The Quran and the Shape of the Earth

Sam Shamoun

The Quran teaches that Allah made the earth a bed or a carpet which he spread out and placed on it mountains as pegs to keep it stable. Allah also made the heavens as a roof, a dome to cover the earth. The Quran further presumes that the earth is stationary, remaining in a fixed position, not moving.

Throughout the paper we will quote the Quran verses and, when necessary, the interpretation of renowned Muslim commentator Ibn Kathir. For the most part we will be using the English edition of Ibn Kathir that was translated by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, which can be accessed online: www.tafsir.com

But at times, we may switch to a different English translation of Ibn Kathir which we will indicate within parentheses. Furthermore, all bold, underline, and/or capital emphases found throughout this article will be from us unless stated otherwise.


Q. 2:22

WHO made the earth a bed for you, and the heaven a roof, and caused water to come down from the clouds and therewith brought forth fruits for your sustenance; so do not set up equals to ALLAH, while you know. Sher Ali

Commentary:

... who has made the earth AS FLAT and comfortable as a bed and placed upon it mountains standing firm... (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Part 1), Surah Al-Fatihah Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 1 to 141, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafa’i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1998 second edition], pp. 79-80)

The online version reads:

... He made the earth a resting place for them, just like the bed, STABLE with the firm mountains ...

<And the sky as a canopy> meaning, ‘a ceiling’ ... (Source)


Q. 13:3

And He it is who hath outstretched the earth, and placed on it the firm mountains, and rivers: and of every fruit He hath placed on it two kinds: He causeth the night to enshroud the day. Verily in this are signs for those who reflect. Rodwell

Commentary:

Allah mentions His perfect ability and infinite authority, since it is He Who has raised the heavens without pillars by His permission and order. He, by His leave, order and power, has elevated the heavens high above the earth, distant and far away from reach. The heaven nearest to the present world encompasses the earth from all directions, and is also high above it from every direction. The distance between the first heaven and the earth is five hundred years from every direction, and its thickness is also five hundred years. The second heaven surrounds the first heaven from every direction, encompassing everything that the latter carries, with a thickness also of five hundred years and a distance between them of five hundred years. The same is also true about the third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh heavens...

<... without any pillars that you can see.> meaning, ‘there are pillars, but you cannot see them,’ according to Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, and several other scholars. Iyas bin Mu`awiyah said, "The heaven is like a dome over the earth," meaning, without pillars... (Source)


Q. 15:19

And the earth have WE spread out, and set therein firm mountains and cause every thing to grow therein in proper proportion. Sher Ali

We are told in the Tafsir al-Jalalayn that:

And the earth We have stretched it out, SPREAD IT FLAT, and cast therein firm mountains, lest it should sway beneath its inhabitants, and caused to grow therein every kind of balanced thing, [every kind of thing] known and determined. (Source; capital and underline emphasis ours)


Q. 16:15

And He has set up on the earth mountains standing firm, lest IT [the earth] should shake with you; and rivers and roads; that ye may guide yourselves; Y. Ali

Commentary:

... Then Allah mentions the earth and how He placed in it mountains standing firm, which make it stable and keep it from shaking in such a manner that the creatures dwelling on it would not be able to live. Hence Allah says ...

<And the mountains He has fixed firmly.> (79: 32). (Source)


Q. 20:53

[since he is the One] Who has laid out the earth as a carpet for you and has traced highways on it for you, and sent down water from the sky, We have brought forth every sort of plant with it, of various types. T.B. Irving


Q. 22:65

Do you not see that Allah has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the earth and the ships running in the sea by His command? And He withholds the heaven FROM FALLING ON THE EARTH except with His permission; most surely Allah is Compassionate, Merciful to men. Shakir

Commentary:

<He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth except by His leave.> If He willed, He could give the sky permission to fall on the earth, and whoever is in it would be killed, but by His kindness, mercy and power, He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth, except by His leave ... (Source)

Note: Certainly it is God, the Creator who put everything in place to function well. And He is also the sustainer who upholds the continuing existence of the world. However, the above formulation presupposes that the sky above us is something heavy and hard which could cause serious damage, even kill people, if it were to fall down. That certainly is scientific nonsense!


