Islam / Cult and Festivals / Layla al-Mi'raj /
It is by many early, and all modern theologians, an event paired with Isra', Muhammad's nightly journey on Buraq. With this understanding, the place from where Muhammad begins the Mi'raj, is Jerusalem. There is an annual festival commemorating the twin events, the Layla al-Mi'raj.
The Mi'raj is important in mainly two respects: Muhammad's importance as more than just one of many prophets; and the regulations of daily prayers (as-Salat).
Muhammad passed through seven heavens, meeting central prophets, like Adam, Jesus, Abraham and Moses. With Moses, who resides either in the 6th or 7th heaven, it is emphasized that Muhammad is the foremost of prophets, that he has more followers than himself.
Arriving at the top of the heavens, Muhammad begins bartering with God about the number of daily prayers. In a story that appear completely absurd to non-Muslims, but which is part of the establish faith of Muslims, God first instructs Muhammad that a true believer shall pray 50 times per day. Muhammad returns to Moses, who tells him that that is far too much. Muhammad returns to God several times asking for easier regulations, but when he has the number down to 5 prayers, and Moses still tells him that it is too much, Muhammad refuses to go back to God and ask for a lower number.
For a Muslim this myth is to be understood as an expression of how much really is expected of a believer, yet how compassionate God is.
Muhammad also visits Paradise and Hell, but there is little substantial told about this.
There are two longer passages in the Koran that are understood as relating to the Mi'raj, sura 81:19-25 and 53:1-12. Yet, there is nothing here that tells about any ascent into heaven, rather that a heavenly figure appears for Muhammad, at a distance.
Koran sura 53: The StarBukhari tells a tradition that clearly cuts the links between Mi'raj and the alleged nightly journey to Jerusalem:
Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8 345However dubious the combining of Mi'raj with Isra' appears looking into generally accepted Muslim sources, this is an established part of modern Muslim theology. The origins may be traced back to Christian myths, with that of Jesus ascending into heaven. The Christians of this time had identified the footprint of Jesus, located to the Basilica of the Ascension in Jerusalem. Similarly, Muslims would soon identify the footprint of Muhammad as he began the Mi'raj.
For Sufis, this story of Muhammad has been of some inspiration to the understanding of the central aim of their rituals, coming close to God and the divine.