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Allah's Clocks and Our Attitude

Allah, the Creator of this universe, when He created it, ordained for it a course and a destiny.

“Allah it is who raised up the heavens without visible pillars, then mounted the Throne, and compelled the sun and the moon to be of service, all run for a term appointed; He ordereth the course; He detaileth the revelations, that haply ye may be certain of the meeting with your Lord.” Ar-Ra’d, 13:2

No one has defied this decree for as long as the creation has been in existence. All creations have followed it without choice and without any protest. Even human beings follow it, sometimes grudgingly and often trying to stretch the limits. Allah has given human beings tremendous latitude of flexibility in all affairs but the limits as decreed by Him are what they are. The sun and the moon follow a decreed course and we are born and die as Allah has decreed.

“It is He Who gives life and death and to Him (is due) the alternation of Night and Day: will ye not then understand?” Al-Muminun, 23:80

“Say: “It is Allah Who gives you life then gives you death; then He will gather you together for the Day of Judgment about which there is no doubt: but most men do not understand.” Al-Jathiya, 45:26

“Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and He merges Day into Night; that He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His Law) each running its course for a term appointed: and that Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do?” Luqman 31:29

The Creator has created us for one and one reason alone, to worship Him and no one else and unconditionally. This is a test for us, and those who pass this test shall own the Hereafter.

“I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me.” Az-Zariyat, 51:56

“He it is Who created Death and Life that He may test which of you is best in conduct: and He is the Exalted in Might Oft-Forgiving” Al-Mulk, 67:2

The Creator also provided all that is essential for us to be judged in a fair manner. He assured us of all our provisions.

“Enjoin prayer on thy people and be constant therein. We ask thee not to provide sustenance: We provide it for thee. But the (fruit of) the Hereafter is for Righteousness.” Ta-ha, 20:132

These provisions include all that we need, not just health and wealth, food and water but a number of other provisions that are impossible for us to count and mention and in many instances to even know them.

One of these provisions is the alternation of day and night, varying in their duration from day to day and varying climatologically and meteorologically.

“And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon both diligently pursuing their courses: and the Night and the Day hath He (also) made subject to you.” Ibrahim, 14:33

“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 own orbit.” Al-Anbiyaa 21:33

“Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and He merges Day into Night; that He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His Law) each running its course for a term appointed: and that Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do?” Luqman, 31:29

“He merges Night into Day and He merges Day into Night and He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His Law): each one runs its course for a term appointed. Such is Allah your Lord: to Him belongs all Dominion. And those whom ye invoke besides Him have not the least power.” Fatir, 35:13

“He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He makes the Night overlap the Day and the Day overlap the Night: He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His law) each one follows a course for a time appointed. Is not He the Exalted in Power He Who forgives again and again?” Az-Zumar, 39:5

Certainly among these provisions is the criterion for determination of time and distance. So important is this provision for our eventual success that He decreed the number of months in a year and the length of each month and each day Himself. He provided us with a daily, monthly and yearly clock in addition to the celestial clock or clocks whose knowledge we may never be able to obtain.

“Men ask you of the Hour. Say: The knowledge of it is with Allah only. What can convey (the knowledge) unto thee? It may be that the Hour is nigh.” Al-Ahzab, 33:63

This daily, monthly and yearly clock is so perfect and unavoidable that in spite of all our technological advancement we cannot escape. We are subject to it and must use it as a reference for all our time-related affairs. Allah informed us of this importance thus,

“The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year) so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; four of them are sacred: that is the right religion. So wrong not yourselves therein and fight the idolaters all together as they fight you all together. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.” At-Tauba, 9:36.

“It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light (of beauty) and measured out stages for her: that ye might know the number of years and the count (of time). Nowise did Allah create this but in truth and righteousness. (Thus) doth He explain his signs in detail for those who understand.” Yunus, 10:5.

These twelve months are not based on the solar cycle, although, as we know quite well, the solar cycle can be used for this purpose. Allah, the Most Knowing, guided us towards the criterion for determining these months most emphatically.

“They ask thee concerning the hilaals (sightable crescents). Say: they are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men and for pilgrimage. It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back; it is virtue if ye fear Allah. Enter houses through the proper doors and fear Allah that ye may prosper.” Al-Baqara, 2:189.

