A Scientific Viewpoint of Isra Wa'al Mi'raj
By Zaid Shah

Can Science help shed light on the Prophet's Journey?

Published in: History, Science
Date: 12 / 03 / 21

As reported in hadith literature that Prophet ﷺ traveled from Makkah to Jerusalem on a winged creature called Buraq in the company of Archangel Gabriel (alaihi salaam) and from there they ascended up to the seven heavens, traversed all of them and reached the highest place called sidratal muntaha. Seven Heavens in Arabic is called sab’aa samawaat where sab'aa means "seven" or "several" and samaa (singular of samawaat) means "anything and everything that is above us" i.e. in our space such as planets, solar systems, stars, galaxies, basically the entire cosmic system. Samawaat, plural of samaa, means more than one cosmic system, hence sab’aa samawaat means "several cosmic systems and universes". Thus the Prophet’s ascension to the seven heavens was his journey through several cosmic systems and universes or multiverses. Science may be a bit far from that level of advancement where it can fully explain the Prophet's Isra Wa’al Mi’raj (Night Journey & Ascension) experience, however there are some scientific theories that shed light on better understanding this event and confirm our conviction in it.

Buraq - Transportation of Light

For instance the following prophetic hadith narrates some interesting characteristics of the animal that was the transportation vehicle used by the Prophet ﷺ to travel from Makkah to Jerusalem and from there to the nearest heaven: "Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me." (On this Al-Jarud asked, "Was it the Buraq, O Abu Hamza?" I (i.e. Anas) replied in the affirmative). The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The animal's step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight. I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven."[1] The Arabic term used by the Prophet ﷺ to refer to this animal is called buraq which means "lightning", "gleaming", "intense lightning" or "flaming". All these meanings imply that this unseen creature, whose appearance is "smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey" may have been created of a special form of light or radiation normally invisible to our external sight. The animal being "white" may imply the brightness of its appearance only perceivable beyond normal sense perceptions. The human retina cannot detect many rays (radiations) and frequencies that exist within our electromagnetic spectrum but other creatures such as bird and animals can detect them due to special receptors. Such as sunlight falls under the visible frequency spectrum for human eyes while ultraviolet rays of sunlight do not fall under the visible frequency hence they are invisible to human sight but visible to birds which may explain why Prophet ﷺ said: "when you hear the crowing of the roosters, then ask Allah of His bounty, for verily they have seen an angel."[2] Islam teaches that angels are created of nur (light or energy). The most basic form of light travels at the speed of 186000 miles/second! Therefore, it makes sense as told by the Prophet ﷺ that each step of the Buraq was so wide that it "reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight."

Prophet's Interstellar Travel

Another startling scientific fact revealed is that the higher we go in altitude the difficult it becomes to breath due to lack of oxygen on earth at great heights. Mountain trekkers who traverse great heights to reach K-2 and Everest and similar peaks carry oxygen masks and tanks in their journey. In fact if one continues going higher and enters space there is no oxygen and extreme freezing temperatures that if a person does not have the necessary equipment and gear, as usually worn by astronauts, they will instantly die as soon as exposed to such environment. The Quran also confirms this fact in one of its verses: (Al Quran 6:125) "...his chest He causes to be tight and constricted, as if he were climbing unto the skies..."[3] In ahadith pertaining to this extraordinary event we find that the blessed chest of the Prophet ﷺ was cut open and underwent a sort of a surgical operation whereof it was filled with abstract notions such as "wisdom" and "faith" by Archangel Jibraeel (Gabriel) (alaihi salaam) before the commencing of his journey: "A golden tray full of wisdom and belief was brought to me and my body was cut open from the throat to the lower part of the Abdomen and then my Abdomen was washed with Zamzam water and (my heart was) filled with wisdom and belief...When I reached the nearest heaven. Gabriel said to the heaven gate-keeper, 'Open the gate.' ."[4] It seems that the Prophet ﷺ was prepared and strengthened internally in a way so that his blessed body may endure the extreme harshness of the space environment and not perish. The washing of the abdomen with zamzam, a blessed water known for miraculous healing properties. Filling up his chest and heart with "wisdom" and "faith" may imply calmness and strength given to his body, through some spiritual source and connection, so he is prepared before entering the difficult environment of space, and Allah ﷻ knows best. American physicist William Edelstein who was part of the team that built the first full-body MRI scanner, claimed that if our bodies managed to attempt interstellar travel on a spaceship that runs at a speed of light, required to traverse light distances, will destroy bodies of the travelers and the spaceship due to radiation of hydrogen atoms. 

