The Dangers of Asteroids
An asteroid struck the Earth on March 11th, 2022, just two hours after it was discovered by an astronomer in Hungary. With the world’s focus on Russia-Ukraine conflict no attention was paid to this incident. Designated 2022 EB5, the rocky object impacted our planet north of Iceland. This was one of the 4 asteroids and smallest among them under observation by NASA that unexpectedly crashed into the Earth. Among those 4 was also a giant one around 910 feet (named 2015 DR215) which passed by and did not collide with the Earth’s atmosphere. Space agencies like NASA observe thousands of asteroids in our space and assess their threat level because these can pose a genuine threat of massive destruction if veered away from their path and head for the earth at the last moment. 65 million years ago it was asteroid Chicxulub, the most dangerous one ever to impact the earth that caused extinction of the dinosaurs. Asteroids are potentially one of the most dangerous natural disasters the planet could experience, especially since there is currently no immediate way to stop them. It is estimated that an asteroid only 100 meters wide can cause an amount of energy at least a thousand times greater than that released by an atomic bomb. In 2013 a small meteor of 17-20 meters in size hit Russian city of Chelyabinsk with its impact causing windows of thousands of homes to shatter and 1500 injured and in need of medical attention. The impact of these objects depends on the size, speed and the pressure it faces as soon as it comes in to contact with the earth’s atmosphere.
The Quran on Asteroids – “...if they were to see a part of the sky falling down..." (Al Quran 52:42)
The Quran teaches that Allah ﷻ has created a secure heavenly layer around the Earth, which largely protects us from harmful UV rays, small asteroids and meteorites that turn to dust before entering the atmosphere: (Al Quran 21:32) “and We made the sky a well-secured canopy- yet from its wonders they turn away.” But where the Quran mentions how Allah ﷻ has created this mechanism to help prevent the disastrous impact of outer space, it also warns us about The Day when a large asteroid might pass that barrier and impact us, and no advance expertise observation and planning methods will work to avoid it’s happening: (Al Quran 52:44-46) “AND YET, if they [who refuse to see the truth] were to see part of the sky falling down, they would [only] say, "[It is but] a mass of clouds!” Hence, leave them alone until they face that Day of theirs, when they will be stricken with terror: the Day when none of their scheming will be of the least avail to them, and they will receive no help....” The mufassireen say that "Day of theirs" in this ayah refers to the Day of Judgment. But if one ponders over the wording, they also seem to imply that there will be a day when some outer space object enters our atmosphere and causes an impact spreading panic and grief among the people. I am of that belief that this is an implication about the day when that object will enter our planet’s airspace and create an impact exposing the weakness of the disbelieving nations that are blinded by the power of their advanced technology. And obviously Allah ﷻ knows the best.
Is there a Destructive Asteroid Approaching us?
According to NASA there are over 1 million small and large asteroids in our solar system, but these are only identified ones. Recently in 2019 a city killer asteroid called ‘Asteroid 2019 OK’ appeared out of nowhere and passed by very close to earth and stunned scientists because they had not been tracking this one. One of them even tried downplaying its potential impact by claiming “it is zero percent danger to us” adding “just like sharks in the ocean, they’re really not going to hurt you and they’re really fascinating to look at.” This scientific attitude is a reflection of what the Quran says "they would [only] say, "[It is but] a mass of clouds!”(Al Quran 52:44) In 2004 the astronomers discovered that Earth will experience a dramatic close encounter with a large sized asteroid called Apophis on Friday, April 13th, 2029. The 340-meter wide object will pass within just 19,000 miles of our home planet — a distance that brings it closer than most satellites that orbit the Earth. Due to the tremendous size of Apophis, its close passage will be so bright that around 2 billion people will be able to witness it with the naked eye. First becoming visible in the Eastern hemisphere, the asteroid will appear as a bright star streaking across the sky from east to west. When first discovered, Apophis caused a stir because initial calculations indicated a possibility it would impact Earth in 2029. In recent years the scientists have revised their assessment ruling out its impact in 2029 but they were closely studying Apophis return in 2036. Now, new NASA observations of the asteroid recorded have revealed the space rock poses no real threat to the Earth in 2036. However, these are just estimates and estimates are never absolute! The last space rock to strike Earth similar in size to Asteroid 2019 OK was more than a century ago in 1908. It caused an explosion that leveled 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of forest land in Siberia. It was called the Tunguska event.
