The Miracle of Splitting the Moon

"The Hour (of Judgment) is nigh, and the moon is cleft asunder, but if they see a Sign, they turn away, and say, 'This is (but) transient magic.'" (Surah al-Qamar, Qur'an Ch.54 vv.1-2)

One of the most, if not THE most, prominent conventional ‘miracles’ of Muhammad (SAW) was the splitting of the moon (the greatest miracle ever being the Qur’an, itself). It is sadly also a commonly overlooked, and sometimes even doubted incident due to its miraculous nature. The story is related to us by many narrators through various chains of narrations, making the story mutawatir. The purpose of this post is just to present as complete a story of this incident as possible for someone in my station.

(Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.4 Bk.56 No.830-832, Vol.5 Bk.58 No.208-211, Vol.6 Bk.60 No.345, 349-350, 387)

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.4 Bk.56 No.830
Narrated Abdullah bin Masud:
During the lifetime of the Prophet the moon was split into two parts and on that the Prophet said, “Bear witness (to thus).”

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.4 Bk.56 No.831
Narrated Anas:
That the Meccan people requested Allah’s Messenger to show them a miracle, and so he showed them the splitting of the moon.

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.4 Bk.56 No.832
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
The moon was split into two parts during the lifetime of the Prophet.

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.5 Bk.58 No.208
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The people of Mecca asked Allah’s Messenger to show them a miracle. So he showed them the moon split in two halves between which they saw the Hiram’ mountain.

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.5 Bk.58 No.209
Narrated ‘Abdullah:
The moon was split ( into two pieces ) while we were with the Prophet in Mina. He said, “Be witnesses.” Then a piece of the moon went towards the mountain.

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.5 Bk.58 No.210
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas:
During the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger the moon was split (into two places).

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.5 Bk.58 No.211
Narrated ‘Abdullah:
The moon was split (into two pieces).

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6 Bk.60 No.345
Narrated Abdullah:
Five things have passed, i.e. the smoke, the defeat of the Romans, the splitting of the moon, Al-Batsha (the defeat of the infidels in the battle of Badr) and Al-Lizam (the punishment).

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6 Bk.60 No.349
Narrated Abdullah:
Allah sent (the Prophet) Muhammad and said:– ‘Say, No wage do I ask of you for this (Qur’an) nor am I one of the pretenders (i.e. a person who pretends things which do not exist). (38.68) When Allah’s Apostle saw Quraish standing against him, he said, “O Allah! Help me against them by afflicting them with seven years of famine similar to the seven years (of famine) of Joseph. So they were afflicted with a year of drought that destroyed everything, and they ate bones and hides. (One of them said), “And they ate hides and dead animals, and (it seemed to them that) something like smoke was coming out of the earth. So Abu Sufyan came to the Prophet and said, “O Muhammad! Your people are on the verge of destruction! Please invoke Allah to relieve them.” So the Prophet invoked Allah for them (and the famine disappeared). He said to them. “You will revert (to heathenism) after that.” ‘Abdullah then recited:
‘Then watch you for the Day that the sky will bring forth a kind of smoke plainly visible…….but truly you will revert (to disbelief).’ He added, “Will the punishment be removed from them in the Hereafter? The smoke and the grasp and the Al-Lizam have all passed.” One of the sub-narrater said, “The splitting of the moon.” And another said, “The defeat of the Romans (has passed).”

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6 Bk.60 No.350
Narrated ‘Abdullah:
Five things have passed: Al-Lizam, the defeat of the Romans, the mighty grasp, the splitting of the moon, and the smoke.

Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6 Bk.60 No.387
Narrated Ibn Masud:
During the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle the moon was split into two parts; one part remained over the mountain, and the other part went beyond the mountain. On that, Allah’s Apostle said, “Witness this miracle.”

…So basically, what happened is that one night in Mina, Prophet (SAW) was asked by the people of Makkah to perform a miracle, and so with the permission of Allah (SWT) the moon was literally split in half in front of everyone so that everyone could see the Hiram mountain between the two pieces . This incident is recorded in 11 ahadith in Sahih al-Bukhari alone, as well many many other ahadith in many other collections, so there is no doubt that that this ever happened. As a matter of fact, this event is thought to be alluded to in the Surah al-Qamar, Qur’an Ch.54 vv.1-3, according to many of the early scholars (Tafsir ibn Kathir).

