With Isra’ and Miraj having passed by last week, let’s have a look at a more detailed account of the transportation that Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) took while he ascended to the seven heavens on that very miraculous night.
As the Prophet Muhammad travelled from Mecca to Jerusalem, he was given a steed to ride named Al-Buraq.
When translated, Al-Buraq means lightning.
What does the Buraq look like?
The Buraq is never explicitly stated in the Holy Qur’an. However, the creature is stated several times in narratives of the hadiths.
According to an account in Sahih Muslim, narrated by Anas ibn Malik, the Buraq is described to be white in colour, bigger than a donkey and smaller than a mule. It is also described as having a stride that was as long as the eye could reach.
However, a portrayal of the Buraq in Indian and Persian Islamic art is depicted to have a beautiful, female, humanoid face with the body of a white horse, colourful wings attached to its shoulders and a tail of a peacock.
This is most probably due to the fact that the physical description of the creature might originate from a misinterpretation of translation from Arabic to Persian texts. The phrase that was used was: “beautiful-faced creature”. It is no surprise that this phrase had spun the imaginations of artists. Thus, resulting in what you see in 16th century paintings of a human-faced, horse-bodied Buraq.
Nevertheless, in the end, the Buraq is never chronicled to be either winged or having a humanoid face in the hadiths.
The Journey On A Buraq
In many ways, it is a special creature. It is believed to be a creature from the heavens sent by Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. And as described in the hadith, it’s neither a donkey nor a mule nor a horse — but it is similar to them.
“Then he [Gabriel] brought the Buraq, handsome-faced and bridled, a tall, white beast, bigger than the donkey but smaller than the mule. He could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. He had long ears. Whenever he faced a mountain his hind legs would extend, and whenever he went downhill his front legs would extend. He had two wings on his thighs which lent strength to his legs. He bucked when Muhammad came to mount him. The angel Jibril (Gabriel) put his hand on his mane and said: “Are you not ashamed, O Buraq? By Allah, no-one has ridden you in all creation more dear to Allah than he is.” Hearing this he was so ashamed that he sweated until he became soaked, and he stood still so that the Prophet mounted him.”
An account in Sahih al-Bukhari, described that the creature would be able to place its hoof equal to the distance to the range of its vision. This is the specialty of the Buraq, as it was not only a creature that was able to bound great leaps and cross the Earth in such a short time, but also ascend to the heavens in one single night.
Therefore, the lightning steed, Al-Buraq, was able to have swiftness that exceeds the speed of light. A fitting transport for Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who had to journey through seven levels of heaven.
Now it may seem like an unbelievable and quite an extraordinary being, especially if you put it in the context of the modern world and how it fits none of the description of a creature that we know presently.
At the same time, we make things more complex than we need it to be. The Buraq is a creature that has never been seen by human eyes and it’s most likely that we will never see it again. What we have read are accounts of description texts written by humans about something that probably cannot be described extensively in human terms.
Just imagine having someone explain to you what a kangaroo looks like; standing with hind legs and has a pouch to carry its young. Just with those two minimal descriptive items, you will be able to adapt your perceived understanding and fill out the details once you see the animal in real life, such as what colour it is, how long its ears are, and so on.
So, theoretically, if we were to encounter a Buraq, we might possibly be able to identify one when we see it — despite having such a limited understanding of what the holy steed truly looks like.