The Meaning of the Prophecy “the Sun Shall Rise from the West”

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The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) received numerous prophecies, which he shared with his companions, concerning the future. Many of these revelations spoke of “the Latter Days,” a time in the distant future that would precede “the Last Hour.”

On one occasion, some of the Prophet’s (sa) companions were gathered together in a room under his apartment, and he came down to see them.

“What are you discussing?” inquired the Holy Prophet (sa). “We are discussing the Last Hour,” replied the companions.

The Prophet (sa) then said, “It shall not come to pass until you see ten signs.”

He then proceeded to mention the smoke, the antichrist, the beast, the rising of the sun from the west, the descent of Jesus, Son of Mary, Gog and Magog, and three eclipses—one in the east, one in the west, and one in Arabia (1). While all these signs and their fulfillment merit extensive discussion, this article discusses the sun’s rising from the west, the prophecy, its meaning, and fulfillment.

Literal Interpretation

Translated, the Arabic wording of the relevant portion of the Hadith mentioned above, Tulu‘ash-shamsi min maghribiha, reads: “the rising of the sun from its west.”

The subject pronoun –ha (“its”) in the word maghribiha (“it’s west”) appears to refer to the sun itself, meaning that the sun will rise from west of its standard position. As we know, the present west-to-east rotation of the earth—due to its current magnetic north and magnetic south—causes the sun to appear, or “rise,” from the eastern horizon; in other words, the sun rises in the east. Accordingly, Hadith translators render the Hadith as “the rising of the sun from the west,” meaning that, per the prophecy, the sun shall rise over the western horizon; however, any significant westward shift would, linguistically, appear to satisfy the prophecy.

Scientific Support

Remarkably, scientists have discovered extensive mineral evidence proving that the earth’s magnetic poles can and indeed have reversed—many times—with the last such occurrence taking place some 780,000 years ago (2). In layman’s terms, a compass back then would have said (today’s) east was west and vice versa (and the same goes for north and south). This means that rotation notwith- standing, the sun has indeed risen “from the west” in the distant past. Some geologists believe the next shift could be less than a thousand years away (3). This information did not exist 1,400 years ago, when the Holy Prophet (sa) made a prophecy that seemed like a scientific impossibility.

Even before these scientific discoveries, the vast majority of Muslim scholars advocated a literal interpretation of the prophecy—i.e., the sun will rise from the west in the Latter Days and before the Last Hour. (Incidentally, a paraphrasing of this very prophecy has served as the tagline for the Muslim Sunrise magazine for several years. I will now explain why.)

Revealed Meaning

In 1891, shortly after establishing the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and announcing his advent as the Latter-Day Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) wrote in his book, Izala Auham (Removal of Doubts):

“I certainly believe in the rising of the sun from the West; that said, it has been disclosed to me in a vision that the meaning of the rising of the sun from the West is that the Western countries, which, from ancient times, have been enveloped in the darkness of disbelief and error, will be illumined by the sun of truth and will partake of Islam” (4).

(And this is the meaning behind the Muslim Sunrise tagline.)

It is important to note that this is not a figurative or allegorical interpretation (known as ta’wīl); rather, God Himself revealed this understanding of the prophecy to Ahmad (as) through a vision. Furthermore, the import of this prophecy—that Islam shall spread to the West—need not preclude the possibility of a literal manifestation before doomsday. Indeed, the Promised Messiah (as) continued:

“Bear in mind that I do not deny the stance that tulu‘ash-shamsi min maghribiha (“the rising of the sun from the west”) may possess other meanings too. I have simply stated the above-mentioned meaning based upon the vision that God Almighty granted me” (5).

The Holy Prophet (sa) went on to say that even if the entire world came to believe on that day, it would not benefit them, and the doors of repentance would be closed. In light of his vision, the Promised Messiah (as) explained the meaning of this part of the prophecy as follows:

“‘The doors of repentance will close’ does not mean that repentance will not be accepted. The meaning is that when the people of western nations enter Islam in droves, at that time, a great revolution in religions shall occur. And when this sun [of Islam]rises in its fullest sense, only those people shall be deprived of Islam for whom the doors of repentance have closed; i.e., whose inner natures are utterly unsuited for [accepting]Islam” (6).

Has the Sun risen from the West?

In this same passage of Izala Auham, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as), goes on to relate a vision. In it, he is standing at a pulpit in London—then considered the “capital” of the West—set- ting forth the truth of Islam in the English language, in a very well-reasoned address. The Promised Messiah (as) then catches several white partridges that had been sitting on small trees. He interpreted this vision as:

“I interpreted this vision as meaning that though I would not be able to travel to that country, my writings will be published among them, and many righteous English people will be attracted by the truth” (6).

Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad (ra) at the World Conference of Religions in London, 1924.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as), indeed never went to London; however, in 1924, his son and second successor, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad (ra) made the journey to inaugurate London’s first mosque, Fazl Mosque. His speech on Islam was also read out at the World Conference of Religions that year. Reflecting upon this historic occasion in his capacity as Director of Publications (Nazir-e-Isha‘at) in Rabwah, Pakistan, Syed Abdul Hayee, commented on the following revelation vouchsafed to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as):

“Soon shall I help you. Help and victory and success during twenty years.”

