[Al-Quran 50:6-8] Have they not looked at the heaven above them - how We structured it and adorned it and how it has no rifts? And the earth - We spread it out and cast therein firmly set mountains and made grow therein [something] of every beautiful kind, Giving insight and a reminder for every servant who turns [to Allah].

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kawakib: Planets, Comets and other rocky bodies?

The term ‘كَوْكَبٌ’  used in the Quran seems to refer to objects which do not produce light, but shine due to the light of another source. I think they are solid objects made from sand/soil/clay, and have rocky features. Planets, asteroids, meteoroids and comets, all fit in this description.   

Some translators translate the term ‘kawkab’ as star, but the Quran uses the term ‘najm’ to refer to a star. As the Quran has very precise and appropriate usage of words, its critical to explore this word in detail for an understanding and comprehension of the heavenly phenomenon being described. 

Mention in Quran: 
In the Quran, the term ‘kawkab’ and its plural ‘kawakib’ have been used as follows: 

(6:76:6) kawkaban فَلَمَّا جَنَّ عَلَيْهِ اللَّيْلُ رَأَىٰ كَوْكَبًا
(12:4:10) kawkaban إِذْ قَالَ يُوسُفُ لِأَبِيهِ يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي رَأَيْتُ أَحَدَ عَشَرَ كَوْكَبًا
(24:35:15) kawkabun كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ
(37:6:6) l-kawākibi إِنَّا زَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِزِينَةٍ الْكَوَاكِبِ
(82:2:2) l-kawākibu وَإِذَا الْكَوَاكِبُ انْتَثَرَتْ

In verse 6:76, Prophet Abraham sees a ‘kawkaban’. The verse is preceded by the statement that Abraham was shown the realms of the heavens and the earth, so that he would have faith with certainty. This is followed by the mention of three heavenly bodies: kawkaban, moon and sun. 

In verse 12:4, Prophet Yusuf sees a dream in which 11 ‘kawkaban’, the sun and the moon are prostrating to him. The dream is realised many years later when, in verse 12:100, he is re-united with his parents and eleven brothers, all of whom prostrate to him. 

In verse 24:35, where God is being described as the ‘Nur’ of the heavens and the earth, the example to explain it is described as the ‘nur’ is within a glass, and the glass is radiating the ‘nur’ as a brilliant, shining ‘kawkabun’.   

In verse 37:6, the singular ‘as-samaa’  [heaven/sky] of the ‘dunya’ [world] has been decorated with ‘al-kawakib’ whose purpose is to guard against every froward devil [37:7]. Verse 37:11 goes on to state that they (I assume ‘kawakib’) have been created from ‘teenin laazib’. 

In verse 82:2, the future, cataclysmic event is being referred to as when the ‘al-kawakib’ are dispersed. This is preceded by verse 82:1 which reads: when the singular ‘as-samaa’  [heaven/sky] is cleft asunder.  

Looking up the meaning of ‘kawkab’ in Lane’s Lexicon [page 2623 under k-k-b], the following meanings are of interest in this study: 
it (iron) glistened; was lustrous, or bright 
al-kawkab or al-kawkaba for Venus, while kawkub for rest of the stars [*
the source, or spring, of a well
the lustre, or brightness, or glistening, of iron 
vehemence of heat 
of difficulties, distresses or calamities, when used as an adjective for a day 
a place of confinement 

Ancient Arabic and Hebrew: 
Ancient Arabic and Hebrew have many commonalities, and according to some, may have been different dialects of the same language. As per an author, ‘The Hebrew word for star is  (kokhav), while planet is referred to as a ‘walking star’ –  Curiously, Arabic uses the same root to refer to planet –  (kawkab), while the word for star is  (najm) or  (najma). The common root for the Hebrew star and the Arab planet probably originates from the Akkadian word ‘kakkabu’ for star.’ [4.1. Star, Planet  ]

[*] Venus is a planet, and since, it is the brightest star-like, point-of-light in our night sky, it is easy to understand why people without technical knowledge would assume it to be a star.  In ancient mythology, Venus is known as the Comet-Planet, whose coma glowed in a comet-like tail, and is depicted in the crown of ancient Egyptian queens, as well as other mythologies around the world. However, scientists have found planet Venus exhibiting some comet-like properties.  

