Is There a Divine Wisdom in or Does Religion Have Something to Say about the Shooting Stars or Meteor Showers?
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Assuredly, We have adorned the world’s heaven with lamps, and We have made them missiles for the devils.
O modern, educated man, in order to ascend to the heaven of this verse’s meaning, first read the following report about a meteor shower.
The Perseid meteor shower
The Perseid meteor shower observed in almost every year suggests that those meteors are shot for certain, important purposes. For they surprise the observers by showing great diversity. The observations made in, for example, 1993, demonstrate the fact that the structure of the shower is yet poorly known.
According to information given by the International Meteor Organization about the events of the 1993 shower (Astronomy, October 1993), the first results posted for the night of 11/12 August came from Japan. Up to 20:30 (all times UT), 11 August, the meteor rates were found to be normal. A zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of 40 meteors per hour (m/h) was tentatively assigned to the shower at this time.
Preliminary data from European observers indicated that the rates had gradually increased to ZHR of order 100 m/h between 20:00, 11 August and 01:00, 12 August. Observers in France reported a noticeable increase in rates after 00:30, 12 August, with the rate being about twice that of ‘normal’. The rates continued to climb between 01:00 and 03:00. A preliminary ZHR of 200-250 was ascribed to this period. The rates appeared to reach a maximum between 03:00 and 03:30. The ZHR at maximum was estimated to be of the order of 500. Observations from the Canary Islands indicated that the rates began to decline after 04:00.
Higher than normal rates were also reported from many observers in the United States and Japan. As commented by Martin Beech in Astronomy, p.11, the results clearly indicated that the shower did not behave as predicted. Speculation about a possible meteor storm proved incorrect. Another unexpected feature in 1993 was the high number of bright fireballs observed. Observers reported something like five times the normal level of Perseid fireballs on the night of 11/12 August. The Perseid shower once again demonstrated how difficult it is to predict meteor shower activity.
A. Cressy Morrison (Man Does Not Stand Alone, New York, 1945, p.100) mentions, as a typical human characteristic, the reluctance to give up fixed ideas, the stubborn resistance to accepting unfamiliar truths. The early Greeks knew the earth was a sphere, but it took two thousand years to convince men that this fact is true. New ideas encounter opposition, ridicule and abuse, but truth survives and is verified. Neither scientific studies nor developments in science can offer any excuse not to accept God. What we observe in nature and what we obtain from it must encourage us to know Him more closely and see the strong bridge between science and religion, the world and the Hereafter, and between the reason and the spirit.
Now, come and let us climb together a stairway of seven steps:
Existence of Angels
Reality and wisdom require that, just as the earth does, the heavens should also have inhabitants of their own. In the language of Islam, those inhabitants of various kinds are called angels.
Indeed, reality requires it to be so, for despite its small size and relative insignificance, the earth is being alternately filled with living and conscious beings, then emptied of them, then replenished again. This suggests–rather, it shows evidently–that the heavens too, which have magnificent constellations and are like decorated palaces, must also be filled with conscious and percipient beings. Like men and jinn, those beings too are spectators of the palace of the world, students of the book of the universe, and heralds of the sovereignty of Divine Lordship. For its Lord has embellished and ornamented the universe with innumerable decorations, beauties, and inscriptions, and this evidently requires the existence of contemplative and appreciative eyes that will observe and be delighted. Certainly, beauty requires a lover, and food is given to the hungry. Men and jinn are able to perform only a millionth of this boundless duty, this glorious viewing, and this comprehensive worship. This means that countless sorts of angels and spirit beings are necessary to perform these infinite and diverse duties and acts of worship.
Some prophetic traditions suggest, and the wisdom in the order of the universe indicates, that certain kinds of moving bodies, from planets to drops of rain, are the transports of some kinds of angels. They mount them by God’s permission and tour and view the visible, material world. Also, it may be said that certain kinds of animal bodies, from the birds of Paradise called ‘the green birds’ in a hadith, to flies, are the ‘aircraft’ for one kind of spirits. They enter them by God’s command, look round the physical world, and observe the miracles of creation through the windows of the senses of those bodies.
