The Quran’s Confusion Over The Days of Creation: A Response to MENJ’s

Six or Eight Days of Creation?


In his attempted rebuttal to our article Six or eight days of creation? Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi (MENJ) first quotes the short summary from the overview page of our Qur'an Contradictions section:

Sura 7:54, 10:3, 11:7, and 25:59 clearly state that God created "the heavens and the earth" in six days. But in 41:9-12 the detailed description of the creation procedure adds up to eight days.

Then he quotes another summary remark from the article itself:

The gist of the missionary claim is as follows:

Two days for the creation of the earth, then four days to fill the earth with mountains, blessings and nourishment for all its inhabitants, and in the end two more days to create the seven heavens and create the stars in them. This adds up to 2+4+2 = 8 days in contradiction to the 6 days mentioned in the other verses.

Response

The problem of the missionaries with their so-called findings of "contradictions" in the Noble Qur'an is that they fail to note the methodology of how tafsir is performed. In response to this alleged "contradiction" in the aforementioned verses, we would like to cite Harun Yahya's "How Do The Unwise Interpret The Qur'an?" for a refutation:

RESPONSE:

MENJ falls way short of refuting our original article because he only responds to a summary statement but fails to interact with the actual arguments that were presented to support the conclusion. Furthermore, instead of discussing our reasoning, he only quotes from a third party, Harun Yahya, who has probably not even read our article.

Anyway, let us begin by highlighting MENJ’s proposed methodology in handling Quranic contradictions in order to see how he fails to do the very thing he chides the "missionaries" for failing to follow:

If you ask what is the best method of tafsr, the answer is that the best way is TO EXPLAIN THE QUR'AN THROUGH THE QUR'AN. For, what the Qur'n alludes to at one place IS EXPLAINED AT THE OTHER, and what it says in brief on one occasion IS ELABORATED UPON AT THE OTHER. But if this does not help you, you should turn to the Sunnah, because the Sunnah EXPLAINS AND ELUCIDATES the Qur'n. Imam Abu `Abd Allh Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shf` has said: "All that the Prophet, peace be upon him, has said is what he has derived from the Qur'n." Allh has said ...

This is why the Prophet(P) said: "Know that I have been given the Qur'n and something like it"[1], namely the Sunnah. In fact, the Sunnah, too has been given to him through wahy as the Qur'n, except that it has not been recited to him as the Qur'n. Imam al-Shfi` and other scholars have advanced a number of arguments in support of this point; but this is not the place to quote them.[2]

In order to understand the Qur'n, you should first look to the Qur'n itself. If that does not help, then turn to the Sunnah ...

When you do not get any help from the Qur'n or the Sunnah, turn to the words of the companions. For they know the Qur'n better: they have witnessed its revelation, and passed through the situations in which it was revealed: and know it and understand it FULLY. This is particularly true of the scholars and leaders such as the Four Righteous Caliphs and `Abdullh ibn Mas`d ...

Another great scholar IS ‘ABDULLAH IBN ‘ABBAS(R), the nephew of the Prophet(P) and the commentator of the Qur'n. He attained that stature in virtue of the Prophet’s prayer: "O Allh! Give him knowledge of Islam and teach him the meaning of the Qur'n."[5] ... (Source: http://bismikaallahuma.org/Quran/Commentary/tafsir_perform.htm)

Let us break down MENJ’s methodology so that our readers can see it more clearly:

  1. One must look to other parts of the Quran for further clarification of a specific passage.
  2. If the Quran doesn’t provide further details to clarify a specific passage, then one must turn to the Sunnah.
  3. If there is nothing in the Sunnah of Muhammad that clarifies the issue, then one must turn to Muhammad’s Companions since they knew the Quran better.

In light of the foregoing, we will now demonstrate that following MENJ’s proposed methodology will confirm and help to solidify the claim of the "missionaries".

Amazingly, instead of citing the Quran, the Sunnah and/or the words of Muhammad’s Companions, MENJ cites Harun Yahya, a contemporary Muslim propagandist!

Let us see what this gentleman has to say.