Q. 27:61

Is not He (better than your gods) Who has made the earth as A FIXED ABODE, and has placed rivers in its midst, and has placed firm mountains therein, and has set a barrier between the two seas (of salt and sweet water). Is there any ilah (god) with Allah? Nay, but most of them know not. Hilali-Khan

Note here these two other translations:

Is not He (best) Who made the earth A FIXED ABODE ... Pickthall

He who made the earth A FIXED PLACE... A.J. Arberry

Commentary:

<Is not He Who has made the earth as a fixed abode,> meaning, STABLE AND STATIONARY, SO THAT IT DOES NOT MOVE OR CONVULSE, because if it were to do so, it would not be a good place for people to live on. But by His grace and mercy, He has made it smooth and calm, and it is not shaken or moved ... (Source)


Q. 30:25

Among His signs are [the fact] that the sky and earth HOLD FIRM at His command. Then whenever He calls you forth out of the earth once and for all, you will (all) come forth! Irving

Commentary:

<And among His signs is that the heaven and the earth stand by His command.> This is like the Ayat ...

<He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth except by His leave> (22: 65)...

<Verily, Allah grasps the heavens and the earth lest they should move away from their places> (35:41). Whenever `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, swore an emphatic oath, he would say, "No, by the One by Whose command the heaven and the earth stand," i.e., THEY STAND FIRM by His command to them and His subjugation of them. Then, when the Day of Resurrection comes, the Day when the earth will be exchanged with another earth and the dead will come forth from their graves, brought back to life by His command and His call to them... (Source)


Q. 31:10

He created the heavens without any pillars THAT YE CAN SEE; He set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and He scattered through it beasts of all kinds. We send down rain from the sky, and produce on the earth every kind of noble creature, in pairs. Pickthall

Commentary:

<and has set on the earth firm mountains> means, the mountains which stabilize and lend weight to the earth, lest it should shake with its water... (Source)

This statement makes it clear that the shaking is not at all about earthquakes as Muslims often claim.


Q. 35:41

Verily! Allah grasps the heavens and the earth LEST THEY MOVE away from their places, and if they were TO MOVE away from their places, there is not one that could grasp them after Him. Truly, He is Ever Most Forbearing, Oft Forgiving. Hilali-Khan

Commentary:

<Verily, Allah grasps the heavens and the earth lest they should move away from their places,> means, LEST THEY SHOULD SHIFT FROM WHERE THEY ARE. This is like the Ayat ...

<He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth except by His leave> (22:65), and ...

<And among His signs is that the heaven and the earth stand by His command> (30:25) ...

<and if they were to move away from their places, there is not one that could grasp them after Him.> means, no one can make them stay and preserve them except Him ... (Source)

One Muslim website candidly admits that the heavens and earth are in fact stationary according to the Quran:

Question:
ASSALAM-O-ALAIKUM, WHAT IS THE RULING OF SHARIA ON THE MOVEMENT OF EARTH.
GIVE EXPLANATION.

Answer:
According to the teaching of Quran and Hadith, the sky and earth ARE STATIONARY and planets rotate. It is the sun that moves around the earth WHILE THE EARTH DOES NOT MOVE AROUND THE SUN.

There are many verses of the Holy Quran that clearly show the rotation of the moon and the sun, which are given as under:

1) "And made the sun and the moon subservient. Each runs to a turns stated" (Al-Quran, part 13, Sura Al-Ra'ad (The Thunder)-13, verse 2)
2) "And He made the sun and the moon subservient for you which are constantly moving" (Al-Quran, part 13, Sura Ibraheem -14, verse 23)
3) And each (The moon the sun) is floating in an orbit." (Al-Quran, part 23, Sura Yaseen -36, verse 140)