The Creator Who continuously creates subtle life and enlightened, percipient beings from dense earth and turbid water, must certainly have created conscious beings from light and even from darkness who are worthier to have a higher life and spirit, and created them in great abundance.
The earth and the heavens are connected to each other like two countries under one government.
The earth and the heavens are connected to each other like two countries under one government. There are important relations and transactions between them. Things necessary for the earth like light, heat, blessings, and forms of mercy like rain, come, rather, are being sent, from the sky. Also, it is unanimously confirmed by all the heavenly religions, which are founded on revelation, that the angels and spirit beings descend to the earth from the heavens. This truth is also agreed upon by all the saintly scholars who unveil the secret truths of creation on the basis of what they have witnessed. From this it may be concluded as almost certainly as if it were directly sensed that for the inhabitants of the earth there is a way to ascend to the heavens.
Indeed, everyone can always travel to the heavens through his mind, vision and imagination. So too, freed from or purified of the gross heaviness of their carnal and material being, the spirits of the prophets and saints travel there by God’s leave, and the spirits of the ordinary people do so after their death. Those who are ‘lightened’ and have acquired ‘subtlety’ and spiritual refinement travel there. For sure, then, certain inhabitants of the earth and the air who are clothed in an ‘ideal’ body or energetic envelope or immaterial body or form and are light and subtle like spirits, may go to the heavens.
The inhabitants of the heavens are all obedient to God and do whatever He commands them.
The silence and tranquility, the order and serene regularity of the heavens, and their vastness and radiance, show that their inhabitants are not like those of the earth; they are all obedient to God and do whatever He commands them. There is nothing to cause quarrels or disputes among them because they are innocent, their realm is vast, their nature is pure, and their stations are fixed. On the earth, opposites exist side by side, evils are mixed with the good, and disputes arise among its inhabitants. This is the reason for the conflicts and suffering on the earth. Conscious beings are thereby made subject to testing and competition, which results in progress or regress. The reason and truth behind all these facts are as follows:
Man is the furthest part of the tree of creation, its fruit. It is well-known that the fruit of something is its furthest, most delicate, and most important part. Man, the fruit of the universe, is a most comprehensive, most wonderful, most impotent and weak, and a most subtle miracle of Power. Therefore the earth, which is his cradle and dwelling-place, is, despite its small size and insignificance in comparison with the heavens, the heart and center of the whole universe with respect to its meaning and the art it contains. The earth is the exhibition-place of all the miracles of the Divine Names; it is the place of concentration and reflection of the infinite activity of God as the Lord, Sustainer, Trainer, and Ruler of all beings. It is the center and pivot of endless Divine creativity, which is displayed in infinite liberality, especially in the numerous small species of plants and animals. It is the place, in a small measure, of the samples of the things belonging to the truly vast worlds of the Hereafter. It is the speedily operating workshop for eternal textiles, the fast-changing place of the copies of the eternal scenes, and the narrow, temporary field and tillage rapidly producing the seeds for permanent gardens (in the Hereafter). It is because of this immaterial greatness of the earth, and its importance with respect to art, that the wise Qur’an puts it on a par with the heavens, although it is like a tiny fruit of a huge tree when compared with the heavens. It places it in one pan of a pair of scales and the whole of the heavens in the other, and repeatedly says, ‘the Lord of the heavens and the earth’ [thus mentioning the earth together with the heavens].
The fast and constant changes and transformations on the earth, which follow from the purposes mentioned above, require that its inhabitants should also undergo corresponding changes. It is because this bounded earth has been made the object of countless miracles of Divine Power that the faculties of men and jinn, who are its most important inhabitants, have essentially not been restricted. As a result of this they have been given the potential of endless progress and endless regress. A great field of trial and testing has opened for everyone, from the prophets and the saints to the Nimrods and devils. Since this is so, of course, in their endless evil, the Pharaoh-like devils will attack the heavens and its inhabitants.
