A message as we end 2020 - On celestial signs and the Quran as a roadmap
Written by Dr. Farah Zahir | Published a month ago
On celestial signs and the Quran as a map for the wayfarer
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
We call upon our Lord to shower His Divine blessings and salutations upon our beloved master, Muhammed, the chosen one, the final messenger of God, and upon the blessed family and companions and followers of the final messenger, now and until the end of time.
The Quran is replete with guidance, advice, and true narratives of the history of not only human kind, but of every other creation. It is a clear road map that shows the human being their way back home. We humans are destined to take this journey through a short earthly life as decreed upon our parents - our master Adam and our lady Hawwa (upon whom be peace) – by Divine will and Divine wisdom. It is a short journey, with a definite start and a definite end, and meant to enlighten the traveler to truths perhaps unrecognized, had the not the journey been taken. However, this journey is not a blind wandering in the dark. No, the One Divine has filled the path with signposts, guides, role-models and helpers. Fortunate is the one with enough intelligence, wisdom, and courage, to latch on to these means of assistance and complete the journey successfully. As for those who do not, The Lord cannot be blamed for their choosing to ignore these myriad means of help and guidance The Most Generous one abundantly offers them.
Therefore, the people of insight understand that the prime purpose of the greatest of those means of help – the revealed and preserved Divine word – the Holy Quran, is that it serves as the master road map to lead the human being safely to journey’s end and successfully back home to Paradise. Once understood in this light, the discerning human being has the great good news of assured success, as they can now access the book of God as it was primarily meant to be imbibed.
In this blog post, I cannot go further in depth on the above as that is a vast subject (which we attempt to teach slowly and steadily in our Saturday classes available on this website). However, I do sincerely advice you all, that if you have not yet been able to unlock these clear paths in the Quran for yourself, you should ardently pray that The Lord sends you the means to do so. And if you are so fortunate as to have a teacher, a guide, or the great gift of understanding the Quran in its true light, then you should not delay in making the best use of your time, and devote a steady and sincere portion of your life to pursuing this most foundational and essential of all knowledges.
What I do wish to draw your attention in this brief write-up, is to the myriad instances where the Creator references His great creation of the celestial sphere in the Quran, as a means of guidance and the map to find your way home. Allah’s ﷻ words could not be more clear
وَأَلْقَىٰ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ رَوَٰسِىَ أَن تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ وَأَنْهَـٰرًۭا وَسُبُلًۭا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
وَعَلَـٰمَـٰتٍۢ ۚ وَبِٱلنَّجْمِ هُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ
In surah Nahl, verses 15 and 16 Allah SWT states
And he has firmly placed upon the earth great heights (mountains) lest it oscillates with you, and rivers, and pathways so that you may be guided
And the signs. And by the star they are guided.
-Quran; Surah Nahl, 15 &16.
Here The Beloved clearly states that aspects of the natural world are meant to be signposts for us. The above two verses are part of a longer passage where other natural creations are invoked. For the Muslim, it has been always the norm that we consider the natural world as a means of guidance and wayfinding. I.e., the human being connected to the One Divine understands that natural phenomena are meant as signposts of events to come and heralds or warners as the case may be.
This innate understanding of the ‘speech of nature’ is not something new, but has been a wisdom and knowledge the One Divine has inspired human beings with since the first man and woman (and on our parents be peace). In every part of the globe, any and all indigenous peoples, have this innate reverence for nature built into their psyche. And all ancient civilizations were well advanced in this knowledge. To be able to look to the stars, the weather patterns, the trees, the lay of the land, all this was inbuilt into human kind, who were created with the purpose to be custodians of this earth after all. It is sad therefore, to observe how large a percentage of the modern Muslim has strayed from this innate connection to nature. And in diminishing the strength of the connection with nature, we certainly diminish our ability to read the great road map written therein.
