Science and the Seven Earths

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Limb view of the Earth's atmosphere. Colors roughly denote the layers of the atmosphere.

The Qur'an and a number of Sahih Hadith make the claim that there are seven different earths. This concept of multiple different earths or worlds is not unusual in the ancient world; by comparison, in Norse mythology there are nine world or realms counting Hel, the underworld. Some modern du'aah, though, seeking to protect the supposed scientific infallibility of the Qur'an have proposed that this description of seven earths (and also description of seven heavens) actually is a type of scientific miracle whereby the Quran and Sunnah actually predicted the findings of modern earth sciences by over one thousand years. In point of fact no exegete before the modern period ever interpreted the verses this way; such an interpretation is novel and meant to fit the Qur'an into the modern, scientific view of the universe rather than taking the Qur'an and Sunnah as texts of their time and interpreting them in line with their author's intent. Besides ignoring what the texts themselves have to say, these modern apologetic claims themselves ignore or badly mangle the actual earth sciences they are attempting to co-opt in order to justify their claims of an inerrant, scientifically accurate Qur'an and prophetic tradition.

Qur'an and Sunnah

The Qur'an itself makes the claim that there are 7 earths and 7 heavens:

ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَمَٰوَٰتٍ وَمِنَ ٱلْأَرْضِ مِثْلَهُنَّ يَتَنَزَّلُ ٱلْأَمْرُ بَيْنَهُنَّ لِتَعْلَمُوٓا۟ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ قَدْ أَحَاطَ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عِلْمًۢا Allah is He Who created seven Firmaments and of the earth a similar number. Through the midst of them (all) descends His Command: that ye may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah comprehends, all things in (His) Knowledge.

The tradition of the seven earths is also found in hadith collections of Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, and Tirmidhi:

Narrated Salim's father: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "Any person who takes a piece of land unjustly will sink down the seven earths on the Day of Resurrection."
حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، أَخْبَرَنَا ابْنُ عُلَيَّةَ، عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ الْمُبَارَكِ، حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ أَبِي كَثِيرٍ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ الْحَارِثِ، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، كَانَتْ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ أُنَاسٍ خُصُومَةٌ فِي أَرْضٍ، فَدَخَلَ عَلَى عَائِشَةَ فَذَكَرَ لَهَا ذَلِكَ، فَقَالَتْ يَا أَبَا سَلَمَةَ اجْتَنِبِ الأَرْضَ، فَإِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏

"‏ مَنْ ظَلَمَ قِيدَ شِبْرٍ طُوِّقَهُ مِنْ سَبْعِ أَرَضِينَ ‏"

Narrated Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Al-Harith:

from Abu Salama bin `Abdur-Rahman who had a dispute with some people on a piece of land, and so he went to `Aisha and told her about it. She said, "O Abu Salama, avoid the land, for Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, 'Any person who takes even a span of land unjustly, his neck shall be encircled with it down seven earths.' "

Although the number is not explicitly given, the plural of word for "earth", "أرض" is used here, أرضين meaning "earths." This is used again in conjunction with the plural of the word سماء "sky" or "heavens", سموات, meaning "heavens":

حَدَّثَنَا آدَمُ، حَدَّثَنَا شَيْبَانُ، عَنْ مَنْصُورٍ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنْ عَبِيدَةَ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ جَاءَ حَبْرٌ مِنَ الأَحْبَارِ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ، إِنَّا نَجِدُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَجْعَلُ السَّمَوَاتِ عَلَى إِصْبَعٍ وَالأَرَضِينَ عَلَى إِصْبَعٍ، وَالشَّجَرَ عَلَى إِصْبَعٍ، وَالْمَاءَ وَالثَّرَى عَلَى إِصْبَعٍ، وَسَائِرَ الْخَلاَئِقِ عَلَى إِصْبَعٍ، فَيَقُولُ أَنَا الْمَلِكُ‏.‏ فَضَحِكَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم حَتَّى بَدَتْ نَوَاجِذُهُ تَصْدِيقًا لِقَوْلِ الْحَبْرِ ثُمَّ قَرَأَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏{‏وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالأَرْضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ‏}‏‏

