"The Hour hath drawn nigh and the moon hath been split asunder (anshaqqa al-qamar)" (Q. 54:1b).
The eschatological rising of the "Sun", the cleaving of the "moon", and the falling of the "stars" in Islamo-Biblical and Babi-Baha'i Intertextualities.
Stephen Lambden UCMerced.
IN PROGRESS - last slightly updated 13-11-2019.
Introduction with Some exegetical Notes.
The centrality of scriptural interpretation or exegesis-eisegesis and batini, esoteric modes of interpretation in the emergence of new religions.
The interpretation of Abrahamic and other sacred writings is central to the massive body of Babi-Baha'i Persian and Arabic primary literatures. One need only think of the weighty prescence of such materials within the body of the Arabic Jawahir al-asrar (c.1860), the Persian Kitab-i Iqan (c.1861) and Lawh-i ibn-i dhi'b (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf c. 1891). Letters, words, motifs, texts, pericopae (paragraphs), qisas al-anbiya (`stories of the prophets') legends and lore within the Bible and the Qur'an, for example, are given numerous non-literal, allegorical, typological and esoteric or deep batini modes of exegesis-eisegesis. Such a non-restrictive, multi-faceted hermeneutic, enables, sometimes new, challenging and inspirational modes of allegedly `new age' interpretations to be proffered by figures claiming wahy (divine inspiration) for a post-apocalyptic-millennial partially realized eschatological era. Both the Bab and Baha'-Allah claimed to fulfill or precipitate the fulfillment of promises and expectations within Abrahamic religious literatures.
Virtually the first religious, post comission act of Sayyid `Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab was to create for Mulla Husayn Bushru'i and the rest of humanity and the cosmos, a neo-Qur'anic book, the Qayyum al-asma' (mid. 1844). This lengthy work offers a batini exegesis of the "old" Qur'an itself on Husaynid, imamological lines. It is pregnant with exegetical echoes of fulfillment and an imminent eschaton through rewriting or re-revelation. Baha'-Allah in his `Tablets to the Kings and rulers, and in many other of his 15-20,000 alwah (scriptural letters, books, and treatises or Tablets), likewise proffered bold scriptural interpretations. He interpreted some biblical references to "Zion" as being indicative of the `Acre-Haifa region, saw himnself as the personification of true Ka`ba and the builder Jerusalem Temple (bani al-haykal), as well as the personification of the masjid al-aqsa, the "furthermost mosque", the goal of the night-journy of the Prophet Muhammad (See Qur'an 17:1f), He strongly hinted, furthermore, at the non-existence of the son of the 11th Imam Hasan al-`Askari (d. 260/874), known as Muhammad al-Mahdi, the promised Mahdi or Qa'im -`Abd al-Baha' was explicit about his non-existence or never having been born! These are quite radical examples of exegesis. They presuppose very elevated claims and revelations clearly post-Islamic.
Catastrophic, apocalyptic, cosmic "signs" of the `time of the end', including the "darkening" and "western rising" of the "sun", the splitting, cleaving or subsequent failure to shed illumination of the "moon", and the falling down of the "stars", were likewise given bold allegorical interpretations. In ushering in a new potentially millennial age of fulfillment, such events had to be shown to have found realization. In Islamic tradition, Muhammad is said to have split or cleft asunder the "moon", this too had to be explained in a befitting manner.
Jews, Christian and Muslims, members of the major Abrahamic religions, all expect an apocalyptic collapse of the cosmos at eschatological times. The earht, world and universe which all know and inhabit is expected to be destroyed, recreated or replaced by another "new creation". This transformation was to be of such magnitude that even the physical sun and moon were to be repalced, disrupted or made to exhibit new modes of operation.
The following are a few examples from the Hebrew Bible and related Jewish literatures :
- "For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine" (Isaiah 13:10).
- And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree" (Isaiah 34:4).
- "The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining" (Joel 2:10).
- "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Joel 2:31).
- "The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining" (Joel 3:15).
- "And when I shall put thee [Pharoah] out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light" (Ezekiel 32:7).
In the New Testament and associated Christian literatures we find the following examples :
- "“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken ( Matthew 24:29).
- "But in those days, following that distress, "'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light" (Mark 13:24).
- "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring" (Luke 21:25).
- "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood" (Revelation 6:12)..
- "Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night" (Revelation 8:12).
The Apocalyptic Collapse of the Cosmos in the Qur'am and Traditions (ahadith or akhbar).
The eschatological rising of the sun in the west.
Numerous Sunni and Shi`i traditions refer to the eschatological rising of the sun in the west, though this expectation is
Sayyid `Ali Muhamnmad Shirazi, the Bab and the apocalyptic eschatology of the celestial signs.
