Prophet Muhammad and the Shooting Stars

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent to enlighten and guide. The Quran sums up the task as bringing people out from darknesses into the light.

In other words, the Prophet came to teach people what life in its totality is and how to live it. Life is too short and too serious to be wasted or subjected to trial and error procedures.

Thus, some of the more repugnant adversaries of the Prophet were ignorance, superstition and blind following. He went to great lengths to fight them.

An example of this pattern is this.

According to a hadith (Sahih Muslim, Book 26, Hadith No. 5538), the Prophet Muhammad was sitting once at night with some of his companions when suddenly a meteor shot (shooting star) gave a dazzling light. He asked what the people used to say in the pre-Islamic days when there was such a shot (of meteor).

The companions replied that they used to say that that very night either a great man had been born or a great man had died.

However, the Prophet said that those meteors were shot neither at the death of anyone nor on the birth of anyone.

Rather, whenever Almighty Allah decides to issue a command, His words are transmitted from one group of angels to another throughout the seven heavens.

In this process of transmission, the jinn attempt to eavesdrop on what is going on. They snatch what they manage to overhear and carry it to their friends (non-believers, sorcerers, fortune-teller and astrologers).

And when the angels see the jinn doing so, they attack them with meteors.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) concluded:

If they (the jinn) narrate only which they manage to snatch that is correct, but they alloy it with lies and make additions to it.

This same process is mentioned in the Quran as well:

Indeed, We have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment of stars, and as protection against every rebellious devil, (so) they may not listen to the exalted assembly (of angels) and are pelted from every side. Repelled, and for them is a constant punishment. Except one who snatches (some words) by theft, but they are pursued by a burning flame, piercing (in brightness) (Al-Saffat, 6-10).

The word used for throwing meteors at the jinn is “rajm“. Generally, in Arabic rajm means “stoning” or “pelting someone or something with stones”.

For example, cases of adultery committed by a married man or married woman are punishable by rajm (stoning).

Rajm also means “missile”, “projectile” and even “meteor”.

Hence, the main attribute of Satan is al-rajim, which is normally translated as “expelled” and “accursed”. However, the root of the word is rajm (stoned).

Believers persistently seek Allah’s protection against Satan who is al-rajim (both the “accursed” and “stoned one”).

That means that Satan is stoned and kept at bay in the heavens with meteors, before being “stoned” and held back on the earth by the devout deeds of believers.

Emblematically stoning Satan as a compulsory ritual of Hajj (pilgrimage), by throwing stones at three pillars representing Satan, symbolizes this dreadful fate of his.

Indeed, there is neither peace nor asylum for Satan and his followers from the presence and constant involvement of Almighty Allah and His soldiers in the heavens and on the earth.

The Quran says:

And to Allah belong the soldiers (forces) of the heavens and the earth. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise (Al-Fath, 7).

As to those who turn (for friendship) to Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers – it is the fellowship (party) of Allah that must certainly triumph (Al-Ma’idah, 56).

These are the possible takes on the mentioned hadith.

First

The Prophet encouraged people to be curious, inquisitive and to ask. He did so in order that they could increase their knowledge and, in turn, enhance their guidance.

If there were sincere questions, there were also sincere answers in the offing. A person who thinks he knows enough will not progress. He will not conquer, but will be conquered.

So ask the people of the message if you do not know (Al-Nahl, 43).

The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life (Confucius).

Second

People should be open-minded and critical in their pursuit of knowledge. They should reject blind following.

Superstitions, myths, legends and even half-truths should not be entertained. People should be free and motivated, and should not recognize any imposed or artificial boundaries.

The only thing that should inspire and guide them is the infinite truth premised on the revelation and reason. Their only goal should be to find, embrace and serve that truth.

Third

Asking questions, investigating, (re)searching, disputing and doubting are critical concepts. They should be clearly defined and their scopes, as well as roles, clearly established against the backdrop of true knowledge and wisdom.

In no way should mere guessing, conjectures and scepticism be accommodated. They are all antitheses of knowledge – and the truth.

Agnosticism is a bane of existence and can bring about only hopelessness and depression.

Therefore, an appropriate ethics for knowledge seeking and knowledge application is paramount.

A hint at it is given in Allah’s directive to “read and proclaim”, but:

… in the name of your Lord who created” (al-‘Alaq, 1).

Read the full article here.

About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].