It is thus quiet [sic] clear that the sun moves and it is obligatory upon every muslim [sic] to believe it. Because it is what Allah Almighty ordains us to believe. In the light of the Holy Quran and Hadith the theory of the rotation of the earth IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Allah Almighty says: "Undoubtedly, Allah has withheld the heavens and the earth least they move." (AL-Quran)

In the book "Fiq-hus- Sahaba Baad-Al- Khulfa-e-Alarba" there has been recorded a statement/saying of k'ab in the presense [sic] of syedna Abdullah bin Masood, the man who keeps the secrets of messenger of Allah (pbuh) and syedna Huzaifa bin Alyaman (r.a.). This statement of K'ab is "The heaven revolves". However, both Syedna Abdullah bin Masood (r.a.) and syedna Huzaifa bin Alyaman (r.a.) said agreeably that "K'ab said incorrect, and undoubtedly Allah has withheld the heaven and the earth least they move. And Abdullah Bin Masood (r.a.) supporting this statement added that Allah's commandment is enough for us, and they (Heavens & Earth) do not move. This statement has been narrated by Saeed bin Mansoor (r.a.) and Abd bin Hameed son of Jareer, son of Almanzer (r.a.) and they narrated it with reference of Hafiz bin Abd ibne Hameed (r.a.).

(Source: Muslim discussion board posting by PrinceZ£D; bold, and bold capital emphasis ours. The above is his transcribed/edited text of the answer given by the Imam of the site www.dawateislami.net, section "Ask the Imam". The original article is found here.)


Q. 40:64

It is God who made for you the earth A FIXED PLACE and heaven for an edifice; And He shaped you, and shaped you well, and provided you with the good things. That then is God, your Lord, so blessed be God, the Lord of all Being. Arberry

Commentary:

<Allah, it is He Who has made for you the earth as a dwelling place> means, `He made it STABLE and SPREAD IT OUT for you, so that you might live on it and travel about in it; He strengthened it with the mountains so that it does not shake with you' ...

<and the sky as a canopy,> means, `a ROOF covering and protecting the world.' (Source)


Q. 43:10

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

Commentary:

<Who has made for you the earth like a bed,> means, smooth, STABLE AND FIRM, so that you can travel about in it, and stand on it and sleep and walk about, even though it is created above water, but He has strengthened it with the mountains, lest it should shake. (Source)


Q. 50:6-7

What, have they not beheld heaven above them, how We have built it, and decked it out fair, AND IT HAS NO CRACKS? And the earth -- We stretched it forth, and cast on it firm mountains, and We caused to grow therein of every joyous kind ... Arberry

Allah built the heavens without any cracks.

Commentary:

<and there are no Furuj in it> i.e., clefts, according to Mujahid. Others said that Furuj means, rifts, or cracks ... (Source)

This presupposes that the heavens are a physical object which has an actual hard surface that can crack.


Q. 51:48

And the earth WE have spread out, and how excellently do WE spread it out! Sher Ali


Q. 55:10

It is He Who has spread out the earth for (His) creatures: Pickthall


Q. 67:3-5

Who hath created seven heavens in harmony. Thou (Muhammad) canst see no fault in the Beneficent One's creation; then look again: Canst thou see any RIFTS? Then look again and yet again, thy sight will return unto thee weakened and made dim. And verily We have beautified the world's heaven with lamps, and We have made them missiles for the devils, and for them We have prepared the doom of flame.

Who could ever imagine and which scientist would accept that stars or meteors (i.e. lamps) are used as missiles against spirit beings like the devils?

Commentary:

<Then look again. Can you see any rifts> meaning, look at the sky and pay close attention to it. Do you see any flaw, deficiency, defect or RIFTS in it Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Ath-Thawri and others said concerning Allah's statement ...

<Then look again. Can you see any rifts> that it means CRACKS. As-Suddi said that ...

<Can you see any rifts> means any TEARS. (Source)


Q. 71:15-20

Have you not regarded how God created seven heavens one upon another, and set the moon therein for a light and the sun for a lamp? And God caused you to grow out of the earth, then He shall return you into it, and bring you forth. And God has laid the earth for you as a carpet, that thereof you may thread ways, ravines. Arberry

The only way for there to be heavens piled on top of each other is if the author of the Quran erroneously assumed that the heavens were actual physical objects much like a metallic dome. This explains why the author of the Quran could talk about cracks in the heavens.

