatar


    January 13, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Ashahadu An Laa illaaha illal llahu
    Wa Ash Hadu Anna Muhammadan Abdu Hu Wa Rasooluhu

    ”I bear witness that there is no deity but Allah
    who is without partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) is the Rasool.”
    “O Allah, Shower Your Peace come upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as you have brought peace to Ibrahim and his family. Truly, You are Praiseworthy and Glorious. O Allah, Shower your blessing upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as you have blessed Ibrahim and his family. Truly, You are Praiseworthy and Glorious”.
    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam, As-Salaam Alaikum!
    My Name is Khalid U.Ibrahim. I am in need of your (Du’a) Prayers for ALLAH’s Help and Protection. (Ya ALLAH!) OALLAH! I Beg of you to Bestow on us (the Believing Muslims) a Home, a Home of Safety, Security and Peace in this World Life, Out of the Reach of the Dajjal and his army, and also Grant us a Home of Safety,Security and Peace in the Life Hereafter,Out of the Reach of the Fires of Hell!.(Ya ALLAH!) OALLAH! I Beg of you to Increase our Faith and Devotion, and to Bless us with Peace in our Hearts and Souls.(Ya ALLAH!) Please Forgive All The Believing Muslims,(Ya ALLAH!) Please grant All the Believing Muslims the Best in this world Life and the Best in Hereafter, and(Ya ALLAH!) Please Protect us(the Believing Muslims) from own Nafs, and(Ya ALLAH!) Please Protect All the Believing Muslims from the hands of the Dajjal and his army.] {No One in this World care!} (Ya ALLAH!) OALLAH! I Beg of you for the means to do good, and to avoid evil, and Bless us to Love the poor, and I beseech you forgive us(the Believing Muslims) and have mercy on us. And When you subject the people of theWorld to trial, Protect us from being affected by it.(Ya ALLAH!) OALLAH! I Beg of you, your Love and Protection,and the Love of those who Love you, and Grant us the Love of all such actions that will bring us closer to you, with our Love and Devotion to you.(Ya ALLAH!) OALLAH! I thank you for all your Mercy and Protection that you have bestowed on us, and all that you have given us in these trouble times that we are facing,(Al-Hamdolillah!).

  18. Avatar


    July 3, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Thanks Sheikh for the details of piecing together with authentic sources, what happened to our beloved Prophet(pbuh) in the night of Al-Miraj.

    On a separate note: I’ve read through the details in another site, and I think that site is made by Shia muslims, and their narration might have been changed a bit, but I am not exactly sure. They have a lot of details, but they are not citing where they are getting most of their information from, so it is really hard to believe what is going on. For example, I know that Sheikh Yasir Qadhi mentioned in his lecture that our beloved Prophet(pbuh) didn’t actually “see” Allah, but rather directly heard, without any intermediaries, His voice. Our Prophet(pbuh) didn’t see Allah’s Divine Beauty, but heard His speech. However, this Shia website claims that Allah made our Prophet(pbuh) see a glimpse of His Divine Beauty, so our Prophet(pbuh) saw a little bit of Allah’s Divine Beauty. Also the Shia source mentions that the butterflies in the Sidrat-ul-Muntaha are actually Angels, but most Sunni sites say that those are just butterflies made of gold, and they are not Angels.
    Surely, Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala knows best.

    Here is the link, Four Streams of Paradise, if anyone know any info about their narration regarding Al Miraj or any of the other articles, please post something about it.

    -Jajakallah Khair

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

Continue Reading


Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change

Imam Mikaeel Smith



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.


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The Languages of the Sahaba

Antar Abdellah



Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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Arabs – during the time of the revelation- were known as an illiterate nation for whom the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was sent from among themselves. Yet, there are instances in the prophetic hadiths that draw attention to some literate companions who were even able to speak and write in more than one tongue. In this article, we shed light at samples of the companions who were multilingual.

The Prophetic stand towards foreign languages:

One hadith is well known among current Muslims in which the Prophet ﷺ says: “Whoever learns a language of a people (other than Arabic), he becomes safe from their wickedness”. Although this saying is well known among Muslims, the fact is that it is not a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ. Hadith scholars say it is root-less, fabricated, but its meaning is sound. Another fabricated hadith is the one that goes “Seek knowledge even in China”. Some people deduce that one cannot seek knowledge in China without being able to communicate with the Chinse in their own language.

