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Answering Common Misconceptions

21. The Miracle of Moon Splitting

Question:

As-salamu `alaykum.

Thank you for your efforts in da`wah, and jazakum Allah khayran. What does the first verse of Surat Al-Qamar in the Qur’an mean exactly? I heard from some people that the splitting actually happened at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and that scientists proved that. Is that real? Please confirm by scientific evidence and relevant sites and sources.

Thank you again.
 

Answer:

 I- What the Qur’an says:

     Let us first examine closely the first verse of Surah Al-Qamar (Chapter 54), and read it in context of the following verse(s) and the whole Surah. The first verse means:

     * The Hour has drawn near, and the moon is cloven.

The verse refers to the cosmic event that occurred in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), by Allah’s will, in order to support His prophet against the arrogant pagan Arabs in Mecca, at the peak of their resistance and hostility, and in response to their challenging the prophet to bring them a sign. This is supported by careful reading of the rest of Surah Al-Qamar, as follows:

 1- The following two verses of Surah Al-Qamar mean:

*And in case they see a sign, they veer away and say, “A continuous sorcery!” And they have cried lies and closely followed their prejudices; and every Command is settled. (English meaning of 54: 2-3) 

So, the pagans of Mecca belied what they have already seen with their own eyes, claiming that what they actually did see was merely a sort of witchcraft that affected either their own sights, or the appearance of the moon in their eyes.

2- The following paragraphs of Surah Al-Qamar highlights the similitude between the situation of Arab pagans and that of the previous nations, who belied the visible signs and miracles of the respective prophets: Noah (Verses #8-16), Hud (Verses #17-21), Saleh (Verses #22-31), Lut (Verses #32-39) and finally Moses (Verses #40-42). This similitude is introduced by Verses #4-5, meaning:

*And indeed there have already come to them such tidings wherein there is a scaring. A consummate Wisdom; yet in no way do warnings avail. 

3- Hence, the first verse of Surah Al-Qamar documents an actual event, and not something that would occur in the future towards the end of the world. Towards that time a totally different event will occur, i.e. the moon will be attracted to the sun:

* He asks, “When will be the Day of the Resurrection?” Yet, when the sight is dazed, and the moon eclipses, and the sun and the moon are gathered together (English meaning of Qur’an 75: 6-9)

The meaning of this verse is in agreement with modern science. It is now known that the moon has been gradually moving away from the earth at the rate of 3 centimeters per year. One day it should fall within the stronger gravity of the sun, pulling the moon to it. 

4- The statement “The Hour has drawn near”, even at the time of the Prophet, is scientifically apt?. It is now estimated that the Planet Earth could have been 10 million years old (and the original Big-bang initiating this visible universe could be 15 million years old), so the past 15 centuries (since the moon splitting) is, relatively, a minute fraction of the long history of the universe from creation to the Last Day (that could come at any moment). This is in line with the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him):

Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said:
”I and the Last Hour have been sent like this” (indicating the short time between his mission and the Day of Judgment).  

II- Evidence from authentic Prophetic Hadiths:

     The event of moon splitting has been reported in a number of authentically reported Hadith narrations, through more than three different chains of narration (i.e. almost Mutawatir):

Narrated `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud:  "During the lifetime of the Prophet the moon was split into two parts and on that the Prophet said, 'Bear witness (to thus).'  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and Merits of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 830)"

Narrated Anas ibn Malik: "That the Meccan people requested Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle, and so he showed them the splitting of the moon.   (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and Merits of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 831)"

Narrated `Abdullah ibn 'Abbas:  "The moon was split into two parts during the lifetime of the Prophet.  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and Merits of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 832)"

III- Other supporting arguments:

     A miracle, by definition, is a supernatural event beyond the laws of science; and is fulfilled only by Allah’s will and power. It has significance and can be confirmed only by those who directly witnessed the event in time. So, why should we seek material proofs of the occurrence of moon division, some fifteen centuries ago?  

     Of interest, however, are some recent observations, during spacecraft exploration of the lunar surface. Enormously long (hundreds of kilometers) and deep (ranging hundreds of meters to tens of kilometers) ruptures, straight and curved, were detected. These ruptures are traversed with huge depressions such as “Mare Orientalis”, that is 1000 km diameter 9 km deep. It was argued that such phenomena cannot be explained by either impact of asteroid-size objects, nor being lunar rills induced by tensional cracks. One suggested explanation was that these could result from a splitting and reassembling event. (Reported by Dr. Zaghlul An-Naggar, Al-Ahram newspaper, Cairo, Sept. 23, 2002, p012; ___, Signs of Scientific Inimitability of the Noble Qur’an, International Shorouq Bookshop, 4th ed., 2002, p.49-52 ) 

Dr. Zaghloul also (op. cit.) cited an Indian historical manuscript (India Office Library, London, manuscript #2807/152-173), this incident, observed as well by the Indian king of Malibar, Chakrawati Farmas, was the starting point of Islam spreading to India. When he heard that this was a miracle seen by Meccan pagans to support the Prophet, he and all his people embraced Islam.

Also of interest could be a similar event of a moon splitting, recently observed by the space ship “Voyager” in 1986. Miranda, one of the five moons of the planet Uranus, was hit by a large piece of planetary debris, on which it was split into a number of fragments, that later reassembled by gravity. Photographs of the event were recorded, and published in the “National Geographic” magazine. (National Geographic, August 1986). 

For further reading:

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