Ibn Kathir, in his comments on S. 2:29, reiterates this very point by likening the creation of the heavens and earth to a building:

These Ayat indicate that Allah started creation by creating earth, then He made heaven into seven heavens. This is how building usually starts, with the lower floors first and then the top floors, as the scholars of Tafsir reiterated, as we will come to know, Allah willing... (Source)

Hence, Allah first created the earth, since it functioned much like the ground floor of a house, and then piled the heavens on top of each other in a similar manner to the way a bulider constructs several floors on top of one another!

Here, now, are Ibn Kathir's comments to Q. 71:15-20:

<Allah has created the seven heavens in tiers and has made the moon a light therein, and made the sun a lamp> meaning, He made a distinction between them (the sun and moon) in reference to their lighting. He made each one of them in a set manner with a distinct quality so that the night and day may be known. They (the night and day) are known by the rising and setting of the sun. He also determined fixed stations and positions for the moon, and He made its light vary so that sometimes it increases until it reaches a maximum, then it begins to decrease until it is completely veiled. This shows the passing of months and years ... (Source)


Q. 78:6-7

Have WE not made the earth AS A BED, And the mountains AS PEGS? Sher Ali

Commentary:

<Have We not made the earth as a bed,> meaning, an established, firm and peaceful resting place that is subservient to them ...

<And the mountains as pegs> meaning, He made them AS PEGS for the earth TO HOLD IT IN PLACE, MAKE IT STABLE AND FIRM. This is so that it may be suitable for dwelling AND NOT QUAKE with those who are in it ... (Source)


Q. 79:27-30

What, are you stronger in constitution or the heaven He built? He lifted up its vault, and levelled it, and darkened its night, and brought forth its forenoon; and the earth - after that He spread it out, Arberry

The commentators Jalalayn write:

and after that He spread out the earth: HE MADE IT FLAT, for it had been created before the heaven, but without having been spread out; (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; capital emphasis ours)


Q. 88:20

Nor even how the earth has been FLATTENED out? Irving

The earth, how it was made FLAT? N.J. Dawood

Commentary:

<And at the mountains, how they are rooted> meaning, how they have been erected. For indeed they are firmly affixed so that the earth does not sway with its dwellers. And He made them with the benefits and minerals they contain ...

<And at the earth, how it is outspread> meaning, how it has been spread out, extended and made smooth. Thus, He directs the bedouin to consider what he himself witnesses. His camel that he rides upon, the sky that is above his head, the mountain that faces him, and the earth that is under him, all of this is proof of the power of the Creator and Maker of these things. These things should lead him to see that He is the Lord, the Most Great, the Creator, the Owner, and the Controller of everything. Therefore, He is the God other than Whom none deserves to be worshipped. (Source)

The two Jalals say:

And the earth, how it was laid out flat?, and thus infer from this the power of God, exalted be He, and His Oneness? The commencing with the [mention of] camels is because they are closer in contact with it [the earth] than any other [animal]. As for His words sutihat, 'laid out flat', this on a literal reading suggests THAT THE EARTH IS FLAT, WHICH IS THE OPINION OF MOST OF THE SCHOLARS of the [revealed] Law, and not a sphere as astronomers (ahl al-hay'a) have it, even if this [latter] does not contradict any of the pillars of the Law. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)


Q. 91:5-6

By the heaven and That which built it and by the earth and That which extended it! Arberry

Commentary:

<By the earth and Ma Tahaha.> Mujahid said, "Tahaha means He spread it out." Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said ...

<and Ma Tahaha.> "This means what He created in it." `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, "Tahaha means that He proportioned it." Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, As-Suddi, Ath-Thawri, Abu Salih and Ibn Zayd all said that...

<Tahaha> means, He spread it out ... (Source)

Tafsir al-Jalalayn states:

and [by] the earth and the One Who spread it, LAID OUT FLAT. (Source; capital emphasis ours)

It should be obvious from the above verses that the author of the Quran erroneously believed in a flat earth kept stable by mountains. The author further erroneously thought that the sun and moon traveled throughout the heavens whereas the earth remained in a fixed position, motionless. Muslims cannot accuse us of misreading or misunderstanding the above passages. We presented the views of Ibn Kathir who provided citations from the early Muslims concurring with our interpretation.


Islamic Cosmology in light of early Muslim exegesis of Surah 68:1

We provide some more interpretations from recognized Islamic scholars and from Muslim traditions to show that they too believed in a flat, motionless earth. In this particular section the citations will center around the meaning of the letter Nun in surah 68:1:

Nun. By the Pen and by the (Record) which (men) write,

Since we already extensively quoted Ibn Kathir, we will start off this section with him as well. Ibn Kathir provides certain Muslim traditions explaining the letter Nun. What the readers are about to read may prove quite shocking, especially to those Muslims who have never heard of these traditions before.

The citations are taken from the Arabic version of Ibn Kathir’s Commentary, since the English translation omits these traditions. As the readers begin to read them it will become obvious why these tales were omitted from the English version.

We will not be quoting all of the traditions, but only those which are relevant to the early Muslim view of the cosmos.

Before proceeding to the traditions, we would again like to richly thank our dear brother in the Lord Jesus, Dimitrius, for again taking the time out of his busy schedule to translate the Arabic for us. Without his help we wouldn’t be able to provide these translations to our English readers. May our risen Lord and immortal Savior, Jesus Christ, continue to richly bless him and his family.

With that said, we now turn to the traditions.


It was said that "Nun" refers to A GREAT WHALE that rides on the currents of the waters of the great ocean AND ON ITS BACK IT CARRIES THE SEVEN EARTHS, as was stated by Imam Abu Jafar Ibn Jarir. Narrated by Ibn Bashar, narrated by Yahya, narrated by Sufyan Al-Thuri, narrated by Sulayman Al-Amash, narrated by Abu Thubian, narrated by Ibn Abbas who related, "The first thing that Allah created was the pen and He said to it ‘Write’. The pen asked, ‘What shall I write?’ Allah said, ‘Write (the) fate (of everything).’ So the pen wrote everything that shall be from that moment until judgment day.

Then Allah created the "Nun" and He caused steam to rise out of which the heavens were created AND THE EARTH WAS THEN LAID FLAT ON THE NUN’S BACK. Then the Nun became nervous and (as a result) the earth began to sway, but (Allah) fastened (the earth) with mountains lest the earth should move ...

It was narrated by Ibn Jarir, narrated by Ibn Hamid, narrated by Ata’a, narrated by Abu Al-Dahee, narrated by Ibn Abbas who stated, "The first thing my Lord created, may He be Exalted and Glorified, was the pen and He said to it, ‘Write.’ So the pen wrote all that will be until judgment day. Then Allah created the Nun (the whale) above the waters AND HE PRESSED THE EARTH INTO ITS BACK.

Al Tabarani narrated the same hadith above (from the prophet Muhammad) who narrated from Abu Habib Zaid Al-Mahdi Al Marouzi, narrated by Sa’id Ibn Yaqub Al-Talqani, narrated by Mu’amal Ibn Ismail, narrated by Hamad Ibn Zaid, narrated by Ata’a Ibn Al Sa’ib, narrated by Abu Al Dahee Muslim Ibn Subaih, narrated by Ibn Abbas who stated that the prophet – may peace and blessing be upon him and his family - said, "The first things Allah created were the pen and the whale and He said to the pen ‘Write.’ The pen asked, ‘What shall I write?’ Allah replied, ‘Everything that shall be until judgment day.’ Then He said ‘Nun. By the Pen and by what they write.’ So Nun is the whale and al-Qalam is the pen" ...