The Subject of Creation in Six Days

It is stated in various parts of the Qur'an that the universe was created in six days. Particular attention is often drawn to one section however, where the number of days in the separate verses mentioning the different stages of creation adds up to 8. Those who are unable to grasp the evident logic behind these verses assume them to conflict with all the other Qur'anic verses, which state the creation to have occurred in six days. These verses are as follows:

Say: 'Do you reject Him Who created the earth in two days, and make others equal to Him? That is the Lord of all the worlds.' He placed firmly embedded mountains on it, towering over it, and blessed it and measured out its nourishment in it, laid out for those who seek it ? all in four days. Then He turned to heaven when it was smoke and said to it and to the earth, 'Come willingly or unwillingly.' They both said, 'We come willingly.' In two days He determined them as seven heavens and revealed, in every heaven, its own mandate. We adorned the lowest heaven with lamps and guarded it. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing. (Surah Fussilat: 9-12)

If the days mentioned in the above verses are calculated, they add up to 8. Whereas it is stated in verse 3 of Surah Yunus and others that the Earth, the skies and everything in between were created in 6 days. This situation could appear incomprehensible to a superficial reader who refuses to use his mind and logic or to pay close attention. Those who approach the Qur'an to try to discover faults and contradictions frequently cite the above verse.

Yet, if a person concentrates and uses wisdom he can readily see that there is absolutely no paradox at all. If we pay attention to the periods of time stated in the verses we can reach the following calculations:

- It took four days from the time the universe was started until the sustenance had been made ready, or rather the necessary environment for living things was suitable, along with the creation of plants and animals.

- The beginning of this period, namely the shaping of the Earth along with the universe, or in short the creation of the world, took the initial two of these four days. So, these two days are not a separate time frame from those first four days. They are, to be more precise, the first two days of the four days mentioned in the next verse.

- In the 11th and 12th verses state that the sky was formed in 2 days. In conclusion, they add up to 6 days.

In short, the verses explain the separate time frames for each of the events that take place within the six days of creation.

It is imperative to clarify the point that the term "day" mentioned in these verses is not used to refer to a 24 hour-day but instead to indicate the different periods and phases.

And only God knows best!

RESPONSE:

That "only God knows best" is no more than a helpless admission that neither MENJ nor Harun Yahya are able to resolve the problem. However, the better knowledge of God is no excuse for sloppy thinking on the part of Muslim propagandists. The most embarrassing observation about MENJ's "rebuttal" is that Harun Yahya proposes exactly the same solution as the one found in the footnotes of A. Yusuf Ali which was quoted and discussed in our original article! We have already explained why this hypothesis is not satisfactory. What point is there for MENJ to only repeat the old claim without responding to our arguments why this suggestion is not acceptable? Anyway, we will discuss it again and present some more arguments.

The first thing we would like to point out is that Yahya’s claim that the four days of v. 10 are not separate from the first two days is simply an assumption. Yahya assumes that the first two days are included within the four days, but provides no proof for his assertion. Assuming something isn’t the same as proving it. As such, his assumption may or may not be true. In fact, if the Quran didn’t have anything else to say regarding the order of creation, we would concede that Yahya’s explanation may be a valid one. As such, one could not conclusively or dogmatically claim that the Quran is in error here. Nor could one conclusively or dogmatically deny that the Quran is in error. It would simply come down to one’s prior assumptions about the Quran, whether they believed in it or not. A believer would obviously accept Yahya’s harmonization, whereas an unbeliever might not.

But unfortunately for both MENJ and Yahya, the Quran doesn’t end the discussion here. Elsewhere in the Quran we find that the order of creation is actually reversed!

Are ye the harder to create, or is the heaven that He built? He raised the height thereof and ordered it; And He made dark the night thereof, and He brought forth the morn thereof. AND AFTER THAT (bad'a) He spread the earth, And produced therefrom the water thereof and the pasture thereof, And He made fast the hills, A provision for you and for your cattle. S. 79:27-33

This passage states that the earth and its provisions were created after the heavens. This is a clear contradiction from what was stated in S. 41:9-12, which places the creation of the heavens AFTER the creation of the earth and its provisions! We quote the relevant portion for our readers to see:

THEN (thumma) He turned to the heaven, and it had been smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do come (together), in willing obedience." So He completed them as seven firmaments in two Days, and He assigned to each heaven its duty and command. And We adorned the lower heaven with lights, and (provided it) with guard. Such is the Decree of (Him) the Exalted in Might, Full of Knowledge.

