The Meteor

The first thing these verses prove is that the shaitans have no access to the heavens. That shaitan the accursed was in the heavens at the time of the creation of Sayyidna 'Adam (علیہ السلام) and that he deceived 'Adam and Hawwa (Eve) (علیہما السلام) were events which took place before they appeared on the earth. Upto that time, the entry of the Jinns and shaitans in the heavens was not prohibited. It was after the coming down of Sayyidna 'Adam I and the expulsion of the shaitan that this entry was banned. From what has been said in Surah Al-Jinn: أَنَّا كُنَّا نَقْعُدُ مِنْهَا مَقَاعِدَ لِلسَّمْعِ ۖ فَمَن يَسْتَمِعِ الْآنَ يَجِدْ لَهُ شِهَابًا رَّ‌صَدًا (And we used to sit in ambush at places from it so as to eavesdrop. Whoever then tries to hear would find for him a flame in hot pursuit - 72:9), it appears that, before the coming of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، the shaitans could overhear about things happening in the heaven through the mutual conversation of angels. This does not necessarily imply that that the shaitans used to hear about such information by entering into the heavens. The first sentence of the verse quoted above: نَقْعُدُ مِنْهَا مَقَاعِدَ gives the sense that they would enter the atmospheric zone where clouds abound like thieves, would sit there in ambush and hear. These words themselves are indicative of no other possibility but that the entry of the Jinns and the shaitans had continued to be banned in the heavens - but, they would reach the outer atmosphere of the skies and hear a little by stealth. It was after the advent of the Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be on him, that an additional arrangement was activated when the shaitans were stopped even from this covert eavesdropping through meteors or shooting stars (Al-Shihab Al-Thaqib) which zoom in upon them from the outer space with enormous speed.

Now the question, as to how could the shaitans hear the conversation of angels taking place inside the heavens while they were out of it, is not something just impossible. It is quite probable that the heavenly bodies not be prohibitive of the audition of sounds, and it is also not far out that the angels sometimes come lower down the heavens and engage them-selves in some conversation hearing which the shaitans used to run. A Hadith of Sayyidah ` A'ishah ؓ appearing in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari confirms this very probability. She said that the angels sometimes come down as far as where the clouds are and talk about the heavenly happenings among themselves. It was in this atmospheric zone of the skies that the shaitans used to hide themselves in to hear this news. This furtive effort of theirs was stopped through Al-Shihab Al-Thaqib, the shooting stars. Detailed comments on this subject will, Insh’ Allah, appear in Surah Al-Jinn under our exegesis of the verse: أَنَّا كُنَّا نَقْعُدُ مِنْهَا مَقَاعِدَ لِلسَّمْعِ (72:9).

Now, the second question we have here is that of Al-Shihab Al-Thagib, meteors or shooting stars, in these verses. According to the statements of the Holy Qur'an, it appears that these 'shihabs' or flames are formed to hit the shaitans in order that the revelation remains protected. In other words, the shaitans are driven away through them so that they would not overhear angels.

The difficult part of the question relates to the fact that the presence of shooting stars in outer space is nothing new. Falling stars were seen even before the coming of the Holy Prophet ﷺ - and this phenomena continues later than that as well. If so, how can it be said that the shooting stars show up to drive the shaitans away, which is the particular feature of the age of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ? Obviously, this seems to support the view of the scientists who say that meteors become so hot from rushing through the air that they glow and often burn up which gives onlookers the impression that a star has fallen. Therefore, in usage, this is identified as a falling star. The Arabic language itself has an expression: اِمقِضَاض اَلکَوَاکَب (inqidad al-kaukab) which is a virtual synonym, of the falling of a star.

However, the answer is that there is no contradiction here. One or more scientific explanations for this phenomena could be possible, for ex-ample, vapours rising from the earth surface may heat up at some point, or the speed of the meteors makes them glow and burn, or a flame emits from a star - and this may have habitually continued since ever. But, before the coming of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، these flames were not employed to serve a particular purpose. However, after his coming, meteoric flames were employed to serve the purpose of shooting the shaitans who would come up to stealthily hear the conversation of angels.

This is how ` Allamah Al-'Alusi has interpreted it in Ruh al-Ma’ ani. There he reports that someone asked Imam Zuhri, the Hadith authority, that stars used to fall even before the coming of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . He said: "Yes." Thereupon, this person confronted him by quoting the verse cited above. Then he said: "The shooting stars, no doubt, did exist before - but, after the coming of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، when the shaitans were dealt with sternly, these were employed to drive them away."

In a Hadith of the Sahih of Muslim, there is a narration from Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ which reports the saying of the Holy Prophet ﷺ himself on this subject. According to this report, he was sitting with a group of his Sahabah ؓ when they saw a star falling. He asked them: at did you take the falling of a star to be during the days of Jahiliyyah, that is, before Islam? They said: We took it to be a sign of some major upheaval in the world, or that a prominent man would die, or be born. He said: This is absurd. It has nothing to do with someone's death or birth. As for these flames, they are thrown to dispel the shaitans.

To sum up, it can be said that the view of scientists about the shooting stars is also not contrary to the Qur’ an, and it is also not too far out to state that these flames were made to fall directly from some stars. Whichever way it is taken, the purpose of the Qur'an stands proved clearly.