Qur'an & Science Problem:

The Seven Earths

Their Existence and their Location


It may come as a surprise to some of our readers to find that the Qur'an teaches that Allah created seven earths.

"It is Allah Who has created seven heavens, and earths as many ..." S. 65:12, F. Malik's translation

What should we understand these seven earths to be? Earth in the sense of a land mass, i.e. seven continents located on our one planet earth? Other planets similar to our earth? Before we can evaluate whether this Quranic statement is true, i.e. decide about its scientific correctness, we need to clarify the exact understanding of these ‘seven earths’, particularly how Muhammad understood them. The teaching on the seven earths is found in the early Islamic data, the ahadith and commentaries on the Qur'an.


Evidence from the Ahadith

Sahih Al-Bukhari

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 Apostle said, ‘Any person who takes even a span of land unjustly, his neck shall be encircled with it down seven earths.’" (Volume 4, Book 54, Number 417; see also Numbers 418, 420; Volume 3, Book 43, Numbers 632-634)

Narrated 'Abdullah:

A (Jewish) Rabbi came to Allah's Apostle 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 smiled so that his pre-molar teeth became visible, and that was the confirmation of the Rabbi. Then Allah's Apostle recited: ‘No just estimate have they made of Allah such as due to Him.’ (39.67) (Volume 6, Book 60, Number 335)


Sahih Muslim

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 (may peace be upon him) said: He who usurps even a span of land would be made to wear around his neck seven earths. (Book 010, Number 3925; see also Numbers 3920-3924)


Al-Tirmidhi

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.)

Ahmad and Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Number 1513- taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version)


Note: This hadith is particularly relevant, since the reference to the seven earths is this time not made in passing while talking about some other topic. It is Muhammad himself who takes the initiative to teach his followers the structure of the universe. The ‘fact’ that there are seven heavens and seven earths is already stated in the Qur'an. Muhammad, however, wants his followers to know also what the relation is between these seven heavens and the seven earths, what exactly is their relative position and the distance between them.


Narrated Ubayy ibn Ka'b

In regard to the words of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, "Your Lord brought forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam." (7:172) Ubayy said: He gathered them and paired them then fashioned them and endowed them with the power of speech and they began to speak. He then made an agreement and covenant with them. He made them bear witness about themselves (saying) Am I not your Lord. They said: Yes. He said: I call to witness seven heavens and seven earths regarding you ...

Transmitted by Ahmad. (Number 41- taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version)


Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri

Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said that Moses asked his Lord to teach him something with which to make mention of Him or to supplicate Him, and was told to say, "There is no god but Allah." He replied to his Lord that all His servants said this, but he wanted something particularly for himself, and He said, "Moses, were the seven heavens and their inhabitants, apart from me, and the seven earths put on one side of a balance and ‘There is no god but Allah’ on the other, ‘There is no god but Allah’ would outweigh them."

It is transmitted in Sharh as-Sunnah. (Number 731- taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version)


Narrated Ya'la ibn Murrah

Ya'la told of hearing Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) say, "If anyone wrongly takes a span of land, Allah, 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 when men are judged."

Ahmad transmitted it. (Number 885- taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version)


Fiqh-us-Sunna

... Ata ibn abi Marwan states from his father that Ka'b took an oath by the One who opened up the sea for Moses that Suhaib related to him that whenever the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alehi wasallam saw a city which he wished to enter, he would say: "O Allah, Lord of the seven heavens and what they shade, Lord of the seven earths and what they carry, Lord of the satans and those that they misguide, Lord of the winds and what they blow away, I ask of You for the good of this city and the good of its inhabitants and the good of what is in it. I seek refuge in You from its evil and the evil of its inhabitants and the evil of what is in it." This is related by an-Nasa'i, ibn Hibban, and al-Hakim who calls it sahih ... (Volume 2, Number 119b- taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version)

... Khalid b. Walid reported that once he suffered from insomnia. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said to him, "Shall I teach you words that will make you go to sleep when you say them? Say, ‘O Allah, the Lord of the seven heavens and whatever they cover, Lord of the earths and whatever they contain, Creator of devils and whomever they mislead, be my protector from the evil of all Your creatures lest some of them may hasten with insolence against me or transgress the bounds. Honored is he who is in Your protection and blessed be Your name, there is no god except You’." (Reported by At-Tabrani in his Al-Kahir and Al-Awsat. Its chain is sound, although Abdur-Rahman did not hear it from Khalid. Al-Hafiz al-Mundhari has mentioned it)… (Volume 4, Number 122- taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version)


Evidence from Early Muslim Historians and Commentators

Tafsir Ibn Abbas

(Allah it is Who hath created seven heavens) one above the other like a dome, (and of the earth the like thereof) seven earths BUT THEY ARE FLAT. (The commandment cometh down among them slowly) He says: He sends the angels down from heaven with revelation, Scripture and calamities, (that ye may know) and acknowledge (that Allah is Able to do all things) relating to the dwellers of the heavens and the earths, (and that Allah surroundeth all things in knowledge) and that His knowledge encompasses everything.' (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn 'Abbs; online source; bold, underline and capital emphasis ours)

Al-Tabari

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. (History of Al-Tabari-General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood, Volume 1, trans. Franz Rosenthal [State University of New York Press, Albany 1989], pp. 207-208)

Ibn Kathir

<and of the earth the like thereof.> means, He created seven earths. In the Two Sahihs, there is a Hadith that states ...

In the beginning of my book, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah, I mentioned the various narrations for this Hadith when I narrated the story of the creation of the earth. All the thanks and praise is due to Allah.

