54. Al-Qamar (The Moon)
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.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. The Last Hour has drawn near, and the moon has split.1
2. Whenever they see a miracle, they turn from it in aversion and say: “This is sorcery like many others, one after the other.”
3. And they have denied (Prophethood and whatever sign the Prophet has shown them), and followed their lusts and fancies. Yet every matter has its appointed time (and so they will come to know the truth).
4. And, for certain, there have already come to them reports (of the Hereafter and former peoples) wherein there is ample warning to deter (them from their ways).
5. All this (which is included in the Qur’ān) is consummate wisdom, but warnings do not avail (such people).
6. (Seeing that they reject your call,) withdraw from them. The Day will come when the caller will call2 (all the people) to something exceptionally terrible.
7. With eyes downcast, they will come forth from their graves as if they were locusts scattered abroad (in confusion),
8. Hastening (in obedience) toward the caller. The unbelievers will say: “This is a hard day.”
9. Before them, the people of Noah denied: they denied Our servant, and said: “This is a madman!” and he was rebuked (with insolence and prevented from preaching).
10. So he prayed to his Lord, saying: “I have been overcome, so help me!”
11. So We opened the gates of the sky, with water outpouring;
12. And We caused the earth to gush forth with springs, so the waters (of the sky and the earth) combined for (the fulfillment of) a matter already ordained.
13. And We carried him on a (construction of) wooden planks and nails,
14. Running (through the water) under Our Eyes as a reward for one who had (wrongfully) been rejected with ingratitude.
15. And indeed We left it (the Ark) as a sign (of the truth).3 Then is there any that remembers and takes heed?
16. But see how (severe) was My punishment and (how true) My warnings!
17. And, indeed, (by revealing it through human language) We have made the Qur’ān easy for remembrance (of God, and taking heed). Then is there any that remembers and takes heed?4
18. The (tribe of) ‘Ād also denied (their Messenger); then see how (severe) was My punishment and (how true) My warnings!
19. We sent upon them a furious windstorm through certain time of enduring disaster,
20. Tearing people away as if they were trunks of uprooted palm-trees.
21. So see how (severe) was My punishment and (how true) My warnings!
22. And, indeed, (by revealing it through human language) We have made the Qur’ān easy for remembrance (of God and for taking heed). Then, is there any that remembers and takes heed?
23. The (tribe of) Thamūd also denied all the warnings (given to them).
24. They said: “What? A mortal from among us, all alone – shall we follow him? Then indeed we would be lost in a strange error and madness!
25. “Is the Remembrance and Reminder (sent down) upon him from among us? No. Rather, he is a presumptuous liar (one claiming superiority over us).”
26. (We told their Messenger): “Soon they will know who is the presumptuous liar.
27. “We will surely send the she-camel as a trial for them (in response to their insistently asking you to show a miracle). So watch them (and observe what they do), and bear patiently (with their misconduct toward you).
28. “And inform them that the water is to be shared between her and them; each sharer will be present by the water when it is their turn to drink.5
29. But (without observing the turn) they (schemed to slaughter the she-camel and) called their comrade (one of the nine ring-leaders); and so he ventured (upon the evil deed) and slaughtered her cruelly.
30. And see how (severe) was My punishment and (how true) My warnings!
31. We sent upon them a single Blast, and they became like dried chippings of shrubs used as cattle-fodder.
32. And, indeed, (by revealing it through human language) We have made the Qur’ān easy for remembrance (of God and for taking heed). Then, is there any that remembers and takes heed?
33. And the people of Lot also denied all the warnings (given to them).
34. We sent a hurricane of stones upon them, save the family of Lot: We saved them by early dawn,
35. As a grace from Us. Thus do We reward those who give thanks.
36. Lot had indeed forewarned them of Our striking down, but they disputed the warnings.
37. They had harassed him (with frequent coming-and-going) to abuse his guests,6 and so We blotted out their eyes: taste My punishment and (the consequences of) My warnings!
38. The punishment decreed assuredly overtook them early in the morning.
39. So taste My punishment and (the consequences of) My warnings!
40. And, indeed, (by revealing it through human language) We have made the Qur’ān easy for remembrance (of God and for taking heed). Then, is there any that remembers and takes heed?
41. And warnings certainly came also to the clan of the Pharaoh,
42. Who denied all Our messages and signs (including the miracles showed to them); and in the end, We seized them after the manner of One All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Omnipotent.
43. Now are your unbelievers (O Makkans) better and more powerful than those (whose exemplary histories We have recounted)? Or is there an exemption (from punishment written) for you in the Scriptures?
44. Or do they say, “We are a host united and invincible”?
45. (But let them know that) the hosts will all be routed, and they will turn their backs and flee.7
46. Indeed, the Last Hour is their appointed time (for their complete recompense), and the Last Hour will be more grievous and more bitter.
47. The disbelieving criminals will be in utter loss away (from Paradise) and burning in the Blazes.
48. On that Day, they will be dragged in the Fire on their faces: “Taste the touch of Hell!”
49. Surely, We have created each and every thing by (precise) measure.
50. And Our commanding is not other than a single (command), like the twinkling of an eye.8
51. We have destroyed many peoples like you (in wrongdoing, some of whose stories We have recounted, and some not). Then, is there any that will remember and take heed (and so believe in God and follow His Religion)?
52. And everything that they did exists (recorded) in (their) notebooks (of deeds):
53. Everything small or great is written down.
54. And the God-revering, pious ones will be in Gardens and by rivers,
55. In the assembly of honor, composed of the loyal and truthful, in the Presence of the One All-Omnipotent Sovereign.
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).
2. The caller and the call signify the Trumpet Call for the revival of the dead and gathering them on the Plain of the Supreme Gathering.
3. This shows that the remains of Noah’s Ark were still present and could be seen when this sūrah was revealed. Imam al-Bukhārī, Ibn Jarīr at–Tabarī, Ibn Abī Hātem and ‘Abdu’r-Razzāq report from Qatādah that the Muslims who conquered Iraq saw it on al-Jūdī (for Mount Jūdī, see note 14 to 11: 48). It may also suggest that it will continue to remain so that people will be able to find it as a lesson.
4. That is, God revealed the Qur’ān through human language so that people could understand it. Although the Qur’ān has unfathomable depths of meaning, it has such styles that it satisfies everyone, from the most ordinary to the most advanced in sciences. What is necessary for everybody is to recognize the essentials of faith and a good life, so even the most ordinary people can derive from the Qur’ān what they must believe in and what they must do in order to gain eternal happiness, and can take from it the necessary lessons. However, this in no way means that everybody can understand all of the Qur’ān perfectly only by reading it or by studying a translation of it.
5. For the she-camel and the water to be shared, see sūrah 7: 73–77, note 17; sūrah 11: 64–65; and sūrah 26: 155–157.
6. For the guests of the Prophet Lot, upon him be peace, and the destruction of his people, see sūrah 11: 69–83; sūrah 15: 51–77; and sūrah 26: 160–175, and the corresponding notes. The Old Testament also records that the eyes of the people who rushed to Lot’s house to abuse his guests— guests who were, in fact, angels in the appearance of human beings— were blinded (Genesis, 19: 9–11).
7. When this verse was revealed, the Muslims were few in number and weak. Some of them had had to migrate to Abyssinia to escape the persecutions. But it was no more than 10 years before their powerful enemies were utterly defeated in the Battle of Badr. Seventy of their leaders were killed and the others fled the battlefield, leaving many prisoners of war.
8. For a similar Qur’ānic statement and explanation, see 36: 82–83, note 26.