Hadith on Asteroid & Imam Mahdi (a.s)
In Islam, not only the Quran but in fact the hadith literature also mentions this phenomenon of asteroid impacting the earth, a major heavenly event that will happen in the age of Akhiruz Zamaan (End of times). It is also mentioned that this is a sign of the appearance of Imam Mahdi (a.s), a figure in Islamic Eschatology who is to appear in the future to fill the earth with justice and peace just as it had been filled with oppression. As far as my knowledge is concerned, I have found most these ahadith in the book called Kitab Al Fitan (The Book of Trials & Tribulations) by Nuaym ibn Hammad (r.a), a 9th century muhaddith who was also the teacher of Muhammad Ismail al-Bukhari, the famous author of the most authentic hadith collection called Sahih Al Bukhari. The following is a list of a few important ones:
Al Walid (r.a) says that I heard from Kaab (r.a) that “before the appearance of the Mahdi there will be rise a star from the East, which would have many tails, and he also says that sun will eclipse twice in Ramadaan before the appearance of the Mahdi.” Khalid bin Ma’daan says “a big fiery sign will appear in the East (Eastern hemisphere) and the people of the world will see it. Whoever sees it should collect provisions for one year.” Hazrat Kaab (r.a) also said “…. a star thrown (by Allah from Heaven) illuminates like a moon and then turns like a snake until its ends meet. Two tremors will be in the night of Fis’hain. The star thrown (by Allah from Heaven) is a Shahab (asteroid) that rushes from the sky with a powerful sound when it drops in the East and because of it, people will experience magnificent disasters.” Hazrat Abdur Rahman bin Jubayr (r.a) said “A sign will appear in the skies but people will differ. If you live to see it then collect your provisions for one year” Hazrat Abdul Wahab bin Bakht said that Rasool Allah ﷺ said “in Ramadaan there will be a sign of stretched light in the skies, in Shawaal you will experience trials, in Dhul qadah will be destruction, in Dhul hajjah the pilgrims will be attacked and robbed, and what to say about Muharram? (meaning so much will happen in Muharram!) (Kitab Al Fitan, Nuaym ibn Hammad)
These and several ahadith found in Ibn Hammad’s Kitab mention about a celestial event that will precede the coming of Imam Mahdi (a.s) and will take place in Ramadaan. The above-mentioned ahadith clearly spell the arrival of an outer space object to earth. A quick comparison between the object mentioned in the hadith and the description of Apophis can help us determine if these two may be the same. Firstly, the hadith mention that “a star will rise in the east” while Apophis will also appear in the Eastern hemisphere. The hadith states that the star will have many tails, an indication to what we know about Apophis that its appearance will look like a speck of light moving from east to west. Scientists claim that at one point it will appear to travel more than the width of the full Moon. They also estimate that as it passes by Earth, it will get brighter and faster. The hadith also state that the bright star that will appear in East will be so bright that people will be able to see it like the full moon. The hadith mentions that it will make a great sound and cause wahiya (disasters). But scientific observations about the path of the Apophis reject that it would impact the earth, they claim that it would only pass by. But we need to remind ourselves that scientific findings are simply estimates which are not absolute. The hadith state that the people will differ over this sign which may imply conflicting claims of scientists that it will strike while others absolutely rejecting its possibility. The hadith also mentions its take place in Ramadaan but estimates say Apophis will strike on April 30, 2029 which will be the month of Dhul Hijjah and not Ramadaan.
But how else can we be sure that Apophis might be that Asteroid predicted in ahadith related to the sign of Imam Mahdi’s appearance? There are some common characteristics shared between the knowledge of Apophis and what is mentioned in the ahadith, but what else can help us be sure that Apophis might be the phenomena that the Quran and the hadith are speaking of?
