Isra Wa’al Mi’raj – Prophet’s Night Journey & Ascension
(Al Quran 17:01) “Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah) to al-Masjid al- Aqsa (in Jerusalem), whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.”
The isra wa’al mi'raj means the 'night journey & ascension'. It is the most significant event of Prophet Muhammad's life which he experienced during the first part of his prophethood in Makkah. The term isra means ‘night journey’ or ‘traveling by night’ and the term mir’aj means ‘ascension’. This incident comprises of two parts. One is the isra in which the Prophet's blessed body and soul, were taken by Archangel Jibraeel (Gabriel) (alaihi salaam) from Makkah to Jerusalem on a creature with two wings called buraq. The second part is his ascension in to the heavens with the angel. In the first part he met all prophets and messengers that came before him, and led them in salah (prayer) which signifies his leadership status among them. In the second part he traveled up the heavens and met all major Prophets such as Adam, Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary) (alaihim usalaam), went to the highest part in paradise and came closest to presence of Allah ﷻ. During that journey and his communion with Allah ﷻ, much knowledge was revealed to him of this world and the hereafter which he taught throughout remaining part of his prophethood. Some scholars have different opinions on when this event occurred. One of the most renown Islamic scholar, jurist, biographer of 13th century, Imam Nawawi (1233 - 1277 CE), through his research claimed it happened in Rajab. Hence we notice many Muslims across the globe commemorate this event during Rajab and discuss its details and learn many lessons from it.
What was the importance of this incident for the Prophet ﷺ ?
The importance of night journey and ascension was great for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the Muslims and future of Islam. If one understands the drama surrounding the Prophet's life when this event occurred one can realize how enormous the importance of it must have been especially for him.
When this incident took place our Prophet ﷺ was in Makkah and under intense persecution by pagans of Quraysh who were strong and influential in that society, economically and politically. By this time the Prophet ﷺ and his followers had sought refuge in the valley of Abu Talib called sheb-e-Abi Talib, Prophet’s paternal uncle who was also the serving chief of Quraysh. During their refuge, Prophet ﷺ and his companions were experiencing a boycott imposed on them by the pagans which prevented other sections of Quraysh from having any dealing with Muslims. All social relationships were to be cut off, no financial dealings with Muslims, no buying and selling of even food to them and all of this was imposed for three years which caused much stress and difficulties for the early Muslims. Abu Talib, being the chief of Makkah, was the Prophet's main support, which prevented the pagans from killing him. It was during this time that two major losses were experienced by the Prophet ﷺ which plunged him in to such a sorrow and grief that was extremely unbearable for him. Abu Talib, the only wall standing between him and pagans, fell, he passed away. Khadija (r.a), the Prophet’s only wife and first convert to Islam, his major financial and emotional support, also passed away. Khadija (r.a) was someone from whom he had not only gained love as a wife but due to her being older than him and that Prophet ﷺ was raised an orphan, he also experienced motherly care from her. These two losses along with the extent of boycott and sometimes the concerns some of his followers would express to him, was indeed a burden unbearable for him. To add on top of these burdens the Prophet ﷺ visited Al Taif (a town near Makkah) to gain support for his mission where he was extremely disappointed after the people mistreated him by pelting stones and wounding him. He bled so much that his shoes were filled with blood. Its quiet conceivable to anyone who has read details of these horrific incidents that if it was other than the blessed Prophet ﷺ, they would have perished.
And so it was right at that time Allah ﷻ decided to bless the Prophet ﷺ with such a journey which would not just be a journey, in fact it would reveal to him knowledge and mysteries of the universe and hereafter: (Al Quran 17:1) "Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah) to al-Masjid al- Aqsa (in Jerusalem), whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing." This incident gave him the insight in to the future of Islam and the spread of its light throughout the world. It revealed to him the future of entire humankind in this world and the hereafter, as well as his own position in relation to all the prophets and messengers to ever have lived including his great exceptional status that he carried in nearness to Allah ﷻ against the entire creation. All of this and much more did he experience in that event called Isra Wa’al Mi'raj (Night Journey & Ascension). Knowing this we can understand why its timing was absolutely perfect. After this journey the Prophet ﷺ gained the necessary strength and wisdom, the trust in Allah ﷻ required to move further in the mission entrusted to him as a final messenger for entire humankind. With his gained courage he was able to infuse the same in to the hearts of his companions, he revealed to them the knowledge of Islam's future, who while believing in him and Allah ﷻ were able to assist him in his mission. Thus, with the Prophet's eventual victory against his opponents and the gradual spread of the faith around the globe, bears witness to the importance of that journey in the history of Islam.
 Al Quran 17:1
How Allah ﷻ tested the people through the Prophet's experience.
The night journey and ascension was an extraordinary spiritual experience in which Prophet Muhammad ﷺ traveled from Makkah to Jerusalem and seven heavens and back within few hours of the same night. After hearing this unbelievable experience, many pagans of Quraysh increased in their disbelief and also took this as an opportunity to persuade some of the Prophet's followers to disbelief. Unfortunately they succeeded in persuading such of his followers who had weak faith. These weakhearted ones began to doubt and believed that the Prophet ﷺ was exaggerating. On the other hand majority of the Prophet's followers who were convinced in the message of Islam became stronger in their faith. This was a test that Allah ﷻ tested the believers and the disbelievers. In fact Allah ﷻ continues to test the believers and the disbelievers with this prophetic experience even up till today. Some Muslims till today doubt that this journey actually took place because their minds cannot grasp its reality, and they confine it to a dream experience, which is contrary to all the given evidence in Quran and hadith. While on the other hand the modern opposition against Islam completely doubt this incident and claim that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ may have exaggerated, similar to how the pagans reacted back then.