Narrated `Abdullah:

A (Jewish) Rabbi came to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) and he said, "O Muhammad! We learn that Allah will put all the heavens on one finger, and the earths on one finger, and the trees on one finger, and the water and the dust on one finger, and all the other created beings on one finger. Then He will say, 'I am the King.' Thereupon the Prophet (ﷺ) smiled so that his pre-molar teeth became visible, and that was the confirmation of the Rabbi. Then Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) recited: 'No just estimate have they made of Allah such as due to Him.' (Qur'an 39.67)
Muhammad b. Ibrahim said that Abu Salama reported to him that there was between him and his people dispute over a piece of land, and he came to 'A'isha and mentioned that to her, whereupon she said: Abu Salama, abstain from getting this land, for Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said: He who usurps even a span of land would be made to wear around his neck seven earths.
He told of hearing God’s Messenger say, “If anyone wrongly takes a span of land God who is great and glorious will make him dig it till he gets to the end of seven earths, and then he will have it tied round his neck till the day of resurrection until men are judged.” Ahmad transmitted it.

There is also a Da'if/weak chain (graded by Darussalam) of narration hadith referring to this, and so while it may not come from Muhammad, it does show early (and more contemporary) understanding of the verses which was evidently not a mysterious or confusing concept to them:

...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.’ Then he said: ‘By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad! If you were to send [a man] down with a rope to the lowest earth, then he would descend upon Allah.’ Then he recited: He is Al-Awwal, Al-Akhir, Az-Zahir Al-Batin, and He has knowledge over all things.”

Apologetic Claims

"Allah is He Who Created seven firmaments and of the earth a similar number. Through the midst of them (all) descends His command: that ye may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah comprehends all things In (His) Knowledge. (The Noble Quran, 65:12)"

According to Noble Verse 65:12 above, Allah Almighty created 7 Heavens for form the universe. The new scientific discovery had revealed to us that the earth that we currently live on today is also formed from seven layers. The very bottom layer contains most of the uranium and potonium ("sic") and all the materials that we need to create nuclear weapons and energy. Noble Verse 65:12 above does indeed say that the earth was created with seven layers.
. . .
The Seven "Heavens" refers to the layers of our atmosphere.

1. troposphere
2. stratosphere
3. ozone layer
4. mesosphere
5. thermosphere
6. ionosphere
7. exosphere

The Seven "Earths" refer to the layers that literally make up the Earth

1. crust
2. lithosphere
3. upper mantle
4. astenoshpere ("sic")
5. lower mantle
6. outer core
7. inner core

OR they could refer to the "7 Continents" (in the context that "al-ard" means ground)

1. North America
2. South America
3. Australia
4. Asia
5. Africa
6. Antarctica
7. Europe


Seven Layers of Earth's Atmosphere

Before beginning, notice that verse 37:6 says that the stars are in the lowest heaven, and thus the seven heavens cannot mean the Earth's atmosphere.

Surely We have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment, the stars

Nevertheless, let's look again at the apologetic claim:

The Seven "Heavens" refers to the layers of our atmosphere.

1. troposphere
2. stratosphere
3. ozone layer
4. mesosphere
5. thermosphere
6. ionosphere
7. exosphere

There is only one atmosphere, but you can classify this one atmosphere by different criteria. If you partition it by temperature, you get 5 layers. By aerodynamical state 4 layers, by radiophysical state 3 layers and by chemical processes 2 layers. There is no classification into 7 layers.

To reach the needed "seven layers" different criteria are being mixed to reach the desired number 7. For example, Earth's atmosphere is commonly divided into five main layers based on temperature. From highest to lowest, these layers are:

  1. Exosphere
  2. Thermosphere
  3. Mesosphere
  4. Stratosphere
  5. Troposphere

Within the five principal layers which are largely determined by temperature, several secondary layers may be distinguished by other properties:

  1. Ozone layer
  2. Ionosphere
  3. Homosphere and heterosphere
  4. Planetary boundary layer[1]

Apologists include all five principle layers in their count, then arbitrarily add the ozone layer (which is contained within the stratosphere) and the ionosphere (which forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere) to reach the desired number 7.

