Academic Journal of Modern Philology vol. 5 (2016)
University of Bucharest, Romania
Muhammad’s Night Journey to Heaven or the Initiatic Path to a Temporal and Spiritual Leadership
In many religious traditions, ascension into heaven is a specific way to become initiated into a new, sacred status. It is a journey which implies a dichotomy of plans: firstly the profane–sacred plan, secondly the telluric–celestial plan, both of them being transformed by the possibility of communication through transcendence. This possibility waives the dichotomy during the ascension and keeps an opening status between the elements of each dichotomy, after the ending of the ascension: the sacred will be opened to the profane, the celestial will be opened to the telluric. Muḥammad Night’s Journey is an event which can be read through such a key. However Muḥammad’s Night Journey cannot be limited at this point of view. The event is more complex as we deal with an initiatic path to a temporal and spiritual leadership. As Geo Widengren concluded in his two studies The Ascension of the Apostle and the Heavenly Book and Muhammad, the Apostle of God and His Ascension, Muḥammad’s Night Journey reflects a ritual of sovereignty which is specific to the Ancient Near East, in regards with the ascension of the king as a central event concerning his coronation. Muḥammad’s Night Journey reflects also a ritual during which Muḥammad sees God, and he is sacred as a prophet, being in direct contact with God and with the other monotheistic prophets (as the literature of the 9th century in the Islamic milieu tries to describe). This initiatic path does not have (as a result) the transformation of Muḥammad into a character with divine powers; it has (as a result) the unification into Muḥammad’s person of two different powers, the temporal and the spiritual one, and the confirmation of Muḥammad as a spiritual and temporal leader for a new community.
Keywords: initiation, sacred, kingship, ladder, Islamic community.