Although these two fabricated hadiths are well known, there is no real need for them to establish the importance of learning a foreign language as perceived by the Prophet ﷺ and the companions in their dealings. After all, the Prophet’s tradition (Sunnah) is not just verbal hadiths; it includes his dealings and actions. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is known to have used messengers to carry his messages to kings and emperors after the 6th year of Hijra. He sent Hatib ibn Abi Baltaa to Egypt because he was knowledgeable about Greek that was spoken by the rulers in Egypt at that time. He also sent Jaafar Ibn Abi Talib to the king of Abyssinia, because Jaafaar learned their tongue while he was there in the first Hijra, where he spent more than 10 years there. The Prophet ﷺ even ordered some of his companions to learn the tongue of the Jews so as to translate for him the messages they used to send to him.

In addition, he ﷺ used very few non-Arabic words in his hadiths that were known to his interlocutors. In Al Bukhari, Um Khalid (the daughter of Khalid bin Sa`id) who was a very young child narrated “I went to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ with my father and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Sanah, Sanah!” (`Abdullah, the narrator, said that ‘Sanah’ meant ‘good’ in the Ethiopian language). I then started playing with the seal of Prophethood (in between the Prophet’s shoulders) and my father rebuked me harshly for that. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said. “Leave her,” and then Allah’s Messenger ﷺ (invoked Allah to grant me a long life) by saying (thrice), “Wear this dress till it is worn out and then wear it till it is worn out, and then wear it till it is worn out.” (The narrator adds, “It is said that she lived for a long period, wearing that (yellow) dress till its color became dark because of long wear.”)

In another hadith, The Prophet ﷺ said, “Near the establishment of the Hour, there will be the days of Al-Harj, and the religious knowledge will be taken away (vanish i.e. by the death of Religious scholars) and general ignorance will spread.” Abu Musa raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “Al-Harj, in the Ethiopian language, means killing.”

These rare instances of using non-Arabic words in the Prophet’s speech do not mean that he knew foreign languages. Rather, it means that he knew a few words that were known to most people to whom he spoke. He used them for recreation purposes (the case of Um Khalid), or for drawing attention to the importance of the idea (the case of Abu Musa).

Bilingual Sahaba:

  1. Abu Huraira:

There different instances where Abu Huraira raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) spoke Faris (Persian). In Al Bukhari, Hilal ibn Usamah quoted Abu Maimunah Salma, a client of the people of Madinah, as saying:

While I was sitting with Abu Huraira, a Persian woman came to him along with a son of hers. She had been divorced by her husband and they both wanted custody. She said: Abu Huraira, speaking to him in Persian, my husband wishes to take my son away. Abu Huraira said: Cast lots for him, saying it to her in a foreign language. Her husband came and asked: Who is disputing with me about my son?

Abu Huraira said: O Allah, I do not say this, except that I heard a woman who came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ while I was sitting with him, and she said: My husband wishes to take away my son, Messenger of Allah, and he draws water for me from the well of Abu Anabah, and he has been good to me. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: Cast lots for him. Her husband said: Who is disputing with me about my son?

The Prophet ﷺ said to the boy: This is your father and this your mother, so take whichever of them you wish by the hand. So he took his mother’s hand and she went away with him.

In addition to Persian, Abu Huraira is reported to have spoken in Abyssinian. In Al Bukhari, Abu Salama narrated that ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Auf raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying:

There is no transitive disease, but he is also reported to have said: A sick person should not be taken to one who is healthy. Abu Salama said that Abu Huraira used to narrate these two (different hadiths) from Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, but afterwards Abu Huraira became silent on these words:” There is no transitive disease,” but he stuck to this that the sick person should not be taken to one who is healthy. Harith b. Abu Dhubab (and he was the first cousin of Abu Huraira) said: Abu Huraira, I used to hear from you that you narrated to us along with this hadith and the other one also (there is no transitive disease), but now you observe silence about it. You used to say that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: There is no transitive disease. Abu Huraira denied having any knowledge of that, but he said that the sick camel should not be taken to the healthy one. Harith, however, did not agree with him, which irritated Abu Huraira and he said to him some words in the Abyssinian language. He said to Harith: Do you know what I said to you? He said: No. Abu Huraira said: I simply denied having said it. Abu Salama said: By my life, Abu Huraira in fact used to report Allah’s Messenger ﷺ having said: There is no transitive disease. I do not know whether Abu Huraira has forgotten it or he deemed it an abrogated statement in the light of the other one.

