as first of all related by Muhammad himself was based upon a dream, and it does not seem to have contained any account of an ascension, if we consider Surah LIII., 13-18, to be of later date. But we have to deal with the narrative contained in the Traditions, and these enter into very precise details regarding the Miraj or ascent." We shall see that there is good reason to believe that the legend in this form was invented in order to show that, in this respect as well as in all others, Muhammad was more highly privileged than any other prophet. The story may have incorporated elements from many quarters, but it seems to have been in the main based upon the account of the ascension of Arta Viraf contained in a Pahlavi book called "The Book 1 of Arta Viraf," which was composed in the days of Ardashir Babagan, King of Persia, some 400 years before Muhammad's Hijrah, if we may believe Zoroastrian accounts.

In that work we are informed that, finding that the Zoroastrian faith had to a great extent lost its hold upon the minds of the people of the Persian Empire, the Magian priests determined to support by fresh proofs the restoration of the faith which the zeal of Ardashir had undertaken to carry out. Therefore they selected a young priest of saintly life, and prepared him by various ceremonial purifications for an ascent into the heavens, in order that he might see what was there and bring back

1 Arta Viraf Namak.

word whether it agreed or not with the account contained in their religions books. It is related that, when this young Arta Viraf was in a trance, his spirit ascended into the heavens under the guidance of an archangel named Sarosh, and passed from one storey to another, gradually ascending until he reached the presence of Ormazd 1 himself. When Arta Viraf had thus beheld everything in the heavens and seen the happy state of their inhabitants, Ormazd commanded him to return to the earth as His messenger and to tell the Zoroastrians what he had seen. All his visions are fully related in the book which bears his name. It is unnecessary to quote it at length, but a few quotations will serve to show how evidently it served as a model for the Muhammadan legend of the ascent of Muhammad.

In the Arta' Viraf Namak (cap. vii, §§ 1-4) we read: ‘And I take the first step forward unto the Storey of the Stars, in Humat. ... And I see the souls of those holy ones, from whom light spreads out like a bright star. And there is a throne and a seat, very bright and lofty and exalted. Then I inquired of holy Sarosh and the angel Adhar, ‘What place is this, and who are these persons?’"
In explanation of this passage it should be mentioned that the "Storey of the Stars" is the first or lowest "court" of the Zoroastrian Paradise.

1 Ormazd is the later form of the Avestic Ahura Mazdao, the Good God of Zoroastrianism.