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