Complex and Complicated, Arrogance, Re-engage

Issue 1058 » July 5, 2019 - Dhul Qadah 2, 1440

Living The Quran

Complex and Complicated
Al-Buruj (The Constellations) Sura 85: Verse 1

"I swear by the sky possessing constellations."

Ibn Kathlr said: "Allah swears by the heaven and its constellations. The buruj are the giant stars." Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, al-Dahhak, al-Hasan, Qatadah and al-Suddi all said that the buruj are stars. Ibn Jarir chose the view that it meant the twelve positions of the sun and moon. The sun travels through one burj each month and the moon travels through one every two-and-a-third days, making a total of twenty-eight positions, and it is hidden for two nights.

Yusuf Ali translates the word "buruj" as "the Zodiacal signs," while Pickthall translates it as "Mansions of the Stars," but says in his introduction to the surah that it "is applied to the signs of the zodiac." Thus, according to them, Allah is making an oath by the zodiacal signs. Some English-speaking Muslims have taken this to be indirect support for astrology. However, "buruj" originally only meant "star configuration," and it was not until later times that it was used to refer to the imaginary figures of the zodiac that pagan Babylonians and Greeks superimposed on them. Astrology has been forbidden by the Prophet in no uncertain terms, as it falls under the general prohibition of visiting fortune-tellers.

Ibn al-Qayyim commented on this verse saying: Almighty Allah said: "I swear by the sky possessing mansions," in which the sun and moon descend. Buruj is also explained as stars or one of their forms, or by great mansions, all of which are among the signs of Allah's power, and proofs of His unique unity (wahdaniyyah). For the sky is a globe, round in shape, whose parts resemble each other and whose sides are indistinguishable from each other in length, width and position. Constellations of varying forms and sizes are placed within this globe which could not possibly exist without a designer. And it is impossible that its designer would be incapable, without knowledge or intent, unloving, unwise, and inseparable from what He designed.

These would all be among things which go against natural laws. [Yet, that is the claim of] the atheists and philosophers who do not accept that the world has a Lord, separate from it, able, acting by choice, aware of its details, wise, arranging and administering it. Thus, the constellations of the sky are the mansions in which they exist or in which the stars move, making them among the greatest of His signs. Consequently, He swore by the [constellations] along with the sky."

In modern times, the science of astronomy and technological advancements in a variety of fields has opened up vast new fields revealing incredible new details of the starry sky. From the use of massive optical telescopes and the satellite telescope, Hubble, to radio telescopes, knowledge of the constellations and their contents has increased exponentially over the past century. Using this technology, astronomers have been able to observe new objects and phenomena in the sky such as Novas, supernovas, black holes, neutron stars, and the expansion of the universe, just to mention a few of them. The more astronomers probe the sky the more they find it to be increasingly complex and complicated. Even the commonly held conclusion that the universe began with a massive explosion, commonly called the Big Bang, came from observations of the movement of the stars. All of this newly discovered knowledge contains additional strong evidences and clear signs of God's existence.

Compiled From:
"A Commentary On Surah Al Buruj" - Bilal Philips, pp. 13-16

Understanding The Prophet's Life


Abdullah bin Masud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "He who has, in his heart, an ant's weight of arrogance will not enter Jannah.'' Someone said: "A man likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes?'' Messenger of Allah said, "Allah is Beautiful, He loves beauty. Arrogance means ridiculing and rejecting the Truth and despising people.''[Muslim].

The Hadith says that a man who has even an iota of pride in his heart will be barred from entering Jannah. The Hadith word used for the smallest amount means in Arabic either the smallest ant or the particle which is radiated by sun-rays and seen through a wall-chink. Obviously, such a particle has almost a non-existent amount, but even this much is disapproved by Allah. If pride incites a man to deny the existence of Allah and His Revelation, he is sure to be thrown into Hell. He also faces Divine displeasure and the danger of infernal fire if mere consideration of riches, physical beauty, social and intellectual prominence and family status makes him proud and self-conceited and he looks down upon others, or persists in the denial of Truth. First, he will receive punishment and only then will be admitted into Jannah. A good dress, however, is not counted the sign of pride.

Compiled From:
"Riyad-us-Saleheen" - Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi



The fact that an interpretation is unreasonable or speculative does not mean that it is authoritarian or despotic. The unreasonableness of an interpretation is partly a function of its lack of persuasiveness within the interpretive community that the text has helped to form. Reasonableness or unreasonableness, however, is not determined solely by the interpretive community but by the interaction between the reader or readers and the text. This means that an individual from within the interpretive community can rightfully argue that the interpretive community has not respected the integrity of the text or has adopted an unreasonable interpretation of the text. Meaning does not reside either comfortably or permanently in the text, reader, or interpretive community. Determinations of meaning can never be immutable or infallible. The fact that the interpretive community might have reached a point of consensus over the meaning of the text should be given considerable weight by a reasonable reader, but it can never be decisively determinative of any issue. A reasonable reader endowed with the humility of self-restraint would take very seriously the fact that so many other readers chose a particular interpretation of the text. The duty of comprehensiveness and diligence would require the reader who is considering disagreeing with the interpretive community to seriously study and reflect upon the conclusion of that community. But deferring absolutely and without thought to any interpretive community violates the requirement of honesty. An unmitigated deference to an interpretive community effectively means that, as far as the dissenting reader is concerned, the interpretive community becomes the permanent and exclusive representative of the text and perhaps the Divine Will. Respecting the integrity and independence of the text and respecting the absolute autonomy of the Divine means that no interpretive community or individual can forever foreclose the possibility of re-engaging and re-examining the text or the Divine Will.

The Divine Will is the ultimate source of all authority and the authoritative is whatever the reader (or agent) is willing to defer to and is willing to treat as an exclusionary factor in all relevant determinations. Accordingly, for a believer in the juristic paradigms, the instructions containing the indicators of God's Will are authoritative (i.e. the Quran and Sunnah). Furthermore, any interpretive community or individual that bases itself on the deciphering and understanding of the Divine instructions is authoritative as long as the believer is willing to trust that such a community or individual has discharged its obligations of honesty, self-restraint, diligence, comprehensiveness, and reasonableness. Authoritativeness is a function of deferment of judgment based on the conditions of trust. This is the normative process of authoritativeness in Islam.

Compiled From:
"Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women" - Khaled Abou El Fadl