Opinion: Light pollution, Holy Quran and Latter Days

Jazib Mehmood, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana
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Yong Chuan Tan | Unsplash

Stars have long held the gaze of many a wanderer. Before modern means of navigation, stars helped guide explorers and travellers to their destinations and were therefore enormously important in the lives of early humans. Allah the Almighty attributes this to Himself, stating:

وَهُوَ الَّذِي ‌جَعَلَ ‌لَكُمُ ‌النُّجُومَ لِتَهْتَدُوا بِهَا فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ قَدْ فَصَّلْنَا الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

“And He it is Who has made the stars for you that you may follow the right direction with their help amid the deep darkness of the land and the sea.” (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.98)

But stars have also served a more symbolic purpose in the life of the pondering Man. People will relate to looking up at the stars every once in a while and thinking about our place in the universe. This is also related in the Holy Quran in the following words:

وَلَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا فِي السَّمَاءِ ‌بُرُوجًا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا لِلنَّاظِرِينَ

“And We have, indeed, made mansions [of stars] in the heaven and have adorned it for beholders.” (Surah al-Hijr, Ch.15: V.17)

But lately, it has been difficult to do so. Over a third of all people on Earth can no longer view the Milky Way from where they live because of artificial light.

Earlier this year, a report by The Guardian revealed that light pollution is now causing the night sky to brighten at a rate of around 10% a year, an increase that threatens to “obliterate the sight of all but the most brilliant stars in a generation.” (www.theguardian.com/science/2023/may/27/light-pollution-threatens-to-make-stars-invisible-within-20-years)

This problem is not new. Since the 20th century, cities like London began to experience the first signs of light pollution. (Mount Wilson Observatory: the sad story of light pollution (2004), Garstang, R. H., The Observatory, Vol. 124, p. 14-21)

The following verses of the Holy Quran could possibly be interpreted as referring to light pollution:

وَإِذَا النُّجُومُ ‌انْكَدَرَتْ

“And when the stars are obscured.” (Surah at-Takwir, Ch.81: V.3)

فَإِذَا ‌النُّجُومُ طُمِسَتْ

“So when the stars are made to lose [their] light.” (Surah al-Mursalat, Ch.77: V.9)

The word انكدر also means “It was or became turbid or muddy; it ceased to be clear.” (Dictionary of the Holy Quran, Malik Ghulam Farid, p. 716) Moreover, In the Five Volume Commentary, we read the following explanation of the word “طُمِسَتْ” under verse 9 of Surah al-Murasalat:

“طمس النجم means, the star lost or became deprived of its light. طمس الغيم النجوم means, the clouds concealed or covered the stars. (Lane & Aqrab).”

At the time of the revelation of the Holy Quran, the skies offered no sign that there would come a time when it would ever be difficult to view the night sky. And yet, this verse speaks of our well-lit kingdoms of civilisation, where it is becoming increasingly harder for people to view the night sky in all its starry glory.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has given several meanings of this verse of the Holy Quran, which states:

وَإِذَا النُّجُومُ ‌انْكَدَرَتْ

“And when the stars are obscured.” (Surah At-Takwir, Ch.81: V.3)

One meaning of this verse, he writes, is that a time would come when stars, i.e., meteorites, would fall in large numbers. Another meaning is that meritocracy would replace aristocracy. Another meaning is that religious scholars would no longer command much respect, as their knowledge would be dry.

Then, as the Holy Prophet has also referred to his companions as stars (Mirqat-ul-Mafatih Sharah Mishkat-ul-Masbih, Kitab al-manaaqib, Hadith 6018), another meaning of this verse would be that the companions would no longer be followed in virtue and righteousness, and their example would no longer be mentioned by their followers, i.e., the Ummah. (For detailed meanings of this verse, please refer to Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 8, pp. 200-203.)

But why speak of this? These are indeed remarkable prophecies about the Latter Days, but what does that mean for us? The answer, we may safely conclude, adds to the long list of signs mentioned in the Holy Quran about the advent of the Promised Messiah.

There are many other such prophecies that describe how the Latter Days would take shape. Such signs include modern transport, progress in global communication etc. However, the fact that the Holy Quran – in three short words – has described the Latter Days with such clarity, especially when such a thing was unimaginable in 7th-century Arabia, is simply fascinating.

The Promised Messiahas and his Khulafa have always encouraged us to follow the great examples of the companions of the Holy Prophetsa. In his Friday sermons over the last few years, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa described in magnificent detail the virtues of over 300 companions of the Holy Prophetsa. With this, he prayed that we might follow their example and hence once again glisten spiritual skies with the tapestries of stars.

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