If two of the secondary layers are included in the total count, there is no logically viable reason to exclude the planetary boundary layer (the part of the troposphere that is closest to Earth's surface) or the homosphere and heterosphere (which are contained within all five principle layers).

Seven Layers of the Earth

The Seven "Earths" refer to the layers that literally make up the Earth

1. crust
2. lithosphere
3. upper mantle
4. astenoshpere ("sic")
5. lower mantle
6. outer core
7. inner core

Note the same dishonest approach taken to assign seven layers of the atmosphere - i.e. the double counting of layers.

There is also no linguistical evidence or historical examples for 'al-ard meaning or being used for layer(s) of the planet.

The general scientific view is that the earth is composed of four (the dominant view)[2][3] or five major layers depending on whether one splits the mantle or not.[4][5][6]

The five layers are as follows:

  1. crust
  2. upper mantle
  3. lower mantle
  4. outer core
  5. inner core

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There are two ways to classify the composition of the geosphere - chemically, into crust, mantle, and core, or functionally, in the case of the outer layers (crust and mantle) into lithosphere and asthenosphere.[7][8]

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From the evidence above, one can see the apologetic deceit because they double-count the lithosphere/asthenosphere while they also count the crust and upper mantle. Note that this is dishonest because these are alternative classifications.[9] One cannot honestly count all lithosphere, asthenosphere, crust, and upper mantle together as one would be recounting the same rocks.

Recently new scientific hypotheses proposed by J. Marvin Herndon and Prof Xiaodong Song suggest the inner core may be further subdivided into four layers; the inner core, the innermost core, a sub-shell of fission material and decay products, and a subcore of uranium and plutonium forming the georeactor.[10] If this new theory is accepted the number of layers of the earth will rise from five to eight.

Apologists sometimes depict the hydrosphere in their diagrams but are themselves inconsistent in counting/not counting it as one of their seven layers. Even on the crust, there are many layers of rocks one below the other.[11] Their exact number varies from place to place but they can easily number in dozens, and the diversity of these rock layers forms the very basis of geology. Why are apologists ignoring these layers ( e.g. strata) that could easily mean the Earth could be classified as having many more with a natural creation basis of classification?

Seven Continents of the Earth

The same apologists try to hedge their bets by claiming it is either seven layers or seven continents.

OR they could refer to the "7 Continents" (in the context that "al-ard" means ground)
1. North America
2. South America
3. Australia
4. Asia
5. Africa
6. Antarctica
7. Europe

The former explanation (seven layers) would seem more accurate as all translations refer to "earth" and not ground. Nevertheless, although the number of continents is traditionally considered seven, some geographers and scientists think there are only six as Europe and Asia are technically a single land mass (i.e. Eurasia) and on the same tectonic plate.[12] Therefore, the traditional number of seven continents is more a cultural bias than an actual geographical/geological fact stemmed in nature.

Seven Earths

There are some who claim that Allah created seven earths.[13] This is in fact the correct understanding of verse 65:12 supported by various hadiths and tafsir commentaries. However, we only know of one, our own. To get around this problem, apologists such as Maurice Bucaille claim scientists have just not discovered the other six yet.[14]

To further complicate matters for apologists, Islamic sources state the seven earths being referred to in verse 65:12 are flat islands, one under the other. For example:

