Hazrat Imam Baqar Muhammad bin Ali(ra) has narrated the following Hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa)):
For our Mahdi (Divine Reformer) there are two signs which have never appeared before since the creation of the heavens and the earth, namely the moon will be eclipsed on the first night in Ramazan (i.e. on the first of the nights on which a lunar eclipse can occur) and the sun will be eclipsed in its middle (i.e. on the middle day of the days on which a solar eclipse can occur), and these signs have not appeared since God created the heavens and the earth. (Dare Qutani Vol 1, page 188)
In the literature of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the dates of the lunar and solar eclipses have been taken as 13, 14, 15 and 27, 28, 29 respectively of the Islamic calendar. Dr David Mc Naughton has pointed out that lunar eclipses can occur on 13th, 14th and 15th and solar eclipses on 28th and 29th. Only under special circumstances, a solar eclipse can occur on the 27th of the Islamic month. Also, under special circumstances, a lunar eclipse can occur on the 12th. Hence the dates of the eclipses should be taken as 13, 14, 15 and 28, 29 or as 12, 13, 14, 15 and 27, 28, 29.
Perhaps the author is the first person to point out that it is possible to observe a lunar eclipse on the 12th. On the other hand, it seems to be well known from observational records that a solar eclipse can occur on the 27th. I present two examples taken from important books wherein 27th is considered as one of the dates for the solar eclipse.
Nawab Siddeeq Hasan Khan writes in his book Hujajal Kirama (in Persian, published in 1271 Hijri) on page 344 that according to astronomers a lunar eclipse does not take place on any date other than 13, 14 and 15; and in the same way a solar eclipse does not take place on any date other than 27, 28 and 29.
Professor F. Richard Stephenson, who has devoted considerable effort in the study of ancient records of eclipses, writes in his book, “Historical Eclipses and Earth’s Rotation” (Cambridge University Press 1997) on page 436 as follows:
“In the Islamic calendar, lunar eclipses consistently take place on or about the 14th day of the month and solar eclipses around the 28th day”
Hence considering the dates as 13, 14 and 15 for the lunar eclipse and 27, 28 and 29 for the solar eclipse for interpreting the prophecy in 1894, at the time of the claimant, is quite reasonable. The purpose of the prophecy is to help people to recognize the Promised Divine Reformer and the prophecy has served the purpose very well.
It may also be noted that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as) claimed on the basis of Divine revelation, which he received, that the prophecy has been fulfilled in his person. He also declared on oath that he is the Promised Messiah and Mahdi.
In order to understand the Hadith on the basis of our present knowledge we should note that the time between the astronomical new moon and full moon varies between 13.9 days and 15.6 days as mentioned by Dr Mc Naughton. Hence if a lunar eclipse occurs on the 12th of a month, the solar eclipse cannot occur on the 28th of the month because in that case the interval between the new moon and the full moon would exceed 15.6 days. If the Hadith had not laid any restriction on the date of the solar eclipse, the first date of the lunar eclipse may have been considered as 12th. But since the Hadith has specified the date of the solar eclipse, the first night in the Hadith has to be interpreted as the first of the well known three nights, i.e. 13th.
The Promised Messiah(as) also gave another explanation for the Hadith which is simple but very illuminating. He wrote in his book Noorul Haq Part 2, Roohani Khazaen Vol 8 page 196:
“Dare Qutani has recorded that Imam Muhammad bin Ali has narrated that there are two signs for our Mahdi which never appeared before, that is, never occurred for any other person since the creation of the earth and the heavens and these are that the moon will begin to be eclipsed in the beginning of the night in Ramazan and the sun will be eclipsed in the remaining half of the month.”
Professor G. M. Ballabh and I had prepared a list of the years in which both lunar and solar eclipses occurred in the month of Ramazan from the time of the Holy Prophet(sa) until the year 2000 A.D. We found that 109 times both lunar and solar eclipses occurred in the month of Ramazan over some part of the earth or the other. Out of these only seven pairs of eclipses were visible from Qadian. Only in the year 1894 the moon began to be eclipsed in the beginning of the night in Ramazan. The sun set in Qadian at 18 hrs 41 min and the eclipse of the moon began at 18
hrs 56 min. (Review of Religions Vol 89 No 9 September 1994 page 47)
For a detailed discussion of the fulfillment of the prophecy, please see my article entitled “The Advent of the Promised Messiah as vindicated by the Signs of the Lunar and Solar Eclipses” in the Review of Religions, Vol. 84, No 11, November 1989, pages 3 to 24. Answers to some of the objections have been given in my article “The Truth about Eclipses” published in The Review of Religions, Vol. 94, No’s 5 and 6, May & June 1999.
Almighty God says in the Holy Quran:
He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen, and He reveals not His secrets to anyone, except to him whom He chooses, namely a Messenger of His. (Chapter 72 Verses 27, 28.)
The remarkable prophecy of the Signs of the eclipses and its fulfillment in our age bears eloquent testimony to the greatness of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa).
May Almighty God guide mankind to the right path.