Allah says, “The Hour has drawn near and the moon has been split. Yet if they see a sign, they turn away and then say, ‘A continuing sorcery.‘“ (54:1-2) Allah informs people about the splitting of the moon using the past participle and refers to the unbelievers turning away from his signs. The commentators and people of the sunna agree that it took place.
Ibn Mas‘ud reported, “The moon was split into two parts during the time of the Messenger of Allah. One part was above the mountain and the other part below it. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, ‘Witness!’“ It is also related that Ibn Mas‘ud al-Aswad said, “When I saw the mountains between the two halves of the moon…”
Masruq said that this was at Makka and added that the unbelievers of Quraysh said, “The son of Abu Kabsha has bewitched you.” One of them said, “If Muhammad has bewitched the moon, his magic is not such that it would extend to the entire earth. Ask those who have come from other cities whether they saw it.” They came and were questioned and told them that they too had seen it.
As-Samarqandi related something similar from ad-Dahhak in which Abu Jahl said, “This is magic, so send to the people of the remote areas to see whether or not they saw it.” The people of the remote areas continued that they too had seen it split in two. The unbelievers said, “This is a continuous magic.” ‘Alqama also related it from Ibn Mas‘ud, and these four had it from ‘Abdullah.
Other people than Ibn Mas‘ud related it, including Anas, Ibn ‘Abbas, Ibn ‘Umar, Hudhayfa, ‘Ali and Jubayr ibn Mut‘im.
‘Ali related from the version of Abu Hudhayfa al-Arhabi, “The moon was split when we were with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.”
Anas said, “The people of Makka asked the Prophet to show them a sign and he showed them the splitting of the moon in two so that they saw Mount Hira between the two halves.”
In the version of Ma‘mar and others from Qatada it says that he showed them the splitting of the moon in two, and Allah revealed, “The Hour has drawn near and the moon has been split.” (54:1)
It is also related from Jubayr ibn Mut‘im by his son, Muhammad, and in turn his son, Jubayr. It is also related from Ibn ‘Abbas by ‘Ubaydullah ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Utba. Mujahid relates it from Ibn ‘Umar and Abu ‘Abdu’r-Rahman as-Sulami and Muslim ibn Abi ‘Imran al-Azdi relate it from Hudhayfa. Most of the paths of transmission of these hadith are sound.
The sign was clearly evident. One does not pay any attention to the objection of the disaffected that if this had taken place, it would not have been hidden from any of the people of the earth since it is something that would have been evident to all, and yet it has not been transmitted to us that any other people of the earth watched that night and saw the moon split. Even if it had been related to us [that they did not see the moon split] from those whom, in any case, one does not consult since they frequently lie, there still would not be any proof in that since the moon is not in the same state for all the people of the earth. It might rise for some people before it rises for others. The moon is in a different state for people who are on the opposite side of the earth. Mountains and clouds can come between it and people. This is why we find eclipses in certain lands rather than others, and a partial eclipse in some places when it is total in others. In some places, only those who claim to have astronomical knowledge know this. “That is the determination of the Mighty, the All-Knowing.” (36:38)
Apart from all this, the sign of the moon splitting occurred at night. The custom of people at night is to be calm and still, close their doors, and not go out. What happens in the sky is hardly ever known except by those who watch and wait for it. That is why lunar eclipses occur frequently in every land but most people do not know about them unless they are told. Much of what reliable sources report about wondrous lights and luminous stars rising takes place in the sky at night but very few people have any knowledge of them.
Source: Qadhi ‘Ayyadh’s al-Shifaa’ translated by Aisha Bewley.