Astrology in Islam

It is He Who maketh the stars (as beacons) for you, that ye may guide yourselves, with their help, through the dark spaces of land and sea: We detail Our signs for people who know. (Surah Al-An‘am, 97)

The image shows the phases of the moon in a month. This is a page taken form a calendar prepared by Sayyid Ahmed b. Mustafa Al-La’li, who presented this calendar to the Sultan Selim II in 1566. Courtesy of Sam Fogg – London.

If you were to conduct a search on the subject of Islam and Astrology, you find several rulings by Muslim scholars. It is neither my place nor my interest in contradicting them. But I take exception to the way that astrology is falsely presented and I mean to show how the art is a part of the Islamic experience.  This passage will serve to provide a fair representation of the position of the naysayers:

“Not only is the practice of astrology is [sic] haram, but also visiting an astrologer and listening to his predictions, buying books on astrology or reading one’s horoscope are also forbidden. Since astrology is mainly used to predicting the future, those who practice it are considered fortune-tellers. Consequently, one who seeks his horoscope comes under the ruling contained in the Prophet’s statement. ” (See Sunnah Online). The prophet’s statement is concerned with fortune-tellers and the annulment of prayers for those who visit one.

When the passage is distilled, we find that the chief complaint is that astrologers predict the future.  For now, I will simply state that predictions are also made by the weather bureau,  ordinary farmers, physicians,  political commentators and so on. The is no supernatural force at work, although as with the other livelihood a knowledge of the subject and a keen intuition are part of the skill. I mean to address this and other issues regarding what is haram or halal with respect to the celestial sciences.

To begin, I will attempt to create a rough context for the practise of astrology in Islam, recognizing that this is the same or identical in other faiths. The question of whether or not astrology is permitted in Islam is not a simple question by any means. I have worked to place the question in the context of various forms of Islamic understanding, including the Quran itself. I find that the question isn’t so much whether astrology is haram or halal, but how astrology is interpreted in the first place.

Lunar Calendar – detail of an almanac cover page. Topkapi Palace Museum Library, MS B 309. “This calendar was important in defining the times of religious observances that were new to the Muslim community. The Islamic religion, whose rituals were based on the lunar calendar, frequently calls the attention of Muslims to the heavens in the Koran, demonstrating the close relationship with astronomy in Muslim culture. ” Dr. Salim Ayduz  (Muslim Heritage)

This is a key passage:

“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.s it not His to create and to govern? Blessed be Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds! “(Surah Al-A‘raf, 54)

There is no question that the stars and planets are governed by laws that are above them. Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle, Ficino, Hinduism, the Abrahamic faiths along with all Islamic astrologers agree on that. This is why it is completely wrong-headed to consider authentic astrology as idolatry or placing the Creation above the Creator. That isn’t how it works.

The passage is a clear parallel to Genesis, which shouldn’t be surprising. There were large Jewish communities in centers like MekKa and Medina at the time of Muhammad. At the same time, the epithets for Allah – “Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds’ sounds more Hindu than Jewish. This is what Hindus call Vishnu. I make this comment to get the idea across that ancient Arabia was a culture of trade and with trade go ideas. They were not isolated.

Again this is made plain: “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)

There is no more fundamental belief in Islam than the concept of Tawhid. Islamic scriptures are replete with  This is but one.  Here we have the instruction to “follow what thou art taught by inspiration from the Lord: there is no god but He: and turns aside from those who join gods with Allah. (Surah Al-An‘am, 106). A term related to this is shirk – attributing partners to Allah.  It would take either a great misunderstanding of Islam and astrology to conclude that the wisdom conveyed via the stars denies the oneness of Allah.

The modifier “Sign for men who are wise” is crucial. Without special knowledge and insight, the further dimensions of meaning remain hidden. Indeed, there is no reason why everyone would need to know the greater workings of the celestial science.

Nevertheless, everyone needs to know the everyday calendrical information. In Islam, the Moon is of great significance for this and many other reasons, as the flags and mosque symbols of Islam attest. In the desert the Sun is pitiless and the cool of the evening a welcome respite. Pre-Islamic Middle Eastern lunar deities were ubiquitous and often considered male.

Classical astrologers have learned much of what they know from the ancient sources of the Middle East, Greece, Persia & India. In what were the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, Islamic astrology came into what has become known as a Golden Age.  So the question as to whether or not Islam permits the use of astrology isn’t likely to trouble many practitioners.

I do not write this article with a mind to changing anyone’s point of view. I would, however, like to make it as clear as possible how classical astrologers, including historical Islamic ones, understand their own craft. In doing so, I make one short digression.  The idea of belief is itself somewhat problematic. It lies somewhere in a grey area between faith and the void.  We might also say that it’s like faith without understanding. For example, do I have to ‘believe in’ mathematics in order for it to work? Probably not.  However, I’m not likely to derive much utility from mathematics if I refuse to employ the tools it offers. Belief has no sincere interest in the examined truth and is content to accept what others have said is true.  The apprehension of truth takes time and effort.  If this were not true, the world would have far fewer bigots.

The unexamined life is not only not worth living, it is scarcely a life at all. Sometimes the question is as important as the answer. It very often happens that one is like the proverbial fish in the bowl, not cognizant of the fact that he is swimming in water because there is no experience of otherness to create that awareness.

I was impressed by a very fine article “Is Astrology Permissible in Islam.” by Ugur Alkan, a freelance writer who holds a B.A. in Communication and an MBA in Management from Fort Hays State University, Kansas. The article is well written, but what attracted me most to the article was the stark boldness of the title in the form of a question. To some extent, this article is a response and dialogue with Alkan.

Alkan rightly points out at the beginning of the article that:

“Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, condemns fortune-tellers and praise genuine sciences. In The Holy Koran, Surah Al-Maida commands “Forbidden also is to use arrows seeking luck or decision; all that is disobedience of Allah and sin”Quran 5:3. In this case, the critical question involves the application of astrology. Is it used to find propitious times in our lives or to benefit as a helping profession in social and psychological sciences? According to some scholars in Sufism (Islamic Mysticism), astrology may be permissible in Islam because it is neither illusion nor demonic practice. Instead, astrology is based on statistical knowledge which motivates people for further research and comprehension of the human condition.”

The implication is that the two chief reasons for rejecting astrology are that it is either an illusion or else demonic. The first stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of how astrology works. Many have argued, for example, that the planets cannot possibly affect us because they are too far away. Even Jupiter’s gravity cannot reach us. The planets are just rocks in space. Usually, that’s where the investigation ends. However, the planets don’t ‘do’ anything to us.  The Quran also makes this plain. The celestial bodies are guides to the wise. The best analogy that comes to mind is that of a clock. The clock doesn’t ‘make’ time, but it can tell us what time it is. Those who seriously want to know how astrology can work will find scores of articles on this blog, dealing with that question in one way or the other

Imam Ali Conquers Jinn, unknown artist, Ahsan-ol-Kobar (1568) Golestan Palace

The demonic issue appears to be more complex in Islam than in the other Abrahamic religions because Islam includes the Jinn. One is not free to imagine there are no Jinn, any more than one is free to deny the existence of angels. These are elements of the Islamic faith. They are as much a part of Islam as who vastly outnumber humans and are invisible unless they choose to take a particular form. They are smokeless fire beings associated Iblis, the Islamic Lucifer. However, there are apparently many beneficial Jinns. The prophet Sulyman employed Jinn to great effect and this is celebrated in the Quran. They have also been associated with arts such as astrology. We are then faced with the situation of interrogating Hamlet’s ghost to determine whether the spirit is good or evil – a liar or a speaker of the truth. Although one might turn this into an impossible quest, thwarted at every step by the haunting possibility that a bad Jinn is deceiving us into believing it good, there is a way through. We can know what is good by what it produces. If authentic, seasoned astrologers can provide medical insights, auspicious dates for doing anything from starting the building of Baghdad to planting celery, identifying areas of conflict between nations or between a brother and sister, we ought to rule out the agency of evil beings for the same reasons we don’t ascribe demons as essential to weather forecasts of seasonal agricultural considerations. To do so, would be indicative of a noxious paranoia, rather than a healthy discernment.

The Jinn vastly outnumber humans and are invisible unless they choose to take a particular form. They are smokeless fire beings associated with Iblis and they can live for several hundred years.

However, there are beneficial Jinn. The prophet Sulyman employed Jinn to great effect and this is celebrated in the Quran. They have also been associated with arts such as astrology. We would otherwise be faced with the situation of interrogating Hamlet’s ghost to determine whether the spirit is good or evil – a liar or a speaker of the truth. Although one might turn this into an impossible quest, thwarted at every step by the haunting possibility that a bad Jinn is deceiving us into believing it good, there is a way through. We can know what is good by what it produces. There is nothing particularly different about this than things we do every day. A good recipe is judged by not only what the dish tastes like, but whether it is nutritious or detrimental to health.  However, I’m in no position to deny that some forms of mediumship involving an alleged communication with spirits is mere fiction. Such is neither my expertise nor interest.

Although one might turn this into an impossible quest, thwarted at every step by the haunting possibility that a bad Jinn is deceiving us into believing it good, there is a clear way through. We can know what is good by what it produces. If competent astrologers can provide invaluable medical insights, auspicious dates for doing anything from starting the building of Baghdad to planting celery, predicting the weather, identifying areas of conflict between nations and between a brother and sister, we ought to rule out the agency of evil beings.

In the Tasfir of Ibn Khatir – Imam Ahmad recorded from Az-Zubayr that he commented on the Ayah:

“A group of [Jinn] went towards Tihamah and found Allah’s Messenger while he was at a place called Nakhlah along the way to the `Ukaz market. He was leading his Companions in the Fajr prayer. When the Jinns heard the recitation of the Qur’an, they stopped to listen to it, and then they said: `By Allah! This is what has prevented you from eavesdropping on the news of the heavens.’ Then they returned to their people and told them: `Our people! We certainly have heard an amazing recitation (the Qur’an), it guides to the right path. So we have believed in it, and we will join none in worship with our Lord.’ So Allah revealed to His Prophet,”

﴿قُلْ أُوحِىَ إِلَىَّ أَنَّهُ اسْتَمَعَ نَفَرٌ مِّنَ الْجِنِّ

That the Quran was a revelation to both humans and the Jinn is a central element in Islamic thought. There is a very moving document from the 15th Century that has the animals of the world pleading to the King of the Jinn for humans to treat them better. There is a copy in the archives

Yet the Jinn are not be universally trusted by any means. There is an Islamic account, which might be apocryphal, that nevertheless holds a lot of weight. The story goes that angels get together to discuss the future, only to be overheard by evil Jinn who then corrupt the truth while leaving enough factual content to deceive the fortune teller and impress the querent.

The Stars and Human Temperaments – this model, derived from Greek sources, such as Galen and explains the theory that illustrates correlations between celestial bodies and human temperaments. This was well-received throughout the Islamic world.

“The word Jinn means “hidden” in Arabic. In The Holy Koran, they are described as being created from smokeless fire. Jinns are the descendants of Satan like Humans are descendants of Adam but most of them are very deceptive and dangerous for humans. When God has a certain event planned in our lives, he commands the angels to create the conditions to fabricate them. Before implementing God’s plan, Angels discuss this future event. In some cases, jinn sneaks up and overhear the future event and passes this information to the fortune-tellers through Tarot, I-ching or any other objects. Of course, the Jinns don’t intend to be favourable of humans; therefore, they muddle up the truth of future events with deception. As a result, the truthful events overheard from Angels are embellished with lies to cause confusion.” (Alkan).

Further to this view, we find a great deal of confirmation for credence in astrology as such:. “In Islamic teachings, every prophet was gifted with diverse miracles. Prophet Idris, also known as Enoch in the Old Testament, was blessed with his immense knowledge of heavenly sciences. As compared to modern science, he had a more complex knowledge of astronomy. Some Sufi schools consider him as the founder of the science of the stars, also called “ilm al nujum” in Arabic. Historical records illustrate his birth in Babylonia and his migration to Egypt later in life. History also collaborates that astrology was first born in Babylonia and then spread to Egypt. Prophet Idris was supposedly known to be the first person to educate mankind that living creatures are under the influence of cosmic rays.”

“In Islamic teachings, every prophet was gifted with diverse miracles. Prophet Idris, also known as Enoch in the Old Testament, was blessed with his immense knowledge of heavenly sciences. As compared to modern science, he had a more complex knowledge of astronomy. Some Sufi schools consider him as the founder of the science of the stars, also called “ilm al nujum” in Arabic. Historical records illustrate his birth in Babylonia and his migration to Egypt later in life. History also collaborates that astrology was first born in Babylonia and then spread to Egypt. Prophet Idris was supposedly known to be the first person to educate mankind that living creatures are under the influence of cosmic rays.” (Alkan)

Alkan then refers to modern horoscopes wherein the Sun is regarded as the only star and therefore the knowledge that belonged to the ancients is lost.  First of all, no serious astrology considers newspaper horoscopes as having anything to do with authentic astrology. True practitioners of the art pay a great deal of attention to fixed stars.

For some, this may be all the scriptural references to prophets such as Daniel and Enoch may be all they need to accept the halal relevance of reading the stars.  However, it is very difficult for many people to understand the difference between fortune-telling and authentic astrology. In large part, the difference is not merely in the technique, but in the intent.  If I say we are in for a very cold winter because I have learned how to read the signs of nature, such as the curling of leaves or the activity of crows, I’m merely stating that this is what happens when these signs manifest. This kind of divination is common among people who interact with and live close to nature. In fact, a Muslim colleague from Pakistan once told me that reading the stars is reading the signs of nature. If this is the case, astrology doesn’t differ much from meteorology. To refer to it as polytheistic is to completely misunderstand the nature of astrology.

“The Hour (of Judgment) is nigh, and the moon is cleft asunder. But if they see a Sign, they turn away, and say, “This is (but) transient magic.” —Quran 54:1–2 (Yusuf Ali) Image- Muhammad (veiled figure on the right) splitting the Moon in a 16th-century watercolour from a Falnama, a Persian book of prophecy. Unknown artist.

A great deal is riding on the answer to the simple question “is astrology permitted in Islam.” This question ultimately goes far beyond astrology itself. There are very many sub-sects of Sunni and Shia Islam, There are many Muslims who insist that music is haram, yet music and dance are very much part of the Islamic legacy.

Some groups in Pakistan and Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, systematically destroy Sufi shrines or anything at all that could leave the impression that Sufism was ever a part of regional cultures. Islam has taken the Abrahamic hatred for idolatry to the most extraordinary heights, being seemingly unable to distinguish between the evocative value of art from the worship of idols at all. This was why the Bamiyan Buddhist statues were destroyed. It was considered a holy act and I think they were sincere, even if regrettably misguided. The world lost an extraordinary heritage site, going back to the Buddhist period of what is now called Afghanistan, but to a literalist who considers all religions but his own as idolatrous, their destruction was an act of piety.

The answer, if you get one at all, to the question: is astrology permissible in Islam will depend on who you ask, which source texts they consult and how they interpret them.  All three criteria are subject to a multitude of considerations. I have been in touch with various Islamic scholars over the years and while most will deny that Islam supports astrology, there have been a few that do. In all cases of those who rejected astrology, I found that they had a vastly different concept from me regarding what astrology actually is. Although there is a rich tradition of astrological use, including from highly respected Islamic sources. The fact that the timing of the construction of Baghdad was trusted to astrologers and that medicine was so inextricably connected to astrology appears to be better known outside of Islam than within it. Clerics differ wildly on many subjects, but with respect to astrology, polarized views are adamantine. Attempts to explain the true nature of astrology are mostly doomed before they begin. One of the fruitful paths is to show how astrology has been used by Muslims and particularly during what is considered the Golden Age of Islam. Fortunately, the Qi’ran itself may be consulted for clarification.

