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