Islam & Astrology

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ فِى سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍۢ ثُمَّ ٱسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى ٱلْعَرْشِ يُغْشِى ٱلَّيْلَ ٱلنَّهَارَ يَطْلُبُهُۥ حَثِيثًۭا وَٱلشَّمْسَ وَٱلْقَمَرَ وَٱلنُّجُومَ مُسَخَّرَٰتٍۭ بِأَمْرِهِۦٓ ۗ أَلَا لَهُ ٱلْخَلْقُ وَٱلْأَمْرُ ۗ تَبَارَكَ ٱللَّهُ رَبُّ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ

Your Guardian-Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and is firmly established on the throne (of authority): He draweth the night as a veil o’er the day, each seeking the other in rapid succession: He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, (all) governed by laws under His command. Is it not His to create and to govern? Blessed be Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds!

(Surah Al-A’raf-54- English Translation: Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

For centuries, astrology has been a source of debate in Islamic society. Those who deny it say it’s idolatry or that creation is valued more than the creator. However, those who utilize astrological knowledge for day-to-day issues, on the other hand, acknowledge its usefulness and, in support of their argument, cite the above-mentioned Quranic verse, arguing that it is apparent from the verse that planets are subject to laws above them. As a result, considering authentic astrology to be idolatry or putting creation ahead of the creator would be completely incorrect. To further strengthen their stand, they cite the following verse from the Holy Quran:

وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ ٱلَّيْلَ وَٱلنَّهَارَ وَٱلشَّمْسَ وَٱلْقَمَرَ ۖ وَٱلنُّجُومُ مُسَخَّرَٰتٌۢ بِأَمْرِهِۦٓ ۗ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍۢ لِّقَوْمٍۢ يَعْقِلُونَ 

He has made subject to you the Night and the Day; the sun and the moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: verily in this are Signs for men who are wise. (Surah An-Nahl-12, English Translation:  Abdullah Yusuf Ali)

They (believers in astrology) argue that it is evident from the above verse that planetary systems are subject to the laws above them under the orders of none other than the Creator Himself, and also that attributing it to a partner with Allah (shirk) is a complete misunderstanding of Islam and astrology, and that astrology is instead based on statistical knowledge that motivates people to learn more about the human condition. And the verse “sign for men who are wise” is a strong indicator that without special knowledge and insight, the deeper meaning of the subject will remain concealed.

Similarly, Abdullah Yusuf Ali wrote in his commentary of Surat At-Takwir verses 15-16: 

“The appeal here is made to three things, the Planets, the Night, and the Dawn. (1) The Planets have a retrograde and a forward motion, and, during occultation, hide or disappear behind the sun or moon, or are otherwise invisible or appear stationery. They behave differently from millions of stars around them. Yet they are not mere erratic bodies, but obey definite laws, and evidence the power and wisdom of Allah.” 

This observation by Abdullah Yousuf Ali not only gives weight to the argument of supporters of astrology in Islamic society that planets obey defined laws, but also highlights the importance of planet motions and also that planets bear evidence of Allah’s power and wisdom. And for this reason, it seems those favouring knowledge of astrology have made these verses the essential part of their argument, as it is clear enough from the commentary of Abdullah Yusuf Ali that planets have in them concealed the wisdom of Allah, and according to believers of astrology, the wisdom of Allah here could also be the knowledge of astrology, as wisdom is something that could also be defined as the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships.

As a further objection, many doubters of astrology in Islamic society cite a quotation from the Prophet (PBUH) that forbids believers from visiting fortune tellers. As evidence for their argument, they link the Prophet’s statement to the knowledge of astrology. Yet those who believe astrological data can also be used to solve day-to-day problems in one’s life argue that the Prophet’s (PBUH) prohibition against visiting fortune tellers does not apply to the knowledge of astrology because predictions can also be made by the weather bureau, physicians, political commentators, etc., and it is a well-established fact that no supernatural force is at work in any of these professions; only the right knowledge and intuition are required.

Furthermore, it would be appropriate to refer to the significance of these astrological knowledge acceptors in Islamic society. Those who argued for the importance of astrological knowledge had proven their capabilities and intelligence not only in astrological teaching but also in other Islamic studies. They had not only demonstrated their abilities as mufassir of the Quran, great muhaddith of their time, spiritual masters of the masses, and great well-wishers of society who supported the poor and needy, regardless of religion, caste, or color, but they had also made significant contributions to the knowledge of astrology. As a result, the astrological community, regardless of geography or religion, has recognized their contributions to astrology and has made these great teachers’ concepts the basis of their practice. 

