June 23, 2024
Lunar Mansions
In Islamic astronomy, the Lunar Mansions, known as "Manazil al-Qamar" in Arabic, are a system of lunar divisions used to track the Moon's position along

In Islamic astronomy, the Lunar Mansions, known as “Manazil al-Qamar” in Arabic, are a system of lunar divisions used to track the Moon’s position along its monthly journey across the sky. The concept of Lunar Mansions originated from ancient Arab and Islamic traditions and was developed to aid in timekeeping, navigation, and astronomical observations.

The Lunar Mansions divide the path of the Moon into 28 segments, each corresponding to a specific area of the sky. These segments are based on the Moon’s approximate daily motion relative to the stars, resulting in each Mansion spanning approximately 12 to 13 degrees of celestial longitude along the ecliptic.

The alignment of the new crescent moon with the star Al-Sharatan (Sheratan)  at the beginning of each lunar month is a phenomenon observed by the Muslim astronomers and is considered significant within Islamic cosmology. This alignment is particularly noteworthy because it occurs consistently, month after month, reinforcing the association between the moon and Al-Sharatan.

Muslim astronomers argue that Al-Sharatan serves as the “home” or domicile of the moon due to this regular alignment. Al-Sharatan is regarded as the starting point of the lunar journey each month, as the new crescent moon appears within this constellation at the beginning of the lunar month. Al-Sharatan lies in the constellation Aries.

The names and boundaries of the Lunar Mansions vary across different cultural and historical contexts, but they generally follow a consistent pattern. Each Mansion is associated with a particular constellation or group of stars, and they are often named after prominent stars or asterisms located within or near the Mansion.

The Lunar Mansions were traditionally used for various purposes, including timekeeping, agricultural planning, and astrology. For example, the Mansions were used to determine auspicious times for various activities, such as travel, marriage, and planting crops, based on the perceived influence of the Moon and stars on human affairs.

While the use of the Lunar Mansions has declined in modern astronomy and timekeeping, they continue to hold cultural and historical significance in Islamic tradition, serving as a reminder of the rich astronomical heritage of the Islamic world and its contributions to the study of the cosmos.

Star gazers have been appreciating the beauty and arrangement of fixed stars in the sky since time immemorial. However, a belt of constellations, extending 8.5o on the ecliptic, always fascinated the human imagination. Records of these constellations have been found in the ruins of the oldest civilizations, including, Egyptian, Syrian, Mesopotamian, and Chinese as well. Homer is the first Greek author who mentioned the term ‘zodiac’ for this tilted belt of constellations.

Manazil-ul-Qamar

The Arabic names of the 28 mansions of the moon are given below:

  1. Al-Sharatan الشَّرَطَانُ
  2. Al-Botain الْبُطَيْنُ
  3. Al-Thuraya الثُّرَيَّا
  4. Ad-Debaran الدَّبَرَانُ
  5. Al-Haq’ah الْهَقْعَةُ
  6. Al-Han’ah الْهَنْعَةُ
  7. Al-Dhira’ الذِّرَاعُ
  8. Al-Nathrah النَّثْرَةُ
  9. Al-Tarf  الطَّرْفُ
  10. Al-Jabhah الْجَبْهَةُ
  11. Adh-Dhubrah الزُّبْرَةُ
  12. Al-Sarfah الصَّرْفَةُ
  13. Al-Awwa  الْعَوَّاءُ
  14. Al-Simak السِّمَاكُ
  15. Al-Ghafr الْغَفْرُ
  16. Al-Dhubanan الزُّبَانَان
  17. Al-Eklil الْإِكْلِيلُ
  18. Al-Qalb الْقَلْبُ
  19. Al-Shaulah الشَّوْلَةُ
  20. An-Na’yem النَّعَائِمُ
  21. Al-Baldah الْبَلْدَةُ
  22. Sa’ad adh-Dhabih سَعْدٌ الذَّابِحُ
  23. Sa’ad Bula’ سَعْدُ بُلَعَ
  24. Sa’ad as-Su’ood سَعْدُ السُّعُودِ
  25. Sa’ad al-Akhbiyah سَعْدُ الْأَخْبِيَةِ
  26. Al-Fara al-Moqaddam الْفَرْعُ الْمُقَدَّمُ
  27. Al-Fara al-Moakhar الْفَرْعُ الْمُؤَخَّرُ
  28. Batnal-Hoot بَطْنُ الْحُوتِ

Click the link below for detailed data about the aforementioned Lunar Mansions prepared by the author, in the form of a table (PDF).

