Maturidi and the Miraaj


Sulaiman Ahmed returns after a lengthy absence but doesn’t disappoint with a fascinating and blistering piece!  


By Sulaiman Ahmed

I had intended for some time to write an article about the famous Muslim theologian Imam Maturidi’s denial of the Prophet Muhammad’s Ascent to Heaven – the second part of his famous ‘Night Journey’, known as the ‘Miraaj’. I was warned by colleagues not to approach this subject because lay Muslims are nowadays, like followers of most religions, up to and including Scientology, thoroughly persuaded by their self-appointed clergy that believing in speculative things with very little proof or mere hearsay is a sign of how strong one’s faith is – an inversion of the correct Islamic principle that matters of faith must be so only when there is certainty through rigorous proofs. As such, if I am to discuss these matters, I must do so with a lengthy pre-amble.

Over the last few years we have witnessed online very clearly the dark side of Islamic scholarship – which was always present though hidden from the masses before the days of the Internet. This can be seen for instance from the overly aggressive responses to my article about the fact that Shaykh Abu Mansur al-Maturidi rejected a tradition – later found in the collection of ‘Sahih Bukhari’, namely that the Prophet Muhammed was affected by Black Magic, which according to said narration, caused him to lose his mind and left him impotent.[1] We then saw a similar response regarding articles that were written about the dubious Kharijite narrator Ikrima who is the source of many ‘authentic’ hadith which support violent and abhorrent punishments and the killing of apostates.[2] We later released an article on a similar topic about Maturidi rejecting another hadith which was later found in Bukhari about the Prophet Moses running around naked,[3] and we saw similar reactions to many other topics which one would think were not very important yet evoked a vicious response since they didn’t adhere to the specific ideology and financial pressure from Salafis and other fringe elements, such as do most Muslim groups purporting to follow ‘Classical Islam’.[4] Ironically, these same groups which are under the most uncompromising ideological (and financial) pressure not to stray from the ‘party line’ are also the most vociferous when it comes to berating people for being ‘modernists’ and bowing to liberal pressures for quoting thousand year old sources verbatim. We later saw the same overreaction towards the writers and editors of ‘The Study Quran’ – again, despite their rather conservative commentary (for example, their view on wife beating was well behind that of many previous efforts) which was, if anything, too inclusive of sources beloved of Salafis and their Deobanadi familiars.[5] More, recently we have seen a similar reaction the topic of the Second Coming of Jesus, with many people dissenting very aggressively to the scholars who reject the notion that the Prophet Jesus will return.

This again is ironic – Muslims are constantly trying to reassure both themselves and non-Muslims of their tolerance for varying opinions and even dissent and disbelief, but even a casual observer can see that their fanatical and often threatening responses to people merely articulating differing opinions from classical sources are anything but ‘engaging’ or ‘tolerant’. One shudders to think the response that would be awaiting a genuine ‘modernist’ who expressed an actually new opinion – the long knives would literally be out if the kinds of anathematising remarks and barely veiled threats of physical violence that greet the smallest infarction against even the most insignificant narrations or opinions online is anything to go by. Any scholar or layman who has raised the ire of Deo-Salafis and other so-called ‘traditionalists’ (a hideous misnomer) can multiply examples of these threatening and illiberal remarks almost indefinitely. And all this while Muslims purport to be doing ‘dawah’ (inviting other to Islam) and being ‘careful’ of the image of Islam.

I hope (almost certainly in vain) that for the present article people are a lot more open to the content and read it objectively. The main reason for the reaction described above is the constant reimagining of Islam by presenting the patently false idea that the usually idiosyncratic hadith and fatwas that are emphasised, propagated and supported by Salafis and their comrades (sadly, commonly Brelwis and Deobandis) have been followed and accepted by everyone throughout Islamic history with there being no dissenting voices. They take this further by presenting a facade that these ideas were held uniformly by the early generation of Muslims, when in fact the voices that dissented and disagreed were generally greater in number and held by people who are considered authorities such as Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik. This reinterpretation has resulted in the layperson being led to believe that every narration of Bukhari and all controversial ‘Sahih’ hadith cannot be questioned and that no one in the past has ever questioned these narrations and nor is there any possibility of there being a defect in these narrations.

