“Our Prophet (peace be upon him) was blessed with the most miracles, traveling body and soul to the great mosque at Jerusalem during the night.”
The Muslim connection to Jerusalem is extremely tenuous compared to Judaism and Christianity. In fact, the claim to the city exists largely because it is held sacred by Western religion. From the time of Muhammad to the present day, Islam has always been a “me too” faith, attempting to ride the coattails of other religions.
The official reason that Muslims claim Jerusalem for themselves – after marching an army into the city only two years after Muhammad’s death – is that their prophet once visited there…
Unfortunately this would have been in a dream – not in real life. As much as those demanding full control of Jerusalem today would prefer, there is simply no evidence that Muhammad’s physical body ever made the trip.
There is certainly ample evidence that Muhammad claimed to have had a dream about traveling there. It also came at a time that was trying to convince the doubters around him that he belonged to the line of Jewish prophets. His story of leading other prophets (Abraham, Moses and Jesus) in prayer at the mosque in Jerusalem was thus highly convenient (in truth no mosque had ever existed there).
Aisha, Muhammad’s favorite wife, later insisted that it was not a physical journey (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 265) and there has always been controversy within Islam about whether it was supposed to have been a physical or “spiritual” visit.
At the time, the Meccans mocked Muhammad for claiming to have visited Jerusalem in one night, since it was a one month journey to get there and back. In fact, “many Muslims gave up their faith” when they heard this, according to his biographer (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 265). But had the Meccans only known how big the universe really is, then they would have reserved the greatest ridicule for Muhammad’s claim to have visited the gates of heaven in the same dream – and it is doubtful that anyone would have believed him at that point.
The observable universe is 93 billion light years wide, meaning that it takes 93 billion years to make it from one side to the other even traveling at the speed of light. In “Leaving Islam” by Ibn Warraq, a young contributor points out that if Muhammad had left the (non-existent) mosque in Jerusalem 1400 years ago, traveling at this phenomenal speed through the icy void of space, he would still be trying to make it out of our galaxy (p. 347). At this point, Muslims (who claim that theirs is the most “scientific” of religions) fall back on the idea that Muhammad visited Jerusalem “in spirit”… whatever that means.
To prove his claim, a nervous Muhammad gave a general description of the city “from above” to Abu Bakr, who “verified” it to be true. Muhammad shouldn’t have worried about his most faithful apostle, at least, since Abu Bakr had already pledged his loyalty to whatever his prophet had to say: “If he says it, then it is true.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 265).
Abu Bakr’s gullibility was legendary. Not only did he hand over his own 6-year-old daughter in “marriage” at Muhammad’s request, but his prophet even got him to believe in talking cows at one point:
Obviously, those who believe Muhammad’s claim to have traveled to Jerusalem either in body or in spirit rely on blind faith rather than common sense. He was also known to use the veil of sleep to make other grandiose claims about himself, once insisting“while I was sleeping, the keys to the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand” (Bukhari 52:220).
Even though he may never have traveled to Jerusalem before his “dream”, it is quite likely that Muhammad heard descriptions of the city from traders who had been in the city, particularly since he was known to seek out story tellers on his business trips.
There is simply no compelling reason to believe that Muhammad’s dream was anything other than that.