Witnessing the Moon Splitting Miracle

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This article analyzes the apologetic claim that the "Moon Splitting Miracle" was witnessed by an Indian King.

Introduction[edit]

The literal splitting of the moon is a miracle attributed to Prophet Muhammad by early traditions transmitted on the authority of the companions of Muhammad such as Ibn Abbas, Anas bin Malik, Abdullah bin Masud and others.[1][2]

Many Muslims, to counter the fact that he had apparently performed this miracle without any of the great astronomy/astrology cultures like the Chinese, Indians, Persians, Romans and Greeks noticing, have come up with the legend of Cheraman Perumal, the last King of Malabar (now Kerala).

Moon Splitting Hadiths[edit]

Narrated Abdullah bin Masud: "During the lifetime of the Prophet the moon was split into two parts and on that the Prophet said, 'Bear witness (to thus).'"
Narrated Anas: "That the Meccan people requested Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle, and so he showed them the splitting of the moon."
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: "The moon was split into two parts during the lifetime of the Prophet."
Narrated Anas bin Malik: "The people of Mecca asked Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle. So he showed them the moon split in two halves between which they saw the Hiram' mountain."
Narrated 'Abdullah: "The moon was split ( into two pieces ) while we were with the Prophet in Mina. He said, "Be witnesses." Then a Piece of the moon went towards the mountain."
Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas: "During the lifetime of Allah's Apostle the moon was split (into two places)."
Narrated 'Abdullah: "The moon was split (into two pieces)."

Muslim Claim[edit]

According to Muslim legend, Cheraman Perumal (aka Chakrawati Farmas) was supposed to have witnessed this splitting of the moon.

WITNESS OF MOON SPLITTING (A MIRACLE OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD (PBUH)

CHAKRAWATI FARMAS KING OF MALABAR, INDIA

The incident relating to King Chakrawati Farmas is documented in an old manuscript in the India Office Library, London, which has reference number: Arabic, 2807, 152-173. It was quoted in the book "Muhammad Rasulullah," by M. Hamidullah:

"There is a very old tradition in Malabar, South-West Coast of India, that Chakrawati Farmas, one of their kings, had observed the splitting of the moon, the celebrated miracle of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) at Mecca, and learning on inquiry that there was a prediction of the coming of a Messanger of God from Arabia (Detail given below), he appointed his son as regent and set out to meet him. He embraced Islam at the hand of the Prophet, and when returning home, at the direction of the Prophet, died at the port of Zafar, Yemen, where the tomb of the "Indian king" was piously visited for many centuries."

The old manuscript in the 'India Office Library' contains several other details about King Chakrawati Farmas and his travel.

The king spent weeks in seclusion. In the midst of his quiet life, he set out on the journey along with the Arab travelers who'd promised him earlier. On the way, they stopped by Koylandi and from there to Dharmapatnam where they halted for 3 days. Then they set out to Shehr Muqalla. On reaching there, they set for the Hajj pilgrimage and thereafter returned to Malabar. He aspired to spread the message of Islam. But on the way, he fell sick and breathed his last.

A tradition of the Holy Prophet has also been reported from one of the companions, Abu Saeed al Kaudri, regarding the arrival of Cheraman Perumel. "A king from India presented the Messenger of Allah with a bottle of pickle that had ginger in it. The Holy Prophet distributed it among his companions. I also received a piece to eat ". (Hakim reports in 'Al Musthadrak)
An Indian King Witness of Moon Splitting (Miracle of Prophet Muhammad PBUH)
Muhammad Sarosh Butt, Understanding Islam, July 11, 2002

Analysis[edit]

Is Cheraman Perumal the same person as Chakrawati Farmas?[edit]

The evidence that they are the same people comes from the fact that the above story relates to both Chakrawati Farmas and Cheraman Perumal. Also, the account of Cheraman Perumal is identical or very similar to that of Chakrawati Farmas, particularly with respect to the Hajj.[3]

Cheraman Perumal is also thought to be Rajasekhara Varman (820-844).[4]

What do the Religious Legends say about when Cheraman Perumal lived?[edit]

According to the Muslims, Cheraman Perumal lived during Muhammad’s lifetime as they claim he witnessed the ‘splitting of the moon’ incident.

There was a Muslim community in Malabar, southwest India as early as 618 C.E. as a result of King Chakrawati Farmas accepting Islam at the hands of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Quotations on Muslims in India
Dr. Z. Haq, The Modern Religion
Cheraman Juma Masjid the first mosque of India.

Built in 629 AD, this is the first mosque in India and the second in the world where Juma prayers were started. People from far and near irrespective of caste and creed visit this holy place and pay their homage. This mosque has a unique specialty. Mosques built all over the world face the direction of Mecca, but this particular one faces along the east.

