Ascension of the Prophet
It was at such a time that God Almighty, in His infinite Mercy and Benevolence, bestowed upon the Prophet the unique distinction of being lifted to the furthest limit of heavens and of being shown the gorgeous splendor of the heavens and the universe:
Glory to (Him) Who took His servant for a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque whose precincts We have blessed, in order that We might show him some of Our signs, for He is the Hearer and the Seer. (Qur'an, 17:1)
There has been a good deal of controversy over the question whether the Ascension (Mi'raj) was only a vision or an actual bodily journey. The majority of the traditionalists agree that it was a real physical journey, much like the bodily ascension of Jesus to heaven and the descent of Adam to earth.
The fact is that this controversy was created by Banu Umayyah whose interest in Islam was based not on faith but on politics and who did not like the idea of any miracle of the Holy Prophet gaining ground in the Muslims' minds. Their department of forgery obliged them in this respect also.
Two "traditions" from that department are repeatedly described by the Christians, the Ahmadis, and a group of the Sunnis; these are:
Now the fact is that the Mi'raj (whatever its interpretation) took place in Mecca one or three years before the Hijrah. Bibi 'Ayishah did not enter the house of the Holy Prophet till one year after Hijrah. How could she say that she did not miss the body of the Holy Prophet at that time?
There is only one possible explanation: This "tradition" was forged by someone who did not know the sequence of Islamic history. Otherwise, he could not have attributed this "tradition" to 'Ayishah.
Mu'awiyah was such an enemy of the Holy Prophet that when 8 years after the Hijrah, Mecca was conquered without bloodshed and Abu Sufyan (father of Mu'awiyah), seeing no alternative, accepted Islam, Mu'awiyah fled to Bahrain and wrote a nasty letter to his father condemning him for his acceptance of Islam. It was not till the 9th year of Hijrah that he brought himself to profess Islam. And the Mi'raj took place 10 or 12 years before that time. How could he know what the facts of the Mi'raj were?! He does not mention his source of information, and the inference is that there was no such source.
If you want to witness how politics controlled the version of Islam professed by the Umayyads, read one more 'tradition' invented in their factory:
The king on the throne of Damascus is 'Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan. Iraq and Hijaz are in the hands of 'Abdullah ibn Zubayr. 'Abdul-Malik does not like the idea of the pilgrims of his domain being obliged to go to Mecca (which is in the enemy's hands); so, he wants to enhance the prestige of Baitul Maqdis, which lies within his domain and plans to establish "hajj" to Baitul Maqdis. As part of that plan, all previous declarations that the Mi'raj was a dream are forgotten, and a tradition is forged that the final destination of the journey of the Mi'raj was Baitul Maqdis.
Soon thereafter, 'Abdullah ibn Zubayr is defeated and Hijaz comes under Syrian control; otherwise, we would surely have seen two centers of hajj in the Muslim world!
The Second Pledge of 'Aqabah
On their return to Yathrib, the converts to the faith spread the doctrines of Islam and a large number of Yathribites became adherents to the faith. In the following year, seventy people from Yathrib, including the twelve who took the first pledge, came to the Prophet to accept Islam and to invite him to their city. They swore allegiance to him. This pledge is known as the Second Pledge of 'Aqabah. 'Abbas, uncle of the Holy Prophet, although not a Muslim yet, was present on that occasion and exhorted the Yathribites to protect the Holy Prophet.
A Plan to Assassinate the Prophet
When the Meccans learned that Islam had struck roots in Yathrib and was fast spreading there, their animosity knew no bounds. Their chiefs, such as Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, Abu Sufyan, and 'Utbah gathered at Dar-un-Nadwa and, after rejecting suggestions to imprison or banish Muhammad, they planned to assassinate him.
And remember when the unbelievers plotted against you to imprison you, or to kill you, or to drive you out, they plotted and planned and Allah, too, planned. (Qur'an, 8:30)
In order to escape the vendetta of Banu Hashim, it was decided that every clan should provide one man, and that they should collectively assault the Prophet as soon as he came out of his house. But God had apprised His Prophet of this plan well in advance and he informed 'Ali of it, ordering him to sleep in his (Prophet's) bed. The Holy Prophet covered 'Ali with his own green sheet. When 'Ali heard that his life was to be the ransom for the Holy Prophet's, he at once prostrated before Allah to thank Him for this unique honor. It was the first sajdah of "shukr" (a prostration of gratitude) in Islam. Thus, 'Ali slept soundly on the Holy Prophet's bed as the Prophet walked out of the house under the infidels' very noses.
