by the late Professor Hafiz Muhammad Saleh Alladin – Edited by Dr. Syed Muhammad Tahir Nasser ‘Science and Religion’ Editor, The Review of Religions
“You imagine that a Mahdi will come who will shed blood
And make religion prosper by killing disbelievers,
O ignorant people, these ideas are completely wrong
They are calumnious and baseless, and they will not flourish,
O my dears ones, the man who was to come, has already come
Even the sun the moon have disclosed this secret to you.”
(Durre Sameen v.43-45 by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi)
The prophecy of the coming of a great reformer from God in the latter days is found in the scriptures of various world religions. Mention is also made of a remarkable sign which would accompany this great reformer – two natural phenomena that cannot be forged by human hands: eclipses of the sun and the moon.
In the New Testament, Jesus, peace be on him, narrating the signs of his second coming, said:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.”
In Hinduism, Mahatma Surdasji has mentioned the prophecy that when the Kalki Autar (destroyer of ignorance) would appear, the moon and the sun would be eclipsed. He wrote:
“Both the moon and the sun will be eclipsed and there will be much violence and death.”
In one of the holy book of the Sikhs, Sri Dasam Granth Sahib, it is written about the latter day Nehkalank (the one without sin):
“All the suns and moons and even Indra and Vaman are subservient to Kal (Nehkalank).”
In short, various religious scriptures mention signs of the sun and the moon in support of a latter day reformer sent from God. The Islamic scriptures too are not silent on this topic but in fact offer a degree of detail that is absent from other scriptures. The Holy Qur’an refers to eclipses of both the sun and moon occurring as a sign of the latter days:
“He asks, ‘When will be the Day of Resurrection?’ When the eye is dazzled, And the moon is eclipsed. And the sun and the moon are brought together.”
While the root of this prophecy thus lies in the Holy Qur’an, a hadith (narration) of the Prophet of Islamsa elucidates these verses and gives valuable detail. Hazrat Ali bin Umar Albaghdadi Ad-Darqutni, an eminent authority on the reported sayings of the Prophet of Islamsa, who lived from 918 C.E to 995 C.E, had recorded the following hadith by Hazrat Imam Baqar Muhammad bin Ali, son of Hazrat Imam Zainul Abideen (may Allah have mercy on them):
“For Our Mahdi there are two Signs which have never appeared before since the creation of the heavens and the earth, namely, the moon will be eclipsed on the first night in Ramadan and the sun will be eclipsed on the middle of it (the same month), and these Signs have not appeared since God created the heavens and the earth.”
These Signs are mentioned in the collections of hadith of both Sunni and Shia sects. Eminent Muslim scholars have quoted these signs in their books. This prophecy is recorded in several books, some of which are mentioned below:
1. Fatawa Hadisiya by Allama Sheikh Ahmad Shahabuddin Ibn Hijrul Haismi.
2. Hejajul Kirama by Nawab Siddeeq Hassan Khan.
3. Maktoobaat-e-Imam Rabbani Mujaddid Alf-e-Sani.
4. Qiyamat Nama Farsi by Hazrat Shah Rafeeuddin Muhaddis of Delhi.
5. Aqaedul Islam by Maulana Abdul Haq Muhaddis of Delhi.
6. Iqtirabus Saa’t by Nawab Nur-ul-Hassan Khan.
7. Ahwalul Akhirat by Hafiz Muhammad of Lakhoke.
Before the fulfilment of this prophecy is to be assessed, the phenomenon of eclipses and their science should first be appreciated and understood.
Lunar and Solar Eclipses in Light of the Laws of Nature
Solar eclipse, space earth moon sun. © Naeblys | shutterstock.com
Solar eclipse, space earth moon sun. © Naeblys | shutterstock.com
Lunar and solar eclipses are phenomena which occur according to the laws of nature. The Holy Qur’an has repeatedly drawn our attention to natural phenomena:
“Holy is He Who created all things in pairs, of what the earth grows and of themselves, and of what they know not. And a Sign for them is the night from which We strip off the day, and lo! they are left in darkness. And the sun is moving on to its determined goal. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing God. And for the moon We have appointed stages, till it becomes again like an old dry twig of a palm-tree. It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day. All of them float smoothly in an orbit.”
In the first of these verses a fundamental fact has been mentioned that Almighty God has created all things in pairs. We learn from science that the earth and the moon move around each other and complete a revolution in one month. Therefore, they form a pair. The earth and the moon jointly move around the sun and complete a revolution in one year. Thus, the sun and earth-moon system form another pair. In the solar system there are numerous pairs within pairs. The sun, with all its planets and their satellites, move around the centre of the Galaxy completing a revolution approximately every two hundred million years. “Holy is He Who created all things in pairs.”