Narrated AbuHurayrah: While Allah's Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions were sitting clouds came over them and Allah's Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, "Do you know what these are?" On their replying that Allah and His Messenger knew best, he said, "These are the clouds (anan), these are the water-carriers of the Earth, which Allah drives to people who do not thank Him or call upon him." He then asked, "Do you know what is above you?" On their replying that Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) knew best, he said, "It is the firmament, a ceiling which is guarded and waves which are kept back." He then asked, "Do you know what is between you and it?" On their replying that Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) knew best, he said, "Between you and it are five hundred years." He then asked, "Do you knew what is above that?" On their replying that Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) best he said, "Two heavens with a distance of five hundred years between them." He went on speaking like that till he counted seven heavens, the distance between each pair being like between Heaven and Earth. He then asked, "Do you know what is above that?" On their replying that Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) knew best, he said, "Above that is the Throne, and the distance between it and the (seventh) heaven is the same as that between each pair of heavens." He then asked, "Do you know what is below you?" On their replying that Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) knew best, he said, "It is the earth." He then asked, "Do you know what is under that?" On their replying that Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) knew best, he said, "Under it there is another Earth with a journey of five hundred years between them," and so on till he had counted seven earths with a journey of five hundred years between each pair. He then said, "By Him in Whose hand Muhammad's soul is, if you were to drop a rope to the lowest earth it would not pass out of Allah's knowledge." He then recited, "He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward, and He is omniscient." (Tirmidhi commented that Allah's Messenger's recitation of the verse indicates that it would go down within Allah's knowledge, power and authority, for Allah's knowledge, power and authority are everywhere, while He is on the Throne, as He described Himself in His Book.)
According to Muhammad b. Sahl b. 'Askar-Isma'il b. 'Abd al-Karim-Wahb, mentioning some of his majesty (as being described as follows): The heavens and the earth and the oceans are in the haykal, and the haykal is in the Footstool. God's feet are upon the Footstool. He carries the Footstool. It became like a sandal on His feet. When Wahb was asked: What is the haykal? He replied: Something on the heavens' extremities that surrounds the earth and the oceans like ropes that are used to fasten a tent. And when Wahb was asked how earths are (constituted), he replied: They are seven earths that are flat and islands. Between each two earths, there is an ocean. All that is surrounded by the (surrounding) ocean, and the haykal is behind the ocean.

With many classical commentators identifying the word 'sijjinn' in verses Quran 83:7-8 with the lowest Earth (or just below it in hell), or as a place where the book of bad deeds of humans is kept and devils live.[15][16][17]

Seven Universes

The word that in English is translated for heaven(s) in these verses is samā/سَماء, which can also be translated as sky (which is essentially it's modern meaning in Arabic).[18] This is separate to 'jannah/جَنَّة', which refers to the paradise supposedly in the afterlife for righteous Muslims - which readers may mistake as being the same given the double meaning (of heaven) in English. However, unlike paradise (jannah), the heaven(s)/skies (samā) are part of the cosmos, with the moon being described as in them (Quran 71:15-16), clouds (Quran 2:164), along with the stars (Quran 41:12) etc.

Modern astronomy and technology has allowed us to see, understand, map and even explore the wider Universe, but never found these 7 skies, nor 7 Earths, which as far as well can tell are listed only as 7 was a superstitious number in antiquity.[19] Another common apologetic claim is that these seven skies/heavens are actually seven universes which we are yet to discover, and that we know only our one universe so far, often referred to as the lowest/closest heaven.

This is due to the Quran stating the nearest/lowest heaven is adorned with stars which cover the known visible universe (such as Quran 41:12), rather than any philological analysis and ignoring all historical context of the word, which has always meant a 'firmament', or solid layer in the sky to Islamic scholars.[20] Using the term 'heavens/skies' was common to refer to this in pre-Islamic Christian literature too.[21]

However, by looking at the >200 timesthey are mentioned in the Quran, there are many problems substituting this meaning as we will see below, with all verses using a form of the word al-samā/سَماء (whether translated as the sky/skies or the heaven/heavens).

Gates and water of the universe

The following verse contradicts such a claim since it says rain was made to fall from heaven. Certainly, rain does not come from outer space, let alone from gates at the edge of the universe which would be ~46.5 billion light years away.[22] The word used for heaven here is samā, the same as that for the seven heavens.

So We opened the gates of heaven, with water pouring forth.

The gates of the heavens are mentioned elsewhere such as the below, saying even if God opened a gate so the disbelievers could climb up it, they would still not believe.

