Every few hundred years Jupiter and Saturn meet in a conjunction. For medieval Muslim astrologers, the cycles of Jupiter and Saturn would be linked to world conquerors, messiahs, and the apocalypse.

The next Great Conjunction is on December 20th 2020.

A thread-
The Jewish-Persian astrologer Mashallah, drawing heavily from his Sassanian predecessors, argued all of world history was shaped by cycles of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions.

They would be used to explain seismic political and historical changes.
In the little conjunction of 20 yrs Jupiter Saturn would meet in a sign indicating shifts in political winds and war.

In the great conjunction of 240ish yrs they would shift triplicity indicating the fall of empires, the rise of new dynasties, & the coming of a world conqueror
And in the supreme conjunction of 900ish years Jupiter and Saturn would start the cycle all over again and a messiah or prophet would appear.
English astrologers working with translations of Abu Ma’shar predicted the Jupiter Saturn conjunction in Libra in 1186 would herald the destruction of the “Saracen” Muslims.
With glee they repeated the predictions of Corumphira who wrote of dangerous gales and mighty winds sweeping the Muslims kingdoms away, the end of the “Saracen race,” and triumph of Christianity.
Wedel writes the apocalyptic zeal led to the people of London building tunnels and trenches and waiting for mighty storms.
Change certainly came, but not what they had hoped for.

A few months after the conjunction, Saladin capitalizing on similar apocalyptic zeal marched the Muslim armies against the Crusaders and retook Jerusalem.
The Moroccan Muslim astrologer Pharamella castigated his English counterparts. He wrote they had miscalculated their horoscopes. For you see, Venus, the planet associated with Islam was not in Libra along with the pile up of Jupiter and Saturn. They had got the exact timing wrong
He exhorted them to get better at math and to spend more time reading Mashallah and Abu Ma’shar for Libra was the sign of Islam’s ascent.

The reputation of English astrologers took a bit of a hit.
A few decades later, Muslim astrologers would use the conjunction of 1226 in Aquarius to warn of the coming of the Mongols. By 1258, Baghdad was razed and the Abbasid caliphate destroyed.

Great conjunctions would come to be associated with world conquerors
In the post-caliphate world, a new type of millenarian ruler would emerge. Discussed by Moin in his excellent book, The Millennial Sovereign, these new kings would capitalize on apocalyptic and messianic sentiment to forge the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires.
Court astrologers would claim conjunctions of the planets heralded the coming of their chosen emperor.

Starting with the brutal Timur i lang, founder of the Timurids, they would bestow the title “Sahib Qiran” meaning “The Lord of the Auspicious Conjunctions.”
For Timurid astrologers, the Great conjunction in Aquarius was an omen of the ascent of Timur

The title would be applied to great historic figures like Alexander the Great, Muhammad, and Ali ibn Abi Talib in a 15th C Pseudo-Zoroastrian text on the horoscope of prophets.
But the Lord of Auspicious Conjunction would actually refer to two separate conjunctions.
The political descendent of the Timurids, the Mughals would also make use of the title. Shah Jahan would be called Sahib i Qiran sani, but the title would refer to the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, the two benefic planets.
Likely drawing heavily from the influence of Vedic astrology, Jupiter and Venus the planet of justice and beauty would signify the Lord of the Auspicious Conjunction.
Where Jupiter and Saturn conjunctions would be used in world astrology to time great historical periods, the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus would be a sign in the personal horoscope of the ruler.
Yet, apocalyptic sentiment wasn't just used by existing empires to legitimize their rule, but also by rebellious religious groups

In the 10th C, the Jupiter Saturn conjunction in Sagittarius was used by the heretical Qarmatians to justify their uprising against the Abbasids
After all in the theory of Abu Ma’shar Jupiter Saturn conjunctions also marked the rise of new religious movements—Jesus was born under a conjunction in Sagittarius (the Christmas star or star of Bethlehem) and Muhammad was born under a conjunction in Scorpio
The Qarmatians used the conjunction as a narrative tool for their movement and in explosive zeal attacked Mecca, killing pilgrims and destroying the Kaaba. It would take the Abbasids decades before they reestablished their rule.
Apocalypticism is hardly a new phenomenon and while it is easy to dismiss premodern people and their beliefs, we should be quick to remember Y2K, or the 2012 claims about Mayan prophecies.

Every generation imagines they are the last.
As @sfreynolds astutely noted earlier this week apocalypticism frequently goes hand-in-hand with empire building.

Historically, apocalyptic sentiment was capitalized on by would-be conquerors and deployed in political arenas to provide cultural justification for domination.
Humans have turned to religion, philosophy, astrology, and science to make sense of their world from time immemorial.

They’ve turned their eyes to the heavens in hope and fear, yearning to make sense of the chaos of their present and the uncertainty of their future.
As you are here, I’d like to ask you to sign the following petition in support of the religious studies department @REL_UVM at @uvmvermont who have decided to cut their program.
I’ll cover more on astrology, history, and Islam in future threads.
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