In his c. 1848-8 Pesian Dala'il-i sab`a (The Seven Proofs), the Bab pays considerable attention to the fulfillment of Islamic eschatological expectations.
At one point he interprets the sign of the rising of the "sun in the west" in the course of a consideration of the reality of bada, of God changing his mind or instituting a new decree :
"And secondly, [it should be understood that ] God is able to practise bada (alter His earlier decree) for this is [certainly] a thing confirmed, a Reality (haqq). which has often occured ... Note, for example, the "rising of the sun from the west (tulu`-i shams az maghrib. This does not refer to this [physical] sun. Nay rather! The intention is the rising up of the Sun of Reality (shams-i haqiqat), from its own setting point, its western locale (az mahall-i ghurub). So observe that the rising of the [Muhammedan] Sun of Reality (shams-i haqiqat) was in Mecca and that the circumstance of the [subsequent] dawning forth of that "Sun" was in the land of Fa' (= the Persian province of fars where Shiraz, the birthplace of the Bab and locale of his 1260/1844 declaration, is located). Thus its terminus (muntaha) was of western orientation (ghurub) relative to its first rising.
Mirza Husayn `Ali Nuri, Baha'-Allah and the apocalyptic eschatology celestial signs.
In both his Jawahir al-asrar (Gems-Essences of the Mysteries, c. 1861 CE) and slightly later (c. 1861-2) Kitab-i iqan (Book of Certitude), Baha'-Allah devotes many paragraphs to proving that the advent of the Prophet Muhammad was predicted in the New Testament. He cites Matthew 24:29-31a which contains several of the motifs of interest :
Kitab-i aqdas Para 81.
"O kings of the earth! The Most Great Law hath been revealed in this Spot, this scene of transcendent splendor. Every hidden thing hath been brought to light by virtue of the Will of the Supreme Ordainer, He Who hath ushered in the Last Hour (al-sa`at), through Whom the Moon hath been cleft (inshaqqa al-qamr), and every irrevocable decree (amr makhtum) expounded" (Kitab-i aqdas Para.81. Ar, p.78-9; trans. 1992 p. 49).
Note here also : Para 101
O ye leaders of religion! (ma`shar al-`ulama') Who is the man amongst you that can rival Me in vision or insight (al-mukashafa wa'l- `irfan)? Where is he to be found that dareth to claim to be My equal in utterance or wisdom (al-hikmat wa'l-tibyan)? No, by My Lord, the All-Merciful! All on the earth shall pass away; and this is the face of your Lord (wajh rabbika), the Almighty, the Well-Beloved" (Kitab-i aqdas Para. 101. Ar, p.99; trans. 1992 p. 56-57).
In one of his Tablets cited in his Lawh-i ibn-i dhi'b (Epistle to the Soin of the Wolff, c.1891) dating to the early Acre period ("soon after Our arrival" ESW: ) he associates the falling of the stars with the period of his residence in Edirne-Adrianople (1863-1868)
‘Have the stars fallen?’ Say: ‘Yea, when He Who is the Self-Subsisting dwelt in the Land of Mystery (Adrianople). Take heed, ye who are endued with discernment!’ All the signs appeared when We drew forth the Hand of Power from the bosom of majesty and might.
This may well indicate that the "stars" of the "heaven" of the religion of the Bayan, the leading Babis, fell from true religiosity when they, like their leader Mirza Yahya Nuri - the half-brother of Baha'-Allah - rejected the claims of Baha'-Allah which were expressed clearly, openly, declared from 1865-6, during the the middle of the Edirne period. This especially after the mubahala (murual execration) or confrontation actualized though outwardly unfulfilled at the meeting place, the Sultan Selim mosque which Mirza Yahya failed to attend.
A Tablet of Baha'-Allah to Mirza`Ali Muhammad Varqa (d.1896).
ميرزا علي محمد ورقا
In one of the numerous alwah or scriptural Tablets of Baha'-Allah to his major apostle ( No. XX of nineteen) Mirza`Ali Muhammad Varqa who was executed in 1896 along with his son Ruh-Allah by the Persian Hajib al-Dawlah ( ),
They have spoken about the [splitting, rending] cleaving of the "moon" (shaqq-i qamar) though it is [in reality] the now evident "cleaving of the sun" (shaqq-i shams) for such took place during the period when [the marja` al-taqlid , Shi`i source of emulation] Muhammad Hasan Najafi (c.1202/1787- d. Najaf Sha`ban 1266/June 1850), who is the very pivot of the `ulama' of Iran (qutb-i `ulama' -yi Iran), slipped from the [straight] Path (sirat) [of conversion to the Babi-Baha'i religion] and returned to his own [predetermined, Shi'i Islamic] position [station] (maqarr-i khud)... (cited Ma'ida-yi asmani 4:137).
