“Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters, and we must act as such,” Pope Francis once said on Twitter, and the Philippine government has taken steps to make this more apparent. The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) has declared the cancellation of government work and classes on April 3, Wednesday, in several provinces and cities in Mindanao in observance of Isra Wal Mi’Raj.
Isra Wal Mi’Raj, which roughly translates to “Night Journey and Ascension,” is recognized as a legal Muslim holiday, pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1083 or the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines. The holiday marks the night Allah took the Prophet Muhammad on a journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and then to heaven. This year, the holiday falls on the 27th day of the seventh lunar month of Rajab in the Muslim calendar Hijra.
Muslims all over the world celebrate this miraculous journey of the prophet as the event emphasizes the importance of prayer life in Islam, also known as Salat or the duty of praying five times daily. Pope Francis also gives emphasis to the power of prayer, calling it a “special weapon” that can unite people from all over the world. He says, “One of the most effective ways we have to help is that of prayer. Prayer unites us; it makes us brothers and sisters … and reminds us of a beautiful truth which we sometimes forget.”
In celebration of the holiday, Muslims offer prayers throughout the night while others light candles and decorate their homes to signify the prophet’s nocturnal journey and get blessings from Allah.
According to the NCMF, the Isra Wal Mi’Raj shall be officially observed in the following provinces and cities:
- Lanao del Norte
- Lanao del Sur
- North Cotabato
- Sultan Kudarat
- Zamboanga del Norte
- Zamboanga del Sur
Meanwhile, all Muslim government officials and employees in places other than the enumerated above are also excused from reporting to their respective offices in order to observe the holiday.