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2 / Dreams and Visions

The Night Journey of Muhammad on His Steed, Buraq from the Bustan of Sacdi
The Night Journey of Muhammad on His Steed, Buraq from the Bustan of Sacdi
Artist / Origin Unknown painter; Sultan Muhammad Nur (calligrapher) (Uzbekistani, active first half of 16th century)
Date 1514
Material Colors, ink, and gold on paper
Dimensions H: 7 ½ in. (19 cm.), W: 5 in. (12.7 cm.)
Location The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louis V. Bell Fund and the Vincent Astor Foundation Gift

expert perspective

Nasser RabbatAga Khan Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Night Journey of Muhammad on His Steed, Buraq from the Bustan of Sacdi

» Unknown painter; Sultan Muhammad Nur (calligrapher) (Uzbekistani, active first half of 16th century)

expert perspective

Nasser Rabbat Nasser Rabbat Aga Khan Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In Islamic culture, dreams play an extremely important role. You have dreams that have religious import. The most important of these is the night journey of the Prophet to heaven because in Islam, a recognized pious person who claims to have seen in a dream an important saint, be it the prophet Muhammad himself or any of his important companions, if that person’s dream is accepted, then whatever is being conveyed in the dream is something that the authorities almost always felt compelled to actually do.

The night journey of the Prophet is, of course, one of the most important episodes of the life of the prophet. He crossed from Mecca to Jerusalem and went up to the seventh heaven, and ultimately he was in the presence of God.

No human, according to Islamic belief, can see God. So the Prophet did not see God, but God conveyed to him some of the doctrinal requirements of the religion, including how many times to pray, what to do, what the community is supposed to do. Now, there is a debate, including the early Muslim authorities, as to whether the Prophet physically went up to the seventh heaven, or it was a dream, or it was a vision. The orthodoxy today insists that it was an actual ascension to heaven, but during the lifetime of the Prophet, people around him, some of them said it was just a vision. If we are to see it as a vision, you could see what important role it played in the Islamic history all together.” 

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