Astrology and Astronomy (27)

The principles of these studies were rooted in Arabian, Persian, Babylonian, Hellenistic and Indian traditions and both were developed by the Arabs following their establishment of a magnificent observatory and library of astronomical and astrological texts at Baghdad in the 8th century.

Throughout the medieval period the practical application of astrology was subject to deep philosophical debate by Muslim religious scholars and scientists. Astrological prognostications nevertheless required a fair amount of exact scientific expertise and the quest for such knowledge within this era helped to provide the incentive for the study and development of astronomy.

Astrology refers to the study of the movements and relative positions of celestials bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world. Islamic jurisprudence, the Quran, the Hadith, Ijma (scholarly consensus) and Qiyas (analogy) layout the guidelines for the stance that Islam takes on the concept of Astrology. The determination on the concept is further subdivided into that which is either halal (permissible) or haram (forbidden). Astrology has been an ever-present force in Islamic history and culture since the 8th Century. Within Islamic belief systems there exist opinions which both agree and disagree with the concept of celestial beings (including stars, moons and galaxies) having an impact/influence on life forms. Whilst a vast majority of Islamic sects and scholars embody the belief that Astrology is fundamentally forbidden as per the authorities encapsulated in the Quran and Hadith, there remain some scholars which take the view that abstract forms of astrology have permeated in the worldly realm and that there thus exists a means by which the celestial beings have had some role in influencing historical events.

The earliest traces of Muslim individuals and therefore an Islamic stance against that of Astrology stems from individuals such as Abd al Jabbar. This stance differentiates from that posed by individuals such as Abu Mashar who sought to justify the causal influence of celestial beings on terrestrial life forms. This is further evidenced by the presence of historical texts such as Kitab al Daraj which are proof of the presence of astrology in early Islam. Yet even before these individuals/texts there existed historians and theologians such as Al Hashimi who through philosophers such as Masha Allah sought to justify the role of Astrology in influencing Islamic adherents religion. Al Hashimi, citing upon the authority of Masha Allah looked to explore the possibility of the influence of stars on ones morality and religion in general. Masha Allah is further cited to point to the idea that the Prophet Muhammad’s birth was a result of a coming together as such of
celestial objectes otherwise known as a planetary conjunction; essentially pointing to the inherent birth of the Islamic prophet as a result of the astrological events. Where both Masha Allah and Al Hashimi draw upon similarities however is their inherent stance in pointing to the planets, stars and other celestial beings as being the primary means by which divine rule is exercised i.e. how God emanates control over all life forms. The vast criticism received by individuals such as Al Hashimi led such figures to suggest that determination of astrological claims could be computed without any interference with religion. The work of Al Hashimi nevertheless points to the inherent presence of astrology in early Islam.

Many interpretations of the Quran (the primary Islamic text) point to Astrology as that which goes against the fundamental principles preached by the Islamic religious tradition. Astrology ultimately points to the role of celestial beings in influencing terrestrial life and the everyday lives of individuals; ultimately hindering their destiny. Various excerpts from the Quran are interpreted to disprove this theory. Most evidently with regards to those of horoscopes, Islamic scholars take the statements of the Quran in Surah Al Jinn where it is suggested “(He Alone is) the All-Knower of the ghayb (unseen), and He reveals to none His ghayb (unseen), except to a Messenger (from mankind) whom He has chosen. (He informs him of unseen as much as He likes), and then He makes a band of watching guards (angels) to march before him and after him” to mean that any such presence of an extra terrestrial influence on mankind is not plausible and is therefore haram (forbidden) in Islam. This is further accentuated by tafsir (scholarly interpretation) of the verse which point to the fact that any being other than Allah (God) cannot be attributed with knowledge of the unseen or for that matter unknown. It is in this that the use of horoscopes and the subsequent utilisation of astrology are disproved in Islam. Nevertheless, Islam gives rise through the Quran to the use of Astrology in determining the time of the year (i.e. the determination of the Lunar Calendar) as well as compass bearings. The Quran embodies this concept in pointing to celestial beings as landmarks’ adorned for adherents as a means by which they would guide themselves. The Quran, therefore, points to the primary purpose of Astrology as a means of providing physical guidance/navigation for an adherent, essentially considering its use in the capacity of horoscopes as forbidde

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