Islamic Views on the Shape of the Earth

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Taken from Zekeriya Kazvinî's "Acaib-ül Mahlûkat" (The Wonders of Creation). Translated into Turkish from Arabic. Istanbul: ca. 1553.
This map depicts "a traditional Islamic projection of the world as a flat disk surrounded by the sundering seas which are restrained by the encircling mountains of Qaf".[1]

The fact that the Earth is not flat has been known for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks had this knowledge, possibly as early as the 5th Century BC. Contrary to popular myth, the sphericity of the Earth was common knowledge among early medieval Europeans[2] and the Holy Roman Empire from as early as 395 AD used an orb to represent the spherical Earth.[3]

However, it is a common misconception that there was universal knowledge of the roundness of the Earth by the time of Muhammad. The first sections of this article will explore early Muslim beliefs about the shape of the Earth. These are informative to discussions about Islamic cosmography in general, the primary source being the Quran itself, which is examined in the remainder of the article.

It seems that despite classical and modern apologetics, there is no known evidence for a round Earth belief among the earliest Muslims, which would surely be abundant if Muhammad had such knowledge, and plenty of evidence for belief in a flat Earth. Indeed, the Qur'an itself seems to clearly maintain a flat-earth model of the planet (as well as geocentrism).

Statements of Scholarly Consensus

Knowledge of the spherical nature of the Earth was known for centuries. However, distribution of information across the world was not uniform. A commonly held stance is that Muhammad and his companions had this knowledge. Statements by ibn Taymiyyah and ibn Hazm are commonly cited for this purpose.

One Islamic fatwah website[4] (copied by others) is typical of this stance and quotes from scholars who lived hundreds of years after Muhammad in an attempt to show that there was always a Muslim consensus that the Earth is round.

ibn Taymiyyah

They first quote from a book by ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH/1328 CE), who in turn cites Abu’l-Husayn Ahmad ibn Ja‘far ibn al Munadi as saying that the scholars from the second level of the companions of Imam Ahmad (d. 241 AH / 855 CE) – i.e. the early Hanbalis – said there was consensus among the scholars that both heaven and Earth are balls, the latter based on astronomical reasoning. This evidence does not help determine earlier beliefs because from the 8th century CE Muslims had access to Greek and Indian astronomical knowledge (see below), so it is unsurprising that Muslim scholars had this view. The term 'consensus' (ijma) was used in different ways by different scholars, but essentially meant the agreement of Muslim scholars, or ideally, also of the salaf (the first three generations of Muslims)[5]. In this case it is explicitly the scholars.

They then quote ibn Taymiyyah again, who is answering a question about the shape of the heavens and Earth, this time citing Abu’l-Husayn Ahmad ibn Ja‘far ibn al Munadi (again), Abu’l-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH / 1201 CE), and ibn Hazm (d. 456 AH / 1064 CE) as saying that there is a consensus that the heavens are round (he does not say the Earth here). He says they provided evidence from the Qur'an, sunnah, and narrations from the companions (sahabah) and second generation.

Ibn Taymiyyah continues the passage[6] giving the scholarly evidence for round heavens in the Qur'an, sunnah, and narrations from the early Muslims (not included by the Islamic fatwah website, but discussed below). In between, he argues that a round heavens and Earth is supported by what specialists on tafsir and language have said about certain words in the Qur'an.

It is the hadiths and companions that are of interest for the purposes of this section (the Qur'an verses cited by ibn Taymiyyah are Quran 21:33, Quran 36:40, Quran 39:5, and Quran 67:5).

Narrations of the companions

The solitary piece of evidence that Ibn Taymiyyah brings from the companions about round heavens is that ibn 'Abbas and others said regarding Quran 36:40, which describes the heavenly bodies swimming in a falak (rounded course):

فِي فَلْكَة كَفَلْكَةِ الْمِغْزَل

fee falka, ka-falkati almighzal

in a whirl (whorl), like the whirl of a spindle
al-Tabari and ibn Kathir Tafsirs for 36:40[7]

See the comments and footnotes about falak in the article Geocentrism and the Quran (a whirl was a small wheel or hemisphere that span around a spindle[8]). Given that the sun and moon appear both to arc across the sky, even to those who imagined the Earth was flat and the heavens a dome (or a sphere), such people would also imagine some path for them continuing beneath the Earth after they have set so they can return whence they came (as also in the hadith from Abu Dharr discussed later in this article). Indeed, this is precisely what we read from ibn 'Abbas as noted by ibn Kathir in his Tafsir for Quran 31:29. The sun runs in its falak (فَلَكهَا) in the sky / heaven (السَّمَاء) during the day, and when it sets it runs during the night (بِاللَّيْلِ - omitted from the translation) in its falak beneath the Earth until it rises from its rising place (من مشرقها - mistranslated below as "in the east")[9]

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn ’Abbas said, “The sun is like flowing water, running in its course in the sky during the day. When it sets, it travels in its course beneath the earth until it rises in the east.” He said, “The same is true in the case of the moon.” Its chain of narration is Sahih.

The evidence from the companions presented by ibn Taymiyyah about the shape of the heavens is therefore ambiguous, and says nothing directly nor indirectly about the shape of the Earth.


Ibn Taymiyyah then mentions the hadith in Sunan Abu Dawud (graded weak) Sunan Abu Dawud 4726 (Dar-us-Salam Ref) in which Muhammad forms a dome with his fingers above his head when saying that Allah's throne is above the heavens. Ibn Taymiyyah's interpretation is that the throne is dome shaped.

The other hadith he mentions is in Sahih Bukhari, which says:

if you ask Allah for anything, ask Him for the Firdaus, for it is the last part of Paradise and the highest part of Paradise, and at its top there is the Throne of Beneficent, and from it gush forth the rivers of Paradise. [the word translated 'last' means middle].

Ibn Taymiyyah then says that a middle only exists in a round thing. He does not explain how these demonstrate that the heavens are spherical.

Ibn Hazm

The Islamic fatwah website then quotes one of the three that ibn Taymiyyah cited, ibn Hazm, who said that there is sound evidence that the Earth is round, but the common people and some non-leading Muslim scholars thought otherwise, though none of the leading scholars denied that the Earth is round.

This reveals that uneducated people (as were Muhammad and the sahabah) thought the Earth to be flat even in ibn Hazm's day. His statement provides no evidence that the earliest scholars actually said the Earth is round (just that leading scholars didn't say it was flat). It is apparent from their statements that Ibn Hazm and the other followers of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal mentioned above believed in a round Earth for astronomical reasons, even if some of them attempted to find further backup from the Qur'an and sunnah.

Given that Ibn Taymiyyah cited these scholars, the narrations he used to support spherical heavens (when asked about the shape of both the heavens and Earth), were probably the best available. Stronger evidence might be expected if a consensus for a round Earth went back to Muhammad and the companions.

In Tafsir al-Jalalayn, which was written centuries later, has a different claim of consensus. For Quran 88:20 we read the following:

As for His words sutihat ‘laid out flat’ this on a literal reading suggests that the earth is flat which is the opinion of most of the scholars of the revealed Law and not a sphere as astronomers (ahl al-hay’a) have it even if this latter does not contradict any of the pillars of the Law.

For details on this word, sutihat, in verse 88:20, see below.

Similarly, ibn Kathir says the heavens are a dome or roof or like the floors of a building over the Earth which is its foundation in his tafsir for verses 2:29, 13:2, 21:32, 36:38, and 41:9-12.

Other examples of such scholars include Al-Qurtubi (d.671 AH / 1273 CE) and Al-Mawardi (d. 450 / 1058 CE) who both in their tafsirs use Quran 13:3 as a reply to those who say the Earth is shaped like a ball.[10][11]

The website goes on to quote from a 20th century book of fatwas, which claims that the Earth is egg shaped and also makes an argument using verse 39:5, both of which are discussed in the article Flat Earth and the Quran.

