“So I swear by the setting of the stars.” (56:75)
The objects that Allah choose to take oaths by in the Quran are very relevant. There’s always a purpose for choosing that specific object.
What’s the purpose of choosing star-placements as the object of the oath in this passage? Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan mentions three functions of stars that clarify this purpose.
The Functions of Placements of Stars in the Sky
Allah (swt) says, “And it is He who placed for you the stars that you may be guided by them through the darknesses of the land and sea. We have detailed the signs for a people who know.” (6:97)
May be it’s not that relevant to us anymore, but even a few hundred years ago, navigators and sailors depending solely on the night sky to get their bearings right. And it was a crucial part of navigation skills to be able to recognise the placement of stars, because survival depended on it. imagine if you get lost in the middle of the sea, or a vast desert, and don’t have your GPS, or even a compass. The only guidance available to you is up in the sky. Who would be foolish enough not to master the knowledge of star placement before even beginning the journey? (Keep that in mind for what’s coming next in sha Allah.)
And even in today’s high-tech world, we need to know star placements – for space navigation.
So last night I went to buy shoes for the coming Eid. And you know which were the most eye-catching? Of course, those embedded with stones and glittery designs. We love glittery and twinkling things. That’s why we like to wear diamond necklaces. And what are diamonds other than paltry replications of the stars in the sky?
It’s very difficult to see a clear sky in our busy cities. But when you visit a village or hillsides, you get the time and chance to just gaze at the sky and get mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty of the night sky, wondering how we can miss it while it’s always up there every night.
Allah (swt) says:
“And We have certainly beautified the nearest heaven with stars and have made [from] them what is thrown at the devils and have prepared for them the punishment of the Blaze.” (67:5)
The last portion of the ayah brings us to the third function of star routes.
3. Protection from Shaytan
As you probably know, some jinns can fly. And they like to fly up to the end of the first heaven and listen at the doors (because they of course can’t enter) to what the angels are saying. So Allah (swt) shoot stars after them, to protect divine knowledge from escaping and getting warped by devils.
My two pence:
A fourth function of stars that can be relevant here is their giving light. This function may seem of little significance, because how many of us really depend on the dim star-light to walk anywhere? But this dim light is the only source of light in remote places in the north pole for several months when they can’t see any sunrise.
A Great Oath
“And verily, that is indeed a great oath, if you but know.” (56:76)
Allah (swt) qualifies the oath by the star placements as ‘adhim’ (great). Ibn Kathir explains this verse by paraphrasing it: “This is a great vow that I — Allah — am making; if you knew the greatness of this vow, you will know the greatness of the subject of the vow.”
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How All This Relates to the Quran
“Indeed, it is a noble Qur’an in a Register well-protected; none touch it except the purified. [It is] a revelation from the Lord of the worlds.” (77:80)
How do the functions of stars mentioned above relate to the Quran? Here’s how:
The first thing Allah (swt) says in Surat al-Baqarah is:
“Alif, Lam, Meem. This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah.” (2:1-2)
Just like the stars are crucial in guiding us through a dark night, the Quran is crucial in guiding us through the darkness of life, through the ugliness of evils around us – greed, selfishness, jealousy, arrogance, hopelessness, betrayal, lies, injustice oppression, and worship of false idols.
And in order to navigate in this dark world, we have to have some form of directions, some guidance as to make the correct choices every day. But we don’t have any GPS system or compass to tells us right from wrong, evil from good. But we have the Quran.
Who would be foolish enough not to master the knowledge of this guidance before even beginning the journey of life?
Quran is beautiful. Anyone who has read it with understanding will be able to experience its beauty. And those who recognise its beauty in more depth are those versed in literary concepts. Even the disbelievers of the Qurayish were mesmerised by it, although they were experts in creating beautiful poetry.
“The Quran’s purpose is to help you find beauty in a time that’s associated with fear and ugliness.” (Nouman Ali Khan)
Allah (swt) has promised to protect the Quran from distortion.
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (15:9)
He also gives special protection to the people who are close to it. Firstly, the Quran protects the mind from harm by removing harmful thoughts and opening it up to the truth. Secondly, it gives us spiritual protection and protection from devils by its recitation. We find in the sunnah several different surahs and ayat highlighted as giving special protection from Shaytan, such as Ayat al-Kursiy and the last three surahs of the Quran.
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.” (24:35)
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