The core concern regarding astrology in the Islamic world is whether or not it is shirk – this simply means that it is forbidden to assign partners to Allah.  In the context of celestial science, a good example is to be had in a passage within The Star Sura (53:49). “He is the Lord of Sirius” sound deceptively simple. Sirius is known as Shiera in Arabic and is the brightest star in the heaven. It is also known as Mirzam al-Jawza, al-Kalb al-Akbar, al-Kalb al-Jabbar, Ash-Shira al-Abur, etc. It was believed that Pre-Islamic cultures worshipped the stars. For example,  the Egyptians were said to worship Sirius as Isis. Of course, the word “worship” may not apply in usually understood meaning of the term.

Sirius has her heliacal rising at a time that coincided with the time of the season when annual floods, inundated the Nile, which augered for abundant harvests from the nutrient-rich silt of the river. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Egyptians referred to the Milky Way as the “true Nile,” displaying a clear understanding of what is above, is below.  The Pre-Islamic Arabs also held the belief that Sirius ‘influenced human destinies.’ This is a fundamental way in which astrology is misunderstood. No reputable, traditional astrologer will tell you that the stars dictate your fate. This what is meant by the simple statement that destinies are not made and controlled by Shiera but by the Lord of Shiera. This could take into a philosophical discussion regarding essence and emanation, but that is not required. The point is simple and easy to understand, just as the Qu’ran claims to be.

Canopus the “Celestial Navigator.” – The star used for the orientation of the Kaaba. Canopus shines 1400 times brighter than our Sun.

Originally and in essence, the Islamic tradition was a sophisticated system of knowledge that embraced all known areas of enquiry and it did so with considerable exuberance! Take for example the “Book of Wonders.” This treatise has been translated into Persian, Turkish, and German and is concerned with subjects such as astrology, cosmology, and the natural sciences. The author was very fond of Pliny the Elder and other Greek classical works. as well as the rich sources then found in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and India.

the author, Zakarīyā ibn Muhammad al-Qazwīnī (circa 1203–83) was a distinguished Iranian scholar who was conversant in poetry, history, geography, and natural history. He served as legal expert and judge in several localities in Iran and at Baghdad.  After travelling throughout Mesopotamia and Syria, he wrote his famous Arabic-language cosmography, ‘Aja’eb ol-makhluqat wa qara’eb ol-mowjudat (The wonders of creation, or literally, Marvels of things created and miraculous aspects of things existing).

“Book of Wonders” by Zakarīyā ibn Muhammad al-Qazwīnī (circa 1203–83).

This is but a drop in a vast ocean. Masters of several arts, like Ibn Sina,  born in what is now Uzbekistan, wrote voluminous medical works filled with thousands of pages of pharmacopoeia and used even in Europe until a bit more than a hundred years ago. He was also an astrologer and he used this as an integral part of his medical practise.  He spoke several languages, was extraordinarily well versed in philosophy and theology among many other things. His correspondence with Al Biruni is extant and illuminating, for anyone wishing to get a deeper insight into the Islamic culture of the period.

There is a statement attributed to Hippocrates, although the written location of the quote remains a mystery. Nevertheless, it is by no means out of place with what we know about Greek humoral medicine. This was certainly taken to heart by Islamic translators of Hippocrates, Galen and others.: “A physician without a knowledge of astrology has no right to call himself a physician”  We can also look forward to Guido Bonatti and others who were instrumental in the transmission of Islamic astrological ideas and methodologies. Bonatti was a great influence on the English Astrologer, William Lilly, who in turn imparted medically relevant knowledge to Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654). Culpeper was a friend and student of the astrologer William Lilly who worked with Culpeper on the attribution of astrological characteristics of both herbs and the patients being treated. What is seldom mentioned is that Culpeper knew of Avicenna and had access to his work. Culpeper refers to this as “astrologo-physical discourse of the vulgar herbs.” In his most celebrated work on medicine, The English Physician (1652), Culpeper’s lays out the relationship between plants and astrological considerations in the service of medicine.

The uses of authentic astrology are immense and have been passed on for the most part in scrupulous detail. This is not to say that tradition is a monolith that can never be changed. In the words of Gustav Mahler: “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire. ” In this case, the tradition involves a number of disciples working together.  We need to be clear that astrology was “NOT a hobby you performed in your spare time. It required a very good grasp of mathematics, astronomy, and writing, among many other things. Ergo, something you would

definitely not encounter among the general populace, as it would have required academic studies proportionally arduous to what you’d find today- the content might have been different, but you’d have to learn critical thinking, defending your theories, and learn about all the available material that preceded their “modern” education.” (Sid Meier’s Civis.)

Abū-ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn-ʿAbdallāh Ibn-Sīnā [Avicenna]

Avicenna’s breadth of learning is extraordinary by any standard. His importance is summed up in this entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“Avicenna synthesized the various strands of philosophical thought he inherited—the surviving Hellenic traditions along with the developments in philosophy and theology within Islam—into a self-consistent scientific system that explained all reality. His scientific edifice rested on Aristotelian physics and metaphysics capped with Neoplatonic emanationism in the context of Ptolemaic cosmology, all revised, re-thought, and critically re-assessed by him. His achievement consisted in his harmonization of the disparate parts into a rational whole, and particularly in bringing the sublunar and supralunar worlds into an intelligible relation for which he argued logically. The system was therefore both a research program and a worldview.”

Al Biruni spoke several languages, wrote an incredibly detailed and insightful book on the history, religion, and philosophies of India was also an extraordinary astrologer and is still studied today. There are dozens of others that can be cited, but this will not convince anyone who has decided that astrology is haram. Indeed, many of the most brilliant minds in Islam were accused of heresy and/or exiled.

Page from Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine – Courtesy of The National Library of Medicine

Muslims often opine that the decline in Islam is a result of not following the literal interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah closely enough. In light of the achievements realized when Islam was a relatively open religion, respecting and admiring, for example,  Classical, Indian and Persian antiquities, the appeal to fundamentalism as a cure for what ails Islam is not a case one can make without distorting history beyond recognition. The philosopher Al-Ghazali was rather like the Savonarola of Andalusia – except that Islam has not yet fully recovered from his eloquent but misguided call for literalism and fundamentalism, effectively closing the door on the extraordinary developments in Europe. If Averroes had won the debate, Islam would most likely have had its own Renaissance and Enlightenment. However, he lost and was sent into exile.

Of course, other religions, particularly some versions of Christianity have had their own iconoclasts and toters of pitchforks and torches, accusers and inquisitors. Even today I would wager that the vast majority of Christians would denounce astrology, if asked, only to check the horoscope in the newspaper because “it’s for entertainment only.” Few are aware that astrological ideas and imagery are woven into what was once called “high Church.” Many of the Popes had astrologers.

“Night Journey” attributed to Sultan Muhammad – one of fourteen full-page illustrations included in a copy of the poems of the celebrated Persian poet Nizami which was especially created for the Safavid ruler Shah Tahmasp (ruled 1524-76). This painting depicts the Prophet’s journey to heaven on the angelic steed, Buraq.
This combined with a short survey of Qu’ran quotes will cause some to view astrology with an open mind and the rest will essentially go into a sort of denial. It’s very easy to find lists, for those interested.

Muhammad’s only son died at approximately age two and the passing coincided with a solar eclipse. Understandably, the father was stricken with grief, but he did something that might seem odd to us. He summoned all his companions.

“Prophet Muhammad wanted Arabs to eradicate the pre-Islamic era paganism and superstitious beliefs. Distraught by the death of his son, he gathered his community and told them that solar eclipse is an irrelevant event and does not occur in correlation to someone’s birth or death. The experience of Prophet Muhammad is considered proof that there is no celestial influence or synchronicity between such phenomenon and human events. ” (Alkan) This may well seem to contradict the Quran, but it does, in fact, agree with it. A single and fleeting astrological event like this shouldn’t be blamed on the eclipse.

