Laylat al-Miraj: Celebrating the Night Journey of Mohammed
Jerusalem has been an important site to Islam ever since the religion was founded: Muslims began by praying toward Jerusalem before they switched to Mecca, and Jerusalem was known as the Bayt al Maqdis, the home of Solomon’s Temple.
Mohammed’s Night Journey is described in the Koran as a journey to “the Farthest Mosque.” In the earliest traditions, the exact location of this farthest mosque was not specifically stated to be Jerusalem, and scholars still debate if it was ever intended to be such. But at this juncture, Muslim tradition describes the journey as having taken place from the Kaba in Mecca to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, whereupon he ascended to heaven.
Escorted by the Angel Gabriel and riding a pine steed named Buraq, Mohammed is believed to have ascended to heaven and met with the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus. He was also given the injunction by Allah that Muslims must pray fifty times a day.
As the story goes, Moses advised Mohammed that it was possible to bargain with Allah, so Mohammed negotiated with Allah until at last it was concluded that Muslims were required to pray five times day instead.
On the night of Laylat al-Miraj, children are the primary focus: They come to the mosque and are told the story of Mohammed’s Night Journey. A session of prayer that also involves adults is concluded with a feast of treats.
Laylat al-Miraj is a joyous holiday and one of the most important in Islam.
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