فَلَۤا أُقْسِمُ بِمَوَاقِعِ النُّجُومِۙوَإِنَّهُ لَقَسَمٌ لَوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عَظ۪يمٌۙ إِنَّهُ لَقُرْاٰنٌ كَر۪يمٌ
I swear by the locations of the stars (and their falling). It is indeed a very great oath, if you but knew. Most certainly it is a Qur’ān (recited) most honorable. (Al-Wāqi‘ah 56:75–77)
Alas for humanity whose heart has been hardened and covered with rust! Almighty God, Who is the All-Knowing, knows this state of humanity and reveals His Message to them by a tremendous oath.
A human being should feel ashamed at this and shudder while reading the verses with this meaning and message. The Lord of humanity swears and speaks emphatically and repeatedly in order to awake man to the truth of the Qur’ān and make them believe that the Qur’ān is His most honorable Book or Message.
There are many such oaths throughout the Qur’ān. God Almighty swears by the sun, moon, stars, the heavens, and many other things. He swears by His bounties on the earth such as the olive and fig. Mount Sinai, day and night are also among the things by which God swears. There are many mysteries and instances of wisdom in all of these oaths.
In the initial verse of Sūratu’n-Najm (The Star), God Almighty swears by a star: “By the star when it rises or goes down (after its rise).” This oath is extraordinarily suited to the subject of the sūrah in which it is found and in which the Ascension of our Prophet is mentioned. From this perspective, it is possible that what is meant by the star is our Prophet himself, upon him be peace and blessings. Just like a star, he first rose from the created and ascended to the Creator and then returned from the Creator to the created again.
Indeed, without being confused and dazzled in the face of all the most exquisite scenes and beauties he was shown during the Ascension, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, returned to this realm of formations and deformations (or creation and decline) so that he introduces the blessings and bounties bestowed on him to everyone else, taking us toward the horizons to which he traveled. For this reason, inter-preting the star by which God swears in the verse as our Prophet is quite appropriate. In addition to his matchless virtues and excellencies, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, returned to creation with many new blessings with which he had been favored during his Ascension. Thus God swears by him in the name of the virtues and excellencies he possesses and the new blessings conferred on him during his Ascension. Just as, according to some interpreters of the Qur’ān, God mentions His noble Prophet with the Attributes particular to Him as “as-Samī‘” (the Hearing) and “al-Basīr” (the Seeing) in the verse, “Surely he is the one who hears and sees” (Al-Isrā’ 17:1), He also gives him the same value in the first verse of the Sūratu’n-Najm, in which He swears by him, saying: “By the star when it rises and goes down (after its rise),” and thus alluding to the Ascension of the star of humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, and then his return back to our realm in order to raise us upwards to the horizons to which he traveled.
In the verse, “By the sun and its brightness” (Ash-Shams 91:1), God Almighty swears by the sun and the brightness of the forenoon. In the verse, “And by the night when it has grown dark and most still” (Ad-Duhā 93:2), God Almighty swears by the night and its darkness as it is the resting time; and in the verse, “And the day as it reveals it (the sun)” (Ash-Shams 91:3), He swears by the removal of darkness and the appearance of the brightness of day and, therefore, by Divine bounties and favors coming through such changes succeeding each other.
In another place of the Qur’ān, the fig, the olive, and the Mount Si-nai are sworn by. Mount Sinai (at-Tūr) is an important location where Prophet Moses was favored with God’s speech and certain other kinds of manifestations. This favor of God to Moses at Mount Sinai marked the beginning of the revival of a community. Prophet Moses was receiving God’s commands through Revelation, and a community began on the path to awakening to the true life. Thus, God honored Mount Sinai with swearing by it.
