Testimony 9 - 12

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Testimony: The Bodily ascent of the Prophet Muhammad


A part of report from Imam Albukhari about the bodily ascent of the Prophet (S.A.W) from Anas known as narration of Sharik bin Abi Namir has been subject to criticism by the Muslim scholars. I give hereunder only that contested part of the report:

Sharik bin Abi Namir said: That he heard Anas bin Malik narrating about the night, Allah’s Apostle (S.A.W) was carried for a journey from Kaaba Mosque (The Most Sacred Shrine of the Muslim at Makkah). While he was a sleep in the Holy Mosque in Makkah, he saw three beings (angles) came to him. It was before the descent of the divine inspiration unto him.

The first one said: Which of them is he. 33*

The second one said: He is the best of them.

The third one said: Take the best of them.

Only that much he saw that night, and did not see them till they came to him another night and he saw them by his heart for his eyes were asleep but his heart wasn’t. (Such are prophets their eyes sleep while their hearts keep awake)... Till he reached to the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary and then the Irresistible, the Lord of Honour and Majesty drew near and came closer.

Till he was (at a distance of) two bows length or even nearer, and God revealed among the things which He revealed... (Gabriel) said: Descend in Allah’s name.

He said: ‘wa Istayqaza’ (=he became vigilant) and was in the Holy Mosque.


Imam Baghwi said: Few scholars say that they didn’t find any thing insupportable in Bukhari and Muslim except the narration of Sharik from Anas bin Malik... (i.e. he said) that the ascent was before the revelation and all the scholars are unanimous that the ascent was 12 years after the revelation. (The words in the narration) i.e. ‘And then the Irresistible the Lord of Honour and Majesty drew near and came closer’ (to the Prophet). Aesha (radiallah anha) said: The one who came closer was Gabriel. Imam Baghwi referring to his Sheikh said that Aesha’s interpretation was not correct as it was a dream before revelation and the words (in the end of the narration) ‘he awoke and he was in the Holy Mosque guide to this conclusion. Then he was taken on ascent after revelation i.e. after prophet-hood and before a year from migration.


Imam in his book Sharah Muslim said: The narration of Sharik has given vent to notions, which scholars have denied. Muslim has drawn attention to that he (Sharik) did not mention the text of the narration in order, but some part of the text, he mentioned before and some after wards, something he added and some deleted as he mentioned that the ascent was before the revelation it is wrong and against the unanimous opinion...”


Qadhi Ayadh said: In the narration of Sharik he was asleep in another narration he was near Kaaba and asleep. The scholars have declined to accept those who take the ascent in sleep as partly reported in the above narrations. This state of sleepiness to him may be at the time of arrival of the angels but in the text of tradition, there is no such thing, which might lead to his being asleep in the entire event. (Khazin Vol.II.p.109)


AlHafiz in his book ‘Aljama Bain Alsahihayn’ writes: Sharik in this narration had added something, which had no basis, and used in it unfamiliar words. The traditions about night journey have been reported by a group of famous reliable scholars of strong memory like Ibn Shahab, Thabit Albanani, and Qatada from Anas and none of them narrated what Sharik narrates. We can’t take Sharik as preserver of tradition, as other traditions lead us to come to this conclusion. (Khazin Vol. II. P. 109)


Ibn Kathir said: The text of narration of Sharik from Anas contains peculiarity, as it is said: ‘It was before the descent of the divine inspiration unto him. ‘The reply to this (inscription) is that they (angels) came to him for the first time before the descent of revelation unto him, but that night nothing did happen. Then the angels came another night. For that another night, it was not said that they came to him before revelation, so they came to him in another night after the descent of divine revelation unto him. It is for definite that the journey by night occurred only after the descent of divine revelation.

Ibn Kathir further writes: As for Sharik’s inscription, ‘Wa istayqaza’ (he became awake) and ‘was in the Holy Mosque’. This might be (considered) among the mistakes of Sharik or from coming one state to another is called ‘yaqaza’ as it found in the tradition from Aesha: When the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W) went to Taif, he was belied (and pelted). He said: I came back on foot very grieved, I did not awake till I reached to Qarn Althalib.

In another tradition from Abu Usayed: “He brought his son to the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W). The Apostle of Allah (S.A.W) got busy in conversation with the people, meanwhile Abu Usayed raised his son, When the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W) ‘Istayaqaza’ (became awake) or vigilant, he didn’t find the child. He asked about him, they told him, that he was taken away. He named the child ‘munzir’ (warner). The above diction is better than to wrong Sharik. (AlBidaya wa al Nihaya. Vol.III. pp. 111,113)


We have seen in the Testimony 11 (a) that Imam Baghwi referring his Sheikh based the argument on the word ‘Istayaqaza’ (became awake), and interpreted the Sharik’s narration as a dream before revelation. But by doing so he restricted the meaning in the word ‘Istayaqaza’. Though this ward was used in another meaning in the Prophet’s time as cited by Ibn Kathir in (e) above. It means to come from one state to another state.

In Lane’s Lexicon ‘Istayaqaza’ mean, he roused his attention; he became vigilant, wary or cautious.

In Elias ‘Modern Dictionary Arabic-English, it means, to wake up, awake, be attentive to.

Thus, Ibn Kathir’s contention is supported by Lexicon meaning to come from one state to another state, i.e. to get vigilant etc. Thus, Baghwi wrongly interpreted Sharik’s narration.


