“Then he approached and came closer.” [53:8]
Here (he) refers to archangel Gabriel, and this context is completely different from that in the Prophetic tradition of Isra’ and Mi‘raj, where ‘the approach’ relates to that of the Lord, Glory is to Him.
Some significant suggestive incidents featured the ‘Night Journey’ of the Prophet, of which we could mention:
The Prophet’s breast was cleft by Gabriel, his heart extracted and washed with the water of Zamzam —a sacred spring in Makkah.
In the same context, there were brought to him two gold vessels. There was milk in one, while the other was full of wine. He was asked to choose either of them, so he selected the vessel containing milk and drank it. He (the angel) said: “You have been guided on Al-Fitrah or you have attained Al-Fitrah. Had you selected wine, your nation would have been misled.” [It is a symbolic way of saying that good and evil in the form of milk and wine were brought before the Prophet and he instinctively made a choice for the good. It is very difficult to render the Arabic term ‘Fitrah’ into English. It denotes the original constitution or disposition, with which a child comes into this world, as contrasted with qualities or inclinations acquired during life; besides it refers to the spiritual inclination inherent in man in his unspoilt state].
The Prophet Õáì Çááå Úáíå æÓáã told that he saw two manifest rivers, — the Nile and the Euphrates — and two hidden ones. It appears that the two manifest rivers, the Nile and the Euphrates, symbolically describe the area in whose fertile valleys, Muhammad’s Message will settle, and the people whereof will always remain the adherent bearers of Islam that will be passed on from generation to another. They can by no means suggest that they well up from the Garden.
He had the opportunity to see Malik, the guardian of Hell, with a cheerless frowning face. Therein, he saw the Hell dwellers, of whom were those who unjustly eat up the property of the orphans. They have flews similar to those of camels, swallowing red-hot stones and then issuing out of their backs. There were also the people who take usury with bellies too big to be able to move around; they are trodden by the people of Pharaoh when these are admitted into Hell. In the same abode, he saw the adulterers offered tasty fatty meat and rotten smelly one but they make option for the latter. The licentious women were also there hanging from their breasts.
The ‘Night Journey’ raised a good deal of stir among the people and the sceptical audience plied Muhammad with all sorts of questions. He told them that he saw the camels of Makkan merchants to and fro. He also guided them to some of their animals that went astray. He informed them that he had drunk some of their water while they were fast asleep and left the container covered.
The disbelievers, however, found it a suitable opportunity to jeer at the Muslims and their creed. They pestered the Prophet (Peace be upon him) with questions as to the description of the Mosque at Jerusalem, where he had never gone before and, to the astonishment of many, the Prophet’s replies furnished the most accurate information about that city. He supplied them with all the news about their caravans and the routes of their camels. However, all this increased in them nothing but flight from the Truth, and they accepted nothing but disbelief.
For the true Muslims, however there was nothing unusual about the Night Journey. The All-Mighty Allâh, Who is Powerful enough to have created the heavens and the earth by an act of His Will, is surely Powerful enough to take His Messenger beyond the heavens and show him those signs of His at firsthand which are inaccessible to man otherwise. The disbelievers on their part went to see Abu Bakr on account of this event, and he readily said: “Yes, I do verify it.” It was on this occasion that he earned the title of As-Siddiq (the verifier of the truth).
The most eloquent and most concise justification of this ‘Journey’ is expressed in Allâh’s Words: