31. A refutation of astrology. The weakness of its achievements.
The harmfulness of its goal.
Astrologers think that astrology, with the knowledge it gives of astral powers, individually or in combination, and of astral influences upon elemental creations, enables them to know the things that are going to be in the world of the elements, before they are created. The positions of the spheres and the stars (are) thus (taken to) indicate every single kind of future event, both universal and individual.
The ancient (astrologers) were of the opinion that the knowledge of astral powers and influence is acquired through experience. It (thus) is something that all (human) lives combined would not be able to achieve, because experience is obtained through numerous repetitions which make the obtainment of (empirical) knowledge or conjectures possible. Astral revolutions may be very long. Greatly extended periods of time are required for their repetition. Even (all) the lives 1044 in the world (combined) would be too short for (observing) them.
Some weak-minded (astrologers) take the attitude that the knowledge of astral powers and influences comes through revelation. This is a fallacy. They themselves have furnished us arguments sufficient to refute it. The clearest proof is that, as one knows, of all people, the prophets are least familiar with the crafts.1045 They do not undertake to give information about the supernatural, unless (such information) comes (to them) from God. Why, then, should they claim to produce (supernatural information) through a craft (such as astrology) and make it the law for their followers to do so?
Ptolemy and his followers were of the opinion that the stars are able to indicate (the future) as the natural result of a temper they produce in the elemental existing things. He said: 1046 "(This must be so,) because the activity of sun and moon and their influence upon elemental things are so obvious that no one can deny them. For instance, the sun influences the changes and tempers of the seasons, the ripening of fruits and grains, and so on. The moon influences humidity, the water, the (process) of ripening (putrefaction) in putrescent substances and cucumbers, and so on." Ptolemy continued: "With regard to the stars that come after sun and moon, we have two approaches. One - which, however, is unsatisfactory - is to follow the tradition of the astrological authorities. The other is (to rely upon) conjecture and empirical knowledge gained through comparing each star to the sun, whose nature and influence is clearly known to us. We thus note whether a given star increases the power and temper of (the sun) at (its) conjunction (with it). If this is the case, we know that the nature of that particular star agrees with that of the sun. If, on the other hand, (the star) diminishes (the power and temper of the sun), we know that its nature is opposite to that of (the sun). 1047 Then, when we know the individual powers of the stars, we (can also) know them in combination. That happens when they look upon each other in the trine, the quartile, or other aspects. The knowledge here is derived from the natures of the signs (of the zodiac), which similarly (are known) through comparison with the sun.
"Thus, we get to know all the astral powers. They exercise an influence upon the air. This is obvious. The resulting temper of the air communicates itself to the created things below the air, and shapes sperm and seeds. Thus, (this temper) comes to underlie the body created from (sperm or seed), the soul which attaches itself to the body, pours itself into the body, and acquires its perfection from the body, and all the conditions depending on soul and body. The qualities of sperm and seed are the qualities of the things that are created and produced from (sperm and seed)." 1048
(Ptolemy) continued: "Still, (astrology) remains conjectural and is not certain in any respect. It also forms no part of the divine decree - that is, predestination. It is just one of the natural causes common to all existing things, whereas the divine decree is prior to everything." This is the sum total of the discussion by Ptolemy and his colleagues. (This discussion) is found in the Quadriiartitum and other works.
It makes the weakness of the achievements of astrology clear. Knowledge of, or conjectures about, things that come into being can only result from knowledge of all their causes, that is, agent, recipient, form, and end, as has been explained in the proper place. According to (the astrologers), the astral powers are merely agents. The elemental part is the recipient. Furthermore, the astral powers are not the sole agents. There are other powers that act together with (the astral powers) upon the material element (involved), such as the generative power of father and species contained in the sperm, the powers of the particular quality distinguishing each variety within the species, and other things. When the astral powers reach perfection and are known, they (still) are only one among many causes that go into the making of a thing that comes into being.
Furthermore,1049 in addition to a knowledge of astral powers and influences, a great amount of conjecturing and guesswork is required. Only then is (the astrologer) able to guess that a thing might happen. Now, conjecturing and guesswork are powers in the mind of the student. They are not causes or reasons 1050 of the things that come into being; Without conjectures and guesswork, (astrology) steps down from conjecture to doubtfulness. 1050a
Such is the situation (even) if one's knowledge of the astral powers is accurate and without defect. Now, that is difficult. The ability to calculate the courses of the stars is required in order to know their positions. Moreover, it is not proven that every star has its own particular power. The method Ptolemy used in establishing the powers of the five planets, that is, comparison with the sun, is a weak one, because the power of the sun is superior to all (other) astral powers and dominates them. Thus, one hardly ever becomes aware of an increase or decrease in the (powers of the sun) at its conjunction (with a given star) ,1051 as Ptolemy said. All this speaks against the assumption that it is possible to predict things that will happen in the world of the elements with the help of astrology.
Furthermore, it is wrong to assume that the stars exercise an influence on (the world) below them. It has been proven deductively in the chapter on the Oneness of God, as one has seen, 1052 that there is no agent but God. In this connection, speculative theologians use the self-evident argument that how causes are related to the things caused is not known, and suspicion attaches to the conclusions of the intellect regarding what appears superficially to be (due to some definite) influence. Perhaps, the relationship of (the causes to the things caused) is effected by some other than the ordinary form of influence. The divine power (would seem to) tie the two together, as it does with all created things, (both) high and low, especially since the religious law attributes all happenings to the power of God and does not want to have anything to do with anything else.