So, while Abu Huraira used Persian in the first Hadith for communication purposes, he used Abyssinian in the second for expressing his anger. Did he try to conceal his anger by holding his tongue in Arabic, and releasing it in a foreign language? This may be the case.

  1. Zaid ibn Thabit:

Zaid is known as on the geniuses of the companions. He was the one entitled with the responsibility of collecting the Quran during the time of Abi Bakr and the time of Othman Ibn Affan. He tells us about how the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered him to learn a foreign language.

Narrated Zayd ibn Thabit: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) ordered me (to learn the writing of the Jews), so I learned for him the writing of the Jews. He said: I swear by Allah, I do not trust Jews in respect of writing for me. So I learned it, and only a fortnight passed before I mastered it. I would write for him when he wrote (to them), and read to him when something was written to him.

The hadith indicates that Zaid learnt Syriac/ Aramaic which the Jews used in their writings. Zaid states that only 15 days were enough for him to master the language. It seems that Zaid focused more on the orthographic system rather than the phonic system because he does not tell us about instances where he used Syriac/ Aramaic in speaking.

  1. Salman The Persian:

As Salman was a native speaker of Persian, he was the first choice for the companions when they wanted to communicate with Persians. Narrated Abu Al-Bakhtari: “An Army from the armies of the Muslims, whose commander was Salman Al-Farisi, besieged one of the Persian castles. They said: ‘O Abu ‘Abdullah! Should we charge them?’ He said: ‘Leave me to call them (to Islam) as I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ call them.’

So Salman went to them and said: ‘I am only a man from among you, a Persian, and you see that the Arabs obey me. If you become Muslims then you will have the likes of what we have, and from you will be required that which is required from us. If you refuse and keep your religion, then we will leave you to it, and you will give us the Jizyah from your hands while you are submissive.’ He said to them in Persian: ‘And you are other than praiseworthy and if you refuse then we will equally resist you.’ They said: ‘We will not give you the Jizyah, we will fight you instead.’ So they said: ‘O Abu ‘Abdullah! Should we charge them?’ He said: ‘No.'” He said: “So for three days he called them to the same (things), and then he said: ‘Charge them.'” He said: “So we charged them, and we conquered the castle.”

We can deduce from the story of Salman that in seeking the last prophet, he knew some other languages, especially Syriac/ Aramaic as he used to serve Jewish and Christian monks and read their books. It is also narrated that a group of Persians asked Salman to translate the opening chapter of the Quran (Al Fatiha) for them to be able to understand its meaning. It is reported that he translated it or part of it. If this is true, then Salman would be the first translator of the meanings of the Quran –or part of it- in history.

  1. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib

Although we know very little about ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), he is reported in Al Bukhari to have saved a non-Arab woman from the punishment for adultery. It was during the reign of Uman Ibn Al Khattab that a Persian woman was forced to commit adultery. She came to Umar, and ‘Umar said in the presence of ‘Ali, ‘Abdur-Rahman, and ‘Uthman, “What is this woman saying?” (the woman was non-Arab) ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib said: “She is informing you about her companion who has committed illegal sexual intercourse with her.” Umar realized that she didn’t know that adultery was prohibited in Islam and that she was complaining from her companion who forced her to commit it. So Umar released her.

  1. Abu Jamra Al Basri

Abu Jamra is not one of the companions. He is one of the Tabieen (followers). He used to keep the company of Ibn Abbas, and while Ibn Abbas is known as the turjuman (interpreter) of the Quran, Abu Jamra was the inter-lingual interpreter of Ibn Abbas. Abu Jamar said – as narrated in Al Bukhari, “I was an interpreter between Ibn ‘Abbas and the people.” Based on four instances of using translators (The Roman translator at the palace of Heraclius in Abu Sufian’s account, the hadith by Zaid ibn Thabit, the account of Abdur-Rahman ibn Hatib and the account of Abu Jamara), Al-Bukhari commented that “a ruler should have two interpreters.”


These are just some instances of companions and followers who are narrated to have spoken or written in foreign languages. It is strongly believed that there were numerous cases of other bilingual transactions in the early Muslim community, but they were not recorded as they were not relevant to religious matters. Learning foreign languages then is deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition, and we do not need to go to China to prove this.

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