And if We open for them a gate in the heavens, to ascend it through the day – Even then they would say, “Our sights have been hypnotised – in fact, a magic spell has been cast upon us.”

God is also described as having the keys to these:

To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth: He expands the provision for whomever He wishes, and tightens it [for whomever He wishes]. Indeed He has knowledge of all things.’
To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth, and those who disbelieve in the signs of Allah—it is they who are the losers.

It seems that once resurrected, it appears that righteous Muslims will ascend the cosmos to the upper heavens, which are on top of/above each other (Quran 67:3, Quran 71:15)) on judgement day, for whom God will open the gates of the skies for (so they can pass the firmament - gates would not be needed if they were simply layers rather than solid objects):

And the heavens will be opened and become gates

Which likely then connect to actual paradise (jannah) as they leave the cosmos via ascension (as mentioned above in Q15:14), as paradise (jannah) is also separately described as having it's own gates (e.g. Quran 38:50, Quran 39:73), a common motif in antiquity as Dr Sean W Anthony explains:

The cosmological notion of humankind being blocked from accessing Paradise by gates and, thus, the existence of a heavenly gatekeeper is quite an ancient one and by no means exclusive to Jewish, Christian, or Muslim sacred cosmology. Indeed, where “the keys to heaven” as opposed to “the keys of Paradise” motif appears first in the Islamic tradition is in the Qurʾan itself. According the Qurʾan, however, it is God alone who possesses “the keys to the Heavens and Earth [maqālīd al-samāwāt wa-l-arḍ]” (Q. Zumar 39:63, Shūrā 42:12). In the Qurʾān, the keys to the Heavens and Earth are cosmological and do not assume an explicitly eschatological function—rather the emphasis falls on God’s unrivaled sovereignty over the cosmos as its sole Creator. Yet the Qurʾan does speak of the doors of heaven in a strikingly eschatological vein. Most illustrative of this is the sole verse in which both Paradise (al-jannah) and heaven (al-samāʾ; lit., “the sky”) are mentioned together: “Truly, as for those who disbelieve and spurn our signs, the doors of heaven will not be opened for them nor will they enter Paradise until the camel passes through the eye of a needle” (Q, Aʿrāf 7:40). If a distinction is to be drawn between heaven (al-samāʾ) and Paradise (al-jannah) in qurʾānic cosmology, Paradise appears to be the felicitous abode that lies beyond the sky canopy of the heavens above the Earth.
Anthony, Sean W., Dr.. Muhammad and the Empires of Faith: The Making of the Prophet of Islam. University of California Press. Kindle Edition. Location 1134 - 1145.

Earth created before the universe

The Quran also has the Earth created before the heavens (universes) are created, while the heaven is 'smoke' (see Quran and a Universe from Smoke). Obviously the Earth cannot be created before the Universe is made:

Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds. He set on the (earth), mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance with (the needs of) those who seek (Sustenance). Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth: Come both of you, willingly or loth. They said: We come, obedient. Then He ordained them seven heavens in two Days and inspired in each heaven its mandate; and We decked the nether heaven with lamps, and rendered it inviolable. That is the measuring of the Mighty, the Knower.

Nor was the universe ever smoke.

The universe as a roof/ceiling/canopy

The sky/heavens are also repeatedly called a roof/ceiling/canopy/building/edifice etc in multiple verses using multiple words, which even being generous as a metaphorical interpretation does not match the description of a complex universe, with the majority in a gaseous state of almost entirely empty space, with structures like stars and planets being extremely sparse throughout the 'void' of space.[23]

However this description does perfectly match the antiquity view of the sky being a literal solid object, made up of 'firmaments':

who assigned to you the earth for a couch, and heaven for an edifice (binā) , and sent down out of heaven water, wherewith He brought forth fruits for your provision; so set not up compeers to God wittingly.
And by the canopy (safq) raised ˹high˺!
He raised its ceiling (samk) and proportioned it.
It is Allah Who made for you the earth your resting place and the sky a building (binā), and moulded you so gave you the best shape, and gave you pure things for sustenance; such is Allah, your Lord; so Most Auspicious is Allah, the Lord Of The Creation.
And We made the sky a protected roof (saqf), but they, from its signs, are turning away.

