Buraq

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Al-Burāq (البُراق‎ "lightning") is a mythological steed comparable to the Greek Pegasus, believed to be a creature from the heavens which transported the various Islamic prophets.

Islamic sources describe it as a tall, white, handsome-faced, long eared, bridled male beast, bigger than a donkey but smaller than a mule. It has two wings on its thighs and its step is so wide that it "reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight."[1][2]

Some traditions also describe it with the head of a woman and the tail of a peacock,[3] similar to the Hindu Goddess Sri Kamadhenu who is sometimes depicted as a winged cow with a peacock's tail and the head of a woman.[4]

Muslims believe that the Buraq carried Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to the seven heavens, from the heavens to the then non-existent "farthest mosque" (Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem) and back to Mecca during the Isra and Mi'raj or "Night Journey".

During his visit to the heavens, prior to meeting with Allah, Muhammad met with various prophets, including Musa (Moses) who allegedly wept because there would be more Muslims in heaven than Jews.[5]

The journey is an event which is now celebrated by Muslims every year,[6] and is the title of one of the chapters of the Qur'an (Al-Isra, "The Night Journey"). Sahih sources further tell us that the event was a very literal journey and not a dream.[7]

The Buraq was also said to transport Ibrahim (Abraham) when he visited his wife Hagar and son Isma'il (Ishmael). According to tradition, Abraham lived with one wife in Syria, but the Buraq would transport him in the morning to Mecca to see his family there, and take him back in the evening to his Syrian wife.[8]

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  1. "...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." - Sahih Bukhari 5:58:227
  2. "...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." - Muhammad al-Alawi al-Maliki, al-Anwar al Bahiyya min Isra wa l-Mi'raj Khayr al-Bariyyah
  3. Burāq - Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed February 27, 2012
  4. For example, see the image of Sri Kamadhenu here and then compare it to the image of al-Buraq here
  5. "Moses said, 'I weep because after me there has been sent (as Prophet) a young man [Muhammad] whose followers will enter Paradise in greater numbers than my followers.' "- Sahih Bukhari 5:58:227
  6. Khadija Bradlow - A Night Journey through Jerusalem - Times Online, August 18, 2007
  7. "Ibn Abbas added: The sights which Allah's Apostle was shown on the Night Journey when he was taken to Bait-ulMaqdis (i.e. Jerusalem) were actual sights, (not dreams). - Sahih Bukhari 5:58:228
  8. Journeys in Holy Lands p. 117