Civilizations throughout human history have attempted to study the heavenly lights (astrological planets) to derive symbolic significance for their existence. The most dreaded and dimly lit amongst those has been the planet Saturn, whose influence got associated with extreme hardships and challenging circumstances. Thus, Saturn’s part in mythology is usually of a villain type character, or at least not one with cheerful attributes. Nevertheless, the adept magi of many serious, spiritual, and arcane traditions have also given glorious accounts on the magical influence of Saturn. One such tradition comes from the esoteric teachings of Quran.
The term Az-Zukhruf, meaning ‘ornaments of gold’ and the chapter takes its name from a verse which is of great symbolic importance.
Saturn in the Quran
The allegorical term used in the Quran for reference to Saturn is Ar-Rahman, meaning ‘the Beneficent One’. Muslims consider the Beneficent One to be the greatest attribute of Almighty Allah, and fairly so because their contemporary pagan Arabs were particularly allergic to this term. The pagan culture at Mecca was entirely based on astrolatry (the worship of planets), and therefore, all of their ritual practices had deep astrological significance. In the pre-Islamic times, pagans had kept 360 idols inside the temple Kaaba to represent 360 degrees of the zodiacal ecliptic, and they were also carved there for depicting every mythological archetype known to them. Since Saturn being known as the most malefic of those archetypes, albeit the most powerful, they attempted to malign the term Ar-Rahman (the Beneficent One) in a number of ways as we shall read in the chapter Az-Zukhruf of Quran. It is also worth stating here that the cubical shape and the black colour of Kaaba itself are symbols of Saturn in alchemical teachings.
Saturn in astrology represents the ultimate oppositionist, or rebel on account of being the ruler of signs opposite to the astrological luminaries (Sun, and Moon). Sun is the King in astrology, and Moon being the Queen are the pivotal elements in status quo of our astrological system, and thereby symbolically any of the social, economic, or political systems of humanity. Therefore, the forces of status quo or elite in a society always try to undermine the rebellious or reformist forces that tend to identify themselves with the symbolic Saturn. Saturn also represents the creative and innovative forces that transform the standard of existence from traditional to progressive. In brief, it brings changes that refresh the living experiences and helps humans to adopt higher levels of consciousness in their existence. The religion of Saturn therefore demands sacrifices of vanity, materialism, and traditionalism from its adherents for them to make this leap forward.
Chapter : 43 (Az-Zukhruf)
In this chapter, the discourse is directed towards pagan Arabs who seldom showed their aversion at the mention of the Beneficent One (Saturn) because they wanted to keep their corrupt status quo intact. The chapter says,
Shall We utterly ignore you because ye are a wanton folk? (5)
How many a prophet did We send among the men of old! (6)
And never came there unto them a prophet but they used to mock him. (7)
Then We destroyed men mightier than these in prowess; and the example of the men of old hath gone (before them). (8)
The above verses (5–8) indicated the need for cultural reform in Arabia, and also admonished the dominant elite class of the consequences of refusal.
Or chooseth He daughters of all that He hath created, and honoureth He you with sons? (16)
And if one of them hath tidings of that which he likeneth to the Beneficent One, his countenance becometh black and he is full of inward rage. (17)
(Liken they then to Allah) that which is bred up in outward show, and in dispute cannot make itself plain? (18)
The verses (16–18) say that pagans of Arabs had tried to mock the Beneficent One by associating His followers with a weaker gender, whilst they themselves being stronger. Also in Arab culture, males have been considered to control the ancestral line and therefore, the future prospects rested with them. So the chieftains of Arabs would gladly relate females to the Beneficent One because in their culture, females were objects of mere entertainment and had nothing to do with serious efforts such as wars. Also Arab pagans utterly disliked any female child to be born in their own families as they considered it to be an ill omen.
And they make the angels, who are the slaves of the Beneficent, females. Did they witness their creation? Their testimony will be recorded and they will be questioned. (19)
And they say: If the Beneficent One had (so) willed, we should not have worshipped them. They have no knowledge whatsoever of that. They do but guess. (20)
Since it was known that the Beneficent One also commanded armies of angels beside men, so pagan Arabs in their utter insolence had also turned the imagery of mighty angels into flimsy females and started to worship them. Furthermore, they also associated their illusory behaviour to the Beneficent himself.