The story of Muhammad urging his followers not to consider the eclipse as in any way related to the death of his son, because that is a pre-Islamic superstition isn’t a reason in itself  That is to say one cannot divine that something is a mere superstition just by saying so. The understanding and accurate forecasting of eclipses preceded Islam by thousands of years. The pre-Islamic astronomers were sophisticated enough to name and track the unfolding of saros cycles. At the same time, we are asked to believe that the prophet literally split the Moon into two pieces. We are also told that shooting stars (comets or meteorites) “are made as “lamps as missiles to drive away the shayatin (devils).” Al-Qur’an 67:5

Eclipse Lunar Moon phases and eclipse illustrated by the great tenth-century Persian scholar Al-Biruni.

For many years, I assumed that all Muslims took these stories as metaphors of a mystical experience as do I. The alternative is rife with problems, even more so than the Night Journey. The prophet literally flew to Jerusalem on the back of the buraq steed. met all the Abrahamic prophets and returned without being seen. Again, as a metaphor, it’s a wonderful story, but if I have no choice than to believe it’s literally true, that’s all well and good, but one cannot then claim a distaste for faith-based on unverifiable facts.  It is impossible to ignore the fact that before and after the prophet, there was a highly evolved science of the stars that had precious little to do with superstition with demonstrative techniques and stunning accuracy.

I cannot help but think that Muhammad knew this. Perhaps the story has become corrupted over the years because the Quran is not so dismissive. Also, as a merchant, he had travelled a great deal and interestingly included the Chaldeans along with the People of Book. Abraham himself is said to have come from Ur of the Chaldees.  The name Chaldean is virtually synonymous with astrology and we still refer to the Chaldean order of the planets. The Chaldean star lore derived from Egypt, Persia, and India, but they no doubt influenced these cultures as much as they were informed by them. It is impossible to imagine that the prophet was unaware of the core of their beliefs of the Sabians (/ˈseɪbiənz/; Arabic: الصابئة‎‎ al-Ṣābiʼah or الصابئون‎ al-Ṣābiʼūn). The religious group is  mentioned three times in the Quran as a People of the Book: ie “the Jews, the Sabians, and the Christians”

“It is supposed that they influenced the practices of the Hellenic Theosebeis. While their angelology was based around the movements of the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. They found its greatest development in the community which was based in the Harran region of south-eastern Anatolia and northern Syria, who were distinguished as the Sabians of Harran from the south Mesopotamian Sabi’una Hunafa by later Islamic writers like Ibn al-Qayyim” (Creative Commons).  It isn’t unusual to think of the planets and luminaries as angels or messengers. Indeed, that is the most common understanding of the part they play in astrology among traditional astrologers from virtually all traditions.

Sabian “Star-Worshipers.”
The Sabians are a monotheistic religious group who worshipped in the names of stellar angels. This religion understandably became confused with the worship of the celestial bodies themselves, rather than their creator, as the dwellings or mansions of the powers above the visible orbs. Sabeanism was one of the archaic religions found all over the world in different forms.  In its origins,  Sabianism was undoubtedly a continuation of the rich tradition of star lore in the Middle East which go back to deepest antiquity. There was a later tradition that tells us that Muhammad was himself a Sabian before his conversion. The Sabians are monotheistic and the celestial world was of the utmost importance to all groups in the region and far beyond it. It is interesting that Canopus is used as the star of orientation regarding the Kaaba because the star is known as the Celestial Navigator. The greatest irony, of course, is that Muslims who consider astrology haram, really don’t know what it is.

The question of whether or not astrology is permitted in Islam, will, of course, be the decision of individual Muslims as well as sects of Islam. Nevertheless, from an objective point of view, the fact that astrology has been integral to the development of Islam and was used by its most brilliant proponents is compelling.  The Quran itself is replete with variations on the idea that the Stars are guides for the wise. Beyond that, I sympathize, recognize and understand potential problems in the misuse of astrology.

The first part is the need for the discernment of spirits, as it is known in European cultures, but in fact, emphasized by St. Paul. The true astrologer is conscious. The techniques take many years to learn, and much more to master, but in the end, one cannot dispel higher intuition out of the nexus.  One needs to be clear with potential clients who treat astrology as of it were a slot machine or something to enforce an illusion. Astrology is good and strong medicine, but like any medicine, the quality of the practitioner is the greatest consideration.

The Angel Ruh from The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence by cosmographer Zakariya ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini (b. 1203 Widely read in the Islamic world, this manuscript was an exploration of the heavenly & earthly realms. Courtesy of the Ashmolean

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On the art of electing a good moment

portasMasters tell us that astrologers should not analyze a horary question for themselves. In the same way, they can make a mistake by creating an electional chart for themselves.

Our desire for something to happen, or not to happen, leads to difficulties in interpreting the astrological configurations, giving room to ours unconscious mind.

It is true that mistakes mark us more than correctness, so we should learn more from them, but … this is not always possible.

Sometimes, even “a posteriori ” we are not able to identify the error, and yet, the election has not occurred as it was expected.

Any chart, but especially the electional one, is of extraordinary complexity, perhaps because in the final analysis we may be playing God.

So here’s an advice to the astrologer: never read a chart in a hurry, without sleeping for at least two nights from the first sight. The initial trust of an electional date must remain unabated. If not, it should be reviewed.

It may just be a personal opinion, but it is not possible to serve too many customers. Ideally, the astrologer would have to be paid enough, so he or her could devote several days to the same chart. This would give chance to be dazzled by the enigma of the unknown that must be deciphered and enable the professional to become a scholar.

Having the client’s chart in mind, memorized, from so much studying it, it is possible to do the best . The professional who has time to dwell unhurriedly on the chart benefits clients enormously, because their charts live in the astrologer’s memory.

I can say that there are people who I have not seen for years, and for so many years that their charts have been lost on old thirty years old drives. Many of them are dead. But the charts are still in my mind, like those of my friends, relatives and children. I forget birthdays, numbers, but I do not forget the charts I worked on.

I mention this fact of “digesting” the chart, because it is fundamental especially for any election.

I advice also to the astrologer avoid in any way to erect an electional chart whose purpose he, as a person, does not agree. The astrologer has to be on the client´s side, so considering his goal unacceptable or impossible, is a bad way to begin the work.

What can happen on this cases is that the astrologer will not find plausible dates, will start running for years without finding anything, and finally will adapt some things correctly, but usually as a result of the time and context of the client.

The result is ineffective and will ultimately harm the client and his/her own name.

Such a thing has happened to me, and up to this day I do not discovered a mistake in that disastrous electional chart! Apparently the choice for the day was okay…but the subject was not one, but a bunch of events very intricate and not depending one of the other, even if they will begin at the same time.

If the desired outcome is unreasonable, such as winning the lottery, doing several surgeries at the same time, in order to take advantage of the election, or because of the hurry, or if a woman wants to become pregnant at age 55, frankly, it is better to decline the election, even if the client is willing to pay a big money, so big as the client´s fantasy and desires.

In the case of several surgeries on the same day, for example, it is difficult to hit a good day, because the procedure lasts too long: the position of the Moon changes and also the ascendant which can be able to harbour Saturn or Mars, which dilutes the election, even if it has been well done.

The electional chart must take into account the client’s natal chart, the cyclical moment in which he is living, which is provided by the rulers and sub-rulers of firdars and profections, and by the ruler of the year, indicated by the solar revolution. The last one will be the Lord of the Year and we have to look exactly how it is configured in the natal chart and in the solar revolution, which means signs and houses it rules, its dispositor and finally, the aspects that it realizes and receives in the natal chart and in the solar revolution.

Writing what we observe is useful, because there are so many things to consider that our mind often forgets some very important of them

– Even if it seems obvious to you, write it down.

Yes, write down to yourself, it do not hurts, and justify your choice as if you were in the court room, until you have pages and pages of thoughts about what is important and why you have to take it into account, which houses should be avoided, which signs, which planets cannot be configured to some others … and much more.

At last but not least, consider the transits and avoid the malefic planets to be in configuration with the Lord of the Year and with the profection and firdar signs dispositors. If it is not possible, choose the less bad of the configurations.

