What is the meaning of splitting of the moon in Islam?

To help them defeat the stubbornness they faced along the way, the Almighty provided His prophets carrying out the duty of inviting others onto the true path with an exceptional gift to affect people and attract them to belief. For drawing masses towards what is best for them, prophets are also given extraordinary blessings called miracles.

The miracles Prophets have been blessed with have always been in line with the skills commonly admired in their times. During the time of Musa -upon him peace-, for instance, sorcery was at its peak. So Prophet Musa -upon him peace- was given fitting miracles: the Staff and the Luminous Hand.[1]

During the time of Prophet Isa -upon him peace-, it was medicine that had gained popularity, and doctors were highly respected in society. He was therefore blessed with a miracle that could bring even the best doctors to their knees: raising the dead.

But as the prophethood of Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- encompasses all ages and is valid until the end of time, his authority and influence, and the miracles in relation, are superior to all others before him. His miracles were not only applicable in the supreme fields and interests of the time like eloquence and expression, but also in various others. One of these was the Splitting of the Moon; a miracle that uplifted Muslim hearts weakened by the vicious boycott with a ray of hope and a new drive that would give the idolaters an idea of the power they were trying to defy.

This great miracle occurred amid the boycott, in the ninth year of the Meccan period. In a moonlit night, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- prayed to the Almighty and the moon was split in two, one part descending on one side of Mount Abu Qubays, and the other near Mount Quayqian. But despite this awesome miracle, the idolaters still shied away from believing. Abu Jahl, as always, decried the event as magic.

It was a show of magic, the idolaters thought, that charmed them, but surely it could not have charmed others! So they decided to ask members of the incoming caravans to Mecca whether or not they saw such a thing. To their dismay, they testified that they did.

These below ayah were revealed immediately following the event:

“The hour drew nigh and the moon did rend asunder. And if they see a miracle they turn aside and say: Transient magic. (al-Qamar, 1-2) (Wahidi, p. 418; Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 54/3286)

All Meccans agreed seeing the moon split. Those with glimpses of truth in their hearts declared their belief in the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, while others, the hearts of whom remained firmly locked, continued calling him a magician.

While investigating the previous cycle of the moon’s motion, even the famous French astronomer Lefrançois de Lalande (1732-1807) admitted the truth of the miracle of Shaqq’ul-Qamar.[2]

The underlying reasons as to why the Almighty has given miracles to his prophets could be summarized as follows:

  1. To influence the masses and attract them to believing.
  2. To strengthen the faith of believers and console their hearts.
  3. To prove the veracity truth of prophets’ call.
  4. To awe Muslims and force nonbelievers to realize their weakness against Divine Power.

Enhancing the faith of the believers, each verse of the Quran yet only increases the disbelief of those the Quran declares as ‘la yahdi’, those that may never be guided.[3]

The Splitting of the Moon is a great miracle of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. As he is also the ‘Prophet of the Last Hour’, his coming to the world is also among the signs of the Day of Judgment. By stating:

“The Hour has drawn near and the moon was rent asunder”, (al-Qamar, 1) the Quran in fact alludes to this.

[1] The Luminous Hand or Yad’ul-Bayda (literally ‘White Hand’) was one of the nine miracles given to Musa –upon him peace-. (see, al-Araf, 108; al-Isra, 101; Taha, 22; as-Shuara, 33; an-Naml, 12; al-Qasas, 32). Upon removing his hand from his bosom, everything in sight would become illumined as if the sun had appeared.

[2] See Zekâî Konrapa, p. 110.

[3] لاَ يَهْدِى meaning ‘Allah does not guide’. The expression appears in exactly twenty-six verses throughout the Quran. To give just a few examples:

“…Allah does not guide an oppressing people.”(al-Baqara, 258)

“…Allah does not guide people of disbelief.” (al-Baqara, 264)

“…Allah does not guide the corrupt.” (al-Maida, 108)

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect, Erkam Publications