To answer those who claim that he may have exaggerated, one has to notice the timing of revelation of this event. Just by observing the severity of situation that the Prophet ﷺ and his followers were going through tells us if it would be even wise to reveal about going to the heavens and coming back within a few hours of this earth’s time when entire world was not even close to any sort of technology that exists today! Chances were high of them doubting or outright rejecting his claims especially when they were under severe persecution, faced hunger and basic necessities were cut off due to the social and economic boycott by Quraysh. The following verse was revealed as a response to believers complains to the Prophet ﷺ about the trials they were facing: (Al Quran 29:2-3) “DO MEN THINK that on their [mere] saying, "We have attained to faith", they will be left to themselves, and will not be put to a test? Yes, indeed, We did test those who lived before them; and so, [too, shall be tested the people now living: and] most certainly will God mark out those who prove themselves true, and most certainly will He mark out those who are lying.” Allah ﷻ said He will test them and not just accept their verbal declaration of faith just as He had tested the previous prophets and their followers. Unfortunately, it indeed happened that some early followers who had weak faith, gave up Islam after hearing the details about the journey experience, with the exception of many others who remained strong in faith. The following verse was revealed to remind the weak in faith of the test when they doubted the Prophet's journey experience: (Al Quran 17:60) “We did not make the vision (during night journey & ascension) which We showed you but a test (trial) for men…” Allah ﷻ says that by making the Prophet ﷺ reveal this truth He tested the believers through this trial and some started doubting and eventually disbelieved. Others became stronger in their faith. The following incident shares the reactions of people in Makkah. It taken from reliable hadith reports collected by famous late Shaykh of Makkah, Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki al-Makki, in one of his works "Prophet's Night Journey & Heavenly Ascent":
Prophet's First Encounter with the People of Makkah and their Reactions
“When morning came he remained alone and, knowing that people would belie him, sat despondently. The enemy of Allah Abu Jahl was passing by and he approached and sat down next to him, saying in the way of mockery: “Has anything happened?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “Yes.” Abu Jahl said: “And what is that?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “I was enraptured last night.” Abu Jahl said: “To where?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “To the Hallowed House (Al Aqsa Masjid – Jerusalem).” Abu Jahl said: “Then you woke up here among us?” He replied: “Yes.” Abu Jahl decided not to belie the Prophet ﷺ for fear the Prophet ﷺ would deny having said this to him if he went and told the people of Makkah, so he said: “What do you think if I called your people here? Will you tell them what you just told me?” The Prophet ﷺ said “yes.” Abu Jahl cried out: “O assembly of the Children of Kab ibn Luay, come here!” People left their gatherings and came until they all sat next around the two of them. Abu Jahl said: “Tell your people what you just told me.” Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “I was enraptured last night.” They said: “To where?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “To the Hallowed House.” They said: “Then you woke up here among us?” He replied: “Yes.” There was no one left except he clapped his hands, or held his head in amazement, or clamored and considered it an enormity. Al-Mutim ibn Adi (died a disbeliever) said: “All of your affair before today was bearable, until what you said today. I bear witness that you are a liar (ana ashhadu annaka kadhibun). We strike the flanks of the she-camels for one month to reach the Hallowed House, then for another month to come back, and you claim that you went there in one night! By al-Lat, by al-Uzza (idols worshiped by pagans)! I do not believe you.” Abu Bakr (r.a) said: “O Mutim, what an evil thing you said to the son of your brother when you faced him thus and declared him a liar! As for me I bear witness that he spoke the truth (ana ashhadu annahu sadiqun).”
Prophet Muhammad describes Jerusalem & Rejecters confirm his description
The people said: “O Muhammad, describe the Hallowed House for us. How is it built, what does it look like, how near is it to the mountain.” There were some among them who had traveled there. He began to describe it for them: “Its structure is like this, its appearance like this, its proximity to the mountain is such-and-such,” and he did not stop describing it to them until he began to have doubt about the description. He was seized with an anxiety he had not felt before (was shown a vision), whereupon he was immediately brought to the mosque itself (in Jerusalem) and saw it in front of him. He was placed outside the gate of Aqil or Iqal. The people said: “How many gates does the mosque have?” He had not counted them before. He looked at the gates and began to count them one by one and to inform them. All the while Abu Bakr (r.a) was saying: “You have spoken the truth. You have spoken the truth. I bear witness that you are the Messenger of Allah (sadaqta sadaqta ashhadu annaka rasulullah).” The people said: “As for the description, then, by Allah, he is correct.” They turned to Abu Bakr and said: “But do you believe what he said, that he went last night to the Hallowed House and came back before morning?” He replied: “Yes, and I do believe him regarding what is farther than that. I believe the news of heaven he brings, whether in the space of a morning or in that of an evening journey (na`am inni la usaddiquhu fima huwa ab`adu min dhalika usaddiqu bi khabari al-sama’i fi ghudwatin aw rawhatin).” Because of this Abu Bakr was named al-Siddiq: the Most Truthful, the One Who Never Lies.
Describing the caravans coming from Jerusalem
The disbelievers inquired about the caravans that he may have seen traveling from Jerusalem to Makkah in Hijaz as there were always trading caravans coming to Makkah due to its being a center point of all trading routes in the peninsula. The Prophet ﷺ described to them and provided their details and later when those caravans arrived in Makkah they confirmed everything that Prophet ﷺ described about them:
They said: “O Muhammad, tell us about our caravans.” He replied: “I saw the caravan of the tribe of So-and-so as I was coming back. They had lost one of their camels and were searching for it everywhere. I reached their mounts and there was no one with them. I found a water bottle and I drank from it.” (The Prophet continued:) “Then I reached the caravan of the tribe of So-and-so in such-and-such a place. I saw a red camel carrying one black container and one white one. When I came face to face with the caravan there was a stampede and that camel fell and its freight broke. Then I reached the caravan (not previously mentioned) of the tribe of So-and-so in al-Tanim. It was headed by a grayish camel on which was a black hair-cloth and two blackish containers and here are the (three) caravans about to reach you from the mountain pass.” They said: “When will they arrive?” He replied: “On the fourth day of the week.” On that day the Quraysh came out, expecting the caravans, and the caravan’s came. They went to meet the riders and asked them: “Did you lose a camel?” They said “yes.” They asked the second caravan: “Did one red camel of yours shatter her freight?” They said “yes.” They asked (the first caravan): “Did anyone lose a water bottle?” One man said: “I did, by Allah, I had prepared it but none of us drank it nor was it spilled on the ground!” At this they accused the Prophet of sorcery and they said: “al-Walid spoke the truth.” And Allah revealed the verse: (Al Quran 17:60) “We did not make the vision (during night journey & ascension) which We showed you but a test (trial) for men…”  Since they could not reject him they referred to him as a sorcerer. Thus they would call him a sorcerer because everything was miraculously confirmed by the people of those caravans.
One has to keep in mind that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ could have mentioned this event twenty years after, near his death, when he had 124000 followers with no one to doubt. But Allah ﷻ chose for him to reveal at a crucial and trying moment with only a handful followers, because it was a test to separate a true believer from a disbeliever and make the hearts of believers gain firm conviction. Hence the revelation of this event tested and exposed hidden intentions of those around the Prophet ﷺ. The attitude of Abu Jahl, a disbeliever and the prophet's enemy, became even firmer in his disbelief. That of Mutim ibn Adi, whose doubt was exposed, he disbelieved and joined the pagans. And finally, those like Abu Bakr (r.a), whose faith became even stronger after hearing the Prophet ﷺ: (Al Quran 29:03) "...most certainly will God mark out those who prove themselves true, and most certainly will He mark out those who are lying."
