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A Mindanaoan Muslim Buraq[1] sculpture. The sculpture incorporates the indigenous okir motif.

The Buraq (Arabic: الْبُرَاق /ælˈbʊrɑːk/ "the lightning") is a supernatural horse-like creature in Islamic tradition that served as the mount of the Islamic prophet Muhammad during his Isra and Mi'raj journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and up through the heavens and back by night.[2] The Buraq is also said to have transported certain prophets such as Abraham over long distances within a moment's duration.


1539-43 illustration of the Mi'raj from the Khamsa, probably created by the court painter Sultan Muhammad, showing Chinese-influenced clouds and angels. This version was created for the Persian Shah Tahmasp I.

The Encyclopaedia of Islam, referring to the writings of Al-Damiri (d.1405), considers al-burāq to be a derivative and adjective of Arabic: برق barq "lightning/emitted lightning" or various general meanings stemming from the verb: "to beam, flash, gleam, glimmer, glisten, glitter, radiate, shimmer, shine, sparkle, twinkle".[3] According to Encyclopædia Iranica, "Boraq" is the Arabized form of "Middle Persian *barāg or *bārag, 'a riding beast, mount' (New Pers. bāra)".[4]

Journey to the Seventh Heaven[edit]

According to Islamic tradition, the Night Journey took place in 621 CE - ten years after Muhammad announced his prophethood. Muhammad had been in Mecca at the home of his cousin, Fakhitah bint Abi Talib, when he went to the Masjid al-Haram. While he was resting at the Kaaba, the Archangel Jibrīl (Gabriel) appeared to him bringing the Buraq, which carried Muhammad, in the archangel's company, to al-masjid al-aqṣá ("the furthest mosque")[Quran 17:1] - traditionally held to be at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and identified with the al-Aqsa Mosque.[note 1]

After reaching Jerusalem, Muhammad alighted from the Buraq, prayed on the site of the Temple, and then mounted it again as the creature ascended to the seven heavens, where he successively met Adam, Jesus and his cousin Joseph, Enoch, Aaron, Moses and Abraham one by one until he reached the throne of God. God communicated with him, giving him words and instructions, and most importantly the commandment to Muslims to offer prayers, initially fifty times a day. At the urging of Moses, Muhammad returned to God several times before eventually reducing the number of prayer-sessions to five.[6]


According to Ibn Ishaq, the Buraq transported Abraham when he visited Hagar and Ishmael. Tradition states that Abraham lived with Sarah in Canaan but the Buraq would transport him in the morning to Mecca to see his family there and take him back in the evening.[7]


Al Buraq (1770–75), a Deccan painting incorporating Persian elements.

Although the Hadith do not explicitly refer to the Buraq as having a human face, Near East and Persian art almost always portrays it so - a portrayal that found its way into Indian, Deccan art. This may have originated from an interpretation of the creature being described with a "beautiful face" as the face being human instead of bestial.

An excerpt from a translation of Sahih al-Bukhari describes Buraq:

Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me ... The animal's step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight.

— Muhammad al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari[8]

Another excerpt describes the Buraq in greater detail:

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 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.

— Muhammad 'Alawi al-Maliki, The Prophet's Night Journey and Heavenly Ascent[9]

In the earlier descriptions there is no agreement as to the sex of the Buraq. It is typically male, yet Ibn Sa'd has Gabriel address the creature as a female, and it was often rendered by painters and sculptors with a woman's head.[10] The idea that "al-Buraq" is simply a divine mare is also noted in the book The Dome of the Rock,[11] in the chapter "The Open Court", and in the title-page vignette of Georg Ebers's Palestine in Picture and Word.

Western Wall[edit]

Muhammad, Buraq and Gabriel observe "shameless women" being punished in Hell for prostitution.

Various scholars and writers, such as ibn al-Faqih, ibn Abd Rabbih, and Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi, have suggested places where Buraq was supposedly tethered in stories, mostly locations near the southwest corner of the Haram.[12] However, for several centuries the preferred location has been the al-Buraq Mosque, just inside the wall at the south end of the Western Wall Plaza.[12] The mosque sits above an ancient passageway that once came out through the long-sealed Barclay's Gate whose huge lintel remains visible below the Maghrebi gate.[12] Because of the proximity to the Western Wall, the area next to the wall has been associated with Buraq at least since the 19th century.[13]

When a British Jew asked the Egyptian authorities in 1840 for permission to re-pave the ground in front of the Western Wall, the governor of Syria wrote:

It is evident from the copy of the record of the deliberations of the Consultative Council in Jerusalem that the place the Jews asked for permission to pave adjoins the wall of the Haram al-Sharif and also the spot where the Buraq was tethered, and is included in the endowment charter of Abu Madyan, may God bless his memory; that the Jews never carried out any repairs in that place in the past. ... Therefore the Jews must not be enabled to pave the place.[13]

The Buraq Wall (circled in orange) facing the Al-Buraq Mosque

Carl Sandreczki, charged with compiling a list of place names for Charles William Wilson's Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem in 1865, reported that the street leading to the Western Wall, including the part alongside the wall, belonged to the Hosh (court/enclosure) of al Burâk, "not Obrâk, nor Obrat".[14] In 1866, the Prussian Consul and Orientalist Georg Rosen wrote: "The Arabs call Obrâk the entire length of the wall at the wailing place of the Jews, southwards down to the house of Abu Su'ud and northwards up to the substructure of the Mechkemeh [Shariah court]. Obrâk is not, as was formerly claimed, a corruption of the word Ibri (Hebrews), but simply the neo-Arabic pronunciation of Bōrâk, ... which, whilst (Muhammad) was at prayer at the holy rock, is said to have been tethered by him inside the wall location mentioned above."[15]

The name Hosh al Buraq appeared on the maps of Wilson's 1865 survey, its revised editions in 1876 and 1900, and other maps in the early 20th century.[16] In 1922, the official Pro-Jerusalem Council specified it as a street name.[17]

The association of the Western Wall area with Buraq has played an important role in disputes over the holy places since the British mandate.[18]

For Muslims, the Wailing Wall (or Western Wall) is known as "Ḥā’iṭu ’l-Burāq" (Arabic: حَائِطُ ٱلْبُرَاق) - "the Buraq Wall", for on the other side (the Muslim side of the Wailing Wall on the Temple Mount) is where it is believed Muhammad tied the Buraq, the riding animal upon which he rode during the Night of Ascension (Arabic: مِعْرَاج Mi‘rāj). The wall links to the structure of the Al-Buraq Mosque.

Cultural impact[edit]

19th century toy from Kondapalli, Andhra Pradesh, a buraq

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to historian Oleg Grabar, "It is only at a relatively late date that the Muslim holy space in Jerusalem came to be referred to as al-haram al-sharif (literally, the Noble Sacred Precinct or Restricted Enclosure, often translated as the Noble Sanctuary and usually simply referred to as the Haram). While the exact early history of this term is unclear, we know that it only became common in Ottoman times, when administrative order was established over all matters pertaining to the organization of the Muslim faith and the supervision of the holy places, for which the Ottomans took financial and architectural responsibility. Before the Ottomans, the space was usually called al-masjid al-aqsa (the Farthest Mosque), a term now reserved to the covered congregational space on the Haram, or masjid bayt al-maqdis (Mosque of the Holy City) or, even, like Mecca's sanctuary, al-masjid al-ḥarâm."[5]


  1. ^ "Buraq (Mindanao, Philippines)". 10 November 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  2. ^ Vuckovic, Brooke Olson (2004). Heavenly Journeys, Earthly Concerns. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 9781135885243. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  3. ^ Gruber, Christane J. "al-Burāq". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (3rd ed.). Brill Online. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_24366. ISSN 1873-9830. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Hadith v. as Influenced by Iranian Ideas and Practices" at Encyclopædia Iranica
  5. ^ Grabar 2000, p. 203.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Leah. "Jerusalem: The Three Religions of the Temple Mount" (PDF). stanford.edu. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  7. ^ Firestone, Reuven (1990). Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis. SUNY Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-7914-0331-0. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  8. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:58:227[dead link]
  9. ^ Muhammad 'Alawi al-Maliki. The Prophet's Night Journey and Heavenly Ascent., translated by Gibril Fouad Haddad, chapter 2
  10. ^ T.W. Arnold (1965). Painting in Islam (PDF). p. 118.
  11. ^ Grabar, Oleg (30 October 2006). The Dome of the Rock. Belknap Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0674023130.
  12. ^ a b c Elad, Amikam (1995). Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship: Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage. BRILL. pp. 101–2. ISBN 978-90-04-10010-7.
  13. ^ a b F. E. Peters (1985). Jerusalem. Princeton: Princeton University Press. pp. 541–542. ISBN 9780691073002.. Arabic text in A. L. Tibawi (1978). The Islamic Pious Foundations in Jerusalem. London: The Islamic Cultural Centre. Appendix III.
  14. ^ Carl Sandrecki (1865). Account of a Survey of the City of Jerusalem made in order to ascertain the names of streets etc. Day IV. reproduced in Captain Charles W. Wilson R.E. (1865). Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem (Facsimile ed.). Ariel Publishing House (published 1980). Appendix.
  15. ^ G. Rosen (1866). Das Haram von Jerusalem und der Tempelplatz des Moria (in German). Gotha. pp. 9–10. Die ganze Mauerstrecke am Klageplatz der Juden bis südlich an die Wohnung des Abu Su'ud und nördlich an die Substructionen der Mechkemeh wird von den Arabern Obrâk genannt, nicht, wie früher behauptet worden, eine Corruption des Wortes Ibri (Hebräer), sondern einfach die neu-arabische Aussprache von Bōrâk, [dem Namen des geflügelten Wunderrosses,] welches [den Muhammed vor seiner Auffahrt durch die sieben Himmel nach Jerusalem trug] und von ihm während seines Gebetes am heiligen Felsen im Innern der angegebenen Mauerstelle angebunden worden sein soll.
  16. ^ Captain Charles W. Wilson R.E. (1865). Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem (Facsimile ed.). Ariel Publishing House (published 1980). maps. Wilson 1876; Wilson 1900; August Kümmel 1904; Karl Baedeker 1912; George Adam Smith 1915.
  17. ^ Council of the Pro-Jerusalem Society (1924). C. R. Ashby (ed.). Jerusalem 1920-1922. London: John Murray. p. 27.
  18. ^ Halkin, Hillel (12 January 2001). ""Western Wall" or "Wailing Wall"?". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  19. ^ "About Company". Buraq Oil. Archived from the original on 15 August 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  20. ^ Singa dan Burak menghiasi lambang Aceh dalam rancangan Qanun (Lion and Buraq decorate the coat of arms of Aceh in the Draft Regulation) Atjeh Post, 19 November 2012.

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