LUNAR MANSIONS

Famous Muslim astronomer Muhammad bin Jabir bin Sinan Al-Battani   (c.850-929), known as Albatenius or Albategnius in Western books,  mentioned these stars in his outstanding book Zej al-Sabiyi.

How to Find Qiblah concerning the Lunar Mansions?

Shaykh al-Islam Imam Ibni Qudamah al-Hanbali mentioned these mansions of the moon in his famous work on Islamic Jurisprudence, Al-Moghni, in the chapter of Qiblah direction.[6] He describes the method of finding Qiblah with the help of the Lunar Mansions. Many scholars of Tafsir mentioned these mansions while interpreting Surah Yasin (Ayah 39). For instance, consult Tafsir Al-Qortubi.

Imam ibn Qudamah al-Hanbali said:
وَالشَّمْسُ تَنْزِلُ بِكُلِّ مَنْزِلٍ مِنْهَا ثَلَاثَةَ عَشَرَ يَوْمًا، فَيَكُونُ عَوْدُهَا إلَى الْمَنْزِلِ الَّذِي نَزَلَتْ بِهِ عِنْدَ تَمَامِ حَوْلٍ كَامِلٍ مِنْ أَحْوَالِ السَّنَةِ الشَّمْسِيَّةِ، وَهَذِهِ الْمَنَازِلُ يَكُونُ مِنْهَا فِيمَا بَيْنَ غُرُوبِ الشَّمْسِ وَطُلُوعِهَا أَرْبَعَةَ عَشَرَ مَنْزِلًا، وَمِنْ طُلُوعِهَا إلَى غُرُوبِهَا مِثْلُ ذَلِكَ، وَوَقْتُ الْفَجْرِ مِنْهَا مَنْزِلَانِ، وَوَقْتُ الْمَغْرِبِ مَنْزِلٌ، وَهُوَ نِصْفُ سُدُسِ سَوَادِ اللَّيْلِ، وَسَوَادُ اللَّيْلِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ مَنْزِلًا، وَكُلُّهَا تَطْلُعُ مِنْ الْمَشْرِقِ وَتَغْرُبُ فِي الْمَغْرِبِ، إلَّا أَنَّ أَوَائِلَ الشَّامِيَّةِ وَآخِرَ الْيَمَانِيَّةِ تَطْلُعُ مِنْ وَسَطِ الْمَشْرِقِ، بِحَيْثُ إذَا طَلَعَ جَعَلَ الطَّالِعَ مِنْهَا مُحَاذِيًا لِكَتِفِهِ الْأَيْسَرِ كَانَ مُسْتَقْبِلًا لِلْكَعْبَةِ، وَكَذَلِكَ آخِرُ الشَّامِيَّةِ

The translation of the provided text is as follows:

The Sun descends in each of them (the Lunar Mansions) for thirteen days, so its return to the mansion in which it descended is upon the completion of a full revolution of the solar year. These mansions are fourteen between sunset and sunrise, and likewise between sunrise and sunset. The time of Fajr (dawn) consists of two mansions, and the time of sunset is one mansion, which is half of the sixth of the darkness of the night. The darkness of the night consists of twelve mansions and all of them rise from the east and set in the west, except that the first of the Shamiyyah (northern) and the last of the Yamaaniyyah (southern) rise from the middle of the east, so that when it rises, the rising of it is aligned with the left shoulder, facing the Kaaba, and likewise the last of the Shamiyyah.

These twenty-eight stars have been divided into two equal groups, i.e. northern group, and the southern group. These northern and southern stars make pairs of opposites. When a northern star arises, its southern opposite sets.