Acquisition of Greek and Indian astronomical knowledge

Ptolemy’s Almagest was translated into Arabic in the 8th century CE after the Qur’an was completed. Ptolemy recorded in book five of his AlMagest in the mid-2nd century CE the discovery of Hipparchus, and of Aristarchus before him, that the sun is much larger than the earth and much more distant than the moon, and the Aristotelian view that Earth was spherical and the heavens were celestial spheres.[12]

Professor Kevin Van Bladel says:

When the worldview of educated Muslims after the establishment of the Arab Empire came to incorporate principles of astrology including the geocentric, spherical, Aristotelian-Ptolemaic world picture – particularly after the advent of the ‘Abbāsid dynasty in 750 – the meaning of these passages came to be interpreted in later Islamic tradition not according to the biblical-quranic cosmology, which became obsolete, but according to the Ptolemaic model, according to which the Quran itself came to be interpreted.[13]

Earlier in the same paper, Van Bladel describes how Christian theologians in the region of Syria in the sixth century CE shared the view that the Earth was flat and the heaven, or series of heavens was like a dome or tent above the Earth, based on their reading of the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures. This was a rival view to that of the churchmen of Alexandria who supported the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic view of a spherical Earth surrounded by spinning celestial spheres. See the footnote below[14] for excerpts of that chapter, which he summarizes by saying:

Clearly the Ptolemaic cosmology was not taken for granted in the Aramaean part of Asia in the sixth century. It was, rather, controversial.

David A. King writes:

The Arabs of the Arabian peninsula before Islam possessed a simple yet developed astronomical folklore of a practical nature. This involved a knowledge of the risings and settings of stars, associated in particular with the cosmical setting of groups of stars and simultaneous heliacal risings of others, which marked the beginning of periods called naw’, plural anwā’. […] Ptolemy’s Almagest was translated at least five times in the late eighth and ninth centuries. The first was a translation into Syriac and the others into Arabic, the first two under Caliph al-Ma’mūn in the middle of the first half of the ninth century, and the other two (the second an improvement of the first) towards the end of that century […] In this way Greek planetary models, uranometry and mathematical methods came to the attention of the Muslims.[15]

Hoskin and Gingerich say:

In 762 [Muhammad’s] successors in the Middle East founded a new capital, Baghdad, by the river Tigris at the point of nearest approach of the Euphrates, and within reach of the Christian physicians of Jundishapur. Members of the Baghdad court called on them for advice, and these encounters opened the eyes of prominent Muslims to the existence of a legacy of intellectual treasures from Antiquity - most of which were preserved in manuscripts lying in distant libraries and written in a foreign tongue. Harun al-Rashid (caliph from 786) and his successors sent agents to the Byzantine empire to buy Greek manuscripts, and early in the ninth century a translation centre, the House of Wisdom, was established in Baghdad by the Caliph al-Ma’mun. […] Long before translations began, a rich tradition of folk astronomy already existed in the Arabian peninsula. This merged with the view of the heavens in Islamic commentaries and treatises, to create a simple cosmology based on the actual appearances of the sky and unsupported by any underlying theory.[16]

Flat Earth in the Hadiths

The quotes below are relevant to commonplace beliefs about the shape of the Earth among the earliest Muslims. For the same reason, it matters little whether the hadiths are authentic or not; either way they demonstrate beliefs of early Muslims.

Narrated Salim's father (i.e. `Abdullah): The Prophet said, "Whoever takes a piece of the land of others unjustly, he will sink down the seven earths on the Day of Resurrection."

These are seven flat earths, not spherical layers (طوّقه means put on a neck-ring[17]):

Narrated Sa`id bin Zaid:

Allah's Messenger said, "Whoever usurps the land of somebody unjustly, his neck will be encircled with it down the seven earths (on the Day of Resurrection). "

Sa'id b. Zaid reported: I heard Allah's Apostle say: He who took a span of earth wrongly would be made to wear around his neck seven earths on the Day of Resurrection.

This next hadith is on the same topic. It is graded daif (weak), but shows what some early Muslims (if not actually Muhammad) thought about the world:

...Then he said: ‘Do you know what is under you?’ They said: ‘Allah and His Messenger know better.’ He said: ‘Indeed it is the earth.’ Then he said: ‘Do you know what is under that?’ They said: ‘Allah and His Messenger know better.’ He said: ‘Verily, below it is another earth, between the two of which is a distance of five-hundred years.’ Until he enumerated seven earths: ‘Between every two earths is a distance of five-hundred years.’...

The following hadith is graded Sahih by Dar-us-Salam (Hafiz Zubair 'Ali Za'i) and has a chain of narration graded as Sahih (authentic) by al-Albani. It is from Sunan Abu Dawud, book XXV - Kitab Al-Ahruf Wa Al-Qira’at (Book of Dialects and Readings Of The Qur’an):

Narrated Abu Dharr: I was sitting behind the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) who was riding a donkey while the sun was setting. He asked: Do you know where this sets ? I replied: Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: It sets in a spring of warm water (Hamiyah).

Notice that the next hadith below says, "from its rising place" (min matli'iha مَطْلِعِهَا ), and "from the place of your setting" (min maghribiki مِنْ مَغْرِبِكِ). The sun is commanded to go somewhere – it cannot be claimed that this is an idiomatic way of commanding the Earth to rotate, nor that the words mean the east and west here (despite mistranslations of similar hadiths), not least because the words al mashriq and al maghrib would have been used for that purpose and without the possessive suffixes. The words used in this hadith must refer to the sun’s rising and setting places.

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) one day said: Do you know where the sun goes? They replied: Allah and His Apostle know best. He (the Holy Prophet) observed: Verily it (the sun) glides till it reaches its resting place under the Throne. Then it falls prostrate and remains there until it is asked: Rise up and go to the place whence you came, and it goes back and continues emerging out from its rising place and then glides till it reaches its place of rest under the Throne and falls prostrate and remains in that state until it is asked: Rise up and return to the place whence you came, and it returns and emerges out from it rising place and the it glides (in such a normal way) that the people do not discern anything ( unusual in it) till it reaches its resting place under the Throne. Then it would be said to it: Rise up and emerge out from the place of your setting, and it will rise from the place of its setting. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said. Do you know when it would happen? It would happen at the time when faith will not benefit one who has not previously believed or has derived no good from the faith.[18]

This next hadith is relevant because on a flat Earth night begins for everyone at the same time.

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Allah descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the first part of the night is over and says: I am the Lord; I am the Lord: who is there to supplicate Me so that I answer him? Who is there to beg of Me so that I grant him? Who is there to beg forgiveness from Me so that I forgive him? He continues like this till the day breaks.
Thauban reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Allah drew the ends of the world near one another for my sake. And I have seen its eastern and western ends….
It was narrated from Sahl bin Sa’d As-Sa’idi that the Messenger of Allah said: “There is no (pilgrim) who recites the Talbiyah but that which is to his right and left also recites it, rocks and trees and hills, to the farthest ends of the earth in each direction, from here and from there.”

Flat Earth in Tafsirs

The spring where the sun sets

In the tafsir of al-Tabari (b. 224 AH / 839 CE) for Quran 18:86, we see the following remarks about the nature of the spring into which the sun sets. The similar sounding words hami'ah (muddy) and hamiyah (hot) seem to have become confused at some point:

الْقَوْل فِي تَأْوِيل قَوْله تَعَالَى : { حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِب الشَّمْس وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُب فِي عَيْن حَمِئَة }

يَقُول تَعَالَى ذِكْره : { حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَ } ذُو الْقَرْنَيْنِ { مَغْرِب الشَّمْس وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُب فِي عَيْن حَمِئَة } , فَاخْتَلَفَتْ الْقُرَّاء فِي قِرَاءَة ذَلِكَ , فَقَرَأَهُ بَعْض قُرَّاء الْمَدِينَة وَالْبَصْرَة : { فِي عَيْن حَمِئَة } بِمَعْنَى : أَنَّهَا تَغْرُب فِي عَيْن مَاء ذَات حَمْأَة , وَقَرَأَتْهُ جَمَاعَة مِنْ قُرَّاء الْمَدِينَة , وَعَامَّة قُرَّاء الْكُوفَة : " فِي عَيْن حَامِيَة " يَعْنِي أَنَّهَا تَغْرُب فِي عَيْن مَاء حَارَّة . وَاخْتَلَفَ أَهْل التَّأْوِيل فِي تَأْوِيلهمْ ذَلِكَ عَلَى نَحْو اِخْتِلَاف الْقُرَّاء فِي قِرَاءَته

The meaning of the Almighty’s saying, ‘Until he reached the place of the setting of the sun he found it set in a spring of murky water,’ is as follows:

When the Almighty says, ‘Until he reached,’ He is addressing Zul-Qarnain. Concerning the verse, ‘the place of the setting of the sun he found it set in a spring of murky water,’ the people differed on how to pronounce that verse. Some of the people of Madina and Basra read it as ‘Hami’a spring,’ meaning that the sun sets in a spring that contains mud. While a group of the people of Medina and the majority of the people of Kufa read it as, ‘Hamiya spring’ meaning that the sun sets in a spring of warm water. The people of commentary have differed on the meaning of this depending on the way they read the verse.

