The Mystery of Buraq the Winged Hybrid Creature


Before his journey to heaven, Prophet Muhammad made a journey from Mecca to Jerusalem called Isra. As mentioned in the Qur'an (17:1), a journey is made by a servant of God, in one night, from the holy shrine (al-masjid al-haram) to the next shrine (al-masjid al-aqsa). Muhammad was famous for his miracles, many of which are recorded in the Quran, such as his finger splitting the moon, the trunk of a coconut tree sighing, talking to deer, his shadow disappearing, his drops of sweat turning into roses, and others. 

According to the story of his ascension to heaven (Mi'raj), he rode a winged horse known as Buraq. Together with the angel Gabriel, he passed through the seven-layered sky until he met other prophets there and finally reached the holy throne of heaven.

Muhammad's mysticism flourished at the end of the 9th century. He is shown as one who existed before creation, his light is pre-eternal, and he is the reason and purpose of creation. He became the perfect human being, uniting divine and human at dawn between day and night. 

His birth was surrounded by miracles, and his birthday (12. Rabi 'I) became a popular holiday on which many poems were written in praise of his achievements. Such were the expectations for the One who had been sent as a "mercy to the world" and would intercede for his community at the time of the end, especially among the Ummah, where this legend had completely overshadowed its historical figure.

Traditionally, there is general agreement that the servant of God is Muhammad and that the "holy place of worship" in Mecca. However, early commentators interpreted al-masjid al-Aqsa as heaven, and the entire verse was taken as a reference to the Prophet's ascension to heaven (Mi'raj), an ascension that also originated in Mecca. In the period of the Umayyad caliphate (661-750), the mosque was read as Jerusalem. 

The two versions were eventually reconciled by regarding the Isra as only a night journey and relocating Muhammad's point of ascension from Mecca to Jerusalem to avoid confusion. Some commentators also assume that the Isra was a revelation sent to Muhammad in his sleep and not an actual journey at all. But orthodox sentiments have empirically maintained the physical, thus miraculous, and meaningful nature of the journey.

The story of Isra, which is widely elaborated by tradition, tells that Muhammad traveled riding the Buraq, a mythical winged creature, under the army of the angel Gabriel. Muhammad met Abraham, Moses and Jesus in Jerusalem. He then presided as the leader (imam) at prayer with all the assembled prophets and established his primacy among God's messengers.

In Islamic tradition, the creature said to have carried Prophet Muhammad to heaven is described as "a white animal, half donkey, with wings on its sides. Buraq was originally introduced into the story of Muhammad's journey (isra') from Mecca to Jerusalem so that the journey between the cities could be completed in one night. In some traditions, it becomes a horse with the head of a woman and the tail of a peacock. As the story of the night journey (Isra) became connected with Muhammad's ascension to heaven (Mi'raj), Buraq replaced the ladder that was once referred to as the means of access to heaven. Since the 14th century, the myth of Buraq was visualized based on ancient depictions of griffins, sphinxes, and centaurs and became a favorite subject of Persian miniature paintings.

Muhammad was prepared by the angels Gabriel and Michael to meet God one night while he was sleeping in the Kaaba. They opened his body and purified his heart by removing all traces of error, doubt, idolatry and paganism and by filling it with wisdom and faith. In the original version of mi'raj, the prophet is then transported by Gabriel directly to the lowest heaven. But early in Muslim history, the story of the ascension was associated with the story of Muhammad's night journey (isra'). The two separate incidents were gradually combined so that chronologically after Muhammad's purification, he was then transported in one night from Mecca to Jerusalem by the mythical creature Buraq, and from Jerusalem he ascended to heaven, probably by stairs (Mi'raj), accompanied by Gabriel.

Muhammad and Gabriel entered the first heaven and passed through all seven levels until they reached the throne of Allah. Along the way, they met the prophets Adam, Yahya (John), 'Isa (Jesus), Yusuf (Joseph), Idris, Aaron (Aaron), Moses (Moses), and Ibrahim (Abraham) and visited hell and heaven. Moses himself said that Muhammad was more honored by God than himself and that Muhammad followed him more than his own money. Once Muhammad appeared before God he was commanded to pray 50 times every day. Moses then advised Muhammad to request a reduction in the number as it was too difficult for his people, and the obligation was eventually reduced to five prayers daily.

Muhammad and the Mi'raj have been a source of constant speculation among Muslims. Some claim that the ascension was merely a dream while others speculate that only Muhammad's soul entered heaven, while his body remained on earth.

Read also The Mystery of Gog and Magog Existence

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