This is repeated here:

It is He Who hath created for you all things that are on earth; THEN (thumma) He turned to the heavens, and made them into seven firmaments; and of all things He hath perfect knowledge. S. 2:29

Two renowoned Muslim exegetes named al-Jalalayn (the two Jalals) were of the opinion that these texts specifically taught that the earth and its provisions were fashioned before the heavens. They write in reference to S. 2:29:

He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, that is, the earth and all that is in it, so that you may benefit from and learn lessons from it; then, after creating the earth, He turned to, that is, He made His object, heaven and levelled them (fa-sawwāhunna: the pronoun [-hunna] refers to 'heaven', since, it [heaven] is implicit in the import of the sentence attributed to it [the pronoun]), that is to say, He made them thus, as [He says] in another verse, [fa-qadāhunna] so He determined them [Q. 41:12]) seven heavens and He has knowledge of all things, in their totality and in their individual detail, so do you not then think that the One who has the power to create this to begin with, which is much greater than what you are, also has the power to bring you back [after death]? (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)

And here is what they say regarding 41:9-12:

Say: 'Do you [really] (read a-innakum, pronouncing both hamzas, or by not pronouncing the second one but inserting an alif between the two in both cases) disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two days, Sunday and Monday, and ascribe to Him associates? That is the Lord, in other words, the Possesser, of [all] the Worlds (al-'ālamīn, the plural of 'ālam, which denotes everything apart from God. On account of the variety [of beings] that it subsumes, it has been expressed in the plural form ending with -īn, as a way of giving prevalence [in the address] to rational beings). (Source)

And He set (wa-ja'ala, the beginning of a new [independent] sentence and cannot be a supplement to [the preceding] relative clause containing alladhī, 'Who', because of the intervening clause that is [syntactically] unrelated) therein firm mountains [rising] above it, and blessed it, with an abundance of water, crops and stock, and ordained, divided, therein its [various means of] sustenance, for human beings and beasts, in four, complete, days - in other words, the 'setting therein [of mountains]' together with what has been mentioned in addition [all] took place on Tuesday and Wednesday - evenly (sawā'an, in the accusative because it is a verbal noun) in other words, the four days were exactly four, neither less nor more, for [all] enquirers, about the creation of the earth and all that is in it. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Then He turned to the heaven when it was smoke, [consisting of] rising vapours, and He said to it and to the earth, "Come both of you, to what I desire from you, willingly, or unwillingly!" (taw'an aw karhan, their [syntactical] locus is that of a circumstantial qualifier, in other words, '[Come] being obedient or coerced'). They said, "We come, together with all those inhabiting us, willingly!" (tā'i'īna mainly indicates masculine rational beings; it may also be that they are referred to in this way because they are being addressed thus). (Source)

Then He ordained them (the [suffixed] pronoun refers back to al-samā', 'the heaven', because it [al-samā'] actually denotes that plural [sense] to which it will lead [in the following clause), in other words, He made them to be, seven heavens in two days - Thursday and Friday. He completed them in the last hour thereof, in which He created Adam - which is why He does not say sawā'an, 'evenly' here [as He did earlier]; what is said here concords with those verse in which it is stated that the heavens and the earth were created in six days; and in each heaven He revealed its commandment', that to which He commanded those in it [to follow], in the way of obedience and worship. And We adorned the lowest heaven with lamps, with stars, and [this was also] to guarded them (hifzan is in the accusative because of its implicit verbal sense, in other words, 'We guarded it against the devils lest they try to listen therein [to the angels] by stealth with meteors'). That is the ordaining of the Mighty, in His kingdom, the Knower, of His creatures. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Clearly even these scholars believed that the earth was created before the heaven!

So now we have a problem of trying to figure out when exactly did Allah create the heavens. Did he do it before or after he created the earth and its provisions?

