It is generally believed that the great event of Mi’raaj (ascension of the Holy Prophet Muhammad to the heavens) took place in the night of the 27 th of Rajab. Therefore, some people celebrate the night as ‘Lailatul Mi’raaj; (the night of ascension to the heavens).
Indeed, the event of Mi’raaj was one of the most remarkable episodes in the life of our beloved Holy Prophet . He was called by Almighty Allah from Masjid al-Haram (Makkah, Arabia) to Masjid Al-Aqsa (Al-Aqsa Sanctuary, Jerusalem) and from there he ascended to the heavens through the miraculous power of Allah. He was honoured with direct contact with his Creator at a place where even the angels had no access. This was the unique honour conferred by Allah to the Holy Prophet alone. It was the climax of the spiritual progress which is not attained by anybody except him. There is no doubt that this night in which he was blessed with this unparalleled honour was one of the greatest nights in the history of this world.
However, Islam has its own principles with regards to historic and religious events. Its approach about observing festivals and celebrating days and nights is totally different from the approach of other religions. The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet did not prescribe any festival or any celebration to commemorate an event from the past, however remarkable it might have been. Instead, Islam has prescribed two annual celebrations only. One is ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ and the other is ‘Eid-ul-Adha’. Both of these festivals have been fixed at a date on which the Muslims accomplish a great Ibaadah (worship) every year.
The following points should be remembered with regards to ‘Lailatul Mi’raaj:
(1) We cannot say with absolute certainty in which night the great event of Mi’raaj had taken place. Although some traditions relate this event to be the 27 th night of the month of Rajab, yet there are other traditions which suggest some other dates. Al-Zurqani, the famous biographer of the Holy Prophet has referred to five different views in this respect: Rabi’ul Awwal, Rabi’ul Akhir, Rajab, Ramadhan and Shawwal. Later, while discussing different traditions, he has added a sixth opinion, that the Mi’raaj took place in the month of Zul-Hijjah.
Allamah AbdulHaq Muhaddith Dehlawi, the well-known scholar of the Indian sub-continent, has written a detailed book on the merits of Islamic months. While discussing ‘Lailatul Mi’raaj, he has mentioned that most of the scholars are of the view that the event of Mi’raaj took place in the month of Ramadhan or in Rabi’ul Awwal.
(2) It is also not certainly known in which year the event of Mi’raaj had taken place. There are a number of views mentioned in the books of history which suggest a wide range between the fifth year and the twelfth year after the Prophet was entrusted with Prophethood.
Now, if it is assumed that the event of Mi’raaj took place in the fifth year of his Prophethood, it will mean that the Holy Prophet remained in this world for eighteen years after this event. Even if it is presumed that the Mi’raaj took place in the twelfth year of his Prophethood, his remaining life-time after this event would be eleven years. Throughout this long period, which may range between eleven years and eighteen years, the Holy Prophet never celebrated the event of Mi’raaj, nor did he give any instruction regarding it. No one can prove that the Holy Prophet ever performed some specific modes of worship by celebrating a night called the ‘Lailatul Mi’raaj’ or advised his followers to commemorate the event in a particular manner.
(3) After the demise of the Holy Prophet , none of his companions are reported to have celebrated this night nor did they perform any special acts of worship on this night. They were the true lovers of the Holy Prophet and ha devoted their lives to preserve every minute detail of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet and other Islamic teachings. However, they did not celebrate the event of Mi’raaj in a particular night in a particular way.
All these points prove that the celebrating of the 27 th night of Rajab, being the Lailatul Mi’raaj has no basis in the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet or in the practice of his noble companions. Had it been a commendable practice to celebrate this night, the exact date of this event would have been preserved accurately by the Ummah and the Holy Prophet and his blessed companions would have given specific directions for it.
Therefore, it is not a Sunnah to celebrate the ‘Lailatul Mi’raaj’. We cannot take any practice as a Sunnah by our own emotions, unless it is established through authentic sources that the Holy Prophet or his noble companions have recognized it as such, otherwise it may become a bid’ah about which the Holy Prophet has observed in the following words:
“Whoever invents something in our religion which is not a part of it, it is to be rejected.”
Being mindful of this serious warning, we should appreciate that the 27 th night of the Month of Rajab is not like ‘Lailatul Qadr’ or ‘Lailatul Bara’ah’ for which special merits have been mentioned expressly either by the Qur’an or the Holy Prophet .
However, all the recognised modes of ‘Ibaadah (worship) like Salaah , recitation of Holy Qur’an, Dhikr etc. are commendable any time, especially in the late hours of a night, and obviously the 27 th Night of Rajab is not an exception. Therefore, if someone performs any recognised ‘Ibaadah in this night from this point of view nothing can stop him from doing so, and he will be entitled to the thawab (reward allocated for that recognised Ibaadah). But it is not permissible to believe that performing ‘Ibaadah in this night is more meritorious or carries more thawab like ‘Lailatul Qadr or ‘Lailatul Bara’ah’, because this belief is not based on any authentic verse or on a Sunnah of the Holy Prophet . Similarly, it is not a correct practice to celebrate this night on a collective scale and to invite people to special ritual congregations.
(4) Some people suggest some special modes of worship to be performed in this night. Since no special mode of worship is prescribed in the Shariah in this night, these suggestions are devoid of any authority and should not be acted upon.
It is believed by some that the Muslims should fast on the 27 th of Shaban. Although there are some traditions attributing special merits to fast of this day yet the scholars of Hadith have held these traditions as very weak and unauthentic reports which are held cannot be sufficient to establish a rule of Shariah. On the contrary, there is an authentic report that Sayyidinah Umar used to forbid people from fasting on this day, rather to compel them to eat if they had started fasting.
We should bear in mind that a nafl fast can be observed on any day (except the six prohibited days of the year), therefore, fasting on the 27 th of Rajab is not prohibited in itself. What is prohibited is the belief that fasting on this day is more meritorious than fasting on any normal day. One should not fast on this day with this certain belief. But if someone fasts therein, believing it to be a normal nafl fast, there is nothing against it.