Ibn Abu Nujaih stated that Ibrahim Ibn Abu Bakir was informed by Mujahid who said, "It was said that Nun is the great whale WHO IS UNDERNEATH THE SEVEN EARTHS." Furthermore, Al-Baghawy – may Allah rest his soul - and a group of commentators stated that on the back of this whale there is a great rock whose thickness is greater than the width of the heavens and the earth and above this rock is A BULL THAT HAS FORTY THOUSAND HORNS. On the body of this bull are placed the seven earths and all that they contain, and Allah knows best. (Source)


AL-TABARI

Here are the traditions which renowned Muslim historian al-Tabari transmitted regarding the meaning of surah 68:1. He basically repeats what Ibn Kathir wrote.

Someone might say: If it is as you have described, namely, that God created the earth before the heaven, then what is the meaning of the statement of Ibn ‘Abbas told all of you by Wasil b. ‘Abd al-A‘la al-Asadi- Muhammad b. Fudayl- al-A‘mash- Abu Zabyan- Ibn ‘Abbas: The first thing God created is the Pen. God then said to it: Write!, whereupon the Pen asked: What shall I write, my lord! God replied: Write what is predestined! He continued: And the Pen proceeded to (write) whatever is predestined and gong to be to the Coming of the Hour. God then lifted up the water vapor and split the heavens off from it. Then God created THE FISH (nun), AND THE EARTH WAS SPREAD OUT UPON ITS BACK. The fish became agitated, with the result that the earth was shaken up. It was steadied BY MEANS OF THE MOUNTAINS, for they indeed proudly (tower) over the earth.

I was told about the same by Wasil - Waki’ - al-A‘mash - Abu Zabyan - Ibn ‘Abbas.

According to Ibn al-Muthanna - Ibn Abi ‘Adi - Shu‘bah - Sulayman (al-A‘mash?) - Abu Zabyan - Ibn ‘Abbas: The first (thing) created by God is the Pen. It proceeded to (write) whatever is going to be. (God) then lifted up the water vapor, and the heavens were created from it. Then He created the fish, and the earth was spread out on its back. The fish moved, with the result that the earth was shaken up. It was steadied by means of the mountains, for the mountains indeed proudly (tower) over the earth. So he said, and he recited: "Nun. By the Pen and what they write."

I was told the same by Tamim b. al-Muntasir - Ishaq (b. Yusuf) - Sharik (b. ‘Abdallah al-Nakha‘i) - al-A‘mash - Abu Zabyan or Mujahid - Ibn ‘Abbas, with the exception, however, that he said: And the heavens were split off from it (instead of: were created).

According to Ibn Bashshar - Yahya - Sufyan - Sulayman (al-A‘mash?) - Abu Zabyan - Ibn ‘Abbas: The first (thing) created by God is the Pen. God said: Write!, whereupon the Pen asked: What shall I write? God replied: Write what is predestined! He continued. And (the Pen) proceeded to (write) whatever is predestined and going to be from that day on to the Coming of the Hour. Then God created the fish. He lifted up the water vapor, and heaven was split off from it, and the earth was spread out upon the back of the fish. The fish became agitated, and as a result, the earth was shaken up. It was steadied by means of the mountains, he continued, for they proudly (tower) over the earth.

According to Ibn Humayd - Jarir (b. ‘Abd al-Hamid) - ‘Ata’ b. al-Sa’ib - Abu al-Duha Muslim b. Subayh - Ibn ‘Abbas: The first thing created by God is the Pen. God said to it: Write!, and it wrote whatever is going to be until the Coming of the Hour. Then God created the fish. Then he heaped up the earth upon it.

This reportedly IS A SOUND TRADITION AS TRANSMITTED ON THE AUTHORITY OF IBN ‘ABBAS and on the authority of others in the sense commented upon and explained and does not contradict anything transmitted by us from him on this subject.