Mi'raj (Heavenly Steps) or Wormholes ?

Further research in to interstellar space and travel has brought forward interesting theories by modern theoretical physicists such as Hermann Weyl & John Wheeler, of something called wormholes which might be extremely necessary to achieve such travel ambition. Wormholes are openings or door ways in our space environments that connect with others possibly existing openings in faraway points in our universe. If one is to enter anyone of these openings they will be taken to another side of our universe. Being a Muslim, who believes in the Prophet’s ascension, I would agree to this theory especially in what the Quran says that there are stages and steps that lead towards Allah ﷻ: (Al Quran 70:3-4) "… the Lord of the ascending steps (ma'aarij), by which the angels and the Spirit (Angel Gabriel) ascend to Him in one Day the duration of which is fifty thousand years."[5] The Arabic term ma'aarij plural of mi'raj means "ascending steps of a ladder or staircase for reaching high places". These steps or ways of ascent may be defined in the modern terminology as "wormholes" by which angels travel deeper in to space and reach on the other side of the universe closer in to Allah’s presence or reach other higher levels. They would cover such distances in one heavenly (astronomical) day which equals "fifty thousands years" implying unimaginable great amount of time. Despite Angels being created of an unknown nur (a form of radiation or energy), and all radiation travels at the speed of light (186000 miles/second), they still must be required to enter these wormholes to cut large cosmic distances short to reach other side of the universe, without which would take them billions of light years!

It may have been one of these openings in the cosmic region nearest to our earth where Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reached on the back of Buraq and entered it. From there onwards he went into subsequent spaces before reaching the highest place (sidratal muntaha) across multiverses (plural of universe): "I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven."[6] "When I reached the nearest heaven. Gabriel said to the heaven gate-keeper, 'Open the gate.' The gatekeeper asked, 'Who is it?' He said, 'Gabriel.' The gate-keeper,' Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel said, 'Muhammad.' The gate-keeper said, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel said, 'Yes.' Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!'"[7] Allah ﷻ informs us that if we wish to traverse space with  our technological potential then we will not be able to do so without His permission: (Al Quran 55:33) "Jinn and mankind, if you can pass beyond the regions of heavens (samawaat) and earth, then do so: you will not pass without Our authority."[8] This is why Quran teaches that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was invited by Allah ﷻ to be taken to this journey and not that he himself chose to go to Jerusalem and the heavens: (Al Quran 17:01) "Glory to Him who made His servant travel by night from Al-Masjid-ul-Haram (in Makkah) to Al-Masjid-ul-Aqsa (in Jerusalem)..."[9] and also: (Al Quran 53:11) "While he was in the highest part of the horizon (sidratal muntaha)….. And thus did [God] reveal to His servant whatever He deemed right to reveal"[10]

Thus the Prophet’s ascension to the seven heavens was his journey through several cosmic systems and universes beyond which he witnessed the angelic world, the world of souls (barzakh), the Prophets that came before, trials of hell, paradise and its indescribable treasures, and all the way beyond till he reached the direct presence of Allah ﷻ. As science continues to observe the universe and discover more, we hope that we can inshA'Allah better understand in the light of newer revelations many more aspects of this event.


[1] Sahih Al Bukhari Vol. 5, Book 58, Hadith 227

[2] Jami Tirmidhi Vol. 6, Book 45, Hadith 3459

[3] Al Quran 6:125 - Asad Translation

[4] Sahih Al Bukhari Vol. 4, Book 54, Hadith 429

[5] Al Quran 70:3–4

[6] Bukhari, Hadith 227

[7] Bukhari, Hadith 429

[8] Al Quran 55:33

[9] Al Quran 17:01

[10] Al Quran 53:07–10

Zaid Shah


Zaid Shah

I carry a passion for Researching, Learning & Writing on Various Islamic Topics. To read more of my work You can also visit my personal blog website www.rizqankareem.com. You can also follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rizqan_kareem/

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