The first mosque in India is Situated in Kodungalloor, Legend says King Cheraman Perumal of Kodungallur left for Mecca, embraced Islam, accepted the name Thajudeen, married the sister of the then King of Jeddah. Before his death Thajuddeen handed over to the King of Jeddah several letters addressed to Kerala Kings seeking their help to propagate Islam. The Jiddah king came to Kerala and met the then king of Kodungalloor who helped the former to build a Juma Masjid.The first mosque in India.
Kodungallur
Dr.Navas, K.J.Hospital
The Cheraman Juma Masjid was built by Malik bin Dinar, one of the 13 followers of Prophet Mohammad who reached the ancient port of Musuris on the spice route in Malabar in 629 AD. Legend has it that Cheraman Perumal, a Hindu ruler of Musuris (modern Kodungallur), embraced Islam at the behest of Dinar, abdicated his throne and left for Mecca to meet the prophet. Perumal is reported to have died at the port of Zafar, Yemen, where the tomb of the "Indian king" was a major attraction to Muslim pilgrims for many centuries.
A mosque from a Hindu king
India Travel Times

A new discovery suggests Cheraman Perumal left for Mecca sometime around 642-643 AD.

According to Dr. G.S. Khwaja of the Archeological Survey of India, some missionaries led by Maalik Bin Dinaar, a Sufi saint from Basra and a contemporary of the prophet came to Kerala in the seventh Century.

They presented themselves in the court of Cheraman Perumal, a Zamorian dynasty king, in 642-43 AD or Hijia 22 (22 years after the prophet's migration from Mecca to Madina).

An epigraph about the Islamic mission, written in difficult-to-read, ancient version of Arabic language, was founded executed on a wooden Lintel of the Jami mosque at Kasargod in Kerala…

…The Kasargod mosque lintel inscription bears out the earliest reference to Islam in Kerala in an ancient Arabic book, "Tohafatul Mujahideen" written by Zainuddin Malabari. It narrates the story of arrival of what could be the first Islamic mission to Kerala by sea, led by Maalik Bin Dinaar.

According to the book, a Zamorin dynasty king, Cheraman Perumal, was ruling then and the missionaries presented themselves in his court in the year 642-43 AD or Hijra 22.

The king welcomed the mission and asked about Islam. So impressed was he with Malik's interpretation of the religion that he embraced Islam, the book says.

Cherman Perumal became Abdullah Sameri and undertook Haj pilgrimage to meet prophet Mohammed at Mecca. On his way back, Sameri died at Zulfar, a coastal town in Yemen, where records show that a grave with the name of Sameri engraved on it still exists.
New Facts on Islam's Arrival
B.S. Rao, Muslim Online

Alas, this Muslim discovery proves the Muslim legend in error as Muhammad died in 632 AD, thus making it impossible for Cheraman Perumal to have personally witnessed the ‘moon splitting’ incident at least a decade after his death.

The Christians, however, believe Cheraman Perumal lived when St Thomas migrated to Malabar in the fourth century.

Knai Thoma and his people were heartily welcomed by Cheraman Perumal, the Emperor. Cheraman Perumal sent his brother, Ramavarma, and his minister, Vettathu Mannan, to receive Knai Thoma and his people. Knai Thoma and his people were given permission to settle down in Kodungalloor and to do business. Later Cheraman Perumal bestowed Knai Thoma and his people with 72 princely privileges and there by elevated them over 17 castes. This proclamation was made on a Saturday in March (Kumbham 29), 345 and it was recorded on copper plates given to Knai Thoma (Knai Thomman Cheppedu).
Knanaya Community
Indian Christianity

So we have conflicting religious sources as to when Cheraman Perumal lived. If he lived in the period ascribed to him by the Christians, he could not have witnessed the ‘moon splitting’ incident as he would have predated Muhammad by almost three centuries.

Nevertheless, there are conflicting Muslim accounts of when he left for Mecca, namely around 629 AD or 643 AD.

When did this ‘Moon Splitting’ incident allegedly occur?[edit]

According to Maududi, the traditionists and commentators have agreed that this incident took place at Mina in Makkah about five years before the Holy Prophet's Hijra (migration) to Madinah. The Moon had split into two distinct parts in front of their very eyes. The two parts had separated and receded so much apart from each other that to the on-lookers (in Makkah) one part had appeared on one side of the mountain and the other on the other side of it. Then, in an instant the two had rejoined. This was a manifest proof of the truth that the system of the universe was neither eternal nor immortal, it could be disrupted.
(54:1) The Spitting of the Moon
Mustafa Mlivo, dipl. ing.

As Hijra is traditionally accepted to have occurred in the year 622 AD, the ‘moon splitting’ incident must have occurred sometime around 617 AD. This means that Malik bin Dinar’s arrival in Malabar in 629 AD was about 12 years too late for Cheraman Perumal to have witnessed the ‘moon splitting’ incident. More likely Malik bin Dinar told the king this lie, rather than the king himself witness the incident. Through time, the legend transmutated from Cheraman Perumal being told the incident to him witnessing the incident.

When did the Historical Cheraman Perumal live?[edit]

The established historical sources from Kerala suggest that Cheraman Perumal lived in the ninth century.