Should someone ask: What comment on his authority and that of others proves the soundness of what you have transmitted to us in this sense on his authority? He should be referred to what I have been told by Musa b. Harun al-Hamdani - ‘Abdallah b. Mas‘ud and some (other) companions of the Messenger of God (commenting on): "He is the One Who created for you all that is on earth. Then He stretched out straight toward the heaven and fashioned it into seven heavens." God’s throne was upon the water. He had not created anything except what He created before the water. When He wanted to create the creation, He brought forth smoke from the water. The smoke rose above the water and hovered loftily over it. He therefore called it "heaven." Then He dried out the water, and thus made it one earth. He split it AND MADE IT INTO SEVEN EARTHS on Sunday and Monday. He created the earth UPON A (big) FISH (hut), THAT BEING THE FISH (nun) MENTIONED BY GOD IN THE QUR’AN: "Nun. By the Pen." The fish was in the water. The water was UPON THE BACK OF A (small) ROCK. The rock was UPON THE BACK OF AN ANGEL. The angel was UPON A (big) ROCK. The big rock - THE ONE MENTIONED BY LUQMAN - WAS IN THE WIND, neither in heaven nor on the earth. The fish moved and became agitated. As a result, the earth quacked, whereupon He firmly, anchored the mountains on it, and it was stable. This is stated in God’s word that He made for the earth "firmly anchored (mountains), lest it should shake you up."(The History of Al-Tabari: General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood, translated by Franz Rosenthal [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, 1989], Volume 1, pp. 218-220)

Al-Tabari also wrote:

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. (Ibid., pp. 207-208)


AL-QURTUBI

Narrated by Al-Walid Ibn Muslim, narrated by Malik Ibn Ans, narrated by Sumay son of Abu Bakir, narrated by Abu Salih Al-Samaan, narrated by Abu Hurayrah who related that he heard the prophet - peace be upon him – say, "The first thing Allah created was the pen, then He created the ‘Nun’ which is an inkwell. This is what Allah stated (in sura 68:1) ‘Nun and the Pen.’ And He said to it, ‘Write’. So the pen wrote all that will be until judgment day. Then Allah created the Nun (the whale) above the waters AND HE PRESSED THE EARTH INTO ITS BACK. He (Allah) then said to the pen ‘Write.’ The pen asked ‘What shall I write?’ Allah replied, ‘Write what was and what will be until judgment day; whether deed, reward, consequence and punishment- until judgment day.’ Thus the pen wrote what shall be until judgment day. Allah then placed a seal over the pen and it will not talk until judgment day. Then Allah created the mind and said, ‘By my Glory, I will establish you in those whom you love and I will take you away from those whom you despise.’"

Mujahid related that ‘Nun’ is the whale that is underneath the seventh earth. He stated that the ‘Pen’ is what was used to write ‘Al-Thikir’ (The Remembrance - Quran). Likewise, it was also narrated by Mukatil, Murrah Al-Hamdani, Ata’ Al-Kharasani, Al Suddi and Al-Kalbi who all said, "Nun is the whale upon which all the earths are placed."

Narrated by Abu Thabyan, narrated by Ibn Abbas who said, "The first thing that Allah created was the Pen which wrote all that shall be. Then water vapor began to rise, out of which the heavens were created. Then (Allah) created Nun (the whale) and flattened the earth on its back. When the earth began to lean, it was reinforced with mountains, which are on its surface." Then Ibn Abbas read the verse (Sura 68:1) ‘Nun and the Pen.’

Al-Kalbi and Mukatil stated that the name (of the whale) is ‘Al-Bahmout.’ Al-Rajis said, "Why do I see you all silent and the Lord my God created Al-Bahmout?"

Abu Yakthan and Al-Waqidi stated that the name (of the whale) is ‘Leotha’; Whereas Kab stated that its name is ‘Lo-tho-tha’ or ‘Bil-Ha-motha.’ Kab said, "Satan crept up to the whale, on whom the seven earths are placed, and whispered into its heart saying, ‘Do you realize what is on your back, Oh Lo-tho-tha of beasts and plants and humans and others? If you are annoyed with them, you can throw them all off your back.’ So Lo-tho-tha intended to do what was suggested (by Satan) but Allah sent the whale a reptile that crawled through into its blowhole and reached its brain. The whale then cried to Allah –may He be glorified and honored – and He gave permission for the reptile to exit (the whale)." Kab continued and said, "By Allah, the whale stares at the reptile and the reptile stares at the whale, and if the whale intends to do (what Satan suggested) the reptile would return to the place it was before." (Source)