مُحَمَّد حَسَن بن باقِر بن عَبد الرَحیم بن محمد بن عَبد الرَحیم الشَریف الاصفَهانی
Muḥammad Ḥasan ibn Bāqir ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥīm ibn Muḥammad ibn `Abd al-Raḥīm al-Sharīf al-Iṣfahānī
Shaykh Muhammad Hasan Najafi, on account of his aforementioned fixity (az qarar-i madhkur), penned divine determinations (ahkam-i ilahi) during two [religious] dispensations [cycles] in spite of which he failed to attain unto the determined Tree (shajarat-i maqsud) [the Bab-Baha;-Allah for Babi-Baha'i religiosity]. This on account of the rustling of the Lote Tree (hafif-i sidrah) [the Bab] and the [desire for the] asquisition of knowledge (hasil-i `ilm). All of his deeds were thus negated! (`amal-i kull mahrum gasht).
Shaykh Murtada al-Anṣārī (b. Defzul 1781-d. Najaf 1864).
Having said this about al-Najafi, Baha'-Allah next comments upon the case of Shaykh Murtada al-Anṣārī another very high ranking Shi`i cleric-mujtahid and pupil of the aforementioned Najafi as well as other Shi`i luminaries including the one-time marǰaʿ al-taqlīd Shaykh `Alī Kāshif-al-Ghiṭāʾ (d. 1254/1838-39).
For details see entry on al-Anṣārī by S Murata, in Encyclopedia Iranica:
On this next marǰaʿ al-taqlīd (source of emulation) or supreme Shi`i authority, Baha'-Allah states,
Shaykh Murtada [al-Ansari] (b. Defzul 1781-d. Najaf 1864) on the other hand, was ever gazing towards the Supreme Horizon (bi-ufq-i a`la) [Baha'-Allah] and there was evident in him a trace (athari) of the Light of Love (nur-i muhabbat) although he [too] never did attain unto the fortune of deep [Babi-Baha'i] gnosis (muwaffaq-i`irfan). The efforts [rival jostlings] (zahmat) of a seventy year period [of his life] were of no avail! (cited Ma'ida-yi asmani 4:138).
We may note at this point that the Babi-Baha'i attitude towards the Islamic clerics, the `ulama', mujtahids and the like, is not wholly negative. In his c.1891 Lawh-i ibn-i dhi`b (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf), Baha'-Allah addressed to the corrupt and haughty mujtahid, Muhammad Taqi Isfahani ( ) who had mercilessly attacked the nascent Baha'i religion and precipitated the death or martyrdom of was informed that not all "stars" of the heaven of the religion of Islam had crashed down to the "dust" of ignorance and ignonimy :
Those divines, however, who are truly adorned with the ornament of knowledge and of a goodly character are, verily, as a head to the body of the world, and as eyes to the nations. The guidance of men hath, at all times, been, and is, dependent upon such blessed souls. We beseech God to graciously aid them to do His will and pleasure. He, in truth, is the Lord of all men, the Lord of this world and of the next... O Shaykh! [Muhammad Taqi Isfahani] ... (from ESW: trans. Shoghi Effendi).
Towards the end of the Persian Lawh-i Dunya, Baha'-Allah speaks highly of `ulama'-yi rashidin, "righteous men of learning" :
O people of God! Righteous men of learning (`ulama'-yi rashidin) who dedicate themselves to the guidance of others and are freed and well guarded from the promptings of a base and covetous nature are, in the sight of Him Who is the Desire of the world, stars of the heaven of true knowledge. It is essential to treat them with deference. They are indeed fountains of soft-flowing water, stars that shine resplendent, fruits of the blessed Tree, exponents of celestial power, and oceans of heavenly wisdom. Happy is he that followeth them. Verily such a soul is numbered in the Book of God, the Lord of the mighty Throne, among those with whom it shall be well." (MAM: 300-301= TBAA:96-7)
The `ulama' of the Baha'i religion as "stars" of the heaven of Divine bounty (sama; al-fadl).
Happy are ye, O ye the learned ones in Bahá (ma`shar al-`ulama' fi'l-baha'). By the Lord! Ye are the billows of the Most Mighty Ocean (al-bahr al-a`zam), the stars of the firmament of Glory (anjam sama' al-fadl), the standards of triumph (al-nasr) waving betwixt earth and heaven. Ye are the manifestations of steadfastness amidst men and the daysprings of Divine Utterance to all that dwell on earth. Well is it with him that turneth unto you, and woe betide the froward. This day, it behoveth whoso hath quaffed the Mystic Wine of everlasting life from the Hands of the loving-kindness of the Lord his God, the Merciful, to pulsate even as the throbbing artery in the body of mankind, that through him may be quickened the world and every crumbling bone ( Aqdas Para. 174 page 164; trans Para. 173
The Tablet of `Abd al-Baha' on the Cleaving of the Moon.
