Observations – Isra & Mi’raj in Miniature

A few days ago, amidst the COVID-19 scare around the world, we Muslims celebrated a night on the 27th of Rejab (corresponding to 22nd of March, on a Sunday), a night that we called the Isra’ & Mi’raj.

Also known as the Lailatul Mi’raj (Arabic) Israk Mikraj (Malay ) Mirac Kandili (Turkish) and Shab-e-Miraj (Iran, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), it was a celebration of remembrance of the night where the Prophet Muhammad traveled on a creature named the Burak from Mecca to Palestine in a single night – unheard of  during his time – and his ascension to the heavens above where he met other prophets such as Ibrahim Alaihi Salam (Abraham), Musa Alaihi Salam (Moses) Isa Alaihi Salam (Jesus) and other prophets before meeting Allah himself. On this night Allah commanded us Muslims to pray five times a day.

The Isra and Mi’raj is one of the most significant of events in the Islamic calendar, particularly because on this night Allah commanded the five daily prayers, one of the key pillar of Islam. Throughout history, Muslims remembered this event in their own way, some offered extra supplications and prayers. Some dedicated artworks to commemorate this miraculous event, as this article will shed a light upon. Many artworks, in particular miniatures, were made to remember this night.

NOTE : I will not add any miniatures that features the Prophet Muhammad unveiled, as this is for me at least disrespectful towards the holy image of the Prophet. I will only feature those that have the Prophet’s face veiled. Also the Burak and the Angels depicted in the miniatures are purely of the imagination of the painter, so please, especially if you are not  Muslim, do not take the miniatures to be the rightful images of the holy beings. Should you be interested in the miniatures that feature the Prophet unveiled you may Google them, bearing in mind that those images are merely the imaginations of the illustrators, as usually these miniatures were made long after the demise of the Prophet. 

This work is coming form a Khamseh of Nizami. It is ascribed to Sultan Muhammad (Wikipedia). This work depicts the Prophet (centre, with his face veiled ) upon the Burak ascending into heaven. The angels surrounding him carries various items, such as an incense burner, a crown, a robe as well as food, offering them to the Prophet as he rode the Burak. One of the angel with the fire halo in front of the Prophet is thought to be Jibril (Gabriel). The angels and the clouds were clearly Chinese influenced.

Creator:Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja) Book Title – Iskandarnama (The book of Iskandar) (Wikipedia). In this miniature we see again the Prophet upon the Burak, with his face veiled, being lead on by an angel (probably Jibril the Archangel) while being looked upon by other angels.  The crown and the hair of the angels were characteristically Persian. 

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq (From https://classicalastrologer.me/2015/12/24/thisra-and-miraj/)  Here you can see the Prophet on the top right with angels following him, in front of a map of the constellation.

Prophet Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq, (from https://classicalastrologer.me/2015/12/24/thisra-and-miraj/) Here the image of the Prophet is fully replaced by a fire, visiting each level of Heaven.

A Persian miniature taken from the Siyer-i Nebi is a Turkish epic about the life of Muhammad, completed around 1388. The Ottoman ruler Murad III commissioned a lavish illustrated copy of the work. The calligrapher Lutfi Abdullah completed the work in 1595. The Prophet Muhammad is always shown veiled. The Isra and Mi’raj, are the two parts of a Night Journey, according to Islamic tradition, the prophet Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621, described as both a physical and spiritual journey. In the journey, Muhammad travels to “the farthest mosque” where he leads other prophets in prayer. The illustration depicting the Isra is captioned: ” During the night journey, Muhammad led patriarchs, Old Testament prophets and angels in prayer in a celestial mosque.” (fromhttps://www.sciencesource.com/archive/The-Isra–Muhammad-s-Night-Journey–621-AD-SS2439414.html)