The reason why these often violent and problematic hadith are even more problematic when found in Islam is because of the psychology and the level of adherence of its followers. Let’s take for example a verse from the Bible:

“If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.”[6]

In current times, generally speaking, amongst Christians you will have three types of people, the first are those who know about this law and if given the opportunity would follow it, the second category of people are those who know about the law and don’t/won’t follow it and the third group of people are those who are completely ignorant/unaware of this legislation. And of course, the first group is by far the smallest and the last two the biggest vis a vis Christians (and others) today. On the other hand, amongst Muslims, generally speaking you won’t find the second category of people. Muslims are either aware of the law and follow it without questioning or they are ignorant/unaware of the legislation. As such, a great emphasis is placed upon us to filter out the extreme, violent and problematic hadith, which when examined, one finds that they have some problem with either the matn (text) or the isnaad (chain). The truth of the above can be seen from the frequent strategy of Islamophobes in our time – they realise that Muslims as a group, are more ‘practising’ and more willing to defend the authenticity of their texts – not just the Quran but also the often spurious fatwas and hadith of sources effectively treated as infallible – Imams like Shafi or Bukhari. This banal tendency is very effectively weaponised by Islamophobes, who when ignoring violent passages from the Bible or other religions won’t work, merely point out that no Christian follows these or believes in them – effectively giving the invented ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilization a free pass because hardly anyone in the public eye really believes in its foundational dogmas or texts any longer. Hence the frequent references from these people (such as for example, the famous internet troll Ben Shapiro) to violent hadith and then to opinion polls from the Muslim world claiming to show the percentages of people who ‘believe’ in these hadith or more often ‘Sharia’. This is a perverse and false argument, but is helped no end by the symbiotic relationship between Salafist types and Islamophobes – the former need religion to be exclusivist and difficult to rationalise, difficult to practice and nigh on impossible to defend to show how ‘authentic’ and heroic they are (for example, because of the idiosyncratic and difficult way they dress or arrange their facial hair and social interactions) and how much ‘faith’ they have; the latter need the same to demonstrate a false narrative of isolationism, untenable values and extremism.

But the whole process is demonstrably false – Muslims have been largely persuaded to defend to the hilt every hadith of ‘Bukhari’ and every fatwa of Shafi and Co. without ever knowing what these are and if such defence is necessary or traditional: had they been properly informed about either by their self-appointed religious leaders, they would be much better equipped in both the East and the West to silence and overcome the spurious accusations against Islam and its Prophet. A good example of this is the well-known interview between journalist Mehdi Hasan and militant atheist Richard Dawkins[7], where Dawkins attempted to mock and back Mehdi Hasan into a corner by asking him whether he believes in a ‘winged horse’. Hasan passionately and unequiveically states that he does; this is however I would argue without truly understanding what aspects of religion he is backing or the strength of proof for the existence of ‘the winged horse’ and whether such a belief is an important tenant of the faith. I hope that this article puts people who are in the same situation as Mehdi Hasan and attempting to answer similar questions from atheists in a position where they can answer such questions strongly and academically.

Brief Account of the Israa wa Miraaj

The ‘Israa wa Miraaj’ is the famous Night Journey of the Prophet. It is important to differentiate between the two parts of the journey. The Israa is the journey from the house of the Prophet in Mecca in present day Saudi Arabia to Baytul Maqdas – in Jerusalem – by miraculous means, which is mentioned in the Quran itself. The Miraaj on the other hand is the journey from Baytul Maqdas to the various domains of the heavens (seven according to the traditional understanding of Islamic cosmology), culminating in a literal meeting with God. This part of the journey is not mentioned in the Quran at all but instead can be found in various Ahad hadith (solitary narrations).

“Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing”[8]

The linguistic meaning of the word ‘Israa’ is to travel during the night, and specifically in this instance it refers to the night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. ‘Miraaj’ comes from the word ‘Araja’ which means to rise up and Miraaj is the mechanism by which one ascends. In this instance it is when the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended from Jerusalem to the heavens.