The Lawh- Inshiqāq ("Tablet of the Cleaving of the Moon") is a brief Persian letter written in responce to a question about the Qur'anic eschatological motif of the "cleaving of the moon". It has been published in Cairo in the compilation of the alwah or scriptural Tablets of `Abd al-Baha' entitled Makatib-i Ḥadrat-i 'Abd al-Bahā', volume II pages 263-4. This Tablet commences with the double huwa ("He is") then straightway refers to the "splitting" or cleaving into two of the "moon" (al-qamar). As this scriptural Tablet develops he seems to have it that the rising of the Pre-Existent "sun" of the prophet Muhammad resulted in the darkening, downfall or "splitting" of the moon of Christian guidance. When the Sun of Islam arose, the luminary of Christianity and its divines or "stars", were no longer the loci of resplendence.
Worth noting in this connection, is that `Abd al-Baha' cites from both the Qur'an and the Injil, loosely the (synoptic) Gospel(s) or New Testament both of which have it that in the latter days, the"moon will not give its light. The "cleaving of the moon" as the cutting off of its light, is caused by the all-encompassing radiance of the rising of the new, Muhammedan shams-i haqiqat, the resplendent "Sun of reality".
The Lawh-i Inshiqāq ("Tablet of the Cleaving of the Moon")
Lambden trans. Last updated 15-04-2017.
He is - He is.
 The [matter of the] cleaving [splitting] (inshiqaq) of the Moon (al-qamar) hath innumerable significances.  The realization of its outer sense (zahir) hath not come about on account of the fact that the intended meaning is the vanishing of [religious] self-identity (idmihlal-nafsi).  This in view of the fact that prior to the rising up the the Sun of the Divine Oneness (shams-i ahadiyya) from the Muhammadan horizon (ufq-i Muhammadiyya) [during the pre-Islamic era], the people were illumined by the lights of the sciences and of the modes of wisdom (anwar-i `ulum va hikam) being rendered insightful through Him [God-Jesus].  It was thus that the souls who existed during the cycle of the Messiah [Jesus Christ] prior to the manifestation of the Ahmadi-Most-Praiseworthy Beauty (jamal-i ahmadi) [Muhammad] were invited unto the Straight Path (sirat al-mustaqim) and the Upright Pathway (minhaj al-qawwim) [of Islam]. The lights of deep insight (anwar-i ma`arif) and varieties of wisdom, originating with the Lamp of Jesus (misbah-i `isawiyy) and the Christ-like Niche (mishkat-i masihi), had thus been throughly assimilated (iqtibas). This was evident from the tongues of the such [Christian teachers] and the people attained by virtue of their [Christian] guidance and testimony and through the light of their [His] wisdom and understanding [gnosis] (nur-i hikmat va ma`rifat-ishan), traversed the Path of Guidance.
When, however, the most great luminary (nayyir-i a`zam) and Sun of Pre-existence (shams-i qidam) [= Muhammad] became manifest from the Dawning-Place of Yathrib [Medina] and Batha [region in Mecca near the Ka`ba], these [Christian] souls failed to become established in faith. From that Sun of the horizon of the Divine Unity (shams-i ufq-i tawhid) [Muhammad - Islam] they failed to attain illumination. Wherefore were these "stars" (nujum) fallen (saqit) and the "moon" (qamar) cleft asunder (munshaqq) :
"With the rising up of that sun (shams) was the cleaving of the moon (shaqq al-qamar)".
This is registered in the Gospel(s) (injil) in connection with the signs of the latter [day, future] manifestation [theophany] (zuhur-i ba`d) where he [Jesus] says [of the signs of his second coming] :
"The stars (al-nujum) shall fall [from heaven] and the moon (al-qamar) will never again give its light (nura-hu abad an)"
Assuredly, the radiance of the brilliance which was evident from the Sun of Reality (shams-i haqiqat) obliterated the brightness (rawnaq) and the brilliance (jilwa) of every radiant star (kawkab-i muniri).
During the time of `Abd al-Baha' some of his middle eastern contemporaries exhibited something of an interest in the moon and its scientific functioning. We have an example in the very first issue of the Arabnic periodical al-Muqtataf though the generality of Muslim believers often adhered to superstitious ideas about the "moon" to some degree fashioned by a hadith literalism