All of the attention is good, but the astrologer will have to count on with some luck. I´ll give you an example:

Once, I chose the date of surgery for a client. I had already restricted the appropriate period, observing that both the firdar ruler and the sub-ruler were well configured in the natal chart, have avoided any contact with the eight house and her ruler, Venus, have paid good attention to where the profection felt in that year, which by the way was in the 8th house, which was ruled by Venus, as I said. In the natal chart Venus was in Virgo, very weak and in a cadent house, which was no good.

I had already verified the solar revolution, and the ascendant was Leo with Venus in the first house. Venus in this case, as ruler of the 8th house could be a light against a surgery. But the natal Leo was the sign of the 5th house, which seemed acceptable to me, due the intention of the surgery.

The Sun was the Lord of the Year, succedent in the solar revolution, applying itself to Saturn, but still distant, but I knew I had to take it into account.

Well, charts are imperfect, we have to get used with that, the malefics are always present, so the impression we have is that the astrologer flies from one side to another and when he thinks that has arrived at a good date, a planet appears to spoil all the job done.

I finally chose the day and the hour of my example chart. I justified the choice writing down to myself. And so I ended my day´s work and went out to watch a movie.

That night, when I closed my eyes to sleep, I remembered to send the report the next day and I felt uneasy. I stood up and opened the computer.

Out of the blue I saw that the Moon of the chosen date was in exact conjunction with Saturn in the Solar Revolution. The Moon was firdar´s sub-ruler and in addition, it has a huge importance over vital facts. I discarded the date and chose another one, very close, because the other planets were well.

It was not a perfect election, because after all, I realized that I could not accommodate well so many significators. But it looked as good as it was possible to be.

What is disturbing is the fact that it was virtually impossible to remember All ,as the fact that in the solar revolution Saturn would be at the same point and in the same degree as the Moon’s position of the chosen electional chart!

Saturn was not a significator, but it is the greatest malefic, and these coincidences, which in fact happen often, do not bode well.  Anyway, all this tiny thing requires a bionic attention! How do we ensure that we have all this in mind?

I don´t know if the surgery would be a disaster if I had forgot the position of Saturn, but I don´t like these kind of bad coincidences.

The question of choosing a date is complex. It is an intricate subject, because it uses the maximum freedom that is allowed to us, human beings.

In addition, there are elections of the date and time of birth, something of an unusual responsibility and that we must always carry out keeping in mind that we will try to reach some agreement with the divine.

Clélia Romano, DMA                                                        http://www.astrologiahumana.com

Babylonian Planetary Periods & Mundane Astrology

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By John Timperman

 

PLANETARY PERIODS IN MUNDANE ASTROLOGY

From the time of the Greek dominance of astrology, we commonly find references to planetary periods. In later times the Hellenistic astrologers and the Arabs used different systems of planetary periods such as “Zodiacal releasing ” and “Firdaria.” but these are systems that have nothing to do with the original model of Mesopotamia.

The authentic planetary periods are based on the heliacal phases of the different planets. The calculations of the astrologers of Babylon were based on the tropical solar year and are repetitions of a specific heliacal cycle in all its details.

THE PROPER HELIACAL PERIODS

A Babylonian Planetary period is the time period after which an exact period of a given heliacal cycle takes place.

Venus, for instance, has a short heliacal period of 8 years minus 2 days. This means that if Venus shows up today in the east in her morning the first phase , then after 8 years less 2 days she will show up again in Morning First, at the exact spot in the sky, same magnitude, same fixed stars background, etc

These heliacal periods of the planets can be of different duration. There are 4 kinds of periods; short, medium, long and giant. Different planets have different sets of them. Venus has only 2 periods; small of 8 years and a giant of 6400 years. Saturn has, according to the Babylonians, only a long period of 59 years and a giant one of 589 years.

GLOBAL HELIACAL PERIODSThis table shows us how we can calculate the periods of a planet and come to know when a planet is ” released ” and when its effect is then maximized.

The procedure is as follows:

GLOBAL HELIACAL PERIODS

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This table shows us how we can calculate the periods of a planet and come to know when a planet is ” released ” and when its effect is then maximized.

the heliacal rise. We see in the above table that the period of Mars is 15-47-79 years which means for this person that 40 days after birth and after every 15-47-79 years the planet is again activated.

This procedure is simply based on the principles put into practice by the astrologer-priests of Mesopotamia:

If someone is born when a certain celestial SIGN was in the sky THEN the significance of this SIGN will come to fulfillment WHEN that same sign is seen AGAIN in the sky.We can apply this system in genethical astrology as I explained in another article, but it is by all means also of interest in Mundane astrology.

When we look at some important events in the US we come across the following data :

July 21 1861- first battle in the American civil war

December 6 1941 Pearl Harbor

September 11 2001 Twin towers terrorist attack

June 12 2016 Orlando massacre

Between the beginning of the Civil War and the Pearl Harbor attack there is exactly 79 years and 6 months which is very close to the long planetary period of Mars. Mars is a planet which is particularly strong in the chart of the US as the planet rises a couple of days after July 4th.

When we look up ( K. Schoch planet- tables, Berlin 1927) when Mars was heliacally rising before the beginning of the Civil War ( July 21st 1861) we come to September 22 1859 which is exactly one year and 10 months before the beginning of the war . This happened with the 9th degree of Virgo and it was also the day of the heliacal rise of Zosma, a martial star in the back of Leo.

When we advance 79 years ( Mars period) and want to know when Mars is rising at about the same degree we see in the tables that this happens at September 25th 1938. When we now move ahead one year and 10 months we arrive in July 1941 : some 4 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor ! It may be interesting to point here that if we go 79 years further we arriving at September 27 2017. So, this means that ,according to this system, in about one year and 10 months mars could be activated again.

When we proceed and also investigate the time between Pearl Harbor ( December 12 1941 ) and September 11 2001 there is exactly 59 year and 9 months. This is around the long cycle of Saturn which we have to examine.

In 1941 Saturn rose heliacally around June 11th at 22° Taurus and some 6 months later there was the attack at Pearl Harbor which incited the US to declare war with Japan and Germany.

It was at the end of January that the Americans stroke back for the first time and attacked the Marshall Islands from the USS enterprise.

The solar chart for 1942, the year that America entered the war at full scale is particularly interesting : Saturn is at 8° Gemini and makes an exact conjunction with the ascendant of the horoscope of the US. We must not forget that at 8° Gemini there is the fixed star Aldebaran whose character is very martial and very important since she is heliacally rising in the chart of the U S.

Solar horoscope US: July 4th, 1942

59 years later – 2001-( heliacal period of Saturn) Saturn is thus rising at the same place and ,in the solar chart we then see Saturn again at 8° Gemini. Two months later America faced the tragedy of 9/11.

Solar horoscope US : July 4th 2001

It is ,for that matter, also interesting to look at the period of time between the tragedy of 9/11 and the shootout in Orlando which happened in June 2016 and which was exactly 15 years.

We come back to the cycle of the short period of Mars. It was approximately  September 6th in 2000 that Mars rose at the 22nd degree of Leo. Exactly one year and a couple of days later there was the terrorist attack on the twin towers.

It was the 23rd of August 2015 that,15 years later Mars was again heliacally rising close to the 10th degree of Leo. About 10 months later, on June 12th 2016 , there was the terrible shootout in Orlando.

For closing, something totally different, but also pertinent to the subject of planetary periods. Consider the Wall street Crash of 1929 also known as Black Tuesday ( October 29) or the Stock Market Crash of 1929 began on October 24, 1929. It was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States.

79 years later in October 2008( the long period of Mars) the investment bank “Lehman Brothers ” filed for bankruptcy and lead the US and the rest of the world into an unseen financial and economic crisis.

When we look to where Mars rose before October 1929 we come to January 30th 1928 where Mars rises together with the 8th degree of Capricorn. This is 1 year and 9 months before “Black Tuesday”

79 years later, on February 14th 2007, Mars rises again, this time at the 21st degree of Capricorn. It is 1 year and 7 months later , in October 2008, that the US faces another huge financial crises.