When the moon in the course of its motion around the earth, comes between the sun and earth in such a way that it prevents the light of the sun from reaching the earth, we have a solar eclipse. When the earth comes between the sun and the moon in such a way that its shadow falls on the moon, we have a lunar eclipse. Both solar and lunar eclipses occur when the three celestial bodies are in alignment. This is known as ‘syzygy.’
In astronomical terminology, we say that a solar eclipse only occurs at the time of a new moon and a lunar eclipse only occurs at the full moon. This is because the conditions that produce a new moon are necessary also for a solar eclipse and the conditions that produce a full moon are required also for a lunar eclipse. For example, at the time of the new moon, the longitudes (alignment) of the sun and the moon are the same and the moon is said to be ‘in conjunction.’ If the earth was also to be at the same longitude, a solar eclipse would occur. A full moon occurs usually on the 13th – 15th of a lunar month, with the new moon occurring on the 27th-29th. These are therefore the only possible dates of a lunar and solar eclipse, respectively.
This phenomenon of the solar and lunar eclipses occurring only on the dates of the new moon and full moon, respectively, has been recognised throughout human history. For example, the well-known Islamic theologian, Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328 C.E), writes on the science of eclipses that:
“Thus Allah has decreed that the sun is eclipsed only in dark nights, and the moon is
eclipsed only in moonlight nights. These are the nights when the moon is full, and
during which days the keeping of optional fasts is preferable. These nights are the
thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth. Hence, the moon is eclipsed only on these
An eclipse does not occur at every new moon and full moon because for the occurrence of an eclipse it is necessary that the sun, moon and earth should be aligned. If the earth’s orbit around the sun and the moon’s orbit around the earth were in the same plane, there would have been alignment twice every month, and hence there would have been one lunar eclipse and one solar eclipse every month. In reality, the two orbital planes are inclined to each other by an angle of approximately five degrees, on account of which the maximum number of eclipses in a solar year does not exceed seven (four or five being solar and two or three being lunar). The minimum number of eclipses which can occur in a year is two, both being solar. For further information, see works on spherical astronomy.
The motion of the moon is quite complicated. To a first approximation, the moon moves around the earth in an elliptic orbit, on account of which its distance from the earth and its speed varies within certain limits. When the moon is closest to the earth, it is said to be at ‘perigee.’ The speed of the moon with respect to the earth is greatest when it is at perigee. On account of the gravitational attraction of the sun, the position of the perigee changes in space. Thus, sometimes the moon moves faster in the early part of the month and sometimes it moves faster in the latter part. Likewise, the distance and velocity of the earth-moon pair with respect to the sun also changes within certain limits in accordance with the law of gravitation. As the Holy Qur’an states:
“The sun and the moon run their courses according to a fixed reckoning.”
The changes in the distances and velocities of the bodies have their effects on the dates on which the eclipses can occur.
Astronomers take the time of conjunction (when the sun and moon come together in alignment) as the beginning of the lunar month. At that time the moon cannot be seen at all. The month of the Islamic Calendar (Hijri) begins with the first sighting of the lunar crescent, i.e. when the phase of the moon becomes big enough to be visible. An excellent book dealing with the problem of the first visibility of the lunar crescent, has been written by Dr. Muhammad Ilyas.
With this background understanding we now turn to the prophecy at hand made by the Prophet Muhammadsa and supported by various religious scriptures.
The Sign of the Heavens
According to the prophecy; the lunar eclipse would occur on the first night and the solar eclipse would occur on the middle day in the same month of Ramadan.
But what do these terms mean? Does this mean that on the 1st night of the lunar month; there should be a lunar eclipse and that the solar eclipse should happen on literally the middle of all the days in Ramadan, i.e.: the 15th? A closer study of the hadith in Arabic dispels this interpretation. In the hadith, a particular Arabic word, Qamar, is used for the moon and not the word, Hilal. This is significant because the crescent of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd nights is called Hilal; while Qamar denotes the moon from the fourth night onward. Hence, the wording of the hadith itself unambiguously dispels the interpretation that the 1st night of Ramadan is meant.
In addition, such an interpretation would violate the words of the Holy Qur’an itself; which states that the sun and moon are fixed in their movements and do not go beyond the limits God has set for them:
“It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day. All of them float in an orbit.”
“The sun and the moon (run their courses) according to a fixed reckoning.”
What then is meant by the terms first night and middle day?