God has numerous Names whose decrees and functions are all different
The Majestic One, Who is the Lord, Administrator, and Creator of all the worlds, has numerous titles and Beautiful Names whose decrees and functions are all different. For example, whichever title or Name required the sending of angels to do battle among the ranks of the Prophet’s Companions against the unbelievers, also requires that there should be battle between angels and devils. It requires contest between the good inhabitants of the heavens and the evil inhabitants of the earth. Certainly the All-Powerful One of Majesty, Who holds within the grasp of His Power the souls of the unbelievers, does not eradicate them with a single command, a single trumpet-blast. As the function of being the Lord (Sustainer, Upbringer, Controller) of all creatures, and the requirements of His Names the All-Wise and Administrator, He opens a field of testing and contest.
Only for the sake of comparison: a king has numerous different names and titles in respect of the different departments of his government. For example, in the department of justice he is known by the name of Just Ruler, in the armed forces as Supreme Commander, in the office of religious affairs as Caliph or Supreme Head of the Church, and in the civil service as Ruler. His obedient subjects call him Gracious Sovereign, while the rebellious call him Overwhelming Ruler. You may think of further examples.
It sometimes happens that that exalted king, who enjoys an absolute sovereignty over his subjects, does not command the execution of an abject rebel, rather, as a requirement of his title Just Ruler, he sends him to the law court. Similarly, he does not reward an honest, capable official worthy of reward by personally admitting him or directly telephoning him. Instead, under his titles relating to the majesty of sovereignty and expedients of government he opens a field of competition to make public how deserving the official is of reward, and commands his minister to invite the people to watch. He organizes a welcoming ceremony, and, as the result of a magnificent royal testing, he rewards the winning official in the sight of a distinguished congregation, and proclaims his worthiness.
As in the comparison above–God’s is the highest comparison–the Eternal King has numerous Beautiful Names. Through the manifestations of His Majesty and the manifestations of His Grace, He has many titles and qualities essential to His Divine Being. Whichever title and Name require the existence of light and darkness, summer and winter, and Paradise and Hell, they also require that the law of contest should be universal like the law of generation and the law of mutual assistance. From the contest of angelic inspirations and satanic whisperings around the heart to the contest between angels and devils in the vast realm of the heavens, they require that law to be all-embracing.
There is journeying between the earth and heavens
Since there is journeying between the earth and the heavens, and important necessities for the earth are sent from the heavens; and since pure spirits travel to the heavens, for sure, imitating the pure spirits, the evil spirits too will attempt to travel to the heavenly abode. For, physically, they are light and subtle. However, they will certainly be repulsed and repelled, for by nature they are evil and unclean. Without doubt, there must also be a sign or reflection in the visible, material world of this important interaction and contest. For the wisdom of the sovereignty of Divine Lordship requires that the Lord should put a sign, an indication, for conscious beings, particularly for man, whose most important duty is observing, witnessing, supervising, and acting as a herald, to His significant disposals in the realm of the Unseen. This is just as He has made rain a sign for men to explain, in physical terms, His countless miracles in spring. He has also made apparent (natural) causes the pointers to the wonders of His art, so that He may call the inhabitants of the visible, material world to witness them. Indeed He has done so to attract the attentive gaze of all the inhabitants of the vast heavens and the earth to that amazing exhibition. That is, He displays the vast heavens as a castle or city arrayed with towers on which sentries are posted, so that those inhabitants of the heavens and earth may reflect on the majesty of His Lordship.
Since wisdom requires the announcement of this elevated contest, there will surely be a sign for it. However, other than some stars being used as ‘missiles’ for the devils, no event among those of the atmosphere and heavens seems to be appropriate to this announcement. For it is evident how suitable for the repulsion of the devils are these stellar events, which resemble missiles and signal rockets fired from the formidable bastions of high castles. Further, unlike other events taking place in the heavens, no other function is known for such stellar events. In addition, this function has been known widely since the time of Adam, and witnessed by those who know the reality of things and events.
Humanity and jinn recognize no bounds in rebellion and transgression
Since men and jinn are potentially inclined to and capable of endless evil and dispute, they recognize no bounds in opposition, rebellion and transgression. It is because of this that the Holy Qur’an restrains them from rebellion and disobedience with an eloquence so miraculous, and with a style so sublime and clear, and with comparisons and parables so exalted and evident that it causes the universe to tremble. For example, give heed to the awesome warning, fearsome threat, and severe restraining in the verses,
O company of jinn and men, if you are able to penetrate beyond the spheres of the heavens and the earth, then penetrate (beyond them)! You will not be able to penetrate (beyond them) save by an authority. Then which of the favors of Your Lord do you deny? There will be sent, unto you both, heat of fire and fireless smoke, and you will not be helped.
