On pages 180-182, Dr. Bucaille has a section on "The Earth's Relief" in which he discusses the Quranic verses about mountains. The Qur'an has more than a dozen verses stating that God placed firm and immovable mountains on the earth, and in some of these verses the mountains are listed as either a blessing for believers or a warning for the unbelievers. One example of this is found in the Sura Luqman 31:10-11 where the mountains are one of five warnings:

"He has created the heavens without supports that you can see, and has cast (alqa) onto the earth firm mountains (rawasiya) lest it should shake with you (tamida bikum **) ..."

In the Prophets (Al-Anibiya') 21:31, as one of seven warnings we read:

"And We have set on the earth firm mountains (rawasiya ), lest it should shake with them (tamida bihim**)."

Finally in the Bee (Al-Nahl) 16:15, among many "signs for the wise" we read:

"And He has cast onto the earth firm mountains (rawasiya) lest it should shake with you ... (tamida bikum**)"

The phrase "tamida bi" from mada, yamidu, is only used in the above three Quranic verses which are marked **. Hans Wehr's "Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic" gives the meaning of the verbal phrase "mada bi" as: to shake something violently.

"Mada bi" is the very form used in these verses.

We see then that the believers and unbelievers are told that Allah has done this great thing. He has thrown down and placed the mountains so that the earth will not shake violently with them. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what the followers of Muhammad were supposed to understand.

In the next two verses another picture is given.

The News (Al-Naba') 78:6-7, Early Meccan,

"Have We not made the earth an expanse, and the mountains as stakes." (al-jibala autadan) ("as those used to anchor a tent in the ground" - Bucaille p 191)

The Overwhelming (Al-Gha-shiya) 88:17,19, Early Meccan,

"Do they (the unbelievers) not look ... at the mountains (al-jibal), how they have been pitched (like a tent)". (Translation Bucaille p 191)

Here men are told that the mountains are placed as tent pegs. Tent pegs keep the tent stable so again the idea is put forward that the pegs, the mountains, will keep the earth from shaking.

A third picture is present in the word (rawasiya) used for mountains. Wehr translates this word as unshakable mountains. The Munjid says (al-jibal al-thawabat al-ruwasikh) firmly established, fixed mountains. The word comes from the root (arsa), the same root used for the Arabic word for anchor. To throw out or cast the anchor is (alqa almirsah). So instead of "cast the anchor to keep the ship from moving", we have "cast the mountains to keep the earth from shaking".

From these pictures it is clear that Muhammad's followers understood that the Mountains were thrown down

(a) like tent pegs to keep a tent in place.

(b) like an anchor to hold a ship in place.

(c) to stop the earth from moving. i.e. limit earthquakes,

But, in fact, this is false. Earthquakes are common events associated with the forming of mountains.

Since these verses present a definite problem, after quoting several of the above verses about mountains Dr. Bucaille says,

"Modern geologists describe the folds in the Earth as giving foundations to the mountains, and their dimensions go roughly one mile to roughly 10 miles. The stability of the Earth's crust results from the phenomenon of these folds."

But is this true? Commenting on Dr. Bucaille's statement, Professor of Geology, Dr. David A. Young says,

"While it is true that many mountain ranges are composed of folded rocks (and the folds may be of large scale) it is not true that the folds render the crust stable. The very existence of the folds is evidence of instability in the crust."[1]

In other words, Mountains don't keep the earth from shaking. Their formation caused and still causes the surface of the earth to shake.


Geological theories at the present time propose that the hardened crust of the earth is made up of sections or plates which slowly move in relation to each other (about as fast as the growth of a fingernail). Sometimes the plates separate and most geologists believe that this explains the separation of North and South America from Europe and Africa.

