Getting to Know Allah
Allah and the Ptolemaic Universe
The Dark Ages is generally accepted to be the period in our history between 400 and 1000 A.D. Islam is a product of that gloomy period. For author Thomas Cahill the defining moment when civilization lost its mind, and its humanity, is the murder of Hypatia of Alexandria by crazed monks encouraged in their murderous enterprise by Cyril the Christian bishop of the city.
In 415, a wild-eyed army of illiterate, black-cowled monks filled the streets of Alexandria like so many crazed bats … Now they encountered Hypatia, a philosopher and mathematician on her way home … She was a pagan teacher, an unescorted woman; she did not bow to their beliefs. She lured impressionable young Christians to her lectures; she consorted with Jews; she had dared speak against the patriarch … They dragged her from her carriage and into the cathedral, where they stripped her; gauged her eyes out, skinned her alive, and tore her to pieces with jagged tiles ripped from the mosaics…
Cahill, Mysteries of the Middle Ages, p. 29.
This was the same type of religious zealotry which, according to Cahill, would serve as a model for many of the clerics of the next religion to rise from the deserts of the Middle East: Islam!
With the coming of the Dark Ages more than 500 years of Greek astronomical observations were temporally lost. The Greeks had identified five planets in the night sky, not counting the Sun and Moon: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The existence of these planets was documented in the summary of the Greek’s astronomical discoveries and speculations on the nature of the universe in the Almagest (the Greatest), by mathematician, geographer and astronomer Ptolemy of Alexandria [90-169 A.D.]
Ptolemy in the Almagest also speculated on the circular orbits of the five known planets, the Moon and the Sun around planet Earth, which was believed at the time to be the center of the universe. It was common knowledge among latter philosophers of antiquity that these five known planets, the moon and the sun were some distance from the earth.
In the Koran, and Islamic Traditions dating back to the Prophet Muhammad, there is no mention of these planets per se, and the moon is believed to be above the clouds and the first level of Paradise somewhere around the orbit of this celestial body.
While the Prophet and his early followers, who reveled in his illiteracy and their ignorance, would probably not have known about the Greek and Roman discoveries in astronomy, what is Allah’s excuse?
Could Allah’s apparent lack of knowledge about what was generally known about the earth’s star-lit canopy be evidence that the Koran could not be the Word of God?
But is not Allah demonstrating a knowledge of the planets in his use of the phrase “by the alternating stars” in verses announcing the coming of Judgement Day?
81:14 Then each soul shall know what it had brought forth.
81:15 No, I swear by the alternating stars;
81:16 Which circle then hide;
Not really. Not if you consider the following reference to the planets as ornaments; a line of obstacles to guard against the devil.
37:6 We have adorned the lower sky with the ornament of the planets,
37:7 To guard against every rebellious devil.
The second line of defence, so to speak, is what science, not too long ago described as stars, just like our sun. To Allah and His Messenger, these were lamps on the perimeter of the bottom layer of heaven which could be thrown by the angels guarding heaven’s borders at the devils and the jinn who got pass the planetary defences. Once thrown, these lamps became the shooting stars which followed the eavesdropper on down like a modern missile.
37:8 They do not listen to the Higher Assembly (the High Council of Paradise, Moududi) and are pelted from every side;
37:9 Expelled; and theirs is a lasting punishment.
37:10 Except for him who eavesdropped once; and so a shooting star followed him.
67:5 We have adorned the lower heaven with lamps, and We turned them into missiles launched against the devils; and We have prepared for them the punishment of the Fire.
In Yusuf Ali's translation what Allah meant by “him” in reveal truth 37:10 is more inclusive.
37:10 Except such as snatch away something by stealth, and they are pursued by a flaming fire, of piercing brightness.
What is "snatch away", in Muhammad Assad's translation, is "knowledge" of what Allah and His angels discuss.
37:10 but if anyone does succeed in snatching a glimpse [of such knowledge], he is [henceforth] pursued by a piercing flame.