So he says of the Basra version:

بـمعنى: أنها تغرب فـي عين ماء ذات حمأة Meaning: that it sets in a spring of muddy water.

And of the people of Kufa reading hot spring:

يعنـي أنها تغرب فـي عين ماء حارّة It means that it sets in a spring of hot water

He goes on to quote various opinions such as Ibn 'Abbas, that the sun sets in black mud:

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّد بْن عَبْد الْأَعْلَى , قَالَ : ثنا مَرْوَان بْن مُعَاوِيَة , عَنْ وَرْقَاء , قَالَ : سَمِعْت سَعِيد بْن جُبَيْر ,

قَالَ : كَانَ اِبْن عَبَّاس يَقْرَأ هَذَا الْحَرْف { فِي عَيْن حَمِئَة }

Muhammad bin 'Abd al-A'laa narrated and said: Marwan ibn Mu'awiya narrated from Warqa, he said: I heard Sa'id ibn Jubayr say: ibn 'Abbas read this letter "in a muddy spring"

وَيَقُول : حَمْأَة سَوْدَاء تَغْرُب فِيهَا الشَّمْس

and he said: the sun sets in black mud.

وَقَالَ آخَرُونَ : بَلْ هِيَ تَغِيب فِي عَيْن حَارَّة

Others said: it disappears (تَغِيب) in a hot spring.

From these comments and narrations in al-Tabari's tafsir, we can reasonably conclude that many, and perhaps all, of the earliest Muslims took verse 18:86 to mean that the sun actually sets in a spring and thus that the Earth is flat.

If the reader wishes to explore this sub-topic further, they can see how al-Tabari in his History of the Prophets and Kings, and al-Baydawi in his tafsir mention the opinion that the sun has 360 springs into which it can set, and the pre-Islamic Arab poems on the same topic in the article Dhu'l Qarnayn and the Sun Setting in a Muddy Spring.

The sky is a dome above the Earth

In his tafsir for Quran 2:22, al-Tabari includes narrations from some of the earliest Muslims about the sky being a dome or ceiling over the Earth:

حَدَّثَنِي مُوسَى بْن هَارُونَ , قَالَ : حَدَّثَنَا عَمْرو بْن حَمَّاد , قَالَ : حَدَّثَنَا أَسْبَاط , عَنْ السُّدِّيّ فِي خَبَر ذَكَرَهُ , عَنْ أَبِي مَالِك , وَعَنْ أَبِي صَالِح , عَنْ ابْن عَبَّاس , وَعَنْ مُرَّة , عَنْ ابْن مَسْعُود وَعَنْ نَاس مِنْ أَصْحَاب النَّبِيّ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : { وَالسَّمَاء بِنَاء } , فَبِنَاء السَّمَاء عَلَى الْأَرْض كَهَيْئَةِ الْقُبَّة , وَهِيَ سَقْف عَلَى الْأَرْض .وَحَدَّثَنَا بِشْر بْن مُعَاذ , قَالَ : حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيد , عَنْ سَعِيد , عَنْ قَتَادَةَ فِي قَوْل اللَّه { وَالسَّمَاء بِنَاء } قَالَ : جَعَلَ السَّمَاء سَقْفًا لَك .

Musa ibn Harun narrated and said that Amru ibn Hammad narrated and said that Asbath narrated from al-Suddi in the report mentioned, from Abu Malik, and from Abu Salih, from ibn 'Abbas and from Murrah, from ibn Masud and from people of the companions of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

"...and the sky a canopy..." The canopy of the sky over the earth is in the form of a dome, and it is a roof over the earth. And Bishr bin Mu'az narrated and said from Yazid from Sa'id from Qatada in the words of Allah "...and the sky a canopy..." He says he makes the sky your roof.

Ibn Kathir in his tafsir for Quran 13:2 has yet more narrations of the sahabah and tabi'un (2nd generation) on this topic:

Allah said next, (..without any pillars that you can see.) meaning, `there are pillars, but you cannot see them,' according to Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, and several other scholars. Iyas bin Mu`awiyah said, "The heaven is like a dome over the earth," meaning, without pillars. Similar was reported from Qatadah, and this meaning is better for this part of the Ayah, especially since Allah said in another Ayah, (He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth except by His permission.) 22:65 Therefore, Allah's statement, (..that you can see), affirms that there are no pillars. Rather, the heaven is elevated (above the earth) without pillars, as you see. This meaning best affirms Allah's ability and power.

Seven Flat Earths

Ibn Kathir recorded that Mujahid said that the seven heavens and the seven Earths are on top of one another. This belief is also apparent in some of the narrations in the Hadiths section above.

(And made them seven heavens) means, one above the other, while the `seven earths' means, one below the other.

The Earth on the back of a whale

Al-Tabari's tafsir contains other indications of a common flat Earth belief. For example, regarding Quran 68:1, which mysteriously starts with the Arabic letter nun, he (and many other tafsirs) records that one of the interpretations among sahabah such as ibn 'Abbas was that the 'nun' is a whale on whose back the Earth is carried (other interpretations were that it was an inkwell, or a name of Allah). The evidence is extensively documented on other websites including narrations with sahih chains from the sahabah, so the interested reader is referred to them.[19][20][21]

Flat Earth in the Qur'an

In this analysis, we look at direct references to the shape of the Earth in the Qur'an. Verse 88:20 is particularly worth highlighting for its use of a word that was deeply associated with flat surfaces.

Arabic word definitions in English are from Lane's Lexicon of classical Arabic (not to be confused with modern Arabic). Note that the Arabic word al-ard can mean the land or the Earth. However, it is perfectly obvious from the context that in the verses below al-ard means the entire Earth, not a local area of land.

The section after this one discusses indirect evidence that the Qur'an supports a flat Earth model, and perhaps contains even stronger evidence than the direct statements below.

Qur'an 2:22 - firashan (thing spread to sit or lie upon)

ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلْأَرْضَ فِرَٰشًا وَٱلسَّمَآءَ بِنَآءً وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مَآءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِۦ مِنَ ٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ رِزْقًا لَّكُمْ ۖ فَلَا تَجْعَلُوا۟ لِلَّهِ أَندَادًا وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

Allathee jaAAala lakumu alarda firashan

[He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him].

فِرَٰشًا = firashan = a thing that is spread upon the ground, a thing that is spread for one to sit or lie upon.[22]

Qur'an 15:19 - madad (extend, stretch out)

والارض مددناها والقينا فيها رواسي وانبتنا فيها من كل شئ موزون

Waal-arda madadnaha waalqayna feeha rawasiya waanbatnafeeha min kulli shay-in mawzoonin

And the earth We have spread out (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.

مَدَدْ = madad = extend by drawing or pulling, stretch out, expand[23]

Qur'an 20:53 - mahdan (bed)

الذي جعل لكم الارض مهدا وسلك لكم فيها سبلا وانزل من السماء ماء فاخرجنا به ازواجا من نبات شتى

Allathee jaAAala lakumu al-arda mahdan wasalaka lakum feeha subulan waanzala mina alssama-imaan faakhrajna bihi azwajan min nabatinshatta

He Who has, made for you the earth like a carpet spread out; has enabled you to go about therein by roads (and channels); and has sent down water from the sky." With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from the others.

مَهْدًا = mahdan = cradle or bed; a plain, even, or smooth expanse[24]

Qur'an 43:10 - mahdan (bed)

الذي جعل لكم الارض مهدا وجعل لكم فيها سبلا لعلكم تهتدون

Allathee jaAAala lakumu al-arda mahdan wajaAAala lakum feeha subulan laAAallakum tahtadoona

(Yea, the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out, and has made for you roads (and channels) therein, in order that ye may find guidance (on the way);

مَهْدًا = mahdan = cradle or bed; a plain, even, or smooth expanse[25]

Qur'an 50:7 - madad (expand, stretch out)

والارض مددناها والقينا فيها رواسي وانبتنا فيها من كل زوج بهيج

Waal-arda madadnaha waalqayna feeha rawasiya waanbatnafeeha min kulli zawjin baheejin

And the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)-

مَدَدْ = madad = extend by drawing or pulling, stretch out, expand[26]

Qur'an 51:48 - farasha (spread out) mahidoon (spreaders)

والارض فرشناها فنعم الماهدون

Waal-arda farashnaha faniAAma almahidoona

And the earth have We laid out, how gracious is the Spreader (thereof)!