Those who explained this Hadith to mean the seven continents have brought an implausible explanation that contradicts the letter of the Qur’an and the Hadith without having proof. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Volume 10 (Surat At-Tagabun to the end of the Qur’an), abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; first edition, September 2000], pp. 55-56; bold emphasis ours)

Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Kisa'i

... There are seven earths. The first is called Ramaka, beneath which is the Barren Wind, which can be bridled by no fewer than seventy thousand angels. With this wind God destroyed the people of Ad. The inhabitants of Ramaka are a nation called Muwashshim, upon whom is everlasting torment and divine retribution. The second earth is called Khalada, wherein are the implements of torture for the inhabitants of Hell. There dwells a nation called Tamis, whose food is their own flesh and whose drink is their own blood. The third earth is called Arqa, wherein dwell mulelike eagles with spearlike tails. On each tail are three hundred and sixty poisonous quills. Were even one quill placed on the face of the earth, the entire universe would pass away. The inhabitants thereof are a nation called Qays, who eat dirt and drink mothers' milk. The fourth earth is called Haraba, wherein dwell the snakes of Hell, which are as large as mountains. Each snake has fangs like tall palm trees, and if they were to strike the hugest mountain with their fangs it would be leveled to the ground. The inhabitants of this earth are a nation called Jilla, and they have no eyes, hands or feet but have wings like bats and die only of old age. The fifth earth is called Maltham, wherein stones of sulphur hang around the necks of infidels. When the fire is kindled the fuel is placed on their breasts, and the flames leap up onto their faces, as He hath said: The fire whose fuel is men and stones (2:24), and Fire shall cover their faces (14:50). The inhabitants are a nation called Hajla, who are numerous and who eat each other. The sixth earth is called Sijjin. Here are the registers of the people of Hell, and their works are vile, as He hath said: Verily the register of the actions of the wicked is surely Sijjin (83:7). Herein dwells a nation called Qatat, who are shaped like birds and worship God truly. The seventh earth is called Ajiba and is the habitation of Iblis. There dwells a nation called Khasum, who are BLACK and short, with claws like lions. It is they who will be given dominion over Gog and Magog, who will be destroyed by them… (Tales of the Prophets-Qisas al-anbiya, trans. Wheeler M. Thackston Jr. [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., Distributed by Kazi Publications; Chicago, IL 1997], pp. 8-9)

Shaykh Al-Albani

The late renowned modern hadith scholar Al-Allamah Muhammad Nasir ud-Deen Al-Albani, after citing the following narration:

134 - "When death was approaching the Prophet of Allaah Nooh – sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam – he said to his son: I will narrate to you my bequest; I command you with two things and prohibit you from two things. I command you with 'La ilaha ‘illa Allaah' (‘There is none worthy of worship in truth except Allaah) if the seven heavens and the seven earths were placed upon a scale and 'La ilaha ‘illa Allaah' was placed on the other, then 'La ilaha ‘illa Allaah' would be heavier… Silsilah Saheehah: 134

Stated that:

4 - The seven earths are like the seven heavens. There are many Ahadeeth regarding this in Bukharee and Muslim and in other books. Perhaps one day we will have time to follow up these Ahadeeth and research them. What supports these Ahadeeth is the saying of Allaah Tabaraka wa Ta' aala : << It is Allaah Who has created seven heavens and of the earth the like thereof (i.e. seven). >> I.e. they are similar in creation and in number.

So, you should not pay any attention to the one who explains it away, there by it ends up as a negation of similarity as well as in numbers, being deceived by the Europeans and where their knowledge has reached to, from having gone up in to space however they do not know of seven earths, along with that they do not know about seven heavens. Will we reject the speech of Allaah and the speech of His Messenger due to the ignorance of the Europeans and others along with them, declaring that the more they increase their knowledge of the universe, the more they increase in their ignorance of it. Allaah the Most Great has spoken the truth when He said : << And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little >> (Al-Albani, The Ahadeeth of Tawheed from the Silsilah Ahadeeth As-Saheehah; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The preceding citations demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the first Muslims, Muhammad and his companions, believed that there were seven actual earths. In addition, these sources conclusively prove that Muhammad taught all these seven earths, including the earth we live on, to be flat, something like a continental plate, but not spherical like a globe. (For further data, see the article The Earth: Flat or Round?). It is quite evident that Muhammad was grossly mistaken here.

One more important observation needs to be made about this issue:

"It is Allah Who has created seven heavens, and earths as many ..." F. Malik

"Allah it is Who hath created seven heavens, and of the earth the like thereof ..." Pickthall

"Allah is He Who created seven Firmaments and of the earth a similar number ..." Yusuf Ali

All these translations show that the emphasis of this verse is not the number of heavens and earths, the purpose of this ayah is clearly to answer the question: Who is the creator of the seven heavens and earths? That there are indeed seven heavens and seven earths is assumed. This is not new information. In the many ahadith quoted above, the fact that Muhammad specified the number of the heavens and the earths to be seven never evoked any surprise. It was the general understanding at the time, believed by many. In fact, in the second hadith quoted above, it is a Jewish Rabbi who comes to Muhammad and speaks of a plurality of heavens and a plurality of earths. The Qur'an only stresses, that the creator of them all is Allah, not any other of the many gods the Arabs still believed in at the time. He alone is the creator of all the earths, and therefore he alone has the power over all the earths. The rest of the ayah confirms this emphasis:

"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." Yusuf Ali


Conclusion

Taking into account all the early Islamic data presented above, is there any way to avoid the conclusion that the Quranic teaching about the universe as being structured in seven heavens and seven earths is merely a repetition of the beliefs and superstitions of the people of Muhammad's day? The ancient belief in seven earths is a major scientific error and this false understanding was not only explicitly taught by Muhammad but even included in the Qur'an as if being a scientific fact. This provides further evidence that Muhammad is not God's prophet, the Qur'an is not God's word and that the Allah of Islam is not the true God.

Jochen Katz


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