Coming out of the house, he recited the first few verses of the Surat Ya-Sin and threw a handful of dust over their heads. None of the enemies saw him going out.
The Holy Prophet had also ordered 'Ali to return the things which people had entrusted to him to their respective owners.
The polytheists of the Quraishite clans all the time thought that it was the Prophet who was sleeping and were anxiously waiting to kill him.
According to Usudul Ghabah of Ibn Athir Jazari, Ihya' ul 'Uloom (of Ghazali) and Tarikhul Khamis of Qadi Husain al Diyarbakri, it is learnt that when 'Ali slept in Muhammad's bed, God said to Gabriel and Michael:
"I establish brotherhood between you two and increase the life of one of you over that of the other. Having done so, I ask which of you is prepared to sacrifice his life for his brother?"
Both Gabriel and Michael heard this address from the Lord but each held his life dearer than the other's and was not prepared to help his brother by sacrificing his own life. God then addressed them again,
"Can you not be like 'Ali ibn Abi Talib? See, I created brotherhood between Muhammad and 'Ali, and now 'Ali is sleeping in Muhammad's bed determined to sacrifice his own life for his brother. Now you both go to earth and guard 'Ali from the mischief of the enemies."
Then the two nearest-to-God angels came down and took their positions near the head and the feet of 'Ali. Gabriel said:
"Hail to thee! Hail to thee! Who can be like thee, O son of Abu Talib, so that the Lord is proud of thee and exalts thy virtue before the angels?"
And so it happened. When the Prophet was on his way to Medina, God revealed to him the following verse in praise of 'Ali:
And amongst men there is one who sells his life seeking the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is most benevolent to His slaves. (Qur'an, 2:207)
The Holy Prophet went to the mountain of Thawr accompanied by Abu Bakr and hid in a cave near its summit. This place is about 5 miles from Mecca.
There are two versions as to how Abu Bakr came to accompany the Holy Prophet. One narrative says that the Holy Prophet himself went to the house of Abu Bakr and told him to accompany him.
The other narrative says that when the Holy Prophet went away, Abu Bakr came there and asked 'Ali as to where the Holy Prophet was. 'Ali told him that he had already left for Medina. Abu Bakr went out looking for the Holy Prophet. The night was dark; therefore, when he came nearer, the Holy Prophet thought that some infidel was pursuing him. He started going faster and faster, till his shoe-lace was broken and his toes were badly wounded. Then Abu Bakr called him. Recognizing his voice, the Prophet stopped. Abu Bakr caught up with him and asked permission to accompany him. Thus, they went together till they reached Thawr.
At dawn, the infidels entered the house. They were flabbergasted upon finding 'Ali in the bed instead of the Holy Prophet. At once they started looking for him, tracking him right up to the mouth of the cave. Still, they never thought of looking into the cave. Why?
As soon as the fugitives entered the cave, a spider wove cobweb at the entrance and a pair of pigeons built their nest at the mouth of the very cave in the darkness of the night and laid eggs at once. It was that cobweb and the nest with the eggs that made the blood-thirsty enemies believe that Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) could not be in that cave; otherwise, the cobweb would have been destroyed and the nest and the eggs broken! It was at this moment that they got so near to the cave that Abu Bakr started weeping, being afraid of the possible discovery. But the Prophet consoled him saying,
Grieve not; surely Allah is with us (Qur'an, 9:40). ,
They left Mecca on the first night of Rabi'-ul-Awwal, (corresponding to 15 or 16 July, 622 C.E.) reaching the cave of Thawr before dawn and remaining therein up to 4th of Rabi'-ul-Awwal. On the 5th, they started their journey to Medina. 'Abdullah ibn Urayqit al-Daylami was hired to show them the way. Abu Bakr offered one of his she-camels to the Holy Prophet for the journey. The Holy Prophet accepted it on the condition that Abu Bakr accepted its price. Thus, Abu Bakr sold one she-camel to the Holy Prophet for 900 dirhams.
Journeying by unfrequented routes, they safely reached Quba (2 miles south of Yathrib) on the 8th of Rabi'-ul-Awwal.
There, the Holy Prophet laid the foundation of the mosque of Quba which has been mentioned in the Qur'an as "the Mosque founded on piety." After a few days, 'Ali joined them there and they proceeded to Yathrib, entering it on Friday the 16th of Rabi' ul-Awwal with a group of followers who had come from Yathrib to welcome the Prophet. This was the Hijrah from which dates the Islamic calendar, the Hijri year.