His successor, Rajasekhara Varman (820-844), was a Saivite saint who introduced the Malayalam Era known as Kollam Era in 825 A.D. Sthanu Ravi Varman is sometimes identified with Rajasekhara Varman who in turn is identified with Cheraman Perumal Nayanar. According to Keralolpathi, Cheraman Perumal was the last emperor; he divided the kingdom among his suzerains, embraced Islam, left Kerala for Mecca, married a Muslim princess, and finally died on the Arabian Coast.
Chera Times of the Kulasekharas
Kerala History, Kerala Cafe
A later king who abdicated his throne in 825 AD was Cheraman Perumal who apparently accepted Islam and went to Mecca.
Kerala History
Dr P K John
Cheraman Perumal Nayanar, one of the two Nayanars from Kerala, as stated above, has been identified with Rajasekhara Varman (820-844 A.D.), the second of the kings who ruled over the Kulasekhara empire.

So it would appear that the historical facts do not support Cheraman Perumal ever having witnessed the ‘moon splitting’ incident.

What the Muslim Historian have said about Cheraman Perumal[edit]

Muslims claim that Cheraman Perumal aka Chakrawati Farmas personally witnessed the ‘moon splitting’ incident, based on legend.

At least one historian disagrees. In fact, it is undeniable that far from witnessing the incident, Cheraman Perumal was told of it and this gullible king converted to Islam on the basis of this supernatural tale. The folly of humans, even kings, is boundless, as evidenced by the number of Muslims past, present and future who believe this tale.

The tradition account of the introduction of Islam to the Malabar coast is recorded by Zayn-us-Din, an historian of the sixteenth century. He states that the conversion of Cheruman Perumal occurred during the lifetime of the Prophet. A company of pilgrims from Arabia were making a journey to visit Adam’s footprint in Ceylon. On their arrival at Cranganore they paid a visit to the raja, and told him of the miracle of Muhammad’s having split the moon. Perumal was captivated by this report of the exhibition of such supernatural power. He was converted; and when the pilgrims returned from their journey he secretly joined them, and went with them to Arabia to visit the Prophet, who had not yet fled to Medina." (Titus, 1936, pp. 32-33).

This fits with the time frame of the historical facts of Cheraman Perumal’s lifetime and the discrepancy between the arrival of Muslim missionaries in Malabar and the putative date of the ‘moon splitting’ incident.

Conclusion[edit]

Religious sources seem contradictory with respect to when Cheraman Perumal lived and whether he did witness the ‘moon splitting’ incident. It must be noted that Cheraman Perumal was a legendary king of Kerala and it is unsurprising that various religions, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, try to associate themselves with his renown, regardless of historical facts.

It is apparent that the historical facts do not support the Muslim legend that Chakrawati Farmas (aka Cheraman Perumal aka Rajasekhara Varman) personally witnessed the ‘moon splitting’ incident as he is thought to have lived about two centuries after the death of Prophet Muhammad, whose followers most likely made up the ‘moon splitting’ miracle in order to compete with the variety of miracles attributed to the founders of earlier faiths.

So why would anyone believe a man living in the ninth century could personally witness a miracle performed by a man who lived in the seventh century, an event not witnessed by anybody else?

Responses to Apologetics[edit]

  1. "The hadiths were only referring to the new moon"
    This is patently false as the hadiths clearly refer to this incident as somehow miraculous. The new moon occurs every month and thus is not miraculous; certainly not miraculous enough to fool even the gullible into believing that Muhammad is a prophet of God.
  2. "The hadiths were only referring to the moon setting behind a mountain."
    There is nothing miraculous about the moon setting behind a mountain. In fact, this phenomenon can be seen in many places and will recur with great frequency as the orbit of the moon is roughly stable around the earth - sure the earth may wobble and so may the moon's orbit but there is nothing to say that the moon will one night set behind a mountain and then the next night set beside it. The hadiths clearly suggest the moon splitting incident as something miraculous - that Muhammad created to convince some people. Therefore, this explanation seems unconvincing. It is more probably, nay certain, that the hadiths actually relate to an incident where Muhammad actually split the moon.
This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Miracles which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also[edit]

  • Moon Split Miracle - A hub page that leads to other articles related to the Moon Split Miracle

References[edit]

  1. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir ibn Kathir, Sura Qamar, verse 54:1-2
  2. "According to al-Tabari, all the expositors (ahl al-ta'wil) agree on essentially this same account for the occasion for the revelation of these verses." cf. Thomas E. Burman, Religious Polemic and the Intellectual History of the Mozarabs, C.1050-1200, p.150
  3. "Cheraman Perumal The First Indian to accept Islam", Jaihoon, December 6, 2009 (archived), http://www.jaihoon.com/454.htm. 
  4. "Chera Times of the Kulasekharas", Kerala Cafe, accessed September 23, 2013 (archived), http://www.kerala.cc/keralahistory/index20.htm.