Since the Quran doesn’t solve the problem for us, we need to take MENJ’s advice and turn to Muhammad’s Sunnah:

"Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (mpbuh) took hold of my hands and said: Allah the Exalted and Glorious, created the clay on Saturday and He created the mountains on Sunday and He created the trees on Monday and He created the things entailing labour on Tuesday and created light on Wednesday and He caused animals to spread on Thursday and created Adam (pbuh) after 'Asr on Friday; the last creation at the last hour of the hours of Friday, ie. Between afternoon and night." (Sahih Muslim, Book 039, Number 6707)

This Hadith places the creation of light on Wednesday, after the creation of the earth and its provisions. Light presumably refers to the sun. If so, this would be in clear contradiction with modern scientific theories on the origin of the universe which places the creation of the sun before vegetation.

Since this Hadith doesn’t really resolve the problem, we need to look at other Hadiths and/or sources. The following traditions are taken entirely from The History of al-Tabari, Volume 1 - General Introduction and from the Creation to the Flood (trans. Franz Rosenthal, State University of New York Press, Albany 1989), pp. 187-193. All bold and capital emphasis ours:

"We have stated before that time is but hours of night and day and that the hours are but traversal by the sun and the moon of the degrees of the sphere. Now then, this being so, there is (also) a sound tradition from the Messenger of God told us by Hannad b. al-Sari, who also said that he read all of the hadith (to Abu Bakr)- Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash- Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal- 'Ikrimah- IBN ABBAS: The Jews came to the Prophet and asked him about the creation of the heavens and the earth. He said: God created the earth on Sunday and Monday. He created the mountains and the uses they possess on Tuesday. On Wednesday, He created trees, water, cities and the cultivated barren land. These are four (days). He continued (citing the Qur'an): ‘Say: Do you really not believe in the One Who created the earth in two days, and set up others like Him? That is the Lord of the worlds. He made it firmly anchored (mountains) above it and blessed it and decreed that it contain the amount of food it provides, (all) in four days, equally for those asking’- for those who ask. On Thursday, He created heaven. On Friday, He created the stars, the sun, the moon, and the angels, until three hours remained. In the first of these three hours He created the terms (of human life), who would live and who would die. In the second, He cast harm upon everything that is useful for mankind. And in the third, (He created) Adam and had him dwell in Paradise. He commanded Iblis to prostrate himself before Adam, and He drove Adam out of Paradise at the end of the hour. When the Jews asked: What then, Muhammad? He said: ‘Then He sat straight upon the Throne.’ The Jews said: You are right, if you had finished, they said, with: Then He rested. Whereupon the Prophet got very angry, and it was revealed: ‘We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us. Thus be patient with what you say.’"

And:

"According to al-Muthanna- al-Hajjaj- Hammad- 'Ata' b. al-Sa'ib- 'Ikrimah: The Jews asked the Prophet: What about Sunday? The Messenger of God replied: On it, God created the earth and spread it out. They asked about Monday, and he replied: On it, He created Adam. They asked about Tuesday, and he replied: On it, He created the mountains, water, and so on. They asked about Wednesday, and he replied: Food. They asked about Thursday, and he replied: He created the heavens. They asked about Friday, and he replied: God created night and day. Then, when they asked about Saturday and mentioned God's rest(ing on it), he exclaimed: God be praised! God then revealed: ‘We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us.’"

Finally:

"The two reports transmitted by us from the Messenger of God have made it clear that the sun and the moon were created AFTER God had created many things of His creation. That is because the hadith OF IBN ABBAS ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE MESSENGER OF GOD indicates that God created the sun and the moon ON FRIDAY. If this is so, earth and heaven and what was in them, except the angels and Adam, had been created before God created the sun and the moon. All this (thus) existed while there was no light and no day, since night and day are but nouns designating hours known through the traversal by the sun and the moon of the course of the sphere. Now, if it is correct that the earth and the heaven and what was between them, except what we have mentioned, were in existence WHEN THERE WAS NO SUN AND NO MOON, the conclusion is that all existed when there was no night or day. The same (conclusion results from) the following hadith of Abu Hurayrah reported on the authority of the Messenger of God: God created light on Wednesday- meaning by ‘light’ THE SUN, if God wills."