At other places on the earth the plates collide, and then they buckle, wrinkle and slid over each other. An example of this method of mountain formation is found in the Middle East where the migration of Arabia toward Iran has resulted in the Zagros range. The Atlas mountains in Morocco and the Alps are other examples of fold mountains caused by plate shifts. In many parts of the world, as one travels along the roads, one sees a hill side where the sand stone layers, which were horizontal when they were deposited in the sea many eons ago, are now sticking up in the air at angles of 30 degrees or 50 degrees or even 90 degrees. Diagram 7 shows this type of formation.

Diagram 7
Diagram 7

Ibn Sina' (Avicenna), writing in the Kitab al-Shifa', The Book of the Remedy, about 412 H/1021 AD observed these layers. He says nothing about the tilting but discusses the layers in the following words,

"It is possible that each time the land was exposed by the ebbing of the sea a layer was left, since we see that some mountains appear to have been piled up layer by layer, and it is therefore likely that the clay from which they are formed was itself at one time arranged in layers. One layer was formed first, then, at a different period, a further layer was formed and piled [upon the first, and so on] ..."[2]

Sometimes the plates get caught on each other and stop sliding. During this period great forces are built up. When the forces of friction are overcome, the piece of plate that was stuck lurches forward causing the shock wave of a "thrust quake". In a recent earthquake it was calculated that the Cocos plate in Mexico suddenly jumped forward three meters.

During other quakes whole sections of plate are pushed upward or downward. In 1923 there was an earthquake at Sagami Bay, Japan which laid half of Tokyo in ruins. In a chapter entitled "Mass Mortality in the Sea", Brongersma-Sanders describes the geological changes in these words,

"No other known earthquake has caused such remarkable distortions of the seabed. In the central portion of Sagami Bay ‘the area of distortion is of vast extent, and the seabed has subsided as much as 460 feet (140 meters) at the northwest end, 590 ft (180 meters) near the center, and 656 and 690 feet (200 and 210 meters) at the southeast end. In the northeast portion, the greatest uplift measured is 820 feet (250 meters) and in the southwest portion 328 feet (100 meters).’ (quoted in turn from Davidson 1931, p 94)"[3]

Ibn Sina', though he thought that earthquakes were caused by winds inside the earth, accurately described the above mentioned effect saying,

"The formation of heights is brought about by an essential cause ... when, as in many violent earthquakes, the wind which produces the earthquake raises a part of the ground and a height is formed ..."[4]


Another type of mountain is that formed by volcanoes. Lava and ash from inside the earth are thrown out and piled up until a high mountain is formed, even from the bottom of the sea. The Hawaiian group rises from an ocean depth of more than 1.5 km (1 mile) to the crater of Mauna Kea which is 4.2 km (2.6 miles) in the air.

On occasion the volcanoes explode, as happened in the south Pacific at Krakatoa in 1883, when the whole island was blown away, killing 36,000 people. At other times volcanoes are responsible for such severe earthquakes that surrounding towns are completely destroyed. The town of Catania, near Mt. Etna in Sicily, has been destroyed eight times during recorded history. This 3000 meter peak is still active, and in 1983 more than 200 quakes were recorded when it had a prolonged eruption and the lava almost destroyed several villages.

Diagram 8 shows both of these processes. On the left the Indo-Australia plate is moving toward the right and forcing down the Pacific plate coming from the right. In the center there are two places where liquid magma is flowing up and forming volcanoes. All this activity results in the large earthquake zone shown in the right center of the diagram.

Diagram 8 : Central North Island Vulcanism and Subduction Zone
Diagram 8
Central North Island Vulcanism and Subduction Zone
(By permission of Heurisko Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand)

We can conclude from this information that Mountains were formed originally with movement and shaking of the earth's crust;; and that now, in the present, many earthquakes are caused by their continued formation. When the plates buckle over each other there are earthquakes. When volcanoes erupt associated earthquakes may occur.

Throwing the mountains down onto the earth may be poetry, but to say that mountains keep the earth from shaking is a "severe difficulty" which is out of step with modern science. It may be that Muslim writers and theologians and scientists will be able to make some basic assumptions concerning mountain formation and the shaking of the earth which will satisfy them in relation to this problem, but it is a problem.

