And the moon, We have determined way stations for it, till it returns like the old palm branch.
It has been said that the wisdom in the waxing and waning of the moon is that at the beginning of creation, the moon's light was in perfection. It gazed upon itself and self-admiration appeared in it. The Exalted Lord commanded Gabriel to strike the moon's face with his wing, and that took away the light. Ibn ʿAbbās said, “The lines you see on the face of the moon are the mark of Gabriel's wing.”
He took away the light, but the imprint stayed in place. It is the imprint of the words of tawḤīd written on the moon's forehead: “There is no god but God; MuḤammad is God's messenger.”
When the light was taken from the moon, it was prevented from serving at the Threshold. The moon asked for help from the angels so that they would intercede for it. They said, “Lord God, the moon has become accustomed to serving at the Exalted Threshold. Is there no way for You not to deprive it totally?”
The Exalted Lord accepted their intercession and commanded it to prostrate itself once a month on the fourteenth night. Now every night when it comes up and the time of service comes closer, its light increases, until the fourteenth night, the time of prostration, and its light reaches perfection. Then when the fourteenth passes, every night its light diminishes because it is becoming farther from the carpet of service.
It has also been said, “What is similar to the sun is a servant who is forever in the radiance of recognition. He is the possessor of stability, not undergoing variegation. The sun of his recognition constantly shines from the mansions of his felicity. It is not taken by eclipse, nor curtained by clouds.
“What is similar to the moon is a servant whose states are constantly undergoing transition. He is the possessor of variegation. He has an expansion that lifts him up to the boundary of union, and then he is pushed back into lassitude and falls into contraction in the limpidness of his state. Thus he diminishes and returns to deficiency in his affair, until his heart is lifted up from his present moment. Then the Real is munificent toward him and gives him the success to return from his lassitude, bringing him back from his intoxicatedness. His state continues becoming more limpid until he is near to union and he climbs up to the peak of perfection.” At that point he says with the tongue of his state,
And the moon — (read wa’l-qamaru, in the nominative, or wa’l-qamara, in the accusative; and it may be in the accusative because of a following verb that governs it) We have determined it, with respect to its course, [to run] in phases — twenty eight phases in twenty eight nights of every month; it becomes concealed for two nights when the month has thirty days, and for one night when it has twenty nine days — until it returns, during its final phase seeming to the [human] eye, like an aged palm-bough, in other words, like the stalk with a date cluster when it ages, becoming delicate, arched and yellowish.
(And the sun runs on its fixed course for a term (appointed). That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing) There are two views over the meaning of the phrase
(on its fixed course for a term (appointed). ) (The first view) is that it refers to its fixed course of location, which is beneath the Throne, beyond the earth in that direction. Wherever it goes, it is beneath the Throne, it and all of creation, because the Throne is the roof of creation and it is not a sphere as many astronomers claim. Rather it is a dome supported by legs or pillars, carried by the angels, and it is above the universe, above the heads of people. When the sun is at its zenith at noon, it is in its closest position to Throne, and when it runs in its fourth orbit at the opposite point to its zenith, at midnight, it is in its furthest position from the Throne. At that point it prostrates and asks for permission to rise, as mentioned in the Hadiths. Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "I was with the Prophet in the Masjid at sunset, and he said: :
(It goes and prostrates beneath the Throne, and that is what Allah says: (And the sun runs on its fixed course for a term. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing.))'' It was also reported that Abu Dharr, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "I asked the Messenger of Allah about the Ayah:
وَالشَّمْسُ تَجْرِى لِمُسْتَقَرٍّ لَّهَـا
(And the sun runs on its fixed course for a term. ) He said:
«مُسْتَقَرُّهَا تَحْتَ الْعَرْش»
(Its fixed course is beneath the Throne.)'' (The second view) is that this refers to when the sun's appointed time comes to an end, which will be on the Day of Resurrection, when its fixed course will be abolished, it will come to a halt and it will be rolled up. This world will come to an end, and that will be the end of its appointed time. This is the fixed course of its time. Qatadah said:
(on its fixed course for a term (appointed).) means, "It has an appointed time and it will not go beyond that.'' It was also said that this means, it keeps moving in its summer orbit for a certain time, and it does not exceed that, then it moves to its winter orbit for a certain time, and it does not exceed that. This was narrated from `Abdullah bin `Amr, may Allah be pleased with him. Ibn Mas`ud and Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them, recited this Ayah as: (وَالشَّمْسُ تَجْرِي لَامُسْتَقَرَّ لَهَا) (And the sun runs with no fixed course for a term,) meaning that it has no destination and it does not settle in one place, rather it keeps moving night and day, never slowing down or stopping, as in the Ayah:
وَسَخَّر لَكُمُ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ دَآئِبَينَ
(And He has made the sun and the moon, both constantly pursuing their courses, to be of service to you) (14:33). which means, they will never slow down or stop, until the Day of Resurrection.
ذَلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ
(That is the decree of the Almighty, ) means, which none can oppose or prevent.