(Raising the roof/canopy in Q52:2 and Q79:28 also makes no sense in the context of our modern understanding of the Universe, where there is no scientific theory that our visible Universe was 'raised'. But does match the idea of the physical sky being broken from Earth and raised.)

The solid universe

Expanding on the descriptions of the sky as a solid object (and the upper skies), like a roof/canopy/ceiling etc; this concept is backed up repeatedly in descriptions from other verses, which unanimously support the solid firmament(s)s view. The mostly gaseous empty state of the universe is in no way reflected in the Qur'an, with the sky(s):

  • Raised without pillars that we can see - Quran 13:2

Which is why the debates around the sky(s) among classical mufassirūn have centred around whether the 'firmament' is flat or domed,[24] not solid or gas. And none have come up with a picture of the universe like we now know based off their studying of the Qur'an.

The universe as day and night

Main page: Geocentrism and the Quran

The Quran also states that the night and morning are said to be an attribute of the heaven (l-samāu) which God built (banāhā) and raised (rafaʿa) as a ceiling (samkahā) and ordered it (fasawwāhā) when he created the heaven and earth. The possessive hā suffix in laylahā (its night) and ḍuḥāhā (its morning light (translated as 'forenoon' below) relates night and day to the heaven - which does not apply at all to the whole universe.

In reality, the night and day we experience is a feature of the earth's rotation on its axis and is only applicable to Earth itself. There is no sense in which the earth's night and day apply across the wider cosmos as it would need to to be able to substitute the word/modern concept 'universe' with heaven/heavens (samā).

Is your creation more prodigious or that of the heaven He has built? He raised its vault and fashioned it, and darkened its night, and brought forth its forenoon.

The universe split from the Earth

The ancient concept of the sky splitting from the Earth can be traced back to Mesopotamian[25] and Egyptian[26] creation myths in which heaven was separated from earth. This myth which was wide-spread at the time of Islam's emergence, did not puzzle contemporary Muslims, as can be seen by the many classical tafsirs on this (and other relevant) verses.[27][28]

There is no scientific theory in which the much larger universe, (i.e. for context our home galaxy, the Milky Way, containing at least 100 billion much larger stars, and the observable universe containing at least 100 billion galaxies)[29] was pulled apart from Earth. Instead current scientific theories support the belief it was formed from when the solar system settled into its current layout about 4.5 billion years ago (billions of years after the universe was created), with Earth specifically forming when gravity pulled swirling gas and dust particles of different sizes orbited the sun at slightly different speeds, allowing them to bump into each other and stick together. Eventually, they grew from tiny dust grains into boulders, then into larger “planetesimals”, with one eventually becoming the third planet from the Sun.[30][31]

The word translated "joined together" is ratqan (رَتْقًا)[32] meaning closed up or sewn up, also used metaphorically in terms of reconciling people, but does not imply a homogenous mass or state, let alone a singularity. Mirroring this is the word fataqnāhumā[33] ("parted them"/"rent/clove them asunder"/), which means to slit, rent asunder, divide, unstitch.

Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then We parted them? And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?

Some Muslim apologists (such as Zakir Naik, as can be see in 3:27 of this YouTube video - along with a response to him) have even claimed that this verse shows scientific foreknowledge of the Big Bang. His claim seems to be that the verse stating the skies and Earth "joined together/ratqan" is referring to the fact that during the big bang all the mass that went on to form the rest of the universe originated from the same point of singularity. There are many issues with this interpretation. These are discussed more in-depth in the page Quran and a Universe from Smoke and the main Scientific Errors in the Quran section. But some of the obvious issues are:

  • If this is supposed to be the big bang itself as Naik claims (with the same mass/atoms from one singularity going on to form others) then this is does not match what actually happened, with the Earth not even existing for another 9.3 billion years after the Universe began.[34]
  • Therefore to match the essence of what he is saying you would have to essentially take a metaphorical view of the verse, which there appears to be no real justification for other than trying to avoid the scientific error of its literal meaning - no major tafsir does this before modern times. If God simply meant from the same matter, surely he could have said so.
  • If one holds that Q21:30 describes the big bang/substances of the heavens and Earth, the atomic particles that would later form the Earth would at the beginning would have to be separated from those that would go on to form everything else in the universe. This, however, bears no resemblance to modern scientific cosmology, wherein the material that forms the Earth passed through at least one earlier generation of stars,[35] and more recently was part of various asteroids, comets and planetesimals orbiting the sun (which could all be described as being in or part of/making up the 'heavens') that sometimes collided and merged with each other, sometimes split apart, and gradually coalesced under gravity to form the Earth and other planets.
  • The language and context used, with the verse taking the word 'al-samā' (but plural al-samawati), and 'al-ard' (the Earth), uses them in a way that does not match any other verses, despite having he definite 'al' particle implying they are a specific single thing. For example to say the sky can refer to the substance of the universe contradicts the verse Q79:27-29 which puts night and day as a property of the sky. The very next verse Quran 21:31 speaks of mountains being placed on the Earth, where here, 'the Earth' must mean the actual world, yet Naik is claiming 'the Earth/ 'al-ard' refers merely to atomic particles around the time of the big bang to the creation of our solar system.
  • He also completely ignores that this is referring to 'skies' plural, which must mean multiple universes to match the description of stars being in the closest universe in e.g. Q41:12, which is not supported by current scientific theory. In another speech he changes the definition of al-samā again, this time to mean the atmosphere of the Earth (see 16:11 of this YouTube video), which contradicts too many verses (and the universe definition) to name, but many can be seen throughout this article.
The Universe as a separate entity to Earth

Verses in the Quran always describe the heaven and the Earth as separate entities, such as the above verse (Q21:30) describing them as split, with the verse stating that "We clove them" (dual pronoun 'huma'), not "We clove it", thereby indicating that the Earth and skies are distinct after the cloving. Along with things like the moon being described as in them (Quran 71:15-16), the clouds between the skies and the Earth (Quran 2:164), along with the stars being in the nearest sky (Quran 41:12) etc.

The Quran never indicates that the Earth itself is simply within this lowest/nearest heaven along with the other planets, stars and heavenly objects. When in reality Earth is the 3rd planet in our Inner Solar System, of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is part of the Virgo Supercluster within the wider Laniakea Supercluster, itself one of many,[36] making the description odd in light off modern science, but again matching the 'firmament torn from the Earth' view of antiquity.

Between the Universe and the Earth

God is said to have dominion/sovereignty of the heavens and Earth and all that is between them (baynahum بينهم).

There is nothing between the Earth and the rest of the universe, so substituting the 'heavens' with the modern definition of the universe does not make sense here. Yet once again matches the ancient view of the heavens as 'firmaments' in the sky with space between them. This idea is also backed up in many hadith (see: Qur'an, Hadith and Scholars:Creation), such as Sahih Bukhari 9:93:608, describing Muhammad's alleged night journey through the heavens.

Say the Jews and the Christians: "We are sons of God and beloved of Him." Say: "Why does He punish you then for your sins? No: You are only mortals, of His creation." He can punish whom He pleases and pardon whom He wills, for God's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them, and everything will go back to Him.
And verily We created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six Days, and naught of weariness touched Us.

And repeated in Quran 15:85, Quran 19:65, Quran 21:16 and Quran 25:59.

Clouds are also distinctly said to be between the heavens and the Earth, again preventing the interpretation of the 'samā'/heavens/skies as our whole/visible universe.

Note: This also separately contradicts Zakir Naik's definition of the heaven(s) as the Earths atmosphere which the clouds are also in, and not between.

Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, and the ships that sail at sea with profit to men, and the water that Allah sends down from the sky—with which He revives the earth after its death, and scatters therein every kind of animal—and the changing of the winds, and the clouds disposed between the sky (samā) and the earth, there are surely signs for a people who exercise their reason.