فَرَشَْ = farasha (see also 2:22 above for the noun) = spread or expand, spread a bed or carpet[27]

الْمَهِدُونَ = mahidoon from مهد = make plain, even, smooth, spread a bed[28]

There is also a hadith in which the plural noun furushaat is used, meaning "beds":

It was narrated from Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “I see what you do not see, and I hear what you do not hear. The heaven is creaking and it should creak, for there is no space in it the width of four fingers but there is an angel there, prostrating to Allah. By Allah, if you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much, and you would never enjoy women in your beds (الْفُرُشَاتِ, al-furushaat), and you would go out in the streets, beseeching Allah.’”

Sunan Ibn Majah 5:37:4190

Qur'an 71:19 - bisaatan (carpet)

والله جعل لكم الارض بساطا

WaAllahu jaAAala lakumu al-arda bisatan

And Allah has made the earth for you as a carpet (spread out),

بِسَاطًا = bisaatan = A thing that is spread or spread out or forth, and particularly a carpet (from the same root we also have بَسَاطٌ = bisaatun = Land, expanded and even; and wide or spacious) [29]

This word is also used in a hadith in At-Tirmidhi:

... Then he came to hug the Prophet (s.a.w) and uttered that his father and mother should be ransomed for him. Then he went to grove of his and he spread out a mat for them (فَبَسَطَ لَهُمْ بِسَاطًا, fa-basata la-hum bisaatan, literally "and-(he)spread for-them a-mat"). Then he went to a date-palm and returned with a cluster of dates which he put down. ...

Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2369

So the derived verb basata refers to spreading out (thus flattening) a carpet.

Qur'an 78:6-7 - mihadan (bed)

أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ ٱلْأَرْضَ مِهَٰدًا وَٱلْجِبَالَ أَوْتَادًا

Alam najAAali al-arda mihadan Waaljibala awtadan

Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse, And the mountains as pegs?

مِهَٰدًا (same as مَهْدًا mahdan) = cradle or bed; a plain, even, or smooth expanse[30]

Qur'an 79:30 - daha (spread out or ostrich egg?)

Many Islamist apologists attempt to deflect criticism that the Qur'an promotes the mistaken belief of a flat earth by the word دَحَىٰهَآ (dahaha) used in Qur'an 79:30, commonly translated as ‘He spread it’ or ‘He stretched it’.

Arabic: والارض بعد ذلك دحاها

Transliteration: Waal-arda baAAda thalika dahaha

Literal: And the earth/Planet Earth after that He stretched/spread it. [31]

Word by word:

  • وَٱلْأَرْضَ
    • وَ - wa - and
    • ٱلْ - al - the
    • أَرْضَ - ard - Earth
      • feminine in Arabic
  • بَعْدَ - ba'ada - after
  • ذَٰلِكَ - dhalika - that
  • دَحَىٰهَآ
    • دَحَىٰ - dahaa - (he) spread
    • هَآ - ha - her
      • or "it" in the English translation, referring to the Earth.

دَحَىٰهَآ is a verb with a suffixed pronoun, so it cannot mean a noun "ostrich egg". In the apologist interpretation the verb would have to mean "he made it in a shape of an ostrich egg". It is absurd to think that such a little word could mean something so complex.

The هَا (-ha) suffix pronoun meaning literally "her" is also repeated in the surrounding verses as a literary device:

أَأَنْتُمْ أَشَدُّ خَلْقًا أَمِ السَّمَاءُ ۚ بَنَاهَا 79:27 Aantum ashaddu khalqan ami alssamao banaha

79:28 رَفَعَ سَمْكَهَا فَسَوَّاهَا RafaAAa samkaha fasawwaha

79:29 وَأَغْطَشَ لَيْلَهَا وَأَخْرَجَ ضُحَاهَا Waaghtasha laylaha waakhraja duhaha

79:30 وَالْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ دَحَاهَا Waalarda baAAda thalika dahaha

79:31 أَخْرَجَ مِنْهَا مَاءَهَا وَمَرْعَاهَا Akhraja minha maaha wamarAAaha

79:32 وَالْجِبَالَ أَرْسَاهَا Waaljibala arsaha

So the -ha in 79:30 is a pronoun as well as in other verses and the pronoun is completely missing in the translation "ostrich egg".

Qur'an Translations

Yusuf Ali: And the earth, moreover, hath He extended (to a wide expanse); [31]
Pickthal: And after that He spread the earth, [31]
Arberry: and the earth-after that He spread it out, [31]
Shakir: And the earth, He expanded it after that. [31]
Sarwar: After this, He spread out the earth, [31]
Hilali/Khan: And after that He spread the earth; [31]
Malik: After that He spread out the earth, [31]
Maulana Ali: And the earth, He cast it after that. [31]
Free Minds: And the land after that He spread out. [31]

Some translations have attempted to translate the word dahaha to mean made egg-shaped or like an ‘ostrich egg’.

Khalifa: He made the earth egg-shaped. [31]
QXP: And after that He made the earth shoot out from the Cosmic Nebula and made it spread out egg-shaped. ('Dahaha' entails all the meanings rendered (21:30), (41:11)). [31]

Apologetic Claims

Anyway, to answer your question about why did Allah Almighty use the word "dahaha" in Noble Verse 79:30, well it's because the word is the most precise out of all. It describes the roundness and the flatness of the earth at once. [33]

Some will also falsely claim that the root word for dahaha is duhiya, which they claim means ostrich egg.

4. Earth is geo-spherical in shape

The Qur’an mentions the actual shape of the earth in the following verse:

“And we have made the earth egg shaped”. [Al-Qur’an 79:30]

The Arabic word Dahaha means egg shaped. It also means an expanse. Dahaha is derived from Duhiya which specifically refers to the egg of an ostrich which is geospherical in shape, exactly like the shape of the earth.

Thus the Qur’an and modern established science are in perfect harmony.[34]

A further apologetic is to point to a game played by Meccans in their attempt to link dahaha with roundness.

In 79:30, Allah says,

[Transliteration] Waal-arda baAAda thalika dahaha [79:30]

The key word in the above verse is “dahaha”. In Arabic, there is a phrase, “iza dahaha” which means “when he throws the stones over the ground to the hole”. The hole is called “Udhiyatun”. “Almadahi” signify round stones according to the size of which a hole is dug in the ground in which the stones are thrown in a game. “Almadahi” also signify a round thing made of lead by the throwing of which persons contend together. So there is a signification of ROUNDNESS in the root of the word “dahaha”. According to some etymologists, the word for the “egg of an ostrich” also has the same root as “dahaha”. They also take from this that the earth is of the shape of the egg of an ostrich. Latest science findings confirm that the earth is not exactly spherical but the earth is an ellipsoid, i.e. flattened by its poles,[ just like the shape of an egg of an ostrich].

The Arabic words for “flat” or “level” or “straight shaped” are “sawi” and “almustavi”. There is not a single place in Quran where there is any indication of the earth being “flat” or “straight shaped”. The word “faraash” in 2:22, 51:48; the word “wasia” in 4:97, 29:56, 30:10; the word “mahd” in 20:53, 43:10, 78:6; the word “basaat” in 71:19; the word “suttihat” in 88:20; and the word “tahaaha” in 91:6, all may mean, “to spread”, “to expand” or “to extend” with slight differences in their connotations but none signify the earth being straight-shaped or flat.[35]

One of the meanings of dahaha is to 'throw' and that is the derivation of the words 'almadahi and udhiyatun'. It is not anything to do with their shape. In any case, the contention that almadahi and udhiyatun conveys the concept of roundness which they link to the root of dahaha is false for the reason that the 'roundness' of the almadahi and udhiyatun is only in two dimensions. The almadahi is round like a piece of Arab bread (i.e. shaped like a disc) and the udhiyatun is also round in two dimensions.

Oblate and prolate spheroids

There are two problems with the egg-shaped Earth claim. One is that their statements about the words daha and duhiya are false, as proven further below. But even if they were right about that, it would prove the Qur'an to be incorrect because while the Earth and an ostrich egg are both spheroids, they are of fundamentally different types of spheroid.

