Al-Aqsa Mosque by David Shankbone

May 5 marks an important festival in the Islamic calendar, Lailat al Miraj.

Lailat al Miraj, remembers the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, where they believe he ascended to heaven.

Much like the more well-known Eid, the date of Lailat al Miraj shifts each year because it is marked on the Islamic calendar, which differs from the more widely used Gregorian calendar. Lailat al Miraj, sometimes also known as Isra, is generally celebrated on the 27th day of Rajab, which falls on May 5 this year.

As told in chapter 17 of the Qur'an, Lailat al Miraj begins with Muhammad being visited in Mecca by two archangels, who bring to him a winged steed named Buraq to carry him to the “Farthest Mosque.” This is generally believed to refer to Al Aqsa in Jerusalem, where Muhammad then took part in communal prayer with prophets from the past.

Following this, he then ascended to heaven, where he spoke personally with Allah. This section of the story is known as “Miraj”, which means “ladder” in Arabic, in reference to the act of ascent. The festival also has great significance to Muslims because it was while Muhammad was in heaven that they believe he was told that Muslims should pray five times a day. Known as “Salat”, this practice which is still widely followed some 1,400 years later.

On this day, many Muslims around the world will celebrate together, in special services put on by many mosques. Others will be marking the day in their own way at home, teaching children the significance of this event, and reciting prayers particular to this event.

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