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Astrotheology in Al-Quran, Chapter : 18 (Al-Kahf)

I present here the hallmark of astrotheological text found in any of the sacred book, since it offers a unique explanation of the principles of theology. Chapter 18 of the Quran, called “The Cave”, is the most comprehensive chapter on astrotheology in the Quran. In the beginning it relates the story of ‘the companions of the cave and inscriptions’, who are an allegorical reference to the zodiacal planets, whilst ‘the cave and inscriptions’ here is the reference to the zodiac. This story parallels the Christian version of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” story, and is followed by the three stories that are meant to describe ‘the cardinal cross’, ‘the mutable cross’, and ‘the fixed cross’ of the signs of the zodiac. The chapter also continues intermittently with the explanation of Islamic theology, and differentiates it from idolatry (paganism, heathenism, witchcraft, etc.) by a philosophical discussion. But for the sake of interest and clarity, I shall explain the three stories here in the reverse order followed by the story of ‘the companions of the cave’.

The Fixed Cross of Zodiac in Action (18, 83–98)

‘The fixed cross’ of the zodiac consists of the signs of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. Here is how the Quran gives a mention to this cross in the following story.

83. And they ask you about Dhul-Qarnayn (the two-horned one). Say, “I will recite to you about him a report.”

In verse 83, the Dhul-Qarnayn (the two-horned one) represents the sign of Taurus. The two horns here symbolizes the two horns of the bull of Taurus.

84. Indeed, We established him upon the earth, and We gave him to everything a way.

The verse 84 says that Taurus is the “Earth sign”, and it is rich in material wealth.

85. So he followed a way.

86. Until, when he reached the setting of the sun (i.e., the west), he found it (as if) setting in a spring of dark mud, and he found near it a people. We said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish (them) or else adopt among them (a way of) goodness.”

87. He said, “As for one who wrongs, we will punish him. Then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with a terrible punishment (i.e., Hellfire).

88. But as for one who believes and does righteousness, he will have a reward of the best (i.e., Paradise), and we (i.e., Dhul-Qarnayn) will speak to him from our command with ease.”

The verses 85, 86, and 87, speak about the interaction of Taurus with the opposite sign of Scorpio. Here, Scorpio represents a spring of dark mud at the setting place of the Sun. Astrologically, the sign of Scorpio represents the extremes of behaviour, and thus we find the mention of extremes of punishments, and rewards towards the people of Scorpio in the above verses.

89. Then he followed a way.

90. Until, when he came to the rising of the sun (i.e., the east), he found it rising on a people for whom We had not made against it any shield.

91. Thus. And We had encompassed (all) that he had in knowledge.

Here, we find the interaction of Taurus with the sign of Leo. The rising of the Sun on people without any shelter or shield against it, represents the ruling sign of the Sun, which is Leo. Leo is also a sign of dominion, and therefore the verse 91 states the encompassing of the knowledge.

92. Then he followed a way.

93. Until, when he reached (a pass) between two mountains, he found beside them a people who could hardly understand (his) speech.

94. They said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, indeed Gog and Magog are (great) corrupters in the land. So may we assign for you an expenditure that you might make between us and them a barrier?”

95. He said, “That in which my Lord has established me is better , but assist me with strength (i.e., manpower); I will make between you and them a dam.

96. Bring me sheets of iron” — until, when he had levelled (them) between the two mountain walls, he said, “Blow (with bellows),” until when he had made it (like) fire, he said, “Bring me, that I may pour over it molten copper.”

97. So they (i.e., Gog and Magog) were unable to pass over it, nor were they able (to effect) in it any penetration.

98. (Dhul-Qarnayn) said, “This is a mercy from my Lord; but when the promise of my Lord comes (i.e., approaches), He will make it level, and ever is the promise of my Lord true.”

The verse 93 states the dealings of Taurus with the sign of Aquarius. Astrologically, Aquarius is the sign of an apathetic and carefree individual, or a rebel. Thus, the mention that those people could hardly understand his speech. In verse 94, the Gog and Magog represents the people of the sign of Scorpio, who had corrupted the land, and Aquarius needed a barrier to stay away from the Scorpio. Here, it is worthwhile mentioning that Aquarius offered money to Taurus, but since Taurus itself is a sign of material wealth, so instead the Taurus demands from them the manpower (the trait of Aquarius) for the project. The verse 96, is the most fascinating verse in this story. Here, Taurus asks for the sheets of iron (the metal of Scorpio), and fills up the walls (the gap between Scorpio and Aquarius), asks the Aquarius to blow ‘Air’ ( the element of Aquarius), until it becomes like a fire (the element of Leo), and then pours copper over it (the metal of Taurus). Thus, the barrier (the square angle) between Scorpio and Taurus gets established, which the Gog and Magog (Scorpio) could not break. Finally, in verse 98 it says that with the coming of the promise of the Lord, this barrier will be levelled. This ‘promise of the Lord’, is actually the advent of mutable signs, whose arrival breaks the barrier of ‘the fixed cross’.