Abdul Hayee notes:

“This revelation was received on January 3, 1904, and January 27, 1904. Adding “twenty years” to it makes 1924. So this revelation points to 1924, when Fazl Mosque, London, was established. The series of magnificent international victories which have now started is closely related to this mosque. This year is the fulfillment of the [Sun will rise from the West] and the initiation of international success and victories. It is also a fulfillment of the dream of the Promised Messiah [of speaking in London]” (8).

In 1984, his grandson and fourth successor, Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), migrated to London and established a new international headquarters in the capital of the West. From his pulpit at the same Fazl Mosque, he expounded the true teachings of Islam, giving many speeches and holding question-and-answer sessions in English for nearly two decades.

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) addresses the World Conference of Religions in London, 2014.

Ninety years after the first Conference on World Religions, in February 2014, in celebration of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s centenary, the great-grandson of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as), and the fifth successor, Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), stood at a pulpit in London’s Guildhall and gave the keynote address in English at the Conference of World Religions. Suffice it to say, the vision of the Promised Messiah (as) was fulfilled very fittingly in the person of Ahmad’s (as) successors.

Islam and the West

The missionary campaign of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community grew by leaps and bounds during the caliphate of Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad (ra), in the 1920s, especially, and brought many converts from the West into Islam. (Interestingly, the Second Khalifa (ra) would comment on this very prophecy and on one particular missionary of the Community, which I will relate shortly.)

100 Years Ago... - Tabligh in the UK and Ceylon - Al Hakam
Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq

In 1921, Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Sadiq (ra), the first Ahmadi Muslim missionary to the United States, launched the Muslim Sunrise (evidently named as so for this very prophecy) from Highland Park, Michigan. Ever since, it served as a voice calling toward Islam. Similarly, the Community translated the Holy Quran into English along with many books of the Promised Messiah (as) and dispatched them all to the West. Today, Ahmadi Muslim missionaries live and propagate in Central and South America as well, one of the last regions of the world without a large Muslim population.

Whereas Muslims in Western Europe and the western hemisphere were insignificant in number at the head of the 19th century, they now number in the millions, boasting many influential figures. A handful serve as Members of the United States Congress, while others have made and continue to make lauded contributions in the fields of science, medicine, mathematics, academia, literature, sports, and entertainment. Most importantly, the Khalifa of the time has resided in London for more than thirty-five years.

So has the sun of Islam risen from the West?

Speaking in the context of this very prophecy in 1946, the Second Khalifa related that according to the Holy Prophet (sa), every Quranic verse has seven intrinsic meanings. He also explained that some Muslims mistakenly believe that when a prophecy is fulfilled, all of its aspects must be fulfilled in their entirety, when this is not the case at all. In fact, there are many meanings and manifestations of this specific prophecy.

Maulana Jalal ud Din Shams Sahib | MTA
Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Shams

One of its meanings, per the Second Caliph, is that in the Latter Days, the metaphorical sun will return from the west to the east, and this was fulfilled when Imam Jalal-ud-Din Shams (ra) (1901–1966)—whose name “Shams” means “the Sun”—returned from the West to India after rendering great services for many years in spreading Islam to the West. Another manifestation, he said, would be the rise of Muslim missionaries from the West itself (9). This also took place with the establishment of Jamias (missionary colleges) in Canada (2003), England (2005), and Germany (2008).

And of course, as Syed Abdul Hayee observed, a great series of international victories to spread the message of Islam to the West has indeed begun. Indeed, Hazrat Ali (ra), the fourth successor and cousin of the Holy Prophet (sa), held that the advent of the Imam Mahdi itself was the manifestation of this prophecy (10). But it can be inferred from the writings of the Promised Messiah (as), and an explanation of the Second Khalifa, that the sun has yet to rise “in its fullest sense,” a day that will be marked by the people of the West entering Islam in droves. Nevertheless, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as), planted the seed that is now flourishing under the guid- ance of his successors, and the pivotal role he played in bringing Islam to the West is the subject of another article in this volume. Without ever discounting the literal mani- festation of this prophecy in the slightest, let us close with this hopeful statement of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as):

“The days are drawing near when the sun of truth shall rise in the West, and Europe will come to know the truth God.” (11)

O Lord, number our years so that we may see that bright and joyous day!

References

1.         Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab-ul-Iman; see also Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Fitan. There are several narrations of this hadith in a number of hadith compilations.

2.         https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/08/the-last-magnetic-pole-flip-saw-22000-years-of-weirdness/ (Accessed February 1, 2020)

3.         https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/597607/Sunrise-West-Scientists-warn-magnetic-poles-switching-North-become-South (Accessed February 1, 2020)

4.         Izala-e-Auham, p. 515, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 3, Pp. 376–377

5.         Ibid, P. 377

6.         Ibid

7.         Ibid

8.         Tadhkirah, Islam International Publications: Tilford: 2009. P. 654, Note 769

9.         Alfazl newspaper, Rabwah (Urdu), January 29, 1961. Reporting on address delivered on October 16, 1946. See also Hayat-e-Shams (Urdu), P. 518–522

10.       Biharul Anwar, vol 13, pg 153, printed in Iran

11.       Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), Majmooa al-Istiharat, Ishtihar January 14, 1897, P. 304

Last modified: July 2020

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