Imam ibn Qudamah al-Hanbali stated:
وَإِنْ عَرَفَ الْمُتَوَسِّطَ مِنْهَا بِأَنْ يَرَى بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ أُفُقِ السَّمَاءِ سَبْعَةً مِنْ هَاهُنَا وَسَبْعَةً مِنْ هَاهُنَا، اسْتَقْبَلَهُ، وَلِكُلِّ نَجْمٍ مِنْ هَذِهِ الْمَنَازِلِ نُجُومٌ تُقَارِبُهُ، وَتَسِيرُ بِسَيْرِهِ، مِنْ عَنْ يَمِينِهِ، وَشِمَالِهِ

“And if the observer knew the middle star, from between it and the horizon of the sky, seven from here and seven from there, he should face it in his prayers. And for each star of these mansions, some stars approximate it, and they move along with it, from its right and its left.”

It is interesting to know that, though observational data shows the movement of the moon in the belt of constellations, however, precise calculations suggest that the sun traverses the same path over the year (365.25 days app.) apparently. The sun lodges in each mansion for 13 days approximately.

Can We Observe the Lunar Mansions?

Yes, we can observe the aforementioned Lunar Mansions with the naked eye in the night sky on different days of the year. The stars and asterisms traditionally associated with the Lunar Mansions are visible to the naked eye, and their positions relative to the Moon change as it progresses through its monthly cycle. Observing these stars and asterisms over time can provide a way to track the Moon’s position and progress through the Lunar Mansions.

What is a zodiac?

Encyclopedia Britannica observes:

Zodiac, in astronomy and astrology, is a belt around the heavens extending 9° on either side of the ecliptic, the plane of Earth’s orbit and of the Sun’s apparent annual path. The orbits of the Moon and of the principal planets also lie entirely within the zodiac.[1]

The Greeks associated each constellation with different animals, believing them deities who influence all events of their life. They named their Gods after these constellations or zodiacal signs. Islam abolished all the superstitious concerns about the stars and constellations. Islam believes in only God, who created all the celestial bodies and governs them.

Islamic Concept of Zodiac

The Qur’an refers to the belt of constellations with Manazil-ul-Qamar (Mansions of the Moon) in Chapter 36.

الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَاءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُورًا وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ ۚ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ ذَٰلِكَ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

He it is who hath made the sun a burning light and the moon a cool light, and hath determined mansions for her that ye may know the number of the years and the reckoning. Allah hath not created all this except with a purpose; He detaileth these signs unto those who know.[2]

So Qur’an describes the purpose of determining mansions for the moon, i.e keeping the number of years through computation. In other words, the lunar mansions are determined for measuring time, not only on a larger scale but on a smaller scale as well. It also helps to determine the longitude
and latitude of a specific location.

Scope of Astrology in Islam

So what is the scope of astrology in Islam? Definitely zero. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) completely rejected astrology and the claims of astrologers about future telling based on astrology.

It was narrated that ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه) said:

The Prophet () said to me: “O ‘Ali, do not sit with astrologers.”[3] Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas (رضي الله عنه):

The Prophet () said: If anyone acquires any knowledge of astrology, he acquires a branch of the magic of which he gets more as long as he continues to do so.[4]

It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) that the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) said:

Don’t you know what your Lord said? He observed: I have never endowed My bondsmen with a favor, but a section amongst them disbelieved it and said: Stars, it was due to the stars.[5]

So according to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) believing in astrology is a kind of kufr (disbelief). May Allah Almighty protect us from all sorts of kufr. Ameen.

This monotheistic approach to understanding nature changed the views of the Muslims about the zodiac. The Muslim astronomers not only amended and corrected the Greek Zodiac, proposed by Egyptian astronomer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy)  (100-178 ca) but innovated the purpose of the study of stars. They used astronomy to measure time, calculate the direction of Qiblah, and geolocations, and glorify their Lord Allah Almighty.

Daira-tul-Burooj

The Muslim observers used the term Daira-tul-Burooj instead of the zodiac or its Arabic synonym, to avoid the misconceptions associated with the zodiac. Daira-tul-Burooj means the circle of bright stars.

Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) pronounced as Butlimoos in Arabic, described 48 fixed stars, located in the zodiac belt. However, the Muslim astronomers short-listed the constellations up to 28 referring to the orbiting of the moon in its mansions in 29 nights. Let’s know the facts about the Lunar Mansions.

ecliptic

 

Geocentric versus Heliocentric

Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) proposed that the Earth was fixed at the center of the solar system, but the entire universe. This is called the geocentric model of the solar system. So Egyptian and Greek Zodiac were based on the geocentric model. This is because all the astrologers and ancient astronomers believed that it is the sun that travels through the zodiac.

According to the Qur’an, actually, it is the moon that travels through the belt of constellations, rather than the sun. That is why the Qur’an mentions the constellations as Manazil-ul-Qamar. Hence, the Qur’an does not support the geocentric model of the solar system, but it points to the heliocentric model. Modern astronomers also support the heliocentric model of the solar system. Natural laws do not allow a larger mass like the sun to revolve around a smaller mass like Earth.

Generally speaking, we don’t observe stars in the daytime due to sunlight. So it is an assumption that the sun travels on the same path in the belt of constellations that is followed by the moon.  That is why astronomers of the day call that path the sun’s apparent annual path. The Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian zodiac stands on mere calculations. While Manazil-ul-Qamar (the Islamic Zodiac)
stands on the actual observational data.

So moon completes its circuit around the earth traveling within the belt of constellations or Daira-tul-Burooj in a lunar month. When the moon appears as a new crescent, it passes by the mansion of Al-Sharatan (The Sheratan) which is considered the first major star of Daira-tul-Burooj, in Islamic astronomy. In astronomy, Al-Sharatan is considered the moon’s homeland or domicile. On the 28th night of the lunar month, the moon passes by the last constellation Batn al-Hoot (Alrescha). This lunar cycle continues throughout the year.

Finding Qiblah with the Help of Stars

Finding Qiblah with the help of shining stars has been a discourse over time, as fishermen and desert travelers need this technique. Though the magnetic compass has solved the problem, still magnetic compass is not always with fishermen and desert travelers. Scholars have suggested different ways, however, most of them suggest locating Binat-un-Na’ash (The Big Dipper) to identify the North Star.  Look for a large spoon-shaped constellation. Three stars in the handle, four stars in the head. Imagine a line that connects the front two stars of the Big Dipper. If you follow that line, about five times the distance will be the north star. It’s the first bright star you’ll run into that’s close to this vector. You have found the north. Now it helps you decide where is your Qiblah.

big dipper

 

Calculating time concerning stars and finding the longitude or latitude of a place involves technical details, so are beyond the scope of this article written for laymen. So we limit this article to the description of Manzil-ul-Qamar or Daira-tul-Burooj. Wait for the next articles with details of
constellations or mansions of the moon. Stay blessed and give blessings.

This method of finding Qiblah is short, easy, and practical today. The method that the Muslim scholars have used to find Qiblah at night requires detailed knowledge of the 28 constellations mentioned earlier. It was a time when even lay Muslims were aware of the details of 28 Manazil al-Qar. Unfortunately, now they don’t know the names of these Lunar Mansions.

Nakshatra

Nakshatra is a term from Hindu astrology and astronomy that refers to the lunar mansion or star cluster system used in traditional Indian astronomy. The word “Nakshatra” is derived from Sanskrit and translates to “star” or “constellation.”

In Hindu astrology, the Nakshatras are considered to be the basis of the lunar zodiac, with each Nakshatra occupying a specific portion of the ecliptic, similar to the Western concept of the zodiac signs. However, unlike the twelve signs of the Western zodiac, the Nakshatras are divided into 27 or 28 segments along the ecliptic, each associated with a particular star or group of stars. Nakshatra shares some stars and some vary in these two systems.


[2] The
Qur’an,10:5 (Translation: Abdul Majid Daryabadi)

[6]
Al-Moghni, vol,1, p.320, Maktabah Al-Qahirah, Egypt

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