The Prophet's Ascension

The Prophet's Ascension

Cross-Cultural Encounters with the Islamic Mi'raj Tales
Edited by Christiane Gruber and Frederick S. Colby
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/01/2010
Format: Hardback 24 b&w illus., 32 color illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35361-0
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The tales of the mi'raj describe the prophet Muhammad's journey through the heavens, his encounters with prophets and angels, and his visit to heaven and hell. The tales are among Islam's most popular, appearing in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish literature, and in later adaptations throughout the Muslim world. Often serving as narratives designed to promote the worldview of particular Muslim groups, the tales were also a means for communities to construct rules of normative behavior and ritual practices, and were used to assert the superiority of Islam over other religions. The essays in this collection discuss the formation of this narrative, the mi'raj as a missionary text, its various adaptations, its application to esoteric thought, and its use in performance and ritual.

Author Bio

Christiane Gruber is Assistant Professor of Islamic Art at Indiana University Bloomington. She is author of The Timurid Book of Ascension (Mi'rajnama): A Study of Text and Image in a Pan-Asian Context and The Ilkhanid Book of Ascension: A Persian-Sunni Devotional Tale.

Frederick Colby is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oregon. He is author of Narrating Muhammad's Night Journey: Tracing the Development of the Ibn 'Abbas Ascension Discourse.


“Rigorous in its scholarship, engaging in its writing, and theoretically groundbreaking, The Prophet's Ascension confronts a topic critical to the history and religion of Islam and to the wider discussion of religions, boundaries, and cultural-religious contestation.”
 — Michael Sells, University of Chicago Divinity School

“The edtiors are to be commended for bringing together a diverse series of perspectives on the ascension story. . . . One hopes that further collective explorations of the mi'raj are in the works. ”
 — Review of Middle East Studies

“All in all, the contents of [this] volume . . . undeniably add greatly to our knowledge of the general subject area and represent a rich collection of source materials and well-researched, perceptive, analyses. ”
 — The Muslim World Book Review

“All in all this is a superb work of scholarship. The articles have been extremely well chosen, and are cogent and clearly written. . . . Co -editors Christian Gruber and Frederick Colby have done an excellent job in compiling this work, and it will undoubtedly become one of the authoritative works on the miʿrāj and its place in this Islamic world.”
 — MELA Notes

“The essays in 'The Prophet’s Ascension' are uniformly excellent and some of them are simply outstanding. The authors examine various 'miʿra¯jna¯mahs' and discuss the formation of narratives from various perspectives, such as missionary purpose and historical background, and variously identify esoteric, artistic and performative aspects.26.2 2014”
 — Al-Masaq

“These popular tales in art and literature often serve as narratives designed to promote the worldview of particular Muslim groups.”

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Table of Contents


Part 1. The Formation of Mi'raj Narratives as Missionary Texts
1. Tours of Hell and Punishments of Sinners in Mi'raj Narratives: Use and Meaning of Eschatology in Muhammad's Ascension / Roberto Tottoli
2. The Ilkhanid Mi'rajnama as an Illustrated Sunni Prayer Manual / Christiane Gruber
3. The Jews at the Edge of the World in a Timurid-Era Mi'rajnama: The Islamic Ascension Narrative as Missionary Text / Maria E. Subtelny
4. The Chaghatay Mi'rajnama Attributed to Hakim Suleyman Ata: A Missionary Text from the Twelfth or Thirteenth Century Preserved in Modern Manuscripts / Max Scherberger
5. Contesting the Eschaton in Medieval Iberia: The Polemical Intersection of Beatus of Liebana's Commentary on the Apocalypse and the Prophet's Mi'rajnama / Heather M. Coffey

Part 2. The Adaptation of Mi'raj Narratives in Esoteric and Literary Contexts
6. Early Imami Shi'i Narratives and Contestation over Intimate Colloquy Scenes in Muhammad's Mi'raj / Frederick Colby
7. Prophetic Ascent and the Initiatory Ascent in Qadi al-Nu'man's Asas al-Ta'wil / Elizabeth R. Alexandrin
8. Mi'raj and the Language of Legitimation in the Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophical Traditions: A Case Study of Avicenna and Abraham ibn Ezra / Aaron W. Hughes
9. Pious Journey, Sacred Desire: Observations on the Mi'raj in Early Anatolian Turkish Verse Narratives / Selim S. Kuru
10. Skepticism and Forgiveness: The Mi’rac in Veysi's Durretu t-tac / Gottfried Hagen
11. Mystical Love, Prophetic Compassion, and Ethics: An Ascension Narrative in the Medieval Bengali Nabivamsa of Saiyad Sultan / Ayesha Irani
12. Persian Illustrated Lithographed Books on the Mi'raj: Improving Children's Shi'i Beliefs in the Qajar Period / Ali Boozari

Part 3. The Mi'raj as Performance and Ritual
13. Reading the Mi'raj Account as a Theatrical Performance: The Case of Ma'arij al-Nubuwwa / Ozgen Felek
14. Reworking t

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