Dr. Torki also discusses these verses.[5] For the most part his efforts at explanation of difficult texts have been valid efforts, but in relation to the mountains, he too has succumbed to the temptation to quote a verse out of context and then claim concordance between the Qur'an and modern scientific knowledge.

After several paragraphs of discussing the movement of the plates in the crust of the earth (including the fact that this movement is at a speed of a few centimeters a year), he says that this has been foretold by the Qur'an in the Middle Meccan Sura of The Ants (Al-Naml) 27:88 which reads,

"And you will see the mountains which you believe solid, moving as the clouds move." ("Flying with the flight of clouds" - Pickthall)

But when we include the preceding verse as context it clearly has a different meaning. It then reads,

"And the day that the trumpet will be sounded and those in the heavens and the earth will jump with fright ... and all will come to Him humbled, and you will see the mountains which you believe solid, moving as the clouds move."

The trumpet sounding, with those in the heavens and the earth jumping with fright, show that these verses are speaking of the terrible cataclysmic events which will surround the day of judgement - events which include sending the mountains flying. That these events have anything to do with modern geological theories, however, seems very unlikely.


The Qur'an speaks in several verses of the "seven heavens". Dr. Torki speaks of these verses and quotes them as follows,

Noah (Nuh) 71:15-16, Early Meccan.

"Do you not see how God has created the seven heavens one above the other, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a lamp?"

The Dominion (Al-Mulk) 67:3, Middle Meccan.

"He Who created the seven heavens, one above the other..."

The Believers (Al-Mu'minun) 23:17,86, Late Meccan.

"And We have made above you seven tracts (or roads or paths), and we are never unmindful of the creation." "Say, `Who is Lord of the seven heavens, and Lord of the tremendous throne?'"

Ha Mim Al-Sajda 41:12, Late Meccan.

"And He completed them seven heavens in two days and inspired in each heaven its command..."

The Children of Israel (Bani Isra'il) 17:44, -1 before the Hejira.

"The seven heavens and the earth and all beings therein declare His glory."

The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:29, 2 AH.

"He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens. And He is the knower of all things."

One might easily pass over these verses as essentially poetic, but Dr. Torki attempts to show that they agree with modern astronomical knowledge.[6]

Starting with the earth's atmosphere which averages about 40 k ilometers in thickness as the first heaven, he then multiplies this by 10,000 for the dimension of the second, or lunar heaven. Multiplying this by 10,000 gives the third, or solar heaven; and continuing to multiply by 10,000 each time, he proposes "the heaven of the nearest stars", "the galactic heaven" (since it is about the size of our galaxy), "the heaven of the nearest galaxies", and finally "the cosmic heaven".

This scheme gives seven divisions, of course, but on analysis it is not convincing. Calling the earth's atmosphere the first heaven, and everything else the second, might have some validity; but everything else is arbitrary. Outside the earth's atmosphere, space is continuous and qualitatively similar, as Torki himself says.

It is a basic assumption to separate what is continuous space into a lunar and a solar heaven.

It is a basic assumption to separate the sun, which is a star, from the near stars, or from the galaxy which contains it.

It is a basic assumption to call our galaxy one heaven, and other galaxies another heaven.

Even multiplying by 10,000 seems to be a completely arbitrary basic assumption since no scientific reason is given, and it has no relation to any of the spiritual numbers which Dr. Torki has mentioned elsewhere, such as "7" or "19".

Making these basic assumptions is not wrong. The whole reason for writing this chapter is to show that we all do it. But they are not scientifically convincing.

Even more important from the Muslim standpoint, Dr. Torki's hypothesis does not agree with the following verses from the Qur'an,

The Ranks (Al-Saffat) 37:6, Early Meccan.

"We have indeed adorned the lower heaven with the beauty of the stars (kawakib )."

Ha Mim Al-Sajda 41:12, Late Meccan.