According to the traditions, the Prophet Muhammad was sleeping at the al-Hatim (the semi-circular part around the Kabbah in Mecca) when the archangel Gabriel came to him and opened up his chest and took out his heart and washed it in a basin of ‘belief’ before it was placed back into his chest. Then a white animal called the ‘Buraq’, which was smaller than a donkey but larger than a mule, was brought to the Prophet Muhammad.[9] This animal’s stride was so wide such that it reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal’s sight. The Prophet Muhammad was then taken from Mecca to Jerusalem on the Buraq. He led the prayer in Jerusalem, was given a test by God and then taken through the various heavens where he met a number of different prophets. He then ascended to the Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (The Lote Tree) which is the utmost boundary of the universe. Then the Prophet was given the daily prayers which began at fifty but were reduced to five after having a conversation with Moses and multiple meetings with God.[10] None of this, including the details of the animal carrying him and so on is mentioned in the Quran except what I quoted from that very source above I must hasten to add. All it says is that the Prophet was sent by God from Mecca to Jerusalem – the other details are absent.

Contradictions in the Story of the Miraaj

We know that the journey of Miraaj is not mentioned in the Quran, nor are the hadith related to it, Mutawatir (mass transmitted) or Mashoor (famous). Therefore, the only hadith we have on this issue are ahad (solitary) narrations. The problem with these ahad narrations is that the contents of the narrations contradict one another. An apt example of this is that during the night when the Prophet Muhammad was taken to the heavens, he met other Prophets in different heavens (there are seven heavens described). However, some of these narrations state that the Prophet Muhammad met the Prophet Yahyah in the second heaven[11] whereas we have other narrations that state that the Prophet Muhammad met the Prophet Yahyah in the third heaven.[12] We then have narrations stated that he met the Prophet Idris in the second heaven[13] (in other narrations he was meant to have met the Prophet Eisaa (Jesus) and the Prophet Yahyah in this heaven), whilst other narrations state that he met the Prophet Idris in the fourth Heaven[14] and then yet others that state that he met him the fifth heaven.[15] He met the Prophet Haroon in the fourth heaven[16] and then according to other narrations he met him in the fifth heaven.[17] He met Prophet Moses in the sixth heaven[18] and then in other narrations he met him in the seventh.[19] It is the same with the Prophet Abraham, he met him in the sixth heaven[20] and then according to other narrations he met him in the seventh heaven.[21] He meets Joseph in the third heaven[22] but in the other narrations he did not encounter him during the night journey at all.[23]

Due to these contradictions one is either left in the situation that they reject these hadith due to their clear and obvious contradictions and come to the conclusion that the Miraj never occurred, or one attempts to reconcile the contradictory narrations and comes to the conclusion that there wasn’t just one journey but multiple ones and therefore the meetings with the various prophets in the different heavens occurred during separate instances. There is no textual evidence to suggest that there were such multiple spiritual journeys and therefore this can never form part of one’s creed or theology (aqeeda), but instead one may believe in the miraaj from a ‘spiritual’ point of view. What I mean by this is that there were scholars in the past who believed in things but solely from a ‘spiritual point of view’, which they attained through Kashf (spiritual enlightenment) and example of this is Ibn Arabi who believed in the eternity of the universe but his position as explained by him was due to Kashf (spiritual enlightenment) and not due to a theological or textual process.[24]

Maturidi’s Rejection of the Story of the Miraaj

Al-Maturidi did not tend to accept supplementary information about stories that were mentioned in the Quran.  He did not accept information that was added by the Mufassireen (commentators of the Quran), or extra content from the books of other religions such as the Israeliyaat (these are narrations that have originated from Jewish and Christian traditions), the Torah and the New Testament – using which to elaborate on the Quran or even to openly add to it was common practice amongst commentators and scholars. Al-Maturidi rejected the story of the miraaj because he explained that the stories related to it are ahad (solitary narrations) and as we know ahad narrations cannot be accepted in the Maturidi School in issues of aqeedah (creed or theological dogma). He did explain that if the Prophet Muhammad said that the miraaj occurred then he would accept it as Abu Bakr accepted it[25] .

