Allah says in the Qur’an:
اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ وَإِن يَرَوْا آيَةً يُعْرِضُوا وَيَقُولُوا سِحْرٌ مُّسْتَمِرٌّ
The Hour (of Judgment) is near, and the moon is cleft asunder. But if they see a Sign, they turn away, and say, “This is (but) transient magic. [Qur’an 54:1-2]
We have a Hadith to elaborate it as well and it is as follows:
انْشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ عَلَى عَهْدِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم شِقَّتَيْنِ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ اشْهَدُوا ”
During the lifetime of the Prophet (ﷺ) the moon was split into two parts and on that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Bear witness (to this)”. [Sahih al-Bukhari 3636]
The following piece is paraphrased from the work of Dr. Sultan al-Umayri and is not an exact translation.
Some people criticize the splitting of the moon in half (in two pieces) by the Prophet (ﷺ) as illogical. They argue that such an incident would bring the system of the earth, the seas, and the environment to chaos and that the incident of the splitting of the moon is a universal event which would have been witnessed by the people around the world and recorded and documented in their books and traditions and would have been transmitted by generations; however, this did not happen.
This criticism is not common for all religions and is only against Islam. Ibn Qutayba reported that an-Nadhaam denied the incident of the splitting of the moon and made Ibn Mas’ood an evidence for his position on the pretext that the common folk neither knew about it nor communicate with each other about it.
This criticism is not new in Islamic thought and a number of Muslim scholars discussed it and demonstrated its disorder and confusion for centuries. This modern criticism is not different from the examples of the past in its dressing of scientific errors.
The splitting of the moon in half in two pieces is no greater than the creation of the universe and its creation from nothing. The power with which Allah created the earth was there during the splitting of the moon, controlling the universe’s system and preventing it from disturbance.
This objection is based on the confusion between the standards of divine power and standards of human capacity. When they took the human capacity as authoritarian, they objected to its impossibility.
As for the objection that the splitting of the moon was not documented by the various nations and was not well known among the non-Muslim nations. However, the incident is surely documented by a number of scholars in different places such as India among others; this is documented in their preserved manuscripts.
To say that the incident was not documented or transmitted does not consider the impossibility and distances involved. Moreover, there are the following problems with such criticisms:
- The whole world does not witness night at the same time. The division of the people on earth is not accounted for.
- Moon sighting varies from place to place; it appears in one place at a different hour than another.
- There can be many barriers to see the moon including clouds, fog, smog, and dust. What prevents the most eastern countries from being prevented by some of these obstacles?
- The splitting of the moon was for short period of time; it is very much possible that most of the people did not look up to the sky.
- Most of the people are in their homes at night especially in ancient times when most people were active during the day instead of the night.
- It is also possible that after some people saw the event, they did not stop to look at it, and considered it some sort of eclipse or something similar.
- It is not against the power of Allah to split the moon so that it is not seen by the people in other areas; Allah may have distracted them from it and this possibility is not greater than the creation of the universe from nothing. The ability to perform greater things necessitates that the possibility of such is, at least, reasonable.
Additions from the translator:
Some people ask that a split of the moon from the middle would have left debris and some would have hit the earth as well. However, they forget that the split was caused by Allah. A clean cut sweep in the middle may have left no debris. It was split in two by Allah and He did it perfectly.
There are some more factors that need to be considered:
- Was it full moon or not? We are just assuming that it was full moon. What if it was the second day moon where a slight crescent could be seen and the remaining part was dark (yet visible) and so when the moon split, one portion partially retained the crescent and the other one was dark (yet visible). If this was so, other people would not have a reason to notice and look up into the sky. Even if it was a full moon, why would people look up into the sky for no reason?
- The other people were asleep. It is not mentioned that entire Makkah witnessed it. Perhaps only a handful of the extreme disbelievers witnessed it. Even the people of Madinah did not witness it. If the whole of Makkah had witnessed it, perhaps there would have been a large number of conversions so it is quite possible that only a handful of men witnessed it.
- Those were days without modern technology, electricity and so on and we know from the story of Musa (عليه السلام) that the people of Pharaoh had a habit of waking up early (at sunrise); perhaps people in those times slept at 8 PM or 9 PM or maximum by 10 PM and used to wake up at 5 AM or 6 AM or 7 AM by latest. Moon splitting happening at say, 2 AM would naturally not have many witnesses.
- Let’s assume that the morning prayer, Fajr, was at 5 AM and Isha, the night prayer, was at 8 PM or 8:30 PM. The third column below is easiest to go with but others are also justifiable.
|Makkah||9:00 PM||12:00 AM||2:00 AM|
|India||11:30 PM||2:30 AM||4:30 AM|
|Perth, Australia||2:00 AM||5:00 PM||7:00 PM|
|London||6:00 PM||9:00 PM||11:00 PM|
|Washington D.C.||2:00 PM||5:00 AM||7:00 AM|
|Rio de Jeneiro||3:00 PM||6:00 AM||8:00 AM|
|Tokyo||3:00 AM||6:00 PM||8:00 PM|
|Beijing||2:00 AM||5:00 PM||7:00 PM|
As per the third column, the moon would have only been visible in Makkah, India and London and we know how cloudy and rainy London is. It could be cloudy all over Europe or even the volcanic ash from Iceland could have covered Europe; there are many possibilities. The most likely possibility is that the people were asleep but assuming that they were not, overcast conditions is also not an unrealistic possibility.
I would also ask the reader to bear in mind and remember that the population of the earth back then was significantly less than today.
Some people have cast doubts on historical testimonies as well but the criticisms do not carry weight.
Indeed, Allah knows best.
References and footnotes:
 Refer to Ta’weel Mukhtalaf al-Hadeeth, Ibn Qutayba (80).
 The sources presented on Muslim sites are very clear. What some anti-Islamic websites have presented is basically a confusion from the writer (not historian) Muhammad Sarosh Butt (Understanding Islam, July 11, 2002) where this author has perhaps confused Chakrawati Farmas as Cheraman Perumel who (the latter) was basically a 9th century personality. Chakrawati Farmas has been stated as Cheraman Perumel only by this writer Muhammad Sarosh and not by the original piece of history.
One source presented by an anti-Islamic website states that in 22 AH, Cheraman Perumal became Abdullah Sameria and undertook Hajj pilgrimage to meet Prophet Muhammad at Makkah. This is contradictory and cannot be trusted. If Prophet (ﷺ) had passed away before the 22 AH, then how come the king went to meet him? The historian seems to have confused some dates on this one.