While all natural phenomena have their place as signs, here I will draw your attention to signs in the celestial sphere. The stars and constellations are often mentioned in the Quran. In the verse given above, a star is clearly called a signpost meant to guide human kind. This is why early Muslims busied themselves so arduously in observing and studying the stars. I still recall the astronomical observatory built into the roof of a madrassah from the Seljuk period in Turkey, that I had the delight to visit some years ago. It was heartening to learn that the students of religious knowledge busied themselves in serious courses of astronomy over a thousand years ago! They used water and reflection, to observe the movement of stars as this was before the invention of the telescope. Hence lack of equipment was not a deterrent to them and certainly cannot be for us.
I give the above example as almost sadly a necessity to convince the modern Muslim reader (who unfortunately may be removed from our historical heritage) that it is not hearsay and not deviation, but rather clear and true guidance, to be able to observe and record astronomical phenomena as spiritual signs. The reverence for celestial events is abundantly evident when we consider the practice of our master Muhammed ﷺ to pray two raka’t whenever an eclipse occurred. Thus we have the sunnah in our religion of an ‘eclipse prayer’. Certainly, the messenger of God, peace be upon him, would not have instituted this practice if it were not that the celestial event had great spiritual significance.
Sadly though, very few teachers of today are privy to the sacred and advanced knowledge as to what the exact significance is. But definitely such masters of spiritual knowledge, true inheritors of the Muhammedan knowledge, are extant amongst us. Were these true inheritors of the final messenger to not be on earth, we know from the hadith literature, that our Lord may indeed then end the human existence on earth.
Let me end this post by reminding us all to pay special attention to what is written in the natural world. Natural phenomena are a great means of receiving true guidance to those with hearts able to see and hear. May we be among them!
In the celestial sphere, great events are taking place in 2020, Hijri 1442. The hijri calendar began in the 53rd/54th year of our master Muhammed’s life. Thus, it is almost 1500 years since the final chosen messenger of God was born (the Arabic calendar before Hijri followed a 365 day cycle, hence we may simply add the age of our master Muhammed to the Hijri year, without more complex calculations). The hadith literature tells us of the significance of this time period – 1500 years. And by no accident do we find that this period of 2020, that began with the strident solar eclipse of December 2019 and continues with many celestially rare and important events, will soon witness a once in 20 year ‘great conjunction’ of Saturn and Jupiter. If you have not heard yet about the great conjunction of 2020, I hope you will pay attention to it. Such a close conjunction has not occurred in 400 years. Shortly after the time of the last such close great conjunction, the ka’aba witnessed its most significant destruction (by flood) in centuries.
Only God knows what each day and each night holds. So, we do not indulge in soothsaying at all. But we do indeed take careful heed of the great signs God sends us, signs in great creations such as the mountains, oceans, rivers and stars and planets and in how they are mirrored in the human condition. And the most important signs of all – those manifesting in our own hearts. I write this to draw your attention to these celestial events and request you to spare some attention and thought to what Allah SWT means for you to learn by these signs in creation unfolding around us now in such rapid succession.
Indeed, even today, South America witnessed an annular solar eclipse, as clear as that which was observed over much of Asia last year. As to the great conjunction, the slow movement of Jupiter closer to Saturn is now clearly visible every night low in the Western sky. I hope you will be able to observe it. It is awe inspiringly beautiful and majestic at the same time.
May our hearts be filled with the signs of God, showing us a clear road map that will continue to guide us on this beautiful and wondrous journey we are all fellow wayfarers upon. May God protect us from being heedless in these momentous times. May we in this time when signs are so clearly apparent all around us, both here on earth and above in the heavens, may we have the courage, truth, sincerity and strength to continue to walk steadily on ‘the way of the upright’. May we reach our destination safely and be united once more in great happiness back at home.
May God bless you all. My wishes for your peace, safety, security and to be well guided as we close out this most remarkable year in such a remarkable fashion.
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
Dr. Farah Zahir
14th Dec 2020
End of lunar month of Rabia II by solar eclipse, 1442