As a lunar eclipse can only occur when the moon is full (13th-15th of a lunar month) and a solar eclipse can only occur when the moon is new (27th-29th of a lunar month), this indicates that the meaning of the first night means the first night of the possible nights on which a lunar eclipse can occur and the term the middle day means the middle of the days on which a solar eclipse can occur. This would make the prophecy fulfilled if a lunar eclipse occurred on the 13th night of Ramadan and a solar eclipse occurred on the 28th day of the same Ramadan.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, India, was born in the year 1835 of the Gregorian Calendar. From early childhood, he displayed a profound love for the Holy Prophetsa; as the salient feature of his personality. He was grieved to see the perpetual attacks against Islam by its critics and the poor spiritual condition of all peoples. He dedicated himself to the service of Islam and prayed fervently for the spiritual regeneration of the world. His epoch-making work, Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya, published in five volumes from 1880 to 1908, is a masterpiece in which the truth of Islam and the excellences of the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophetsa were triumphantly advocated.
Hazrat Ahmadas had the privilege of being the recipient of Divine revelation from 1876 until 1908, when he passed away. In 1882, he received his first revelation regarding his appointment as a divine reformer in the following words:
“Allah bless thee O Ahmad. It was not thou who didst throw but it was Allah Who did throw. The Most Gracious One has taught thee the Qur’an so that thou shouldst warn the people whose ancestors have not been warned and that the way of the guilty ones might become manifest. Proclaim; I have been commissioned and I am the first of the believers.”
He also received the following revelation:
“Tell them I have with me testimony from Allah, then will you believe? Tell them I have with me testimony from Allah, then will you submit?”
In obedience to Divine command, he declared that he was the Mujaddid (reformer) of the 14th century of the Islamic era in 1884. On March 23rd, 1889, under Divine command; he took the first Oath of Allegiance at Ludhiana, India, and thus formed the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. On the same day 40 individuals swore allegiance to him and solemnly promised that they would give priority to religion and spirituality over all worldly affairs.
Towards the end of 1890 C.E; Hazrat Ahmadas claimed to have been informed by God that the Prophet Jesusas, whose re-advent was awaited by Christians and Muslims alike, had died a natural death and that the prophecy of his second advent was to be fulfilled by a person of Jesus’sas character and spiritual qualities. He was further informed that he was that long awaited second coming. Among the revelations, which he received to this effect, was the following:
“The Messiah, son of Mary, prophet of Allah, had died and in his spirit thou hast come in accordance with the promise. And the promise of Allah was bound to be fulfilled.”
After receiving this explanation from Almighty God, Hazrat Ahmadas claimed in 1891 to be the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi whose advent was prophesied by the Holy Prophetsa as well as Jesusas. He asserted that Almighty God had sent him to remove the malaise that had grown between mankind and God and to re-establish human morality. He wrote over 90 books in support of his claim during the course of his life. However, despite the evidences he presented, many contemporary theologians rejected his claims and he met a storm of fierce opposition, not least from the Muslim leaders of the time.
In his book, Noorul Haq (Light of Truth) Part I, written in Arabic and published in early 1894, Hazrat Ahmadas, the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi, made the following humble supplication to God:
“Judge between us and our people with justice for Thou are the Best of those who judge. O God! Please send thy succour for me from the heavens and help Thy servant in this time of adversity.”
Among the objections raised against him by contemporary theologians was that the prophecy pertaining to the eclipses of the sun and moon had not been fulfilled in his favour. Extraordinarily however, the prayer made in Noorul Haq was answered in an awe-striking manner. Later the same year, in 1311 Hijri (1894 C.E), the lunar and solar eclipses occurred over Qadian in India, on the specified dates of Ramadan in fulfilment of the grand prophecy of the Holy Prophetsa. The lunar eclipse occurred after sunset on the 13th of Ramadan (March 21st, 1894) and the solar eclipse occurred on Friday, the 28th of Ramadan (April 6th, 1894).
Proof of the dates of the eclipses is reproduced in Tables 1 and 2 below, demonstrating the dates in the 19th century and early 20th century of all lunar and solar eclipses during the month of Ramadan, as provided by the Positional Astronomy Centre of the Meteorological Department in Calcutta, India. This data demonstrates that it was only in 1894 and 1895 that the lunar and solar eclipses occur on the 13th and 28th Ramadan respectively, during the lifetime of a claimant to being the Mahdi.
The date of Ramadan depends upon when the lunar crescent was first sighted and this depends on meteorological conditions as well as astronomical calculations. The calculations do indicate that there was a possibility of sighting the moon on the evening of March 8th, 1894, if meteorological conditions were good; but meteorological conditions were not favourable and the lunar crescent could only be observed in the evening of March 9th from Qadian. The age of the moon at sunset on March 8th was 22.7 hours.
As Dr Mohammad Ilyas has stated: “On the basis of recorded accounts, sightings of the moon younger than twenty hours are rare and sightings of more than twenty four hours are not uncommon although the visibility may at times require it to be more than thirty hours old.”
