Short Answer: This hadith teaches us that the sun (or any star or planet for that matter) moves along its course only as long as it is commanded to do so; and if Allah Almighty wills, He can cause it to change its routine by a command. “Prostration before the throne” represents the sun’s complete subservience and surrender before the power of the Almighty Creator.
Salam Dear Abd Alwadud,
Thank you very much for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) one day said:
“Do you know where the sun goes?”
They replied: “Allah and His Apostle know best.”
He (the Prophet) observed: “Verily it (the sun) glides till it reaches its resting place under the throne. Then it falls prostrate and remains there until it is asked: ‘Rise up and go to the place whence you came.’
And it goes back and continues emerging out from its rising place and then glides till it reaches its place of rest under the throne, and falls prostrate and remains in that state until it is asked: ‘Rise up and return to the place whence you came.’
And it returns and emerges out from its rising place and then it glides (in such a normal way) that the people do not discern anything (unusual in it) till it reaches its resting place under the throne.
Then it would be said to it: ‘Rise up and emerge out from the place of your setting, and it will rise from the place of its setting.’
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Do you know when it would happen? It would happen at the time when faith will not benefit one who has not previously believed or has derived no good from the faith.” (Muslim)
This is a hadith that symbolically explains the system of the natural order in the universe containing all heavenly bodies such as the sun and the moon that run their courses according to the Law of the Creator.
The Message: Even the Sun Obeys God
To many, the sun seems to move unchangingly, following some fixed and blind natural laws.
But the Prophet, through this hadith, teaches us that the sun (or any star or planet for that matter) moves along its course only as long as it is commanded to do so; and if Allah Almighty wills, He can cause it to change its routine by a command.
“Prostration before the throne” represents the sun’s complete subservience and surrender before the power of the Almighty Creator.
But most surely there is a day when the whole world as we know it will come to an end, and that is the day when no one who has been unmindful of God can benefit from accepting faith at the last moment.
When the Sun Will Rise in the West
It is on that day that Allah the Almighty will command the sun to return to its setting place and rise from there.
Then the sun will rise from the west at the appointed time, as indicated in this verse:
And the sun runs his course for a period determined for him: that is the decree of (Him), the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing. (Quran 36:38)
The meaning of the hadith becomes clear in the light of the above verse.
God, in His perfect wisdom and knowledge, has decreed specific orbits and movements to the heavenly bodies for an appointed term, and they, on their own, cannot deviate even for a millisecond from their respective paths.
In the above hadith, “the throne of Allah Almighty” stands for His infinite and indisputable power and command over everything.
It is in obedience to the will and command of the Omnipotent Creator and Sustainer of the universe that everything in existence—whether the biggest galaxy or the most minute particle—moves.
And Allah knows best.
I hope this helps.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
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