A few great Muslim astrologers in history who have made significant contributions in the field of astrology are:

1. Ab Ma’shar (787–886), whose full name was Ab Ma’shar Ja’far ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Balkhi, was an early Persian Muslim astrologer who is perhaps the best-known promoter of Arabic astrology in Medieval Europe. Originally a hadith scholar, he only turned to astrology at the age of 47, making him one of the greatest astrologers of the Abbasid court. His works were widely translated, transmitted in manuscript, and had a considerable impact on the creation of Western astrology in the twelfth century. Models for astrological practice were created using his writings. He became the most important and prolific writer on astrology in the Middle Ages.

The astrological works of Abū Ma’shar we have are:

  1. The Greater Introduction to Astrology
  2. The Flores Astrologicae
  3. On the Great Conjunctions and on the Revolutions of the World (Kitab al-Qiranat)
  4. On the Revolutions of Nativities
  5. The Thousands (Kitab al-Uluf)

2. Abu al-Saqr Abd al-Aziz ibn Uthman ibn Ali al-Qabisi, commonly known as Al-Qabisi, was a Muslim astrologer, astronomer, and mathematician, best known for his Introduction to the Art of Judging the Stars, a treatise on judicial astrology. Several works of his were dedicated to Sayf al-Dawla, the Hamdanid Emir of Aleppo, between 945 and 967. He also wrote several other works which do not exist, but are referenced in his surviving works.
His other works include: a treatise on distances and bodies (Risala fi al-ab’âd wa-‘l-ajrâm), a book on affirming the validity of astrology (Kitb Kitāb fī ithbāt ṣināʿat aḥkām al‐nujūm), which was a response to the criticism of astrology by ʿAlī ibn ʿĪsā, an astronomical instrument maker of the 9th century, and a book on the namūdārs, the method to fix a person’s ascendant when the time of birth is unknown (Kitb f alnamdrt). His other works include:

  1. Risāla fī masāfat al‐arḍ (treatise on the size of the Earth)
  2. Kitāb fī ʿilal al‐zījāt (a book on the explanations of astronomical tables) 
  3. Hal al-Zîjat (Solving astronomical tables);
  4. Risāla fī imtiḥān al‐munajjimīn (A treatise for the examination of astrologers)
  5. Shukūk al‐Majisṭī (Doubts on the Almagest)
3. Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (December 7, 903 – May 25, 986), was one of the two most important practical astronomers of the Middle Ages. He was of a Sufi Muslim background. He is also known as Azophi or Arabus. In his book of constellations (atlas of heavens), he was the first astronomer to describe the ‘nebulosity’ of the nebula in Andromeda. His book “Kitab al-Kawatib al-Thabit al-Musawwar” was considered a masterpiece in stellar astronomy (also translated into French). Another of his books, Kitab al-Kawatib, is considered important even today for proper motion studies and long-period variables. The crater “Azophi” on the Moon was named after him because of his contributions to astronomy. But He is best known for his work Kitab al-Kawakib al Tahbitah (Book of the Fixed Stars). –After the Almagest by Ptolemy, this book brought expanded phenomena over stars and forty-eight constellations. With more accurate data and additional stars introduced by him, this book advanced astronomy significantly and served as a guide to subsequent astronomers for decades following its publication in 964 AD.
But he was also the Buwayhid rulers’ astrologer, and he published several astrology treatises. As the astrologer royal to Abud Al Dawla, he also cast the ruler’s horoscope (found in the book Dustar-al-munajjlimin, which is a collection of astrological treatises written in the 10th century).  Aside from that, two of Al-Sufi’s most well-known astrology works are:
  1.  Kitab al-Tathkira wa Matare al-Shu’a (The Book of Information and Projection of the Rays): A book focusing on astrology composed of tables and instructions on calculating astrological charts.
  2. Kitab al-Madhkal Fi ‘ilm al-Ahkam (Introductory Book to the Science of Astrology)

However, astrology has long been a source of contention in Islamic culture and will continue to be so in the future. In the end, it is the individual’s decision that is important, and in this case, it is his or her wisdom. Those who believe that analyzing a person’s natal chart is equivalent to going to the doctor and having their physical flaws treated. Furthermore, attempting to predict problems in life is analogous to understanding the weather forecast for a specific day in order to have a more enjoyable journey. Without a doubt, astrology can direct people down paths that will make their lives easier.

There is only one thing to remember: this is not an unnatural force or a magical event, but rather a calculation based on the wisdom bestowed upon the stars by none other than Almighty Himself. An infiltration is all that is required to reveal the hidden information.  اَللّٰهُ أَعْلَم 

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