Space Research: 
As research and discovery continue, new findings are radically altering the assumptions and theories about the constitution of the heavenly bodies. 

A few missions in the recent past were sent to explore comets: Deep Impact, Stardust, Stardust NExT and most recently Rosetta. The Thunderbolts Project’s video: The Electric Comet summarises the recent discoveries and evaluates the findings in the light of their Electric theory. 

The samples and images indicate that the composition of comets is remarkably similar to the composition of planets, and appear to have been formed from the same material. Furthermore, they seem to have been formed in very diverse conditions and then put together. The shapes of the comets are also very surprising. Close-up images of comets Tempel 1 and Hartley are fascinating!   

Stardust findings: “The findings from the Stardust mission to collect comet samples indicates: ‘Scientists found a wide variety in particle composition and size in the Wild 2 samples. Most of the Wild 2 samples appear to be weakly constructed mixtures of very small grains with a few larger grains. Also, a wide range of high- and low-temperature minerals, from olivine to low- and high-calcium pyroxene compositions, is present in the Wild 2 samples. Such a diversity of high- and low-temperature minerals requires a wide range of formation conditions, probably reflecting different formation locations. Many particles did not form in the cold environment and locations where cometary ices condensed. Instead, they needed high temperatures to form, as well as complex and as yet little understood dynamical processes to end up where comets actually formed. Also, particles from different environments must have undergone some process of accretion to end up as aggregates composed of different minerals.’ 

Another analysis: “The comet is very odd mix of materials that formed at the highest and lowest temperatures that existed in the early solar system. Comets have been cold for billions of years but their ingredients are remarkable products of both fire and ice.  Because the rocky materials in comet Wild 2 formed at such high temperatures, we believe that they formed in the hot inner regions of the young solar system and were then transported all the way to beyond the orbit of Neptune. There had been several theories that suggested that such large scale mixing might have occurred and the Stardust results appear to be proof that this large scale mixing did occur and that many of the large rocky particles formed close to the Sun.  This implies that while the comets contain ices that formed at the edge of the solar system, the rocky materials that actually make up the bulk of a comet’s mass actually formed in the hottest possible conditions. The inner solar system can be thought of as a factory producing rocky materials that were distributed outwards to all the bodies and regions of the solar system.”

Stardust NExT report on Tempel 1: “One of the striking features of this low-gravity object is that there are regions of different types of “geology” and that these occur at different relative heights. Areas that are relatively high are rough and have many pits, tens to hundreds of m across. Areas that are low have much smoother topography and even display deposits that have many characteristics of having been emplaced as flows along the surface filling in the low areas. These likely flow deposits are up to tens of meters thick, and some are over 3 km in length. The three main low regions and outlines of likely flows are shown in the lower part of the illustration.” 

Water on comets: “By analyzing data and images taken prior to impact, Deep Impact scientists have detected water ice in three small areas on the surface of comet Tempel 1. This is the first time ice has been detected on the nucleus, or solid body, of a comet. The findings are published today in the online version of the journal Science.”

"These results show that there is ice on the surface, but not very much and definitely not enough to account for the water we see in the out-gassed material that is in the coma [the cloud of gas and dust that surrounds the comet]," said lead author Jessica Sunshine of Science Applications International Corporation.”

"These new findings are significant because they show that our technique is effective in finding ice when it is on the surface and that we can therefore firmly conclude that most of the water vapor that escapes from comets is contained in ice particles found below the surface," said Deep Impact Principal Investigator Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland.”

Everything in creation must serve a purpose, as asserted in following verse in the Quran:

[Al-Qur’an 38:27 translator: Sahih International] And We did not create the heaven and the earth and that between them aimlessly. That is the assumption of those who disbelieve, so woe to those who disbelieve from the Fire.

In chapter 15 in the Quran, it mentions that ‘buroojan’ have been made in the sky, which are guarded from the devils:  

[Al-Qur’an 15:16-18, translator: Shakir] And certainly We have made strongholds in the heaven and We have made it fair seeming to the beholders. And We guard it against every accursed Shaitan, But he who steals a hearing, so there follows him a visible flame. 