Another explanation is that "him" is the jinn who flew up to heaven on behalf of the soothsayer in the Prophet's grand-father's employ to find out what Allah would accept in exchange for the grand-father not sacrificing Abdullah, the future father of the Prophet Muhammad, as he had promised Allah, if He gave him ten sons.
Then, there is that pesky revelation about the sun never overtaking the moon, revelation 36:40, among other things.
36:37 And as sign unto them is the night, from which We strip of the day; and lo, they are in darkness.
36:38 And the sun runs into its fixed station. That is the decree of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing.
Where the sun can be found at sunset:
Narrated Abu Dharr:
Once I was with the Prophet in the mosque at the time of sunset. The Prophet said, "O Abu Dharr! Do you know where the sun sets?"
I replied, "Allah and His Apostle know best."
He said, "It goes and prostrates underneath (Allah's) Throne; and that is Allah's Statement: 'And the sun runs on its fixed course for a term (decreed). And that is the decree of All-Mighty, the All-Knowing....' (36.38)
36:39 And the moon, We have determined its phases, until it became like an old twig.
36:40 The sun ought not to overtake the moon, nor the night outstrip the day; and each in its orbit is floating.
Anyone who has ever watched a solar eclipse knows that the revelation about the sun not overtaking the moon is patently false as we understand it, and even more so when you consider that, in the earth-centered Koranic/Ptolemaic universe, the sun and the moon "float" around the earth (in the Koran, back and forth in a 180 degree arc above a flat earth).
For the Prophet, an eclipse was a “state” imposed by Allah which He could be convinced to remove through prayer.
Narrated Abu Bakra:
The solar eclipse occurred while we were sitting with the Prophet He got up dragging his garment (on the ground) hurriedly till he reached the mosque The people turned (to the mosque) and he offered a two-Rak'at prayer whereupon the eclipse was over and he traced us and said, "The sun and the moon are two signs among the signs of Allah, so if you see a thing like this (eclipse) then offer the prayer and invoke Allah till He remove that state."
As to the night never being longer than a day, tell that to an Inuit (Eskimo) in December, the 21st preferably, when the Arctic day is one long night, and be laughed out of his igloo into the cold dark day.
As to the floating part, I am sure you can find a scholar to say that this is Allah describing gravity. But I don’t think so. Allah in the very next verse talks about a floating ship, the Ark. It's all about the push of buoyancy and not the pull of gravity.
36:41 And a sign unto them is that We carried their progeny in the laden Ark.
The Near-Earth Constellations
15:16 We have indeed set up constellations in the heavens and made them attractive to the beholders;
15:17 And guarded them against every accursed devil;
15:18 Except for him who eavesdrops stealthily and was pursued by a visible flame.
In Yusuf Ali’s translation constellations become signs of the zodiac.
15:16 It is We Who have set out the zodiacal signs in the heavens, and made them fair-seeming to (all) beholders;
In Habib Shakir’s they are strongholds:
15:16 And certainly We have made strongholds in the heaven and We have made it fair seeming to the beholders.
Moududi favours Shakir’s interpretation, and here’s why:
“Fortified spheres" (buruj) are Signs of Allah for it is not possible to pass through one sphere of the Heaven into another, as each sphere of the space has been fortified by invisible boundaries. In this connection, it may be noted that literally the Arabic word buruj means "a fortified place" but as a technical term of ancient astronomy this stood for each of the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, which marked the sun's path through the heavens. This has led some of the commentators to form the opinion that in this verse the word buruj refers to the same.
Another revelation about constellations, revelation 25:61:
25:58 Put your trust in the Living God who does not die and sing His Praise. He suffices as the All-Informed Knower of the sins of His servants,
25:59 Who created the heavens and the earth and what lies between them in six days. Then the Compassionate sat upon the Throne. So ask about Him, the Well-Informed.
25:60 And if it said to them: “Prostrate yourselves before the Compassionate”; they reply: “But who is the Compassionate? Shall we prostrate ourselves to what you (Muhammad) order us?” This only increases their aversion.
25:61 Blessed is He Who placed in the heaven constellations and placed in it a lamp and an illuminating moon.