So we can say that this system of planetary periods and their parameters, once the most important factors to be considered in astrological prognosis, still has merits, although sadly ,it has almost been completely forgotten by contemporary astrologers.

Al-Kindi – The Transmission of Greek Metaphysics to Islamic Theology

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A blog post on someone of the stature of al-Kindi can scarcely do him justice; but it can serve as an introduction to this extraordinary man as well as the transmission and absorption of Greek texts into Islamic theology. It is also my hope that al-Kindi will regain his former prominence among the many other Islamic contributors to human knowledge and to astrology in particular. His cosmology is essentially simple and I believe answers to many of the on-going discussion on the nature of fate and free-will.

To understand how al-Kindi’s mind works, his study of  The religion, philosophy, literature, geography, chronology of India is a good place to start. He’s is infinitely curious and readily absorbs the philosophy and weighs the values of other very different nations. I have placed the complete work in two volumes in the file section. Familiarity with al-Kindi breeds content. He stands as an essential figure of the Islamic Golden Age. It was tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness that created the Age – not a rigid xenophobia.  It came about by a respect of other cultures and a willingness to work with them.

Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi (ca. 800–870 CE) was the first self-identified philosopher in the Islamic and specifically Arabic tradition. His work with a group of scholars and translators, in what became known as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, gave to the Arab world the works of Aristotle, the Neo-Platonists, and Greek mathematicians and scientists.  He did not appear to demonstrate the rigid distinctions between Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy that became the bugbear of later European philosophers. This in itself was no mean feat, but Al Kindi seemed to instinctively know what was of a similar nature and what was not.. al-Kindi’s own thought was suffused with Neo-Platonism, though his main authority in philosophical matters was Aristotle.

The Semitic or Abrahamic religions are less replete with metaphysical codes, but have what is more properly called cosmological ones, when compared for example, with the seemingly endless metaphysical systems of Hinduism. This is also true when those same texts are compared to the Platonic tradition, including the sophisticated and exquisite vision written down by Plotinus. It applied as well to the philosophy of Aristotle. It was to the latter than Al-Kindi first became transfixed. The distinction between Metaphysics, Cosmology and Ontology can at times become blurred of intermingled. To invite them into Islamic thought is not for the careless or faint of heart .

Al-Kindi is often referred to as the Arab’s philosopher. As has happened to so many great minds throughout history, the investigation of the most cherished ideas had lead to suspicions of heterodoxy. The word ‘heterodoxy’ is a convenient catch-all phrase that can be leveled at those who disagree, have some doubts or simply see the nature of reality through a different lens.In this respect, the story of Al-Kindi has contemporary relevance, with particular regard to the understanding of the nature of astrology. The contemporary Traditional astrologer will feel pretty much at home in Al-Kindi’s cosmology.

The new lens of Greek Philosophy provided Al Kindi with a means by which the Theology and Cosmology of the Quran, resulted in a highly significant shift in Astrological thought. By the time of Al-Ghazali, Islamic Philosophy and with it the Golden Age of was eclipsed by a literalist pessimism that has persisted to this day. What was at one time a naturally accepted element of Islam became heavily suspect. It is important to note, however, that Al-Kindi fell short of the view that the universe must be infinite.  It could have lead to his alienation at best and a death sentence at worst, as it did in a later period for Giordano Bruno.

The deep fear of infinity has historically put restrictions on the subject. Perhaps the fear of infinity is no more than the fear that our prescribed limits might prove to be no more than mind-forged manacles, as W. Blake so keenly understood. Limits are an important element in Islam: in general more so than either of the other Abrahamic religions. In the Islamic afterlife, it is made clear that there are no limits. Lastly, I believe infinity is ‘reserved’ for God on this side of the grave.  Philosophers throughout history have always needed to be adept at avoiding stepping on theological toes.

There are no precise parallels to the non-Islamic world on this matter, but the pseudo-prophetic Savonarola lead to a very similar shift, and in fact to a rapid decline in the creativity, tolerance, syncretism and ebullient optimism of Renaissance Florence.

Even Pico della Mirandola succumbed to the dogmatic position that what isn’t a particularly privileged form of Christianity, must be the work of the Devil. I’m certain that many great thinkers were frankly terrified at the speed in which the obscure monk, Savonarola, could turn Florence into a city full of mad people with proverbial pitchforks and literal torches.

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al-ghazali

The contempt and paranoia regarding the new learning was epitomized by the en mass burning of books and works o art, including works by Michelangelo. These were considered the vanities, in the biblical sense o the word and the burning of all these things was called the bonfire of the vanities, a term that survives to this day. This episode in Western history shall forever remain a reminder of how quickly great elements of civilizations can be destroyed by supernatural fears, that even otherwise rational people can fall prey.

In Islam, as in other Middle Eastern and Asian cultures there existed a very different sense of time. It was circular or spiral, but never linear. From the Greeks and developed to a fine science was the Prime Mover – one who is not acted upon – to the participation of the Prime Mover through secondary causes. This lends itself perfectly to Astrology. It means, among other things, that the Stars can easily become the agents of Providence, without diminishing the First Cause.

This was not to be the position of Al Ghazali. There was no room in his thinking for such niceties.  There was one cause and one cause only, no secondary powers could be entertained because they amounted to shirk – the attribution of partners to Allah.

Al-Kindi’s own treatises, many of them personal letters, were addressed to the family o the Caliph, who depended on his translations just as the Medic family would rely on Marsilo Ficino. Core texts included the Theology of Aristotle and Book of Causes along with Arabic versions of Plotinus and Proclus. This textual alchemy was fomented at the political and philosophical core of Islam.

Al-Kindi’s philosophical treatises also include On First Philosophy, in which he argues that the world is not eternal and that God is a simple One. This needs to be understood in the context of an Islamic thinker attempting reconciliation with Greek philosophy. The reality of Tawheed is the first principal in Muslim belief.  It is to believe that Allah alone is the ‘Rabb’ -Creator, Provider and Sustainer (note the identical attributes within Hinduism and elsewhere). He has no partner and needs no partner. To suggest that HE does is the greatest blasphemy in Islam.

Allah alone has the power to determine destiny, and He alone is truly Self-Sufficient (As-Samad) upon whom all the creation depends, as He says: “Allah created all things and He is the Wakeel (Trustee, Disposer of affairs, Guardian) of all things. “To Him belong the keys of the Heavens and the earth. He (Allah) enlarges and restricts provisions to whomever He Wills. Surely, He has Knowledge of everything. See Surah az-Zumar (39): 62. and Surah ash-Shoorah (42): 12. The guidance of the stars is a theme repeated many times in the Qu’ran, but often dismissed as something else.

The key difference from a modern point of view is not whether or not Aristotle was a monotheist.  For all intents and purposes he was . But it would be more accurate to call him a Deist, rather than a Theist. It may seem a fine point and it doesn’t seem to have deterred al Kindi, if in fact he truly appreciated the distinction. The Primum Mobile easily translates to Creator.

al-Kindi’s work in mathematics and other sciences was impressive and became known in both the later Arabic and Latin traditions for his positions on astrology, along with Averroes.

Arab scholar working diligently in the House of Wisdom. (Artist Unknown).
Arab scholar working diligently in the House of Wisdom. (Artist Unknown).

al-Kindi’s claims for astrology commit him to the idea that a wide range of specific events can be predicted on the basis of astral causation. His doctrine of providence goes further by “implying that all events in the lower world are caused by the stars, which are carrying out the benign “command” of God. This doctrine is set out in On the Prostration of the Outermost Sphere” ( Abu Rida 1950, 244–261, Rashed and Jolivet 1998, 177–99) and On the Proximate Agent Cause of Generation and Corruption (Abu Rida 1950, 214–237).

In al-Kindi’s system and, I would suggest, in the Qu’ran itselff, the heavens are possessed of souls who freely follow God’s command so as to move in such a way that the providentially intended sublunary things and events will come about.

