Could Muhammad have split the moon in two?
You may know that I once met some Muslim proselytisers and have since stayed in touch with one of them. We occasionally chat via email and I really enjoy or correspondences. He doesn’t try to convince me Islam is true, he tries to understand why I do not think that it is. I greatly appreciate and enjoy his approach.
He recently wrote and asked what I thought of the miracle claim that Muhammad performed a miracle and split the Moon into two pieces. I have just written a fairly comprehensive reply on the subject that I thought I’d share.
First I will give a very brief summary of the chat so far
Me: Is there any evidence for the Moon splitting into two?
Tas: I have heard of an Indian king seeing it, shall I look into it?
Me: That was reported only through Islamic sources so could also just be folklore. See if you can find non-Islamic accounts of the event.
(No evidence found)
Tas: I have heard there is a crack on the Moon, what is your opinion of that?
Me: The Moon was once geologically active, the cracks you see are fault lines. The same exists on other moons in the solar system, it is perfectly normal to see these cracks on moons.
- Here is a Q&A from NASA (Was the Moon split in two?)
- Here is Titania, one of the moons of Uranus showing fault valleys nearly 1,000 miles long
- Here is Miranda, another moon of Urans which also shows faults.
Tas: I spoke to (a Muslim proselytiser we all know and love) recently who said that because it was a miracle there might not be any evidence because miracles take place outside of the laws of nature.
And now onto the meat of my argument
No, that’s a cop out answer. Miracles defy normal explanation for their cause, that does not mean that they leave no evidence such as half of the world’s population seeing the Moon split in two, unless of course Allah performed two more miracles
1: Stopped half of the world from seeing it happen except for a handful of people in the desert.
2; Stopped the Moon from crumbling into two spheroids (which is what would happen).
If only these few people saw it then it needn’t be anything more than a David Blaine trick. However, there is a much more plausible explanation. There is a verse in the Quran about the Moon “splitting asunder”, http://quranx.com/54.1
The hour has come near, and the Moon has split assunder
Now take a look at the Arabic word analysis for that verse http://quranx.com/Analysis/54.1#word_3 The word is Ishaqqa. The same word (in different forms) is used throughout the Quran http://quranx.com/Analysis/Root/shin-gaf-gaf (scroll down to the verbs). Nearly all of these occurrences are used in verbs where a single item is split open or apart, but not all of them. If you look at http://quranx.com/50.44
The Day when the Earth will be rent asunder, from (men) hurrying out: that will be a gathering together
The same word is used here to mean that two things will be split apart, the Earth and humans (in the grave perhaps?). This shows that the word can be used to mean two things were separated.
I think that 54.1 about the Moon splitting/separating is a solar eclipse that happened during Muhammad’s life. Take a look on the NASA website here http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JSEX/JSEX-AS.html
In section 2 click the time period 0601-700
Now scroll down to the year 613.
You will see that on July 23rd there was a solar eclipse in Mecca. From first transition in front of the Sun to the point it separated from the Sun it lasted almost 2.5 hours with the maximum eclipse happening at 8:12 in the morning. There is very little doubt at all that Muhammad would have seen this eclipse, or at the very least heard of it.
Now take into account that 54.1 says “The Hour drew near”. I am sure you know that “The Hour” means the moment of resurrection and judgement, right? (If not then let me know and I will provide verses). This suggests that in some way the Moon separating was considered a sign of The Hour. Indeed, if you look at Sura 75 of the Quran the first 9 verses describe what will happen when The Hour comes
- I do call to witness the Resurrection Day
- This is about the day of resurrection and judgement
- He questions: “When is the Day of Resurrection?”
How will we know when it is the day of resurrection for judgement?
- When the sight is dazed
Something visual is going to happen
- And the Moon is buried in darkness
Because the Moon is in front of the Sun or is (at least visually) “swallowed” by the Sun http://quranx.com/Analysis/Root/kha-sin-fa
- And the sun and moon are joined together
And the Sun and Moon come together during an eclipse
These verses are describing an impressive visual phenomenon where the Sun + Moon come together and the Moon becomes dark. Exactly what happens when a solar eclipse occurs. Sura 54, in my opinion, is saying the following
- The Hour (of Judgment) is nigh, and the moon is cleft asunder.
A sign of The Hour of judgement was shown to the people by means of a solar eclipse, and now the Moon has separated from the Sun.
- But if they see a Sign, they turn away, and say, “This is (but) transient magic.”
When Muhammad said this was a sign of The Hour the people said he was just tricking them.
- They reject (the warning) and follow their (own) lusts but every matter has its appointed time.
They followed their own lusts, yet every matter of theirs will be settled at The Hour.
- There have already come to them Recitals wherein there is (enough) to check (them),
Recitals (verses of the Quran) have come to them
- Mature wisdom;- but (the preaching of) Warners profits them not.
These recitals are mature wisdom, but they do not listen to them
- Therefore, (O Prophet,) turn away from them. The Day that the Caller will call (them) to a terrible affair
So, Muhammad, turn away from them when they are called to a painful thing (punishment after day of judgement)
- They will come forth,- their eyes humbled – from (their) graves
With downcast eyes they will come from their graves (the raised dead on the day of judgement)
- Hastening, with eyes transfixed, towards the Caller!- “Hard is this Day!”, the Unbelievers will say.
Hastening towards the caller the unbelievers will say “This is a hard day” (i.e….what a bad bad day this is going to be)
The Moon darkening, the Sun and moon coming together then splitting apart/separating, eclipses being a sign of the day of judgement, the dead arising to be judged etc. If you read 54.1 in the context of its following verses plus other verses in the Quran it is undoubtedly talking about how the people saw a solar eclipse and were told that this is one of the signs to look out for that judgement day is upon them. The Hour will come during a solar eclipse!
What has happened is that people have asked “What does 54:1 (The moon has split apart/separated) mean?”. This is obviously an incorrect question, it should be “what do these VERSES mean?” in order make them be read in context. People ask the same question today as has been asked in the past. People didn’t know they were linked to an actual event where the Moon eclipsed the Sun, and over time folklore developed and became more and more exaggerated until it eventually became a claim that Muhammad split the Moon in two. Even though not there is not a single historical mention of such a massive event from anyone, anywhere in the world (except though Islamic sources which are part of the same folklore phenomenon).
And finally what does the Quran itself say about Muhammad performing miracles?
[And the Unbelievers say: “Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?” But thou art truly a warner, and to every people a guide.]
13.7 and 29.50 both describe the unbelievers asking Muhammad for a miracle, and the Quran says Muhammad does not show miracles because he is only a “warner”.
Finally, take a look at the order of revelation of the chapters of the Quran here http://www.missionislam.com/quran/revealationorder.htm or here http://tanzil.net/wiki/Revelation_Order
- Moon splitting: Sura 54 (al qamar) was 37th
- No miracles: Sura 13 (ar rad) was 96th
- No miracles: Sura 29 (al ankabut) was 85th
Forget that the people didn’t think this event in 54.1 was a miracle, think of the god and Quran you believe in. These two verses about Muhammad not performing miracles, because is is only a warner, came after the chapter of the Moon separating. So if the Moon was split in two as a miracle then the Quran would be wrong when it claims that there will be no miracles from Muhammad as proof.