An oblate spheroid (top left), a prolate spheroid (bottom left), and an ostrich egg, which is a prolate spheroid however you hold it

The Earth is very nearly, but not absolutely a perfect sphere. It is in fact an oblate spheroid, which means that the radius from its centre to either of its two poles is shorter than the radius to the equator. In other words, there is a very slight bulge around the equator. The radius from the centre of the Earth to the north or south poles is 6,357km, and the radius from the centre to the equator is 6,378km, a difference of less than 1 percent. This is caused by the rotation of the Earth around its polar axis, which produces a centripetal force that is greatest at the equator.

An ostrich egg, much like all eggs, can be described as a prolate spheroid. This is because the radius from its centre to either of its two poles is longer than the radius to the equator, as though it were a sphere that had been pulled from two ends. It certainly is not an oblate spheroid. You can see in the image an oblate spheroid (top left), and a prolate spheroid (bottom left). Even holding an egg on its side (top), you cannot make it look like an oblate spheroid in 3D. The shape of the ostrich egg is in fact like a prolate spheroid (bottom). No matter how you hold the egg, it is a prolate spheroid and not an oblate spheroid.

In a flat 2d image without texture or shading oblate and prolate spheroids might look the same, but in three dimensions you cannot make one look like the other no matter how you turn it. They are fundamentally different shapes.

Daha and Duhiya

In Arabic, each word must be derived from its root. The root usually consists of three letters that can be manipulated, by adding vowels, prefixes and suffixes in order to produce different words with different meanings. For example, "ka-ta-ba" (to write) is the root for many words such as kitab (book), maktaba (library), katib (author), maktoob (written), kitabat (writings) et cetera.

Let's now take the word claimed to mean egg of an ostrich, "Duhiya". This word is not a root. It is a noun and is derived from "da-ha-wa" (دحو)[36], the same root that the verb "dahaha" (دَحَىٰهَآ) in 79:30 comes from (the 'ha' at the end there is just a pronoun suffix meaning 'it'). Furthermore, Duhiya does not even mean the egg of an ostrich. This is what the most respected dictionaries have to say on this subject:

Lisan Al Arab
الأُدْحِيُّ و الإدْحِيُّ و الأُدْحِيَّة و الإدْحِيَّة و الأُدْحُوّة مَبِيض النعام في الرمل , وزنه أُفْعُول من ذلك , لأَن النعامة تَدْحُوه برِجْلها ثم تَبِيض فيه وليس للنعام عُشٌّ . و مَدْحَى النعام : موضع بيضها , و أُدْحِيُّها موضعها الذي تُفَرِّخ فيه .ِ

Translation: Al-udhy, Al-idhy, Al-udhiyya, Al-idhiyya, Al-udhuwwa:The place in sand where an ostrich lays its egg. That's because the ostrich spreads out (تَدْحُوه, tadhooh) the earth with its feet then lays its eggs there, an ostrich doesn't have a nest.

الدَّحْوُ البَسْطُ . دَحَا الأَرضَ يَدْحُوها دَحْواً بَسَطَها . وقال الفراء في قوله والأَرض بعد ذلك دَحاها قال : بَسَطَها ; قال شمر : وأَنشدتني أَعرابية : الحمدُ لله الذي أَطاقَا

بَنَى السماءَ فَوْقَنا طِباقَا

ثم دَحا الأَرضَ فما أَضاقا

قال شمر : وفسرته فقالت دَحَا الأَرضَ أَوْسَعَها ; وأَنشد ابن بري لزيد بن عمرو بن نُفَيْل : دَحَاها , فلما رآها اسْتَوَتْ

على الماء , أَرْسَى عليها الجِبالا

و دَحَيْتُ الشيءَ أَدْحاهُ دَحْياً بَسَطْته , لغة في دَحَوْتُه ; حكاها اللحياني . وفي حديث عليّ وصلاتهِ , اللهم دَاحِيَ المَدْحُوَّاتِ يعني باسِطَ الأَرَضِينَ ومُوَسِّعَها , ويروى ; دَاحِيَ المَدْحِيَّاتِ . و الدَّحْوُ البَسْطُ . يقال : دَحَا يَدْحُو و يَدْحَى أَي بَسَطَ ووسع

Translation: To daha the earth: means to spread it out. Then it mentions a couple of Arabic poems that confirm this meaning. Anyone who can read Arabic will find this to be the definitive proof that Daha means to spread out.

Al Qamoos Al Muheet
(دَحَا): الله الأرضَ (يَدْحُوهَا وَيَدْحَاهَا دَحْواً) بَسَطَها

Translation: Allah daha the Earth: He spread it out.

Al Waseet
دَحَا الشيءَ: بسطه ووسعه. يقال: دحا اللهُ الأَرض

Translation: To daha something: means to spread it out. For example: Allah daha the Earth.

Lane's Lexicon
Dahw (دحو)

1. Daha (., MM_b;,, 1,) first pers. Dahouth aor, yad'hoo inf. N. dahoo He spread; spread out, or forth; expanded; or extended; (S, Msb, K; ) a thing; (K; ) and, when said of God, the earth; (Fr, S, Mb, 1V; ) As also daha first pers. dahaithu (K in art. daha) aor. yaad’heae inf. n. dahae: (Msb, and K in art. dahae : ) or He (God) made the earth wide, or ample; as explained by an Arab woman of the desert to Sh: (TA : ) also, said of an ostrich, (S, TA,) he expanded, and made wide, (TA,) with his foot, or leg, the place where he was about to deposit his eggs: (S, TA : ) and, said of a man, he spread, &c., and made plain, even, or smooth. (TA in art. dhaha ) - Also, said of a man, (K,,) aor. yad’hoo, inf. n. dahwu(TA,) i.q. Jamie as also daja; on the authority of 1Abr. (TA.) (You say, dhahaha He compressed her; like as you say, dhajaha.) _ Also He threw, or cast, and impelled, propelled, oi removed from its place, a stone, with his hand (TA.) One says also, to him who is playing with walnuts, abidil maddha va adhhuhu, meaning (Make thou the distance far, and) throw it. (S,TA.: See also midh’hath, in two places. And of a torrent one says, dhaha bilbat’hai It cast along (the soft earth and pebbles in its course; or drove then along). (TA.) And of rain, one says, dhaha Al hissa an waj’hil Ardhi (S,Msb) It drove the pebbles from the surface of the earth; (Msb; ) or removed them. (TA.) (See also dhaha, in the next art.) And aldhahwu bilhijarathi also signifies The vying, one with another, in throwing stones, and striving to surpass (in doing so); as also al Midahath (inf. n- of dahee). (TA marra yad’hoo inf.n. dahow said of a horse, He went along throwing out his fore legs without raising his hoofs much from the ground. (S,TA.) = dhahal bathan The belly was, or became, large, and hanging down; (Kr, K; ) and Indhahee (the belly) was, or became, wide, or distended: (MF : ) or both signify it (the belly) became swollen, or inflated, or big,. and hung down, by reason of fatness or disease; as also Dhau and Indah (TA in art dooh.) 3. Dhahee inf.n. Mudahath: see 1. 5. Thud'hee He spread out, or extended, himself; syn. Thabassuth. (K: in art. Daha.) You say, nama fulan fathadhahha Such a one slept, and (extended himself so that he) lay upon a vide space of ground (TA in that art.) - And thadhahhathil ibilu fil ardhi The camels made hollows in the ground where they lay down, it being soft; leaving therein cavities like those of bellies: thus they do only when they are fat. (El-'Itreefee, TA in art. Daha. ) 7. see 1, last sentence. 9. id'havi (of the measure if’alath for if’alle like Ar’awa) It (a thing, TA) was, or became, spread, spread out or forth, expanded, or extended. (K.)

Dhahin (act. part n. of 1). Allahumma dhahil Mad’huwwath in a prayer of ‘Alee, means O God, the Spreader and Expander of the (seven) earths: (TA : ) al Mdhuwwath (properly) signifies the things that are spread, &c.; as also Al Mudh’hiyyath. (TA in art. dhaha ) _ Al’Matharuddahee The rain that removes (or drives) the pebbles from the surface of the earth. (TA.)

Ud'hiyy (S.K) (Originally od'huwa of the measure Uf’ool from dhahaithu but said in the S to be of that measure from dhahouthu the dial. var. dhahaithu not being there mentioned,) and and id’hiyy and Ud’hiyyath and ud’huwwath (K) The place of the laying of eggs, (S, K,) and of the hatching thereof, (S,) , of the ostrich, (S. K. ) in the sand; (K; ) because that bird expands it, and makes it wide, with its foot, or leg; for the ostrich has no (nest such as is termed) Ush (S: ) pl. Adahin (TA in the present art.) and Adahee (i. e., if not a mistranscription, Adahiyyu agreeably with the sing.): (TA in art. dhaha and mudhhiyya (likewise) signifies the place of the eggs of the ostrich. (S.) (Hence,) binthu Adh’hiyyathun A female ostrich. (TA.)_(Hence also,) Al Udkhiyyu and Al Id’hiyyu A certain Mansion of the Moon, (K, TA,) (namely, the Twenty-first Mansion,) between the Na’aai’m sa’dha zabih (more commonly) called Al Baldath likened to the Adhahhee of the ostrich. (TA.)