(the All-Knowing.) Who knows every movement and every cessation of movement, Who has decreed that and Who has set it in motion following a pattern in which there are no differences or inversions, as Allah says:
((He is the) Cleaver of the daybreak. He has appointed the night for resting, and the sun and the moon for reckoning. Such is the measuring of the Almighty, the All-Knowing.) (6:96) And this is how this Ayah ends:
ذَلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ
(That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing.) Then Allah says:
وَالْقَمَرَ قَدَّرْنَـهُ مَنَازِلَ
(And the moon, We have decreed for it stages,) meaning, `We have caused it to run in a different orbit, from which passing of the months can be deduced, just as night and day are known from the sun.' This is like the Ayah:
(And We have appointed the night and the day as two Ayat (signs). Then, We have obliterated the sign of the night while We have made the sign of the day illuminating, that you may seek bounty from your Lord, and that you may know the number of the years and the reckoning. And We have explained everything with full explanation.) (17:12) So, He has given the sun its own light, and the moon its (reflection of) light, and has given each its own orbit. So the sun rises each day and sets at the end of the day, giving one kind of light all the time, but it moves, rising and setting at different points in the summer and winter, thus making the days and nights longer or shorter alternatively according to the season. Its authority is in the daytime, for it is the heavenly body that dominates the day. As for the moon, Allah has decreed that it should pass through different phases. At the beginning of the month, the moon appears small when it rises. It gives off little light, then on the second night its light increases and it rises to a higher position, and the higher it rises the more light it gives -- even though it is reflected from the sun -- until it becomes full on the fourteenth night of the month. Then it starts to wane until the end of the month, until it appears like the old dried curved date stalk. Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "This is the original stem (which connects the bunch of dates to the tree).'' The Arabs have a name for each set of three nights in a month, according to the phases of the moon. They call the first three nights Ghurar; the next three nights Nufal; the next three nights Tusa` (nine) -- because the last of them is the ninth. The next three nights are called `Ushar (ten) -- because the first of them is the tenth. The next three nights are called Al-Bid (white) -- because of the light of the moon which shines brightly throughout these three nights. The next three nights are called Dura`, the plural of Dar`a', because on the first of them the night is dark from the moon rising late. Dar`a' refers to the black sheep, i.e., the one whose head is black; the next three nights Zulam; then Hanadis, then Da'adi; then Mihaq, because of the absence of moonlight at the beginning of the month. Abu `Ubayd did not recognize the names Tusa` and `Ushar, in the book Gharib Al-Musannaf.
لاَ الشَّمْسُ يَنبَغِى لَهَآ أَن تدْرِكَ القَمَرَ
(It is not for the sun to overtake the moon,) Mujahid said, "Each of them has a limit which it does not transgress or fall short of. When the time of one comes, the other goes away, and when the time for one to prevail comes, the time of the other ceases.'' `Ikrimah said concerning the Ayah,
لاَ الشَّمْسُ يَنبَغِى لَهَآ أَن تدْرِكَ القَمَرَ
(It is not for the sun to overtake the moon,) this means that each of them has its time when it prevails. So it is not appropriate for the sun to rise at night.
وَلاَ الَّيْلُ سَابِقُ النَّهَارِ
(nor does the night outstrip the day.) means, after night has passed, it is not right for another night to come until it has been day. The authority of the sun is during the day and the authority of the moon is at night. Ad-Dahhak said, "The night does not depart from here until the day comes from here -- and he pointed to the east.'' Mujahid said:
وَلاَ الَّيْلُ سَابِقُ النَّهَارِ
(nor does the night outstrip the day.) "They seek one another rapidly.'' The meaning is that there is no gap between night and day; each of them follows the other with no interval, because they have been subjugated and are both constantly pursuing one another.
وَكُلٌّ فِى فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ
(They all float, each in an orbit.) means, night and day, the sun and the moon, all of them are floating, i.e., revolving, in their orbits in the heaven. This was the view of Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and `Ata' Al-Khurasani. Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, and others among the Salaf said, "In an orbit like the arc of a spinning wheel.''
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The alternation of the night and day also is one of those realities which man does not regard as worthy of much attention only because it is a phenomenon of daily occurrence and experience; whereas if he considers how the day passes and how the night falls, and what is the wisdom in the passing of the day and in the falling of the night, he will himself realize that this is an obvious sign of the existence of an All-Powerful and All-Wise Allah and of His being One and only One. The day cannot pass and the night cannot fall until the sun hides from the earth. The great regularity which is found in the alternation of the day and night, was not possible unless the sun and the earth were bound in one and the same relentless system. Then the deep relationship which exists between the alternation of the day and night and the other creations on the earth clearly points to the fact that this system has been established deliberately by a Being with perfect wisdom. The existence on the earth, of the men and animals and vegetation, and even of water and air and different minerals, is in fact, the result of placing the earth at a particular distance from the sun, with the arrangement that the different parts of the earth should go on successively coming before the sun and hiding from it at definite intervals. If the distance of the earth from the sun had been a little longer, or a little shorter, or there had been a perpetual night on one side of it and a perpetual day on the other, or the alternation of the day and night had been much faster or much slower, or sometimes the day had appeared suddenly and sometimes the night without any system, no life could be possible on this planet, and even the form and appearance of the inorganic substances would have been much different from what it is now. If the mind's eye is not closed, one can clearly perceive in this system the working of a God, Who willed to bring into being this particular kind of creation on the earth and then established relevances, harmonies and relationships between the earth and the sun precisely in accordance with its needs and requirements. If a person regards the concept of the existence of God and His Unity as far removed from reason, he should think for himself and see how much farther removed should it be from reason to ascribe this wonderful creation to many gods, or to think that All this has happened automatically under some deaf and blind law of nature. When a person who can accept without question these latter unreasonable explanations, only on the baal: of conjecture and speculation, says that the existence of a system and wisdom and purpose is not a sufficient proof of the existence of God, it becomes difficult for us to believe whether such a person really feels the need and necessity of a rational proof, sufficient or insufficient in any degree whatever, for accepting any concept of creed in the world.
