Sunday, 30 October 2016

Splitting of the Moon; An Eclipse?

In the Name of Allah; the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful
Allah Most High says:
اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ۝
وَإِن يَرَوْا آيَةً يُعْرِضُوا وَيَقُولُوا سِحْرٌ مُّسْتَمِرٌّ۝
The Hour has come near, and the moon has split [in two]. And if they see a Sign, they turn away and say, “Passing magic.” (Sura 54:1-2)
The famous miracle of the Prophet (peace be upon him) of splitting the moon into two is accepted by all Muslims except some of the most deviant Hadith-rejecters and modernists. However, examining the reality of this powerful Sign from Allah and determining as to whether the moon was literally broken into two, or whether it refers to a kind of eclipse, is surely a legitimate undertaking.
Those who believe in a literal cracking of the moon into two pieces are faced with a dilemma as to why there is no historical, extra-Islamic source which confirms the fact that the moon appeared “split” from anywhere else in the world. If the moon was indeed literally broken into two pieces, such an extraordinary event would surely have other historical witnesses from at least somewhere else in the world apart from Arabia.
The fact that apparently there exists no other such historical evidence corroborating the occurrence of this miraculous sign upon its literal conception, lends credence to our view that the splitting of the moon was a local phenomenon in Mecca and its vicinity only. This could only be true if it is accepted that the splitting of the moon was not a literal breaking of the moon into two, but a kind of eclipse. This view is strongly supported by the narration of Abdullah b. Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) as reported in Sahih Muslim:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ مَسْعُودٍ ، قَالَ : " انْشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ عَلَى عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِلْقَتَيْنِ ، فَسَتَرَ الْجَبَلُ فِلْقَةً ، وَكَانَتْ فِلْقَةٌ فَوْقَ الْجَبَلِ ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : " اللَّهُمَّ اشْهَدْ "
Abdullah b. Mas’ud narrates that the moon was split in the time of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) into two parts. The mountain concealed a part, and [the other] part was [visible] above the mountain. So Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “O Allah, bear witness”
This narration from Abdullah b. Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) clearly indicates that the Sign of the splitting of the moon manifested itself as a kind of eclipse, where the moon was partially eclipsed or concealed by a mountain. However, an obvious objection to this view is that how could such a thing be considered as a miracle or a Sign of God?
It has also been suggested that the splitting of the moon was perhaps a type of shared Kashaf (vision). This means that Allah made the people of Mecca and its vicinity see the moon split into two parts. An example for this kind of vision is found elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an, when Allah says:
فَارْتَقِبْ يَوْمَ تَأْتِي السَّمَاءُ بِدُخَانٍ مُّبِينٍ۝
يَغْشَى النَّاسَ هَـٰذَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ۝
Then watch for the Day when the sky will bring a visible smoke. Covering the people; this is a painful torment. (Sura 44:10-11)
Once again, Abdullah b. Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) has interpreted the reality of this Sign of smoke from the sky, just as he interpreted the reality of the splitting of the moon:
قَالَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ : إِنَّمَا كَانَ هَذَا لِأَنَّ قُرَيْشًا لَمَّا اسْتَعْصَوْا عَلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ دَعَا عَلَيْهِمْ بِسِنِينَ كَسِنِي يُوسُفَ ، فَأَصَابَهُمْ قَحْطٌ ، وَجَهْدٌ حَتَّى أَكَلُوا الْعِظَامَ ، فَجَعَلَ الرَّجُلُ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى السَّمَاءِ ، فَيَرَى مَا بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَهَا كَهَيْئَةِ الدُّخَانِ مِنَ الْجَهْدِ ، فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى : فَارْتَقِبْ يَوْمَ تَأْتِي السَّمَاءُ بِدُخَانٍ مُبِينٍ { 10 } يَغْشَى النَّاسَ هَذَا عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ { 11 } سورة الدخان آية 10-11
Abdullah said: It (i.e., the imagined smoke) was because, when the Quraish refused to obey the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam), he asked Allah to afflict them with years of famine similar to those of (Prophet) Joseph. So they were stricken with famine and fatigue, so much so that they ate even bones. A man would look towards the sky and imagine seeing something like smoke between him and the sky because of extreme fatigue. So Allah revealed: “Then watch you for the Day that the sky will bring forth a kind of smoke plainly visible, covering the people; this is a painful of torment.” (44.10-11)
Sahih al-Bukhari; Kitab Tafsiril Qur’an
Now although the apparent wording of the Holy Qur’an is that the smoke shall come from the sky, the reality, as explained by the eminent companion Abdullah b. Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) is that the smoke appeared to the starving people of Quraish due to their mental state caused by the seven years of extreme famine. They would collapse due to extreme hunger and fatigue and their vision would become cloudy or foggy, as if they were seeing smoke coming from the sky, perhaps because they were lying on their back gazing at the heavens. In summary, the vision of the smoke from the sky was a hallucination due to starvation and not that there was literally smoke coming from the direction of the sky.
So when we examine this issue of the splitting of the moon, we see that there are two plausible and reasonable alternative possibilities: 1. That the splitting of the moon was a type of eclipse caused by the moon being partially concealed behind the top of a mountain as explained by Abdullah b. Mas’ud, and 2. That the splitting of the moon was a special vision restricted to the people of Mecca but the moon was not literally split, just like the vision of the smoke from the sky was not literal but a special vision due to hallucination from hunger as explained by Abdullah b. Mas’ud.


It is my view that these two possible explanations are not necessarily mutually exclusive. My view is that (and Allah knows best), the moon being eclipsed by the mountain was what triggered this powerful vision that was shared by the people of Mecca. This would answer the initial question as to how could the mere eclipse of the moon in the sense of it being partially concealed by the top of a mountain be considered a miracle or an extraordinary heavenly Sign. The Prophet (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) himself explained that the eclipse of the sun and the moon are two signs from the Signs of Allah, notwithstanding the fact that a solar and lunar eclipse are natural phenomena, and not extraordinary or supernatural.
The Qur’an states in the subsequent verse that when the polytheists witnessed this Sign they described it as “passing magic” (54:2). Anas b. Malik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the people of Mecca requested of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he show them a Sign, and in response the moon was immediately split into two. Now even if the splitting of the moon, due to eclipse or being concealed by the top of the mountain, occurred naturally and not supernaturally, it is still a Sign because of the time of its occurrence immediately after the polytheists demanding a Sign. For example, rain is a natural and ordinary occurrence, but the sudden occurrence of rain in unfavorable circumstances of weather is a Sign when the Prophet (peace be upon him) supplicated to Allah to send down rain and in response it immediately began to rain. This explains why the dumbfounded polytheists, who immediately witnessed the splitting of the moon, even if as a natural occurring phenomena, just moments after demanding a Sign from the Prophet, could find no means of escape except to allege that what had just transpired was an example of “passing magic”. And Allah knows best!

1 comment:

  1. Note: One of the lexical meanings of Q-M-R, the root from which the word Qamar (Moon) is derived is "to deceive" (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur'anic Usage; p.775). This is indicative of the fact that the moon itself is a false light, as it is only reflecting the light of the sun. Thus, the inner meaning of the splitting of the moon is that the great embodiment of deception has been broken (through the agency of the Prophet and the Qur'an) and that the Hour of Doom is fast approaching.

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