Today what problematises the issue is that the story of miraaj has become ingrained in theological framework of Muslims to the point where rejecting it is considered heresy. Al-Maturidi did differentiate between the two journeys and explained that we should restrict our understanding and belief of the journey to what is stated in the Quran – which is that the Prophet Muhammad was taken from the Holy Mosque to the Furthest Mosque, and all other related stories from inauthentic sources or from solitary narrations should not be added.[26] The position of al-Maturidi on the issue of miraaj is not unique at all and there were many classical scholars who held the same position. For example, the celebrated Sunni theologian Fakhuruddin ar-Razi (detested by Salafis note) rejected all of the narrations related to the miraaj for the same reason.[27] These positions were held by the scholars despite the fact that this story is allegedly relayed by around twenty sahabah (companions of the Prophet).

The main issue that people have that will make them want to hold on to the Hadith about the miraaj and the real reason for such a strong reaction by those who believe in the story of the miraaj is that it is one the main textual proofs for the famous five daily prayers in Islam. What these people do not understand is that this is not in fact the main proof of the five daily prayers and instead the actual proof of these is Mutawair Amali (meaning ‘mass narrated by actions’). Thus, the five daily prayers were performed by the Prophet Muhammad and this was passed onto his immediate companions en masse, who passed it onto the Taibeen (second generation) and these actions continued to be passed down till they came to us – still en masse. The five prayers are not ahad or single chain or at all (nor are they ‘clearly’ stated in the Quran on the other hand as some apologists incorrectly and overconfidently state – leaving them open to embarrassing rebuttals from antagonistic non-Muslims).

Another problematic theological issue regarding the hadith about the miraaj is an alleged incident between the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet Moses and God. In these narrations it is relayed that initially God prescribed fifty prayers for the nation of the Prophet Muhammad. Quite apart from the incredulity this will raise amongst many thinking people about God’s wisdom and compassion (although it fits very nicely into the Deo-Salafi narrative of ‘religion must be difficult but let’s pretend that difficult = easy’), after receiving this order the Prophet Muhammad meets the Prophet Moses who unsurprisingly informs him that his nation will struggle to perform fifty prayers and that he should go back and have the number of prayers reduced. Thus, the Prophet Muhammad allegedly goes back to God and convinces Him to change his mind and reduce the number of prayers. This continued to happen multiple times until the prayers were finally reduced to the present five prayers. Now, I think that thoughtful theists of all stripes will find this story frankly unbelievable and insulting to God, Moses and the Prophet Muhammad; God is a dictator who expects you to do nothing except pray all day (you can see why Deo-Salafis would defend this hadith to the hilt – this is the God they would very much like to exist), the Prophet is a terrible advocate for his people and doesn’t grasp the impracticality of performing fifty prayers, each of which must be at least as long as the two cycle morning prayers, if one assumes they were of the current type which they must have been if one accepts the ‘re-negotiation’ with God (and if they were not, what then is the purpose of this negotiation between God and Prophet with Moses acting as interloper?). This means that God wanted a bare minimum of one hundred cycles of prayer a day. The first and quite reasonable question asked by atheists – and others – will inevitably be ‘in what sense is such a God beneficent or merciful?’ –  to which I have seen ‘Dawah’ carriers, the vast majority of whom are Salafists, respond by simply asserting a change in the commonly understood meaning of the words ‘beneficent’ and ‘merciful’, thereby shaming us before our atheists opponents. It also makes Moses out to be the only one in this story with any common sense; God must have known that this ‘negotiation’ would take place – so what is the purpose of this game? If it is to show that the Prophet Muhammad is merciful and considerate, then he wasn’t – he had to be told to be so by Moses (which I guess our Jewish brothers will love).

