Shooting Stars and the Jinn

A questioner has asked: I read in the Qur'an that shooting stars are used to repel evil spirits. Doesn't this conflict with modern cosmology? The verses in question: 15:16-18. And indeed, We have created steller formations [alt. trans. 'fortified spheres'] in the heaven and have beautified them for the onlookers, and have protected them from every outcast satan. Except him (devil) that gains hearing by stealing, he is pursued by a clear shihâb. 37:6-10. Verily! We have adorned the cosmic heaven with the stars and have made them a security against every rebellious devil. They cannot listen to the Upper Realm for they are pelted from every side. Outcast, and theirs is a painful torment. Except such as snatch away something by stealing and they are pursued by a piercing shihâb. 67:5. And indeed We have adorned the cosmic heaven with lamps, and We have made them a source for pelting the devils, and have prepared for them the torment of the blazing Fire. 72:9 [the Jinn said after the coming of the Prophet] 'And verily, we used to sit there in stations, to (steal) a hearing, but any who listens now will find a an awaiting shihâb. The term shihâb has deliberately not been translated above as it is the term in question. From the above verses, as well as what has been reported from ahadith, we can establish some basic facts: Before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh, the Jinn [a species created from fire] used to eavesdrop at the stations of ascent into the heavens; they would pass on the small fragments of what they heard on to the magicians and fortune tellers, but only after mixing it with hundreds of lies After the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh, the Jinn noticed something strange - they found the stations guarded. Furthermore, when they attempted to eavesdrop on the angels, they were pelted by Shihâb. (As it turns out, the Jinn decided to investigate this matter and soon came across the new prophet in Arabia) verses [15:16-18] state that the steller formations or fortified spheres in the heaven are guarded. Those who attempt to trespass are pursued by clear shihâb. verses [37:6-10] state that the stars decorate the heavens and they are somehow connected with the function of security against the devils. Devils (evil Jinn) cannot listen without being pelted from all sides. As for the one who does manage to catch a glimpse of information, he too is pursued by piercing shihâb and destroyed. verse [67:5] mention again the function of the magnificent lamps (stars) as decoration and also their connection somehow with the pelting of the devils, presumably for the aformentioned reasons. verse [72:9] relate the statment of the Jinns that they used to eavesdrop at the stations of ascension into heaven, but as for whoever travels to do so now, there is shihâb awaiting them. From the brief notes provided on the verses above it should be clear from the outset that there is nothing in the verses which necessitates that the stars themselves are hurled at the devils, or even that it is the phenomenon of meteors aka shooting stars that is being discussed. The generality of the verses provides ground for numerous varying interpretations. The shihâb referred to here could be anything from cosmic rays, discharge of dark energy, cause of destructive interference on the Jinn, etc. etc. Let us quote some of the Qur'anic exegetes to note some sample interpretations. Abu'l 'Ala Maudûdî presents some of his own thoughts in Tafhîm Al-Qur'ân:In Arabic the word shihab-i-mubin literally means "fiery flame". In XXXVII: 10, the same thing has been called shihab-i-thaqib ("flame that pierces through darkness"). 'This may or may not necessarily be a "meteor" for it is just possible that it may be some type of rays such as "Cosmic Rays" or even a stronger type which we have not been able to discover as yet. Anyhow if the "fiery flame" that pursues Satans may be taken to be a meteor, a countless number of these can form a fortification around our sphere of the universe. Scientific observations made with the help of the telescope have shown that billions of these meteors are rushing from space in mass of "rainfall" towards the earth's atmosphere. Such a scene was witnessed in an eastern pan of North America on November 13, 1833. This is so strong a fortification that it can prevent Satans from passing through any fortified sphere. With the help of the above, one can form a mental picture of the "fortified spheres" . Though there is no visible "wall" to keep distinct and separate one sphere from the others, Allah has securely guarded each of these spheres by invisible "walls" against each other. That is why our "planet" has remained safe in spite of the occasional "rainfall" of countless meteors. For as soon as

they cross the protective wall of our sphere, they are burnt to ashes. But sometimes a meteorite reaches the earth from outer space as if to warn the dwellers of this planet of the existence of the "power" of the Creator. For instance, the biggest of these weighs 645 pounds and it is obvious from this that if the earth had not been made safe and secure by means of "fortified spheres" the rain of the shooting stars would have utterly annihilated it long long ago. It is these "fortified spheres" which the Qur'an calls "buruj". (Maududi, Tafhîm Al-Qur'ân Sûrah 15, desc no. 12)Mufti Muhammad Shafi presents the following interpretations in his tafsir, Ma'ârif Al-Qur'ân:Now, the second question we have here is that of Al-Shihâb Al-Thâqib, meteors or shooting stars, in these verses. According to the statements of the Holy Qur'ân, it appears that these shihâbs or flames are formed to hit the satans in order that the revelation remains protected. In other words, the satans are driven away through them so that they would not overhear angels. The difficult part of the question relates to the fact that the presence of shooting stars is nothing new. ...However, the answer is that there is no contradiction here. One or more scientific explanations for this phenomena could be possible, for example, vapours rising from the earth surface may heat up at some point, or the speed of the meteors makes them glow and burn, or a flame emits from a star - and this may have habitually continued since ever. But, before the coming of the Holy Prophet, these flames were not employed to serve a particular purpose. However, after his coming, meteoric flames were employed to serve the purpose of shooting the satans who would come up to stealthily hear the conversation of the angels. (Shafi, Ma'ariful Qur'an, Maktaba-e-Darul-Uloom, Karachi, 2003, vol. 5, pp. 304-305) Both comments were made on the verses from Suratul-Hijr, and I have cited them here to show some of the different interpretations that have been taken on these verses. And Allah swt knows best.

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