This, according to al-Kindi, is what the Qu’ran refers to when it says that the stars “prostrate” themselves before God. In Proximate Agent Cause, meanwhile, al-Kindi gives a more detailed account of the means by which the heavens cause things in the lower world (here he invokes friction, not rays). The most obvious effect of the stars on our world is of course the seasons, because the sun (due to its size and proximity) is the heavenly body with the most powerful effect. If there were no such heavenly causation, according to al-Kindi, the elements would never have combined at all, and the lower realm would consist of four spheres of unmixed earth, water, air and fire.

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al-Kindi’s account of astral causation and providence is typical of his philosophical method. He combines and builds on ideas from Aristotle, later Greek philosophers, as well as so-called “scientific” figures such as Ptolemy. In his work “Prostration” he provides a rational explanation of central concepts in Islam. His explanation of the meaning o the stars prostrating themselves shows a keen interest in going beyond syncretism to a more enlightened reading of the Qu’ran. Al-Kindi appears to have been certain that once his more enlightened colleagues are exposed to his presentations of Greek wisdom, they will

agree that these non-Arabic and non-Muslim texts can be used —together with “Arabic” disciplines like grammar — in the service of a more profound understanding of Islam. These are heady claims and not ones ultimately shared by Al-Ghazali and his followers. Nevertheless, there existed what could be called an Al-Kindian tradition long ater his passing.  This current flourished in the tenth century, which is most obviously represented by the first and second generations of al-Kindi’s. followers.

Musicians_and_their_instruments Topkapi Palace Museum Library, H. 2164.
Musicians and instruments Topkapi Palace Museum Library H. 2164.

al Kindi ‘s advanced contributions to Musicology seem like a natural and intrinsic progression of his cosmology.Al-Kindi’s optimism on this score was not necessarily borne out in subsequent generations. But among thinkers influenced by al-Kindi, one can discern a continuing tendency to harmonize “foreign” philosophy with the “indigenous” developments of Muslim culture. This is one feature of what might be called the “Kindian tradition,” an intellectual current that runs up through the tenth century, which is most obviously represented by first and second generation students of al-Kindi’s.

In a world off ‘what ifs’ it is clear that the position of Al Kindi and like minded philosophers would have developed into a more universally tolerant Islam and one in which the reading of the stars was not confused with the worship of them. Today, we have weather forecasts that seem to be false more often than not, but I cannot imagine any sane person considering meteorology as shirk. Reading the sign of nature is something we do all the time, from the practice off horticulture to the study of the biological origins of life and indeed the universe itself.  https://youtu.be/cse4uDqj_w8

Isra and Mi’raj in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh

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Celestial map, signs of the Zodiac and lunar mansions in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh, dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan Murad III in 1583

First and foremost, I’m fascinated that a book on the natural world is prefaced with a painting of how that world is both sustained and came into being. The visual arts and astrology have long been inseparable.  The earliest star-lore was depicted visually in Sumer and far back into the Paleolithic period. The movements of the Heavens has always been of great importance and one picture really can be worth a thousand words when it comes to explaining Cosmologies.

Today, what we call history is not prefaced with a primary reference to the mystical creation. This makes these works most intriguing because they offer us a window into a mostly forgotten, but essential cosmologies. That is because we live in what we think is a linear, largely material reality. Other cultures, including the Turks, believed that time unfolded in spirals.

Most importantly, we no longer live with the concept of divine origin. Traditional Astrology is very much aware of this reality The image contains an enormous amount of information. Most fundamentally, we have circles within circles At the centre is the source. Next, the seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order. Beyond the orbit of Saturn have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

The theme and to some extent the style was probably inspired by an earlier work the Catalan Atlas by Cresques Abraham and his son Jehuda. It’s a fine work that predates Zubdat al Tawarikh by

Cosmographical diagram od Earth personified by an astronomer holding an astrolabe center of the Universe surrounded by concentric circles representing the four elements the seven planets the spheres and their personification - mid 14th C.
The Catalan Atlas. Cosmographical diagram od Earth personified by an astronomer holding an astrolabe at the center of the Universe surrounded by concentric circles representing the four elements the seven planets the spheres and their personification – mid 14th C.

two centuries. The Catalan Atlas is fairly accurate works of geography with astrological, cosmological plates such as the one below. There is a strikingly lovely page showing the signs and zodiacs as well  It will readily be seen that the Atlas lacks the lavish illustrations, the astrological detail and the strongly mystical representation of the natural world, including the heavens, working in harmony.

The seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order in a spiral. Beyond the orbit of Saturn, we have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

What makes this a particularly fine work, is that it includes the Decans in relation to Lunar Phases as well as the twenty-eight Lunar Mansions, with Angels guarding the Four Directions.

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding-gaz veterans from umelia in front of sultanmurat-iii-from-the-surname hmayun 16th century ce
Miniature painting of a parade of two riding-gaz veterans from umelia in front of sultanmurat-iii-from-the-surname hmayun 16th century ce

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding Gazi – Veterans from Rumelia – in front of Sultan Murat III from the Surname i hümayun 16th century CE

Although the style is very much Turkish and Islamic in style, it is entirely recognizable as what has become known as the Ptolemaic Universe, The relationship between this cosmology and the Night Journey of Muhammad will become clear.

Muhamad’s Night Journey is in Sura Al Nisra of the Quran and further embellished in the Hadiths It’s controversial these days. Many modern Muslims consider this to be a literal event that occurred at a particularly time and place.  – The Prophet rides on Buraq to Jerusalem where he ascends to meet the various Prophets from what is now known as the  Dome of the Rock.

Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq
Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq

The mystical version has is that the Prophet rose through levels of consciousness. In either case, there is an ascent of Seven spheres, an essential theme that has repeated over and over again. In Ayat 11 we have the following exhortation “And We have made the night and day two signs, and We erased the sign of the night and made the sign of the day visible that you may seek bounty from your Lord and may know the number of years and the account [of time]. And everything We have set out in detail.”

This and other passages in the Quran support astrology as a guide to the wise. The usual context is in ‘to show the way’ which clearly refers to the use of stars in navigation but also implies other uses, such as choosing the correct time for an event,, medical diagnosis military matters and affairs of State.  If this were not the case, Islam would have had no cause to compose the type of artwork that we see here, or produce some of the finest astrologers in the Middle Ages and beyond.

The exhortations against astrology are most specifically related to attempting to know such things as the time of the last day and the resurrection. This is the prerogative of the Creator. Common fortune telling won’t find any more support in the Quran as it does in the Bible. Indeed, many sects of Christianity regard astrology as forbidden. In much of my work I have tried to show the massive difference in intent, method and applications of divination compared to the disreputable and unwise world of fortune telling.

Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700 He was an avid astrologer.
Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700 He was an avid astrologer.

Imagine for a moment that you visit your physician and she tells you that you have a serious illness and may not have long to live. That physician has just made a prognostication based on medical knowledge. This could be construed as prediction and in fact it is. When a skilled astrologer reads a chart it for many of the same reason a medical professional might be consulted. Questions about physical, spiritual and mental health can and are addressed by competent astrologers.  Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information

Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information  There is time to seed and a time to reap. One of the greatest uses of astrology are, as far as I’m concerned, is in the medical field. Knowing your humour, the strengths and weakness you have are all sound applications of  the Celestial Science. If you read scripture carefully, you will not find thes4e applications of astrology to be forbidden.

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq
Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq

Above, we what is essentially the sane theme found in the previous paintings, but with a a slight twist. This Persian Sufi painting describes the Night Journey of the Prophet. This work is far more complex than first meets the eye. The painting has deteriorated, but we can still see the planets, represented anthropomorphically. The Sun and Moon are represented as disks. occupying the first and fourth sphere, as per the Chaldea order. We can also see the constellations, but they are projected in such as a way that we have the illusion of looking through the spheres. Remember that this is illustrating Muhammad’s mystical Night Journey.

