Isra Wa’al Mi’raj – Prophet’s Night Journey & Ascension
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