Ud’huwwath and udh’hiyyath: see the next preceding paragraph, in three places: - and for the latter, see also mid’hath, below.

Mad’han see ud’hiyy

Mid’hath A wooden thing with which a child is driven along (yud’ha), and which, passing over the ground, sweeps away everything against which it comes (K, TA.) - Accord. to Sh, A certain thing with which the people of Mekkeh play: he says, I heard El-Asadee describe it thus: Almadahiyy and Almasadiyy signify stones like the (small round cake of bread called) qursath, according to the size which a hole is dug, and widened a little: then they throw those stones (yad’hoona biha) to that hole and if the stone fall therein, the person wins; but if not, he is overcome: you say of him yad’hoo and yasdoo when he throws the stones (Iza dhahaha) over the ground to the hole: and the hole is called ud'hiyyath. (TA.) (Accord. to Freytag, the authority of the Deewan El-Hudhaleeyeen, A round thing made of lead, by the throwing of which persons contend together.)

Almadhuwwath and almad’hiyyath see Dahin.[36]

Note above that Lane also translates udhiyy (أُدْحِىٌّ) to mean the place in the sand where the ostrich lays its eggs, and not the eggs themselves.

Tafsirs on the verse 79:30

The tafsirs explain that this verse describes the Earth to be flat.


and after that He spread out the earth He made it flat for it had been created before the heaven but without having been spread out;
Al-Jalalayn [37]

Tanwir Al-Miqbas:

(And after that He spread the earth) even then He spread it on the water; it is also said: 2,000 years after that He spread it on the water,

Tanwir Al-Miqbas [38]

"Ostrich egg" mentioned in a hadith

There is no hadith saying that the Earth is shaped like an ostrich egg. But "ostrich egg" is mentioned in one hadith so we can check whether the word دَحَىٰهَآ (dahaha) is used in the original Arabic.

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُوسَى الْقَطَّانُ الْوَاسِطِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيدُ بْنُ مَوْهَبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا مَرْوَانُ بْنُ مُعَاوِيَةَ الْفَزَارِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ، حَدَّثَنَا حُسَيْنٌ الْمُعَلِّمُ، عَنْ أَبِي الْمُهَزِّمِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قَالَ فِي بَيْضِ النَّعَامِ يُصِيبُهُ الْمُحْرِمُ ‏ "‏ ثَمَنُهُ ‏"‏ ‏

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, concerning an ostrich egg (بَيْضِ النَّعَامِ) taken by a Muhrim: “Its cost (must be paid as a penalty).”

Of course it isn't, because "ostrich egg" needs two words. "Egg" is بَيْضِ (baydi) and "ostrich" is النَّعَامِ (an-na'ami). So ostrich egg is called baydi an-na'ami and not dahaha in Arabic.

Qur'an 88:20 - sutihat (spread out flat)

وَإِلَى ٱلْأَرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ

Wa-ila al-ardi kayfa sutihat

And at the Earth, how it is spread out?

سَطَّحَ = spread out or forth, expand

The word was used to describe making the flat top or roof of a house or chamber and making a top surface flat.

Words from the same root mean the flat top surface or roof of a house or chamber, a flat plane in geometry, a level place upon which dates can be spread, a rolling pin (which expands the dough), plane or flat.[40]

In the tafsir Al-Jalalayn (from 15. century) we can read that the word sutihat means the Earth is flat which is the opinion of the Islamic scholars:

And the earth how it was laid out flat? and thus infer from this the power of God exalted be He and His Oneness? The commencing with the mention of camels is because they are closer in contact with it the earth than any other animal. As for His words sutihat ‘laid out flat’ this on a literal reading suggests that the earth is flat which is the opinion of most of the scholars * of the revealed Law and not a sphere as astronomers ahl al-hay’a have it even if this latter does not contradict any of the pillars of the Law.

Tafsir Al-Jalalayn on 88:20
  • (*) The Arabic original says "وعليه علماء الشرع", literally "and-on-it (are) scholars (of) law"[41]. The word "most" was added by English translators, probably to make it less embarrassing.
  • The phrase "flat earth" today is commonly translated as الأرض مسطحة (al-ard musattaha)[42], the word musattaha is from the same root as the word sutihat.

Qur'an 91:6 - taha (spread out)

والارض وماطحاها

Waal-ardi wama tahaha

By the Earth and its (wide) expanse

Further Evidence of the Flat Earth in the Qur'an

Qur'an 18:86 - Setting and rising places of the sun

حتى اذا بلغ مغرب الشمس وجدها تغرب في عين حمئة ووجد عندها قوما قلنا ياذا القرنين اما ان تعذب واما ان تتخذ فيهم حسنا

Hatta itha balagha maghriba alshshamsi wajadaha taghrubu fee AAaynin hami-atin wawajada AAindaha qawman qulna ya tha alqarnayni imma an tuAAaththiba wa-imma an tattakhitha feehim husnan

Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhu'l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness.

This can only happen on a flat Earth. For a detailed discussion of the key words in these verses, evidence showing that early Muslims took it literally, and contemporary Arabic and Syriac poems of the same legend, see the article Dhu'l-Qarnayn and the Sun Setting in a Muddy Spring.

Qur'an 2:187 and 17:78 - Fasting and prayer times

It is made lawful for you to go in unto your wives on the night of the fast. They are raiment for you and ye are raiment for them. Allah is Aware that ye were deceiving yourselves in this respect and He hath turned in mercy toward you and relieved you. So hold intercourse with them and seek that which Allah hath ordained for you, and eat and drink until the white thread becometh distinct to you from the black thread of the dawn. Then strictly observe the fast till nightfall and touch them not, but be at your devotions in the mosques. These are the limits imposed by Allah, so approach them not. Thus Allah expoundeth His revelation to mankind that they may ward off (evil)

This verse tells Muslims, when fasting, to not eat, drink, or have sexual intercourse during sunlight hours. This can cause a huge problem for those who live close to the North or South poles. Many Muslim scholars have tried to contrive rules to save Muslims from this problem, such as using the times of the nearest country having a moderate latitude. The need for such innovations was unforeseen in the Qur'an.

The closer we get to the poles, the longer our days or nights become. They can eventually extend for up to several months each, making this verse, the fourth Pillar of Islam, impossible to practice without starving yourself to death. Again, this problem would not exist on a flat earth model.

Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of night, and (the recital of) the Qur'an at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Qur'an at dawn is ever witnessed.

Even for cities further south like Aberdeen in Scotland, the gap between the night prayer (Isha) and the dawn prayer (Fajr) is around 4 and a half hours in June, so anyone following these rules has to interrupt their sleep around 3.20am, then go back to sleep before getting up for the day. Such issues would not have crossed the mind of a 7th century man in Arabia, who believed that everyone experiences sunrise and sunset when he does, and where it would be perfectly natural to arise at dawn any time of the year.

Qur'an 2:144 - Praying towards the Ka'aba

Top-left: Due to the sphericity of the earth, a prayer in any direction will point towards the sky/outer-space, not Mecca.
Top-right: People who are located on the opposite 'side' of the earth would have to pray vertically down towards the center of the earth, and would also blaspheme against Allah, because they defecate toward the direction of the Ka'aba when they answer the call of nature.
Bottom-left: If we use the traditional Muslim method of determining qiblah (i.e. a great circle) this would still be blasphemous because you would be simultaneously praying with your face and backside aimed towards the Ka'aba.
Bottom-right: There is one point on the opposite 'side' of the earth where any direction for all 360 degrees would be facing 'towards' Mecca and consequently, there would be no one direction that would be the correct one.
We have seen the turning of thy face to heaven (for guidance, O Muhammad). And now verily We shall make thee turn (in prayer) toward a qiblah which is dear to thee. So turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and ye (O Muslims), wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it. Lo! Those who have received the Scripture know that (this revelation) is the Truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.

