At the very outset, an amazing incident endorsing the greatness of the Holy Prophet-SW is recounted. It is amazing in the sense that all the Prophets-AS and Messengers-AS were blessed with Divine Revelation and a personal dialogue with Allaah-SWT on this earth. Allaah-SWT blessed some of His-SWT Prophets-AS with the opportunity to observe the heavens and the Akhirah through Kashf, while living in this world. How the dead would be quickened was also demonstrated to some, again here, on this earth. But the amazing miracle of the Holy Prophet-SW is that though he-SW was blessed with Divine Revelation on earth and saw the heavens and the Akhirah through Kashf, he-SW was also blessed with M'eraj (Ascension). He-SW was taken, with his-SW physical self, to the heavens and as far beyond, as Allaah-SWT desired. In that Realm and at that point he-SW was bestowed with the honour to converse with Him-SWT , and to personally visit the Paradise and the Hell. It is a unique favour as amongst the entire mankind, including all the Prophets and Messengers-AS only the Holy Prophet-SW was blessed in this manner. According to the scholars of Ahl-e-Sunnah the physical Ascension of the Holy Prophet-SW is supported by the Quran and the Sunnah. It is a matter on which the consensus of Ummah exists and any denier will be a heretic and an atheist. 'Allamah Ibn Kathir asserts that the event of M'eraj is held in consensus by all Muslims; only the atheists and the heretics deny it.
The Quran declares: Glorified is He-SWT Who-SWT took His-SWT bondsman, that is, Prophet Muhammad-SW by night from the Inviolable Masjid in Makkah to Aqsa Masjid, that is, Bait al Maqdas, surrounded by Barakah, so that he-SW may be shown some wonders of His-SWT Omnipotence. Undoubtedly, Allaah-SWT Alone is all Seeing and all Hearing. First of all the Event of Ascension was a physical journey and not spiritual as proved by the Quran and successive Ahadith. The Ayah opens with the very word 'Glorified', as Allaah-SWT is above any weakness and can do whatever He-SWT Pleases. He-SWT , by His-SWT Omnipotence, made this most incredible event possible, whereby He-SWT took His-SWT bondsman by the night from Makkah to Bait al Maqdas and opened to him-SW the doors of countless wonders. For instance, he-SW met all the Prophets-AS, went to the heavens and beyond as far as Allaah-SWT intended. He-SW was blessed with the honour to converse with Him-SWT , witnessed the Akhirah, inspected Jannah and the Hell and returned to Makkah before the night was over. Had this journey been only spiritual, it could have been well compared to a dream which need not have been denied so fiercely. But the infidels not only denied it but also ridiculed and mocked at it. Some of the newly converted Muslims, who were not yet firm in faith, turned apostates like many who deny it today. The polytheists of Makkah were astonished how could an excursion to Bait al Maqdas be possible within one night, when it took them months to complete this journey? They asked the Holy Prophet-SW questions about only two aspects. The first was about the structure of Bait al Maqdas, which they had seen but the Holy Prophet-SW had never been there. They demanded a detailed account, which he-SW promptly gave. It is reported that Allaah-SWT placed the Masjid right in front of his-SW eyes through Kashf, and he-SW kept on answering their queries in detail. Their second question pertained to their trade caravans enroute to Bait al Maqdas.
As for the M'eraj being spiritual or a dream, there are many events in Ahadith regarding the Holy Prophet-SW's dreams and the Quran also certifies his-SW dreams to be true. Therefore, those reports which are quoted about the M’eraj being spiritual in fact pertain to those events. The account given by the Ayah under reference, beyond doubt, pertains to a physical Ascension. After mentioning the Divine Omnipotence the Ayah goes on: 'took His-SWT bondsman by the night;' and it must be remembered that a bondsman does not comprise only the Ruh but the corporeal body with it. It highlights the fact that this personality who has traversed the distance of time and space in a moment is also His-SWT creation, a beloved and a bondsman. By virtue of this journey no Divine Attributes have developed in him-SW whereby the Muslims, like the Christians, may begin to distort their faith. Moreover, it also highlights an important fact that the utmost level attainable by man is but to be Allah-SWT's bondsman and truly His-SWT alone. So a Prophet-AS, a Wali or anyone near Allaah-SWT must not be considered absolved of His-SWT servitude. The greatest honour, however, is that whereas everyone is Allah-SWT's bondsman, He-SWT Himself-SWT declares the Holy Prophet-SW to be one. He-SW indeed enjoys a unique status. In those days travelling in such a manner was impossible, but today science has made it possible and an aircraft carries people to far off lands in hours. The invention of space crafts has made more wonders practicable. So if by the employment of material means, man, whether a Muslim or an infidel, can work such wonders, Allah-SWT, the Almighty, being Omnipotent may do whatever He-SWT Wills.
