The Sign of the Unique Pair of Eclipses in Ramadan
THE SIGN OF THE SOLAR AND LUNAR ECLIPSES IN RAMADAN
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Taken from The Great Reformer, pp. 502-504 with slight modification.
Holy Prophet’s prophecy fulfilled
In 1894, the month of Ramadan straddled the months of March and April. During the month of Ramadan, there was a lunar eclipse on the thirteenth day, followed by a solar eclipse on the twenty-eighth day. Both these eclipses were visible throughout India and other countries of the eastern hemisphere. The Holy Prophet had prophesied thirteen hundred years ago that the occurrence of this event would herald the advent of the Mahdi (Rightly Guided One), and as such this phenomenon was a powerful sign in support of Hazrat Mirza’s claim [made in the year 1891] of being the Mahdi. Imam Muhammad Baqir had narrated this prophecy in the Book of Hadith called Dar Qutni as follows:
A similar narration by Imam Bahaki can also be found in the Books of Hadith. Thus, the eclipses of the moon and the sun on the specified dates of the month of Ramadan was a sign that had never occurred in support of any claimant to the title of Mahdi since the creation of the earth. The dates for the two eclipses specified in the prophecy as, “the moon will eclipse in its first night and the sun will eclipse in its middle day,” require a little explanation.
Astronomically, it is well established that the lunar eclipse can only occur on the thirteenth, fourteenth or fifteenth nights of the lunar month and the solar eclipse can only occur on the twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth days of the lunar month. Thus, the lunar and the solar eclipses took place exactly as predicted by the hadith. In the Ramadan of 1894, the moon eclipsed on the first of the three nights that a lunar eclipse could take place, i.e., the thirteenth night, and the sun eclipsed on the middle of the three days that the sun could eclipse, i.e., the twenty-eighth. The fulfillment of the prophecy with such great precision lent so much credibility to Hazrat Mirza’s claim that it broke the back of the opposition. However, the opponents were determined not to give up and resorted to foolish arguments. They claimed that the prophecy required that the moon should eclipse on the first night of Ramadan and the sun on the fifteenth day of Ramadan. This argument had no merit because even a person with a rudimentary knowledge of Arabic knows that the new moon that appears on the first of the lunar month is called hilal and not qamar. As a matter of fact, the new moon for the first three nights of the lunar month is called hilal in the Arab countries. The prophecy contained the word qamar and therefore the interpretation advanced by Hazrat Mirza’s opponents was not tenable.
From a scientific standpoint, a lunar eclipse is only possible when the moon is in the east and the sun is in the west so that there is a chance of the earth’s shadow falling on the moon. Consequently, a lunar eclipse is astronomically only possible on the thirteenth, fourteenth or fifteenth nights of the lunar month. Similarly, the solar eclipse can only take place when the sun and the moon are on the same side of the earth and the three become aligned along a straight line so that the moon intervenes in the line of sight between the earth and the sun. For this reason, a solar eclipse is astronomically only possible on three dates, which are the twenty-seventh, twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth day of the lunar month. Hence it is absurd to interpret the hadith to mean that the moon will eclipse on the first day of Ramadan and the sun on the fifteenth day of the month. Such an interpretation is the result of either prejudice or gross ignorance of the basics of astronomy. The correct meaning of this hadith can only be that in the month of Ramadan, the lunar eclipse will take place on the first night out of the possible nights of lunar eclipse, which is the thirteenth, and the solar eclipse will take place on the middle day out of the possible days of solar eclipse, which is the twenty-eighth. This is precisely how it happened and these occurrences have set a seal of authenticity on the genuineness of the Hadith and have also validated the above interpretation.
The interesting fact is that in the following year, 1895, exactly the same phenomenon was repeated in the western hemisphere and the lunar and solar eclipses in the month of Ramadan were witnessed in the United States and some other western countries. The moon and the sun eclipsed precisely on the same dates of Ramadan as they had a year earlier in the eastern hemisphere. Thus, the heavenly sign heralding the arrival of the Mahdi was first seen in the eastern hemisphere and then in the western hemisphere. This clearly indicates that the Mahdi’s mission to invite people to Islam is for both the east and the west. The occurrence of the lunar and solar eclipses in the same lunar month, first in the eastern hemisphere and then in the western hemisphere, was such a strange and unique phenomenon that newspapers like the Pioneer and the Civil and Military Gazette commented that such an event had never occurred before.
1 Dar Qutni (Hadith): Kitab Salat al-Khauf, Chapter 2.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad made his claim to be the Promised Messiah in 1891, a few years before the eclipses occurred in 1894 in 1895. Also note, what he wrote was that, although such eclipses could certainly have occurred previously, never before had they occurred in the life of a claimant who had then put them forward in the support of his claim (as fulfilling that prophecy). And the occurrence according to the prophecy must be in Ramadan, not just any lunar month.