And He completed them seven heavens in two days and inspired in each heaven its command; and We adorned the lower heaven with lamps (masabih), and rendered it guarded..."

The Dominion (Al-Mulk) 67:3,5, Middle Meccan.

"He Who created the seven heavens, one above the other... And We have adorned the lowest heaven with lamps (masabih)..."

On page 118, Dr. Torki says that these "lamps", which the Qur'an places in the lowest of the seven heavens, are the stars.[7] Yet, this is in contradiction to his own hypothetical division by which he has placed the stars in the outer five heavens.

The Bible speaks of the heavens in almost 700 different verses, but it mentions more than one heaven only one time. In the Gospel-New Testament Paul writes as follows of a man who was raised up to the third heaven:

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know - God knows. And I know that this man... was caught up to Paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell."

2 Corinthians 12:2-4.

This clearly refers to spiritual heavens and has nothing to do with the material creation. But even if Paradise hadn't been mentioned, that would surely have to be the meaning. For otherwise what could it mean to say that this Christian was caught up to some place out in the galaxy?


We considered this a little bit in Chapter II of Section One, but now we shall look at all the verses which the Qur'an gives on the subject.

The Ranks (Al-Saffat) 37:6-10, Early Meccan.

We have indeed adorned the lower heaven with the beauty of the stars and for guard against every defiant devil, so they cannot hear the highest assembly but be cast away from every side - repulsed for theirs is a perpetual torment - except he who snatches something by stealth, and a piercing flame (shihabun thaqibun) pursues him."

The Spirits (Al-Jinn, can be good or evil) 72:8-9, Late Meccan.

A Jinn is speaking and says, And we pried into heaven and we found it full of strong guards and meteors (shuhuban), and we used to sit near it, perched for hearing; but he who listens now will find a flaming fire (shihab) in wait for him."

The Dominion (Al-Mulk) 67:5, Middle Meccan.

"And We have adorned the lowest heaven with lamps (masabih), and We have made them missiles (or stonings - rujuman ) for the devils and for them we have prepared the punishment of fire."

The Rocky Tract (Al-Hijr) 15:16-18, Late Meccan.

"It is We Who have set out the zodiac in the heaven and adorned it for the beholders, and We have guarded it from every cursed devil (stoned satan), except he who steals a hearing and a clear flaming fire (shihab) pursues him."

The Night-visitant (Al-Tariq) 86:2-3, Early Meccan.

"And what will explain to thee what the Night-visitant is? - (it is) the piercing star (al-najm al-thaqib)."

There is not enough information in the context of this last verse to know about what it speaks with certainty, but since it has the adjective "piercing", it has been included for completeness.

Scientifically, what are popularly called "shooting stars", include two main classes of astronomical objects - meteors and meteorites.

a. Meteors, which are by far the more common, are rarely larger than a pin head. When they enter the atmosphere at speeds of about 18.6 miles or 30 km/second, they become white hot from the friction and are burned up. The smallest ones, less than 1/20 of a millimeter in diameter, deaccelerate without burning up and float to earth as micro-meteorites. These have been recovered and some include iron- nickel compounds with up to 60% nickel.

In addition to sporadic meteors, there are also meteor showers during which many meteors may be observed at the same moment. It is quite widely accepted, though not proved, that meteor showers represent the debris of old comets. When the earth passes though this debris the resulting meteors follow parallel paths, even though visually they appear to be spreading out from a common point just over the horizon. According to Robert Hutchison, Curator of Meteorites of The British Museum, these are made up of water as ice, frozen ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide.[8]

In their notes, or by their translations, Yusuf Ali, Pickthall, and Hamidullah have all indicated that the Arabic words used in the above verses refer to meteors.

b. Meteorites are solid lumps of matter which can survive passage through the earth's atmosphere and reach the ground. While passing through the atmosphere the outer layer melts and streams away so that they are seen as a spectacularly bright fire ball of light called a bolide. Perhaps this is what the Qur'an is referring to as the "night-visitant - the piercing star" in Sura 86 quoted above.