As stated above, there are many such kinds of oaths in the Qur’ān. In the verse under discussion, God Almighty swears by “the locations of the stars.” The following interpretations have been made concerning this oath:
First: The stars have always been important for human beings be-cause there has always been a relationship between human beings and stars. The minimum of this relationship has been that human beings can determine directions through the stars. The following verse points to this fact, saying: “And (other) way-marks, and they (people) find their way by the stars” (An-Nahl 16:16).
In addition, like the verses of the Qur’ān, there are explicit or implicit connections among stars. Through the tongue of their natural order, harmony, functions and appearance, they move our feelings and whisper things related to the truths behind their existence, order, and the general order of the universe. This is another way they function as “way-marks” and provide “guidance” for us. Therefore, by swearing by “the locations of stars,” God Almighty draws our attention to the order, harmony, and magnificent scenes they display. If they were not located where they are, if they had not been established by God in these locations, there would not have been order and harmony in both the heavens and the universe as a whole, and human beings would not have been able to benefit from them.
Second: The present position of the solar system and the universe as a whole and the present formation of the world are the result of the ex-istence of uncountable conditions and their co-existence and cooperation according to extremely sensitive measures. For example, the escape of air molecules and atoms from the atmosphere and the destruction of the bal-ance between the gases forming air destroy the structure of the atmosphere with the result that life extinguishes on the earth. In fact, the co-operation between the earth and sky is very difficult. The molecules and atoms in the atmosphere try to escape into space while the earth tries to attract and hold them. It is God Who holds them together, and they act in obedience to God’s laws. It is said in the Qur’ān concerning this: “And He directed (His Knowledge, Will, Power, and Favor) to the heaven when it was as a cloud (of gases), and ordered it and the earth, ‘Come both of you, willingly or unwillingly!’ They said: ‘We have come in willing obedience’” (Fussilat 41:11). Behind this gravitational attraction and other laws is Divine Power.
Indeed, it is very meaningful and apt to swear by the stars and their locations in the heavens, all of which point to the existence and Unity of God. Indeed, the solar system and all other star systems that exist in the universe are all in order, and everything is exactly in its place. Considering the fact that even the clash and split of tiny atoms cause an extremely large explosion, the idea of great celestial bodies running into each other is enough to make one shiver with fear. Though this abundance of star sys-tems appears to be chaotic and disorderly, they are all in a dazzling harmo-ny and order. Behind all this order and harmony in the universe and the laws of attraction and repulsion between the celestial bodies is the disposal of the eternally All-Powerful One. Here, our attention is turned toward this Divine disposal by means of the tremendous oath by “the locations of the stars.”
Third: Another meaning or reality which can be derived from God’s swearing by the locations of stars is that the stars are exactly in their prop-er places, so much so that studying one particular system will give firm views about other systems in the universe. Moreover, it will be possible to establish dialogue with the systems and found dwelling places there. All of the systems have so properly and harmoniously been established and there are such sensitive connections among them that there is not the least irregularity and disaccord in and among them. Instead, we find a magnificent and perfect order, accord and harmony. In Sūratu’r-Rahmān (55), God Almighty expresses His quality of ar-Rahmān (the All-Merciful) with this order and accord. Besides the Name Allāh (God), ar-Rahmān (the All-Merciful) is another proper Name of the Divine Being. No one can be named after and called by these two Names. In the Basmalah, which is re-peated 114 times in the Qur’ān, ar-Rahmān is mentioned right after the Name Allāh. In Sūratu’r-Rahmān, which derives its name from its initial verse: “ar-Rahmān” (The All-Merciful), all God’s bounties are related to His quality of ar-Rahmān. The greatest of these bounties is God’s teaching humankind the Qur’ān: “The All-Merciful. He has taught the Qur’ān” (Ar-Rahmān 55:1–2).