The Mutable Cross of Zodiac in Action (18, 60–82)

‘The mutable cross’ of the zodiac consists of the signs of Pisces, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Gemini. The Quran expounds the mutable signs in the following fashion.

60. And (mention) when Moses said to his boy (i.e., servant), “I will not cease (travelling) until I reach the junction of the two seas or continue for a long period.”

61. But when they reached the junction between them, they forgot their fish, and it took its course into the sea, slipping away.

62. So when they had passed beyond it, (Moses) said to his boy, “Bring us our morning meal. We have certainly suffered in this, our journey, (much) fatigue.”

63. He said, “Did you see when we retired to the rock? Indeed, I forgot the fish. And none made me forget it except Satan — that I should mention it. And it took its course into the sea amazingly.”

64. (Moses) said, “That is what we were seeking.” So they returned, following their footprints.

In verse 60, when Moses decides to travel to the junction of the two seas, he is really trying to reach the domain of Pisces. The symbol of Pisces is ‘the two fishes’ who are swimming in the contradictory currents of water because of the meeting of two rivers. The verse also suggests that Moses might have to undertake a long journey to reach the Pisces, because it is the last sign of the zodiac. In verse 61, when Moses reaches to his destination, the fish which is carried by his servant slips into the sea, acquiring freedom, also emphasizing the Pisces domain. Now in verse 62–64, Moses gets tiresome in the journey because after Pisces, there is no further sign to travel, and so he returns back to the Pisces.

65. And they found a servant from among Our servants (i.e., al-Khidhr) to whom We had given mercy from Us and had taught him from Us a (certain) knowledge.

66. Moses said to him, “May I follow you on (the condition) that you teach me from what you have been taught of sound judgement?”

In verse 65, once Moses reaches back the domain of Pisces, he finds there al-Khidhr, who is the allegorical representative of the Pisces. The verse mentions that al-Khidhr had certain knowledge from God, which is actually the Pisces psychic trait, or the knowledge of intuitive detection. In verse 66, Moses asks al-Khidhr to teach him this talent of intuitive judgement.

67. He said, “Indeed, with me you will never be able to have patience.

68. And how can you have patience for what you do not encompass in knowledge?”

69. (Moses) said, “You will find me, if Allah wills, patient, and I will not disobey you in (any) order.”

70. He said, “Then if you follow me, do not ask me about anything until I make to you about it mention (i.e., explanation).”

In verse 67–70, Moses gets the acceptance as a student of al-Khidhr on a condition that he will have to be patient with the irregular and confusing actions of al-Khidhr, until al-Khidhr himself explains them to Moses.

71. So they set out, until when they had embarked on the ship, he (i.e., al-Khidhr) tore it open. (Moses) said, “Have you torn it open to drown its people? You have certainly done a grave thing.”

72. (Al-Khidhr) said, “Did I not say that with me you would never be able to have patience?”

73. (Moses) said, “Do not blame me for what I forgot and do not cover me in my matter with difficulty.”

In verse 71, the ship that al-Khidhr had torn open actually symbolizes the opposite sign of Virgo. Virgo or the virgin, is the entity without ‘holes’, and so as the ship. But Moses could not understand why al-Khidhr had marred the ship (the Virgo), and thus was rebuked by al-Khidhr. In verse 73, Moses had to apologize to al-Khidhr so as to continue with the journey.

74. So they set out, until when they met a boy, he (i.e., al-Khidhr) killed him. (Moses) said, “Have you killed a pure soul for other than (having killed) a soul? You have certainly done a deplorable thing.”

75. (Al-Khidhr) said, “Did I not tell you that with me you would never be able to have patience?”

76. (Moses) said, “If I should ask you about anything after this, then do not keep me as a companion. You have obtained from me an excuse.”

In verse 74, Moses again questions the action of al-Khidhr to kill a ‘pure soul’ ( the Virgo). In verse 75, Moses gets reprimanded, and in verse 76 he apologizes.

77. So they set out, until when they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food, but they refused to offer them hospitality. And they found therein a wall about to collapse, so he (i.e., al-Khidhr) restored it. (Moses) said, “If you wished, you could have taken for it a payment.”