Explaining the word ‘Istayaqaza’ in Sharik’s narration the aforesaid Sheikh wrote: ‘Istayaqaza’ means, awake ness, alertness, vigilance, and to revert back on ones own state. When the Prophet (S.A.W) saw the great symbols of God and heavenly wonders, he rain into a state of total absorption and his inner self matched to a state of sleep. Reverting back from that state to his own self was ‘Istayaqaza’ that is why it was said: ‘He became vigilant and he was in the Holy Mosque (The inviolable place of worship) at Makkah. (Al Madarij Al Nubowwa)


We have seen in para a to e above the criticism offered by the renowned scholars on Sharik’s narration.

The main points of controversy are:

1) Coming of angels before the descent of the divine revelation.

2) The word ‘Istayaqaza’ having meaning: getting awake, or became vigilant, or coming into one state from to another.

The above fact made the commentators to argue against Sharik, firstly because the ascent had only occurred after the descent of the revelation i.e. after prophet-hood, and secondly it was performed in awakening and not in sleep.

However, the argument put forth by Ibn Kathir in para (e) above explaining the above controversial point removed all doubts from Sharik’s narration. His contention that first night when the angles came was before the descent of the revelation and the other night when they had come was only after the descent of the divine revelation unto him. This explanation brings the ascent to the unanimous opinion as held on real facts, by great Muslim scholars having been occurred only after the revelation.

Ibn Kathir, very intelligently tackled the second controversial point and substantiating his arguments with the traditions of the Prophet (S.A.W) proved that ‘Istayaqaza’ also means to come into one state from another. Thus, the Prophet (S.A.W) was totally absorbed in observation of the heavenly signs and when he came to himself, he was in the grand Mosque Makkah.

3) The third point of controversy, are the following words in the narration in question:

“And then (The Irresistible, the Lord of Honour and Majesty) drew near and came closer. (Till he was at a distance of) two bows length or even nearer and God revealed among the things which He revealed.

The Arabic version referred to above is partly found in the chapter ‘Al Najam’ (The Star) of the Quran except for the words given above under brackets.

It was said that Sharik might have put into these words comprehending it to be the part of narration. But it was not so. When we look into the other traditions of the Prophet (S.A.W), we do find the text in the same meaning, as for example:

In a long narration from Saeed Alkhudri we find these words: “...I was raised to the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary. That between him and me was (a distance of) two bows length or even nearer. (Al Baihaqui)

Who was at two bows distance Saeed Alkhudri stated in another tradition: “When the Prophet (S.A.W) was taken on a night journey, he came closer to his Lord. He was at a distance of two bows length and even nearer. Did you not see the bow, how close it is from the string.” (Ibn Al Munzir, Ibn Mardoya)

As a matter of fact, a group of the companions of the Prophet relates that the Apostle of Allah (S.A.W) came closer to His Lord and saw Him by his naked eyes but the other groups of the companions do not agree to this. I have discussed it at full length with the facts from the Quran and Sunnah in Testimony 17 to 19 and I have proved that Muhammad (S.A.W) did vision Allah with his carnal eyes.

However, going through the facts of Sharik’s narration, we finally conclude that his narration is perfectly sound.

Imam Ahmad Al Qastallani agreed to the contention of Ibn Kathir at (e) above. Thus, all the doubts are removed from it, and this report at one side proves the ascent in body and soul and on the other, it proves the visioning of ‘The Irresistible’, the Lord of Honour and Majesty by the Prophet (sallallaho alaihi wasallam).

i) The very fact that Imam Bukhari reported this narration in the Book of Tauhid is the proof of its being sound. Had it been a dream before prophet-hood, Imam Al-Bukhari would have never mentioned it as testimony for describing the most famous event of the Ascent of the Prophet (sallallaho alaihi wasallam).

j) It is proved by a chain of famous traditions that the event of the ascent occurred in body and soul only after spreading of Islam. That was the reason that the Qureysh were antagonistic to it. Umme Hani attempted to stop the Prophet (S.A.W) from going to Qureysh. Abu Bakar testified to it, and after hearing this ascent, the new Muslims apostatized.

k) I have written my humble opinion in Testimony 19 para l on Sharik’s narration and have thrown further light on it referring to the tradition from Anas reported by Ibn Jarir and Al Khatib. See. Al Dur Al Manthur Vol. IV. p. 158, and Vol .VI. p.126

l) The narration of Aesha (radiallah anha) cited in Testimony 9 as reported by Ibn Ishaque is ambiguous because Ibn Ishaque didn’t name any one from the family of Abu Bakar ascribing her that narration.

Further, she herself stated the bodily ascent of Allah’s Apostle (S.A.W). See Testimony 8. Therefore, her narration ‘the body didn’t depart is for the dream, the Prophet (S.A.W) saw at Madinah. I have proved it in Testimony 9.

Looking into the facts mentioned in para (a) to (l) above, we finally come to the conclusion that the ascent was in body and soul. The facts discussed in para (h) on the narration of Sharik particularly the explanation offered by Ibn Kathir erased all the doubts and controversies from it, and it had been finally held that the night journey of the Prophet from Makkah to Jerusalem and then his ascent to seven heavens was in body and soul.

31 b. Abu Huraira narrated. The Apostle of Allah (S.A.W) said: The night I was made to ascent the sky, whenever I passed through a sky I found written ‘Muhammad the Apostle of Allah and Abu Bakar the Righteous my successor.

32. 'Lo! Allah! With Him is the knowledge of the hour. He sendeth down the rain, and knoweth that which is in the wombs. No soul knoweth what it will earn tomorrow and no soul knoweth in what land it will die. Lo! Allah is the Knower and the Aware. (31/34)

33. The Prophet (S.A.W) was sleeping with two other persons. They were his uncle Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib, and his cousin Jafar bin Abi Talib.