The question arises – if the moon was split in the sky, how come no one else on Earth is recorded to have witnessed it? There are several possible answers. The first possibility is that Allah (SWT) simply could have made the miracle visible only to the audience of Muhammad (SAW). Of course we cannot speculate the motives God Almighty, but it still is a plausible answer that we can’t really rule out, but one which really has no support. Another reason is that not everyone on Earth experiences night at the same time. As for as those in the same “night zones” as Mecca, people still had no reason to look up at the moon at that EXACT time. How many seconds do we spend looking at the moon nowadays? We barely look up at the sky as it is – we are all to busy with the hustle and bustle of our lives to even “smell the flowers.” Even if there was a few who coincidentally were looking up and saw the miracle, they would either think that their eyes are playing tricks, or their peers would never believe such a strange tale. Would WE believe it if our neighbor tried to convince us that the moon split for a minute last night? Lastly, people might have interpreted the event differently. Maybe someone thought a dragon had flown into the moon and broke it, or that it was some kind of rare astronomical event (like an eclipse), or some other explanation that may have never been properly recorded and connected with the Islamic interpretation of the event.

However, there actually are collaborating reports of people from afar witnessing the event. We first get a taste of this in the following hadith:

“Abdullah bin Masud narrated that the moon was split in the lifetime of the Prophet of Allah (SAW). When it occurred, the Quraysh said: ‘This is the magic of the son of Abu Kabsha (i.e. the Prophet).’ They also said: ‘Inquire from the coming travelers; no doubt, Muhammad cannot spellbind all the people.’ The travelers came. They confirmed it (i.e. the splitting of the moon). (Al-Bidaya wa Al-Nihaya Vol. 3.p.121)

Also hinted in Al-Bidaya wa Al-Nihaya (written by Ibn Kathir (RH)) are the fact that we also have accounts of two separate Indian kings who witnessed the event (1). One was a certain Raja Bhoj (not to be confused with the famous 11th century Malwa king of the same name), and he  is mentioned by name in Tafsir Haqqani (4). The second is a much stronger tradition of King Chakrawati Farmas of Malabar, India. It is stronger because the account is actually primarily recorded in secular documentation found in the “India Office Library” of The British Library (1).  The shelf mark is IO ISLAMIC 2807 and the section in question is on pages 81 verso – 104 verso (inclusive). It is entitled “Qissat Shakruti Firmad” which, according to the catalogue (Loth 1044), is “A fabulous account of the first settlement of the Muhammadans in Malabar, under King Shakruti (Cranganore), a contemporary of Muhammad, who was converted to Islam by the miracle of the division of the the moon.” (The reference is apparently a courtesy of a Dr. Colin F. Baker, Head of Near and Middle Eastern Collections of The British Library in London.) The king was recorded as a Sahabi in Al-Isaba by Ibn Hajar (RH) and Lisan ul-Mizan by Imam al-Dhahabi (RH) under the name ‘Sarbanak,’ as the Arabs knew him. As the story goes, a group of Muslim merchants passing by Malabar on their way to China had spoken to the king about how Allah (SWT) had supported the Arabian prophet with the miracle of the moon, to which the shocked king confessed that he had seen it with his own eyes (1). He soon deputized his son as regent and left for Arabia to meet the Muhammad (SAW) in person (3). The Malabari king met the Messenger (SAW), bore the testimonies of faith, learned the basics of faith, but passed away on his way back and was buried in the port city of Zafar, Yemen (1). This historical meeting of the king and the prophet is also recorded in the hadith where Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reports that the king had presented Muhammad (SAW) and the Sahaba with ginger as a gift (al-Mustadrak ala al-Sahihain).

So basically, the facts undeniably show that the splitting of the moon really DID occur. However, unlike Christians, Muslims realize that the ability to work a miracle through the Will of God Almighty doesn’t make one synonymous with God Himself. Also,  this indeed was the miracle, but it’s related to us as just a historical event, but not something tangible. We can’t observe it or study it – we learn about it through the observations of others, and therefore we learn it through the interpretation of others. The true miracle of Islam is indeed the Qur’an, because we can actually read it and study it for ourselves, sort of like an intimate conversation with God without any middle man.

- Farhan R.

Works Cited

(1) – http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/150/viewall/

(2) – http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/univercity/the_silence.html

(3) – http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/farmas.html

(4) – http://www.thequranandscience.com/display.php?book/53

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~ by Far7anR on October 29, 2009.

One Response to “The Miracle of Splitting the Moon”

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