 Al Quran 29:2-3
 Al Quran 17:60
 al-Hasani, Sayyid Muhammad `Alawi al-Maliki. n.d. COMMEMORATING THE PROPHET’S RAPTURE AND ASCENSION TO HIS LORD. As Sunnah Foundation of America. Accessed 03 02, 2019. http://sunnah.org/wp/2008/07/18/collated-hadith-isra-miraj/ - Translated by Dr. Gibril Fouad Haddad.
 Al-Hasani, COMMEMORATING THE PROPHET’S RAPTURE, 2019
 Al Quran 29:03
Neither Prophet Muhammad's Seerah (biography) from early Islamic period, not any hadith collections mention his travels to Jerusalem or as far as Jerusalem which informs us that he had never visited the city before the miraculous incident of Isra Wa'al Mi'raj. Even though he had never visited the city yet he was able to thoroughly describe its details to those who doubted and questioned him after his journey. The following are some of the earliest known historical sources on the Prophet's seerah that record all his travels outside of Arabia, from his childhood to adulthood that he undertook. Sheikh Gibril Haddad has written them in his writing "The Occupation of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] Before He Got Risalat" published in As Sunnah Foundation of America. None of the biographical sources mention any of his travels to Jerusalem.
Prophet Muhammad’s travels outside Hijaz before prophethood
The earliest time on record seems to be age twelve went he went to Shaam (greater Syria) with Abu Talib, the Prophet's uncle, as narrated by Ibn Saad in his Tabaqat and Ibn Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq, also al-Tirmidhi who graded this report fair (hasan). He traveled with his uncle Abu Talib and they had reached a place in Syria called Bosra where they met a monk called Bahira who gave them the news of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ becoming a leader of humankind and one of the greatest Prophet as described in their books. Second trip to Yemen took place between 11-19 years of age. Ibn al-Jawzi relates in al-Wafa bi Akhbar al-Mustafa that at that time he went to Yemen with his uncle al-Zubayr ibn Abd al-Muttalib. His third trip took place at the age of twenty five, he went to Syria as a merchant for Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her) Ibn Ishaq , Ibn Saad, Ibn al-Sakan, Abu Nuaym and others reported that Khadijah, daughter of Khwailid hired him due to his great honesty, character, trustworthiness, truthfulness and due to his overall nobility when conducting business or otherwise. Therefore according to all the authentic sources that we have mentioned, Prophet Muhammad’s travels outside of Hijaz was only 3 times and none of them mention his travels to Jerusalem.
Disbelievers of Makkah ask the Prophet ﷺ to describe details of Jerusalem
After Prophet Muhammad ﷺ declared that he made a trip to Jerusalem within a few hours of one night, went to the heavens and returned, the first thing the disbelievers did was to reject and challenged him was to describe the details of Jerusalem. The following is recorded through authentic narrations:
The people said: “O Muhammad, describe the Bayt Al Maqdis (The Holy House) for us. How is it built, what does it look like, how near is it to the mountain.” There were some among them who had traveled there. He began to describe it for them: “Its structure is like this, its appearance like this, its proximity to the mountain is such-and-such,” and he did not stop describing it to them until he began to have doubt about the description. He was seized with an anxiety he had not felt before, whereupon he was immediately brought to the mosque itself (in Jerusalem) and saw it in front of him (Allah revealed a vision of the masjid). He was placed outside the gate of Aqil or Iqal. The people said: “How many gates does the mosque have?” He had not counted them before. He looked at the gates and began to count them one by one and to inform them. All the while Abu Bakr (r.a) was saying: “You have spoken the truth. You have spoken the truth. I bear witness that you are the Messenger of Allah (sadaqta sadaqta ashhadu annaka rasulullah).” The people said: “As for the description, then, by Allah, he is correct.”
A very significant point to note here is that if disbelievers knew Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had traveled there they would not have asked him to describe Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Masjid (the holy temple). Instead they would have alleged that he described this city because he has traveled there many times. Please note that their prior knowledge of him never traveling to Jerusalem was because the society knew Prophet Muhammad ﷺ very well from his child hood. They used to call him ‘As Sadiq (Truthful)’ and ‘Al Ameen (Trustworthy)’ and hardly called him by his real name Muhammad. Therefore their asking him to describe the details is a confirmation of him never traveling to Jerusalem before.
 Sira Facts - The occupation of Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] before he got Risalat - By Sheikh Gibril Haddad. http://www.sunnah.org/msaec/articles/Sira%20Facts.htm
 al-Hasani, Sayyid Muhammad `Alawi al-Maliki. n.d. COMMEMORATING THE PROPHET’S RAPTURE AND ASCENSION TO HIS LORD. As Sunnah Foundation of America. Accessed 03 02, 2019. http://sunnah.org/wp/2008/07/18/collated-hadith-isra-miraj/ - al-Hasani n.d.
 al-Hasani, Sayyid Muhammad, COMMEMORATING THE PROPHET’S RAPTURE
The "masjid" in Al Quran 17:01
The holy site in Jerusalem existed for hundreds of years before Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was even born. The first construction of the site on historical Jewish Temple Mount took place around Prophet Suleiman (Solomon) (alaihi salaam) time and it has existed since then. Some non-Muslims inquire how could the Quran claim that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ traveled to a masjid, which is generally understood as a ‘Muslim place of worship’, when the site did not become a Muslim place of worship till decades after his passing away. What can clarify this apparent confusion is if we understood the term "masjid" and what Quran is saying. Allah ﷻ uses the Arabic term masjid and not an English word ‘mosque’ when referring to the holy site in Jerusalem. Mosque term is only found in some English translations of Quran 17:01. If we use the term masjid instead of ‘mosque’ then this verse makes perfect sense. In English a ‘mosque’ is defined as a place of worship for Muslims only, while the term masjid means ‘a place of worship’ without confining its meaning for a particular religious community. Therefore, a church, a temple, a monastery, all of them can be called a masjid in the wider sense of the term as they are all places where worship is done and that is how the term is used in the verse: (Al Quran 17:01) “Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram (place of worship in Makkah) to al-Masjid al- Aqsa (place of worship in Jerusalem), whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing.”
A brief history of the religious site during 600 - 630 CE.
