Mi'raj is one of the most extraordinary events in Islamic history. Infinite wisdom and spiritual secrets surround each and every experience of the Prophet ﷺ during this event. According to the majority of muslim scholarship, Isra and Miraj took place during the month of Rajab on the 27th night. Isra being the nocturnal journey of
the Prophet ﷺ from Mecca to Jerusalem and Mi'raj being the Ascension of the Prophet ﷺ through the 'samawaat' or the multiple universes. While there is so much to discuss on this event, I want to concentrate on one crucial facet of this event- the ,eeting between the Prophet ﷺ and Idris (as)
The Prophet ﷺ meets a Prophet named Idris (as) on the 4th universe. Who is Idris (as)? This is a very important question. Why ? Because the answer to this question will shed light on how the Prophet influences the fate and future of his nation. We would also understand why science and philosophy reached great heights in the Islamic world quite suddenly within a century after the Prophet. Also we will get insight into how deeply connected the spiritual realm is with the physical world.
He is mentioned precisely twice in the whole Quran. The Quran has 6000 odd verses. Out of which only two are dedicated to this prophet. So why is such a less known prophet being encountered by Rasool Allah ﷺ. If there are 124000 prophets that have been sent to humanity, why these few are chosen and out of these the one who is barely mentioned in the Quran. Do they represent something profound ? Why not some other famous prophet, like Nuh (as) who has an entire chapter in the Quran named after him, why not Yunus (as), why not Yaqub (as) ?
These prophets are way more referred to in the Quran. Why does Allah choose Idris (as) to be on the fourth universe to meet the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ?
Every thing that Allah does has great wisdom in it. So undoubtedly there is great wisdom in choosing Idris (as) to be there instead of the other famous prophets. So while we cannot know much about him from the Quran. We are compelled to look into what the ulema have written out about the identity and life and times of Idris (as). The ulema have gathered prophetic sayings and historical and biblical accounts regarding the identity of this obscure prophet of God.
Idris (as) has been identified by classical scholarship as Hermes Trismegistus, who was a Prophet of Philosophy. He is attributed to be the Founder of Philosophy. The word Idris in arabic means 'Interpreter'. Imam baydawi derives it from 'dars'.
Ibn Ishaq says,"He was the first man to use a pen" and the mufassiroon (exegetes of the Quran) write that "he was among the first men to observe the movement of stars and set out scientific weights and measures".
Ibn Arabi calls him the "Prophet of Philosophy".
And as always in human history, wise people, long after their demise are deified and mystical nature of their works are confused with occult practices. Like in the case of Sulaiman (as) who was wrongly accused of practicising magic by the Israelites and the Quran comes in his defence and clears him of all allegations. Same is the case with Idris (as), who was diefied by ancient greeks as the god of wisdom and interpretive knowledge.
What's more interesting is that Modern Western scholarship proudly and quite incorrectly considers itself the inheritors of Greek wisdom. While look at this Prophet of God who is the source of this knowledge that we now call Greek Philosophy. Idris (as) is the father of Greek, Indian and Babylonian sciences. So you have the presence of a God sent prophet even in the history of philosophy and famous civilizations.
The conception of the universe according to Islam is that the future is a set of possible timelines (something similar to how Quantum Physics now describes it). But within these different future scenarios, why do we see only one playing out? Who chooses?
Of course Allah Most High.
Let me give you an example. The Prophet ﷺ says, "I was given a bowl of wine and a bowl of milk by Gabriel (as) and was told to choose. I chose Milk and I was told you have chosen Fitrah the natural disposition on which God created mankind and hence your nation will not go astray. If you had chosen wine, they would go astray.
Meaning that this small experience of the Prophet ﷺ of having to choose between milk and wine - milk representing guidance and wine representing misguidance has significant implications for the future of the Muslim nation.
Similarly the brief encounter between Rasool Allah ﷺ and the Prophet of philosophy and founder of ancient astronomy and rational sciences (Idris), will have very important implications for the future of the Muslim nation. The question is what are those implications?
Fortunately we don't have to go far to understand this. A study of Muslim history is enough for us to understand that the meeting between the Last Prophet and the Prophet of Philosophy and Ancient Astronomy, symbolises the encounter the nation of the Last prophet (Muslims) will have with the nation and inherited knowledge of the Father of Philosophy, astronomy and ancient sciences (Greek science).
This particular event in Miraj elucidates the Prophet's role as the Inaugurator of the Modern Scientific Revolution. As Maulana Dr Fazlur rahman Ansari briliantly explains, "The Prophet ﷺ has a twin role, being the landmark in human history. He ﷺ came to close one era - the era of Prophetic revelation or divine spoon feeding. But in addition to that He also came to inaugurate another era - the Modern scientific era. This you can find when you read the Quran, this you can find when you read Hadith. This you can find when you read Muslim history and the history of science."
It is precisely due to the emphasis the Quran put on learning, education and contemplation over the physical world, that the Muslim nation from very early on devoted itself to the development of philosophy and natural sciences. It is not by coincidence that the first sciences that were developed in the Islamic Golden Age were Astronomy which later on gave birth to modern astronomy and chemistry. Notice how the scholars describe Idris (as) as the first man to observe the stars and set out scientific weights and measures.
The answer is that it was one of the greatest moments in the history of human knowledge. Historians call it the Golden age of Islam but actually it is the golden age of science, technology, philosphy, art, culture and literature. Muslim scholars from the vast Muslim empire made a concerted effort to develop novel disciplines, study and interpret translate Greek Philosophy. The result was the greatest scientific revolution humanity has ever witnessed.
Entire new disciplines of science were created from scratch. Name it and it finds its inception in the Muslim scientific revolution - chemistry, mathematical astronomy, algebra, calculus, mathematical physics, biomedical engineering, robotics, mechanical engineering, psychotherapy, opthalmology, spherical trigonometry, anthropology. And most importantly the Scientific Method was formulated and popularized.
Institutions of scientific learning and research were set up, greek philosophy was put to a rigorous test as years followed and whatever was confirmed by the Quran was accepted and what did not stand the test was rejected. Out of all this emerged the most sophisticated philosophical atomic theory called Kalam Atomism, which has no precedent in history.
And while all of this was happening, guess who was at the recieving end, taking this
knowledge bit by bit as it trickled down through borders? Europe ! Lo and Behold ! the European embodiment of Islamic science and spirit is what we call the Renaissance and later on the Modern Scientific Revolution.
In absolute timelessness, the Prophet ﷺ was made to witness the entire fate of the universe. Centuries worth of scientific research, study and scholarship and hundreds and thousands of men and women behind it, are all a part of the symbolic meaning of the meeting between the Prophet of the Last Age- Muhammad ﷺ and the Prophet of Antiquity- the Father of Philosophy- Idris (as).
This gives us a fresh insight into how a brief spiritual event represents thousands of years of human history.
"And indeed, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of those which you count."
- Quran 22:47
Safiyyah Sabreen studied Mechanical Engineering and is currently pursuing her Master's in Philosophy. She is the Content Director for KNOW. Being interested in the field of Islam and Science and Islamic Eschatology, she produced a documentary on the Golden Age of Islam and directs the Second Golden Age series.