Or have We given them any scripture before (this Qur’an) so that they are holding fast thereto? (21)
Nay, for they say only: Lo! we found our fathers following a religion, and we are guided by their footprints. (22)
And even so We sent not a warner before thee (Muhammad) into any township but its luxurious ones said: Lo! we found our fathers following a religion, and we are following their footprints. (23)
(And the warner) said: What! Even though I bring you better guidance than that ye found your fathers following? They answered: Lo! in what ye bring we are disbelievers. (24)
So We requited them. Then see the nature of the consequence for the rejecters! (25)
Verses (21–25) describes the traditionalistic approach of pagan Arabs in which the luxurious ones or materialistic elite of the society resisted reforms by rejecting the guidance. As a consequence, they lost the rhythm to resonate with the values of nature and got destroyed.
And they say: If only this Qur’an had been revealed to some great man of the two towns? (31)
In this verse, the two towns are an allegorical reference to Cancer (the sign ruled by Moon), and Leo (the sign ruled by Sun). Due to their antipathy with the Beneficent One, pagan Arabs demanded the reforms to be conducted by their own coterie of aristocrats, and for their selfish interests.
Is it they who apportion thy Lord’s mercy? We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labour from others; and the mercy of thy Lord is better than (the wealth) that they amass. (32)
In verse (32), it is implied that the poor or suppressed people in a society are ones who find appeal in genuine reforms and lean towards any revolutionary message.
And were it not that mankind would have become one community, We might well have appointed, for those who disbelieve in the Beneficent, roofs of silver for their houses and stairs (of silver) whereby to mount, (33)
And for their houses doors (of silver) and couches of silver whereon to recline, (34)
And ornaments of gold. Yet all that would have been but a provision of the life of the world. And the Hereafter with your Lord would have been for those who keep from evil. (35)
The verses (33–35) are the most significant from a symbolic perspective in the chapter. Firstly in verse 33, it is mentioned that material abundance can lead to stagnancy and therefore, would hamper any form of creative approach for the spiritual growth in humans. Secondly in the successive verses, the style in which disbelievers in the Beneficent One would like to enjoy their lives is very symbolic, as they want everything made of silver and gold. Now silver is the alchemical symbol for Moon, and gold is for the Sun. Therefore, the houses and ornaments of silver and gold does not carry any sense unless they come with absolute political, economic, and cultural authority over society. Therefore, it is implied that followers of the Beneficent One detest any despotic or authoritarian culture or system, and fight against them.
And he whose sight is dim to the remembrance of the Beneficent, We assign unto him a devil who becometh his comrade; (36)
And lo! they surely turn them from the way of Allah, and yet they deem that they are rightly guided; (37)
Till, when he cometh unto Us, he saith (unto his comrade): Ah, would that between me and thee there were the distance of the two horizons — an evil comrade! (38)
The above verses express the irony of tyrannical elites who attempt to ignore the power of the Beneficent One. Such oppressors heed advices of ignoble sycophants and get beguiled by them. Ultimately, the despair in their affairs derive them to hate each other. Interestingly, the distance of two horizons is mentioned in the verse (38) which probably refers to the opposite signs of the Luminaries (Sun and Moon). Therefore, the greatest anguish of such autocrats would have been that they stationed themselves opposite to the Beneficent One.
The Cultural Domination
The verses below of the chapter describe the cultural domination of parents and society to subdue the creative thinking of a child with the story of Abraham. In the chapter it says,
And when Abraham said unto his father and his folk: Lo! I am innocent of what ye worship (26)
Save Him Who did create me, for He will surely guide me. (27)
And he made it a word enduring among his seed, that haply they might return. (28)
Nay, but I let these and their fathers enjoy life (only) till there should come unto them the Truth and a messenger making plain. (29)
And now that the Truth hath come unto them they say: This is mere magic, and lo! we are disbelievers therein. (30)
It is noteworthy that Arabs alongside the Jews did call themselves descendants of Abraham. They even had a painting of Abraham on the walls of Kaaba prior to Islam. In the verse (27) Abraham invokes the Creator, or the creative power to save him and guide him against the oppression of his father and traditionalistic society. Thus, the Arabs were proposed to accept the Beneficent One, in correspondence to their great progenitor Abraham.