Various historical sources prove that there was indeed a 'masjid' i.e. place of worship, a structure at the site of the temple during Prophet Muhammad’s claim of night journey. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ received his first Quranic revelation around 610 CE in Makkah. During this period Jerusalem was under the control Persian Sassanian Empire. In 610 CE, the Sassanians drove the Byzantines out of the Middle East, giving the Jews control of Jerusalem for the first time in centuries since their expulsion in 70 CE. The Jews in Palestine were allowed to set up a vassal state under the Sassanians called the Sassanid Jewish Commonwealth which lasted for five years. Jewish rabbis ordered the restart of animal sacrifice for the first time since Second Temple and started to reconstruct the Jewish Temple. During the Byzantine–Sassanian War of 602 – 628 CE the entire lands of the Middle East had been taken over by the Persians and by 615 - 616 CE Byzantine lost complete control. During this period the Persians allowed the Jews to reconstruct their temple, which is a proof that a Jewish place of worship did exist while Prophet ﷺ was preaching in Makkah. After takeover by the Persians, local Christians revolted and in 617 CE the Persians had reversed their policy and sided with the Christians over the Jews. After 617 CE the Christians were in charge of the city and partially razed the Jewish construction of the temple. A small synagogue on the Temple Mount was demolished. In another historical source suggests that in 615 CE, the Persians gave control to the Christian population, who tore down the partially built Jewish Temple edifice and turned it into a garbage dump. This proves that Christians remained in charge of the holy site till the Muslim take over of the town in 637 CE. The rebuilt holy temple site was razed by Christians under the rule of Persians around 615 to 617 CE but no evidence suggests that it was completely demolished or removed. In the light of these facts we can agree that partial structure of the temple did remain, if not complete, during Prophet's preaching in Makkah and when his miraculous journey happened.
The Holy site under a Christian patriarch
Islamic sources also concur that there was a structure on the holy site during prophet’s time in Makkah. According to the prophet’s biography Al Raheeq Al Maktum (The Sealed Nectar), it is claimed that he went on the night journey twelve to sixteen months prior to his hijrah (emigration) to Madinah. According to the Gregorian calendar it was a 621 CE which is twelve months prior to his hijrah which took place in 622 CE. It was around 621 CE the partially razed site was under Christian control till Byzantine rule was reestablished over the region in 628 CE. Interestingly Islamic sources also suggest that during Prophet’s preaching in Makkah the holy site was under a Christian Patriarch and there was a structure there which was not intact and there was even some fault in the construction, which could be due to razing attempts by Christians in 617 CE. In his book Dala'il An-Nubuwwah, Al-Hafiz Abu Nu’aym Al-Isbahani an expert of hadith recorded via Muhammad bin Umar Al-Waqidi, an 8th century historian and biographer of the prophet's life, who said:
“Malik bin Abi Ar-Rijjal told me from Amr bin Abdullah that Muhammad bin Kab Al-Qurazi said: "The Messenger of Allah sent his companion Dihyah bin Khalifah to Caesar.'' He mentioned how he came to him, and described an incident that showed how wise Caesar was. He sent for the Arab merchants who were in Syria and Abu Sufyan Sakhr bin Harb and his companions were brought to him. He asked them the well-known questions that were recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim, as we shall discuss below, and Abu Sufyan tried hard to give the impression that this was an insignificant issue. The narrator said that Abu Sufyan later said: "By Allah, nothing stopped me from saying something to Heraclius to make him despise Muhammad but the fact that I did not want to tell a lie that would later be found out, and he would never believe me again after that. Then I told him about the night on which he was taken on the Night Journey. I said: `O King, shall I not tell you of something from which you will know that he is lying' He said: 'What is it' I said: 'He claims that he went out of our land, the land of Al-Haram, in one night, and came to your sanctuary in Jerusalem, then came back to us the same night, before morning came.' The Patriarch of Jerusalem was there, standing next to Caesar. The Patriarch of Jerusalem said: 'I know that night.' Caesar looked at him and said, `How do you know about this' He said, `I never used to sleep at night until I closed the doors of the sanctuary. On that night I closed all the doors except for one, which I could not manage to close. I asked my workers and others who were with me to help me deal with it, but we could not move it. It was like trying to move a mountain. So I called the carpenters, and they looked at it and said: The lintel and some part of the structure has fallen onto it. We cannot move it until morning, when we will be able to see what the problem is. So I went back and left those two doors open. The next morning I went back, and saw that the stone at the corner of the sanctuary had a hole in it, and there were traces of an animal having been tethered there. I said to my companions: This door has not been closed last night except for a Prophet, who prayed last night in our sanctuary.”
This source provides evidence that a structure did exist on the same site where Jewish temple (Beit al hamikdash) has existed and it was under the care of a Christian Patriarch. Also the door of this sanctuary could not be shut probably as a result of earlier damage which indeed occurred after 617 CE when Persians handed over the rebuilt Jewish temple to Christians who partially razed it. Unfortunately we do not know the name of this Patriarch.
Excavation of the site prove Byzantine Church predates Mosque
There is also evidence that a Byzantine church or a monastery existed on the temple site beneath the Aqsa Mosque discovered during an excavation carried out in 1930s by R. W. Hamilton, director of the British Mandate Antiquities Department, in coordination with the Wakf Islamic Trust that administers the compound. This excavation took place following the earthquakes that badly damaged the mosque in 1927 and 1937. This was the only recent excavation that has ever taken place keeping in mind the Jewish and Muslim sensitivities and it suggests that the Al Aqsa mosque may have been built over a site of a church and it was not a fresh construction. Hamilton uncovered a Byzantine mosaic floor and beneath it a mikva (ritual bath) from the Second Temple period (around 70 CE). The photographs of his excavation are found in the British archeological archives that are kept at the Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. Zachi Zweig, an archaeologist who viewed them said that a similar mosaic can be found at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The mosaic found in the Temple Mount is dated to the fifth to seventh centuries, said Dr. Rina Talgam, a mosaic expert at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Zweig and his team claim that the Byzantine mosaic floor, which was uncovered under the mosque, is "without a doubt" the remains of a public building - likely a church - which predated the mosque. “It is hard to establish with certainty that this was indeed the site of a church, but without a doubt it served as a public building and was likely either a church or a monastery.” said Zweig
Hence results from recent excavation also confirm that a religious structure or place of worship existed at the holy site from where the Prophet ﷺ ascended around 621 CE, which was part of the historic Al Aqsa. Therefore all this confirms the existence of a place of worship when Quran claims that Allah ﷻ sent his Prophet ﷺ to the 'masjid' in Jerusalem.
 Karmi, Ghada (1997). Jerusalem Today: What Future for the Peace Process?. Garnet & Ithaca Press. p. 116 - Wikipedia, Temple Mount 2019
 R. W. THOMSON; JAMES HOWARD-JOHNSTON; TIM GREENWOOD (1999). The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos - Wikipedia, Sasanian conquest of Jerusalem 2019
 Karmi, Ghada, Jerusalem Today - Wikipedia, Temple Mount 2019
 al-Mubarakpuri, Safi-ur-Rahman. 1996. Al-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar). Dar-us-Salam Publications.
 A medieval Persian Muslim Scholar (d 1038 CE)
 An early Muslim historian and biographer of Prophet Muhammad (d 823 CE)
 A companion of the Prophet who delivered his message to Byzantine Emperor Heraclius.
