By M.I.Liyaqath Ali
How many Plants - 9 ? or 11?
Ancient Greeks wrongly included head of the solar family and moon, our earth’s satellite. They counted planets as follows : 1) Sun, 2) Moon, 3) Mars, 4 ) Mercury, 5) Jupiter, 6) Venus and 7) Saturn. Indians till date include two more : Rahu and Ketu, mere shadows of earth and moon. To the five genuine planets modern astronomy added the Earth after being (identified with planet class in the medieval age) and latest discoveries of Neptune, Uranus and Pluto (as late as 19th century). This brought back the count to 9.
This received a jolt a decade or two ago. Indian astronomer J.J Rawal in 1978 found that the farthest planets Uranus and Pluto were making significant deviations from established orbits and explained them in terms of gravitational influence of two as - yet unseen planets, whose sizes and orbits he estimated. It was only in 1988 his proposal got due publicity when NASA confirmed possibility of Rawal’s outermost planet (or the 11th), by analysing their own data gathered through their various space missions. NASA’s computations of mass and orbit tallied with Rawal’s with refinements and additional details. Nevertheless, NASA could not ‘guess’ his 10th planet. Early this year (1999) NASA brought the “11th planet” to the limelight again among astronomical community and general public. However, both the planets of Rawal’s still remain unconfirmed optically [Fig.5].
Has Qur’an anything to say about the number of solar planets? Yes, indeed!
When Joseph said unto his father : O my father! Surely I saw in a dream eleven planets and the Sun and the Moon....... ( Yusuf : 4 )
One may note the following points of immense significance.
* Qur’an does not confuse the planets (kawakib) with stars (nujm).
* Qur’an excludes Sun and Moon clearly from planets. They belong to a higher and lower order respectively. Such clear demarcation was achieved only by modern astronomy which is but a few centuries old.
* The number of planets are given as 11. We mu’mins have absolutely no doubt that it is a matter of time that modern astronomy will reach this count. Science is now in the process of gathering evidence for what it has already made indications.
Incidentally, when in 1988 news of NASA’s findings broke out concerning Rawal’s prediction of two extra planets this author published an article titled New Planet Discovered - As Prophesied by The Qur’an? In Islamic Voice (March, 1988) quoting this Qur’anic verse now under discussion. He sent a copy to the astronomer which reached him exactly on the day he returned from lecture tour from US. On the very same day he wrote back expressing his amazement at the Qur’anic prophecy and remarked that he would thenceforth quote the particular verse whenever he lectured on his discovery.
The author would also like to express his regrets that many translators of Qur’an in English as well as languages use the word stars in this verse instead of planets which Allah specifies. They are either unable to distinguish between these two different classes of heavenly bodies or are under the mistaken impression that planets are merely a subclass of stars or vice-versa.
Earth is Round
We can easily observe that Sun, Moon and planets we see in the sky are round (spherical). But what is the shape of Earth? There was a time when there was absolutely no reason for even the remotest of doubt about its flatness! Even today the world has Organisations of Flat Earth believers! But way back in 2nd century Greek multi-scientist Ptolemy started talking about round shape. Only in the past half millennium or so round-the-world sailing attempt of Columbus, Megallan, Vasco et al brought conviction to the idea. Now we have no doubts left, thanks to space satellites and astronauts or cosmonauts.
Qur’an does not directly say that the earth is spherical but implies as much in unmistakable manner.
....He winds the night on to the daytime and He winds the daytime on to the night.... ( Zumar : 5)
Here the term to wind (or to coil) is the translation for Arabic yukawwiru. The word applies to actions such as putting cloth around head into a turban . It does not carry any other sense of wrapping or covering. The verb talks of winding sunlight region onto the dark region and vice- versa, simultaneously. Wraparound phenomena cannot happen unless the earth is round.
Today we can see our globe televised from spacecraft or satellites, partly illuminated by the sun and partly dark. The proportion is always 50:50. We can see the demarcation line change position roughly across the longitudes, but it still will be 50:50 cover. The hemispheres of light or darkness rotates over the sphere like exact hemispherical caps closely fitted to a large ball. It is easy for us to see for ourselves that this simply can never be 60:40, 30:70 or any other proportion ! Just like the cap on the ball cannot keep changing the extent of its coverage. If the earth were flat, as was believed till recently, it would be possible for the whole earth to have the day at the same time. Or the night entirely for that matter! God states in Qur’an:
...nor doth the night outstrip the day.... ( Ya Seen : 39)
In addition to this revelation (wahi) from God Prophet (Pbuh) had the opportunity during Mi’raj to see directly for himself the spherical shape of Earth ! By God , none of us can ever dream of gauging the level of his awareness of explicit knowledge as well as hidden wisdom - let alone attain it ! This statement is true of mankind, angels and jinn - Iblis included.