If the messages of the Qur’ān had not enlightened our eyes and worlds, the universe would have remained a common mourning place for us. Then we would have been in horror at the sight of all the creatures in their deadly images. We would never have been able to see the truth of anything, nor would we have been able to understand anything properly. It is through the guiding lights of the Qur’ān that we have come to comprehend the meaning of everything in the universe with the instances of wisdom in it, and we have realized that we are the best pattern and summary of creation. We have been able to understand through the light of the Qur’ān what modern scientific approach and sciences leave in darkness, and we have been saved from bewilderment and horror. Having penetrated the essence of the Qur’ān, we have examined existence and come to realize such things that others are either unaware of their existence or do not recognize them. Indeed, we have detected bright tunnels leading to the realms beyond even through the black holes (in the sky), and we have begun seeing illuminated wherever and whatever we look at with its light.
The All-Merciful God shows us another aspect of His Mercifulness in the following verse, when he says, “He has created human; He has taught him speech” (Ar-Rahmān 55:3–4). If we had been dumb, in other words, if we had been unable to translate the articulate language of the universe, which speaks loudly, and, if we had been unable to understand the Divine Speech and instruct each other in it—if we had not been able to see the universe illuminated through His Attribute of Speech and describe it in its brightness, then we would have remained unable to understand and teach anything of the deep meanings and intricacies of the universe.
“The sun and the moon are by an exact calculation (of the All-Merciful)” (Ar-Rahmān 55:5). The sun and the moon have been placed in locations with such exact, delicate, and precise calculation, and they have such a position with each other that a magnificent Will-power explicitly displays in their formation, functions, and positions. This is another mani-festation of God’s Mercifulness in a different wavelength. If Divine Mercy had not established this order with the most exact calculations, we would have been devastated and lost among the objects colliding with each other. Even though some meteors occasionally fall down the earth, none of them has ever caused a serious problem. These meteors have so far injured nei-ther somebody’s head nor eyes. Therefore, these meteors hit the shield of God’s Grace and are smashed. You may attempt to explain this with the atmosphere or the mass of the dense gases. Whatever physical causes you put forward, they are only the embodiment of God’s Grace. God has estab-lished everything in its proper place with the most exact calculations in so marvelous order and harmony that “the locations of the stars” also imply this.
Fourth: The North Star, its place among stars and showing us our direction; the solar system and its position in the Milky Way; the Milky Way and its place among other heavenly systems, splendid in itself but humble in proportion to others; the position of these systems among other bigger systems; the precisely calculated distances between the stars and between the satellites of each star—everything in the universe is a part of the uni-versal harmony and is itself harmoniously established in the sky and works in precise relationship with everything else. “The locations of the stars” also point to these facts.
Fifth: The locations of the stars are approached differently in the West and the East. For instance, Russian scientists call them the locations where the stars have been established. As for the West, they regard the locations of the stars as black holes or white holes. In fact, in addition to the matters that sciences have established and solved, there are so many mys-teries or matters that wait to be answered. When an issue is clarified, many new matters emerge. For example, there is an opposition between the atmosphere of the earth and the earth itself. Astrophysicists assert that this opposition or contrast is a complementary factor of the balance on the earth and in space, even in the whole universe. Black holes and white holes are also two opposite elements which are also very important for the gen-eral balance in the universe.
According to contemporary commentators, “the locations of the stars” also point to quasars and pulsars. White holes are extremely intense sources of light and energy. Today, these can easily be observed and estab-lished. Scientists say that white holes are like fields where other stars and systems will grow and develop. Truly, these holes have such strong and magnificent energy that even if the Milky Way disappears all of a sudden, one white hole can be the source where another Milky Way will grow by God’s Will and Power. These have been established at the heart of the uni-verse in such harmony that they perform their tremendous duties in the most exact or precise fashion.
Indeed, one of the apparent influential elements in the order of the universe is “the locations of the stars.” Russian scientists regard these as the places where starlets are grown and develop. Their view is important as it shows that the Qur’ān points to a fact fourteen centuries before it was es-tablished by science, and, therefore, it is the Word of Him Who is the All-Knowing and Whose Power is able to do everything He wills.