78. (Al-Khidhr) said, “This is parting between me and you. I will inform you of the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience.

The symbol of ‘Virgo’ is a virgin carrying an ear of corn in her left hand, and a staff or rod in her right hand. The Virgo represents the season of harvest at the end of summer, and therefore though it has food in store, but is very judicious in the consumption of it due to the following autumn. In verse 77, the people of town represents Virgo, who although had the food, but were very cautious in spending it. ‘The wall’ that was damaged and got repaired by al-Khidhr, is actually the square angle between Virgo and Gemini. Moses again could not bear with the actions of al-Khidhr, and thus was finally disowned as a student by al-Khidhr in verse 78.

79. As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working at sea. So I intended to cause defect in it as there was after them a king who seized every (good) ship by force.

In verse 79, al-Khidhr explains the reasons for his disconcerting actions, by saying that he marred the ship (Virgo), because there was a king (the sign of Leo which is beside Virgo) behind them, who was taking everything by force.

80. And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief.

81. So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy.

In verse 80–81, al-Khidhr says that the boy (Virgo) who looked innocent, was in fact quite mischievous. Thus had to be replaced by the one with proper etiquettes.

82. And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure for them, and their father had been righteous. So your Lord intended that they reach maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience.”

In verse 82, the two orphan boys are the twins of the sign of Gemini. The treasure beneath the wall is the treasure of Taurus (which is the sign beside the Gemini). Here, ‘the righteous father’ of the two boys is the sign of Sagittarius (which is opposite the Gemini). And finally al-Khidhr mentions that his actions were not just of his own accord, but rather the mercy from the Lord; which means that al-Khidhr is teaching Moses that the most ideal actions are not always the right actions.

The Cardinal Cross of Zodiac in Action (18, 32–42)

‘The cardinal cross’ of the zodiac consists of the signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. The Quran in chapter 18, presents this cross with the following story.

32. And present to them an example of two men: We granted to one of them two gardens of grapevines, and We bordered them with palm trees and placed between them (fields of) crops.

33. Each of the two gardens produced its fruit and did not fall short thereof in anything. And We caused to gush forth within them a river.

In verse 32, the example of two men indicates the contention between ‘ego’ and ‘justice’. Here, the man with material wealth (Taurus, which is beside Aries), is Aries; and on the other side the man is Libra.

34. And he had fruit, so he said to his companion while he was conversing with him, “I am greater than you in wealth and mightier in (numbers of) men.”

35. And he entered his garden while he was unjust to himself. He said, “I do not think that this will perish — ever.

36. And I do not think the Hour will occur. And even if I should be brought back to my Lord, I will surely find better than this as a return.”

In verse 34, Aries tells Libra about the superiority of his wealth and power, and also boast and brags on his stature deeming it to be eternal. He also thinks in verse 36 that his worldly glory is also the indication and confirmation of the God’s favoritism towards him.

37. His companion said to him while he was conversing with him, “Have you disbelieved in He who created you from dust and then from a sperm-drop and then proportioned you (as) a man?

38. But as for me, He is Allah, my Lord, and I do not associate with my Lord anyone.

39. And why did you, when you entered your garden, not say, ‘What Allah willed (has occurred); there is no power except in Allah’? Although you see me less than you in wealth and children.

In verse 37–39, Libra calls Aries to be an ingrate and vaunting. Libra reminds Aries about his background, and also warns that it is possible that he can go back the same way.

40. It may be that my Lord will give me (something) better than your garden and will send upon it a calamity from the sky, and it will become a smooth, dusty ground.

In verse 40, the calamity which is augured by Libra is that of Capricorn (the sign of the barren wasteland).

41. Or its water will become sunken (into the earth), so you would never be able to seek it.”

In verse 41, the water becoming sunken in the earth is the reference to the sign of Cancer. The Cancer is a water sign which when Aries rises, occupies the position called Imum Coeli (IC), at the bottom of the zodiac.

42. And his fruits were encompassed (by ruin), so he began to turn his hands about (in dismay) over what he had spent on it, while it had collapsed upon its trellises, and said, “Oh, I wish I had not associated with my Lord anyone.”

The verse 42 describes the bane of Aries due to the action of Capricorn/Cancer axis in the cardinal cross.

The Story of Companions of Cave and Inscriptions (18, 9–26)

In the following story, the companions of the cave are an allegorical reference to the planets of the zodiac, while the zodiac is referred to as ‘the inscribed cave’. The Quran mentions this story in the following fashion.

