The Truth About Eclipses (Part 1)

Written by Saleh Mohammed Alladin, Retired Professor of Astronomy

In an article entitled the Fraud of Eclipses, Idare Dawato-Irshad of the USA has made several allegations of falsehood against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamā‘at. The eclipses relate to a prophecy of the advent of the Messiah. The prophecy regarding eclipses is given in the following hadīth: (i.e. Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa)

“For our Mahdī (Spiritual Reformer) there are two Signs which have never occurred before since the creation of the heavens and the earth, namely, the moon will be eclipsed on the first night in Ramadhān (i.e. on the first of the nights on which a lunar eclipse can occur) and the Sun will be eclipsed on the middle day of Ramadhān (i.e., on the middle day on which a solar eclipse can occur) and these Signs have not happened since the creation of the heavens and the earth (Dar Qutni, Vol.1, pg.188)

We have inserted the brackets in the text of the Hadīth in order to elucidate the meaning. We shall discuss this point later. In the quotation from Rūhāni Khazā’in, Volume 17, page 133, given by the author, the meaning of the Hadīth is given instead of a literal translation, and no brackets are used. If the lunar month is reckoned from the first sighting of the lunar crescent, the dates on which a lunar eclipse can occur are the 13th, 14th and 15th, and the dates on which a solar eclipse can occur are the 27th, 28th and 29th. The prophecy thus requires that the lunar eclipse should occur on the 13th of Ramadhān and the solar eclipse on the 28th of Ramadhān. Hadrat Mirza Ghulām Ahmadas of Qādiān, the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamā`at received his first revelation regarding his appointment as the Divine Reformer in 1882. In obedience to Divine command, Hadrat Ahmadas declared that he was the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the 14th century of the Islāmic era. In 1891, he claimed on the basis of Divine revelation to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdī whose advent was foretold by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. He asserted that Almighty God had sent him to give spiritual life to people. But the contemporary theologians rejected his claims and he met a storm of very violent opposition. The prophesized eclipses then occurred over Qādiān on the specified dates of Ramadhān. The lunar eclipse occurred after sunset on March 21, 1894 (13th of Ramadhān, 1311 H) and the solar eclipse occurred on the morning of Friday April 6, 1894 (28th of Ramadhān). The Promised Messiahas then wrote the book Nūrul Haq, (Light of Truth) Part II, in which he declared that these eclipses were Divine Signs in support of his claim. The Promised Messiahas also drew attention in this book to several properties of the eclipses which make the signs very impressive.

 

Allegations

The following allegations have been made in the article under review. The Hadīth of Dar Qutni regarding the signs of the eclipses is not authentic.

Reply to the First Allegation:

The authenticity of the Hadīth is supported by the following facts:

1. The root of the prophecy lies in the Holy Qur’ān since the eclipses of the moon and the sun are mentioned as important signs of the approach of Resurrection in the Holy Qur’ān and the time of the advent of the Promised Spiritual Reformer is also the Latter Age. The Holy Qur’ān says:

He asks: When will be the day of Resurrection? When the eye is dazzled, and the moon is eclipsed, and the sun and the moon are brought together, on that day man will say, whither to escape? (75:7-11)

When the solar eclipse occurs, the sun and the moon are in conjunction, i.e. they are in the same direction as viewed from the earth. Hence the words and the sun and the moon are brought together signify solar eclipse. The Hadīth of Dar Qutni supports this interpretation and gives valuable details about the prophesied eclipses.

1. The Holy Qur’ān says:

He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen, and He reveals not His secrets to anyone, except to whom He chooses, namely a Messenger of His. (Ch.78: vs.27-28)

The unique nature of the prophecy and its magnificent fulfilment also indicate that the source is the Holy Prophetsa. When the prophecy in the Hadīth has been fulfilled the criticism against the narrators loses significance. The Promised Messiahas has discussed this point in his book Zameema Anjame Atham, Rūhāni Khazā’in, Volume 11, page 333-334. The Promised Messiahas has also replied to the objection raised against the narrators of the Hadīth in Tohfae Golarviya, Rūhāni Khazā’in, Volume 17, page 133. Hadrat Ali Bin Umar Albaghdadi Ad-Dar-Qutni, the compiler of the Hadīth, was a much respected saint and was scrupulously careful in recording the saying of the Holy Prophetsa. Hadrat Shah Abdul Aziz, Muhaddith of Delhi, another eminent elite of Islām, comments about Imām Dar Qutni in his book Naubatul Fikr thus:

Imām Dar Qutni once said, “O residents of Baghdad, do not even think that any narrator would be able to refer any false or incorrect statement to the Holy Prophet of Islāmsa during my life time.” (Naubatul Fikr, footnote pg. 52)