Sixth: Black holes are formed when heavy stars collapse as a result of electrons losing their energy. After a black hole has formed, it can still absorb mass from its surroundings. They absorb other stars and merge with other black holes, thus super-massive black holes are formed. Even though the stars that collapse do not lose anything of their mass and weight, their bodies shrink and turn into gigantic black holes. They absorb but do not give light. Time accelerates at that point. Just as some puzzling things happen when the objects caught by a whirlpool are lost, certain mysterious things occur in black holes. For example, if the solar system approached one of these black holes, it would be swallowed up like a morsel and disappear. Thus, some of the astrophysicists call these black holes “locations of the stars.”
Seventh: We come across in the Qur’ān that Prophets are also meant by the term “star.” For example, in Sūratu’t-Tāriq (86:3) the term, “an-Najmu’th-Thāqib,” which means “the bright, piercing star,” is interpret-ed as referring to Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, who pierces into hardened hearts and opens the closed doors to penetrate inside. Each Prophet was the star of the heavens of his time that enlight-ened it. Those who follow their lights rise to the heavens of happiness and come into contact with God Almighty. So by swearing by “the locations of the stars,” God Almighty may be drawing the attention to the dazzling positions of, for example, Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus and our Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon them all.
Eighth: I would like to point out another aspect of this expression. The Qur’anic verses are called “stars” as well. The interpreters of the Qur’ān say that the Qur’ān was revealed “in stars after stars.” Each Qur’anic verse has its own place both in the Qur’ān and in God’s sight. Since we are unable to perceive the power and comprehensiveness of the Divine Speech in the Qur’ān, God Almighty swears by the position and place of the Qur’ān in His Attribute of Speech due to its matchless value and importance. So swearing by “the locations of the stars” has almost the same meaning as “Qāf. By the Qur’ān most sublime” (Qāf 50:1). Moreover, there is a special place for the Qur’ān in the Supreme Preserved Tablet (al-Lawhu’l-Mahfūz) as well. For it was in the Supreme Preserved Tablet until it was sent down on the Night of Power (Laylatu’l-Qadr) to the heaven of the world. Only those whose sight could reach it could be aware of it. From this perspective, “the locations of the stars” point to the locations of the stars (verses) of the Qur’ān, which is the translator of the book of the universe and the work of God’s Will and Power. Hence, the Qur’ān is regarded as another cluster of stars—a cluster of stars that makes the stars in the universe known. Indeed, there is a similarity between the Qur’ān and the universe. God declares: “We have surely sent the Qur’ān down on the Night of (Destiny and) Power” (Al-Qadr 97:1). Every friend of God (walī) who is able to observe the Supreme Preserved Tablet of Truth can observe and study the Qur’ān there as a whole. In sum, by swearing by “the locations of the stars,” God Almighty swears by this lofty position and location of the Qur’ān.
Ninth: Another location of the Qur’ān, which caused Archangel Ga-briel to gain the designation of trustworthiness, is the trustworthy heart of Gabriel. Therefore, swearing by “the locations of the stars” may also be swearing by the heart of Gabriel and other trustworthy hearts.
Tenth: It may well be that “the locations of the stars” refer to the pure heart of our master Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and those of his sincere followers.
Eleventh: The pure hearts and consciences of believers who adopt the Qur’ān as the essence of everything and of their lives and feel that God speaks to them anytime they recite it may be among the locations by which God swears. May God purify our hearts, too, as He purified the hearts of our pure, sincere predecessors, making them the hearts by which God may swear.
It is due to all these and many other similar meanings or realities that God Almighty swears by “the locations of the stars.” And He declares that this oath is a very great, important oath.
We believe in the mysteries unknown to us, too, as we believe in the known ones, and we affirm the Divine declaration, “It is indeed a very great oath, if you but knew,” with all our hearts.
 See Sūratu’t-Tīn 95:1–2.