The Political Domination
The following verses of the chapter describe the oppressive political domination of a society with the story of Pharaoh and Moses. It says,
And ask those of Our messengers whom We sent before thee: Did We ever appoint gods to be worshipped beside the Beneficent? (45)
And verily We sent Moses with Our revelations unto Pharaoh and his chiefs, and he said: I am a messenger of the Lord of the Worlds. (46)
But when he brought them Our tokens, behold! they laughed at them. (47)
The above verses indicate the importance of worshipping the Beneficent, and also the usual derogatory response of political despots.
And every token that We showed them was greater than its sister (token), and We grasped them with the torment, that haply they might turn again. (48)
And they said: O wizard! Entreat thy Lord for us by the pact that He hath made with thee. Lo! we verily will walk aright. (49)
But when We eased them of the torment, behold! They broke their word. (50)
In above verses, the political manipulations and deceptions of autocratic rulers is mentioned. Such people can extend themselves to cross every level of perjury possible to achieve their objectives.
And Pharaoh caused a proclamation to be made among his people saying: O my people! Is not mine the sovereignty of Egypt and these rivers flowing under me? Can ye not then discern? (51)
I am surely better than this fellow, who is despicable and can hardly make (his meaning) plain! (52)
In verses (51–52) are mentioned the illusory pretence of authority and inordinate boasting, followed by derogatory remarks. These are the standard stratagem to gain political advantages over enemies. It is also interesting that sovereignty of Egypt is mentioned in the verse 51, since in esoteric teachings, Egypt represents the materialistic world. This was the reason why Moses after the destruction of Pharaoh’s army did not stay in Egypt, but rather moved towards Jerusalem because it represents the spiritual world.
Why, then, have armlets of gold not been set upon him, or angels sent along with him? (53)
Thus he persuaded his people to make light (of Moses), and they obeyed him. Lo! they were a wanton folk. (54)
So, when they angered Us, We punished them and drowned them every one. (55)
And We made them a thing past, and an example for those after (them). (56)
Verse (53) again mentions gold, which is symbolic of the King (Leo). The above verses describe the nemesis of oppressive and autocratic political powers.
The Psychological Domination
Psychological dominations are the most cruel aspects from which enmity, prejudice, and hatred can be brought forth. Prophet Muhammad had to bear a great deal of diatribe from the pagan Arabs, specially on the matter of Jesus. Since the Quran used to praise Jesus in glowing terms by confirming his immaculate conception, and many other miracles including healing of the sick and raising of the dead; the pagans began to accuse him of preaching Christianity to them, and becoming a renegade of their ancestral religion. Prophet Muhammad continued to praise Jesus because their objectives of social reformation were the same. The Quran says in this chapter.
And when the son of Mary is quoted as an example, behold! the folk laugh out, (57)
And say: Are our gods better, or is he? They raise not the objection save for argument. Nay! but they are a contentious folk. (58)
He is nothing but a slave on whom We bestowed favour, and We made him a pattern for the Children of Israel. (59)
Also, Jesus had been a controversial personality between Jews and Christians, as Jews considered him to be an illegitimate child of Joseph and Mary, whilst Christians had accepted him to be the son of God. But Quran has a very peculiar clarification for this. It says,
Say (O Muhammad): If the Beneficent One hath a son, then, I shall be first among the worshippers. (81)
Glorified be the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of the Throne, from that which they ascribe (unto Him)! (82)
Quran is actually saying that the Beneficent One cannot have a son, merely because He is not the King/Father of any sort. The difference between Gospels and Quran is that in the Gospel, God is considered a Father/King, and He has His Kingdom whose heir is Jesus. Since every father has a son, and every king needs an heir to continue his policies, ideals, and traditions; the Quran rejects this concept. Also, that is because if a tyrant is replaced by another King, albeit however a just king, sooner or later his Kingdom would become similar to the previous one, and equally tyrannical. Therefore, in the Quran God is not addressed as King/Father, rather He is addressed as the Beneficent One, and in order to prove this He cannot have an heir. Therefore, according to Quran Jesus cannot be the son of King, rather a follower of the Beneficent One. Also by hailing the Beneficent One, Quran has set the standard for goodness to be worth, and not birth.
The End Note
I must state that I have thoroughly enjoyed composing this article, and hopefully readers would find it useful as well. I should end here by mentioning some verses from the Quran,
Who hath created life and death that He may try you which of you is best in conduct; and He is the Mighty, the Forgiving. Who hath created seven heavens in harmony. Thou (Muhammad) canst see no fault in the Beneficent One’s creation; then look again: Canst thou see any rifts? (Chapter 67, verses 2–3)