The Prophet’s Visions in Sūrat al-Najm

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Saqib Hussain

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Abstract




The opening verse of Q al-Najm 53, an oath by “the star” (najm) and its movement in the night sky, is followed by a relatively lengthy description of two vision experiences of the Prophet. This study aims to better understand the opening oath in the sūrah and its relationship to the subsequent visions. I will argue on the basis of evidence from Safaitic inscriptions, the anwāʾ works, and pre-Islamic poetry that the oath by the star refers to the rising and setting of the Pleiades in the night sky, and that these allusions would have been readily understood by the Qurʾān’s audience. The appearance and motion of the Pleiades serve to provide a visual analogy to the supernatural visions of the Prophet. Appreciating the relationship between the oath and the subsequent visions then allows us to better understand the visions themselves, and address questions such as whether the object of the vision was God or an angel.




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