1. The article under review has expressed doubts as to whether the narrator of the Hadīth is really Hadrat Imām Baqar. Muhammad Bin Ali is considered as Hadrat Imām Baqar in Iqtirabus Saat by Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan Sahib (pg. 1061) A photocopy of the relevant page is given in The Advent of Imām Mahdī – A Great Heavenly Sign by Muhammad Azam Ekseer, Rabwah 1994, page 88. In this connection it may also be noted that Allama Shaikh Shahabuddin Ibn Al Hajar-al Hashimi wrote:

 

Muhammad Bin Ali, an elite among the Ahle-Bait, narrates that there will be two signs for Imām Mahdī which have never been shown to mankind since the creation of the heavens and the earth. One of these is the eclipse of the moon on the first of its nights in the month of Ramadhān, and the eclipse of the sun on the middle of the days. (Kitabul Fatāwā Al Hadīthiyya, pg. 31, Egypt)

 

The signs of eclipses are mentioned in the collections of Hadīth of both Sunni and Shia sects. Eminent Muslim scholars have mentioned these signs in their books. Books of other religions also mention eclipses as signs of the Promised Divine Reformer. For details see:

• Review of Religions, November 1989

• The Advent of Imām Mahdī, A Great Heavenly Sign, (in Urdu)

• The Great Heavenly Sign of Eclipses of the Moon and the Sun, by Muneer Ahmed Khadim, Qādiān 1994 (in Urdu)

• The Truth of Hadrat Imām Mahdī as vindicated by the Signs of Solar and Lunar Eclipses by Saleh Mohammed Alladin, 1988, (in Urdu)

• Article entitled Fulfillment of Celestial Signs – Veracity of the Holy Prophet of Islām, by Anwar Mahmood Khan, Minaret, April – June 1994.

Second Allegation

The Hadīth has been misinterpreted. The words first and middle stated in the Hadīth do not signify 13th and 28th but signify 1st and 15th.

Reply to the Second Allegation:

In the article under review, the Hadīth has been understood as meaning the lunar eclipse would occur on the first of Ramadhān and the solar eclipse would occur on the 15th of Ramadhān. As the author has himself admitted this event is astronomically impossible. Interpreting the Hadīth in this way makes the Hadīth meaningless. As the Promised Messiahas has mentioned, the purpose of the Hadīth is not to promise some extraordinary prodigy but to provide a criterion for the recognition of the Imām Mahdī which is not shared by any other person (Zameema Nuzoolul Masih, Rūhāni Khazā’in , Vol.19, p.141).

The notion of a lunar eclipse occurring on the first of Ramadhān is also very unreasonable. The lunar crescent of the first night is often seen with difficulty. Detecting the eclipse on it would be a formidable problem. It may also be noted that the lunar crescent of the first of Ramadhān is called Hilal and not Qamar. In the Hadīth, the word Qamar is used and not Hilal. According to the laws of nature, a lunar eclipse occurs at full moon (and this happens only on the 13th, 14th and 15th of the month) and a solar eclipse occurs at conjunction when the moon cannot be seen at all (and this happens only on the 27th, 28th and 29th of the month). The Hadīth therefore implies that the lunar eclipse would occur on the first of the possible nights, i.e. on the 13th and the solar eclipse would occur on the middle of the possible days, i.e. on 28th. These properties of the eclipses were known not only to the scientists but also to others who were not scientists. Thus, Nawab Siddeeq Hasan of Bhopal wrote in his book Hijajul Kiramah that according to astronomers, the lunar eclipse does not occur on any date other than 13th, 14th and 15th and the solar eclipse does not occur on any date other than 27th, 28th and 29th. (Hijajul Kiramah pg.344)

Third Allegation

The eclipses did not occur on 13th and 28th Ramadhān in 1894, but occurred on the 14th and 29th of Ramadhān. Hence, even our interpretation is not justified.

Reply to the Third Allegation:

The third allegation has been that the eclipses had occurred in 1894 on the 14th and 29th of Ramadhān and not on the 13th and 28th. This is not correct. The date of Ramadhān depends upon when the lunar crescent is first sighted and this cannot be decided with certainty by the astronomical calculations alone in many cases since this depends also upon meteorological conditions. The calculations do indicate that there was a possibility of sighting the moon on the evening of March 8, 1894 if meteorological conditions were good but meteorological conditions were not favorable and the lunar crescent could only be observed in the evening of March 9 from Qādiān. (Review of Religious, July 1987) The age of the moon at sunset on March 8 was 22.7 hours. (Review of Religions, September 1994). As Dr. Mohammad Ilyas has mentioned:

On the basis of recorded accounts, sightings of the moon younger than 20 hours are rare and sightings of more than 24 hours are not uncommon although the visibility may at times require it to be more than 30 hours old. (Islāmic Calendar, Times and Qibla, by Dr. Mohammad Ilyas, Berita Publishing SDN BHD, 22 Jalan Liku, Kuala Lumpur, 1984)

The lunar eclipse was seen from Qādiān after sunset on March 21. Hence it was the 13th of Ramadhān when the lunar eclipse occurred. The solar eclipse occurred in the morning of 6th April. Hence it was the 28th of Ramadhān, when the solar eclipse occurred. The Promised Messiahas has repeatedly mentioned that the eclipses occurred on the dates required by the prophecy, see for example, Noorul Haq Part II, Rūhāni Khazā’in , Vol.8 page 209; Zameema Anjame Atham Rūhāni Khazā’in, Vol.1, pg.334. Even our opponent Muhammad Abdullah Memar has written that the eclipses were seen on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhān.

Fourth Allegation

The lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on 13th and 28th of Ramadhān thousands of times whereas the Hadīth states that these events have not occurred before.

Reply to the Fourth Allegation:

The fourth allegation is that the lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhān thousands of times whereas the Hadīth states that these events have not occurred before.

In reply to this allegation, we state that the Hadīth does not imply that eclipses did not occur on the 13th and 28th Ramadhān ever before but it implies that such eclipses never happened before as signs. The Promised Messiahas wrote:

We are not concerned with how often solar and lunar eclipses have occurred in the month of Ramadhān from the beginning of the world till today. Our aim is only to mention that from the time man has appeared in this world, solar and lunar eclipses have occurred as Signs only in my age for me. Prior to me, no one had this circumstance that on the one hand he claimed to be Mahdī Ma`ūd (Promised Reformer) and on the other, in the month of Ramadhān, on the appointed dates,

lunar and solar eclipses occurred and he declared the eclipses as signs in his favor. The Hadīth of Dar Qutni does  not say at all that solar and lunar eclipses did not occur ever before, but it does clearly say that such eclipses never occurred earlier as Signs, because the word Takoona is used which denotes feminine gender; this implies that such a Sign was never manifested before. If it was meant that such eclipses never occurred before, Yakoona which denotes masculine gender was needed and not Takoona which denotes feminine gender. It is clear from this that the reference is to the two signs because signs are feminine. Hence, if anybody thinks that lunar and solar eclipses have occurred many times before, it is his responsibility to show the claimant to Mahdī who declared the solar and lunar eclipses as his signs and this proof should be certain and conclusive. This can only happen if a book of the claimant is produced, who claimed to be Mahdī Ma`ūd and had written that the lunar and solar eclipses which occurred in Ramadhān on the dates specified in Dar Qutni, are the Signs of his truth. In short, we are not concerned with the mere occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses even if they had occurred thousands of times. As a sign, this has happened at the time of a claimant only once and the Hadīth has proved its authenticity and truth through its fulfillment at the time of the claimant to Mahdī. (Chashma-e-Marifat, Rūhāni Khazā’in , Vol.23, pg. 329 – 330)

We may also note here that although lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on the specified dates many times, the occurrence of these dates from a specified place is quite rare. A lunar eclipse can be seen from more than half the earth’s sphere, but a solar eclipse is visible from a much smaller area. It often happens that a solar eclipse is only seen from a sparsely populated area or from an ocean. The solar eclipse of April 6, 1894 was visible from a vast area of Asia including India.

The calculations made by Professor G.M. Ballabh and myself at the Department of Astronomy, Osmania University, Hyderabad, indicate that from the time of the Holy Prophetsa up to the present, pairs of eclipses have occurred in the month of Ramadhān 109 times. Of these, only three times were both eclipses visible from Qādiān on the specified dates, i.e. on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhān. Hence, having the eclipses on specified dates at a specified place is quite rare. (For details, see Review of Religions, London, June 1992 and September 1994) The Promised Messiahas stated that people should ponder over the fact that the sign was manifested in his country for the wisdom of God does not separate the sign from the person for whom the sign is meant. After the eclipses were observed from Qādiān in 1894, the Promised Messiahas wrote as follows:

O servants of God, ponder and think. Do you consider it permissible that the Mahdī should be born in the countries of Arabia and Syria and his Sign should be manifested in our country; and you know that the wisdom of God does not separate the sign from the person for whom the sign is meant. Then how could it be possible that the Mahdī should be in the East but his sign should be in the West. And this should be sufficient for you if you are really seekers after truth. (Noorul Haq, Part II).

Source: Taken from Review of Religions, May -June, 1999  http://www.ahmadiyyagazette.ca/archives/archives-2010.html

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