This verse tells all Muslims to pray towards the Ka'aba (qiblah being the direction that one has to face in order to do this). This is only possible on a flat earth model. Due to the sphericity of the earth, a prayer in any direction will point towards the sky/outer-space, not Mecca.

For people who are praying a great distance from Mecca, their qiblah would be somewhere down towards the ground, and the people who are located on the opposite 'side' of the earth would have to pray vertically downward towards the center of the earth. So, for example, Muslims in the Solomon Islands in fact blaspheme against Allah, because they defecate downwards toward the direction of the Ka'aba when they answer the call of nature.

For this reason, the great circle method came to be used, tracing the shortest distance across the sphere of the Earth towards the Ka'aba. Nevertheless, anywhere on Earth you would be simultaneously praying with both your face and backside aligned along a great circle towards the Ka'aba. At the antipode of Mecca, any direction for all 360 degrees would be facing equally 'towards' and 'away' from Mecca and consequently, there would be no one direction that would be the correct one.

The Americas are mostly in the hemisphere of this antipode to Mecca. There, the rhumb line method is often preferred because the great circle lines across the continent diverge from the antipode before they start to converge when they enter the hemisphere of Mecca, causing people north and south across the Americas to face away from each as they pray.

Qur'an 18:47 - Without mountains the Earth will be entirely apparent

وَيَوْمَ نُسَيِّرُ ٱلْجِبَالَ وَتَرَى ٱلْأَرْضَ بَارِزَةً وَحَشَرْنَٰهُمْ فَلَمْ نُغَادِرْ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا

Wayawma nusayyiru aljibala watara al-arda barizatan wahasharnahum falam nughadir minhum ahadan

And (bethink you of) the Day when we remove the hills and ye see the earth emerging, and We gather them together so as to leave not one of them behind.

بَارِزَةً = baarizatan = Wholey, or entirely, apparent or manifest, Land that is open, apparent, or uncovered, upon which is no mountain or any other thing.[43]

Qur'an 20:105-107 Without mountains the Earth will be a level plain

وَيَسْـَٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلْجِبَالِ فَقُلْ يَنسِفُهَا رَبِّى نَسْفًا فَيَذَرُهَا قَاعًا صَفْصَفًا لَّا تَرَىٰ فِيهَا عِوَجًا وَلَآ أَمْتًا

Wayasaloonaka AAani aljibali faqul yansifuha rabbee nasfan Fayatharuha qaAAan safsafan La tara feeha AAiwajan wala amtan

They will ask thee of the mountains (on that day). Say: My Lord will break them into scattered dust. And leave it as an empty plain, Wherein thou seest neither curve nor ruggedness.

The word فَيَذَرُهَا Fayatharuha ('And he will leave it') has the feminine 'ha' suffix, meaning 'it'. It almost certainly refers to the Earth, which is not explicitly mentioned, and is a feminine noun. Similarly the word translated 'Wherein' is فِيهَا feeha (literally 'in it') and has the feminine 'it' suffix too. There are no other singular feminine nouns in these verses, so because we have some additional context to this verse thanks to 18:47, we should conclude that they refer to al-ard (the Earth).

قَاعًا = qaAAan = an even place; plain, or level, land that produces nothing; plain, or soft, land, low, and free from mountains.[44]

صَفْصَفًا = safsafan = a level, or an even, tract of land or ground.[45]

عِوَجًا = AAiwajan = crookedness, a curvity, bending, winding, contortion, wryness, distortion, or uneveness[46]

أَمْتًا = amtan = curvity, crookedness, distortion, or uneveness; ruggedness and smoothness in different places; depression and elevation; small hills and hollows.[47]

AAiwajan and amtan are inconclusive regarding their implications for the shape of the Earth as a whole, but qaAAan safsafan means a level, barren plain.

Qur'an 55:17 - The two easts and two wests

رَبُّ ٱلْمَشْرِقَيْنِ وَرَبُّ ٱلْمَغْرِبَيْنِ

Rabbu almashriqayni warabbu almaghribayni

(He is) Lord of the two Easts and Lord of the two Wests

The commentaries (tafsirs) are unanimous that this refers to the two places where the sun rises on the summer and winter solstices (almashriqayni), and where it sets on those solstice days (almaghribayni), which also fits with the literal meanings of mashriq[48] and maghrib[49]. Similarly, verse Quran 70:40 was understood to refer to all the different places where the sun rises and sets between these ranges (almashariqi waalmagharibi). This might seem perfectly fitting for an author who believed in a flat Earth and a sun that moves around the world every day, where these locations are objective facts of cosmography.

The problem is that in reality, the Earth is a spinning sphere, so that even if we consider these locations to be points on the horizon, they are entirely a matter of perspective. Any two viewpoints on Earth will have different points on the horizon where the extremities of rising and setting appear during the year, and if they are at different latitudes, then even the angular range between these perceived extremities is different too. Indeed, the entire Earth is covered with places from which the sun can appear to someone, somewhere, to rise, and similarly, to set.

Qur'an 2:22 - The heavens are a canopy / building

الذي جعل لكم الارض فراشا والسماء بناء وانزل من السماء ماء فاخرج به من الثمرات رزقا لكم فلا تجعلوا لله اندادا وانتم تعلمون

Allathee jaAAala lakumu al-arda firashan waalssamaa binaan waanzala mina alssama-i maan faakhraja bihi mina alththamarati rizqan lakum fala tajAAaloo lillahi andadan waantum taAAlamoona

Who has made the earth your couch, and the heavens your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith Fruits for your sustenance; then set not up rivals unto Allah when ye know (the truth).

The word translated as canopy is binaa or binaan ( بِنَاء ). This word means "building"[50]. The heavens are as a multi-story building over the earth. There are seven layers or stories to this building called the heavens. The heavens are built on a "flat" foundation called "the earth". The tafsir of 'ibn Kathir confirms this:

These Ayat indicate that Allah started creation by creating earth, then He made heaven into seven heavens. This is how building usually starts, with the lower floors first and then the top floors, [51]

Contemporary Perspectives and Responses

Qur'an 22:61, 31:29, & 39:5 - night and day merging / overlapping

ذلك بان الله يولج الليل في النهار ويولج النهار في الليل وان الله سميع بصير

Thalika bi-anna Allaha yooliju allayla fee alnnahari wayooliju alnnahara fee allayli waanna Allaha sameeAAun baseerun

That is because Allah merges night into day, and He merges day into night, and verily it is Allah Who hears and sees (all things).
الم تر ان الله يولج الليل في النهار ويولج النهار في الليل وسخر الشمس والقمر كل يجري الى اجل مسمى وان الله بما تعملون خبير

Alam tara anna Allaha yooliju allayla fee alnnahari wayooliju alnnahara fee allayli wasakhkhara alshshamsa waalqamara kullun yajree ila ajalin musamman waanna Allaha bima taAAmaloona khabeerun

Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and he merges Day into Night; that He has subjected the sun, and the moon (to his Law), each running its course for a term appointed; and that Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do?
خلق السماوات والارض بالحق يكور الليل على النهار ويكور النهار على الليل وسخر الشمس والقمر كل يجري لاجل مسمى الا هو العزيز الغفار

Khalaqa alssamawati waal-arda bialhaqqi yukawwiru allayla AAala alnnahari wayukawwiru alnnahara AAala allayli wasakhkhara alshshamsa waalqamara kullun yajree li-ajalin musamman ala huwa alAAazeezu alghaffaru

He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He makes the Night overlap the Day, and the Day overlap the Night: He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His law): Each one follows a course for a time appointed. Is not He the Exalted in Power - He Who forgives again and again?

Muslims sometimes claim "Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes to day and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night."

This claim is false. Consider that everyone who has ever believed in a flat Earth was aware of the gradual transition from night to day. The gradual shift from day to night and vice versa would still happen on a flat earth model. The only difference is that the flat earth model would be lit up at the same time, there would be no timezones just the same night and day for everyone.

A simple experiment can be done to demonstrate the point. All that is needed is a dark room, table and flashlight. If the flashlight is slowed raised above the edge of the table (similar to a sunrise), a gradual shift from darkness to light will be observed. So verses 31:29 and 22:61 give no information about the Earth's shape. They are merely observations that anyone can make.

Looking now at verse 39:5, it is sometimes claimed that the word يُكَوِّرُ yukawwiru (he overlaps / winds around[52]) implies that the Earth is round because this verb كور was used for example, for wrapping a turban around a head. The first problem with this claim is that it is very much compatible with ancient conceptions of a flat Earth with a hemisphere or spherical firmament. Similarly, verses such as Quran 21:33 that mention the sun and moon (as well as the night and the day) each having a falak (rounded course) do not interfere with a flat Earth model.

