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Last Updated: 2012/03/07
Summary of question
What is the meaning of ‘moon in the Scorpio’?
question
What is the meaning of ‘moon in the Scorpio’? People in Pakistan stop doing anything when the moon is positioned in the Scorpio? Is such a belief correct?
Concise answer

It has been narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that he said: “Whoever embarks on a journey or marries when the moon is in the Scorpio (qamar dar aqrab), he will not see any good.”

The subject of ‘moon in the Scorpio’ is something according to which fatwas (verdicts) have been issued but it should be noted that the fatwa issued in this regard applies to those areas about which the narration makes an explicit reference e.g. journey or marriage. In addition, the verdicts concerning marriage and starting a journey when the moon is the Scorpio implies undesirability or abominableness not prohibition. For this reason, some jurisprudents have said that if one is supposed to embark on a journey for hajj or when one’s parents order him to marry at a time when the moon is positioned in the Scorpio, it is necessary to go on that journey or get married on that day.

As for the meaning of ‘moon in the Scorpio’ in the above narration, it is likely that it means the constellation scorpius (not the twelve zodiac months such as Aries, Taurus. Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio etc.). The precaution is to act in accord with both of them.

Detailed Answer

People believed in astronomical and zodiac signs and effects from time immemorial since they realized the impacts of such things on their lives. At times, some human communities attached so much importance to astrology and astrological signs that they were driven towards superstitions.

Although the effects of such things cannot be negated entirely, what is inferred from Islamic doctrines is that we should not pay heed to such matters and that we must not restrict ourselves by allowing them to enter in and affect our lives. We shall now mention a few narrations from the Infallible Imams (a.s.) in this regard:

A person said to Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a.s): “I am so much used to astrology that whenever I want to embark on an action, I just think over it using my astrological information. When I see a bad omen, I do not do it and when I see a good omen (fortune), I take action.”

“Do you believe and act on what you have acquired of astrological information?” Imam Ja’far asked.

“Yes,” the man replied.

Then the Imam said, “Destroy all your (astrological) books and do not act upon this science.”[1]

When Amir al-mu'minin [the Commander of the Faithful] Ali (a.s.) decided to set out for the battle with the Kharijites, someone said, "If you set out at this moment then, according to astrology, I fear lest you should be unsuccessful in your attempt."

 The Commander of the Faithful then said:

“Do you think you can tell the hour when a man goes out and no evil befall him or can warn of the time at which if one goes out harm will accrue? Whoever testifies to this falsifies the Qur'an and becomes unmindful of Allah in achieving his desired objective and in warding off the undesirable. You cherish saying this so that he who acts on what you say should praise you rather than Allah because according to your misconception you have guided him about the hour in which he would secure benefit and avoid harm.”

Then Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) advanced towards the people and said:

“O' People! Beware of learning the science of stars except that with which guidance is sought on land or sea, because it leads to divining and an astrologer is a diviner, while the diviner is like the sorcerer, the sorcerer is like the unbeliever and the unbeliever would be in Hell. Get forward in the name of Allah.”[2]

It should be noted that, as per the confessions of astrologers, these non-material impressions and deductions from the positions of the stars are not certain and definite. They are based on pure conjectures and likelihood.[3]

After Islam warned Muslims against superstitions, it made mention of some cases which somehow implies that Islam confesses the effect and intervention of celestial bodies on certain aspects of human lives. Of course, it is clear that in such cases, one should suffice only to the extent mentioned by the Shari’ah.

It has been narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) that he said: “Whoever embarks on a journey or marries when the moon is in the Scorpio, he will not see any good.”[4]

Obviously these kinds of narrations do not seek to explain the complete cause; rather it simply indicates likelihood or possibility. That is why the jurisprudents consider journey and marriage abominable when the moon is in the Scorpio.[5]

The subject of ‘moon in the Scorpio’ is something according to which fatwas (verdicts) have been issued but it should be noted that the fatwa issued in this regard applies to those areas about which the narration makes an explicit reference e.g. journey or marriage. In addition, the verdicts concerning marriage and starting a journey when the moon is the Scorpio implies undesirability or abominableness not prohibition. For this reason, some jurisprudents have said that if one is supposed to embark on a journey for hajj or when one’s parents order him to marry at a time when the moon is positioned in the Scorpio, it is necessary to go on that journey or get married on that day.[6]

The Meaning of 'Moon in the Scorpio':

One of the important issues to be discussed here is the meaning of the moon being in the Scorpio. In order that the discussion be clear and understandable, we must explain the meaning of some key terms in this connection:

Constellation: A group of stars forming a recognizable pattern that is traditionally named after its apparent form or identified with a mythological figure.[7] These figures are like scorpion (constellation Scorpius), cancer (crab) and lions (constellation Leo) etc.

Zodiac: It is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year.[8]

Astronomical constellations: The predecessors divided the belt-shaped region in the heavens on either side to the ecliptic into twelve equal divisions or signs such as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.  They (predecessors) thought that the sun stopped at each constellation for one month. (Obviously, the predecessors' saying turned out to be wrong later and it was proved that the earth is rotating around the sun.) It is to be noted that the zodiacal constellations are named on the basis of the constellation figures. That is to say they have been named after their apparent forms and patterns.

Precessional Motion

Precessional motion refers to the apparent movement of stars with regard to the earth's axis. As you know, we see the sun every month in one of the zodiacal constellations. About 2000 years ago, when these signs and patterns were innovated, the beginning point of the vernal equinox conformed to the beginning of the constellation Aries but over the years man learned that despite the earth rotating around the sun, its rotation is subject to some changes owing to the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun.