Prophecy also denies the importance and influence of the stars. A perusal of the legal material also attests this fact. For instance, (Muhammad) said: "No eclipse of either sun or moon takes place to indicate the death or life of anybody." 1053 And (God) said: "Some of My servants believe in Me. Others do not. Those who say, 'We had rain through the kindness and mercy of God,' believe in Me and do not believe in the stars. Whereas those who say, 'We had rain through such and such a constellation,' do not believe in Me, but believe in the stars," (as) the sound tradition (goes). 1054 Thus, the worthlessness of astrology from the point of view of the religious law, as well as the weakness of its achievements from the rational point of view, are evident. In addition, astrology does harm to human civilization. It hurts the faith of the common people when an astrological judgment occasionally happens to come true in some unexplainable and unverifiable manner. Ignorant people are taken in by that and suppose that all the other (astrological) judgments must be true, which is not the case. Thus, they are led to attribute things to some (being) other than their Creator.
Further, astrology often produces the expectation that signs of crisis 1055 will appear in a dynasty. This encourages the enemies and rivals of the dynasty to attack (it) and revolt (against it). We have (personally) observed much of the sort. It is, therefore, necessary that astrology be forbidden to all civilized people, because it may cause harm to religion and dynasty. The fact that it exists as a natural part of human perceptions and knowledge does not speak against (the need to forbid it). God and evil exist side by side in the world and cannot be removed. Responsibility comes in connection with the things that cause good and evil. It is (our) duty to try to acquire goodness with the help of the things that cause it, and to avoid the causes of evil and harm. That is what those who realize the corruption and harmfulness of this science must do.
This (situation) should make one realize that even if astrology were in itself sound, no Muslim could acquire the knowledge and habit of it. He who studies it and thinks that he knows it fully, is most ignorant of the actual situation. Since the religious law forbids the study of astrology, civilized people no longer gather to study it and to form classes 1056 for the study of astrology. Those who are eager to learn it and they are very, very few - have to read the books and treatises on astrology in a secluded corner of their houses. They have to hide from the people and are under the watchful eye of the great mass. And then, astrology is a very complicated subject with many branches and subdivisions and is difficult to understand. How could people under such conditions acquire a mastery of it? Jurisprudence is of general usefulness in both religious and worldly affairs; its sources are easily available in the Qur'an and the accepted Sunnah, and it has been studied and taught by the great mass of Muslims. There have been classes and seminars (on jurisprudence). There has been much instruction (in it) and a great many lectures. Still, only an occasional individual in each age and generation (race) has been able to master it. How, then, can anyone learn a subject (such as astrology) that is discarded by the religious law, banned as forbidden and illegal, concealed from the great mass, its sources difficult of access, and that, after the study and acquisition of its basic principles and details, requires a great amount of support from conjecture and guesswork on the part of the student? 1057 How could anyone acquire and become skilled in such a subject in the face of all (these difficulties)? Anybody who claims (such astrological skill) is frustrated and has no witness to attest (to his claim), because the discipline (of astrology) is unusual in Islam and few people cultivate it. When all this is taken into consideration, the soundness of our opinion (with regard to astrology) will become clear. God "knows the supernatural (secrets), and He does not disclose to anyone His supernatural (secrets)." 1058
Some of our contemporaries had an experience of the (futility of astrology) when the Arabs overpowered the army of Sultan Abul-Hasan.1059 They laid siege to him in alQayrawan. There was much unrest among the two parties, both friends and foes. On that occasion, the Tunisian poet Abul-Qasim ar-Rahawi, said:
Constantly, I ask God for forgiveness. Gone is life and ease.
In Tunis, both in the morning and in the evening
And the morning belongs to God as does the evening -
There is fear and hunger and death, Stirred up by tumult and pestilence.
People are in rebellion and at war
Rarely does anything good come out of rebellion.
The partisans of Ahmad think that perdition And ruin have descended upon 'Ali.1060
And the others say: He ('Ali) will be brought (back) To you by a mild zephyr.
God is above this one and that one.
He destines for His two servants whatever He wishes.
O you observer of the retreating, running 1061 (stars)! What did these heaven(ly bodies) do?
You have been putting us off while you pretended (each day)
That today you would pay off. 1062
One Thursday went by after the other. Saturday came, and Wednesday.
Half a month, and a second decade, And a third came to an end,
And we see nothing but false statements. Is this stupidity or contempt?
We belong to God. We know That destiny cannot be repulsed.
I am pleased to have Allah as my God.
You are satisfied with the moon or the sun.
Those roving stars are nothing but Slaves, male or female.
Their fate is destined. They do not destine (anybody's fate).
They have no power over mankind.
They appointed as judge over (the world of) existence an element
Created from water and air,
Not considering sweet versus bitter,
Both being nourished by soil and water. 1064a
God is my Lord. I do not know
What atom and vacuum are;
Nor what the hyle is which proclaims:
"I cannot be without form";
Nor what existence is or nonexistence,
Nor persistence and annihilation.
I do not know what acquisition 1065 is except
Something resulting from buying and selling. My dogma and religion are
What (dogma and religion) were when the people were saints,
Since there are no details, no basic principles,
No dispute, and no doubting,
As long as one follows early Islam and the remainder.1066
What a good thing it is to take (early Islam) as model! (The early Muslims) were as one knows them to have been.
(In their time,) the babble (of the theologians) did not exist.
O you contemporary Ash'aris! I
Have been taught by summer and winter: 1067 I am requited for evil with evil,
And good is the reward for good.
If I am obedient (to God), I shall be saved.
If I am disobedient, still, I have hope. I am under the control of a Creator 1068
Who is obeyed by the (divine) throne and the earth.1069
It 1070 is not in your writings, but
The (divine) judgment and fate have predestined it:
If al-Ash'ari were told who
The (present-day) followers of his opinions are,
He would say, "Tell them that I
Have nothing to do with what they say."