Using images provided by the NASA Five Millennium Eclipse Database, we can see the tracking path of the eclipses across the sky as the people of Qadian would have seen them. Image 3 shows the lunar eclipse of the 13th Ramadan after the sunset of March 21st, 1894, at 14:20TD/GMT (TD refers to “Terrestial Time”, which for our purposes is synonymous with GMT), corresponding to approximately 19:50 in Qadian, India. The sunset in Qadian on March 21st, 1894, began at 18:28, making the time of the eclipse squarely in the beginning of the 13th day of Ramadan. Image 4 demonstrates the tracking pattern of the shadow cast by the solar eclipse of April 6th, 1894. This eclipse began at 03:54TD/GMT, making the time of eclipse in Qadian approximately 09:24 on the same day.
Another method to confirm the dates of the Christian era for these eclipses is to use The Canon of Eclipses or the Nautical Almanac.[26,27] Apart from the almanacs, there was mention of the eclipses in the Indian newspapers of the time, such as Azad and Civil and Military Gazette (see Image 5). Interestingly, mention of the solar eclipse of 1894 can also be found from the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (see Image 6). In this, the authors refer to the solar eclipse of the 6th April, 1894 as “considerable” resulting in a “reduction in light (which) was very marked.”
It should be noted that online Hijri-Gregorian converters that are commonly found on the internet vary and have an error margin of 1 day. In addition, many such converters take into account the fact that Hijri days start from sunset of the previous Gregorian day. Thus, the Hijri date given for any Gregorian day is the day that will begin after sunset of that day. For example, the March 21st, 1894, would be given as the 13th Ramadan, 1311, because after sunset on March 21st, the 13th Ramadan would begin. This should be borne in mind for any Hijri-Gregorian calculators used in confirming the dates of the eclipses to avoid miscalculations.
Extraordinary Features of the Eclipses
Soon after the celestial Signs were witnessed, the Promised Messiah and Mahdias, wrote the book Noorul Haq (Light of Truth) Part II, which is devoted to an extremely enlightening discussion on the accurate fulfilment of the prophecy of the Holy Prophetsa. In this book, he explained in light of divine revelation that the true interpretation of the hadith is that in the time of the Imam Mahdi, the moon would be eclipsed on the first of the three nights in Ramadan, on which a lunar eclipse can occur i.e. on the 13th night, and that the sun would be eclipsed on the middle day out of the days on which a solar eclipse can occur, in the same month of Ramadan, i.e. on the 28th.
The Promised Messiahas drew attention to several properties of the eclipses, which highlight their extraordinary nature. He pointed out that the words ‘first’ and ‘middle’ used in the hadith was fulfilled in two ways: with regard to the dates as well as the times. Not only did the lunar eclipse occur on the first of the three nights but it also occurred in the first part of the night in Qadian; soon after sunset. The solar eclipse not only occurred on the middle day but also occurred towards the forenoon in Qadian. It did not occur early in the morning and it was over before noon. According to Calcutta Standard Time, the lunar eclipse was visible in India in the evening between 7 pm and 9:30 pm, and the solar eclipse was visible in India in the forenoon between 9 am and 11 am.
Aided by divine revelation, the Promised Messiah and Mahdias elucidated the deeper meaning of the hadith as follows:
“So the correct interpretation and the true meaning of the expression ‘the lunar eclipse will occur in the first night of Ramadan’ are that it will occur in the first of the three full-moon nights and you know the expression ‘white nights.’ In addition to this there is also a hint that when the lunar eclipse occurs in the first full-moon night, it will occur in the beginning of the night and not after a long time, as will be clear to an enlightened person. And the lunar eclipse did occur accordingly and many had seen it in this country.”
With regard to the solar eclipse, he stated:
“The saying that the sun will be eclipsed in the ‘middle’ implies that the solar eclipse will manifest itself in such a way that it will divide the days of the eclipse into two halves (The word nisf used in the hadith and translated as ‘middle’, also means ‘half’). It will occur in the second day of the eclipse and its time will not exceed the first half of the day because that is the limit of the half. So just as Almighty God ordained that the lunar eclipse should occur in the first night, so also He ordained that the solar eclipse should occur in the eclipse days in the time specified by ‘half’. So it happened as prophesied. Almighty God does not reveal His secrets to anyone except to those whom He chooses for the reformation of the world. Hence there is no doubt that this hadith is from the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who is the best of all messengers.”
It may also be noted that both the lunar and solar eclipses were visible from Qadian, India. A lunar eclipse can be seen from more than half the earth’s sphere, but a solar eclipse is visible from a much smaller area. It often happens that a solar eclipse is only seen from a sparsely populated area or over an ocean. The solar eclipse of April 6th, 1894, was visible from a vast area of Asia including India is shown by Oppolzer’s map (Chart 148), the Nautical Almanac of 1894 as well as Image 4 above from Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac.