 Chief of Quraysh in Makkah and a major opponent of the Prophet after his emigration to Madinah. He later accepted Islam after the conquest of Makkah.
 An emperor of Byzantine Empire who ruled from 610-641 CE.
 Dalail Al Nabuwwah, Al-Hafiz Abu Nuaym Al-Isbahani, Tafsir ibn Kathir - Surah Al Israa (Chapter 17) Ayah 1, An Interesting Story
 LEFKOVITS, ETGAR. 2008. Was the Aksa Mosque built over the remains of a Byzantine church?, The Jerusalem Post. November 16. Accessed March third, 2019.
- (LEFKOVITS 2008) - https://www.jpost.com/israel/was-the-aksa-mosque-built-over-the-remains-of-a-byzantine-church
Can we see Allah ﷻ ?
To answer this question we would first need to understand the possibilities of His vision. For all human vision Allah ﷻ says: “No human vision can encompass Him, whereas He encompasses all human vision” If we take this verse in isolation, without viewing all other verses of the Quran and prophetic hadith on the subject of vision, then we will conclude that He cannot be viewed. However that is not the case when we take other sources in to consideration. A Prophetic hadith teaches that after the Day of Judgment people of paradise will be gifted with the vision of Allah ﷻ: “You will see your Lord on the Day of Resurrection as you see this (full moon) and you will have no difficulty in seeing Him.” If no human vision can grasp Him then how will we see Allah ﷻ in paradise? Allah ﷻ mentions in another verse of the Quran that He will allow the righteous to have a glimpse of His Majestic Being: “[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant, looking at their Lord.” This verse concurs with the news given in the hadith of His vision as it will become possible on the Day of Judgment.
Difference Between our Physical & Spiritual Visions
We are also reminded in the Quran that once Prophet Musa (alaihi salaam) insisted to look at Allah ﷻ but when he was permitted, he fell unconscious and realized the error of his request: “My Lord, show me [Yourself] that I may look at You." [Allah] said, "You will not see Me…” but when his Lord manifested His light to the mountain He made it crumble.” The difference between the impossibility of one vision and possibility of another is that the former is of earthly nature while latter belongs to the existence of hereafter. The question would then be what makes our earthly vision different from the hereafter vision. Allah ﷻ mentions about a veil that will be removed from the sight of sinners on the Day of Judgment: “You were heedless of this (day of judgment). Now We have removed your veil and so your vision today is sharp.” This implies that human visions will be transformed in a way that would enable us to see the realities that are hidden behind the veils of current physical existence. In a prophetic hadith it is said that: “If the devil had not moved in the human minds (and hearts), they could have surely known the mysteries of heavens.” The worldly attachments, distractions and worries preoccupy our hearts that become veils due to which we are unable to understand and observe mysteries. The Prophet ﷺ also said: “Beware of the firasah (spiritual insight) of a mumin (believer) when he sees, he sees with the nur (light) of Allah.” The hearts of the believers are able to see and understand what the eyes cannot penetrate. As Allah ﷻ has said in the Quran: “Have these people not traveled through the land with hearts to understand and ears to hear? It is not people’s eyes that are blind, but their hearts within their breasts.” The hearts can understand and experience visions what the eyes cannot. There is a tradition of the Prophet ﷺ where he had a vision of Allah ﷻ when he was overtaken by sleep while performing tahajjud (late night prayer): “My Lord, Blessed is He and Most High, came to me in the best of appearances. So he said: 'O Muhammad!' I said: 'Here I am O my Lord! And I am at Your service.” Allah ﷻ appeared to Prophet ﷺ in the most beautiful appearance. Various scholars of Islam have commented on the nature of this dream and its vision. They all agree it to be a true vision as it was a prophetic vision. This vision can be better understood in the light of a hadith qudsi (sacred tradition), where the Prophet ﷺ narrates from Allah ﷻ that: “The heavens and the earth cannot contain Me but in the heart of a mumin (believer) I enter like a guest.” Therefore, hearts are created for the sake of Allah ﷻ and if fully focused towards Him through remembrance and worship will grant us those lights to have visions which the hearts on which shayateen (devils) roam are unable to see due to veils of darkness (sins and ignorance). The difference between the Prophet’s vision in a dream and Prophet Musa’s request is that the former vision took place through a spiritual experience and Musa (alaihi salaam) insisted to viewing with physical sight which as per divine law is not possible during our earthly existence: “You will not see Me…” The only puzzle now left to resolve is if Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did see His Lord in his being physically present before Allah ﷻ which Prophet Musa (a.s) could not.
Prophets experience at Sidratal Muntaha (The Highest Point) during Mi’raaj (Ascension)
Allah ﷻ says in the Quran that He invited the Prophet ﷺ to physically journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and then from there in to the heavens to show him signs and mysteries that He willed to reveal to him. The following verses mention an encounter which took place at the highest point, the summit in the heavenly stages called sidratal muntaha (the farthest boundary). At this point even Archangel Jibraeel (Gabriel) (a.s) could not accompany the Prophet ﷺ further, therefore the Prophet ﷺ went himself in to the presence of his Lord Al Mighty. This moment has been mentioned in the Quran: “The (Prophet’s) heart did not lie [about] what it saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he (the Prophet) saw? Indeed he saw him another time.” At this moment the there is a scholastic disagreement among the people of knowledge. Some say that the words: “Indeed he saw him another time” is reference to the vision of angel Gabriel (a.s) in his actual angelic form with several hundred of wings of light. The second opinion that scholars who do not agree with the first say that the words means indeed the Prophet ﷺ had a vision of Allah ﷻ and the words “will you then dispute with him?” means ‘don’t you agree that Allah can show Himself to His beloved Prophet due to him being the most honored in the entire creation?’ The reason for the first view is due to the numerous prophetic traditions in which the companions including his wife Aisha (r.a) asked the Prophet ﷺ if he had seen Allah ﷻ on the night of ascension to which he replied in the negative. Aisha said: "If anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen his Lord (on the night of mi’raj), he is a liar, for Allah says: 'No vision can grasp Him.' (Al Quran 6:103) and if anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen the unseen, he is a liar, for Allah says: "None has the knowledge of the unseen but Allah." However to some companions such as Ibn Abbas (r.a) and Abu Dhar (r.a) who asked the same question, the Prophet ﷺ replied in the affirmative and did not deny the vision. Ibn Abbas (r.a) said “Muhammad saw his Lord.” I said “Did Allah not say: No vision can grasp Him, but He grasps all vision (6:103).” He said “Woe unto you! That is when He manifests His Light (in this world). But Muhammad saw his Lord two times (in reference to Al Quran 53:13).” Muslim recorded that Abu Dharr (r.a) said, "I asked the Messenger of Allah have you seen your Lord' He said ‘I only saw a light.’  The differing views shared by Ayesha (r.a), Ibn Abbas (r.a) and Abu Dharr (r.a) on this matter shows that the Prophet ﷺ did not reveal the same knowledge to all of them. Sheikh Irshad Chishti of South Africa in his booklet called ‘Mi’raj - Seeing the Essence of God’ explains this approach: “If one undertakes a trip overseas and extensively and comprehensively tours a country, and on one’s return one meets different people at different times and places. When the different people ask about the trip, one explains to each according to their mentality and interest. 1. With a businessman one will discuss the economy, businesses, shopping areas and industries etc. 2. With an educationalist one will discuss schools, universities, libraries, etc. 3. With the scholars one will discuss Masjids, Madrasahs, etc. Everything that is experienced and seen is not discussed with everybody. The Holy Prophet (Peace & blessings upon him) said that “one should speak to people according to their level of understanding”. Therefore different narrations exist about the same trip. Each enquirer was explained according to his level of understanding. Abu Jahl (sworn enemy of the Prophet) and the disbelievers asked about ascension and they were told about the Masjid Al Aqsa and caravans seen on the way and nothing more.
