Was the Prophet's Ascension and the Night Journey in body and soul?
Allah Almighty favored the Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him] with the miracle of the Ascension and Night Journey [al-Israa` wa al-Mi'raj] to honor him and reveal to him some of His great signs. Allah Almighty says:
"Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing". [Qur'an, 17: 1] and; "By the star when it descends, Your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred, Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. Taught to him by one intense in strength- One of soundness. And he rose to [his] true form, While he was in the higher [part of the] horizon. Then he approached and descended, And was at a distance of two bow lengths or nearer. And he revealed to His Servant what he revealed. The heart did not lie [about] what it saw. So will you dispute with him over what he saw? And he certainly saw him in another descent. At the Lote Tree of the Utmost Boundary- Near it is the Garden of Refuge - When there covered the Lote Tree that which covered [it]. The sight [of the Prophet] did not swerve, nor did it transgress [its limit]. He certainly saw of the greatest signs of his Lord." [Qur`an, 53: 1-18]
Most scholars agreed that the Ascension took place in both body and soul because the Qur`an explicitly expresses this fact by the choice of the word 'abduhu' [His servant] in the above verse which integrates the meaning of both body and soul. The Prophet's Night Journey is discussed in the Qur`an and hadith literature.
There is a scholarly debate on whether the incident of the Prophet's Ascension [Mi'raj] was a physical journey or a dream. The majority of scholars maintain that the Prophet's ascension was a physical journey while he was in a conscious state and that it took place on the same night as the Night Journey. The opinion of scholars who contend otherwise is erroneous because Allah Almighty has the power to raise the Prophet to the Heavens [peace and blessings be upon him] in both body and soul as He did in the Night Journey. While the Qur'an discussed the Night Journey explicitly and the Ascension implicitly, the sunna discusses both explicitly.
The Prophet journeyed from the Holy Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa Mosque and then to the highest heavens in both body and soul. Delving in such matters only distracts Muslims from more important matters and from fulfilling their duties related to our present times.
Allah the Almighty knows best .