The conjunction of the prophesied eclipses occurring at the specified times, dates and month, is made all the more extraordinary when one considers that both eclipses were visible in the same location – that of the claimant. The Promised Messiahas, exhorted people to ponder over the fact that the sign was manifested in his country. He thus wrote:
“O servants of God, ponder and think. Do you consider it permissible that the Mahdi should be born in the countries of Arabia and Syria and his Sign should be manifested in our country; and you know that the wisdom of God does not separate the Sign from the person for whom the Sign is meant. Then how could it be possible that the Mahdi should be in the East but his sign should be in the West? And this should be sufficient for you if you are really seekers after truth.”
A Miracle, Repeated
“The sun will be eclipsed twice in Ramadan before the advent of Mahdi.”
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.”
The above narrations indicate a manifestation of this sign a second time. In the following year of 1895 C.E, the lunar and solar eclipses again occurred in the month of Ramadan on the 11th March and the 26th March respectively (see Images 7 and 8). Whilst the eclipses of 1894 occurred in the Eastern hemisphere, the eclipses of 1895 occurred in the Western hemisphere, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Jesusas regarding his second advent, as set out above. These eclipses were not visible from Qadian in India, yet when the eclipses occurred in the Western hemisphere, the dates in Qadian were the 13th and the 28th of Ramadan, respectively. Image 7 shows how the lunar eclipse of the 11th March occurred in the early hours of the morning at 03:39TD/GMT. The 13th day of Ramadan had already begun with the sunset of the 10th March. Image 8 shows that the solar eclipse of March 26th, 1895, occurred in the morning at 10:10TD/GMT which corresponds to the 28th day of Ramadan in India, which had already begun with the sunset of March 25th. Thus, this remarkable prophecy was accurately fulfilled a second time.
The Promised Messiahas also made mention of these eclipses in his book Haqiqatul Wahi:
“In accordance with another hadith, these eclipses occurred twice in Ramadan, first in this country and then in America, and on both occasions it occurred on the same dates. Since at the time of the eclipses there was no claimant on earth of Mahdi Ma’ud (Promised Mahdi) and since nobody else declared these eclipses as his sign and published hundreds of pamphlets and books in Urdu, Persian and Arabic, this heavenly sign is for me. Another proof of this is the fact twelve years before this sign occurred, Almighty God had informed me that such a sign would occur and this information, which is stated in Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya was announced to hundreds of thousands of people before the sign was manifested.”
Sir Isaac Newton had discovered the law of gravitation in the 17th century C.E. Detailed astronomical calculations of the eclipses were not possible before this discovery. Despite this, our lord and master, the Holy Prophetsa made such a prophecy that could not have been possible without knowledge from the Omniscient God. One cannot conceive of a better heavenly sign than this for indicating the advent of the Promised Messiah and Imam Mahdias. It is irrefutable, for it is beyond the reach of human concoction.
“So blessed is Allah, the Best of creators.”
How Authentic is the Prophecy?
A common objection against the hadith of the sun and moon eclipses is that it is an inauthentic hadith, with no evidence of it having originated from the Holy Prophetsa.
The first point is that the root of the prophecy lies in the Holy Qur’an. It is well known that the time of the advent of the Promised Messiah and Mahdias is also known as the ‘Latter Days.’ The Holy Qur’an thus states:
“He asks: When will be the day of Resurrection? When the eye is dazzled, And the moon is eclipsed, And the sun and the moon are brought together, On that day man will say, whither to escape?”
The above verses clearly speak of a lunar eclipse followed by the coming together of the sun and moon in ‘conjunction’ i.e.: a solar eclipse. The hadith of Dare Qutani gives valuable details about the prophesied eclipses but the root of the prophecy is in the Holy Qur’an itself. From this angle then, objections against the authenticity of the narration are meaningless for the Holy Qur’an has confirmed it.
It is worth mentioning in regards to this Qur’anic verse, that the prophesied eclipses may be argued to occur at the destruction of the universe, as the eclipses are given as a reply to the question “When will be the day of Resurrection?” This however, is not a valid interpretation, as explained by the Promised Messiahas:
“It must not be supposed that the sign indicated here is one among the events of the Day of Judgement; because the eclipses referred to in the verse depend for their occurrence upon the existence of this earth. They are the result of certain definite and well-known circumstances and occur at fixed times and stated periods. In the case of the eclipses, the circumstances are such that after they have ceased, the sun and moon will return to their former condition. On the other hand, the phenomena which will be manifested on the last day are such as will come to pass only after the universe has been completely upset … In short, the eclipses depend for their occurrence, upon the existing order of our system and from the beginning of the universe, form a part of its phenomena. It therefore follows that the lunar and solar eclipses mentioned in the Holy Qur’an are only the harbingers of the last day and not the sign of the last day having already begun.”