These changes leave a very slow effect on some apparently unchangeable concepts. For example, the vernal equinox get inclined from Aries to Pisces. Neither the plane of the earth's orbit, the ecliptic, nor the plane of the earth's equator are fixed with respect to distant objects. The dominant motion is the precession of the earth's polar axis around the ecliptic pole, mainly due torques on the earth cause by the moon and sun.  The ecliptic pole moves more slowly. The combined motion and its effect on the position of the vernal equinox are called general precession. The predictable short term deviations of the earth's axis from its long term precession are called nutation.

A complete precessional motion takes as many as 25800 years. That is to say, if we imagine that the names of zodiacal constellations were created 2000 years ago, the earth gets backs to the similar early position 23800 years later. During this period, the ecliptic pole is moving and reaching the vernal equinox 50 seconds earlier per year.

Therefore, at present, the zodiacal constellations do not conform to the twelve astronomical constellations which indicate a complete solar year. That is to say, the sun gets into constellation Aries on the 12th of April rather than the 21st of March. In fact, we say that the sun has entered the Aries on 21st of March but it enters the constellation Aries on the 12th of April.[9]

In other words, there is no longer any conformity between the constellations and astronomical constellations.

The Nature of 'Moon in the Scorpio':

When the moon is in the Scorpio, it means to those who live on the planet earth that the moon is situated against the constellation Cancer (crab) pattern.[10]

The Zodiac is a family of constellations that lie along the ecliptic (the plane in which most of our Solar System lies). The moon rotates around the earth once a month which is about 29.5 days. This complete rotation has been divided equally into 12 parts (12 to 30 degrees). There are 12 constellations listed in the Zodiac. They are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.  Each of these names are chosen to fit the constellational patterns of the stars located at a distance from the moon.

The moon remains with each of the 12 constellations for 1/12th of a lunar month (which is about 2 days and 10 hours and 48 minutes). For example, the moon remains with constellation Cancer for two days and a half. After perhaps, hundreds of years, the constellation moved a little bit away from the astronomical tower (which was in fact 30 degrees prefixed).

At present there are about 28 degrees (27.96 degrees) difference between the constellation and the astronomical constellations. Considering the precessional motion, the question that arises here is: What does it mean for the jurists to say that it is abominable to embark on a journey or take action for marriage when the moon is in the Scorpio? Does it mean that the moon is in the constellation Scorpius or does it mean that the moon is the month of Scorpio?

Jurisprudents' Views:

Fazel Hindi says, "The saying of Imam Ja'far Sadiq (a.s) is based on the common view of the astronomers who when using the phrase 'moon in the Scorpio' mean the moon being positioned in the Scorpio, not the constellation."[11]

The author of Jawaher al-Kalam (Shaykh Muhammad Hassan Najafi) has a different opinion when he comments on Fazel Hindi's statement. He says, "It appears from the narration that Imam Sadiq's saying is meant for the general public who do not notice precise astronomical calculations."[12]

He finally stresses that it is better that precaution be exercised.[13] The method of precaution is that since the moon crosses within two days and a half (about 60 hours) from the opposite side of every constellation sign including the Scorpio, when therefore it passes by the Scorpio, it is necessary to wait for another 24 hours (a total of three days and a half) and then for instance take action for reciting the formula of marriage.[14]

Conclusion:

It is possible that someone might give an opinion that suggests that 'moon in the Scorpio' in Imam Sadiq's narration refers to the constellation Scorpio. This opinion may be strengthened in two ways:

1. When this narration was issued (ninth A.D century), the constellation and astronomical constellation did not conform to each other and people were left to understand the 'moon in the Scorpio' in the sense of a constellation which used to be understood as such in many cases.

2. In some of inquiries replied by the grand religious authorities, the final view determined through their answers is that 'moon in the Scorpion' means that the moon gets in the constellation scorpius.[15]

 

 


[1] - Fayz Kashani, Muhammad Mohsen, Al-Wafi, vol.12, pg. 355, Amir al-Momeneen Library, pg. Isfahan, 1406 A.H.

[2] - Nahjul Balaghah, pg.105, Sermon 79, Darul Hijrah Publications, Qom.

[3] - Hasanzadeh Amuli, Hasan, Durus fi Ma’refat al-Waq wal-Qiblah, pg. 79, Islamic Publications Office, 1416 A.H.

[4] Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya’qub, al-Kafi, vol.8, pg. 275, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1407 A.H.

[5] - Imam Khomeini, Sayyid Rohullah, vol.2, pg. 238, Dar al-Ilm Publication Institute, Qom (date missing).

[6] - Najafi, Kashif Al-Ghita, Ja'far bin Khizr, Kashful Ghita 'An Mubhamat Al-Shari'at al-Gharra, vol.4, pg. 485, Islamic Propagations Office, Qom, 1422 A.H.

[7] - Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Tafsir Namunah, vol.15, pg. 143, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Tehran, 1374 (1995).

[8] - This definition is based on old astronomy which considered the earth stationary and the sun as being in motion. It should be noted that the classifications do not change even if we consider the earth stationary and the sun as in motion because based on both suppositions, one of those astronomical towers are created as a result of either the earth or the sun rotating.

[9] - Website of the Supreme Leader of Iran on Hajj and Pilgrimage Affairs with additions.

[10] - Tafsir Namunah, vol.15, pg. 143.

[11] - Fazel Hindi, Muhammad bin Hasan, Kashful Letham, vol.7, pg. 13, Islamic Publications Office, Qom, 1416 A.H.

[12] - Najafi, Muhammad Hasan, Jawaher al-Kalam, vol.29, pg. 49, Dar al-Ihay al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut.

[13] - Ibid

[14] - Mukhtari, Reza and Sadiqi, Mohsen, Crescent Sighting, vol.2, pg. 1231, Islamic Propagations Office Publications, Qom, 1426 A.H.

[15] - Questions asked from Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi.

 

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