There are three principal types of meteorites:
1) the irons made up of nickel-iron;
2) the stones composed of silicates; and
3) the stony-irons made up of a mixture.

Examination of light reflected from meteorite samples, shows it to be very similar to the light reflected from asteroids, as seen by the telescope. This, plus the calculation of the orbits of three meteorites which have been photographed in fall, confirms the current theory that most meteorites come from the asteroid belt.

The difficulty here is obviously not with the science and composition of meteors and meteorites. The difficulty is how to understand what the Qur'an can be talking about. The word "rajm", usually translated as "cursed" in modern translations, comes from the verb meaning "to stone", and Hamidullah translates 67:5 which is quoted above with the words,

"and We have designed them (the lamps) as a means of stoning the devils." (translation from French mine)
What shall we understand when it says that God throws meteors, whether made of carbon dioxide or iron-nickel, at non-material devils who steal a hearing at the heavenly council? And what are we to understand when the meteors come in showers and are traveling in parallel paths? Are we to understand that the devils all lined up in rows at the same moment? These are not easy questions.


a. The Quranic Days of Creation.

In Chapter II of Section I, we talked about the meaning of the word "smoke" in relation to the days of creation. In this section we want to look a little more at the number of days and their order. There are seven references which speak of God creating the heavens and the earth in six days - 7:54, 10:3, 11:7, 25:59, 32:4, 50:38, and 57:4. Of these it will be sufficient to quote the Late Meccan Sura of Jonah (Yunus) 10:3, which includes all the information given by the others.

"Indeed, your Lord is God Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then He mounted on the throne directing all things. There is no intercessor except after his permission. That is God your Lord, so worship Him."

That all sounds very straight forward, but in the Late Meccan Sura of Ha-Mim Al-Sajda 41:9-12, it reads,

"Say, `Do you deny Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you join equals to Him? He is the Lord of the worlds, and He placed therein firm hills rising above it, and blessed it and measured therein its nourishment in four days, according to (the need) of those who ask (for food).

Then He turned equally to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth, "Come together willingly or unwillingly."

They both said, "We come obediently."

And He completed them seven heavens in two days and inspired in each heaven its command, and We adorned the lower heaven with lamps and rendered it guarded. That is the decree of the Mighty, the Knower."'

It doesn't take a genius in mathematics to read this an see that it seems to say that God made the earth in two days, and the nourishment according to the needs of each one in four days, which makes a total of six. And after the mountains were formed and nourishment - presumably plants and animals - THEN God made the seven heavens in two days for a total of eight days.

So now we have a contradiction!?

The Qur'an says seven times that God did it in six days, while here it says eight days, so what does one do? According to the rule suggested by Aristotle which was quoted at the end of Section Three, Chapter I, we should give the benefit of the doubt to the author, and not take it to ourselves.

Therefore, it seems logical to make the basic assumption that in Muhammad's understanding some of these days were concurrent and going along together, thus allowing a total of only six days. That still leaves the problem of the earth being formed, cooled, and growing nourishment, before the heavens are formed - a sequence which is also found in the Sura of the Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:29 which says,

"He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth. Then He turned to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens."

These Quranic statements do not agree at all with modern theories of the beginning of the universe, but I shall allow others to attempt a solution to that.

b. The Biblical Days of Jonah.

Perhaps the reader is asking, "Why so much time on such a minor matter?" It is because Dr. Bucaille uses a whole page[9] to point out a similar time problem in the Gospel-New Testament. He writes,

"The most notable improbability is perhaps to be found in Matthew. It is the most difficult to rationalize of all that... Jesus said. He (Matthew) relates in Chapter 12:38-40 the episode concerning Jonah's sign:

Jesus was among the scribes and pharisees who addressed him in the following terms:

`Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.' But he answered them, `An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'
Jesus therefore proclaims that he will stay in the earth three days and three nights."