This leaves us with the really problematic theological issue that God apparently changed his mind on multiple occasions. This means that there was a change in God; at first God wanted there to be fifty prayers but after being convinced by the Prophet Muhammad there was a point where this was reduced down to forty, and this change of decision occurred many times reducing it to thirty, then twenty and finally five. This means that there are several points in ‘time’ where the Will of God changed. This would not be possible for God. Take for example a teacher who goes from being someone who isn’t teaching that then goes into teaching. When a change occurs in something then it needs something external to cause it to change its state, say from being a non-teacher into a teacher. All types of change are in need of an agent causing that change. The thing that has caused the other object to change does so due to a change in either the substance, or its state, or its quantity or on its locality or any of the other basic foundational states. Something that is affected by change is not eternal and more importantly it does not meet the understanding of Muslims about God, and how God is not similar to or resemble creation (of course, the Salafis are famously keen to attribute location, hands and numerous other features of created bodies to God).

This example is different to the one that some may mention about the different stages of the revelation of law about the consumption of alcohol, were God had eternally commanded the reduction of alcohol and by the end of revelation had commanded the complete prohibition of alcohol. Here God was not affected by change as it was an eternal command which is different to the incident of the miraaj where the Prophet Muhammad caused God to change his mind on multiple occasions by seemingly haggling with him.  This principle of change not being applied to God can be seen in the methodology of al-Maturidi. Regarding the following verses:

And when Moses said to his people, “Indeed, Allah commands you to slaughter a cow.” They said, “Do you take us in ridicule?” He said, “I seek refuge in Allah from being among the ignorant.” They said, “Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is.” [Moses] said, “[Allah] says, ‘It is a cow which is neither old nor virgin, but median between that,’ so do what you are commanded.” They said, “Call upon your Lord to show us what is her colour.” He said, “He says, ‘It is a yellow cow, bright in colour – pleasing to the observers.’ “They said, “Call upon your Lord to make clear to us what it is. Indeed, [all] cows look alike to us. And indeed we, if Allah wills, will be guided.” He said, “He says, ‘It is a cow neither trained to plow the earth nor to irrigate the field, one free from fault with no spot upon her.’ “They said, “Now you have come with the truth.” So they slaughtered her, but they could hardly do it.[28]

Al-Maturidi explained that many of the mufasireen (Quranic commentators) made the assumption that Gods initial order was general and was not specified in terms of the description of the cow. Later, due to the many questions and interrogative nature of the Israelites, this caused God to make the attributes of the cow specific. The mufasireen theorised that had the Israelites sacrificed the cow immediately, any cow would have served the command but that it was their continuous questioning that resulted in God making the command a lot more difficult.[29] Al-Maturidi rejected this notion as he argued that this understanding infers that there was a change in God’s command, because initially it was meant to be a plain cow and later and only after multiple questions from the Israelites was it changed to this specified version of the cow. Al-Maturidi argued that believing that God ‘changes his mind’ is a position that should not be held by any Muslim or any Prophet and went so far as to say that such an idea would be tantamount to disbelief. 

The Problem of Free – Will in the Miraaj Narrative

Just as problematically, various hadith regarding this story relay that during the night of ascension, the angel Gabriel presented the Prophet Muhammad with two drinking vessels, the first containing wine and the second containing milk. The Prophet chose the one containing milk, and Gabriel explained that had he taken the wine his people would have gone astray.[30] Without going into too much detail on this issue, this hadith is hugely problematic from the rational and therefore theological framework of the Maturidi Creed. This is because the hadith infers a deterministic world view in which all choice is taken away from the individual (another Salafi trope – the denial of free will and of course reason – which makes this narration once again very attractive to them). Instead, a person’s destiny relies solely on which vessel was allegedly drank out of by the Prophet fourteen hundred years ago. The enemies of religion will be laughing too hard to even refute us. The only way this bit of the hadith can be accepted in the Maturidi (or any sensible) creed is metaphorically. Even then it would be a bit of stretch.