Returning to the Quranic position on astrology, let’s examine a few more quotations. There is a Sura in the Quran known as Buruj, an Arabic word meaning ‘Constellation’ or ‘Zodiac sign’. Surah Buruj is the 85th Surah in the Quran. The starting of the Surah is : “I swear by the sky where there are buruj…” (i.e Allah swears by th sky where are  zodiac signs.)

“I have created buruj  [Zodiac signs] in the sky and decorated them for viewers and I have also protected them from evils…” (Surah Hizr 16)

Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra
Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra

“How great he is, who has created buruj in the sky and placed the Sun and shining Moon over there…” (Surah Furkan 61 )

In Arabic Astrology, we find that the sign Leo is named ‘Asad Buruj’. ‘Asad’ means a lion thus the Arabic name of Leo, which is represented by a lion, is ‘Asad Buruj’. Similarly, Libra is named, ‘Meejan Buruj’. The Arabic word ‘Meejan’ means a balance.

The emphasis on the creation of constellations, given the context we have, does nothing to indicate that a study of the same is somehow haram.

Finally, we can take a brief survey of some of Islam’s most esteemed astrologer. Most are surprised to find that the poet Omar Khayyam of Khorasan was an accomplished astrologer(1019-1135)  He was so accurate in his predictions that he even understood about his own death. This isn’t exactly the same as knowing the time of his death but points to a deep understanding of the art.  Many will be familiar with Sahl Ibn Bishr, Al Kindi, Ibn Arabi, Al Biruni and others.

However, I think the crown should go to Ibn Sina (980-1037) He was brilliant Muslim scientist who developed Alchemy. He was also very much devoted to astronomy and astrology, but other than his prolific philosophical works his contributions to medicine are immeasurable. His massive pharmacopeia is still in use among medical astrologers and natural healers.

This may seem trivial to some, but we have a great deal at stake worldwide. Literalist Fundamentalism is not compatible with peace and has the effect of numbing the mind. The golden age of Islam did not flourish because of  a stricter adherence to Shariah, as is commonly thought by contemporary Muslims, but because it was a period of openness, serious study of Classical antiquity and a willingness to work with people of divergent faiths and ethnicities.

Arabic Astrology and the Art of Divination

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Clélia Romano, July 2013
By chance I came across an interesting title “Arabic Astrology”, by the French author Catherine Aubier, M. A. Éditions, 1987, Paris.Thinking that I would meet my old acquaintances authors Masha’allah, Abu Mashar, Abu Ali, etc. to my surprise the author was using a model that had little resemblance to astrology.It dealt with mental constructs equally remote, leading to the prediction and interpretation of psychological and factual issues, describing year by year of a native´s life, their similarity and harmony with other people, the expected evolution from birth to mature age, and much more. All this was done without using any astrological technique.

The title Arabic Astrology was based on the only astrological model used, namely the division into twelve types of persons accordingly to the months of the year when they were born, i.e. a sun sign division. This fact, however, provided only the first of the factors to use in a future equation.

The result of the prior analysis is able to identify twelve kinds of people,each one pertaining to a type of weapon used in medieval times, such as knife, sword, slingshot, bow, Arabic dagger, etc.

The zodiacal sign which corresponded to a weapon received a score; certain number of points that will be summed up on a calculation which in the future will describe who the person is.

For instance, Virgo gets one point, Libra 8 points, Sagittarius, 12, etc.

The planets are not interpreted or even considered, but the parents´ professions receive points ranging growing as the profession is nobler, until you get the number 12, in which case one of the parents was a worldwide remarkable figure.

The next step is to punctuate the native accordingly to the number of inhabitants in the city where he or she was born, as it is considered that a native has more opportunities in big cities than in small ones.

The last two points emphasize the influence of the medium and are “weapons” that act as a potentiating (or not) of the characteristics of the individual given by the sun sign, called the “predestination” weapon.

Adding the three obtained points provide a summary of each person, the so called “weapon of birth”.

Each weapon obtained in this way is described in similar manner as when we describe temperaments in an astrological context.

In order to know the favorable year for certain things for each of the types, it is taught to use the sum of the birth date to the current year. Depending on the numeral some specific accidents for the year are expected.

Now, all this seems extremely unlikely, done for the sake of numbers and guessing, but the fact is that on many important points, as in sinastry and predictions it works fine, as well as in the description of the personality.

In my case, for example, I was born in the sign of Aries who earns two points of predestination and my weapon is the dagger. My family history was among Mace and Ax, because my father was a sales representative. My weapon of luck was the Arc, the highest, because I was born in a city with more than 5000 inhabitants which imply higher chances of growth.

This weapon system demonstrated to be effective in my case, since the sum came to my individual weapon, the Ax, which described many of my psychological characteristics and also the expected difficult years appeared clearly.

The book is worth to read, not only to make predictions, but to realize that there are many possible constructions that can work in order to know ourselves and the future.

The mighty river of divination does not wet exclusively the astrologers´ feet, but of all those asking how things are related to each other.

No art is superior to another if both methods are based in observables phenomena.

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The link between the hidden world and facts settles for sympathy among observable phenomena. This observation has been practiced since man is man, from the remotest antiquity, in analogy to the culture and environment of our ancestors, be it geomancy, the game using dog whelk, numerology, the omens, astrology, the I Ching, etc..

Returning to the case of studying the weapon-related people,the medieval society was a feudal society and the used weapons were characteristics of each status degree, the knives being considered a trivial one while the sword and bow, especially the latter was privileged to the nobles. The personal eminence was measured by such weapon prism.

The very being of a person, the personality and the opportunities to develop
was circumscribed within fixed limits represented by the capacity of evolution of each type of weapon. According to it periods of difficulty or ease were anticipated including in which areas in which things would happen.

Interestingly the fixed limit of evolution mixes the concept of fate and free will in a very plausible way.

In the same book Catherine Aubier comes to other methods of divination such as numerology and geomancy, i.e.the design of random points in search of a clear answer.

Looking for correlations and directions in a seemingly chaotic world is the brand of esoteric arts and a way to break the human isolation through brotherhood between man and nature.

Such brotherhood is synonymous of a sympathetic and harmonious relationship permeating all the living beings and phenomena.

Through this kind of approach people can be able to reach an understanding of the Biggest Reason behind the build of the world we inhabit, the law that subdued and mixed the elements at least to some extent and the platonic ideal of which this world is a mere copy.

In astrology we realize that everything occurs related to the position of the stars, but the relation is not of causality. Both worlds, the hidden and the visible, heavens and earth, depend mutually, since each one is part of a living system.300px-Rhumsiki_crab_sorceror

Let us remember that the question of power of the big to tame the small is as important as the power of the small to tame the big. We learn this easily from
the behavior of atoms and viruses.

It is curious that astrologers (and other types of students of the occult) sometimes fight by trifles when the panorama of divination is much larger . Many ways, though not all, can lead to the kingdom of God.

The divine engineering comes to light to those who have condition to see, be him or she an astrologer, a palmist, a Tarot reader, etc.

It shines through omens, trees bending to the left or to the right, because of the wind, birds taking north or south when freed, a name that appears on
an outdoor´s advertisement, etc.

It all makes sense to guess for those who pay attention and is able to live between the two worlds.

All this to say that we have in astrology a construction perfected for over two thousand years, but this construction has as much truth as others who also were built using as a basis the sympathy between the divine and the human, no matter which parameters are used: rods , points, coins, shells, viscera etc.

All these forms of divination, if based on elaborate observations, transmitted from generation to generation, are perfected by experience and become prodigious mental constructs. Probably build a model is part of human reason, because we are not able to get directly to the core and essence of things, but just to observe that things work “as if…”

It is possible that even a model based on ants’ behavior could generate guesses if the facts were studied accordingly to relations between the anthill and the human world.

In my opinion as astrologer nothing is more impressive than the vault of heaven, especially as it might have been presented visually in antiquity, away from the light and air pollution of cosmopolitan cities.

Paralleling, astrology is in the level of the Arch, one of the noblest arts of divination.

But this does not make it the only one.