These verses suggest the meaning, ‘O men and jinn: If you do not obey My Commands, then pass beyond the bounds of My Kingdom if you are able!’ With that miraculous eloquence, these verses break the most conceited opposition of men and jinn. They also show how helpless and wretched they are in relation to the vastness of the kingdom of God’s Lordship and the grandeur of His Sovereignty. With those verses mentioned, and the verse, ‘and We have made them missiles for the devils,’ the Qur’an in effect says:
‘Men and jinn, conceited and refractory despite your abjectness, and disobedient and obdurate despite your destitution and weakness! How dare you oppose in rebellion the commands of so glorious a King that the stars, moons, and suns obey His commands like orderlies at the service of an officer. Through your transgression you contest such a Majestic Ruler Who commands soldiers so awesome and obedient to His orders that were your devils to stand against them, they would stone them to death with cannon-balls the size of mountains. With your ingratitude, you revolt in the realm of such a Majestic Sovereign that He has among His servants and troops such that can surely rout you. If you were each an aggressive unbeliever as formidable and immense as a mountain or even the earth, they would be able to hurl at you stars, blazing projectiles, and flames of fire and smoke the size of mountains or the earth. You break a law such that those bound by it could if necessary strike your earth in your face, and rain down on you stars like cannon-balls the size of the earth.’
The Qur’an concentrates on certain important points. This arises not from the enemies being strong, but from reasons to do with displaying Divine Majesty and exhibiting the enemies’ wickedness. Sometimes it mobilizes against the least and weakest thing, the greatest and most powerful causes so as to show the perfect order, infinite justice, boundless knowledge, and power of wisdom [displayed in it, in the universe, and in the human social system it builds]. By doing so, the Qur’an aims to prevent injustices and aggressions in the whole of the universe. As an example, consider this verse:
If you (two women) support each other against him [the Prophet], truly God, He is his protecting Friend, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers, and furthermore, the angels, are his supporters.
What great respect the verse expresses for the Prophet, and how considerate it is for the rights of wives! This emphasis is only to express greatness of respect for the Prophet and the importance of the complaints of two weak beings–the women–and to remind of observance of their rights in a way to arouse compassion for them.
Stars also have many different varieties
Like angels and other creatures, stars also have many different varieties. Some are extremely small, and some are extremely large. Everything that shines in the sky can be called a star. One sort of star the Majestic Creator, the Gracious Maker, has created as a sort of jewel on the face of the sky or like the shining fruits of a vast tree or like the floating fishes of an infinite ocean. He has also made them the places of excursion or mounts or dwelling-places for His angels. He has made one sort of small stars missiles to drive off devils and kill them. Thus, firing these shooting stars to repulse devils may have three meanings:
The first: It is a sign that the law of contest is in force also in the vastest sphere of existence.
The second: It indicates that in the heavens there are watchful guards and obedient inhabitants, divine forces, who do not like the earthly evil-doers to mix with and eavesdrop on them.
The third: The spying satans, who are the representatives of the filth and wickedness on the earth, attempt to soil the clean and pure realm of the heavens inhabited by pure beings. They try and spy on the talk of their inhabitants in the name of evil spirits [unbelieving jinn and their human companions trying to mislead people especially through sorcery, mediumship and soothsaying]. Shooting stars are fired to prevent them and repulse them from the doors of the heavens.
So, astronomer sir, who, relying on the dim light of your mind, shut your eyes to the sun of the Qur’an! Open your eyes, and climbing all of those seven steps, see in the light of the Qur’anic miraculousness as bright as daylight the meaning of the verse cited at the beginning of this discourse! Come, and taking together a star of truth from the heavens of that verse, let us hurl it at the satans in our minds and kill them, and also say: My Lord, I seek refuge in You from the evil suggestions of satans.
God’s is the perfect proof and the decisive wisdom.
Glory be to You, We have no knowledge save what You have taught us. Surely, You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.