See Also

External Links


  1. "Atmosphere of Earth", Wikipedia, accessed January 2, 2014 (archived), 
  2. Earth Structure. Education. National Geographic.
  3. 4 Layers Of The Earth Made Easy. Forbes - Innovation - Science. Trevor Nace. 2019
  4. Lisa Gardiner - Structure of the Interior of Earth - Windows to the Universe, January 18, 2010
  5. Eugene C. Robertson - The Interior of the Earth - U.S. Geological Survey, May 21, 2007
  6. Maggi Glasscoe - Structure of the Earth - Southern California Integrated GPS Network (SCIGN), August 14, 1998
  7. Dr. Michael Pidwirny - Fundamentals of Physical Geography/ Structure of the Earth - 2nd Edition, 2006
  8. The history of life on Earth - Palaeos
  9. Explainer: Earth — layer by layer. Earth. Science News Explores. Beth Geiger. 2019.
  10. D. F. Hollenbach, and J. M. Herndon - Deep-Earth reactor: Nuclear fission, helium, and the geomagnetic field - PNAS 2001 vol. 98 no. 20 pp 11085-11090
  11. For example, here are the illustrated layers of Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, the Alps and Himalayas.
  12. Matt Rosenberg - Continents -
  13. Layers of the Earth -
  14. Dr. Maurice Bucaille - The Bible, The Qur'an and Science/ Confrontation with the data in the Qur'an concerning the creation
  15. Verse 83.9. Tafsir Ibn Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs. (Unknown date)
  16. Tafsir Al-Jalalayn on verse 87:3. Al-Jalalayn / Al-Mahalli and as-Suyuti. Published 1505.
  17. Tafsir Ibn Kathir on verse 83.7. Ibn Kathir. d. 1373.
  18. Sky. Translation English to Arabic. Cambridge dictionary.
  19. 7. Number Symbolism. Britannica Entry.
  20. Tafsir on Verse 13:2. Ibn Kathir. d. 1373.
  21. Creation and Contemplation: The Cosmology of the Qur'ān and Its Late Antique Background (Studies in the History and Culture of the Middle East Book 47). Decharneux, Julien. 2023. (pp. 255 - 257). De Gruyter.
  22. How Far Away is the Edge of the Universe? Museum of Science Podcast. Janine Myszka.
  23. Most of the Universe Is a Void. Here’s How That Emptiness Will Eventually Gobble Up All of Space. Paul M. Sutter. 2023. Space. Popular Mechanics. A Part of Hearst Digital Media. P.M. Sutter is a science educator and a theoretical cosmologist at the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook University
  24. E.g. see: Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Verse 13:2 and verse 36:37-40. Ibn Kathir d. 1373
  25. Mesopotamian Creation Myths. Ira Spar. 2009. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Met Musuem.
  26. Skyscapes, Landscapes, and the drama of Proto-Indo-European myth. John Grigsby PhD Synthesis. 2020. The relevant section can be viewed here.
  27. Tafsir Ibn Kathir on verse 21:30. Ibn Kathir d 1373
  28. Tafsir Al-Jalalayn on Verse 21:30. Al-Jalalayn/ al-Maḥalli and as-Suyuti. Published 1505.
  29. What is the universe? NASA’s Astrophysics Division. NASA.
  30. How the Earth and moon formed, explained. Explainer Series. University of Chicago News. University of Chicago.
  31. Facts about Earth. Earth facts. NASA Science. NASA
  32. Lane's Lexicon p. 1027 رَتْقًا
  33. Lane's Lexicon p. 2331 فتق
  34. How old is the universe? Keith Cooper. 2023. The Universe is listed as ~13.8bn years old and the Earth ~4.5bn which leaves Earth created ~9.4bn years ago.
  35. We Are Stardust. Part of Hall of the Universe. American Museum of Natural History.
  36. Our Cosmic Address: Where is Earth Situated in the Universe? - Simone Lilavois - Amateur Astronomers Association, 1 August 2022