Green Arabia & Drying up of Euphrates
A further analysis of some other signs that would happen simultaneously to this heavenly event are also important to mention here. One of them is that Euphrates river in Iraq will reveal a large amount of wealth. Hazrat Kaab (r.a) said “On the banks of Shaam (Syria) or Furaat (Euphrates) will be a large gathering and they will fight over wealth. 7 out of every 9 will be killed. This will happen after the Hadda (powerful, hammering sound) and Wahiya (catastrophe). Then 3 flags will separate themselves and each will want rulership.” (Signs of the appearance of Mahdi, Kitab Al Fitan, Nuaym ibn Hammad) This hadith confirms the event when Furaat (Euphrates) reveals wealth over which people will fight and majority will die, and few will be left. It also states that this discovery of wealth will be after the heavenly event impacting earth. In a similar hadith Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also revealed that this wealth will actually be huge deposits of gold revealed as a result of Euphrates drying up: “The Last Hour would not come before the Euphrates uncovers a mountain of gold, for which people would fight. Ninety-nine out of each one hundred would die but every man amongst them would say that perhaps he would be the one who would be saved (and thus possess this gold).” (The Book of Tribulations and Portents of the Last Hour, Sahih Muslim) In the last few decades Iraq and Syria has experienced a historic drop in the water levels of river Euphrates. But Iraq is impacted worse than Syria because it is the Southernmost state in the path of this river’s stream. Major contributing factors of this drop have been increasing climate change, state corruption in the usage of resources, building of upstream dams by Turkey, Syria and Iran. This low level of water has also increased salinity which is resulting in miles of agriculture being destroyed and populations migrating and abandoning villages. Latest reports from Iraq’s government claims that if this trend continues then severe droughts will happen by 2025 due to change in water levels and if it was not prevented then Tigris and Euphrates will completely dry up by 2040!
But before the heavenly sign and the discovery of gold, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also mentioned that greenery will return to lands of the Arabs and they will be filled with pastures and trees: "Days and nights will not depart until pastures (greenery and meadows) and rivers return to the land of the Arabs and until the Furaat lays bare a mountain of gold. They will fight over it, and out of every 100 (people), 99 will be killed, and one will be saved." (Book of the End, Great Trials & Tribulations, Imam ibn Kathir) In 2017 Saudi Arabia along with other Arab countries announced two major green initiatives: The Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative. These 2 projects being spearheaded by Saudi Arabia to plant 10 billion trees across the country and 50 billion trees across the region with the aim to combat pollution, reduce carbon emissions and land degradation. Within the Middle East Green Initiative framework, the Saudi Kingdom is working with neighboring Arab countries to combat climate change. It is the most extensive reforestation program in the world. In partnership with these countries it aims to plant 50 billion trees. These projects are primarily focused more on reliance on clean energy, protecting the environment, and neutralizing the effects resulting from oil usages. The Saudi Green Initiative is also part of the 2030 Vision of Saudi Arabia that aims to decrease its economic dependency on oil and switching to other alternatives for increasing its revenues. Part of the greener Saudi Initiative and 2030 Vision is Neom, a grand futuristic eco-friendly city, also dubbed ‘the Green City’ being built in Tabuk province which will transform the landscape of that region and make the environment green. It is important to note that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on his trip to Tabuk, a north Western region of Saudi Arabia prophesied to one of his companions named Muadh Ibn Jabal (r.a) “….If you live long enough, Muadh, you will soon see this place filled with gardens.” (Shortening the Prayer, Muwatta Malik)
If the Saudi and the Middle East Initiatives succeeds to a large extent in the next decade or so and the Apophis makes contact with Earth during that same period causing destruction and hunger to spread, then we can expect a major civil war to grip the lands of the Arabs as a result of the enormous gold that the drying up of Euphrates will reveal over which they would all fight to take the largest share. This inter-warfare situation would kill majority of the Arabs and dwarf the present conflicts taking place in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and would also engulf Saudi Arabia and the GCC states. If that happens then we can understand why Allah ﷻ will choose to send Imam Mahdi, whom people will choose for leadership to bring stability throughout the region as it had been destroyed through internal wars, corruption and foreign interventions.
This is a simple observation based on what we have come to learn about discovery of Asteroids by space agencies and see how it can apply to the contemporary affairs in the light of what the Quran and Hadith say about it. If it is true, then may Allah ﷻ help us and keep us safe from their impacts and if it is not true then may Allah ﷻ guide us and make these matters clear for us.