The first thing to notice is that al-Tabari is quoting Hadiths on the authority of Ibn Abbas, one of the very individuals that MENJ claimed we needed to turn to when seeking to better understand the Quran! Ibn Abbas and others posit the creation of the heavens after the earth and its nourishments, contradicting both S. 79:27-33 and modern scientific theories.

The following exegete quotes a tradition in his comments to Sura 50:38 which corroborates the reports of Ibn Abbas:

(And verily We created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six Days, and naught of weariness touched Us) [50:38].
Al-Hasan and Qatadah said: "The Jews said: 'Allah created the creation in six days and rested on the seventh, Saturday', which they call the Sabbath, and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse".
Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Tamimi informed us> 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Ja'far al-Hafiz> Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan> Hannad ibn al-Sari> Abu Bakr ibn 'Ayyash> Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal> 'Ikrimah> Ibn 'Abbas who said: "The Jews came to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and asked him about the creation of the heavens and earth. He said to them: 'Allah created the earth on Sunday and Monday; He created the mountains [and what they contain of benefits] on Tuesday; He created the trees and water on Wednesday; He created heaven on Thursday; on Friday, He created the stars, sun and moon'. 'And what after that, O Muhammad?' the Jews asked. He said: 'Then, He established Himself on the Throne'. They said: 'You would have answered correctly, if you added: and then He rested'. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was furious. This verse was then revealed (And verily We created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six Days, and naught of weariness touched Us. Therefor (O Muhammad) bear with what they say) [50:38-39]". ('Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul; source)

Hence, al-Wahidi’s reference is in agreement with al-Tabari’s narratives that the earth and its provisions were all created before the heavens.

Furthermore, these traditions show us how the first Muslims understood the Arabic term thumma, "then." The first Muslims clearly believed that the term implied sequential time, that the heavens were created later in time, contrary to what some modern Muslims would have us believe. They also refute Yahya’s claim that "days" should be understood as periods of time, since the mentioning of Sunday, Monday etc. would be nonsensical if these days were not literal.

Hence, the Sunnah and the words of the Companions leave the problem unresolved since their statements only reinforce the contradiction with S. 79:27-33.

Now MENJ may try to get ingenious here and claim that the Arabic term ba’da in S. 79:30 doesn’t always imply sequential time or action. The term can also imply an act which is parallel in time with the preceding events. If so, this would still leave us with the problem of the heavens and the earth being created together, contradicting S. 2:29 and 41:11-12, as well as the hadiths, which state that the heavens were created only AFTER the formation of the earth.

Moreover, this claim would contradict Al-Tabari who wrote:

Someone might say: You realize that a number of interpreters have considered God's word: "And it was the earth that He spread out thereafter," to mean: "He spread out simultaneously" (attributing to the preposition ba'da "after" the meaning of ma'a "together [simultaneous] with"). Now, what is your evidence for the soundness of your statement that we have here the meaning of "after", the opposite of "before"? The reply would be: The meaning of "after" generally known in Arabic speech, as we have said, is that of the opposite of "before," and not "simultaneous with." Now, word meanings considered applicable are those that are preponderant and generally known among speakers (of a language), and no others are. (Ibid., p. 216)

Even A. Yusuf Ali, commenting on his translation of ba'da as "moreover" in S. 79:30, admits explicitly:

Moreover: or, more literally, AFTER THAT. See n. 4475 to xli. 11. (Ali, footnote 5937)

To conclude, MENJ’s own prescribed methodology in resolving contradictions actually backfires against him. It leaves us with irreconcilable contradictions within the Quran, establishing the "missionaries"’ argument that the Quran is not God’s word.

For further reading on the inherent problems with the creation days of the Quran, we recommend the following articles responding to claims by Zakir Naik and Moiz Amjad.

These articles provide full documentation from primary Muslim sources which expose the major errors and problems with these Quranic accounts, as well as the desperate measures some Muslims took to resolve them.

In the service of our risen Lord and eternal Savior Jesus Christ, for ever and ever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus in your great power and glory, since we eagerly await your coming. We love you forever, O Eternal Son of the Most High God!

Sam Shamoun


The discussion continues: Our rebuttal to MENJ's reply to the above arguments.

Responses to Bismikaallahuma
Contradictions in the Qur'an
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