Solar eclipse: A timeless lesson taught by the Holy Prophet

Al-Fawaz Ajimoti, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana
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Jongsun Lee | Unsplash

As we bid farewell to 2023 and enter the new year, one can’t help but marvel at the incredible astronomical events that have graced our skies this year. From dazzling meteor showers to rare planetary alignments, we have been treated to a celestial spectacle like no other – the eclipse.

This celestial phenomenon has always held a special place in human history, often carrying deep cultural and religious significance. In the Islamic tradition as well, eclipses can hold a special significance. (Surah Al-Qiyamah, Ch.75: V.7-10)

The solar eclipse that coincided with the passing of Hazrat Ibrahimra, the beloved son of the Holy Prophetsa takes on a unique and profound significance that transcends its astronomical occurrence. This event highlighted the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet’ssa teachings and the divine nature of his message. Hazrat Ibrahimra, born to Hazrat Maria Qibtiara in the eighth year after Hijra (630 CE), lived only a brief 18 months before his untimely demise. (Sunan Abu Daud, Kitab- al-jana’iz, Hadith 3187) While his death was a deeply personal loss, the coinciding eclipse became a pivotal moment for the Holy Prophetsa to impart a critical lesson. He used this occasion to clarify a common misconception, affirming that celestial events are natural phenomena governed by divine laws and are not reflective of human affairs. Hence, the significance of the eclipse lies not in its timing with Hazrat Ibrahim’sra death but in the profound teaching it facilitated, emphasising the Islamic view of natural phenomena.

His demise could be said to have gone in conformity with this verse of the Holy Quran:

مَا کَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ اَبَاۤ اَحَدٍ مِّنۡ رِّجَالِکُمۡ

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men.” (Surah al-Ahzab, Ch. 31: V. 41)

To that effect, it is written in the Five Volume Commentary:

“The verse under comment declared that the Prophetsa is not, never was, nor will ever be the father of any grown-up young men (رجال meaning grown-up young men).”  (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2577)

The young Ibrahim’sra demise and the Holy Prophet’ssa reaction

On the day of Hazrat Ibrahim’sra demise, the Holy Prophetsa had gone out for some work. As soon as he was informed of his son’s failing health, he went to him, took him in his arms and then said:

“O Ibrahim, against the judgement of God, we cannot avail you of a thing.” (The Life of Muhammad, by Muhammad Husayn Haykal [translated by Isma’il Razi A. al-Faruqi], American Trust Publications, 1976, p. 437)

As the Holy Prophetsa watched his precious son take his last breath, tears rolled from his blessed eyes. He then bent down, kissed the child and said:

“O Ibrahim, God’s commandment is true and His promise is that those who die will later be reunited with the loved ones who passed away earlier. If we did not have that promise from Allah, I would have grieved over your death much more than I do now.

“O Ibrahim! Had it not been an ordained affair and true promise, and a path on which all tread and through which our successors would meet our predecessors, we would have shown greater grief than this.” (At-Tabaqaat Al-Kabir [Arabic] (2001), Vol. 1, p. 115)

He then said:

“The eyes are wet with tears and the heart is grieved, but we will not utter any words that will cause the displeasure of Allah. O Ibrahim! Indeed, we are sad at enduring separation from you.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-jana;iz, Qawl an-nabiyyi inna bika la makhzunin, Hadith 1303)

These were the words uttered by the Holy Prophetsa of Islam for his dear son. These words alone are enough to show how saddened the Holy Prophetsa was by the demise of his son.

Coincidence or decree?

It so happened that on the day that Hazrat Ibrahimra passed away, a solar eclipse took place. Given the fact that it was a sad day as the son of the Holy Prophetsa had passed away, the atmosphere in Medina must have been quite morose. Therefore, when people saw the eclipse, they naturally started attributing it to the demise of the Holy Prophet’ssa beloved son.

Remarkably, the Holy Prophetsa was very displeased at the attribution of the eclipse to his son’s demise. This went against the teachings of Islam which teach us that Allah the Almighty causes such events in accordance with the divine laws of nature. The Holy Prophetsa, therefore, gathered all the people in the mosque for the observation of Salat-ul-Kusoof (the prayer that is offered during a solar eclipse) and this continued until the eclipse subsided. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-kusuf, Bab as-sadaqat fi l-kusuf, Hadith 1044)

It should also be noted that this eclipse lasted for over two hours – and as did the prayer. (Al Fazl International, 13 August 2019, p. 7)

Ponder for a moment! How heavy of a task would this have been for someone who had just lost his last living son? After the Salat, he addressed the congregation in the following words:

إِنَّ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللّٰهِ، وَإِنَّهُمَا لَا يَنْخَسِفَانِ لِمَوْتِ أَحَدٍ، وَلَا لِحَيَاتِهِ، فَإِذَا رَأَيْتُمُوْهُمَا فَصَلُّوْا وَادْعُوْا اللّٰهَ

“The sun and the moon are two signs among the signs of Allah. They do not eclipse because of someone’s death or life. So when you see them, offer salat and invoke Allah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-kusuf, Bab as-salati fi kusufi sh-shams, Hadith 1043)

Testament to the truthfulness of the Holy Prophet

When the eclipse occurred and the people started speaking of it as a tribute to the demise of the Holy Prophet’ssa son, it was very easy – in fact, apparently beneficial – for him to declare that, as being the case, he could very well prove and enhance his own magnificence and greatness through it. However, this most truthful Prophetsa not only did not accept it but totally condemned this notion.

With regards to this unparallel action of the Holy Prophetsa, Sir William Muir, a renowned British historian who on countless occasions has made grave attacks upon Islam and its Holy Foundersa, also observed:

“An eclipse of the sun occurred on the same day, and the people spoke of it as a tribute to the death of the Prophet’s son. A vulgar impostor would have accepted and confirmed the delusion, but Mohammad rejected the idea.” (The Life of Muhammad from Original Sources by Sir William Muir (1923), p. 430)

Therefore, the incident that almost brought the concept of mythology to Islam not only got discarded but also served as a compelling argument for not just the truthfulness of the Holy Prophetsa, but also the authenticity of the teachings of Islam.

In a nutshell, the convergence of the eclipse with this significant moment in Islamic history, coupled with the reaction of the Holy Prophet’ssa to the incident, are all clear testimonies to the enduring divine legacy of the Holy Prophetsa and the profound spiritual truths he brought, which continue to resonate across time and space.

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