Incidentally, the name of our planet is one and the same in Arabic and English with identical pronunciation. While it is spelled earth in English it is customary to transliterate the Arabic word : ardh.
In 17th and 18th centuries Kepler and Newton discovered and refined the laws of planetary motion around the Sun. They said that planets travelled in elliptic orbits due to gravitational force of the Sun; they are in a state of dynamic equilibrium of forces of mutual attraction Vs. propulsion force that somehow got applied onto each planet. The fact that Moon orbits the Earth had been obvious ever since. But 20th century cosmologists have discovered that the entire Milky Way galaxy rotates about its own axis; and so our Sun, its member, is travelling around the centre of our Galaxy. Qur’an observes:
And He it is who created the night and the daytime, and the sun and the moon. They float (or swim), each in an orbit” ( Anbiya : 33 )
....They float (or swim) each in an orbit. ( Ya Seen : 39 )
It appears to our eyes as if the sun, moon and planets are at the same height and travel along the same or dangerously close orbits. At times they even appear to have already collided . They hide one behind the other (occultation) but separate later. What are the chances of catostrophies occurring among them?. Very little, says modern astronomy: They are separated by huge distances. Despite varying ellipticity, their orbits rarely if ever criss -cross; Qur’an has already allayed such a fear in advance, even if one were to suspect one. Says Qur’an.:
It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. (For,) They float each in an (exclusive) orbit. ( Ya Seen : 39)
And (Allah) maketh the sun and the moon, constant in their courses, to be of service unto you...... ( Ibraheem : 33 )
The Split Moon
Six of the nine planets have satellites (moons) with the maximum of 12 for Jupiter. Since our moon is the nearest heavenly body let us know an important thing about it in the Qur’anic context. God says at the very first verse of Suratul Qamar :
The hour drew near and the moon was split.
Even though moon appears smooth and beautiful to the naked eye telescopic photographs tell us its surface is in fact rugged and full of meteoric and volcanic craters of all sizes. The American Apollo mission of 1967 obtained a couple of remarkable photographs of the hidden side of the moon. They show a strange feature, a 240 km long cleavage 8 km wide. The edges appear to be result of striking with a huge weapon rather than a crack of geological origin. To this day no explanation has been offered. An article appeared in Islamic Voice a decade ago along with the photographs suggesting that the feature is the remnant of splitting of the moon by Prophet (Pbuh).
Authentic hadeeth accounts testify that two years before Hijrat (in 617 CE) in the fullmoon night of Rajab, Abu Jahl et al challenged Prophet (Pbuh) to split the moon in proof of his prophethood. He pointed his finger at the moon and moved it and the moon split in two. It remained so till it set. It was seen in the entire Arab land and elsewhere as far as Syria.
It was also seen by two rulers in India, namely Bhoj of Malwa Kingdom and Zamorin Perumal of Kerala. Both of them investigated the phenomenon and traced it to the promised last ‘avtar’ to be born in Arabia. They identified him with last Messenger (sal), the last prophet of God, got in touch with him and accepted Islam!
Predictably the Meccan challengers rejected the proof they asked for. Continuing with the above verse, God says:
And (even) if they behold a portent (such as this, still) they turn away and say: ‘Prolonged (illusion)!’ (Thus) They denied (the truth)....... ( Qamar: 2,3 ).
Veracity of Shakkul Qamar has been estalblished by authentic hadeeth and God himself has vouched for it in Sura Qamar. Now, verification has arrived through science. Yet, it is painful to note, that a section of muslims preach and write to dismiss one of the greatest of mu’jizas as merely an “illusion due to atmospheric disturbance, even though it persisted for a whole night”. This is precisely as the Meccan mushriks did and exactly as recorded by God in Qur’an. These people should note that their rejection amounts to heresy, imperilling their very Iman . Read again how Allah judges their this action at several instances in Qur’an : “They denied the manifest truth.” In short they must realize that while the Meccan mushriks denied a Prophet, these people of shameful doubt falsify Allah Himself !