Commentary on Averrores – BBC

Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rushd‎ (Latinized as Averroes), lived from 14 April 1126 – 10 December 1198. He was a Medieval Andalusian polymath who wrote profusely on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, theology, the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence,  psychology, political and Andalusian classical music theory, geography and mathematics, Averroes is of great importance in Islamic philosophy for multiple reasons. He argued for the reconciliation of reason with revealed religion, pointing out passages from the Qu’ran to support his position. He was a powerful proponent of Astrology for the same reasons. He was accused of shirk or polytheism, for referring to the planets, and most particularly Venus, as if they were divine. He was exiled but eventually embraced back into court in Morroco.

Isra and Mi’raj in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh


Celestial map, signs of the Zodiac and lunar mansions in the Zubdat-al Tawarikh, dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan Murad III in 1583

First and foremost, I’m fascinated that a book on the natural world is prefaced with a painting of how that world is both sustained and came into being. The Celestial Map or Macrocosm above is the opening miniature in the Turkish Zubdat al Tawarikh or History of the World commissioned by the Ottoman Sultan Murad III. These very fine paintings were on vellum and the work was completed C. 1583.

The visual arts and astrology have long been inseparable.  The earliest star-lore was depicted visually in Sumer and far back into the Paleolithic period. The movements of the Heavens has always been of great importance and one picture really can be worth a thousand words when it comes to explaining Cosmologies.

Today, what we call history is not prefaced with a primary reference to the mystical creation. This makes these works most intriguing because they offer us a window into a mostly forgotten, but essential cosmologies. That is because we live in what we think is a linear, largely material reality. Other cultures, including the Turks, believed that time unfolded in spirals.

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding Gazi - Veterans from Rumelia - in front of Sultan Murat III from the Surname i hümayun 16th century CE

Miniature painting of a parade of two riding Gazi – Veterans from Rumelia – in front of Sultan Murat III from the Surname Ihümayun 16th century CE

Most importantly, we no longer live with the concept of divine origin. Traditional Astrology is very much aware of this reality The image contains an enormous amount of information. Most fundamentally, we have circles within circles At the centre is the source. Next the seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order. Beyond the orbit of Saturn have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

The seven planets and luminaries are shown in their orbits following the Chaldean order in a spiral. Beyond the orbit of Saturn we have the realm of the Fixed Stars and it appears that the artist has chosen to place the zodiac beyond the black circle.

What makes this a particularly fine work, is that it includes the Decans in relation to Lunar Phases as well as the twenty-eight Lunar Mansions, with Angels guarding the Four Directions.

Although the style is very much Turkish and Islamic in style, it is entirely recognizable as what has become known as the Ptolemaic Universe, The relationship between this cosmology and the Night Journey of Muhammad will become clear.

Muhammad-208Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq

Muhammad travels the seven heavens on Buraq

Muhamad’s Night Journey is in Sura Al Nisra of the Quran and further embellished in the Hadiths It’s controversial these days. Many modern Muslims consider this to be a literal event that occurred at a particularly time and place.  – The Prophet rides on Buraq as is taken to Jerusalem where he ascends to meet the various Prophets from what is now known as the  Dome of the Rock.

The mystical version has is that the Prophet rose through levels of consciousness. In either case, there is an ascent of Seven spheres, an essential theme that has repeated over and over again. In Ayat 11 we have the following exhortation “And We have made the night and day two signs, and We erased the sign of the night and made the sign of the day visible that you may seek bounty from your Lord and may know the number of years and the account [of time]. And everything We have set out in detail.”

Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700

Portrait of Humayun, posthumously painted c. 1700 He was an avid astrologer.

This and other passages in the Quran support astrology as a guide to the wise. The usual context is in ‘to show the way’ which clearly refers to the use of stars in navigation but also implies other uses, such as choosing the correct time for an event,, medical diagnosis military matters and affairs of State.  If this were not the case, Islam would have had no cause to compose the type of artwork that we see here, or produce some of the finest astrologers in the Middle Ages and beyond.

The exhortations against astrology are most specifically related to attempting to know such things as the time of the last day and the resurrection. This is the prerogative of the Creator. Common fortune telling won’t find any more support in the Quran as it does in the Bible. Indeed, many sects of Christianity regard astrology as forbidden. In much of my work, I have tried to show the massive difference in intent, method, and applications of divination compared to the disreputable and unwise world of fortune telling.

Imagine for a moment that you visit your physician and she tells you that you have a serious illness and may not have long to live. That physician has just made a prognostication based on medical knowledge. This could be construed as prediction and in fact, it is. When a skilled astrologer reads a chart it for many of the same reason a medical professional might be consulted. Questions about physical, spiritual and mental health can and are addressed by competent astrologers.  Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information

Likewise, you might be concerned about making a choice between two or more things. The astrologer won’t make the choice for you, but they can offer very valuable information  There is time to seed and a time to reap. One of the greatest uses of astrology are, as far as I’m concerned, is in the medical field. Knowing your humour, the strengths and weakness you have are all sound applications of the Celestial Science. If you read scripture carefully, you will not find thes4e applications of astrology to be forbidden.

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq

Makhzan al-Asrār by Niẓāmīمخزن الاسرار Folio 3v The Prophet on Burāq

Above, we what is essentially the sane theme found in the previous paintings, but with a slight twist. This Persian Sufi painting describes the Night Journey of the Prophet. This work is far more complex than first meets the eye. The painting has deteriorated, but we can still see the planets, represented anthropomorphically. The Sun and Moon are represented as disks. occupying the first and fourth sphere, as per the Chaldea order. We can also see the constellations, but they are projected in such as a way that we have the illusion of looking through the spheres. Remember that this is illustrating Muhammad’s mystical Night Journey.

Returning to the Quranic position on astrology, let’s examine a few more quotations. There is a Sura in the Quran known as Buruj, an Arabic word meaning ‘Constellation’ or ‘Zodiac sign’. Surah Buruj is the 85th Surah in the Quran. The starting of the Surah is : “I swear by the sky where there are buruj…” (i.e Allah swears by th sky where are  zodiac signs.)

“I have created buruj  [Zodiac signs] in the sky and decorated them for viewers and I have also protected them from evils…” (Surah Hizr 16)

Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra

Prophet Muhammad-Miraj Isra

“How great he is, who has created buruj in the sky and placed the Sun and shining Moon over there…” (Surah Furkan 61 )

In Arabic Astrology, we find that the sign Leo is named ‘Asad Buruj’. ‘Asad’ means a lion thus the Arabic name of Leo, which is represented by a lion, is ‘Asad Buruj’. Similarly, Libra is named, ‘Meejan Buruj’. The Arabic word ‘Meejan’ means a balance.

The emphasis on the creation of constellations, given the context we have, does nothing to indicate that a study of the same is somehow haram.

Finally, we can take a brief survey of some of Islam’s most esteemed astrologer. Most are surprised to find that the poet Omar Khyyam was an accomplished astrologer(1019-1135)  He was a an astrologer of Khorasan.  He was so accurate in his predictions that he even understood about his own death. This isn’t exactly the same as knowing the time of his death, but points to a deep understanding of the art.  Many will be familiar with Sahl Ibn Bishr, Al Kindi, Ibn Arabi, Al Biruni and others.

However, I think the crown should go to Ibn Sina (980-1037) He was brilliant Muslim scientist who developed Alchemy. He was also very much devoted to astronomy and astrology, but other than his prolific philosophical works his contributions to medicine are immeasurable. His massive pharmacopeia is still in use among medical astrologers and natural healers.

This may seem trivial to some, but we have a great deal at stake worldwide. Literal Fundamentalism is not compatible with peace and has the effect of numbing the mind. The golden age of Islam did not flourish because of  a stricter adherence to Shariah, as is commonly thought by contemporary Muslims, but because it was a period of openness, serious study of Classical antiquity and a willingness to work with people of divergent faiths and ethnicities.

Magic and the Occult in Islam: Ahmad al-Buni

What follows is a very fine lecture by Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad (Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilizations, American University in Cairo) delivered at the Warburg Institute, University of London, May 2003.

This is an important lecture in it’s own right, but I’m also posting this as an introduction to my next post, regarding the decoding of a manuscript using astrological elements such as Lunar Mansions, Constellations and significant stars; while making reference to the Picatrix. I’m delighted to see so much research and scholarship brought to bear on the astrological tradition and it’s association with Alchemy, Geomancy. & Theurgy.

Venus & the Cube in Arabian Cosmology


Venus – from Wonders of Creation

When we read the works of astrologers from other times and cultures we tend to feel we have a lot in common with them. For example, it is natural to assume that Venus has the same qualities and associations in our lineage. Some accommodations are made, but we don’t expect radical departures. The fact is that Venus is mutifaceted, one might even say protean, in Arabian cosmology. Venus is also closely related to the Moon, in ways we may not expect.

It is well known by Traditional Astrologers, particularly those working in Mundane astrology, that Islam is under the governance of Venus. This is an ancient association which has been transmitted to us by both Muslim and non Muslim scholars.

What is not be so commonly known is that the importance of Venus preceded the inception of Islam by thousands of years in the Middle East. Ptolemy divided the four directions by triplicity.

The one that would cover the Middle East and Central Asia, including what is now Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan is made up of “Taurus, Virgo and Capricornus in southeastern, and again is governed primarily by Venus on account of the south wind, but conjointly by Saturn because of the east wind. ” (Tetrabiblos II 3)

The addition of Saturn is an important element here. So is the fact the exaltation of the Moon is Taurus and Venus the dispositor of Taurus

The tradition of worshiping Venus was widespread in ancient Arabia, where 360 gods and goddesses were adored. The Kaa’ba contained 360 idols which were eventaually destroyed by Muhammad. Venus’s special day of the

Platonic Solids

Platonic Solids

week is Friday and the form of this goddess is a cube, which is the sacred form for Arabs . This doesn’t correspond with the Platonic Solids, as understood by Kepler, but the source appears to be Ancient Middle Eastern and long preceding Plato or Pythagoras.

“Plato argued that each of the elements could be thought of as being composed of the first four solids – the tetrahedron was fire, the cube was earth, the octahedron was air, and the dodecahedron was water. The final solid, the icosahedron, was applied to the “heavenly sphere” upon which rested all of the stars and planets.” (Isaac M. McPhee. Platonic Solids) In other words, the solids primarily relate to elements rather than planets

Historical evidences show that in the late third millennium BC, worshiping mother goddesses was common in Iran, India, Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Syria, North Africa, and Europe

One of the first things that caught my eye on seeing footage of the Haj many years ago, was the participants circumambulating the Kaaba in an anti clockwise direction. This is highly unusual and in most traditions considered very harmful.

Counter Clockwise Circumambulation of the Kaaba

Counter Clockwise Circumambulation of the Kaaba

The act of moving counter-clockwise is said to provoke or upset the natural course of the world – it went against the natural order  From this comes havoc, destruction, and in general negative and unfortunate this to happen. Although we find this knowledge in the oldest Pagan sources, clockwise movement came as a natural element to Christianity, perhaps because of its association with Solar Cults, including Zoroastrianism.


In The Great Triad , Rene Guénon demonstrates two points of possible orientations. (i.e. Polar in Fig 13 and Solar in figure 14)  “the first direction is one of the stars turning about the Pole when one looks North” the second is oriented to the Sun when looking South (50,51) The second is by far the most common.

All other visible planets in our Solar System rotate in a counter clockwise motion.  Certainly it would be impossible to view the direction of the orbit of Venus even with telescopes because of the planet’s extremely dense atmosphere.

Her rotation is virtually stationary, with the her day being longer than her year. She takes 243 days to turn once on her axis and almost 225 days to travel once around the Sun in orbit


Mohammed_Splits_the_Moon Anonymous 16th-century watercolor from a Falnama, a Persian book of prophecy. Muhammad is the veiled figure on the right.

There is no specific Qu’ranic reference to the best of my knowledge which would require this counter clockwise movement. However, Muhammad advised on many issues, ranging from how to cut one’s beard to making adoption unlawful. In virtually every case, he is concerned about  doing everything in the opposite way to “the Pagans.”

It’s has also been suggested that moving in anticlockwise direction goes against time and revives the Sunnah of the prophet Ibrahim and of course, Muhammad.

The Kaaba’s keystone is a meteorite set in what looks like female genitalia. The meteorite is essentially round, so there is no structural reason for this choice of setting.  This harks back to pre-Islamic times as does Ramadan and much else. The participants at the Haj are ideally to kiss the meteorite and if that isn’t possible, they are to point at it each time they circumambulate the Kaaba.

The Kaaba was home to 360 idols. Different families would worship different idols. For Muhammad’s family it was Allah. His father was named Abdulalla which means Slave of Allah. Of course it’s no coincidence that the number of idols is the number of degrees in the zodiac

This meant that Mecca’s income came largely from pilgrims visiting and worshiping the idols while spending money on the process .  This was an early source of conflict between Muhammad and the Meccans.

The site of the Kaaba itself is celestially aligned. : ” the structure holding the black stone is offset from the Cardinal Directions so that one wall is to the line connecting the Winter Solstice sunset to the Summer Solstice sunrise. The other side of the building faces towards the horizon and the rising of Canopus ”  (Penprase. Power of Stars. p.209)  This sets the direction of prayer for Muslims worldwide.17157blackstonedivein

“The southwest orientation, dissimilar to other recorded temples in southwest Arabia, conforms to the Babylonian ancestral practice of an axis diagonal to the cardinal points. The raised platform style of the building seems derived, probably indirectly, from Babylon” (Natan 33)

The goddess Nahid, for example, is “alternately the wife, the sister or the mother of god. However, when she is the wife and mother of god, her symbol is the moon, and when she represents the goddess of love and music, the planet Venus.” (Mohammad Sadeq Nazmi Afshar. Nahid, Mother of Gods 2013) In effect, the Arabs took the Moon god Sin, a male god of war. Over time, Venus replaced the Moon, while absorbing his qualities.

An Armenian myth says: “the devil knew that if the god had intercourse with his mother, the sun would be born, and if with his sister, the moon would be born.” (ibid)

Muhammad is said to have literally split the Moon as a sign that he was a true prophet. I now wonder if the message isn’t also that the Moon god is giving way to another. Today, the vast majority of Muslim nations use the Crescent, with or without Venus. But this association only came with the Ottoman Turks

However, Islam subscribes to a Lunar Calendar. The Lunar cycle is 28 days and so very naturally associated with the menstrual cycle.

The goddess in her various names and guises is ubiquitous. Venus and Inanna are both what are known as dying and resurrecting deities: this death and rebirth myth is a product of simple observational astronomy.  This is true in all cultures of observation and they are remarkably similar in their interpretations. Vedic astrologers Hart De Fouw and Robert E. Svoboda write of Venus:

“Sukr, [Venus] which has a 584-day cycle of visibility, appears as both the Morning Star and the Evening Star. In between these periods of visibility, each of which lasts about 263 days, come 2 periods of invisibility, during which Sukr is conjunct with Surya. When Sukr, as the Evening Star, moves toward its solar conjunction, it ‘sets’ in the sky — it appears lower and lower each night until that fateful night when it fails to appear at all, swallowed up by Surya, who may be identified here with Lord Shiva. Both Surya and Shiva represent the Universal Soul.”( Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India p.6)

Details may differ, but the core myth is always there. The amount of interaction between India, Persia and the Arabs may not have been massive, but is very well documented

In his twenty year study, Dr. Rafat Amari writes : “we know that the term “Allah,” as the god of the moon, was derived from the Thamud god of the moon. His name was Hilal, or Hlal, which means “crescent.” Later, the name “Hilal” became Hilah, as we see in many inscriptions which were found in Arabia. In the Thamud inscriptions he is found as H-ilah, Ha-ilah and H-alah. We see the same development for “Hilah,” the moon deity in Yemen, where Almaqah is called “Halal,’ or “Hilal, the Crescent.

Safaitic tribes were nomads wandering in many parts of Arabia, especially in the north. The god of the moon was found in their inscriptions as “H-lah.” in the Safaitic inscriptions, the letter “H” pronounced as “Ha” is the definite article, “the.” It corresponds to the Arabic, “Al.”16 This led the Arabians to call him “Al-lah.” The big Star Athtar – Venus – Replaces the Moon for the Title of “Allah”” (The ‘Trinity’ in Islam p. 8)



This is intriguing, but I’m not convinced it’s perfectly true on all counts. Neither can I be absolutely certain of his intent. Apologists abound, as is the case with much of the studies on this subject. However, his contention that the Sabians did have a Moon god and that Islam practices the same style and number of daily prayers,  prostration, fasting for 30 days in observance of the Moon (Ramadan) and wear long white robes is well documented. Sabians are mentioned by name in the Qu’ran as a group that was on a righteous path and should have no fears. ( see Sūrat l-Baqarah 2:62 – 7 Quran. Trans M.A.S. Abdel Haleem – Oxford)

Sabians  were known “as “Star Worshippers.”  Both Jewish and Islamic sources claim that Abraham was himself a star worshiper, and there is a mutual story told that after contemplating the setting of Sun and the Moon, he came to the conclusion that there must be one God.” ( Kemal Menemencioglu @ )

Black Rock form Paphos - Temple of_Aphrodite

Black Rock form Paphos – Temple of_Aphrodite

The ancient  Sumerian Moon God, Sin was male and this association was carried over to the pre Islamic cultures in the Middle East .Arabs, particularly insofar as he was a god of war. One of the names of Venus is Lucifer, which we usually consider as masculine.

You will notice that Arab and Muslim representations of Venus do not always have feminine characteristics. The attributes are primarily love, music and finery. But the procreative and fertility attributes of say Ishtar or Aphrodite are still given to Venus.  If she is the replacement for Sin, presumably she would also have war as an attribute

Although Ptolemy was looking at the Middle East and Central Asia when assigning Venus as the significator, the eventual Arab influence on the entire region  is staggering. At the most basic level, Arabic is considered the only fully legitimate language of the Qu’ran, in spite of the fact that it pre-dates Classical Arabic and was more likely written down in Syrio Aramaic.

Ptolemy couldn’t possibly have anticipated just how accurate his association would become. Some will consider this a dilemma, but it doesn’t need to be. I think this knowledge is crucial, particularly in Mundane astrology. It is most helpful though to consider the meaningful differences between the Western Classical and Arabian Venus, not least because of the association with the Moon.

Muhammad with Meterorite

Muhammad (?) with Meterorite