Traversing the Earth
The miracles of a Prophet-AS are transferred to the Aulia' of his Ummah as Karamah. That is why often they have been seen traversing long distances in short span without any outwardly visible means. This is called "Tae al Ardh" in spiritual terminology.
A Brief Account of M'eraj
It was a journey of wakefulness, in which the Holy Prophet-SW mounted on Buraq, the miraculous steed from Jannah, and journeyed from Makkah to Bait al Maqdas. There he-SW offered two cycles of Salat and ascended to the heavens through a celestial stairway where he-SW was greeted by different Prophets-AS. Angel Jibril-AS was accompanying him-SW and introduced them to him-SW. Above the seventh heaven, the Holy Prophet-SW saw the Sidrat al Muntaha. He-SW also visited Bait al M'amur on the Seventh Heaven where he-SW saw Prophet Ibrahim-AS. From there he-SW mounted on Rufruf, a conveyance of that Realm, and went physically as far as Allaah-SWT wanted. Beyond the seventh heaven, Angel Jibril-AS could no longer accompany him-SW.
As for beholding Allah-SWT, scholars differ whether the Holy Prophet-SW actually saw the Almighty or not. Those who do not agree base their opinion on the fact that seeing Allaah-SWT is impossible in this world. However, some fortunate ones on the Day of Judgement, and all in Jannah will be blessed with this honour commensurate with their status. But the fact is that the Holy Prophet-SW was not in this world at that time, rather beyond the "Urush, or as far as Allaah-SWT took him-SW. It was a station of such heights and His-SWT Nearness that even Archangel Jibril-AS could not think of entering there. So seeing Allaah-SWT from such a station cannot be compared with or considered the same as seeing Him-SWT in this world. So he-SW did see Allah-SWT, and was blessed with the honour of a dialogue. At the conclusion of the meeting the Ummah was enjoined to offer Salat fifty times a day, a gift from Allaah-SWT indeed. Subsequently their number was reduced to five, yet retaining the reward of fifty. The Holy Prophet-SW saw Paradise and the Hell and on his-SW way witnessed the events in Barzakh. All the Prophets-AS escorted him-SW on his-SW way back upto Bait al Maqdas. There he-SW led them in Salat, and finally returned to Makkah. Certainly glorified is He-SWT and Matchless, Who-SWT blessed His-SWT beloved bondsman with such stature and eminence.
The Stations of Suluk
The heights to which the Holy Prophet-SW ascended with his-SW physical self, his-SW truly devoted followers receiving lights from his-SW sacred heart, manage to reach spiritually by Allah-SWT's Grace. This is what we call: "The Stations of Suluk". This journey is called the Journey of Suluk and the Aulia' traverse it and attain various levels corresponding to their capacity, by Allah-SWT's Grace, while their physical selves are on earth. When an iota of the purity, finesse and subtlety enjoyed by the Holy Prophet-SW's physical body is attained by any Ruh, it embarks on this journey. The surroundings of the Aqsa Masjid are abounded by Allah-SWT's Barakah whereby outwardly it is a very fertile piece of land laden with fruits, and inwardly a centre for the descent of Divine Splendour. It is also a place where many Prophets-AS are resting in eternal peace. But the Holy Prophet-SW was not only blessed with a vision of these surroundings but Allaah-SWT says: "We-SWT might show him-SW of Our-SWT Signs". That is, he-SW may see the Barzakh, the heavens, the celestial beings, the Guarded Tablet, the Great 'Arsh, Jannah, Hell and the events of life in the Akhirah on this journey. For Allaah-SWT is the real Hearing and the Seeing and the Omnipotence, and He-SWT may make whoever He-SWT chooses to see and hear whatever pleases Him-SWT .