This criterion has been the basis for the determination of the commencement of months since the beginning of time. We have recorded accounts that show that it was in use at the time of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). All the progeny of Ishaq  (peace be upon him) and Ismael (peace be upon him) used it. This is the criterion the Jews used from the very beginning of their history; they (at least some of them) still use it. This was the criterion that Quraysh of Makkah used before the prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This is a criterion that was used by people of other faiths all over the world. Many people, not just Muslims, still refer to it as “their year” and “their month” based on the lunar cycle, in contrast to the solar-based cycle.

It is beyond comprehension that Allah most knowing would create the yearly solar cycle in jest. But it was so obvious that every human being, in effect any living being, was aware of it and utilized it in a useful manner, consciously or unconsciously. Look around and we shall see plants and how they germinate, grow flower and fruit, foliate and defoliate utilizing this solar cycle. Look around and we shall see animal mating and nativity, development of external insulation, hibernation and estivation and many other bodily functions regulated in harmony using the solar cycle. We use it in agricultural and navigational activities and there are many other, more subtle ways that we depend on it.

Surprisingly, no other living being is functionally aware of the lunar cycle to the extent that they are of the solar cycle. Even those animals that have menstrual or estrous cycles seem oblivious to the lunar cycle. To life regulated by the daily tidal cycles of the oceans, which respond to the daily lunar and solar positions, the monthly lunar cycle is still an oblivious phenomenon.

Indeed giving human beings this unique knowledge was to show us in yet another way that we are different in more ways than we realize from animals and plants even though they may appear to share “life” with us. After all we humans have, in the eyes of our Lord, a status of our own, “We have indeed created man in the best of molds” At-Tin, 95:4

Not leaving anything to chance, Allah has also provided us with a daily clock. This clock is based on the sun. All living creatures quite easily appreciate its usefulness. The diurnal and nocturnal activities of animals and plants are well known to us who follow this daily solar cycle. See how, for example, the sunflower rotates in recognition of this daily solar cycle. See how the vertical migration of fish in the oceans and the movements of the subterranean living forms are regulated by this cycle. Truly for those who are not blind the wonders that Allah has created for us as signs of His ultimate authority are plentiful to see.

Thus Allah has provided all creations with clocks. A bird incubating her eggs has a clock, an impregnated doe has a clock, an impregnated elephant-cow has a clock and the seventeen-year cicada has a clock. In effect, to chronicle and describe the clocks that Allah has created is an impossible task. “And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea, with seven more seas to help it, (were ink), the words of Allah could not be exhausted. Allah is Mighty, Wise.” Luqman, 31:27

And Allah has provided us, the best of creations, with a most sophisticated clock and He provided us the knowledge to use it to fulfill His commands in the fullest. Some components of this clock we have no choice except to follow unconditionally, as do all other creations. Thus we have no control on the time that we are born or die, or the aging process that we must go through. So also, by and large, we have no control on the clock according to which the food that we have swallowed will move through our digestive system or our blood will flow in our arteries and veins or the number of times our lungs will inflate and deflate or the progression of impulses in our nervous system.

With other parts of the clock we have tremendous choice. He furnished us detailed guidance how to determine and use this part of the clock in all matters of life, but especially for the most important acts that we can perform to succeed in this world and in the Hereafter, i.e. the ordained acts of ibadaat (worship), salaat (daily prayers), zakaat (yearly charity), saum (month of fasting) and hajj (pilgrimage).

He emphatically ordered us to establish salaat five times a day using the sun as the clock.

“Establish worship at the two ends of the day and in some watches of the night. Lo! good deeds annul ill deeds. This is a reminder for the mindful.” Hud, 11:114

“Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of night, and (the recital of) the Quran at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Quran at dawn is ever witnessed. And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of Praise and Glory!” Al-Israa, 17:78-79

“So (give) glory to Allah when ye reach eventide and when ye rise in the morning; Yea to Him be praise in the heavens and on earth; and in the late afternoon and when the day begins to decline.” Ar-Rum, 30:17-18

“Bear then with patience all that they say and celebrate the praises of thy Lord before the rising of the sun and before (its) setting. And during part of the night (also) celebrate His praises and (so likewise) after the postures of adoration.” Qaf, 50:39-40.