Though a number of translators take it to mean constellations or mansions of stars, according to Lane’s Lexicon, ‘buroojan’ means strongholds. Shakir has also translated it as strongholds. It is interesting that this verse is mentioned in Surah Al-Hijr [The Rocky Tract / The Valley of Stone], which agrees with the shades of meaning of ‘kawkab’ listed above under Meanings. Furthermore, the fact that they are beautiful to behold is also mentioned here, as in 37:6 [We have adorned the Heaven of the world with adornment of the Kawkab].  

The verses speak of guarding from ‘shaitan’ who are pelted from every side, pursued by a piercing flame: 

[Al-Quran 37:7-10] and guard against every rebellious shaitaan; they cannot listen to the Exalted Assembly for they are pelted from every side; outcast, and theirs is a perpetual torment; except such as who snatches by stealth, is pursued by a piercing flame;  

Could these verses be referring to meteor showers which fall on Earth throughout the year? They are visible to the naked eye, and the origins of many are associated with comets which are beautiful to behold, as mentioned in 15:16, and 37:6. 

Why not stars: 
Translators of the Quran generally tend to translate ‘kawkab’ as star, as found in the lexicon and various translations, as also in the examples of 24:35 below. However, Quran uses the word ‘najm’ for stars. Where the Quran employs the word ‘kawkab’, it appears that a more plausible translation would be a body which shines due to another light source. In Quran 24:35, the word ‘kawkab’, as explained in the verse itself, is something that is illuminated and shining due to another light source. In contrast, the the stars glow by their own light.  

[Al-Qur’an 24:35, translator: Sahih International] Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things. 

[Al-Qur’an 24:35, translator: Pickthall] Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things. 

As per the explanation of ‘kawkab’ in the verse itself of the glass shining due to the light of the lamp, considering the above-listed Lexicon’ meanings: [ i) it (iron) glistened; was lustrous, or bright, and v) the lustre, or brightness, or glistening, of iron], it appears that the term ‘kawkab’ is employed for celestial objects which have metallic content and reflect light, which could include planets, asteroids, comets, meteoroids and meteors. Recent exploration and analysis of samples returned by NASA’s mission Stardust have revealed that ‘like in meteorites most of the components from the comet have isotopic compositions similar to Earth and are of solar system origin.’  

Considering the meanings [ iii) the source, or spring, of a well, and v) water ] of ‘kawkab’, recent explorations have returned little evidence for massive amounts of water on comet surface, but there is some evidence of underground water reserves. This is surprising for scientists, as it was theorised that comets brought water to earth. However, even though the Quran does mention that water has been sent from the sky/heaven [as-samaa], it does not mention ‘kawakib’ in relation with water. 

What is the meaning of ‘teenin lazibin’? 

فَاسْتَفْتِهِمْ أَهُمْ أَشَدُّ خَلْقًا أَم مَّنْ خَلَقْنَا ۚ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاهُم مِّن طِينٍ لَّازِبٍ

Then ask them: are they stronger in creation or whom we have created? We created them of ‘teenin lazibin’

Verse 37:11 goes on to question who is more difficult to create, and unequivocally states that We created them from ‘teenin lazibin’. According to Lane’s Lexicon, ’teenin’ is clay or mud, while ‘lazibin’ means fixed, settled, firm or constant, and severe. I think this question is about the creation of ‘al-kawakib’, and is informing us of the composition of these strongholds, which are well-guarded!

Some other observations: 
The article ‘al’ prefixing ‘kawakib’  has been used in 37:6 and 82:2, which indicates that the ‘kawakib’ referred here are either definitive [English equivalent ‘the’], or represents the entire category of ‘kawakib’ 

In 24:35, the kawkab is likened to glass, an amorphous substance which we are very familiar with on Earth, having the properties of transmitting, reflecting and refracting light. 

In 67:5, the verse speaks of the sky/heaven of the world being adorned (of old) with lamps. Verse 24:35 speaks of the lamp within the glass shining like a kawkab. The analogy seems quite similar to a filament bulb. 

The purpose of the lamps in the world's sky is to drive away the evil ones with 'missiles'. (67:5)    

I refrain to add Moon to the list of possible meanings of 'kawkab', as moon [al-qamr] is stated separately from kawkab, just as sun [as-shams] is stated separately from the stars[an-najm]. The separate specific mention could be either because the sun and moon stand out in our sky as different from the other objects, or it could be that future research holds some new discoveries which may alter our understanding of these heavenly bodies.  

Last updated on September 4, 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment