Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Muhammad and the Splitting of the Moon

Exposing More of Jamal Badawi’s Distortions

Sam Shamoun 

In his debate with Dr. Robert Morey that took place on November 9, 1996, at around the 26 minute makr Dr. Jamal Badawi accused Morey of basically fabricating a story about Muhammad:

“The sun and moon are created by Allah also… is mentioned in Bukhari – and here I would like to humbly suggest to Dr. Morey to correct himself and be big enough to make that correction, because this is a factual misquotation. Dr. Morey in his book quotes or refers to 11 hadith! 11 hadith in Bukhari to support his statement that prophet Muhammad reached up with his sword and cut the moon into half. Reached up with his sword... and then he mocks at Islam by saying that sword must be either very big, or the moon is the size of the basketball. You have the volumes of Bukhari Dr. Morey – I challenge you to show me in a single hadith, of the 11 hadith you quoted, where does it mention the word sword. It is nowhere to be found in the 11 hadith that you quoted. That requires correction. Nor does any of this [sic] hadith say that the prophet split the moon! It says the moon was split ala ahdi rasulullah – at the time of the prophet – and the prophet said 'witness' as a sign. This is a factual correction that is needed.” (Is the Allah of the Quran the true universal God?)     

Badawi then went on to say in the rebuttal period:

“Furthermore, you brushed aside and you never responded, Dr. Morey, of the eleven hadith that you said that the prophet held his sword and cut the moon into half; you brushed it aside, you never addressed it. These are two of the hadiths that you quote in your book. Can anyone tell me where is the word sword? Can anyone tell me where the prophet says ‘I,’ or somebody says, ‘the prophet split the moon’?” 


“And I must say that this issue of the moon split is not an eyesight or copying something 2 o'clock in the morning, because you added something simply which is not there; you quoted 11 hadith, none of which mention that. It is not a mistake of an eyesight for sure!” 

Badawi was referring to this particular section of Dr. Morey’s book: 

I. The Moon Cut in Half 

When the Meccans asked Muhammad to do a miracle to prove that he was Allah’s prophet, he supposedly reached up with his sword and cut the moon in half. 

vol. 4, nos. 830, 831, 832 

vol. 5, nos. 208, 209, 210, 211 

vol. 6, nos. 387, 388, 389, 390 

How and by whom the two sides of the moon were joined together is not told. That would be an even greater miracle to us! 

This so-called miracle means that either Muhammad had a very BIG sword or that the moon was very SMALL. 

Historically, the Arabs at that time believed that the sun and the moon were the size they appeared to the human eye. Thus the moon was about the size of a basketball. Muhammad evidently had no problem cutting in half such a small moon. This “miracle” is very doubtful for if the Meccans had seen Muhammad cut the moon in half, why did he have to conquer them by military force? Would not such a glorious miracle convert them? (Morey, Islamic Invasion: Confronting the World’s Fastest Growing Religion [Christian Scholars Press, revised edition 1992], Appendix A. An Analysis of the Hadith, pp. 227-228) 

Here is what Dr. Morey said in response to Badawi’s accusation:

“Now the commentators on this point out that the splitting of the moon was in response to the pagans demanding that Muhammad perform a miracle. I read in various Muslim writers where they said there is an ancient tradition that he pulled out his sword and he split the moon. Now it's not germane to me whether these Muslim traditions are true or false; I'm simply quoting them. That he split the moon in response to a request, I just read you the statement.” 

In this article I am going to show that, even though Dr. Morey failed to carefully document the sources for his claim and was somewhat rash in his conclusions, it is Badawi who tried to pull a fast one the audience, and that Dr. Morey didn’t intentionally lie or make up the story of Muhammad splitting the moon in half with his sword. The sources will confirm that, contrary to Badawi’s blatant distortion, the ahadith attribute the splitting of the moon to Muhammad directly, and that there is a reasonable explanation why Dr Morey thought that Muhammad used his sword to split the moon in two. 

With the foregoing in perspective let us consult the Islamic sources to see whether they agree with Badawi or not. 

Anas reported that the people of Mecca demanded from Allah's Messenger that he should show them (some) signs (miracles) and he showed twice the splitting of the moon. This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Anas through another chain of transmitters. (Sahih Muslim, Book 039, Number 6728)

Narrated Anas bin Malik: The people of Mecca asked Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle. So HE SHOWED THEM the moon split in two halves between which they saw the Hiram' mountain. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 208

This next narration is rather interesting: 

Narrated Ibn Masud: During the lifetime of Allah's Apostle the moon was split into two parts; one part remained over the mountain, and the other part went beyond the mountain. On that, Allah's Apostle said, "Witness this miracle."  (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 387)

Thus far the hadiths state that Muhammad showed the unbelievers the splitting of the moon, without explicitly stating that he was the one who personally caused it to split. 

However, the following sources all confirm that it was Muhammad himself who made the moon split in half, and also brought it back together (obviously with the permission of his god): 

“… One night the Prophet was walking in Mecca. It was the custom of the Meccans to walk about in the evening; they attend to their business in the evening because the days are very hot. That is why the Prophet was walking about. Abu Jahl, may he be cursed, together with a Jew, met the Prophet. Abu Jahl said: ‘Show me a sign; if not, I will chop off your head’"; that is: ‘Show me a miracle, or else I'll cut off your head." The Prophet asked: "What do you want?’ Abu Jahl said: ‘Let me see YOU split the moon.’ He asked for this because sorcery has an effect on earth but not in the sky. When the Prophet made a sign, the moon was split apart. Half of it remained in its place, and the other half moved off at a distance… Abu Jahl said: ‘Oh Muhammad, MAKE the moon join together again.’ When Muhammad TOLD IT TO DO SO, the moon joined together again. Abu Jahl said: ‘Until now you've been a magician on earth; now your sorcery has worked its effect in the sky’, and he didn't embrace the faith. He said: ‘What a great magician you are!’ ‘There is no magician like you.’ But the Jew converted.” (Al-Rabghuzi, The Stories of the Prophets (2 Volumes): Qisas al-Anbiya': An Eastern Turkish Version, edited by H. E. Boeschoten & J. O'Kane [Brill, Second Edition 2015], p. 537; bold and underline emphasis ours) 


“‘They said to the Prophet, “If you are telling the truth, then split the moon for us into two parts, one half over Mt. Abu Qubays, the other over Mt. Qu’ayqu’an.” The Prophet asked them, “IF I DID SO, would you believe?” “Yes, we would,” they replied. It was a night of full moon, and so he asked God the Almighty and Glorious to grant him what they requested. That evening the moon did have one half removed and placed over Mt. Abu Qubays, the other being over Mt. Qu’ayqu’an, while the Messenger of God called out, “O Abu Salama b. ‘Abd al-Asad, and al-Arqam b. al-Arqam, be a witness (to this event).”’”… 

These various lines are strong in their links and provide decisive proof for those who consider them and the probity of these men. The version told by some storytellers, that the moon fell down to earth and entered into one sleeve of the Prophet, and came out of the other, has no foundation; it is a lie, an invention and untrue. 

When the moon split it did not leave the sky. However, when the Prophet GESTURED TOWARDS IT, IT REACTED by splitting and became two halves. One of these passed over until it was beyond Hira’ and they saw the mountain between that one and the other. This is how Ibn Mas’ud related that he had witnesses it. 

What we find in the account of Anas in the compendium of Ahmad to the effect, “The moon split ‘twice’ in Mecca is controversial. Obviously he meant “into two parts”. But God knows best. (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya, translated by Professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Muneer Fareed [Garnet Publishing, First paperback edition, 2000], Volume II (2), pp. 78, 81; bold, capital and italicized emphasis ours)  

Pay attention to the fact that the moon supposedly split in two after Muhammad gestured to it, meaning after he had pointed to the moon. This is brought out more clearly in the following citations:  

Out of all the evidence of the occurrence of this miracle, we will mention only six, as these six have the strength of a six-fold consensus: 

  • The Companions of the Prophet, all people of justice and truthfulness, agreed that it took place.
  • All exacting Qur'anic interpreters agreed that the moon split upon the gesture of the Prophet Muhammad's FINGER.
  • All truthful narrators and scholars of Hadith narrated this incident through various authentic channels of transmission.
  • All people of truth and sainthood, as well as of inspiration and spiritual discovery, testify that this event took place. All foremost theologians and learned scholars confirm this event, despite other differences of opinions.
  • Muhammad's community, which an authentic Prophetic Tradition states can never agree on an error, accepts its occurrence. 

These six proofs clearly establish the splitting of the moon (The Letters, "The 19th Letter," 1: 265-272). (Ali Unal, The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English [Tughra Books, New Jersey 2008], p. 1083; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours) 


054:001 Hadith narrators and collectors misunderstood this verse and tried to support their misunderstanding by the fabrication of a hadith reporting that Muhammad split the Moon by pointing at it WITH HIS FINGER. Some narrators did not stop there and claimed that half of the Moon FELL IN THE BACKYARD OF ALI, Muhammad's son-in-law. The believers of this hadith are silent to the critical questions about the event. Why didn't populations of other countries witness this incredible event? If there were such an astronomical event, many people from China to Africa would have noticed and recorded it. Besides, this traditional interpretation contradicts the Quran, which specifically limits the signs given to Muhammad to be the signs contained in the Quran alone (29:50-51)… (Quran: A Reformist Translation, translated and annotated by Edip Yuksel, Layth Saleh al-Shaiban & Martha Schulte-Nafeh [Brainbow Press, 2007], p. 337; capital and underline emphasis ours) 

Here we see that Muslims not only claimed that Muhammad split the moon with his finger, but also came up with the absurd nonsense of the moon falling to the earth and entering into and coming out of Muhammad’s sleeves, with a part of it falling into the backyard of Ali! 