Possibilities of the Prophet's vision
It is also claimed by scholars that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ existed with Allah ﷻ in his true nature, in the form of Nur Muhammad (Muhammadan Light) created by Allah ﷻ, before the entire creation came in to existence. Prophet ﷺ once said “O Jabir, the first thing Allah created was the light of your Prophet from His light, and that light remained (lit. “turned”) in the midst of His Power for as long as He wished, and there was not, at that time, a tablet or a pen or a paradise or a fire or an angel or a heaven or an earth. This may explain the Prophets ability to go beyond the sidratal muntaha (farthest boundary) in the heavens, where even Angel Gabriel (alaihi salaam) could not pass, and enter in to Allah’s presence. This may have been possible because of Prophet’s origin in the heavens in the form of Nur (Muhammadan Light) before the beginning of creation. Another possibility is that the Prophet ﷺ experienced vision of Allah ﷻ through the medium of his heart as Allah ﷻ said: “The (Prophet’s) heart did not lie [about] what it saw.” Alternatively it could have been with his physical sight which will become a possibility in the hereafter (Al Quran 75:22-23) and the Prophet’s status in the heavens was that of the hereafter. Most importantly the reason why Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was unique among all Prophets in being honored with experiencing Allah’s vision was due to him being given the greatest status in the entire creation: “your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmuda (a station of praise and glory, i.e. the highest degree in this world and the hereafter!).” All these factors need to be kept in view when understanding the possibility for the Prophet ﷺ to experience the vision of Allah ﷻ.
 Al Quran 6:103
 Sahih al-Bukhari 7436 – Sunnah.com
 Al Quran 75:22–23
 Al Quran 7:143
 Al Quran 50:22
 Ihya Ulum udeen (Revival of the religious sciences) - Chapter 6 Fasting – Imam Ghazzali.
 Jami Tirmidhi - Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3127 – Sunnah.com
 Al Quran 22:46
 Jami Tirmidhi - Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3234 – Sunnah.com
 Ghazzali, Ihya
 Al Quran 7:143
 Al Quran 53:11–13
 Sahih al-Bukhari 7380
Jami Tirmidhi - Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3279 – Sunnah.com
 Tafsir ibn Kathir, Surah 53. An-Najm . Ayah 5, Did the Prophet see His Lord during the Night of Isra
 Soofi, Irshad. 2015. Mi'raj -Seeing the Essence of God . Pietermaritzburg, 03 05. (Soofi 2015)
 Kabbani, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham. n.d. The Light of the Prophet (s). Accessed March 18, 2019. http://sunnah.org/wp/2012/04/17/the-light-of-the-prophet-s/. (Kabbani n.d.)
 Al Quran 53:11
 Al Quran 17:79
Difference Between Traveling by Ruh (Soul) vs. a Dream
The majority of prophet’s companions and the Islamic scholars throughout the history have accepted that this was a physical journey i.e. including body & soul. However there has been a minority from the time of Prophet ﷺ that understood this experience as purely spiritual. As for those who call it a dream actually misunderstood the opinion of some of the early Muslims who called it a spiritual journey. Muhammad Asad in his Message of the Quran clarifies this confusion: “The great majority of the Companions believed that both the Night Journey and the Ascension were physical occurrences - in other words, that the Prophet was borne bodily to Jerusalem and then to heaven - while a minority were convinced that the experience was purely spiritual. Among the latter we find, in particular, the name of Aishah, the Prophet's widow and most intimate companion of his later years, who declared emphatically that "he was transported only in his spirit (bi-ruhihi), while his body did not leave its place" (cf. Tabari, Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir in their commentaries on 17:1); the great Al-Hasan al-Basri, who belonged to the next generation, held uncompromisingly to the same view (ibid.). As against this, the theologians who maintain that the night journey and the ascension were physical experiences refer to the corresponding belief of most of the Companions - without, however, being able to point to a single tradition to the effect that the Prophet himself described it as such. Some Muslim scholars lay stress on the words asra bi-'abdihi ("He transported His servant by night") occurring in 17:01, and contend that the term 'abd ("servant") denotes a living being in its entirety, i.e., a combination of body and soul.”
Those who base their argument on the fact that it was a dream do so in reference to the views held by Aisha (r.a), Hassan Al Basri (r.a) and even Abdullah ibn Masud (r.a), who claimed this was a spiritual journey in which the body did not travel. This minority’s view is not a reference to a dream but, in fact, is another experience as explained by renowned 14th century Imam Ibn Qayyim Al Jawzi (r.a) in his work Zaad al Maad (Provisions of the hereafter) who said: “one must differentiate between the statement: he embarked upon the night journey while asleep and the statement: he embarked upon the night journey in soul. As for the ascension one group said that the messenger of Allah (may Allah send salutations upon him) ascended in body and soul, and another group said he did so in soul without leaving his body. However, they (second group) did not mean that he ascended while asleep. Rather, they meant that his soul ascended without leaving the body where it ultimately reaches Allah (swt) the Magnificent, before returning to earth, but the experience of messenger of Allah (may Allah send his salutations upon him) was more inclusive. Since the messenger of Allah (may Allah send salutations upon him) was capable of the extraordinary, his blessed soul ascended to the heavens without him dying.” Ibn Qayyim makes a very valid point here. If in fact it is true that the Prophet’s journey and ascension an experience in which his blessed soul traveled to Jerusalem and the heavens without death then it is highly plausible, especially in the light of modern research on something called OBE (out of body) experience. This is an altered state of consciousness in which a person is awake but sees themselves outside of their own body while their body remains unconscious. They are observing their own body and the world from outside of their body. Many reported to have experienced this state during near death incidents such as after car accidents, falling from a height or a major surgical operation. Allah ﷻ mentions to us in the Quran that: (Al Quran 39:42) "It is Allah Who takes away the souls of people at the hour of their death, and takes away at the time of sleep the souls of those that have not died. Then He retains the souls of those against whom He had decreed death and returns the souls of others till an appointed time. Surely there are Signs in this for people who reflect." The Prophet ﷺ blessed soul may have been taken by Allah ﷻ for this supernatural journey while he was asleep but not in the sense of a dream as dreams are mental states while words of Allah ﷻ in Al Quran 17:01 "Subhaanallazi - Exalted is He" brings our attention to the extraordinary nature of this event. We can also comprehend why He chose the Prophet's soul to be taken while sleeping because during our unconscious state the soul is suspended from its physicality and the Prophet's soul was already very attached to the spiritual world due to his spiritual & prophetic nature, which made it easy for his detachment from his body and travel.