The second proof of the authenticity of this hadith, was elucidated by the Promised Messiahas also:
“That hadith is quite correct and is recorded not only in Dar Qutani but also in other books of hadith of both Shia and Sunni sects. Furthermore, this principle has been accepted by the scholars of hadith that if a prophecy of any hadith has been fulfilled, then even if, for the sake of argument, that hadith was earlier considered as false, the hadith will be regarded as true after the prophecy has been fulfilled because God has borne witness to its truth since except God nobody has power over the unknown. The Holy Qur’an says: ‘He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen, and He reveals not His secrets to anyone, except to whom He chooses, namely a Messenger of His.’ i.e. only the Messengers of Allah can narrate the unseen in a perfect way; others cannot be of this rank. Here Messengers include Rasool, Nabi, Muhaddath and Mujaddid.”[39, 40]
When the prophecy in the hadith has been fulfilled, the criticism against the narrators thus loses significance. The Promised Messiahas has discussed this point further in other works also.
In regards to whether the hadith is in itself inauthentic one should note that Hazrat Ali Bin Umar Albaghdadi Ad Dare-Qutani, the compiler of the hadith, was a very respected saint and was scrupulously careful in recording the sayings of the Holy Prophetsa. Hazrat Shah Abdul Aziz, Muhaddith of Delhi, another eminent elite of Islam, comments about Imam Dare-Qutani in his book, Nukhbatul Fikr:
“Imam Dare-Qutani once said, ‘O residents of Baghdad. Do not even think that any narrator would be able to refer any false or incorrect statement to the Holy Prophet of Islamsa during my life time.’”
Some individuals have expressed doubts as to whether the narrator really was Hazrat Imam Baqar. Muhammad Bin Ali is considered as Hazrat Imam Baqar in Iqtirabus Saat by Nawab Nur-Ul-Hassan Khan (p.1061). In this connection it may also be noted that Allama Shaikh Shahabuddin Ibn Al Hajar-al Hashimi wrote:
“Muhammad Bin Ali, an elite among the Ahle-Bait, narrates that there will be two signs for Imam Mahdi which have never been shown to mankind since the creation of the heavens and the earth. One of these is the eclipse of the moon on the first of its nights in the month of Ramadhan, and the eclipse of the sun on the middle of the days.”
Finally, it should be noted that many scholars and saints of Islam have written about the future fulfilment of this prophecy. One particularly outstanding example is that of Hazrat Sheikh Muhammad ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Pahaarwi, a well-known Indian saint of Multan. In his works he writes of being informed by revelation that the sign of the eclipses would be fulfilled in the year 1311 of the Hijri calendar. This corresponds to 1894 C.E – the same year in which the prophecy was fulfilled for the Promised Messiahas.
Are the Dates of the Eclipse Correct?
In this article it has been demonstrated that the dates of the lunar and solar eclipses should be taken as the 13th, 14th, 15th and 27th, 28th, 29th respectively of the Islamic calendar. Dr David McNaughton has opined that lunar eclipses can occur on 13th, 14th and 15th and solar eclipses on 28th and 29th and that only under special circumstances can a solar eclipse occur on the 27th of the Islamic month. Also, under special circumstances, a lunar eclipse can occur on the 12th. Hence, the dates of the eclipses should be taken as 13th, 14th, 15th and 28th, 29th or as 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 27th, 28th and 29th.
Perhaps the author is the first person to point out that it is possible to observe a lunar eclipse on the 12th. On the other hand, it seems to be well known from observational records that a solar eclipse can occur on the 27th. Two examples taken from authoritative books in which the 27th is considered as one of the dates for the solar eclipse are presented below:
Firstly, Nawab Siddeeq Hasan Khan writes that according to astronomers a lunar eclipse does not take place on any date other than 13th, 14th and 15th; and in the same way a solar eclipse does not take place on any date other than 27th, 28th and 29th.
Secondly, Professor F. Richard Stephenson, who has devoted considerable effort to the study of ancient records of eclipses, writes:
“In the Islamic calendar, lunar eclipses consistently take place on or about the 14th day of the month and solar eclipses around the 28th day.”
Hence, considering the dates as 13th, 14th and 15th for the lunar eclipse and 27th, 28th and 29th for the solar eclipse for interpreting the prophecy in 1894 at the time of the claimant, is quite reasonable. The purpose of the prophecy was to help people recognise the time of the Promised Messiahas and it has served the purpose very well.
It may also be noted that the Promised Messiahas claimed on the basis of divine revelation that the prophecy has been fulfilled in his person. He declared on oath that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdias.
In order to understand the hadith on the basis of our present knowledge we should note that the time between the astronomical new moon and full moon varies between 13.9 days and 15.6 days, as mentioned by Dr McNaughton. Hence, if a lunar eclipse occurs on the 12th of a month, the solar eclipse cannot occur on the 28th of the month because in that case the interval between the new moon and the full moon would exceed 15.6 days. If the hadith had not laid any restriction on the date of the solar eclipse, the first date of the lunar eclipse may have been considered as 12th. But since the hadith has specified the date of the solar eclipse, the first night in the hadith has to be interpreted as the first of the well-known three nights, i.e. the 13th.
