THE PROPHET'S NIGHT JOURNEY AND ASCENSION (Muslim Festival)
By Caroline Donne
Date varies from year to year - please check the REonline Festivals Calendar
To learn why Muslims pray
five times a day. To focus on prayer and reflection.
Preparation and materials
- Background: There are only two Muslim festivals that are
celebrated as an act of religious duty (i.e. they are part of the Five Pillars
of Islam). They are the breaking of the fast of Ramadan (Eid-ul-Fitr) and the
festival of sacrifice (Eid-ul-Adha) at the end of Hajj (the pilgrimage to
Makkah). The Prophet's Night Journey and Ascension is celebrated because it was
during this time that the command to pray five times a day (another of the Five
Pillars of Islam) was given. It is celebrated by the reading of the Qur'an and
extra prayers are said.
- Suggested materials (not all are
- an OHP or flip-chart on which to write key words
- a picture of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
music to help children to be thoughtful or to pray
- a candle.
- Be aware that there are different
interpretations of the story; some regard it as fact, others regard it as
- Ask the children to think about
why people pray. Ask for volunteers to share their ideas. Some suggestions
might be: to talk to God; to listen to God; to ask for help; to say sorry; to
thank God. Write the key words on the flip-chart or OHP.
- Explain that for Muslims, prayer
is very important: five times a day they stop what they are doing and pray to
God. They pray at the beginning of the day, in the middle of the day, in the
late afternoon, in the evening and last thing at night. These five daily
prayers are known as Salat. Before prayer, Muslims wash carefully as a way of
being ready to pray and to show respect to God. Each time they pray, wherever
they are in the world, they face towards Makkah, one of the most special and
holiest places for Muslims.
You could show the children the prayer mat
at this point and explain that it is placed on the ground so that the top end
points towards Makkah.
- Go on to tell the story of why
prayer is so important.
Story. Muslims believe that God sent
many messengers, or prophets, to earth to tell people about God and how he
wanted them to live. The last messenger was the Prophet Muhammad. He was the
most important messenger, and because of this Muslims give him great honour.
They say a blessing after his name: 'peace be upon him'. It was the Prophet who
told them of God's command to pray five times a day. At this time of year
Muslims think about the story of where that command came from. It's the story
of the Prophet's Night Journey and Ascension.
A long time ago, nearly
1,400 years, the Prophet Muhammad was living in Makkah, which is in the country
we now call Saudi Arabia. It was a difficult and sad time for him. People would
not listen to what he said about God; they were angry with him and hostile
towards him. But one night, something wonderful happened. The Prophet was woken
by an angel, who took him on an amazing journey. It seemed that he travelled on
a mysterious animal rather like a horse with wings. When the journey was
finished, the Prophet had arrived in Jerusalem. Muslims call this journey
'al-Isra', the night journey. It is why Jerusalem is a very special place for
This wasn't the end of the journey, because then the angel
took the Prophet from Jerusalem on a journey to heaven. This part of the
journey is called 'al-Mi'raj', the ascension. On this second part of the
journey the Prophet passed through seven heavens, where he met other prophets.
Finally he met with God. It was a wonderful meeting that seemed to happen in an
instant. Now the Prophet knew that God would help and guide him in the
difficult time ahead. Then God commanded him to tell people about the
importance of prayer. It was a way in which they could communicate with God,
and they should pray to God five times a day.
The Prophet returned
home, having learned many things, feeling hopeful and more able to deal with
the hostility he met from those who were against him.
- Explain that Jerusalem is a holy
city for two other religions. Ask if anyone knows what which they are - Judaism
Add that the place in Jerusalem from which the
Prophet began the second part of the journey, to heaven, can still be seen
today. It is called the Dome of the Rock.
- Focus on the themes. Ask
the children to think again about prayer. What did God tell the Prophet that
prayer was? Ask the children to think about the different ways in which people
can show that they are praying. For example, hands together, eyes closed,
kneeling, lighting a candle, hands raised in the air. When Muslims perform
Salat (the five daily prayers), they use different positions, like standing,
bowing, kneeling, or kneeling with their head touching the ground. These are
different ways of showing how they feel about God and these help them to
concentrate and be ready to communicate with God.
Explain that there's a time now when children might like to pray or to
think about what they have heard. Perhaps they would like to pray about the
things that they need help with today, or to say thank you for a good thing
that has happened. Perhaps they might like to use this time to think about
something that is important to them.
Try to create an appropriate
atmosphere for reflection by lighting a candle and playing some quiet music.
Explain what you are going to do beforehand. Invite the children to change
their position if it would help them. They might like to think of the positions
mentioned above in which people express their feelings about God. Explain that
it might help them to concentrate if they close their eyes gently.
Allow for a time of quiet and stillness. You could use the words of a
prayer or poem that is well known to the children. Indicate beforehand how this
time of reflection will end, either by fading the music, saying 'Amen', or
using some other form of closing words. You might like to ask the children to
leave in their class groups in silence with the music still gently playing, so
that they can retain a sense of peacefulness.