This is the holy month of Rajab al Asab in the Islamic calendar,a month that holds a great deal of meaning for muslims. In particular, the 27th of Rajab is significant because this is when, according to muslim lore, the Prophet Mohammed SAW ascended to Heaven for one night – Laylatul Me’raj:
On the 27th night of Rajab, Allah bestowed upon His servant, Mohammed Rasulullah (SAW), the sharaf of isra and me’raj. Isra is the name of the night journey from Masjid al-Haraam (Kaaba) to Masjid al-Aqsa, in Jerusalem. There, 124,000 anbiyya (prophets) awaited his presence and he led these, the best of creation in prayers to the Creator of the Worlds.
Then, the Prophet ascended to the heavens, a journey that is called me’raj, and witnessed what there was in each heaven, including a firishta in the form of Amirul Mumineen, Ali (SA). Jibrail, his companion, was asked to halt at Sidratan Muntaha, beyond the 7th Heaven, whilst Rasulullah went further still to be in the presence of Allah. It is said metaphorically, that Rasulullah was made so close to Allah that it was as if he was within the pupil of Allah’s eyes.
Rasulullah descended to Masjid al-Aqsa again, having seen what was beyond the experience of ordinary mortals and returned with many gifts, one of which was the number of prayers believers would recite per day.
The story about the number of prayers that believers recite is a fun one – in a nutshell, Mohammed SAW was instructed to tell the muslims there would be 50 prayers a day. The Prophet Moses met Mohammed afterwards, and strongly advised him to intercede with Allah to reduce that number as it was too high. Mohammed SAW went back to Allah and got it reduced by 5. Moses told him this wasn’t acceptable, that the believers were not going to sit around all day and pray 45 times. Mohammed SAW dutifully went back and got the number reduced by 5 more, and Moses again objected. This went on until there were only 5 prayers left, at which point oses still urged Mohammed SAW to reduce the number. Mohammed refused out of some embarrassment at having asked so many times, so 5 it remained. Thank you , Moses. I mean it. THANK YOU.
Here is a photo of the interior of the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem from where the Prophet alighted:
(click for larger version)