Quran’s Amazing Description of Realities of Nature

View of the Milky Way over the Elqui Valley in Chile, South America (photo: iStock by Getty Images).

The Quran while describing nature’s physical beauty makes certain remarks that bedazzle the human intellect, leaving it in awe! It says, “We have put shining stars for you in السَّمَاء الدُّنْيَا ‘Asmaa-al-dunya’.” In saying this, the Quran implies that there is a world beyond these shining stars. What we usually observe is the nearest sky. We do not know how many cosmic worlds are beyond that. By calling the nearest sky السَّمَاء الدُّنْيَا ‘Asmaa-al-dunya’ – the Quran has pointed out deep astronomical facts in just one word. In the period in which the Quran was being revealed, no one knew the astronomical realities. For example, the Quran uses the term بِمَصَابِيحَ ‘Masaabih’ which means, shining lamps. It is Allah’s mercy that He has arranged these stars and planets in such a way that they look so beautiful to us. Indeed, humans are amazed at how beautiful they look while shining!

If they were exposed to us as they really are, then we would not be able to sleep at night. The moon’s beauty has remained legendary since the dawn of civilization. To poets and literary luminaries, the moon has been serenaded as an object of extraordinary beauty. In fact, the word ‘lunatic’ derived from the world lunar, means an exquisite beauty that drives one mad. Yet when the astronauts lifted the veil from its face, the moon looked dreadful to us and was exposed as just a barren desert. Indeed, it is because of Allah’s mercy that the veil is not rent asunder from the true nature of the stars. To us, the stars look exquisitely stunning in the open azure sky. For this, we must be thankful to Allah that some realities are better hidden from us for our own good. He is a merciful God indeed!

But humans have made them objects of guesswork and astrology! The Quran states, “And, indeed, We have adorned the skies nearest to the earth with lights, and have made them objects of futile guesses for the evil ones [from among men], and for them have We readied suffering through a blazing flame” (67:5-6). That is, the evil ones try to convince humanity that human destiny is tied to the stars! This was being said at a time when the world was involved in all types of superstitions, idol worships, and star worship. In fact, star worshippers were called Saa-e-bin (2:62) by the Quran. Star worshippers are mentioned in the story of Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH). They worshipped the stars as though they were gods. Even if the stars were not worshiped, stars were taken universally as being linked to human destiny at the time. The Quran states that soothsayers, sorcerers, and wizards used to foretell the future by drawing up horoscopes.

The Quran particularly challenged the Arabs of the era who were deeply steeped in superstitious beliefs.  The Quran asserts that those who are engaged in predicting kismet using astrology, are engaged in guesswork and are throwing superstitious arrows into darkness. The Quran calls them, رُجُومًا لِّلشَّيَاطِينِ ‘rajum-al-shayaatin’. The Quran states that the stars in the sky are to be admired for their beauty, but not to be used for making prophecies. Still, we find astrologers and soothsayers who are engaged in guesswork using these stars. They hold the belief that the human future is tied to them!

Allama Iqbal says:

How can astrologer identify your place in life from looking at the stars?

You are dust made fully alive, not one dependent on the position of stars! 

A human worth depends on his continuing efforts, his persistent struggle to exercise his freedom of choice and his ability to exercise Allah-given rights with deep conviction and steadfastness. But when these are taken away, when these are usurped from him, then what does remain of the human being? Please note the kind of metaphor the Quran uses to describe this: “suffering through a blazing flame” (67:5); for, suffering in hell awaits all who are [thus] bent on blaspheming against their Sustainer: and how vile a journey's end (67:6). Such is their ignominy in this world. But in the life to come, [yet more] awesome suffering awaits them (5:33). Please note that the Quran says that such people –like astrologers and those who seek their advice on Taqdir (تقدیر) – will suffer ignominy in this world.

A messenger used to be a revolutionary personality and his revolution was both all-embracing as well as universal. Vested interest groups, be they religious or temporal, used to get upset at his fair and just holistic reform program because it challenged entrenched elite systems and prevailing false ideologies and beliefs, as Ibrahim (PBUH) did.

Imagine how many different entrenched false ideologies, beliefs, and wrong socioeconomic and political systems that a messenger was to tackle at the same time. Imagine the immensity of revolutionary changes that a messenger was to create in the society while facing the intense opposition of the powerful forces of status quo?

The Quran presents its claims based on rational evidence and logic and asks its opponents to provide proof of their claims as well: هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (2:111) – Produce an evidence for what you are claiming, if what you say is true! Life’s realities are not decided by good feelings but by knowledge and reason. When the Prophet (PBUH) said that: أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ (12:108) – My call is based on firm conviction and reason – then this is meant to refute all those beliefs ideologies that are product of false views and superstitions.  May Allah give us the strength to practice this important Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH).

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