Many times the Sahabas would ask questions from the prophet about things they did not know or were not sure. One such question was about the moon, how it is thin at one stage then become full moon and then wanes and become thin again. So the God did answer sahaba's question in Al-Bakara 2:189

They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, "They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj."

My take on this is, although my knowledge is limited 1. Moon is a weak measurement of time. It depends on seeing the new moon every month. 2. Moon cannot be seen equally in all part of the word that also includes the 10 day Zil-Haj moon.

The question here is, the Sahabas asked a purely scientific question, and the God gave a purely non scientific answer. So my question is, did the God know how the moon works? Note that it was not known at the time how the moon works and therefore they asked this question. This tafseer here exactly says that this was a scientific question. They did not ask about "what is the purpose of moon", but how the moon works.

  • 1
    Another aspect of the moon is that it is described twice as a "light" when it of course does not emit light (a full discussion of the Arabic words used is here Sep 30, 2012 at 17:16
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    @MarcGravell I think this question is really important. Because if the prophet lived today, I would have asked him about science to prove God is for real. If God answered it wrong, it means something is fishy.
    – muslim1
    Sep 30, 2012 at 18:15
  • Of course, turning that around: it wasn't "today". A reasonable argument could be made that even a being with special knowledge would have to use terminology and concepts that would be meaningful to the population at the time. I personally don't think that we can look at religious texts vs science as a meaningful comparison: a case could be made that any difference reflects more on the limitations of the culture being "revealed" to, so personally, I don't think that any "this isn't exactly 100% identical to science" should be a threat to anyone's religion. And I say that as a non-theist ;p Sep 30, 2012 at 18:39
  • Well I see this question from the perspective of the Almighty. The Almighty who knows everything and everything because he has created it. To me it is a test of how knowledagble God is.
    – muslim1
    Sep 30, 2012 at 18:59
  • @Adams I have created this chat room, lets discuss that there if you want to clarify your answer. chat room Thanks
    – muslim1
    Oct 1, 2012 at 16:05

5 Answers 5



First of all, I am not a scholar. I am just a very ordinary Muslim. Brothers please read Quran daily and many of your questions will be solved when you would realize the power & knowledge of Allah.

@hunter I am not sure in which context Sahabah asked about the moon when they were replied in Al-Bakara 2:189.

Allah clearly has knowledge of everything, please see the translation on page below..Surat Ar-Ra`d (The Thunder) - سورة الرعد, 13:2 http://quran.com/13/2

It is Allah who erected the heavens without pillars that you [can] see; then He established Himself above the Throne and made subject the sun and the moon, each running [its course] for a specified term. He arranges [each] matter; He details the signs that you may, of the meeting with your Lord, be certain. [sahih international]

same verse Pikthall translation Allah it is Who raised up the heavens without visible supports, then mounted the Throne, and compelled the sun and the moon to be of service, each runneth unto an appointed term; He ordereth the course; He detaileth the revelations, that haply ye may be certain of the meeting with your Lord

Of-course It's Allah who created them and He knows about them more than anyone. Please also note that science at that time would not know that moon and sun are running in their own course in space. Scientist did not use to know that they actually move or they stand still. Science also did not know at that time that all of this is going to end after a specified term (Although these days scientists say that the world is going to end one day).

Allah has told us clearly what a moon is scientifically and it run in its course and this is all going to end one day!!!

@MarcGravell. The link you shared is nothing but more than proving a logic through manipulation of the meaning of the words. Here is an example: If sun is a source of light and an electric bulb is also a source of light, I cannot just "Find & replace" word "Sun" with "Bulb" in every book of science. So, if Allah calls his Messenger "siraajan muneeran", you cannot just replace this word with all characteristics of sun and the moon etc which has been said in a different context. Allah gave us wisdom to understand the meanings of the words and not to just play around with them to aruge. Exampple 2: If a father says to his son, you are my heart, the son is not the "actual" heart of the father. There are millions of examples where a particular word said in a particular context would give a different meaning to if it was used in another context. Example 3: Please search on Google "Wall St laid an egg", Should we just say that Wall St is same as a chicken cause someone said they both laid eggs?

Please see the translation below which describes the difference.



Surat Yūnus (Jonah) - سورة يونس 10:5 http://quran.com/10/5

It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases - that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know [sahi international]

Same verse Pickthall translation He it is Who appointed the sun a splendour and the moon a light, and measured for her stages, that ye might know the number of the years, and the reckoning. Allah created not (all) that save in truth. He detaileth the revelations for people who have knowledge.

Even this line describes that the moon has its phases. If you visualize it scientifically, you would realize that the the moon is running in its own course.

Update 1:

@Marc: Brother, English is not my first language so i am unable to describe here what the word noor means. May be someone else can differentiate it to help you out, Or I will try to find a better explanation. Here is wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nur_(name), noor means a shining light, but it does not differentiate whether the object where the noor is coming from is the source of the light or not.