Prophet Musa-AS had also been blessed with a Divine Scripture and during its revelation, similar wonders were manifested. He was blessed with the honour of conversing with Allaah-SWT . Besides, for Bani Israil their Book was the source of guidance. It focused on the basic fact that no one save Allaah-SWT must be taken as Rabb-SWT . Acknowledging Allaah-SWT as Rabb-SWT means that all hopes are pinned on Him-SWT Alone and He-SWT must be obeyed under all circumstances. The Bani Israil have, after all, seen the devastations of Prophet Nuh-AS's Deluge, being the early descendants of those aboard Prophet Nuh-AS's Ark. Allaah-SWT saved them while the whole inhabited, world around was drowned. Allaah-SWT supported them because Prophet Nuh-AS was a grateful bondsman of Allah-SWT .
The Scriptures of Bani Israil foretold that they would create great mischief twice on earth and would resort to rebellion. Fasad (mischief) refers to their disobeying Allaah-SWT in terms of worship, while Sarkashi (rebellion) refers to their atrocities towards Allah-SWT's creation, which they would commit and as a result face the consequences. The Commentary by Maulana Thanvi-RUA titled Biyan al Quran has mentioned many occasions on which the Bani Israil were ransacked by different rulers and were rehabilitated. But here two occasions foretold by their Book conform to the Hadith. Firstly, when Bakht Nasr, the mighty and cruel King of Babylon conquered them. He was imposed as a punishment on the Bani Israil for they had transgressed beyond limits. Bakht Nasr ransacked their cities, plundered Bait al Maqdas and took away all the gold, silver and jewels. He killed many, took many along as slaves and they were thoroughly abased and humiliated. Allaah-SWT says that in the first place We-SWT made Our-SWT slaves, who were very hostile and belligerent, to overpower you. They ransacked your cities and this was Our-SWT Promise which came true, that is the punishment was awarded for the crime.
Infidel is also Allah-SWT's Slave
Here the non believers been termed as 'Ibadan Lana meaning 'Our-SWT slaves'. It shows that everybody is indeed only Allah-SWT's slave. But the word 'Ibadanais not used which refers to those He-SWT approves of. Infidels can be imposed over Muslims as a punishment, just as the case is today.
After a long time since Bakht Nasr had ransacked them, the Bani Israil were redeemed, and they reformed themselves. Allaah-SWT showered His-SWT Mercy on them and blessed them with a country, increased them in number and affluence and indeed strengthened them. Their Army was upgraded to a mighty force and they defeated Babylon. Bani Israil were once again free, and became powerful. But once they regained power and became strong they again drifted into waywardness. They had been forewarned of the Divine Law that if they practised piety it would be for their own good, and if they adopted evil, they would have to bear its consequences. However, they ignored this warning and returned to their old behaviour.
It was now the second occasion. The Roman Emperor, Caesar attacked them from land and the sea. He too like Bakht Nasr, ransacked their cities, entered Bait al Maqdas and took away heaps of valuables, laden on carriages. Inspite of all this, there is no reason for losing hope as Allah-SWT is very Compassionate. If the Bani Israil reform themselves, He-SWT will shower His-SWT Mercy on them once again. But they must always remember a Divine Rule that once they revert to evil; the circumstances will also reverse to bring about their destruction. The outcome of rebellion is disbelief, and if they die as disbelievers, the ultimate destination is indeed a morbid dungeon called Hell. Now it is this Book, the Quran that Allaah-SWT has revealed. It guides to the straight path. It not only invites people to adopt the best precepts, practices and dealings in all the affairs of life but also shows the exact way of doing so. And to all those who become believers and practically adopt its ways, for them are the glad tidings of immense reward. And as for the dissidents, those who deny the Akhirah, a painful doom awaits them.