Have Eclipses in Ramadan Occurred Before?
Another issue that is sometimes raised is that lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on the 13th and 28th of Ramadan thousands of times whereas the hadith states that these events had not occurred before.
In response to this it should be noted that the hadith does not merely imply that eclipses did not occur on the 13th and 28th Ramadan ever before, but it implies that such eclipses never happened before as signs. The Promised Messiahas wrote in this regard:
“The hadith of Dar Qutani does not say at all that solar and lunar eclipses did not occur ever before, but it does clearly say that such eclipses never occurred earlier as Signs, because the word Takoona is used which denotes the feminine gender; this implies that such a Sign was never manifested before. If it was meant that such eclipses never occurred before, Yakoona which denotes the masculine gender was needed and not Takoona which denotes the feminine gender. It is clear from this that the reference is to the two signs because signs are of the feminine gender. Hence if anybody thinks that lunar and solar eclipses have occurred many times before (as signs), it is his responsibility to show the claimant to Mahdi who declared the solar and lunar eclipses as his signs and this proof should be certain and conclusive and this can only happen if a book of the claimant is produced who claimed to be the Mahdi Ma’ud (Promised Mahdi) and had written that the lunar and solar eclipses which occurred in Ramadan on the dates specified in Dare Qutani are the Signs of his truth.
In short, we are not concerned with the mere occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses even if they had occurred thousands of times. As a sign this has happened at the time of a claimant only once and the hadith has proved its authenticity and truth through its fulfilment at the time of the claimant to Mahdi.”
It is noteworthy that although lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on the specified dates many times; the occurrence of these dates from a specified place is quite rare. A lunar eclipse can be seen from more than half the earth’s sphere, but a solar eclipse is visible from a much smaller area. It often happens that a solar eclipse is only seen from a sparsely populated area or from an ocean. The solar eclipse of the April 6th, 1894 was visible from a vast area of Asia, including India.
The calculations made by Professor G.M. Ballabh and the author at the Department of Astronomy, Osmania University, Hyderabad, indicate that from the time of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, up to the present day, pairs of eclipses have occurred in the month of Ramadhan 109 times. Of these only three times were both eclipses visible from Qadian on the specified dates, i.e. on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhan. Hence, the eclipses occurring on specified dates at a specified place is quite rare (for details see Review of Religions, June 1992 and September 1994).
In regards to the relationship between a claimant and the signs, it is often argued that the signs should occur before the claimant appears, not after. The Promised Messiahas has given valuable guidance in this matter. He writes:
“The hadith does not imply that before the advent of the Mahdi there would be eclipses of the moon and the sun in the month of the Ramadan, because in that case it was possible that after seeing the lunar eclipse and the solar eclipse in the month of Ramadan, any impostor could claim to be the Promised Mahdi and the matter would become ambiguous since it is easy to claim afterwards. If after the eclipses there are many claimants it is clear that the eclipses cannot testify in favour of anyone.”
“From ancient times, this has been the way of God that a Sign is manifested when the Messengers of God are treated as liars and are regarded as impostors.”
Have Eclipses Occurred in Support of Other Claimants?
The fifth common objection is that the eclipses have occurred on the 13th and the 28th Ramadan at the time of other claimants also.
Professor G.M. Ballabh and the author investigated the dates of eclipses that occurred in Ramadan at the time of 25 other claimants to the title of ‘Mahdi.’ The dates depend upon the place of observation. We calculated the dates with respect to the place of the claimant. We found that for none of the claimants can we definitely say that after their claim a lunar eclipse occurred at their locations on the 13th and a solar eclipse on the 28th, within the same month of Ramadan, during their lifetimes. Furthermore, we do not have any evidence of any claimant who put forward the testimony of eclipses in support of his claim.
In an article entitled “Fraud of Eclipses” by Idare Dawato-Irshad, the author has mentioned the names of Saleh Bin Tarif, Mirza Ali Muhammad Bab, Hussain Ali Bahaullah, Mahdi Sudani, and Dr Alexander Dowie. The author states that they could have claimed signs of eclipses, though he gives no written evidence of their claims.
With regard to the above persons we make the following comments on the basis of our calculations:
Saleh Bin Tarif claimed to be the Mahdi in 125 AH and ruled until 174 AH. During the period 125 AH to 174 AH, pairs of eclipses occurred in Ramadan in 126 AH (744 CE) 127 AH (745 CE), 170 AH (787 CE) 171 AH (788 CE). We studied the occurrence of pairs of eclipses in Ramadan with respect to Morocco, the place of the claimant. We found that in none of these years was the solar eclipse visible from Morocco. The lunar eclipses were visible in 745, 766, 787, and 788 CE.