Bucaille then goes on to show that by the account of the very same author, Matthew, Jesus was crucified on Friday, stayed in the grave Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night, and rose again early Sunday morning. This gives a part of three days, but only two nights.

Jesus made the prophecy that he would die and be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights sometime in the late winter or early spring of 29 AD just before the Jewish Passover.

About six months later he spoke again of his death in this very detailed prophecy. The account reads,

"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciple that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Matthew 16:21.

A week or ten days later, he repeated the same prophecy (Matthew 17:22-23) and finally about 10 days before the Passover in 30 AD, using his title "the son of man", Jesus again told his disciples,

"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life." Matthew 20:18-19.

Now for Dr. Bucaille there is no way that the phrase "on the third day" can equal "three days and three nights". Therefore this is a big contradiction!?! Never mind the fact that Jesus prophesied his own death and resurrection. The important thing is that Jesus' calculations were wrong!

But are we so sure that the author of Matthew is wrong? Do we not have to give the benefit of the doubt to the author and ask what Matthew and Jesus and other first century Jews would understood by the term "three days and three nights", as compared with "on the third day"?

According to A.T. Robertson,[10] "The well-known custom of the Jews was to count a part of a day as a whole day of 24 hours... So then the part of Friday would count as one day, Saturday another, and the part of Sunday the third day."

The same custom is still true in North Africa. If I ask a patient, who felt a pain on Saturday night and comes to see me Monday morning, how long he has been ill, he will always answer "three days"; even though it is less than 48 hours. This is exactly parallel to Jesus' words in his Gospel.

Secondly, if Dr. Bucaille would read the Gospel of Matthew carefully, he would find a third phrase which provides the answer. In Matthew 27:62-64 we read,

"The next day (Saturday), the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate. `Sir', they said, `We remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, "After three days I will rise again." So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day...'"

Jesus is quoted as saying, "After three days I will rise again". This sounds like saying, "After three periods of 24 hours" or "three days and three nights".

But the author of Matthew uses it as equal to making the tomb secure "until the third day". Therefore linguistically all three of these phrases seem to be used as equal to each other and it is time to give the author "the benefit of the doubt" as Aristotle suggested.

Finally, there is a spiritual truth or argument which is convincing for many Christians. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry near the end of 26 AD or early in 27 AD, he attended a wedding at Cana. Mary, his mother, asked Jesus to help the host who had run out of wine. He did it in a miraculous way, but also answered and said, "My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4).

More than three years later, on Thursday evening just before he was arrested, he said to his disciples, "Enough! The hour is come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." Mark 14:41.

What hour? Christians understand "the hour" to speak of his suffering and death for our sins. This suffering started on Thursday night when Jesus was arrested, just after he said, "The hour IS COME", and it continued through the beatings, and the torture and death of the cross until his resurrection.

From the time that he said, "My hour is come" on Thursday night, until he rose from the dead with mighty power on Sunday morning, is "three nights and three days".

Whether the reader accepts this last argument, or not, the point should be clear. If "basic assumptions" can be made for the Qur'an so that "eight days" can equal "six days", then certainly linguistic usage and spiritual "basic assumptions" must be allowed for the Gospel-New Testament so that "three days and three nights" can equal "after three days", and "on the third day".

  1. Professor of Geology, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, personal communication.
  2. A Source Book in Medieval Science, Edward Grant, Harvard University Press, 1974, p. 620.
  3. Treatise on Marine Ecology and Paleoecology, vol 1, Geological Society of America, Memoir 67, 1957, p. 976.
  4. (Avicenne) Grant, op. cit., p. 619.
  5. L'Islam Religion de la Science, Bèchir Torki, I'UGTT, Tunis, 1979, p. 131-133.
  6. Ibid., pp. 111-114.
  7. Ibid., p. 118.
  8. The Search For Our Beginnings, Hutchinson, Oxford U. Press, 1983.
  9. Bucaille, BQ&S, p. 62
  10. A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ, Harper and Row, New York, 1922, p. 290.

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