17:1 Glory be to Him who took His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the Farthest Mosque.
At the beginning of this surah, He praised Himself, then He disclosed the nobility of Muṣṭafā and uncovered his eminence over the creatures. First He testified to His own faultlessness and mentioned His own purity. He Himself praised Himself and showed the creatures His perfect power. He turned over the Messenger’s miʿrāj to His own act, not the Messenger’s act, so that the faithful will not fall into uncertainty and there would be an argument against the deniers. Thus the faithful will know that the marvels of power have no limit and that this state is not strange given the perfect power of the Powerful.
Another meaning is to display the nobility of Muṣṭafā and his eminence over the creatures of the world. The former is the station of Muḥammad, the Real’s beloved, and the latter is the station of Moses, the Real’s speaking-companion. Do you not see that He said about Moses, “Moses came to Our appointed time” [7:143], but He said about Muṣṭafā, “who took His servant by night.” Moses was a comer, traveling by himself. Muḥammad was taken. He who walks with His feet is not like him who walks toward Him, and he to whose secret core revelation comes is not like him who is called to Him. The one who was traveling was absent through distance, so after separation he found union. The one who was taken was in the elevation of union at the outset, and he received the robe of bounty at the end.
Among the reports about David is this: “O David, he who claims to love Me is a liar if night comes, and he goes to sleep.”
“O Muḥammad! Everyone who puts up with suffering will afterward find a treasure. I commanded you, ‘And of the night, keep vigil therein as a supererogatory act for thee! [17:79]. Get up at night and pray.’ It was I Myself who commanded you to get up at night, to come, and to whisper in secret with Me. Thus you came to know that I do not neglect anyone’s suffering and I convey everyone to what is fitting for him.”
Another subtle point has also been made: The Lord of the Worlds affirmed for Muṣṭafā an act appropriate to his servanthood, and He spoke of His own act as fitting for His Lordhood. The act of Muṣṭafā was ascending: who took His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the Farthest Mosque. The act of God was descending: “He descends every night to the lowest heaven.” The ascent of Muḥammad was fitting for his mortal nature, and God’s descent was fitting for His divinity and appropriate for His Essence and attributes. Then He made the time of His descent be night, and He willed that Muḥammad’s ascent also be at night, for He called Muḥammad His “beloved,”.
From the Holy Mosque to the Farthest Mosque. He was taken from the Holy Mosque to the Farthest Mosque and from the Farthest Mosque to the Lote Tree of the Final End and the highest way station so that he would see the states and terrors of the Resurrection face-to-face. Thereby the foundations of intercession would be laid down. Tomorrow when the resurrection takes place, the harshness and tremendousness of the Compeller will surround the creatures. In fear and fright at the resurrection, the terror, and the harshness of the Exalted Threshold, the creatures will all fall into themselves, bewildered, terrified, and having tasted the horror, for they will be seeing what they had never before seen. They will not turn away from their own business and work to anyone else’s work. Everyone will be saying, “My soul! My soul!” But Muṣṭafā had already been shown the Dominion, the Greatest Signs, and the wonders of the Unseen. He will have no fear, and the awesomeness and harshness of that day will have no effect on him. He will give his heart over to intercession for the community. He will be saying, “My community! My community!”
If you want an example of this state, consider the work of Moses. It had been predetermined that Moses and the army of the enemy would one day come together, the sorcerers would work tremendous sorcery, and Moses’ staff would become a serpent to swallow down that sorcery. But before that day, in the presence of whispered prayer with the Lord of the Worlds, it was said to him, “Cast thy staff! [7:117]. O Moses! Throwdown your staff!” Moses threw the staff and it became a serpent. Moses was afraid of that, and the Exalted Lord said, “Take it and fear not! [20:21]. O Moses, pick it up and do not fear!” Hence on the day when he was face-to-face with Pharaoh and the staff became a serpent, all who saw it were afraid, for they had never seen it before, but Moses was not afraid, because he had seen it once.
It has also been said, “The Real sent him so that the folk of the earth would learn worship from him. Then He raised him to heaven so that the angels would learn the courteous acts of worship from him. God says, ‘The eyesight did not swerve, nor did it trespass’ [53:17]. He did not turn to the right nor to the left. He did not desire any station or any bestowal of honor. He was free of every wish and every joy.”
Listen to a wonderful subtlety: It was said to Adam, “Fall down!” [2:36]. It was said to Muṣṭafā, “Ascend!”: “O Adam! Go to the earth so that the world of dust may settle down because of the majestic guise of your sultanate. O Muḥammad! Come up to heaven so that the summit of the spheres may be adorned by the beauty of your contemplation. Travel away from the corporeal and the spiritual and then gaze upon Me. Bring to the Presence the pure gift of ‘The salutations, the blessed things, the prayers, and the goodly things belong to God!’ Then the overflowing goblet of the good fortune of ‘The peace be upon thee, O Prophet, and God’s mercy!’ will be sent to you on the hand of the cupbearer of the Covenant. Take it with the fingers of acceptance and drink it down! And, like the noble, pour a draft on the earth of the hearts of the community.
Jaʿfar Ṣādiq said, “When the beloved approached in utmost nearness, his Lord treated him with the utmost gentleness”. On the night of the miʿrāj when the Master reached the Presence, he found the utmost proximity. When the Exalted Lord prepared his heart, He brought him near Himself with the utmost gentleness and infinite generosity. The gentle favors of honor surrounded him and he reached the way station of Then He drew close [53:8] and found the seclusion of Or closer [53:9].
What happened happened, what he heard he heard, what he saw he saw, and no one is aware of these secrets, for intellects and imaginations are dismissed from perceiving them. A mystery went behind the curtain and was conveyed to the prophetic hearing without the intrusion of others—the light within light, joy within joy, delight within delight. God reported the story to us so as to honor him, and He concealed the secrets to magnify him.