"Place of rest" may either mean the place where the sun will ultimately come to a halt, or the time when it will come to a halt. The true meaning of this verse can be determined only when man has attained the full and exact knowledge of the realities of the universe. But man's knowledge is such that it has boon changing in every age and what he seems to know today might change tomorrow. The people of the ancient times on the basis of their observations of the sun believed that it was moving round the earth. Then after further research and observation the view became that the sun was stationary and all the planets of the solar system were revolving round it. But this theory also did not last long. The later observations revealed that not only the sun but All the stars also are moving in a particular direction, at speeds of 10 to 100 miles per second. About the sun the modern astronomers hold the view that it is moving at a speed of 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) per second along with its whole family of the planets. (See "Star" and "Sun" in Encyclopedia Britannica).
That is, the phases of the moon go on changing throughout the month. 1t begins as a crescent, then goes on waxing every. day till it becomes the full moon on the 14th of the month. Then it starts waning every day till at last it returns to its original shape of the crescent. The same has been happening for millions of years with perfect regularity, and no change has ever occurred in the phases of the moon. That is why one can always calculate and find out exactly in what phase the moon will be on a particular day. If the movement of the moon had not been bound in a system, estimation of its phases would not have been possible.
This sentence can have two meanings and both are correct:
(1) The sun does not have the power that it should draw the moon into itself, or enter its orbit and collide with it; and
(2) the sun cannot appear in the times which have been appointed for the rising and appearing of the moon. It is not possible that the sun should suddenly appear on the horizon when the moon is shining at night.
Nor does this happen either that the night should approach before the appointed period of the day comes to an end, and should start spreading its darkness suddenly during the time when the day is meant to spread its light.
The word falak in Arabic is used for the orbit of the planets, and it gives a different meaning from the word sama' (sky). The sentence, "Each is gliding in its own orbit," points to four realities:
(1) That not only the sun and the moon but all the stars and planets and celestial bodies are moving;
(2) the falak, or orbit, of each one of them is separate;
(3) that the orbits are not moving with the stars in them, but the stars are moving in the orbits; and
(4) that the movement of the stars in their orbits is similar to the floating of something in a fluid.
These verses are not intended to describe the realities of astronomy, but are meant to make man understand that if he looks around himself, with open eyes, and uses his common sense, he will find countless and limitless proofs of the existence of God and His Unity, and he will not come across a single proof of atheism and shirk. The vastness of the solar system in which our earth is included is such that its parent body, the sun, is 300,000 times bigger than the earth, and its farthest planet Neptune is at least 2,793 million miles distant from the sun. However, if Pluto is taken as the farthest planet, it revolves 4,600 million miles away round it. Notwithstanding this vastness, the solar system occupies a very insignificant part of a huge galaxy. The galaxy which includes our solar system has about 3,000 million suns in it, and its nearest sun is so distant from our earth that its light takes about four years to reach us. Then this galaxy also is not the whole universe. According to the investigations made so far, it has been estimated that it is one of about 2,000,000 spiral nebulae, and the nearest nebula is about a million light years away from the earth. As for the farthest celestial bodies which arc visible through the modern instruments, their light reaches the earth in about 100 million years. Even now it cannot be claimed that man has seen the whole universe. It is a small part of the Kingdom of God which man has yet been able to observe. It cannot be predicted how far and deep man will yet be able to see with greater and more efficient means of observation at his disposal.
All the information that has been gathered so far about the universe proves that this whole world is trade up of the same substance of which our tiny earthly world is made, and the same law is working in the universe which is working in the world of our earth; otherwise it was not at All possible. that man should have made observations of the very distant worlds from the earth, measured their distances and estimated their movements. Is it not a clear proof of the fact that this whole universe is the creation of One God and the Kingdom of One Ruler? Then from the order and the wisdom and the excellence of workmanship and the deep relationships which are found in the hundreds of thousands of the galaxies and in the millions and billions of the stars and planets revolving in them no sensible person can imagine that all this has come about automatically. Is it possible that there should be no administrator behind this order and system, no sage behind this wisdom, no designer behind this design and work of art, and no planner behind this planning?