9. Or have you thought that the companions of the cave and the inscription were, among Our signs, a wonder?

In verse 9, the companions of the cave are related to as the signs of God.

10. (Mention) when the youths retreated to the cave and said, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.”

11. So We cast (a cover of sleep) over their ears within the cave for a number of years.

12. Then We awakened them that We might show which of the two factions was most precise in calculating what (extent) they had remained in time.

In verse 10, the planets that are called as ‘youths’, have prayed for God’s mercy for an orderly movement, or a harmonious coexistence in the zodiac. Here, it is important to understand that in Islam, orderly existence means ‘the submission to a higher source’. In other words, ‘the passive principle’ always obeys ‘the active principle’, and this is considered the right conduct or affair. The word Islam literally means ‘submission’, but it differentiates itself from pagan religions by submitting to a higher heaven, than to the earthly things (earthly creatures or idols). In Islam, the earth has to obey the dominance of the heaven through man, who is considered the God’s vicegerent on the earth. It is because only a man has the consciousness which is divine, whilst at the same time he has the earthly physical state. If the divine guidance dominates the earthly existence, then there shall be heaven’s reflection on earth and thereby making everything to work in their proper order. Otherwise, if man loses his gift of the divine intelligence then there will be darkness and chaos in his affairs, thus leading to all sorts of corruptions on the earth. Therefore, man here is supposed to obey only the heaven; and every other creatures on earth, with men as their heaven are expected to be under men’s domain in a harmonious coexistence. And the same principle applies to all of the existing creations that they have to obey and submit to their respective heaven.

In verse 11, on account of the mercy and right guidance from heaven, the companions of the cave went to sleep (a harmonious coexistence) in the cave for many years. In verse 12, they were awakened to check the level of their awareness of the peaceful coexistence.

13. It is We who relate to you, (O Muhammad), their story in truth. Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.

14. And We bound (i.e., made firm) their hearts when they stood up and said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have certainly spoken, then, an excessive transgression.

15. These, our people, have taken besides Him deities. Why do they not bring for (worship of) them a clear authority? And who is more unjust than one who invents about Allah a lie?”

The verses 13–15, indicates the awakening of the companions to their higher divine selves, and thus they declared their submission to the heaven which had the divine authority over them, and defied the false gods and lies.

16. (The youths said to one another), “And when you have withdrawn from them and that which they worship other than Allah, retreat to the cave. Your Lord will spread out for you of His mercy and will prepare for you from your affair facility.”

In verse 16, the youths (the planets) expressed their common cause of following their heaven, and retreat to the cave (the zodiac), where they found harmony, order, and peace.

17. And (had you been present), you would see the sun when it rose, inclining away from their cave on the right, and when it set, passing away from them on the left, while they were (laying) within an open space thereof. That was from the signs of Allah. He whom Allah guides is the (rightly) guided, but he whom He leaves astray — never will you find for him a protecting guide.

In verse 17, the movement of the Sun around the cave (the zodiac) is mentioned; and it is also mentioned that these companions (the planets) were in the open space, thus further inkling towards their reality. Also, the verse states that the rightly guided ones would recognize the signs.

18. And you would think them awake, while they were asleep. And We turned them to the right and to the left, while their dog stretched his forelegs at the entrance. If you had looked at them, you would have turned from them in flight and been filled by them with terror.

The verse 18 is significant, because it states that one could easily observe them (the planets), and think that they were awake and moving towards right and left. But their dog (the star Sirius) is static and fixed. The designation often used for the star Sirius is ‘alpha Canis Majoris’, which means ‘the large dog’. The star Sirius is astrologically found in the sign of Cancer, which inaugurates the hot summer season, for which Egyptians had called ‘the dog days’.

19. And similarly, We awakened them that they might question one another. Said a speaker from among them, “How long have you remained (here)?” They said, “We have remained a day or part of a day.” They said, “Your Lord is most knowing of how long you remained. So send one of you with this silver coin of yours to the city and let him look to which is the best of food and bring you provision from it and let him be cautious. And let no one be aware of you.

20. Indeed, if they come to know of you, they will stone you or return you to their religion. And never would you succeed, then — ever.”

In verse 19, the companions find themselves awakened from their peaceful slumber, and then question each other of its duration; but could not find much clue to it. This indicates that when one is in a state of submission to the truth, the times does not have any deleterious effects on him, to such an extent that he remains forever spiritually fresh and alive. Furthermore, one of the companions is sent to the market to fetch provisions, still being fearful of the city people who had refused the heaven. Here, the Quran points out the vanity of material pursuits by hinting that the more materialistic one becomes, the more wasteful he becomes; while the more heavenly one becomes, the more preserved one becomes.