Even the New Encyclopedia Britannica mentions this fable of Muhammad splitting the moon in half with his finger: 

“… Muhammad, whose only miracle, according to his own words, was the bringing of the Qur’an, is credited with innumerable miraculous occurrences: HIS FINGER SPLIT THE MOON, the cooked poisoned meat warned him not to touch it, the palm trunk sighed, the gazelle spoke for him; he cast no shadow; from his perspiration the rose was created etc. His ascension to heaven (miraj) is still celebrated: he rode the winged horse Buraq in the company of the angel Gabriel through the seven spheres, meeting the other prophets there, until he reached the divine presence alone, without the angel of inspiration…” (Macropedia: Knowledge in Depth, Volume 22. [15th edition, 2007], pp. 40-41; bold and capital emphasis ours) 

This in itself sufficiently refutes Badawi’s boldfaced assertion that the ahadith do not claim that it was Muhammad that split the moon in half. Being a supposed scholar of Islam, Badawi would have surely known that the Islamic tradition plainly states that it was Muhammad who personally split the moon in two by his finger. As such, it is hard to not accuse Badawi of knowingly and deliberately lying to his audience. 

We have saved the best for last: 

When he like the ant became sleepless and fasting in devotion to you then without doubt WITH THE SWORD OF THE FINGER HE SPLIT the moon into two parts like a hair.4 (Muntakhabu-t-tawarikh, by 'Abdu-l-Qadir Ibn-i-muluk Shah known as Al-Badaoni, translated from the original Persian, and edited by George S. A. Ranking, M.D. (Cantab.), M.R.A.S. [Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, 1898], Volume 1, p. 110; bold and capital emphasis ours)

4… See Qur'an, Surah 54. "The hour draws nigh, and the moon is split asunder." (Sacred Books of the East Vol. IX). In the… Haiatu-l-qulub a MS. copy of which dated 25th Zul Hijjah 1087 A. H. (1676 A. D.) is before me. I find the following account of the miracle performed by the prophet Muhammad at Mekka. "The tribe of Qoreish sought as a sign from Muhammad the performance of some miracle; THE PROPHET POINTED TO THE MOON and by the power of God Most High it split into two halves. A trustworthy Hadis by Hazrat Imam Ja'far Sidiq has come down to us, relating that fourteen infidels who were desirous of working the prophet's destruction came to him on the evening of the 14th of Zul Hijjah and said to him, 'Every prophet has shewn some wonderful miracle, so this evening we desire you to shew us some great miracle.' The prophet asked what miracle they desired him to shew them. They replied, 'If you have any power from God order the full moon to divide into two halves.' Thereupon the angel Gabriel came down from heaven and said to Muhammad, 'The Lord of heaven and earth sends greeting and has ordered all things to become obedient to you. Then the Prophet raised his eyes to heaven and commanded the moon to divide into two halves, whereupon it split into two parts, and the prophet knelt to shew his gratitude to Almighty God. ………… All authorities relate that this took place in Mekka; and further it is related that when certain travellers arrived they said in answer to questions 'We too saw on that night that the moon was in two halves.' Consequently the infidels believed that it was a true miracle and not merely magic." He also relates that these infidels imposed upon Muhammad the task of restoring the moon to its original condition, and also of turning one-half of the orb of the moon black while the other half was bright. (Ibid., pp. 110-111; bold and capital emphasis ours) 

The above reference gives us an idea where Dr. Morey got the idea that the ahadith claim that Muhammad split the moon with his sword. He may have confused the Islamic traditions likening Muhammad’s finger to a sword that he used to split the moon, with an actual sword.  

This establishes that this was nothing more than an honest mistake on Dr. Morey’s part and wasn’t trying to be deliberately malicious, since he obviously had no intention of making stuff up or fabricating stories about Muhammad. 

And yet this again ends up exposing Badawi as an unreliable and untrustworthy Muhammadan since he has the tendency to misrepresent the facts of a matter. Therefore, a person must always be suspicious of anything that Badawi says and should go back and personally verify his quotations and claims.