We Muslims use the word "noor" in many other ways where it does not convey the meaning of reflected light. For example if someone looks very beautiful we say to him/her you have "noor" on your face. Honestly, in my mind, I take "noor" as a shiny light and the source of the noor could be the source of the light or it could be reflecting the light.

Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliocentrism. It says that "It was not until the 16th century that a fully predictive mathematical model of a heliocentric system was presented", This page says that Heliocentrism was just a theory which was not supported by most. Further reading tells that no one actually knew anything for sure. All of these were theories with variations of views. But Quran does not present a theory, Quran says it is The Truth.

@hunter moon does not change its size, it's just bright part of the moon that we see when sun light hits part of it.

@both of you: Also, please have read of http://quran.com/81, Lines 15 & 16 tells that there are retreating stars and the stars run in their courses. This answers the original question whether God had the knowledge of moon and stars or not.

P.S. Before the modern science, no one ever proved that the stars run in their courses. Please share a link if it says for sure that it was the case.

Update 2:

@hunter, Bro. Where it says in Quran that sky is concrete? i think you just assumed it because you read that sky has been created without pillars. e.g. If I say that Ozone layer is in the atmosphere without pillars, it does not mean that it is a solid matter.

I think the we all including scientists don't know yet the definition of the sky. In science, the sky is just an imaginary sphere...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_sphere

We also don't know what is the shape of this universe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shape_of_the_Universe Scientists believe that they only know very little about universe. I don't have the source (but i read somewhere) scientists believe that they only know 3% of the universe.

Also, i think, by making the sky without pillars Allah means that everything in sky is just hanging and it does not fall on earth and Allah did not use any pillars to hang them in space. As we need walls or pillars when we build the roof of a building (otherwise it will fall down). Allah talks about the sky as the roof but Allah does not mention whether it is concrete or not. For example: We have Ozone layer in Earth's atmosphere but it is not concrete.

"By using of pillars it also means, there is something stationary..." if a plane has pillar and walls and it flies in the sky, having pillars does not make it stationary. e.g. If we assume that the shape of universe is round, there are no pillars inside that circle from one end to the other end.

This was just an assumption that universe is round, it's not round and Allah did not use pillars, so it does not make it stationary.

I just need to add a clarification about noor. The difference between noor and light is that light is emited from the original source while noor is only a reflection. For example: Sun emits light while moon emits noor ( the reflection of sun's light.)

  • The distinction of "noor" implying "derived light" is artificial, since Allah is described also as "noor". But: to be honest, I'm not sure the second half of this answer is constructive. I'm going to upvote, but for the first half only. Note also that the heliocentric model, including the orbit of the moon around the earth, had been known to the Greeks for many centuries prior to this. Oct 1, 2012 at 9:06
  • @Adam, this does not answer the question. What Sahabas asked and what God replied. The fact that the stars are revolving were known and observed each day. That is what the Quranic statement says nothing more.Yaseen 10:5 does not mean moon as derived light (for God sake). Check pickthal, yousalf ali and all other translation, it says and moon a light. But again, I will ask you, why the moon changes its size, what is your answer.
    – muslim1
    Oct 1, 2012 at 10:52
  • @Adam, just to make this answer a little better. 13-2, when God erected heavens without pillars, pointed to the sky as concrete and then the model depics 6 more skyies on top of it. All without pillars. We know sky is not concrete. And we know pillars makes no concept in the current Universe Model.By using of pillars it also means, there is something stationary above us which is not the case. Bottom line: Sky is not concrete.
    – muslim1
    Oct 1, 2012 at 11:18
  • @Thecrocodilehunter, your interpretation of the verse (13:2) is not acceptable to Si'ite, as there is a Shia Hadith that says, there are pillars but you cannot see it: "Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see". These pillars are commonly interpreted as gravitational forces between the heavenly bodies and i couldn't accept that until I saw another Hadith from Imam Ali A who said the pillars are of type Light, so now I can understand it better, maybe by light Gravitons are meant!?
    – owari
    Oct 1, 2012 at 22:36
  • deleted the repeated answers and edited the first one. Please let me know if you want to have a positive discussion in forums etc or you want to wait for other answers thanks.
    – eadam
    Oct 1, 2012 at 23:24

Here is another answer to this from an English Tafseer...

As I have exaplained earlier that Allah knows about moon and the stars, Below is the answer to "In this particular Surah why Allah did not give a scientific explanation?"

