Glimpses Into Arabic Astrology
During the 8th century the scientific developments increased in Baghdad and later infiltrated Islamic Andalusia. The stars were used by the Arabs to navigate the desert, they utilized astronomy to decide the direction of Qibla “where Muslim turn in prayer”, and the Moon still regulates their calendar until today, Muslim scientists developed and multiplied the uses of the astrolabe, they introduced it to Europe from Islamic Spain in the early 12th century, it has been one of the major astronomical instruments until the modern times.
Since the Arabs were receptive to symbolism and allegorical thought, they could easily extend the use of the stars to guiding one’s life.
During this time the Arabs adopted astrology as it entered the Islamic tradition from Persia, Greece and India. The first astrological text to be translated into Arabic in Baghdad came from India. This was the Siddhanta, known to the Arabians as the Sindhind.
In the early ninth century, Al-Ma'mun, the Caliph of Baghdad, founded an academy called “ The House of Wisdom” which translated all the surviving texts of antiquity into Arabic. Aristotle's physics, the astronomy of Hipparchus and Ptolemy's astrology revolutionized Islamic science.
The philosophical foundation to Arabic astrology was laid down by Abu Yusuf Bin Ishaq al-Kindi (801 – 873 AD), the tutor and physician of al-Ma'mun and regarded as one of the most learned men of his time. Much of the philosophical basis for astrology as well as other occult science were developed by al-Kindi. He wrote many texts including The Judgement of the Stars and Stellar Rays.
Besides the contribution of Alkindi, his student, Jaafar Bin Mohammad Albalkhi, also know as Abu Ma’ashar AlBalkhi or AlFalaki, was another icon in Arabic astrology who lived between 787 – 886. Abu Ma’shar was born in the town of Balkh, He was drawn to The House of Wisdom in Baghdad where he met Al-Kindi and embraced the Platonic philosophy, making astronomy and astrology central to human destiny.
Abu Ma’shar wrote extensively on planetary conjunctions and their mundane influences. He also wrote on Electional Astrology and added number of the Lots, what is know today as the Arabic Parts. He also credited the lunar nodes with influences equal to the planets, including possessing exaltation and debilitation, which is somewhat contradictory to the principles developed by Al-Kindi, since the nodes are points where the lunar orbit crosses the ecliptic and not actual embodied planets. He also originated the concept of progressing a chart, specifically the influence of transiting planets on the degrees occupied by natal planets.
The astrological historian Peter Whitfield states that Arabic astrologers did indeed contribute to astrology, both as an art and science. While they may not have invented some of the techniques, they nonetheless advanced and perfected them substantially , which deserves credit.
The fact that the works of Abu Maashar such as “Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology” and his “Great Introduction” are still in use and studied today and are still utilized by modern astrologers shows the immense importance of his work.
Another contribution of Muslim astrologers was the introduction of the Tajika system into Indian astrology, the word Tajika it self means “an Arab”, this system is known for its accuracy in predicting events, one major use of this system is in the transit chart, the Tajika aspects are used today by most astrologers to predict events.