The influence of Astronomy in Islam

Every morning at around 4:30 the call to prayer is broadcasted for everyone to hear. Since I live next to a mosque and there are quite a few others nearby I always hear it sometime of day. This early Morning Prayer time is known as fedgir. Though in the west there are some Muslims who have stopped practicing fedgir, being in such a traditional, society it is still very much common practice.

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Because afternoons are so hot, morning is one of the most beautiful times of day. Most days my family will wake up for fedgir and pray for around five to ten minute and then go back to sleep. Although according to them this is also the best time to go to the beach and watch the sunrise.

Muslims believe that God or other higher powers reward those who wake up early. Those who rise before dawn will be visited by the angels and looked after with a closer eye.

There is a Muslim philosophy that involves making the most of life by living in the present. By waking up early you are finding balance and spirituality even in the quietest hours of the day. It is not surprising then why both the sun and moon represent such prominent symbolisms in the religion and culture it self.

In Arabic, the word for moon is “kemar”, and sun is “shems”. Islam follows a lunar calendar similarly to some other prominent religions. Because they do not follow the Gregorian calendar, none of the holidays are set in stone. They are always revolving with moon. Of course, because countries still need to keep up with international trade, the Islamic calendar does synchronize with other calendars.

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Interestingly, early Islam has a very close relationship with the development of astronomy. One of the most brilliant Islamic astronomers, al-Battani, was off by only 24 seconds in his calculations for the length of a solar year. Needless to say this was 500 years before Galileo! Al-Baruni, another scientist, when calculating the latitude and longitude of the earth was accurate up to three place values! Throughout the Arab world there has been a long history of observatories. Some of the most notable ones were in Damascus and Meraja. There they would try to evaluate the makeup of stars and planetary motion.

It is not really coincidence in Islam there is such a prominent correlation between astronomy and religion. To finish I will end with a quote by one of the notable scientists above, al-Battani, from his opus Aastronomicium.

“Astronomy comes immediately after religion as the most noble and perfect science. It adorns the mind and sharpens the intellect, it makes man recognize God’s openness.”

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4 responses to “The influence of Astronomy in Islam

  1. I was just listening to a podcast on the Vatcan’s meteor lab and the chief Vatican scientist who studies these meteors. He also said that studying the universe makes him feel closer to God and helps him better appreciate God. It is nice that science and religion do not need to be mutually exclusive. I really enjoyed reading your post!

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