The phases of the moon have attracted the attention of mankind in every age, and different kinds of rites and superstitions have been connected with these in every country. The Arabs also had some superstitions connected with these. They took omens from them for journeys, marriage ceremonies, business, etc., and performed some superstitious practices, for they believed that the phases and the eclipse of the moon affected their fortunes. Therefore they questioned the Holy Prophet concerning this. Allah answered their question and informed them that the phases of the moon were nothing but uatural calendar in the sky to indicate dates of the month to the people simultaneously throughout the world. Hajj has been specially mentioned in this connection because of its religious, cultural and economic importance to the Arabs. Four months of the year were fixed for Hajj and 'Umrah during which war was suspended and the routes were made safe, and business flourished on account of peace.


http://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/2/index.html#sdfootnote198anc http://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/2/index.html#sdfootnote198sym

I am just going to copy below some answers from our chat room because all of the visitors will not be reading it there...

At the time of revelation of the Qur’an, it was a commonly held belief that the earth stood still and that the sun orbited around us. After all it seemed logical. Man’s ego was bigger than the universe or so he thought. It was easier to believe that he lived in the centre of the universe.

It was not until the 16th century that the astronomer Copernicus showed otherwise, that the earth orbited around the sun instead. Just pause and look at the time interval when that piece of information was in the holy Qur’an. Hostility to Science generally and Astronomy particularly was the misfortune of the Catholic Church in the early 16th and 17th century. Let us not imitate them.

“It is He who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its orbit.” (21:33)

“And the moon, we have measured for her mansions (to traverse) till she returns like the old, (withered, and curved-up like a sickle) date-palm. It is not permitted for sun to catch-up the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; each swims along in (its own) orbit.” (36:39-40)

source: http://moonsighting.com/articles/roleofislam.html


"1. Moon is a weak measurement of time. It depends on seeing the new moon every month." - i do not agree with this, it does not make it "weak". it is useful thing because you can easily know that new lunar month has come, and what part of the month has passed, without counting days. it would be weak if lunar monthes were of very and randomly different length.

"2. Moon cannot be seen equally in all part of the word that also includes the 10 day Zil-Haj moon" - what do you mean? sun also is not seen equally in all part of the world.

"and the God gave a purely non scientific answer. So my question is, did the God know how the moon works?" - i think, god did not give golden to people, and he did not give them such easily the scientific knowledge, probably they should have reached that knowledge by themselves.

"Note that it was not known at the time how the moon works" - are you sure? is not the moon disk behind light part visible if you look carefully? maybe somebody knew that even then.

"This tafseer here exactly says that this was a scientific question" - open that, press ctrl+f, type "scient", and you see it does not say so.

"They did not ask about "what is the purpose of moon", but how the moon works." - it is "Tafsir al-Jalalayn", "composed first by Jalal ad-Din al-Mahalli in 1459 and then completed by ..." (wikipedia), so, how can you be sure that they really asked that? this tafsir is not primary source for hadith, and also no hadith is linked in this ayat's tafsir.


the lunar calendar isn't a "weak measurement of time", below I give you a comparison of the solar and lunar calendar:

The solar year is "accurate" in the sense that, with minor correction every so many years, it maintains the days of the year in close correspondence with the position of the earth in its orbit, say within a day or so. Thus, March 21 and Sept 21 are always the equinox, to within a day or so error; in the northern hemisphere, August is always midsummer and Christmas is always in winter, etc. The calendar corresponds to the solar year and hence to the seasons.

The lunar calendar is accurate in the sense that it measures the passage of time by the phases of the moon. The phases of the moon come at the same time each month (for instance, full moon is exactly mid-month, etc.)

If you think the phases of the moon are important, then you want a lunar calendar. note that the solar calendar is flawed, because the full moon falls on a different day each month. If you think the seasons are important, then you want a solar calendar, and you think the lunar calendar is flawed because the holidays aren't seasonal.

Islam uses a pure lunar calendar, and the days of the year do not correspond to the seasons. One year, Ramadan is in the summer; a few years later, it is in the spring; etc. The lunar year falls short of the solar year by around 11 days (someone will correct me if I've misremembered.) The early Muslims were not farmers, and it was not important that holidays fall at certain seasonal times.

The Jewish calendar follows a lunar calendar with adjustments; every so often a full month is added, so that the holidays come out in the right season. The early Israelites were farmers and shepherds, and the Jewish holidays correspond to harvest and planting time in ancient Israel. On the other hand, the new moon was important, and so a calendar was developed that was mostly lunar but adjusted to roughly reflect the seasonal year.


The full ayat is:

They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, "They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj." And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allah. And enter houses from their doors. And fear Allah that you may succeed.

The questioner was not asking the prophet for the scientific meaning of the new moons, since science was not existent as a discipline then; but for its meaning - for man is a meaning seeking creature; this is an old question. For man, it has been understood as a measurement of time, as is the sun; and the prophet replied accordingly.

Allah knows how the world works as he created it. The question is whether man does, and he did not. It is a Hadith, that one ought seek knowledge where it is to be had; thus science had a new rebirth within Islam.

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