Miraaj Narrations Give Dimensions to God and Consign Women to Hell

The problematic theological, philosophical and creedal issues that have been mentioned do not stop there, but the hadith related to the miraaj contain many others. For example, one the problems which was understood to be an issue even by early Muslim scholars was that according to these narrations God ‘approached’ the Prophet Muhammad such that he was as close as a distance of  two bow lengths or maybe nearer.[31] The problems here are multiple – applying matter and shape to God (again, the distinguishing creedal feature of the Salafis and their favourite sources such as Ibn Taymiyya, so just as they are vociferous in accusing their opponents of discounting ‘inconvenient’ hadith, the reader should know that they themselves are selectively and passionately inclusive of anthropomorphist narrations), as well as applying distance and measurement to God and the fact that God is moving closer to the creation. These are some of the many problems introduced by these ‘Sahih’ Hadith. Scholars knew that these hadith presented them with a difficult situation and as such they attempted verbal and intellectual gymnastics so as to not reject the hadith, whilst at the same time attempting to ensure that they did not fall into obvious anthropomorphism. For example, Ibn Hajar in his famous commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari claimed that that when it says that God approached and came closer to the Prophet, it was in fact the angel Gabriel who approached and came closer to the Prophet. This raises the question, even if we suspend our incredulity at this explanation, of why the Prophet, the supreme master of eloquence, is speaking unclearly and confusingly on a subject which can lead to clear errors of belief – especially since those over enthusiastic about hadith (meaning the majority of Muslims today) are constantly reminding us that the hadith ‘clarify and explain’ Islam and the Quran. So now, according to Ibn Hajar, the Prophet and hadith which are meant to clarify the Quran are themselves in need of clarification and then someone will presumably need to clarify that explanation too and so on – possibly ad infinitum. It is also the case that Ibn Hajar and most of us today are used to ‘preaching to the choir’ with these types of unconvincing explanations – I suspect most intelligent people, even if completely naïve of theology, would be able to dismantle this ‘explanation’ with ease. No wonder the obvious spike we see in people doubting and leaving Islam.

In this journey through the heavens and towards God, the Prophet also purportedly passed by Hell and found that the majority of the dwellers therein were women and the reason given for this is that they curse frequently, are ungrateful to their husbands, lack wisdom, are failing in their devotion to the religion and are depriving men of their intelligence. The hadith explains that their lack of religion is proven by the fact that they miss their prayers and fasts due to their menstrual cycle. In Islam however, women being on the menstrual cycle is not considered a deficiency and to accept such a thing is indicating that God is unjust. So according to this, God created women, and he deliberately created them in such a manner that it is more difficult for them to be ‘good’ and then he punishes them for something he built in to their ‘operating system’ so to speak, which is a theological and rational nightmare.

Based on these factors, we understand that according to the Maturidi creed, this hadith cannot be accepted. The narrations are ahad (solitary), contradictory and some of the contents of the hadith go against the established theology of the school. Instead, perhaps what you can deduce from the hadith should you insist on accepting it (and one should look deeply into the reasons why one is so determined to either accept or reject particular hadith – although nowadays the problem is usually the former) is the spiritual aspect of the ascension. This then does not fit into the field of theology but instead it fits into the field of Tassauwuf (spirituality).

Spiritual Aspects of the Story of the Miraaj

The Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad from this perspective is a deeply spiritual journey undertaken in a single night. We know through the hadith that the mode of transportation used to travel from this world to the heavens was the Buraq. Buraq is derived from the word ‘burq’ which means ‘lightning’. In the hadith tradition this transport is described as a white animal called the Buraq, which was smaller than a donkey but larger than a mule. Now if one was to take this metaphorically, without the description, it could refer to the fact that Messenger travelled at ‘lightning speed’. The Prophet Muhammad traveling at such a speed is not an issue as we know that both time and speed are creations of God. People either see this ascension as a miracle, and even if one were to explore a natural explanation based on the normal laws of physics we know that the movement of particles can occur at fast speeds – but not to digress. Tasawwuf is a branch of Islamic knowledge which focuses on the spiritual development of the Muslim, it involves the process of cleansing the heart and once the heart is cleansed from the point of view of spirituality the person can ‘ascend’ through the ‘heavens’ and get close to God (not in space but through their connection). Therefore if Sufis believe that a normal person can transcend the heavens, then the Prophet, who has a special nature, can obviously be able to transcend the heavens. We know that ‘Buraq’ means lightning which could indicate that the rank of the Prophet was increasing at lightning speed. There are various aspects of the tradition that lend one to focus on the spiritual nature of this journey such as the washing of the heart of the Prophet. I do not want the focus of this article to be about the spiritual nature of the ascension because in the future we may dedicate separate articles to this aspect of the journey.