Did the Prophet ﷺ Experience more than One Mi'raj (Ascension)?
However at this point it would also be pertinent to mention that there is a difference of opinion among scholars about more than one journey of the Prophet ﷺ. This difference is mainly due to his visions during Madinah period in which he shared details of the hereafter events such as resurrection, Day of Judgment, people of hell fire, paradise and their states etc. Such as the one in which the Prophet ﷺ said: “the nations were shown unto me. I found one prophet with whom an entire nation was passing by. Another prophet was accompanied by a large group. Another prophet was accompanied by ten people; another by five, while some prophets were followed by only one person. Then I looked, and behold, there was a might host, and I asked: ‘O Gabriel! Are these my nation?’ and he replied, ‘No, but look to the horizon.’ I looked, and behold, there was a mighty host, and he said: ‘These are your nation.’” Famous medieval hadith expert and scholar, Imam ibn Hajar Al Asqalani who held the opinion of two separate journeys commented on this hadith: “It is clear that the night journey which took place in Madinah was different from that which happened in Makkah. It was during the earlier event that he sought entry into the gates of the heavens, one after the other, meeting a prophet in each heaven, and returned to Allah after conferring with Moses and about the obligatory prayers. But of many other things which the Prophet beheld, some were in Makkah, and others were in Madinah after the hijra. Most of these took place as dream-visions. And Allah knows best.” Imam ibn Hajar is of the view that the journey of Makkah was the first and major one as mentioned in Al Quran 17:01 and the ones in Madinah must be dream-visions. To reconcile these differing views is that the Makkah journey must have included body and soul while the ones in Madinah could have been limited to journeys of soul leaving body (i.e. just like in case of death before returning) as explained by Imam ibn Qayyim al Jawzi. If this is correct then this may explain Aisha's view who firmly held that he traveled only in soul, because Aisha (r.a), after her marriage to the Prophet ﷺ, did not come to live with him till they had moved to Madinah. And obviously Allah ﷻ knows what is best.
 Asad, Translated and Explained by Muhammad. 1980. The Message of the Qur'an - the Night Journey. Great Britain: Dar Al-Andalus - (Asad 1980)
 Al-Jawziyya, Ibn Qayyim. 2010. Provisions of The Hereafter (Zaad Al-Maad). Lebanon: Dar Al-Kotob Al-llmiyah - (Al-Jawziyya 2010)
 Al Quran 39:42
 Asqalani, Ibn Hajar Al. n.d. Selections from the Fath Al-Bari (commentary on Sahih Al Bukhari) Translated by Abdul Hakim Murad. The Muslim Academic Trust. - (Asqalani n.d.)
As reported in hadith literature that Prophet ﷺ traveled from Makkah to Jerusalem on a winged creature called Buraq in the company of Archangel Gabriel (alaihi salaam) and from there they ascended up to the seven heavens, traversed all of them and reached the highest place called sidratal muntaha. Seven Heavens in Arabic is called sab’aa samawaat where sab'aa means "seven" or "several" and samaa (singular of samawaat) means "anything and everything that is above us" i.e. in our space such as planets, solar systems, stars, galaxies, basically the entire cosmic system. Samawaat, plural of samaa, means more than one cosmic system, hence sab’aa samawaat means "several cosmic systems and universes". Thus the Prophet’s ascension to the seven heavens was his journey through several cosmic systems and universes or multiverses. Science may be a bit far from that level of advancement where it can fully explain the Prophet's Isra Wa’al Mi’raj (Night Journey & Ascension) experience, however there are some scientific theories that shed light on better understanding this event and confirm our conviction in it.
Buraq - Transportation of Light
For instance the following prophetic hadith narrates some interesting characteristics of the animal that was the transportation vehicle used by the Prophet ﷺ to travel from Makkah to Jerusalem and from there to the nearest heaven: "Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me." (On this Al-Jarud asked, "Was it the Buraq, O Abu Hamza?" I (i.e. Anas) replied in the affirmative). The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "The animal's step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight. I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven." The Arabic term used by the Prophet ﷺ to refer to this animal is called buraq which means "lightning", "gleaming", "intense lightning" or "flaming". All these meanings imply that this unseen creature, whose appearance is "smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey" may have been created of a special form of light or radiation normally invisible to our external sight. The animal being "white" may imply the brightness of its appearance only perceivable beyond normal sense perceptions. The human retina cannot detect many rays (radiations) and frequencies that exist within our electromagnetic spectrum but other creatures such as bird and animals can detect them due to special receptors. Such as sunlight falls under the visible frequency spectrum for human eyes while ultraviolet rays of sunlight do not fall under the visible frequency hence they are invisible to human sight but visible to birds which may explain why Prophet ﷺ said: "when you hear the crowing of the roosters, then ask Allah of His bounty, for verily they have seen an angel." The most basic form of light travels at the speed of 186000 miles/second! Therefore, it makes sense as told by the Prophet ﷺ that each step of the Buraq was so wide that it "reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight."
