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The Prophet's Ascension

The Prophet's Ascension 2017 and 2018

The Prophet’s Ascension, also known as “Isra and Miraj,” is a Muslim holiday observed on the 27th day of the Islamic month Rajab.

YearDateDayHoliday
201724 AprMonThe Prophet's Ascension
201813 AprFriThe Prophet's Ascension

It is believed that Muhammed ascended to heaven to receive special instructions on proper prayer practice from Allah. The date migrates about 11 days earlier each year due to the differences between a lunar versus a solar calendar.

The Prophet’s Ascension is a major Islamic holiday, however, it is only a public holiday in 14 Muslim nations around the world rather than in all of them. The name Isra and Miraj is given to the holiday because of Muhammed’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem followed by the ascension to heaven, for Isra means “night journey,” and miraj means “ascension.”

The first part of the journey, the Isra, is a trip taken by Muhammed in a single night around A.D. 621 to “the furthest mosque.“ The identity of that mosque is somewhat in dispute, but generally, it is regarded to be the Dome of the Rock on the Jerusalem Temple Mount.

From there, traditions in the Koran and Hadiths tell us, Muhammed was taken by Allah to heaven. It is disputed whether he went physically or only spiritually in an out of body experience, but it is generally agreed he rode on a winged horse named “Buraq.” In heaven, Muhammed is said to have received the command from Allah to pray five times a day, which is still a pillar of Islam after 1,400 years. It is important to remember that this ascension was not the end of Muhammad’s life, for he lived about another 10 years, until A.D. 632. Instead, it was a matter of seeing heaven and hell, talking to prophets such as Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary) and Musa ibn Amram (Moses), and of getting new revelations from Allah. Before the night was over, Muhammed had returned to Mecca where his journey began.

To celebrate The Prophet’s Ascension, many Muslims stay up at night reading the accounts of the Isra and Miraj or go to mosque during the day to hear them read, and there is often a special effort to communicate these stories to children. Some homes and mosques will be decorated with lights or candles, and prayers for Allah’s blessings are made in abundance. At home, many indulge in sweets and prepare a meal to share with friends and family.

In UAE, both public and private sector workers get a paid day off on The Prophet’s Ascension by government decree. While there are not many special events for The Prophet’s Ascension outside of private homes and mosques, you may want to “follow the journey of Muhammad” with your activities as follows:

  • Travel the desert sands, though not necessarily at night, at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve a little south of Dubai. There are 87 square miles of dunes, desert lizards, and other wildlife, and you can stay at the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa to get out of the heat.
  • The Dome of the Rock is not in UAE, but you can visit famous mosques that are in the UAE to see their architecture and learn of their history. The most famous one is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the namesake of a former ruler of UAE whose tomb can be seen adjacent to the mosque. You may also consider seeing the Grand Mosque, next to the Dubai Museum, and the Al Farooq mosque, also in Dubai and named after a friend of Muhammed who later became a caliph.
  • You will not be able to ride on a winged horse into the night sky, but you can watch horse races in the town of Jebel Ali. The town also offers golfing, beautiful beaches, and seaside luxury resorts.

Should you be in UAE for The Prophet’s Ascension, be sure to take note of commemorative activities as much as possible, but also get out and explore every aspect of the country to make your trip as memorable as possible.