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54:1 The moon is cleft asunder

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The Hour (of Judgment) is nigh, and the moon is cleft asunder.

Most of the commentators see in this verse a reference to a phenomenon said to have been
witnessed by several of the Prophet’s contemporaries. As described in a number of reports going back to some
companions, the moon appeared one night as if split into two distinct parts. While there is no reason to doubt
the subjective veracity of these reports, it is possible that what actually happened was an unusual
kind of partial lunar eclipse, which produced anequally unusual optical illusion. But whatever the nature
of that phenomenon, it is practically certain that the above Qur’an-verse does not refer to it but,
rather, to a future event: namely, to what will happen when the Last Hour approaches. (The Qur’an
frequently employs the past tense to denote the future, and particularly so in passages which speak of the coming of
the Last Hour and of Resurrection Day; this use of the past tense is meant to stress the certainty of
the happening to which the verb relates.) Thus, Raghib regards it as fully justifiable to interpret the
phrase inshaqqa ‘l-qamar (“the moon. is split asunder”) as bearing on the cosmic cataclysm – the
end of the world as we know it – that will occur before the coming of Resurrection Day (see art. shaqq
in the Mufradat). As mentioned by Zamakhshari, this interpretation has the support of some of the
earlier commentators; and it is, to my mind, particularly convincing in view of the juxtaposition, in the
above Qur’an-verse, of the moon’s “splitting asunder” and the approach of the Last Hour. (In this
connection we must bear in mind the fact that none of the Qur’anic allusions to the “nearness” of the Last
Hour and the Day of Resurrection is based on the human concept of “time”.)


Asad, Muhammad (1980). The Message of the Quran.

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