In addition, these verses, as well as others, erroneously refer to night and day as two active entities. They are in fact simply the times when, for an observer on the surface of the Earth, they are on the sunlit or shadowed side of the planet as it rotates upon its axis. The night does not "overlap" or "wrap" around the day because there is only light, and darkness is nothing but the absence of light. The Qur'an could hardly be more wrong here. A less bad description would be to say that the Earth passes through night and day. Moreover, attempts to interpret 39:5 as the rotation of the Earth require contradictory shifts in the meaning of the words halfway through the sentence, as explained in a more detailed discussion of 39:5 on the page Geocentrism and the Qur'an.

Earth is flat only from our perspective

According to the people of knowledge the Earth is round. Indeed, Ibn Hazm and other scholars have declared that there is consensus on this matter among the people of knowledge This means that all of the surface of the Earth is connected together so that the form of the planet is like a sphere.

Nevertheless, Allah has spread out the Earth's surface in relation to us, and He has placed upon it firm mountains, the seas, and life as a mercy for us. For this reason, Allah said: "And (do they not look) at the Earth, how it was spread out flat (sutihat)." [Sûrah al-Ghâshiyah:20]

Therefore, the Earth has been made flat for us in regards to our relationship to it to facilitate our lives upon it and our comfort. The fact that it is round does not prevent that its surface has been made flat for us. This is because something that is round and very large, then its surface will become very vast or broad, having a flat appearance to those who are upon it."

Some Islamic websites attribute the above quote to Sheikh Ibn Bâz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who at one time believed the Earth was flat. While some of the verses quoted in this article make reference to humans, most do not. They are describing what Allah supposedly did when creating the entire Earth, not that the Earth seems flat to a human from a small local perspective on its spherical surface (an illusion that would be dispelled for the Arabs in the 8th century as they gained astronomical knowledge). Moreover, some of these verses also mention Allah placing mountains, or the sky as a ceiling or canopy, and therefore such verses must apply to the Earth's shape as a whole. The argument further ignores the very unambiguous choice of word in verse 88:20 quoted above, which also means a flat surface in geometry. Try as they might, apologists cannot give "flat" and "round" the same meaning.

Most importantly, the argument ignores the indirect and further evidence in the Further Proof section above. That section contains the best evidence for a flat Earth cosmography in the Qur'an, stronger even than the verses that directly describe the creation of the Earth.

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External Links


  1. Views of the Earth - World Treasures of the Library of Congress, July 29, 2010
  2. "Myth of the Flat Earth", Wikipedia, accessed June 12, 2013 (archived), 
  3. Globus cruciger - Wikipedia, accessed September 9, 2009
  4. - 118698: Consensus that the Earth is round
  5. Questions on Ijma` (concensus), Taqlid (following qualified opinion), and Ikhtilaf Al-Fuqaha' (differences of the jurists) by Shaykh Hisham Muhammad Kabbani
  6. For the full chapter in Arabic see, and for someone's English translation for most of the relevant parts see Salafitalk forum
  7. For the Arabic, see
  8. الفَلَكُ falak - Lane's Lexicon Volume 1 page 2444. See also the previous page. Lane says that the falak was generally imagined as a celestial hemisphere by the Arabs, but also that the Arab astronomers applied the term to seven spheres for the sun, moon, and the five visible planets, rotating about the celestial pole. This must reflect the post-Qur'anic influence of Ptolemy, whose astronomical work was translated for the Arabs from the 8th century onwards.
  9. See for the Arabic
  10. - Tafsir al-Qurtubi for verse 13:3
  11. - Tafsir al-Mawardi for verse 13:3
  12. Toomer, G. J., Ptolemy and his Greek predecessors, In Astronomy Before the Telescope, Ed. Christopher Walker, p.86, London: British Museum Press, 1996
  13. Van Bladel, Kevin, “Heavenly cords and prophetic authority in the Qur’an and its Late Antique context”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 70:223-246, p.241, Cambridge University Press, 2007
  14. ibid. pp.224-226. Here are some more excerpts:
    Entering into the debate was John Philoponus, a Christian philosopher of sixth-century Alexandria, who wrote his commentary on Genesis to prove, against earlier, Antiochene, theologians like Theodore of Mopsuestia, that the scriptural account of creation described a spherical geocentric world in accord with the Ptolemaic cosmology. [...]

    On the other hand, Cosmas Indicopleustes wrote his contentious Christian Topography in the 540s and 550s to prove that the spherical, geocentric world-picture of the erroneous, pagan Hellenes contradicted that of the Hebrew prophets. Cosmas was an Alexandrian with sympathies towards the Church of the East, who had travelled through the Red Sea to east Africa, Iran, and India, and who received instruction from the East Syrian churchman Mār Abā on the latter's visit to Egypt. His Christian topography has been shown to be aimed directly at John Philoponus and the Hellenic, spherical world-model he supported. [...] However, it is clear that Cosmas was going against the opinions of his educated though, as he saw it, misguided contemporaries in Alexandria.

    A number of Syrian churchmen, notably but not only the Easterners working in the tradition of Theodore of Mopsuestia, took the view of the sky as an edifice for granted. Narsai d. c. 503), the first head of the school of Nisibis, in his homilies on creation, described God's fashioning of the firmament of heaven in these terms: "Like a roof upon the top of the house he stretched out the firmament / that the house below, the domain of earth, might be complete". ayk taṭlîlâ l-baytâ da-l-tḥēt mtaḥ la-rqî῾â I d-nehwê mamlâ dûkkat ar῾â l-baytâ da-l῾el. Also "He finished building the heaven and earth as a spacious house" šaklel wa-bnâ šmayyâ w-ar῾â baytâ rwîḥâ. Jacob of Serugh (d. 521) wrote similarly on the shape of the world in his Hexaemeron homilies. A further witness to the discussion is a Syriac hymn, composed c. 543-554, describing a domed church in Edessa as a microcosm of the world, its dome being the counterpart of the sky. This is the earliest known text to make a church edifice to be a microcosm, and it shows that the debates over cosmology were meaningful to more than a small number of theologians.
  15. King, David A., “Islamic Astronomy”, In Astronomy Before the Telescope, Ed. Christopher Walker, p.86, London: British Museum Press, 1996
  16. Hoskin, Michael and Gingerich, Owen, “Islamic Astronomy” in The Cambridge Concise History of Astronomy, Ed. M. Hoskin, p.50-52, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999
  17. طوق tawwaqa Lane's Lexicon p. 1894
  18. For the Arabic, see or #159:
  19. Islam & the whale that carries the Earth on its back - Video by TheMaskedArab
  20. - Muhammad's Magical Mountain: One Whale of a Tail!
  21. - The Quran and The Shape of the Earth
  22. فِرَٰشًا firashan - Lane's Lexicon page 2371
  23. مد madda (مدد) - Lane's Lexicon page 2695
  24. مَهْدً mahdan - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
  25. مَهْدً mahdan - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
  26. مد madda (مدد) - Lane's Lexicon page 2695
  27. فرش farasha - Lane's Lexicon page 2369
  28. مهد mahada - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
  29. بِسَاطًا bisaatan - Lane's Lexicon page 204
  30. مَهْدً mahdan - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
  31. 31.00 31.01 31.02 31.03 31.04 31.05 31.06 31.07 31.08 31.09 31.10 31.11 Islam Awakened - Quran 79:30
  33. Answering Christianity on dahaha
  34. Q & A - Zakir Naik - dahaha
  35. - 79:30
  36. 36.0 36.1 دحو dahawa - Lane's Lexicon page 857
  40. سطَح sataha - Lanes Lexicon page 1357
  43. بَارِزَةً baarizatan - Lane's Lexicon page 187
  44. قَاعًا qaAAan - Lane's Lexicon page 2994
  45. صَفْصَفًا safsafan - Lane's Lexicon page 1694
  46. عِوَجًا AAiwajan - Lane's Lexicon page 2187
  47. أَمْتًا amtan - Lane's Lexicon page 95
  48. مَشْرِقُ mashriq - Lane's Lexicon page 1541
  49. مَغْرِبُ maghrib - Lane's Lexicon page 2241
  50. بِنَاء binaa - Lane's Lexicon page 261
  51. Tafsir 'ibn Kathir
  52. كور kawara - Lane's Lexicon page 2637