In terms of the disagreements about whether the journey occurred in a dream, or whether journey was undertaken by the soul or the entire body, I would argue that if it was a dream then this would not make the journey unique because in our dreams we can end up in Mars or the moon or wherever and there is nothing unique or special about such a dream. On the other hand according to the Sufis the soul is more important than the flesh and if one were to believe that the journey occurred by the soul then the significance of the journey as well as the spiritual aspect of the journey remain intact.


Despite the fact the story of the Miraaj is not mentioned in the Quran and instead is mentioned in various ahad hadith with many of them being contradictory, sadly Muslims will respond negatively to this article. Rather than understand what the article is attempting to explain, people get upset and cannot bare an alternative opinion despite the classical and authoritative basis of said opinion – in this instance it being Shaykh Abu Mansoor al-Matuidi. But even if al-Maturidi had not said this, one should look at all issues analytically. In this case the Miraaj is not mentioned in the Quran, nor is it mentioned in Mutawatir or Mashoor hadith. All the relevant hadith are ahad and therefore this miraaj cannot be accepted into creed or aqeedah according to the Maturidis. Further to this, the hadith that we do have are contradictory and it was due to this that past scholars such as Imam Nawawi and Ibn Abi Jamarah stated that there had been multiple miraaj journeys. In my opinion this hadith cannot be accepted into the field of theology but instead cannot be accepted into the branch of Islamic knowledge known as tassawuf. For the Sufis there is no issue with the Prophet Muahmmad spirituality ascending to heaven on multiple occasions.






[6] Deuteronomy 22:20-21


[8] Quran Surah Israa: 1

[9] Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4:429

[10] Ibid

[11] Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Hadith 640.

[12] Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 314

[13] Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Hadith 608

[14] Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 429

[15] Sunan Nasa’i, Volume 1, Book 5, Hadith 451

[16] Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Hadith 608

[17] Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 429

[18] Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 429

[19] Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Hadith 608

[20] Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 313

[21] Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 429

[22] Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 429

[23] Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 314

[24] Jami, A, Al-Durrah al-Fakhirah fi Tahqiq Madhab al-Sufiyyah wa al-Mutakallimin wa al-Hukama al-Mutaqaddimin (Muassasah Mutala’at Islami, Tehran, Iran, 1979), Page 28-29

[25] Tawilat 17:1

[26] Ibid

[27] Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir. 17:1

[28] Surah Baqarah: 67-71

[29] Qurtubi, Al-Jami li Ahkaro al-Qur’an, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir

[30] Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 314

[31] Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Hadith 608


8 thoughts on “Maturidi and the Miraaj

  1. Fantastic article. Just a little correction in the penultimate sentence of the article where it says “….but instead cannot be accepted into the branch of Islamic knowledge known as tassawuf.” ,it should rather be “…but instead can be accepted into the branch of Islamic knowledge known as tassawuf.” Plus there was random typo error of “unequivocally” earlier in the article.

      • Of course not. My point was: what is al-Maturidi’s and al-Razi’s interpretation of these verses to dismiss the ascension as a whole and not merely the rubbish mentioned in the hadiths?

  2. Great article…I just skimmed it but it is very interesting to know that huge scholars such as Imam Maturidi and Fakhruddin Razi did not believe in the ahad stories of the Miraaj.

  3. It’s curious the first statement of this article is “…Imam Maturidi’s denial of the Prophet Muhammad’s Ascent to Heaven…” But the very last statement is “…there is no issue with the Prophet Muahmmad spirituality ascending to heaven on multiple occasions.” You start off with a strident tone rejecting the event took place at all and then end with a concilliatory tacit acceptance the event took place albeit in the spiritual. The article i feel is muddled by conflating the targets of its argument. Everyone except the most ardent anthropomorphist literalist are okay with an understanding of the ascension as a supra-rational journey.

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