Prophet's Interstellar Travel
Another startling scientific fact revealed is that the higher we go in altitude the difficult it becomes to breath due to lack of oxygen on earth at great heights. Mountain trekkers who traverse great heights to reach K-2 and Everest and similar peaks carry oxygen masks and tanks in their journey. In fact if one continues going higher and enters space there is no oxygen and extreme freezing temperatures that if a person does not have the necessary equipment and gear, as usually worn by astronauts, they will instantly die as soon as exposed to such environment. The Quran also confirms this fact in one of its verses: (Al Quran 6:125) "...his chest He causes to be tight and constricted, as if he were climbing unto the skies..." In ahadith pertaining to this extraordinary event we find that the blessed chest of the Prophet ﷺ was cut open and underwent a sort of a surgical operation whereof it was filled with abstract notions such as "wisdom" and "faith" by Archangel Jibraeel (Gabriel) (alaihi salaam) before the commencing of his journey: "A golden tray full of wisdom and belief was brought to me and my body was cut open from the throat to the lower part of the Abdomen and then my Abdomen was washed with Zamzam water and (my heart was) filled with wisdom and belief...When I reached the nearest heaven. Gabriel said to the heaven gate-keeper, 'Open the gate.' ." It seems that the Prophet ﷺ was prepared and strengthened internally in a way so that his blessed body may endure the extreme harshness of the space environment and not perish. The washing of the abdomen with zamzam, a blessed water known for miraculous healing properties. Filling up his chest and heart with "wisdom" and "faith" may imply calmness and strength given to his body, through some spiritual source and connection, so he is prepared before entering the difficult environment of space, and Allah ﷻ knows best. American physicist William Edelstein who was part of the team that built the first full-body MRI scanner, claimed that if our bodies managed to attempt interstellar travel on a spaceship that runs at a speed of light, required to traverse light distances, will destroy bodies of the travelers and the spaceship due to radiation of hydrogen atoms.
Mi'raj (Heavenly Steps) or Wormholes ?
Further research in to interstellar space and travel has brought forward interesting theories by modern theoretical physicists Hermann Weyl & John Wheeler, of something called wormholes which might be extremely necessary to achieve such travel ambition. They are shortcut passages through space and time. Wormholes are openings in our space environments that connect with others possibly existing openings in faraway points in our universe. If one is to enter anyone of these openings they will be taken to another side of our universe. Being a Muslim, who believes in the Prophet’s ascension, I would agree to this theory especially in what the Quran says that there are stages and steps that lead towards Allah ﷻ: (Al Quran 70:3-4) "… the Lord of the ascending steps (ma'aarij), by which the angels and the Spirit (Angel Gabriel) ascend to Him in one Day the duration of which is fifty thousand years." The Arabic term ma'aarij plural of mi'raj means "ascending steps of a ladder or staircase for reaching high places". These steps or ways of ascent may be defined in the modern terminology as "wormholes" by which angels travel deeper in to space and reach on the other side of the universe closer in to Allah’s presence or reach other higher levels. They would cover such distances in one heavenly (astronomical) day which equals "fifty thousands years" implying unimaginable amount of time. Despite Angels being created of an unknown nur (a form of radiation or energy), and all radiation travels at the speed of light (186000 miles/second), they still must be required to enter these wormholes to cut large cosmic distances short to reach other side of the universe, without which would take them billions of light years!
It may have been one of these openings in the cosmic region nearest to our earth where Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reached on the back of Buraq and entered it. From there onwards he went into subsequent spaces before reaching the highest place (sidratal muntaha) across multiverses (plural of universe): "I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven." "When I reached the nearest heaven. Gabriel said to the heaven gate-keeper, 'Open the gate.' The gatekeeper asked, 'Who is it?' He said, 'Gabriel.' The gate-keeper,' Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel said, 'Muhammad.' The gate-keeper said, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel said, 'Yes.' Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What a wonderful visit his is!'" Allah ﷻ informs us that if we wish to traverse space with our technological potential then we will not be able to do so without His permission: (Al Quran 55:33) "Jinn and mankind, if you can pass beyond the regions of heavens (samawaat) and earth, then do so: you will not pass without Our authority." This is why Quran teaches that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was invited by Allah ﷻ to be taken to this journey and not that he himself chose to go to Jerusalem and the heavens: (Al Quran 17:01) "Glory to Him who made His servant travel by night from Al-Masjid-ul-Haram (in Makkah) to Al-Masjid-ul-Aqsa (in Jerusalem)..." and also: (Al Quran 53:11) "While he was in the highest part of the horizon (sidratal muntaha)….. And thus did [God] reveal to His servant whatever He deemed right to reveal"
Thus the Prophet’s ascension to the seven heavens was his journey through several cosmic systems and universes beyond which he witnessed the angelic world, the world of souls (barzakh), the Prophets that came before, trials of hell, paradise and its indescribable treasures, and all the way beyond till he reached the direct presence of Allah ﷻ. As science continues to observe the universe and discover more, we hope that we can inshA'Allah better understand in the light of newer revelations many more aspects of this event.
 Sahih Al Bukhari Vol. 5, Book 58, Hadith 227
 Jami Tirmidhi Vol. 6, Book 45, Hadith 3459
 Al Quran 6:125 - Asad Translation
 Sahih Al Bukhari Vol. 4, Book 54, Hadith 429
 Al Quran 70:3–4
 Bukhari, Hadith 227
 Bukhari, Hadith 429
 Al Quran 55:33
 Al Quran 17:01
 Al Quran 53:07–10
It is reported in Al Bukhari that the obligatory Salah (5 times prayers) was gifted to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on the night of Mi'raj (ascension). Initially Allah ﷻ commanded the Ummah to perform 50 salah but due to pleading that the Prophet ﷺ did at the door of His mercy, after ascending 5 times, they were reduced from 50 to 5. At the fifth instance it was finally reduced to 5 but the reward for each prayer is 10 times therefore even though we perform 5 prayers we get reward of 50! and this was due to special mercy of Allah ﷻ, in addition to the Prophet’s request. Additionally it has been reported in Muslim that it was on this night that Surah Al Fatiha (Opening Chapter) of the Quran, also called Ummul Quran (mother of the Quran), was revealed. Al Fatiha is most important part of the Salah, without which it remains incomplete. According to Sheikh Imran Hosein each verse of the Seven verses of Al Fatiha that we recite transports us spiritually through each heaven of the seven heavens that Prophet ascended to reach Allah ﷻ.
In Islam the obligatory salah is one of the major sources of food and water for the ruh (soul). Just as the body remains weak if deprived of food and water, our ruh remains weak if deprived of its most basic spiritual sustenance. The only difference being that the souls weakness becomes fully apparent after death. Salah comprises of three main things: zikr (praising) of Allah, qirat (recitation) of Quran and duas (supplications & invocations). Once we do these things five times a day with full concentration towards our Creator, we form a spiritual connection that is supposed to strengthen our souls and increase faith in our hearts. It is due to this reason Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: "As salatu mi’raajul mu’mineen” meaning “in salah there is the ascension for the believers”. It was Mi'raj (ascension) that brought Prophet Muhammad ﷺ closest to Allah ﷻ, spiritually & physically. Similarly it is our ruh that carries the spiritual potential to come closer to Allah ﷻ, which is one of its primary purposes of existence.
 Sahih al-Bukhari 7517 Kitab Al Tawheed - Sunnah.com