The Holy Prophet prophesized:
Fulfillment of Prophecy in the Eastern Hemisphere
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad made his claim to be the Promised Messiah in 1891. Remarkably, just a few short years later, the moon was eclipsed on the 13th day of Ramadan in the year 1894, followed by eclipse of sun on the 28th day of Ramadan, in fulfillment of this grand prophecy. Both these eclipses were visible throughout India and other countries of the eastern hemisphere.
13th of Ramadan Lunar eclipse date corresponds to March 21, 1894
28th of Ramadan Solar eclipse date corresponds April 6, 1894
Fulfillment of Prophecy in the Western Hemisphere
And to prove this prophecy fully, the following year, a set of similar eclipses were witnessed again in the western hemisphere on the 13th and 28th of Ramadan in the year 1895!
13th of Ramadan Lunar eclipse date corresponds to March 10, 1895
28th of Ramadan Solar eclipse date corresponds to March 26, 1895
This shows that he came to illuminate both the East and the West with the light of Islamic teachings.
Regarding the fulfillment of this prophecy, the Promised Messiah has written:
Note: Messenger can refer to a non-Prophet, i.e., a God-sent Mujaddid or Saint.
Objection # 1 - The opponents assert the Eclipses were to occur on the 1st of Ramadan and the 15th of Ramadan according to the Hadith.
Mirza Masum Beg says in his book Christ is Come:
The lunar eclipse on the 1st and the solar on the 15th, according to the law governing eclipses, are sheer impossibilities. Moreover, the moon of the first night is almost invisible, and it will be much more so if it were eclipsed. No human eye will be able to see this sign, this darkened moon of the first night, and yet it is, according to the Maulvis, the singular sign of the Great Mahdi. And, thus such a interpretation of the hadith is, on the very face of it, senseless and absurd. The Maulvi is ever averse to scientific truth. Even the learning of modern sciences he looks down upon as a rank heresy. To make his conviction complete, we shall, therefore, quote from the accredited Muslim sages and savants. Writes Hadrat Imam ibn Taimiyya: (Mujaddid of 7th century Hijrah)
Last of all, we shall quote from the Arabic lexicon. For the moon there were two terms in Arabic language, hilal and qamar. For the first three or four nights, the moon is called hilal by the Arabs, and thenceforward, up to the end of the month it is called qamar. They never used the term qamar for the moon of the first three or four nights.
It is written in Sihah Jauhari:
[Thus] the term qamar is used after the third night up to the end of the month. The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, used the term qamar and not hilal; hence, it could not be the moon of the first night, as wrongly interpreted by the Mulla.
Objection # 2 - The critics assert the eclipse really took place on the 14th of Ramadan rather than the 13th.
Dr. Zahid Aziz says:
When Hazrat Mirza sahib put forward this as a sign in 1894, no one raised it as an objection that the date was not the 13th but the 14th. People raised other objections (for example, that the Hadith report is not authentic). This shows that people at that time regarded that date as the 13th.
Also note that in 1894 the Ahmadiyya Jamaat was tiny, and so Hazrat Mirza sahib must have been following the start of Ramadan as determined by some other Muslims. It cannot be said that the Ahmadiyya Jamaat was following a different start day for Ramadan from other Muslims because the Jamaat was absolutely tiny at the time. So the day considered by Hazrat Mirza sahib to be 13th Ramadan was considered as 13th by other Muslims as well.
Another point is that even today Muslims in the same country and the same city differ about the starting date of Ramadan. Every year some Muslims (I know this personally about the U.K. and Pakistan) start Ramadan on one day and others on the next day, because of following different systems of determining the start of the month. So what one group considers as the 13th of Ramadan, the other considers as the 14th! So how do we know which is right?
Even if it could be now proved scientifically that that day was the 14th Ramadan, it was still a sign for the people at that time because they considered that day to be the 13th. If we now use modern science to determine when Ramadan should have started in various years in the past centuries, we may find that Muslims of the past (even of the Holy Prophet's time) were often in error by one or even two days in starting Ramadan and holding Eid. But they, in those days, thought they were right.
What is important is what people then thought, and not what someone calculates now.
Objection # 3 - The opponents scoff off the prophecy as a weak Hadith
Dr. Zahid Aziz says:
I would say to them that this sign is by no means necessary to show that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a Mahdi. This sign is an additional, supportive evidence, not one of the central and key evidences of the truth of his claim. One of the main evidences is that while the Muslim world was holding the belief that the Mahdi would come wielding a sword and convert people to Islam by war and conquest, Hazrat Mirza sahib announced that for the Mahdi to behave in this way would be against the teachings of Islam. He said that he as Mahdi would spread Islam through reasoning, arguments, and spiritual signs, and not by physical battle. In this way Hazrat Mirza sahib removed a great slur and stigma upon Islam, namely the charge that it spreads by force.
Today, especially after the September 11th event, other Muslims are also repeating that Islam spreads through peaceful means, and not by war, which is something taught by Hazrat Mirza sahib. So he guided the Muslims aright (which is what the word "Mahdi" means).