21. And similarly, We caused them to be found that they (who found them) would know that the promise of Allah is truth and that of the Hour there is no doubt. (That was) when they disputed among themselves about their affair and (then) said, “Construct over them a structure. Their Lord is most knowing about them.” Said those who prevailed in the matter, “We will surely take (for ourselves) over them a masjid.”

In verse 21, people of the city become aware of the miracle of the companions of the cave, and thus the heavenly superiority dawns upon them. But still they disputed among themselves, showing their materialistic background. Ultimately, the opinion that prevailed was to consecrate that space for worship.

22. They (i.e., people) will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog — guessing at the unseen; and they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, (O Muhammad), “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among (the speculators) from anyone.”

The verse 22, is the most significant of the chapter, since it irrevocably indicates that the companions of the cave are actually planets of the zodiac. Here, when the people of city count the companions (the planets) as three and their dog the fourth, and also five and their dog the sixth, the Quran rejects this count by saying that these people are guessing at the unseen. But afterwards it is mentioned that some said they were seven and their dog the eighth, and here no guessing at unseen is mentioned. That is because astrologically there are seven visible planets with star Sirius as the brightest star, called ‘the dog star’. Also, the verse 22 mentions the possibility of invisible planets (confirmed in the modern times) by saying that only Lord knows their actual number, and therefore, it is pointless to be dogmatic about it.

23. And never say of anything, “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,”

24. Except (when adding), “If Allah wills.” And remember your Lord when you forget (it) and say, “Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct.”

The verses 23–24 beautifully expounds the Islamic theology by saying that a man should always seek guidance from the heaven in his affairs, and without the power and support of the heaven, one might not accomplish anything.

25. And they remained in their cave for three hundred years and exceeded by nine.

26. Say, “Allah is most knowing of how long they remained. He has (knowledge of) the unseen (aspects) of the heavens and the earth. How Seeing is He and how Hearing! They have not besides Him any protector, and He shares not His legislation with anyone.”

The verse 25 mentions the duration of stay in the cave by the companions. The style in which it is stated indicates the comparison between the solar calendar and the lunar calendar. Lunar calendar comprises of 12.4 months in respect to the solar calendar, which makes 300 years of the solar calendar equivalent to the 309 years of the lunar calendar. This could have been stated to relate the active principle of the Sun to the passive principle of the Moon, whose harmonious relationship gives birth to the twelve sign of the zodiac. And the verse 26 ends by stating that one should only receive guidance and seek protection from the heaven alone confirms this point.

The Chapter Al-Kahf and Fridays

Friday is astrologically ruled by the planet Venus. Therefore, to harness the full advantage of Venus’s influence on Fridays; Muslims are required to participate in a congregational prayer assembly. Not only that, but there are narrations of prophet Mohammed that signify the reading of this chapter on Fridays to be particularly blessed. Some of them are as follows.

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reports that the Prophet said: “Whoever recites Surah al-Kahf on Jumu’ah (Friday) will have illumination from the light from one Jumu’ah (Friday) to the next.” Related by an-Nasa’i, al-Baihaqi, and al-Hakim.

Ibn ‘Umar reports that the Prophet said: “Whoever recites Surah al-Kahf on Jumu’ah (Friday) will be blessed with a light that will rise from underneath his feet to the peak of the sky. This will be a light for him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will be forgiven for what is between the Jumu’ah (Friday) and the next Jumu’ah (Friday).” Related by Ibn Mardwwiyah.

The Prophet said, “If anyone recites Surah al-Kahf on Friday, a light will shine brightly for him till the next Friday.” Related by Bayhaqi. Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2175. Narrated by Abu Sa’id.

The reason for this influence of reading chapter Al-Kahf on Fridays can be traced from the heroes mentioned in it. Firstly, Dhul-Qarnayn (Taurus) is hero of the fixed signs story, secondly al-Khidhr (Pisces) is hero of the mutable sign story, and thirdly the God-fearing man (Libra) is hero of the cardinal sign story. Now, Taurus and Libra are the signs ruled by Venus, whilst Venus is exalted in the sign of Pisces. Thus, the positive influence of reading the chapter on Fridays as according to the prophet’s narrations can be explained through astrological concepts.

The End Note

This brings us to the end of this article. I hope you would have found it interesting and illuminating. I should conclude it by stating the following verse from the Quran.

We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness? (41, 53)