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Articles Section > The Meaning of Shihab Mubin (Brightly Shining Flame) by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed Sahib [Based on Hazrat Mirza Sahib's Writings]

The Meaning of Shihab Mubin (Brightly Shining Flame):
by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed Sahib
based on Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib's writings

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And certainly We have made strongholds in the heaven, and We have made it fair-seeming to the beholders (15:16).

And We guard it against every accursed devil (15:17).

But he who steals a hearing; so there follows him a visible flame (15:18).

The above verses of the Holy Quran have given rise to great controversy among Muslim commentators of the Holy Quran and their explanations of verse 18 have resulted in non-Muslim Orientalists painting a false picture of the purity, sanctity and inviolability of the Quranic revelation.

We shall first take a brief look at some of the views of non-Ahmadi commentators and then examine what has been explained to us concerning verse 18 by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his Bayan-ul Quran [Urdu Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran] and also Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's elucidation of shihab saqib or shihab mubin (a brightly shining flame) in verse 18.

If we consider the verse under examination, that is, verse 18, we shall see that the following questions logically spring to the mind:

  • What is the meaning of stealing a hearing? Can Satan really eavesdrop on Allah's communication to His angels?
  • What is the nature of the shihab mubin (brightly shining flame)?
  • What is the significance of the shihab mubin that pursues Satan?

Some Muslims commentators of the Holy Quran quote a certain hadith and say that this verse (18) refers to the time when Allah is about to vouchsafe revelation to a prophet. What happens in the heavens, they opine, is that the angels fall down in a swoon because of the majesty of the occasion and the first to rise is Angel Gabriel who asks Allah: "What has Thou spoken?" to which Allah replies: The truth which is most exalted and great. (One hadith says that the angels, on recovering from their unconsciousness, question one another concerning the announcement and then Allah responds. But in any case, the response of Allah is the same, that is, The truth which is most exalted and great.)

What happens then according to these commentators is that Satan steals a hearing either before or after the angels come out of their swoon and he then passes on Allah's communication to his friends on earth -- the soothsayers and astrologers who now mix this truth from Allah with a hundred lies and begin to make predictions concerning the future. When one of their predictions happens to come true, the rejecters of the prophet seize upon it gleefully and regard them (the soothsayers, etc.) as really versed in their knowledge of the Unknown.

However, this explanation does not take into consideration the clear verses of the Holy Quran which emphatically negative such a possibility of Satan eavesdropping on the conversation between Allah and His angels. For example: And the devils have not brought it, and it behoves them not, nor do they have the power to do (it). Surely they are far removed from hearing it (26:210-212).

If someone should argue that the Quranic revelation is not meant here in the above verses but rather some other affair is referred to, then this, too, is expressly denied in the following verse of the Holy Quran:

Or do they have the means by which they listen? They let their listener (Satan) bring a clear authority (52:38).

Some commentators even attribute a report to Ibn Abbas which allegedly says that originally there was no obstacle to Satan ascending to the heavens until Prophet Jesus was born when three heavens were closed off. However, when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came on earth, all the heavens were sealed off from Satan. But this report has no basis in the Holy Quran or the Hadith.

As regards the shihab mubin (piercing flame) which pursues Satan, some commentators say that this refers to stars that are actually thrown at Satan. When faced with the objection that if that were so then by now all the stars would have disappeared or at least there would have been a great reduction in the number, they change their view and assert that it is really a fragment of a shining star that is thrown at Satan. But this contradicts the express verse of the Holy Quran which states:

And certainly We have adorned this lower heaven with lamps and We have made them means of rajuman (conjectures) for the devils and We have prepared for them the chastisement of burning (67:5).

(Rajuman, plural of rajmun, comes from rajama which means to stone but also to speak conjecturally or with doubt, as in rajman bil ghaib (18:22). That is, speaking conjecturally of that which is hidden, or unknown. -- Lane)

As such, by the devils are meant the soothsayers and astrologers who claim to have access to the Unseen through their knowledge of the stars.

According to Maulana Muhammad Ali, if Satan can really steal a hearing from Allah's secret communications then this results in a slur on Allah's perfect power. That is, is Allah not powerful enough (Allah forbid!) to preserve His secrets from Satan (or from others for that matter)? If it is argued that Allah sends a shihab mubin (piercing flame) when He discovers that a secret is stolen by Satan, still it can be argued that:

  • Satan can mix the truth he has eavesdropped from Allah with many untruths.
  • It still casts a bad reflection on Allah's complete power over all His affairs if the archenemy of man can steal messages of Allah to His chosen ones.

Again, this is contrary to the clear verses of the Holy Quran in which the diviners and astrologers confess in the following words:

And we sought to reach heaven but we found it filled with strong guards and shuhuban (pl. of shihab) (flames). And we used to sit in some of the sitting places thereof to steal a hearing. But he who tries to listen now finds a shihab (flame) lying in wait for him (72:8-9).

These two verses also clear up whatever misconception may arise in the minds of the believers when reading the following two verses:

They give ear and most of them are liars (26:223).

Except him who snatches away but once, and there follows him a shihabun saqib (brightly shining flame) (37:10).

