الإسراء والمعراج – al-Isra’ wa’l-Mi’raj – Durban, South Africa, 17th July 2010

What inspired this gathering tonight was the desire to commemorate the night that the Rasulullah, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim, was taken by Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, upon the back of the white Buraq to the Masjid al-Aqsa in al-Quds and from there He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, raised His slave to Himself through the seven heavens to His presence.

In the presence of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, he was welcomed, shown what was to be seen and given all he could desire.

His was the Maqam al-Mahmud, the praiseworthy station of intercession, a unique rank in all creation for a unique man. It was as though he had literally left the world and been rewarded with the highest resting place for eternity, but it is the measure of the best of Allah’s creation and Allah’s love for it, that He sent him back to his life among the Makkans.

Remember, that this happened in an extremely difficult time for the Rasulullah; he had just lost the two people he loved most, his greatest supports in his tremendous task. The Muslims had been exiled from Makkah to a barren valley and he had recently been rejected and humiliated at Taif. So with no need of anyone or anything, completely satisfied by Allah, he shared his experience with his people and continued to struggle to call his people to Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala.

To come together like this is not a requirement of our Deen, neither is it our culture, rather it is an affirmation we wish to make of the significance of this event that happened to our Rasul, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim. Indeed we commemorate this event daily in that the most significant element of his journey for us was the gift of Salah which he, sallallahu alayhi was sallim, brought to his Ummah from a proximity to Allah that no other being experienced before or since.

The connection of this miraculous journey to the Salah is confirmed in the Rasulullah’s own statement that, “the Salah is the Mi’rāj of the Mumin.” This is very important for us to grasp as Salah is the most important action of our lives; one, which if not acceptable on the Day of Judgement precludes the review of all of our other actions; if our Salah is rejected then our other actions do not count. This is precisely because it is a gift; not just any gift but a giving of the most precious possession of its giver –His Presence; something given without need or desire of reward, purely out of love and regard for the recipient, so the rejection of such generosity overshadows anything a recipient may do otherwise.

Just imagine how you would feel having given something which means so much to you, only to see it parked on a shelf, never to be used or referred to; it would feel the same as outright rejection or even worse. It would make it impossible to enter that friend’s house again; indeed you would probably cease to consider that one a friend.

It was said by one who knows, “What is life but five prayers and waiting for death,” because all of life is about the presence of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. We are only here because He wants us here, and the reason for that is to respond to our existence by recognising His existence, subhanahu wa ta’ala, with obedience, acceptance and love.

Also significant for us is the reaction of the people of Makkah, including his own companions, when he told them of his journey. Of course, the Kuffar scoffed at its seeming impossibility and were increased in their darkness, more significantly there were those of his followers who wavered and even turned their backs on Islam, but most significantly sayyidina Abu Bakr responded without equivocation saying, “If he said it, then it is true,” for which Rasulullah gave him the title of ‘as-Siddiq’. So his verification of the Rasul’s message indicated his own truthfulness, which is a ‘oneness of being’; an annihilation of the Companion in the Messenger.

We all experience these moments in our lives, if not as elevated, at least of the same genus and were this not the case then those first communities would not be exemplars for us, which is impossible. When we annihilate ourselves in their excellent example it is as if they are present and we are absent.

What that means is that the excellent qualities of the human creature are always present among mankind, as indicated by the Rasul, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim, when he told us that there will always be forty men of the station of Ibrahim on the earth.

The sun and the moon have never ceased to shine on their allotted courses and if they did we would not be here; likewise if there were not men of light always amongst us we would all perish.

The Mi’rāj of the Mumin is an ascent from the humdrum and hubbub that makes up our day. Our Salah allows us to leave behind our Makkah of toil and trouble, arrive at the rock of our stillness and ascend through the splendours of the universe to a heart fixed upon the Face of our Lord and Master. We can then return, satisfied and wanting for nothing, able to continue with our work knowing that we are powerless except for what he enables us to achieve.

Established in gratitude for our Salah, overwhelmed on a daily basis by its splendour, almost before we can draw breath the generous month of Ramadan is upon us.

How ironic that we can think of these five pillars as obligations when they contain such expansion and lights for us. Of course, Islam is specific in form and command, with much leeway within its broad but clearly defined boarders, but it is form and the function of form is to contain meaning. Taking on the form of the Muslim releases its meanings into the heart, bringing understanding of Allah’s intentions and realisation of His Lordship. The form of Islam without this transformation of the heart is Kufr, which is known as ‘nifaq’ or hypocrisy, and has always been a great danger to the Muslims from the beginning and particularly in recent history, where the general knowledge of Islam has been greatly eroded and contaminated by modern western education and hunger for wealth.

This transformation by form, or we could say transformation by action, lies in ‘niyyah’. Without niyyah there is no action, that is, it is not an act of ‘ibadah’ or worship. Niyyah is the orientation of the heart to the intended act for the sake of obeying Allah and nothing else.

After the Amir of the Muslims declares that the fast has begun, all Muslims must intend to fast for the whole month of Ramadan, until the Amir declares that it is over. This is movement of the heart and not the declaration of a formula, although that may accompany it.

So this movement of the heart by clarity of intention transforms the human being towards what Allah intends; the progression of the human from darkness to light; from a being completely trapped in body and world, like a child, to a being freed by the realisation that Allah is the Lord and Master of all things and is the Only One whose will is fulfilled.

It is this heart that ascends to Allah’s presence in prayer and drinks of the lights and peace on the ‘Night of Power.’ The human heart is the locus of Allah’s attention and the receiving bowl of His overwhelming generosity. So make it the focus of your attention during your Salah and as you refrain from food, water and your wives in the blessed month that is at our doorsteps and do not be satisfied with mere physical observance; and so belittle the great gifts of al-Karim, al-Wadud, al-Ghafar.

Allah wishes ease for us not difficulty and that is why He has obliged us to be in this world in a certain manner and more than that he has showered us with generosity by sharing His attributes with us; it is for us to accept them, honour them and use them to their fullest by following His Rasul’s example and use them for the benefit of all those around us.

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