Prophet's Ascension to heaven: From a futuristic point of view

Q516 :Recently I came across a book by Maudoodi in which Prophet's night journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and his Ascension from there to heaven is viewed in ordinary political terms. It is likened to a king summoning one of his state governors to an audience in which the affairs of the state are discussed. In his view, Verses 24-37 of Surah 17 provide a summing up of the directives which were to provide the basic principles of Islamic society. I referred to the writings of several commentators on the Qur'an, but I could not find anything to substantiate this view. I would be grateful for your comments.

A516 : I believe you did not find anything to refute this view either. Hence, this view represents a reading by a scholar of a particular event in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The fact that this event was of far reaching significance means that Muslim scholars in every generation find themselves speaking about it, explaining its importance, as they see it. There is nothing to prevent a scholar who has achieved such eminence as Maudoodi from reading a particular event in the life of the Prophet in terms which makes its significance more readily appreciated by his contemporary readers. I must admit that I have not seen this book by Maudoodi in which you read his interpretation of the event. Yet, the way he describes it, as you have quoted, seems to be very interesting. I am reproducing here what you have quoted from his book: "Rulers of the earth are used to calling governors on certain occasions to give them special instructions on various issues. Allah, the ruler of the universe, has done something of this type. The Prophets are the governors deputed to the earth, a small state of His Kingdom. On special occasions, Allah personally gave directives to governors He had appointed. Such audiences were granted to Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all). The night journey of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Ascension to heaven also conforms to this pattern. After the difficult phase it went through in Makkah, Islam was about to establish its own nation state in Madinah. At such an important juncture, Allah invited His Prophet in order to give him the constitution and the manifesto of that nation. Responding to the invitation, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) presented himself before the Lord. That was the essence of his Ascension to heaven." Most commentators on the Qur'an look at the Prophet's night journey and Ascension to heaven as a mission of comfort to the Prophet. He had been working hard for the message Allah had entrusted to him for ten years, meeting every conceivable sort of opposition from his people in Makkah. At times, their opposition weighed heavily on him. He was distressed by their stubborn refusal to realize that he only wanted their happiness. His two main sources of support, his wife, Lady Khadeejah, and his uncle, Abu Talib, died late in the tenth year or early in the eleventh year of the start of his mission. By losing them, he lost both the public support provided by Abu Talib, the chief of the Hashemite clan of Quraish, and the internal comfort at home provided by a loving, caring and devoted wife. It was natural that the Prophet, a human being, should experience a deep feeling of sorrow for their loss. In his wisdom, Allah had determined that it was time for the new message to stand alone, requiring no outside support, with its primary advocate, Allah's messenger, managing his affairs on his own. He - limitless He is in His Glory - took both Khadeejah and Abu Talib away and the Prophet was alone. Commentators on the Qur'an view the night journey in terms of a new source of comfort, encouragement and reassurance to the Prophet. On this trip, he saw many of the great manifestations of Allah's greatness. His resolve to carry on with his message was sharpened and his determination was never to show any weakening. This is the traditional way of looking at the Prophet's night journey and it is supported by some Qur'anic verses which refer to it. As quoted by you, Maudoodi looks at this highly significant event from a futuristic point of view. He looks at what was to come, rather than what had happened in the past. Within three years of that trip, the Islamic state in Madinah was established. Every state needs a constitution, and this applies, in a rather stronger measure, to an ideological state. The Surah 17 is entitled, the "Night Journey," and it opens with a reference to the trip, glorifying Allah for having taken the Prophet on it and pointing out that the Prophet was made to see some of the signs Allah has in the universe. The verses to which Maudoodi refers provide an outline of the moral and social code of the Muslim community. They were the first detailed Qur'anic account of the boundaries within which the Muslim community will have to live. Indeed, they give a sense of the moral fabric of the Muslim society. Maudoodi's vision is, then, a fresh approach to a great event. It is the merit of its futuristic outlook, which fits more perfectly with the nature of the Islamic message. Allah could have comforted His messenger for the losses he had suffered in a variety of ways. Giving him an outline of the moral and social code of his future state gave him much more than comforting condolence. It gave him the sense of the continuity of his message and a feeling of the task ahead. Maudoodi, thus, has offered us something new, something which makes us appreciate in a far better way a momentous event in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). May Allah bless Maudoodi's soul and shower His mercy on him. The analogy with a governor being summoned for an audience with the king is also interesting because it makes the event closer to our minds to understand and appreciate. The relationship between Allah and His messenger is far closer than that of a sovereign and one of his governors. In any state, the governor could be sacked at any time. In the Kingdom of the Most Supreme, the governor, or, Allah's messenger, is the perfect choice. Hence, he would not suffer anything like the fall from grace many governors endure.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )