The mythological creature al-Buraq is the creature that carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem. The Buraq which means in Arabic lightning or more generally bright is a mythological creature in Islam. Most notably hadith accounts about the Isra and Mi’raj recounts that the Buraq carried Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem (the Isra). And then up in the heavens and back by night (the Mi’raj). Aside from the Prophet Muhammad, the Buraq is perhaps the most memorable character in the Muslim traditions (hadiths). Indeed it is closely related to the prophet Muhammad. So that among the epithets listed for him by the historian Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri is “rider of the Buraq”.
Descriptions of Al-Buraq
Concerning the Isra and especially the Mi’raj there are considerable differences between the traditions (hadith). Some differences sometimes stem from doctrinal disagreements between Sunni and Shia. The earliest extant descriptions of the Buraq are those recorded by Ibn Ishaq (died 767), who was an Arab Muslim historian and hagiographer. He writes in his biography about the prophet, Al-sīra al-Nabawiyya.
The first is related by the close companion of the Prophet, Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, who says that:
“It is a riding animal which used to carry the prophets before him. It places its hooves as far as it can see”
The second description occurs in another version of the isra quoted by Ibn Ishaq. In this, Muhammad says that while he was asleep next to the Kaaba in Mecca Gabriel came to him and roused him. So he stood up and Gabriel took him to the door of the mosque:
There was a white animal smaller than a mule but larger than an ass, with two wings on its thighs with which it propels its legs. It places its hooves as far as it can see. [Gabriel] put me on it. He then went out with me and we kept close together”
When Muhammad and Gabriel arrive at bayt al-maqdis (In Hebrew Beit Hamikdash refers to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It is an Arabic name in reference to the Temple and semantically extended as a common designation for Jerusalem) it is stated that:
“The Buraq went to the place where it used to stop and [the prophet] tied it there”, that Gabriel made a hole in the rock with his finger and tied the Buraq to it. In particular, it is reported that the Buraq was the riding animal of Ibrahim (Abraham) “on which he used to visit the bayt al-haram [the Kaaba in Mecca].
Locations In Jerusalem in Relation to al-Buraq
Various Muslim scholars and writers have suggested places where Buraq was supposedly tethered. Mostly locations near the southwest corner of the Haram (Temple Mt). 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.
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. For Muslims the Wailing Wall is known as the Buraq Wall; since the other side of the wall is there al-Buraq Mosque is.
On the southwestern corner of the Western Wall, there are two holes that Muslim tradition shows to as where Gabriel made a hole with his fingers to tie al-Buraq.