After reading 72:8-9, no one can now believe that Satan can steal a hearing or snatch away any secret from Allah, Most High, Most Powerful. So what do these verses (15:18, 26:223, 37:10) really mean? Maulana Muhammad Ali says that sometimes the soothsayers and astrologers make certain conjectures or certain predictions about the future from their own intellectual reasoning and sometimes a few of these predictions do come true. Just as the prophets have a relationship with Allah, so, too, the soothsayers and astrologers have a bond with Satan and when these few "prophecies" are fulfilled they make grandiose claims about themselves and claim to be on the same level with the prophets in the matter of knowledge of the Unseen. This, of course, is sufficient to convince the rejecters of truth, for all they look for is any excuse that will justify their refusal to accept the prophets of Allah.

As regards the visible flame (shihab mubin), Maulana Muhammad Ali explains that, according to the dictionary meaning, it refers to any flame but also to the phenomenon of the shooting star which we sometimes witness in the open expanse above us. Whatever the physical reason for this is open to conjecture, but the belief that these shooting stars really attack Satan is not far-fetched for it is reported in the Hadith that these occurrences were very frequent just before the birth of the Holy Prophet. However, from the verse already quoted above (72:9) it is clear that shihab mubin does not refer to the shooting stars which existed from eternity but to a new occurrence which came into existence later in time. In other words, the expression shihab mubin is used to mean that light which destroys the influence of the soothsayers and astrologers whose weak conjectures were having an effect on the gullible people. And what is this light? Two things according to Maulana Muhammad Ali:

1. The powerful God-given prophecies of the prophets which put to flight the feeble predictions of the diviners as light puts darkness to flight. This is supported by the Holy Quran itself which refers to the Holy Prophet as an-najmus saqib (the star of piercing brightness -- 86:3) and wan-najmu idha hawa (by the star when it sets -- 53:1).

2. The Holy Quran itself, according to 56:75: Fala uqsimu bi mawaqi 'inujum (But nay, I swear by revelations of portions of the Holy Quran), in which nujum (pl. najm), which, according to commentators of the Holy Quran, mean portions of the Holy Quran, because every portion of it testifies to the truth of the Holy Quran and the falsity of the astrologers.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's Explanation of Shihab Saqib:

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Mujaddid of the fourteenth century and Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, has given an explanation of shihab saqib or shihab mubin which goes as follows.

When a believer puts Allah first in all his affairs he then begins to ascend to Allah so that in this life he is transported to Him and he is made resplendent with a distinctive light. His elevation is so high that he soars beyond the range of Satan who cannot reach him.

For every (spiritual) matter Allah has given us a tangible sign in this physical world and accordingly, He has given us a physical example of Satan's attempt to rise high. When he begins to climb towards the heavens he is pursued by a piercing flame which attacks him and throws him to the ground.

Hazrat Mirza then gives us four meanings of saqib which he says are:

1. A brightly shining star.

2. Something that pierces or penetrates.

3. Something that soars very high. In this there is a clear description and likeness of the human condition which contains within itself not only a manifest but also a hidden reality. He explains: "When a man attains full faith in Allah, he begins to rise towards his Creator and he is then blessed with special strength and power and light by means of which he throws Satan to the ground."

4. One who defeats or kills.

According to Hazrat Mirza:

"It is the duty of every believer to try to defeat his satan and to destroy him completely. Those who are unacquainted with the science of spirituality scoff at these matters but in truth they are the ones who are deserving of ridicule for they do not know that just as there is a manifest law of nature, so, too, there is a hidden (spiritual) law and the former serves as an indication of this hidden law. Allah, Most High, has vouchsafed to me the revelation, You are to Me like a brightly shining star. By these words Allah is telling me: 'I have created you to defeat Satan and at your hands Satan will be destroyed.'

Satan will never be allowed to rise high. If a believer should rise high, Satan can never overpower him. Therefore, a believer should pray to Allah for such power as will make him defeat Satan. In this regard, it is incumbent upon the believer if he is to destroy Satan, to drive away, immediately, all evil thoughts that may come to him. On this rests his ability to defeat Satan" (Malfuzat, vol. 10, pp. 91-92).

From the above explanation of Hazrat Mirza, it is clear that our salvation and elevation lies in removing ourselves far from the reach of Satan and in developing our own individual shihab mubin (bright flame) or shihab saqib (light of piercing brightness) to destroy him if he dares to interfere with our spiritual ascent to the heavens. This is not impossible as Hazrat Mirza, after warning us that Satan is our greatest enemy who is waging a fiercer battle against us than he did against our parents when he misled them, holds out this message of hope and conviction:

"When man suffers pain in the path of Allah and is not defeated by Satan he receives a light from Allah (Malfuzat, vol. 10, p. 91).

Finally, the Holy Quran points out the ideal goal to us in one of the verses quoted above (15:16):

And certainly We have made strongholds in the heaven, and We have made it fair-seeming to the beholders.

The same point is made in 67:5:

And certainly We have adorned this lower heaven with lamps (that is, stars).

Just as the stars adorn the physical world above us, so, too, must we imitate the spiritual stars of the spiritual firmament and become adornments and embellishments for the social world -- even more, we must become moral and spiritual guides and also protectors of our human world against satanic influences and assaults through the medium of human beings. That is the legacy bequeathed to us by the Holy Prophet (the spiritual sun) and his Companions (the spiritual stars) as mentioned in 22:78 of the Holy Quran:

. . . that the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you and that you may be bearers of witness to the people . . .

May Allah bless us all in our efforts.


Articles Section > The Meaning of Shihab Mubin (Brightly Shining Flame) by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed Sahib [Based on Hazrat Mirza Sahib's Writings]