By Frederick S. Colby

Discusses the historic improvement of the well-loved tale of the Prophet Muhammad's evening trip to the divine realm and again back.

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Having examined some of the most important qurʾānic material on which these narratives will draw, the following chapters explore the extra­qurʾānic Muslim accounts of Muḥam­ mad’s journey, beginning with the earliest version of the ascension narrative ascribed to Muḥammad’s cousin and companion, Ibn ʿAbbās. This page intentionally left blank. 2 ORALITY AND THE PRIMITIVE VERSION OF THE IBN ʿABBĀS ASCENSION NARRATIVE n the first two centuries of the Islamic era, the vast majority of the texts on Muḥammad’s night journey and ascension were transmitted orally.

Ibn ʿAbbās became one of the most important early Qurʾān scholars, and the early Muslims gave him honorific nicknames, including “Interpreter of the Qurʾān” (tarjumān al­qurʾān) and “The Sea [of Knowledge]” (al­baḥr). 9 Never­ theless, given Ibn ʿAbbās’ connection to the family of ʿAbbās and the lineage claimed by the ʿAbbāsid dynasty, he became embraced not only by later Shīʿī scholars but also by later Sunnīs. 13 The fame of Ibn ʿAbbās as a scholar caused later unscrupulous transmitters of prophetic ḥadīth to circulate reports in his name, or to attach otherwise anony­ mous reports to his name in order to given them the air of legitimacy.

In this passage the divine voice addresses Muḥammad, telling him to speak the following words: MUḤAMMAD’S NIGHT JOURNEY IN THE QURʾĀN 23 65) Say: I am a warner. There is no god except the one conquering God, 66) Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, the one who is mighty and the one who forgives. 67) Say: It is a great prophecy, 68) one which you oppose. 69) I did not have knowledge of the heavenly host when they were debating. 70) It was only revealed to me that I am a clear warner.

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