Did Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) split the moon?

The Rima Ariadaeus rille on the moon

This article builds on the knowledge of the Quran-Islam website.

One of the most well-known miracles attributed to the beloved Prophet is the splitting of the moon, as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari

Narrated by Anas bin Malik : The people of Mecca asked Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle. So he showed them the moon split in two halves between which they saw the Hiram' mountain. (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 208)

Scriptural “proof”

The following ayah in the Quran is used to back up the miracle:

54:1 The Hour has come near, and the moon has split

The argument is that the past tense (the moon has split) confirms the hadith that it was done by the Prophet. This hadith is an example of many others which present clear contradictions to the Quranic truth. What is more serious is that all who believe such a hadith when the Quranic truth is shown to them are the ones who insist on disbelieving the Quran.

Photographic “proof”

The image at the top of the page is frequently used as “photographic proof” of the said event. However, this is Rima Ariadaeus, a straight rille that crosses only 300km of the lunar surface between the Mare Tranquillitatis and the Mare Vaporum.

It does not extend all the way around the moon, as is implied by those using it as photographic proof. Read more about it here.

Past tense?

With regards to the issue of the “past tense” in the Quran, this should not always be taken literally. For example, we find a number of verses in the Quran which speak about the Day of Judgement (a future event for us), yet God used the past tense, the following are examples:

78:19 The heaven was opened (futihat) like gates. 
78:20 The mountains were removed (suyyirat), as if they were a mirage.

These two verses speak about events which will take place at the end of the world, yet they are written in the past tense, as if they already happened! Many translators changed this to the future tense as if they are correcting God’s grammar! They do so because they do not understand the reasons why God uses the past tense in such verses! The reasons are:

  1. For God, there is no past, present or future! The concept of ‘time’ is a dimension of the physical universe in which we live, but for God, there is no ‘time’ nor is God confined to the issue of ‘time’ like we are (we cannot see the future). God uses the past tense at times and the future tense at other times to demonstrate to us that for God there is no linear ‘time’ as experienced by humans.
  2. God is also telling us that these things (related to the end of the world) are a certainty.
    Think of the following example: A friend comes to you and asks you if you can lend him 20 dollars at the end of the month, so you tell: “It’s done”. Obviously, you have not lent him the money yet and you will not do that except at the end of the month, but you use the past tense to assure him that it is as good as done.

We have a number of Quranic verses which say that everything that will ever happen to us is already written in a master record with God from before the universe was created, which again confirms that God is not confined in any way to the concept of ‘Time’.

As a result, verses which use the past tense do not necessarily speak of something which has already happened (78:19-20 and also 54:1).

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had no personal miracles

The second issue which gives us evidence that Muhammad did not split the moon is that the Quran gives us clear evidence that Muhammad did not perform any personal miracles.

In 17:90-93 God tells us how the disbelievers went to Muhammad and asked him to produce any miracle to prove to them that he is a genuine messenger, but God commanded Muhammad to just say that he is no more than a human being who was given a message from God, or in other words, he does not have any personal miracles to show them:

17:90 They said, "We will not believe you unless you cause a spring to gush out of the ground.
17:91 Or unless you own a garden of date palms and grapes, with rivers running through it.
17:92 Or unless you cause masses from the sky, as you claimed, to fall on us. Or unless you bring God and the angels before our eyes.
17:93 Or unless you own a luxurious mansion, or unless you climb into the sky. Even if you do climb, we will not believe unless you bring a book that we can read." Say, "Glory be to my Lord. Am I any more than an ordinary human and a messenger?"

The same assurance that Muhammad did not have any miracles is given in the following verses:

10:20 They say, "How come no miracle came down to him (Muhammad) from his Lord?" Say, "The future belongs to God; so wait, and I am waiting along with you."
6:37 They said, "If only a miracle could come down to him (Muhammad) from his Lord!" Say, "God is able to send down a sign, but most of them do not know."

Use of “The Hour” in the Qur’an

In the Qur’an the mention of “The Hour” (السَّاعَةُ) exclusively revers to the future event of Judgment Day. Note the following examples:

6:31 Those who deny the encounter with their Lord, until, when The Hour suddenly comes upon them, are lost…
6:40 Say, “Can you see yourselves invoking any but God when God’s punishment falls on you [in this world], or when The Hour comes upon you, if you are truthful?
7:187 They will ask you [Prophet] about The Hour: “When will it come?…
12:107 Do they have assurances that the all-enveloping punishment of God’s will evade them, or that The Hour will not come upon them suddenly, when they least expect it?
15:85 We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them without truth; The Hour is surely coming…

…and 36 other mentions of “The Hour” I will leave you all to verify for yourselves. It’s quite clear the mention of “The Hour” in 54:1 is undoubtedly about a future Judgment Day.

The sequence of events in verse 54:1

If we take a look at the words of 54:1 one more time we read:

54:1 The Hour has come close and the moon was split

We cannot overlook the sequence of events here, the words say that Judgement Day will come close first, and only when that happens the moon will split.

Obviously, the time when Muhammad was alive was not a time near the end of the world, so that once again is clear evidence that the splitting of the moon is not associated with him or with his time, but an event that will happen just before the end of the world.

Human records

Stages of Lunar Eclipse

The oldest known calendar was created around 8000BCE and tracked moon phases, so humans have been recording events in the sky for almost 9 thousand years before the Prophet existed. Additionally, the first lunar eclipse was recorded in 1137BCE.

It is not reasonable to believe that such a significant event as the moon being split in two would not be witnessed by people around the region – cloudless deserts all the way up to the north, south, east and west.

Yet, there are no records of this anywhere in history except for one person all the way in India, some 4000km away from Mecca. Is it reasonable to accept that not one person in Cairo, Jerusalem, Mumbai, Baghdad, or Tehran witnessed the event?

Conclusion

2:164 …In these are signs for those who use their reason

This is the Quranic truth about this matter. Should we ignore all the Quranic and physical evidence and insist that Muhammad split the moon with his index fingers?

This will be decided by whether we decide to believe the Quran or whether we insist on rejecting the Quran.

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