Verse 5: And indeed, We adorned the lowest heaven with ˹stars like˺ lamps, and made them ˹as missiles˺ for stoning ˹eavesdropping˺ devils, for whom We have also prepared the torment of the Blaze.1
This verse is referring to the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies found in our galaxy. Allah ﷻ has adorned, beautified, and embellished the nearest heaven, meaning the sky that we can see, with lamps. The word “lamps” is referring to the stars and planets that illuminate the sky at night just like lamps illuminate the darkness of night. Anyone who has gone out to the desert far away from the city, light pollution and pollution in general, can see how beautiful the sky looks at night. It’s one of the most amazing, beautiful, marvelous, and mesmerizing sights a person can see. Allah ﷻ has truly beautified and adorned the sky with these stars and planets. The beauty of the sky is always changing as well depending on the time, weather, and location. The Quran directs our hearts towards this beauty so that we can appreciate the beauty of Allah ﷻ.
Allah ﷻ then tells us another reason or wisdom behind the creation of the stars: He has made them as missiles that are used to drive away the devils. The word rujum here is translated as missiles; it literally means an object that is thrown. According to the majority of commentators of the Quran this is referring to shooting stars and meteorites. These shooting stars and meteorites are used to drive away devils that try and eavesdrop on the conversations of the Angels in the Heavens. This is an event from the world of the unseen; this is something that none of us can see or witness with our own two eyes. However, we believe in it and accept it because Allah ﷻ Himself describes this phenomenon to us.
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For example, Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah al-Hijr, “We have set constellations up in the sky and made it beautiful for all to see, and guarded it from every stoned satan: any eavesdropper will be pursued by a clearly visible flame.
وَلَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا فِي السَّمَاءِ بُرُوجًا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا لِلنَّاظِرِينَ – Surah Al-Hijr:16
وَحَفِظْنَـٰهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْطَـٰنٍۢ رَّجِيمٍ – 17
إِلَّا مَنِ ٱسْتَرَقَ ٱلسَّمْعَ فَأَتْبَعَهُۥ شِهَابٌۭ مُّبِينٌۭ – 18
The Satans from among Jinn are able to travel up into the sky and attempt to eavesdrop and listen into the conversation of the Angels. In order to stop them and prevent them from doing so they are chased away by shooting stars and meteors. Ibn ʿAbbās narrates that “We were with the Messenger of Allah , while he was sitting with a group of his Companions, when they saw a glowing shooting star. The Messenger of Allah said: ‘When you saw the likes of this during Jahiliyyah, what would you say about it?’ They said: ‘We would say that a great man died, or that a great man has been born.’ The Messenger of Allah said: ‘It is not shot due to the death of anyone, nor his coming into life. Rather when our Lord decrees a matter, He is glorified by the bearers of the Throne. Then He is glorified by the inhabitants who are below them, then those below them, until such glorification reaches this Heaven. Then the inhabitants of the sixth Heaven ask the inhabitants of the seventh Heaven: “What did your Lord say?” He said: ‘So they inform them; then the inhabitants of each Heaven seek the information, until the news is conveyed to the inhabitants of the Heavens of the earth. The Shayatin try to overhear so they are shot at, so they cast it down to their friends. Whatever they came with is true, as it is, but they distort it and add to it.’”
Similarly, Allah ﷻ tells us in Surah al-Saaffaat, “We have adorned the lowest heaven with stars, and made them a safeguard against every rebellious devil: they cannot eavesdrop on the Higher Assembly––pelted from every side, driven away, they will have perpetual torment–– if any [of them] stealthily snatches away a fragment, he will be pursued by a piercing flame.”
إِنَّا زَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِزِينَةٍ الْكَوَاكِبِ – Surah as-Saaffaat; 6
وَحِفْظًۭا مِّن كُلِّ شَيْطَـٰنٍۢ مَّارِدٍۢ – 7
لَّا يَسَّمَّعُونَ إِلَى ٱلْمَلَإِ ٱلْأَعْلَىٰ وَيُقْذَفُونَ مِن كُلِّ جَانِبٍۢ – 8
دُحُورًۭا ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌۭ وَاصِبٌ – 9
إِلَّا مَنْ خَطِفَ ٱلْخَطْفَةَ فَأَتْبَعَهُۥ شِهَابٌۭ ثَاقِبٌۭ – 10
Who are these devils? What do they try to listen to? How do they do it? All of these are matters that belong to a world and reality beyond our reach.
The verse ends by telling us that there is a severe punishment prepared for them in the life to come. Regarding this verse Qatādah said, “Allah ﷻ has created the stars for three purposes: 1) As an adornment for the sky 2) To stone the devils and 3) as signs of guidance on land and sea.
All of these verses are supposed to strengthen our faith, raise our level of Iman and help us understand the complete power and knowledge of Allah ﷻ. Our Iman, our faith, is something that constantly needs work and effort. We are supposed to make a concerted effort to plan the seed of iman in our hearts, nurture and strengthen it, and allow it to grow and blossom. That’s why it is important for us to know that there are many different ways to increase our faith, to strengthen it, and to cause it to grow and really flourish in our hearts. One of those ways is to ponder, to think, to reflect over the creation of Allah ﷻ and to recognize that in every single thing that we see on the face of this Earth there are signs that prove His existence, His oneness, His ultimate power and His infinite wisdom.
Reflecting over the sings of Allah and observing the various, strange and amazing creations of Allah ﷻ, the sky and the earth, the sun and the moon, the stars and planets, night and day, trees and mountains, oceans and rivers and many other things that can’t even be counted or imagined are amongst the most powerful sources of strengthening our iman.
Oftentimes, a discussion that comes up with respect to this verse is how do we reconcile this explanation of shooting stars with the scientific explanation. First and foremost, it is important to understand that there is no conflict here. From an Islamic standpoint, science, the study of nature, is considered to be linked to the concept of Tawhid (the Oneness of God), as are all other branches of knowledge. In Islam, nature is not seen as a separate entity, but rather as an integral part of Islam’s holistic outlook on God, humanity, and the world. This link implies a sacred aspect to the pursuit of scientific knowledge by Muslims, as nature itself is viewed in the Qur’an as a compilation of signs pointing to the Divine. Basically, within the framework of Islam, science is a tool used to appreciate and recognize the existence of Allah ﷻ. Within the Islamic worldview, science is not separated from religion. Rather science is a part of religion. Since science is part of religion its also subject to the ethical teachings of Islam as well. Science is supposed to be used to first and foremost recognize the omnipotence of Allah ﷻ and it’s also supposed to be used for the betterment of humanity, not for its destruction.