Muslims throughout the ages have studiously followed the daily solar clock to regulate the time of the five daily salaat. We know where the sun should be when we offer Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Magrib and Isha. We, the Muslims, also invented the timepiece to make it easy for us to know when the five times of prayer are without ever going out to look at the sun. There is, alhumdulillah, no dispute that we can use watches to determine the time of daily prayer. Every community uses watches to determine when the daily prayers are as ordained by Allah for their locality. No one has ever tried to persuade people living even in adjacent towns to harmonize their salaat times for the sake of “unity”. If anyone tried to institute such a unity, there would be a tremendous rebellion against such authority, for that authority would contravene the order of Allah. So, alhumdullilah, we pray our salaat as it becomes due, those in the east praying before those in the west but all following the command of Allah and observing the times ordained by Allah and not worrying when others in adjacent localities prayed, for we know that their times are different than ours. This is birr (righteousness). Just as following the orders of Allah is birr, not, in itself, observing the East or the West direction of Qibla.

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces toward East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering) and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah -fearing.” Al-Baqara, 2:177

Just as Allah has prescribed the daily clock for our worship Allah has also ordained how we determine the beginning of a month (see IQRA editorials, Dec. 2003, Jan. 2004). Each locality has its time. The mechanism of the clock that Allah has created in this case is different than the solar clock. The hilaal (new crescent) does not become observable at the same place every month, neither Jerusalem nor Makkah is special in this regard. Even when it does become observable, not all the localities in that latitude are shown the hilaal by Allah. The time of beginning is different for localities not only east and west but even north and south. (see fig. 1) Muslims, alhumdullillah, have mastered this “timepiece” as well. A watch that is remarkably accurate in informing us where the hilaal cannot be sighted is now available to us. It still does not with absolute accuracy tell us where the hilaal will be sighted. This deficiency makes it incumbent upon us to go out and look for the hilaal on the 29th and the 30th of each month. There is also benefit in it for us for we are observing the sunnah of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). If you wish to see the various aspects of this monthly clock you can easily go to a website that reports moon sighting for Muslims and observe it.

Unfortunately, a large number of us have not learned about this timepiece as well as we have about the watch on our wrist or on the masjid wall. But this clock is just as reliable in telling us where the hilaal is, to help us determine the beginning of a new month, as the wrist watch is in telling us where the sun is to determine the beginning of the time of a salaat. Once we have learnt about this, we would be amazed at how we contravene the orders of Allah in the name of fake unity. We start our month when Allah has not ordained it to begin. We celebrate our Eid when Allah has not ordained it to be. The amazing thing is that we accuse some Middle East governments of doing the same thing that we do ourselves, for the sake of “American Unity”. Allah surely does not honor our nations or continental boundaries, just as He does not honor the color of our skin or tribal or national affiliations.

“O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the one who is best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” Al -Hujurat, 49:13

We have the same justification to follow a hilaal sighted in Houston, Texas, while we know for sure that hilaal is not ordered by Allah to be seen in Connecticut as we have the justification to keep eating suhur until it is time in Houston, to call the fajr azaan, while we know for sure that the sun in Connecticut has passed the prescribed limits a long while ago. If we cannot and do not disregard the solar clock that Allah has prescribed for us, should we defy the lunar clock that our Creator has even more emphatically ordered us to follow?

The beginning of the lunar month cannot be on the same solar day all over the world. No one disputes this. If anyone does all he has to do is look at the extensive record that is available. Before the advent of modern devices of speedy communication for more than thirteen centuries everyone followed the clock that Allah has created without any dispute whatsoever. Undoubtedly, people in Damascus began their months often one day before Madinah. Undoubtedly, people in Makkah began their months often one day before Madinah. So did hundreds and thousands of other localities all over the world. Never were they afraid of the criticism of the criticizer as long as they sincerely followed the orders of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). They loved Allah and Allah’s love was their destiny.

“O ye who believe! Whoso of you becometh a renegade from his religion, (know that in his stead) Allah will bring a people whom He loveth and who love Him, humble toward believers, stern toward disbelievers, striving in the way of Allah and fearing not the criticism of the criticizer. Such is the grace of Allah, which He giveth unto whom He will. Allah is All Embracing, All Knowing.” Al-Maida, 5:54

So what stops us in North America from doing just that, following the clock that Allah has created for us and ordered us to follow?

If we change our ways surely Allah will help change our present despondent situation. If we do not change Allah will also not change our condition. This is the promise of Allah.

“Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.” Ar-Ra’d, 13:11

Published: December 2005


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