Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 July 2019

What is Al Isra Wa Al Miraj and will it be a holiday in the UAE?

Last month, the UAE Cabinet removed Al Isra Wa Al Miraj from the official list of public holidays

UPDATE: No public holiday for Al Isra Wa Al Miraj, UAE ministry says

Al Isra Wa Al Miraj — known in English as the Night Journey — is an Islamic holiday that is celebrated on Rajab 27.

When aligned with this year's Gregorian calendar, the date should fall on Wednesday, April 3.

Previously, the UAE marked Isra Wa Al Miraj with a public holiday, for both government and private sectors, but this year it appears that will not be the case.

Last month, the UAE Cabinet released the country's official public holiday list for this year and the next. The list unified the number of public holidays for private sector and government workers to 14.

It listed the Gregorian New Year, Eid Al Fitr, the Islamic new year, Commemoration Day and National Day as public holidays but notably excluded Isra Wa Al Miraj and Prophet Mohammed's birthday.

Unless a surprise, last-minute announcement is in the works, it is unlikely that the UAE will have a day off for the holiday this week.

What is Al Isra Wa Al Miraj?

Also known as the Prophet's Ascension, Al Isra Wa Al Miraj are the two parts of Prophet Mohammed’s journey from Makkah in Saudi Arabia to Jerusalem, Palestine, during one night.

The Prophet is said to have travelled on a Buraq — a heavenly creature that most resembles a winged horse — from Makkah to Al Aqsa Mosque where, accompanied by the Angel Jibril (Gabriel), he ascended the seven heavens to speak to God.

The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound is seen in Jerusalem's Old City in Palestine. Mahmoud Illean / AP
The Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound is seen in Jerusalem's Old City in Palestine. Mahmoud Illean / AP

There, God gave him instructions about prayers, initially telling him that Muslims should pray 50 times a day.

Upon his descent through each of the heavens, he met former Prophets — such as Moses, Jesus and Adam — who suggested Prophet Mohammed ask God to reduce the number of daily prayers.

According to the Quran, the Prophet returned to God several times until the number was reduced to five prayers a day.

After descending from heaven to the old city of Jerusalem, the Prophet returned to Makkah within the same evening.

The journey is said to have happened within the blink of an eye and that his bed was still warm from his body.

Who is celebrating the holiday?

Last week, Oman announced a two-day public holiday to mark Al Isra Wa Al Miraj. Sultan Qaboos bin Said issued a royal decree declaring both April 3 and April 4 as days off.

Kuwait will be giving their workers a three-day holiday by celebrating Al Isra Wa Al Miraj on Thursday, April 4.

Saudi Arabia does not typically mark the date with a public holiday and Bahrain has yet to announce a public holiday but typically celebrates Al Isra Wa Al Miraj with a day off.

Al Isra Wa Al Miraj will, however, be a dry day in Dubai, according to a circular issued by Dubai Tourism. Hotels will refrain from serving alcohol between 6pm on Tuesday, April 2 and 7pm on Wednesday, April 3 to mark the occasion.

When is the next public holiday?

The next public holiday the UAE can look forward to will be for Eid Al Fitr, which occurs at the end of Ramadan.

This is likely to fall on Monday June 3, although it depends on when Ramadan begins and ends. The number of days off will also vary depending on whether Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days — which is dependent on the lunar cycle.

Updated: May 8, 2019 02:22 PM