The Meaning of Isra & Mairaj

12/12/2012 20:36


The Meaning of ‘Isra’


Imam Raghib Isfahani states:


The word ‘Isra’ comes from ‘Sira’, which means, raveling at night. Allah Almighty  said to Nuh :


 قَالُواْ يٰلُوطُ إِنَّا رُسُلُ رَبِّكَ لَن يَصِلُوۤاْ إِلَيْكَ فَأَسْرِ بِأَهْلِكَ بِقِطْعٍ مِّنَ ٱلْلَّيْلِ وَلاَ يَلْتَفِتْ مِنكُمْ أَحَدٌ إِلاَّ ٱمْرَأَتَكَ إِنَّهُ مُصِيبُهَا مَآ أَصَابَهُمْ إِنَّ مَوْعِدَهُمُ ٱلصُّبْحُ أَلَيْسَ ٱلصُّبْحُ بِقَرِيبٍ

{Surah Hud; 11: 81}

He  also said:

سُبْحَانَ ٱلَّذِى أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلاً مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَىٰ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَآ إِنَّهُ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلبَصِيرُ

{Bani Israil; 17: 1}

{Al Mufarradat lil Alfaz il Quran; 2: 305}

The Literal Meaning of ‘Mairaj’


Imam Allama Murtaza Zahidi Hanafi states:


“‘Mairaj’ and ‘Ma’rij’ means Ladder or a thing resembling to the Foots steps/sticks of a Ladder through which ‘Souls’ {‘Arwah’} climb up . And ‘Ma’rij refers to that Passage (way/ route) through which the Angels climb. The Plural of this is ‘Mairaj’.”{Taj ul Urus; 2: 72, Matbat al Khayria, Egypt, 1406 A.H}

The Meaning of ‘Mairaj’ in Religious Terminology



Imam Taftazani Hanafi defines ‘Mairaj’ as follows:


“The Ascension of the Prophet  in a State of Wakefulness with his Physical Body to the Heavens, and Beyond that which Allah Almighty  Willed is ‘Mairaj’; and it is True {‘Haqq’} and is proven through famous Hadiths {‘Ahadith al Mashurah’}. Its denier is an Innovator {‘Mubtada’}, denying ‘Mairaj’ by saying that there cannot be Passage {‘Shagaaf’} in the skies (heavens) is based upon the Principles of ancient philosophers, we say that the reality of bodies is equal (same). And when there can be passage (hole) in one body then it is possible in all bodies. And Allah Almighty  has Authority (Power) over all Possibilities {‘Mumkinat’}.” {Sharh Aqayid al Nasafi, Page: 104 – 105}


Difference between ‘Isra’ and ‘Mairaj’


‘Isra’: The Night Journey of the Prophet  with his Physical Body in a state of Wakefulness from ‘Bayt al Haram’ to ‘Bayt al Maqdis’ is technically known as ‘Isra’ in Islamic Terminology.


‘Mairaj’: The Night Journey of the Prophet  with his Physical Body in a state of Wakefulness from ‘Bayt al Maqdis’ to the ‘Sidrat al Muntaha’ in the Skies (Heavens) and Beyond is technically known as ‘Mairaj’ in Islamic Terminology.


But, sometimes these words are interchangeably used and referred to in Islamic literature. ‘Mairaj’ includes ‘Isra’ and ‘Isra’ is sometimes used for ‘Mairaj’ in the sense that it is also a part of the Night Journey of the Prophet .

Compiled & Translated by

Basharath Ali Siddiqui Ashrafi

Ashrafiya Islamic Foundation,

Hyderabad, India