27 November '10
There was only so much that Muhammad, Islam's founder and, according to the Muslims, the final and ultimate prophet of God -- could accomplish out of Mecca. To have a talk with the prophets that preceded him, to take a tour of heaven, and to visit with God Himself, he first needed to get to Jerusalem.
So -- in Wikipedia's terse account:
"Muhammad [has been] resting in the Kaaba in Mecca, when the archangel Jibral (Gabriel) comes to him, and brings him the winged steed Buraq, the traditional lightning steed of the prophets. The Buraq carries Muhammad to the Masjid Al Aqsa the "Farthest Mosque", which many Muslims believe is at the Noble Sanctuary (Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Muhammad alights, tethers Buraq to the Western Wall and leads the other prophets such as Moses, Jesus, and Adam in prayer. He then re-mounts Buraq, and in the second part of the journey, the Mi'raj (an Arabic word that literally means "ladder"), he is taken to the heavens, where he tours the circles of heaven, and speaks with the earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. He then is taken by Gabriel to God."
Clearly, even to Muhammad, there was something special about Jerusalem. We know what it was pretty well -- Muhammad tried to position himself as a natural successor to the Jewish prophets and Jesus as "the seal of the prophets," and so Jerusalem -- the place where those he saw as his predecessors toiled, lived and died -- was sacred to him, too. Hence, the need for a tour of Jerusalem that resulted in the "night journey." Jerusalem was of value to him because of its Jewish and Christian connection.
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