Mirza Ali Muhammad Bab claimed to be the Mahdi in 1264 AH (1848 CE) and was killed on 28 Shaban 1266 AH (9th July 1850CE). During the period 1848 to 1850 CE there was neither a lunar eclipse nor a solar eclipse in any part of the world.
Hussain Ali Bahaullah did not claim to be the Mahdi. He claimed to be a manifestation of God in 1867. He died in May 1892. During the period 1867-1892, we do not have any year in which both lunar and solar eclipses occurred in Ramadan and were visible in Iran. In 1289 AH (1872 CE) both eclipses occurred in Ramadan but neither of them were visible there. In 1290 AH (1873 CE), both eclipses occurred in Ramadan but only the lunar eclipse was visible on the 14th Ramadhan.
Muhammad Ahmad of Sudan claimed to be the Mahdi in 1298 AH (1881 CE) and he died on the 9th Ramadhan 1302 AH (22nd June 1885). During the period 1881-1885, neither a lunar eclipse nor a solar eclipse occurred in Ramadan in any part of the world.
Dr Alexander Dowie did not claim to be the Mahdi. He was a Christian religious leader and a self-declared enemy of Islam. In 1903 CE he claimed to be the harbinger of the Messiah. He died in 1907. During the period 1903-1907, there was no eclipse of the sun or the moon in Ramadan in any part of the world.
The above are some examples of how allegations are easily made. When, however, the facts are examined in detail, it emerges clearly that the Promised Messiahas is the only claimant for whom the sun and moon bore testimony. That there were to be false claimants is indicated in the words of the hadith itself, when the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, refers to the Mahdi as “our Mahdi.” The indication in this is that there would also be false Mahdi’s who would ascribe themselves to the Holy Prophetsa, but who would not belong to him.
The Promised Messiahas, summarised this sign most wonderfully when he wrote that:
“As a matter of fact, since Adam to the present time, nobody ever made a prophecy like this. The prophecy has four aspects: (1) the occurrence of the lunar eclipse on the first of the eclipse nights. (2) the occurrence of the solar eclipse on the middle of the eclipse days, (3) the occurrence of both in the same month of Ramadan and (4) the presence of the claimant who has been rejected. Hence if the greatness of this prophecy is denied, then show a parallel to it in the world, and until a parallel cannot be found, this prophecy ranks foremost among all those prophecies to which the verse ‘He reveals not His secrets to anyone’ can be applied, because it is stated here (in the hadith) that from the time of Adam to the end, it has no parallel.”[52, 53]
The Promised Messiah and Mahdias also declared on oath that he was the Promised Divine Messenger and that the lunar and solar eclipses were divine signs for him. He stated as follows:
“I swear by God in Whose Hand is my life that He has manifested this sign in the sky to testify my truthfulness, and He manifested it at a time when the Maulvis (theologians) named me the Dajjal (Anti-Christ), the greatest liar, infidel and even the greatest infidel. This is the same sign regarding which twenty years ago I was promised in Braheen- e-Ahmadiyya, namely: ‘Tell them I have with me testimony from Allah, will you then believe? Tell them I have with me testimony from Allah, will you then accept?’ It should be remembered that although there are many proofs from Almighty God for vindicating my truthfulness and more than a hundred prophecies have been fulfilled to which hundreds of thousands of people are witnesses, but in this revelation, this prophecy has been mentioned specifically. I have been given such a sign which was not given to anybody else from the time of Adam to the present time. In short I can stand in the sacred precincts of the Ka’abah and swear that this sign is for testifying to my truth.”
This sign verifies the truth of not only the Promised Messiahas, but also the Holy Prophetsa from whose blessed tongue this remarkable prophecy was made. The resplendent manner in which these signs have been fulfilled in support of these beloved ones of Allah Almighty is encapsulated beautifully in the words of the Holy Qur’an:
“Nay, We hurl the truth at falsehood, and it breaks its head, and lo, it perishes. And woe be to you for that which you ascribe to God.”
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- Provided by: Positional Astronomy Centre of the Meteorological Department in Calcutta, India, first reproduced in: Professor Saleh Muhammad Alladin. Lunar and Solar Eclipses as Signs of the Promised Messiah, Review of Religious, July 1987.
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- See: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/eclipse.html or http://moonblink.info/Eclipse/search; the coordinates of Qadian (31.82N, 75.39E), elevation (250m) and time zone (GMT+05.30) require inputting.
- Calculated through use of Solar Calculator (accessed: 03/07/15): http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcalc/ using the coordinates of Qadian (31.82N, 75.39E), elevation (250m) and time zone (GMT+05.30).
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