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Sura 54
Aya 1

Chapter 54

The Moonal-Qamar ( القمر )

55 verses • revealed at Meccan

»The surah that opens with the unnerving, cataclysmic sign of the end of the world coming and The Moon having split apart. It takes its name from verse 1 which mentions “the moon” (qamar), that here serves as a reference to the Day of Resurrection. The surah deals mainly with the punishment dealt out to previous generations of disbelievers. These are presented as a warning to the disbelievers of Mecca, with the refrain “is there anyone who will be admonished?” running throughout the surah. Finally the treatment of the disbelievers on the Day of Judgement is contrasted to the everlasting bliss the believers will enjoy.«

بِسمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحمٰنِ الرَّحيمِ


اقتَرَبَتِ السّاعَةُ وَانشَقَّ القَمَرُ

Ali Unal

This sūrah of 55 verses, revealed five years before the Hijrah, derives its name from the word al-Qamar (the moon) in the first verse. It mentions the splitting of the moon by a gesture of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and contains, in order to both warn the unbelievers and console the believers, the brief accounts of the people of Noah, upon him be peace, and of ‘Ād and Thamūd, and that of the peoples of Lot, upon him be peace, and the Pharaoh. The splitting of the moon by a gesture of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, alludes to God’s absolute authority over the universe, as well as to the fact that it is God Who really controls and maintains the universe behind all apparent causes, and it points to the inevitable end of the world.
The Last Hour has drawn near, and the moon has split.1
  • The amazing and wonderful phenomenon of the splitting of the Moon, which took place at Minā five years before the Hijrah, caused by a gesture of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was a manifest miracle of his, and a clear sign of the truth that the Resurrection, of which the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was giving the news, would take place. The great sphere of the moon had split into two distinct parts in front of the very eyes of the people present. The two parts had separated and receded so far apart from one another that, to the onlookers, one part had appeared on one side of the mountain and the other on the other side of it. Then, in an instant, the two had rejoined. The unbelievers described it as a magical illusion and persisted in their denial. Such people will not believe as a result of admonition, nor learn lessons from history, nor affirm faith even after witnessing manifest signs with their eyes.
    The verse states that the moon split when the Last Hour approached. This is because the time from the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, to the destruction of the world is known as the End of Time. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, himself says that his time in the life of the world is as the late afternoon in a day (al-Bukhārī, “Ijārah,” 8).
    Some ask why this miracle was not recorded and transmitted in the history of other peoples. Although there are serious studies showing that it was seen by some in such countries as India, and that it was recorded, we deem it useful to mention the following points concerning the event as an answer to the question:
    • Such objections arise from considering the splitting of the moon as if it were a natural • event, whereas it was a miracle. A miracle is created by God to decisively prove the Prophethood of His Messengers to his opponents, so it is not necessary that others should see it. So this miracle was primarily shown to the Makkan polytheists and occurred before a group of people to convince them of Muhammad’s Prophethood. It happened momentarily at a time of night when people were sleeping; such obstacles as mist, clouds, and time differences may have prevented others from seeing it.
    • The obstinacy of the Prophet Muhammad’s disbelieving contemporaries is well-• known and recorded. When the Qur’ān announced this incident of the moon splitting, not one unbeliever dared contradict it. If they had not seen this event, they would have used this verse as a pretext to attack the Prophet more formidably. However, neither the biographies of the Prophet nor history books report anything that even suggests that they denied the occurrence of this event. Their reaction was only to say that it was sorcery of the Prophet’s doing. They declared the event to be sorcery, and further added that if the Makkan caravans in other places had seen it, then it had truly happened; otherwise, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, had bewitched them. When the caravans arrived the following morning from Yemen and other places and announced that they had seen this miracle, the unbelievers replied: “The sorcery of Abu Tālib’s orphan has affected even the heavens!” (Since the miracle was created for the Makkan polytheists, the Almighty allowed their caravans to see it as well.)
    • The majority of the foremost scholars, after carrying out meticulous research, such as • Sa’du’d-Dīn at-Taftazānī, concluded that the splitting of the Moon is mutawātir. That is, it has been transmitted down the generations by one truthful group after another, and that the transmitters form such a vast community that they would be unable to agree on a lie. It is as certain as Haley’s comet, which appeared 1,000 years before (its last appearance in 1986), or the existence of an island we have not seen.
    • Prophets work miracles to prove their claim of Prophethood and to convince deniers, • not to compel belief. Thus, every miracle is shown to convince those who heard the claim of Prophethood. If they somehow forced everyone to see or believe in them, the Wisdom of the All-Wise One, the Divine purpose for creating us with free will and sending religion, which entails that the ground be prepared for willing acceptance, would be violated.
    • Thus, for instance, if the All-Wise Creator had left the moon in two pieces for several • hours, so that everyone could see it and record it in their historical records, it would have been regarded as only another astronomical event instead of a miracle unique to Muhammad’s Messengership or an evidence of his Prophethood.
    • Some argue that if this event had really occurred, it would have been mentioned in • Chinese, Japanese, and Native American historical accounts. But how could they have seen it for, in addition to other obstacles, it was barely sunset in such European countries as Spain, France, and England (all enveloped in mists of ignorance), daytime in America, and morning in China and Japan.
    • This miracle is not an ordinary incident that happened due to particular causes or • randomly, enabling us to criticize it based on the law of cause and effect. Rather, the All-Wise Creator of the sun and the moon made it an extraordinary event to confirm His Messenger’s Prophethood and support his claim.
    Out of all the evidence of the occurrence of this miracle, we will mention only six, as these six have the strength of a six-fold consensus:
    • The Companions of the Prophet, all people of justice and truthfulness, agreed that it took place.
    • All exacting Qur’ānic interpreters agreed that the moon split upon a gesture of the Prophet Muhammad’s finger.
    • All truthful narrators and scholars of Hadīth narrated this incident through various authentic channels of transmission.
    • All people of truth and sainthood, as well as of inspiration and spiritual discovery, testify that this event took place.
    • All foremost theologians and learned scholars confirm this event, despite other differences of opinions.
    • Muhammad’s community, which an authentic Prophetic Tradition states can never agree on an error, accepts its occurrence.
    These six proofs clearly establish the splitting of the moon.
    Some modern commentators claim that the verse refers to the fact that the moon will split before the destruction of the world. However, the second verse rejects this assertion. The signs to appear before the destruction of the world will decisively prove that the Last Hour has come and this is the time when the world will be destroyed. But the second verse clearly says that the unbelievers reacted to the splitting of the moon by claiming that it was sorcery, and they showed the same reaction to many similar signs. Hasan al-Basrī and ‘Ata’ ibn ar-Rabāh, who asserted that the moon would split before the destruction of the world, did not deny the occurrence of this miracle as evidence of the Prophethood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in Makkah.
    It is stated in some verses (e.g. 17: 59) that God did not allow His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to work a miracle because the former peoples had denied the miracles they had asked their own Messengers to show them, and so deserved their destruction. However, the splitting of the moon was not a miracle that the unbelievers had asked the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to work so that they would believe in him. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, showed them this miracle to prove his Prophethood (The Letters, “the 19th Letter,” 1: 265–272).