TAFSIR IBN ABBAS

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (Nun): '(Nun) He says: Allah swears by the Nun, which is the whale that carries the earths on its back while in Water, and beneath which is the Bull and under the Bull is the Rock and under the Rock is the Dust and none knows what is under the Dust save Allah. The name of the whale is Liwash, and it is said its name is Lutiaya'; the name of the bull is Bahamut, and some say its name is Talhut or Liyona. The whale is in a sea called 'Adwad, and it is like a small bull in a huge sea. The sea is in a hollowed rock whereby there is 4,000 cracks, and from each crack water springs out to the earth. It is also said that Nun is one of the names of the Lord; it stands for the letter Nun in Allah's name al-Rahman (the Beneficent); and it is also said that a Nun is an inkwell. (By the pen) Allah swore by the pen. This pen is made of light and its height is equal to the distance between Heaven and earth. It is with this pen that the Wise Remembrance, i.e. the Guarded Tablet, was written. It is also said that the pen is one of the angels by whom Allah has sworn, (and that which they write (therewith)) and Allah also swore by what the angels write down of the works of the children of Adam, (Tanwīr al-Miqbās min Tafsīr Ibn 'Abbās; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)


Other Miscellaneous Traditions

The preceding Muslim commentators weren’t alone in narrating some fantastic interpretations. Hadith compilers like Abu Dawud had a few fabulous ones as well:

Narrated Al-Abbas ibn AbdulMuttalib:
I was sitting in al-Batha with a company among whom the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) was sitting, when a cloud passed above them.

The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) looked at it and said: What do you call this? They said: Sahab.

He said: And muzn? They said: And muzn. He said: And anan? They said: And anan. AbuDawud said: I am not quite confident about the word anan. He asked: Do you know the distance between Heaven and Earth? They replied: We do not know. He then said: The distance between them is seventy-one, seventy-two, or seventy-three years. The heaven which is above it is at a similar distance (going on till he counted seven heavens). Above the seventh heaven there is a sea, the distance between whose surface and bottom is like that between one heaven and the next. Above that there ARE EIGHT MOUNTAIN GOATS the distance between whose hoofs and haunches is like the distance between one heaven and the next. Then Allah, the Blessed and the Exalted, is above that. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 40, Number 4705)

Here is one from al-Tirmidhi:

Narrated Anas ibn Malik
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "When Allah created the Earth it began to oscillate, so He created the mountains, ordered them onto it, and it became steady. The angels marvelled at the strength of the mountains and asked their Lord whether there was anything in His creation stronger than the mountains, to which He replied that iron was stronger. They asked if anything in His creation was stronger than iron, and He replied that fire was. They asked if anything in His creation was stronger than fire and He replied that water was. They asked if anything in His creation was stronger than water and He replied that wind was. They asked if anything in His creation was stronger than wind and He replied, "Yes, the son of Adam who gives sadaqah with his right hand which concealing it from his left." Tirmidhi transmitted it, saying this is a gharib tradition. (Al-Tirmidhi, Number 602; taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version)

This next final tradition is taken from Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Kisa’i’s book Qisas al-Anbiya (Tales of the Prophets):

Kaab al-Ahbar said: When God wished to create the dry land, He commanded the wind to churn up the waters. When they had become turbulent and foamy, waves swelled and gave off vapor. Then God commanded the foam to solidify, and it became dry. In two days he created the dry land on the face of the waters, as He hath said: Say, do ye indeed disbelieve in him who created the earth in two days? (41:9). Then He commanded these waves to be still, and they formed the mountains, which He used as pegs to hold down the earth, as He hath said: And we placed stable mountains on the earth lest it should move with them (21:31). Were it not for the mountains, the earth would not have been stable enough for its inhabitants. The veins of these mountains are connected with the veins of Mount Qaf, which is the range that surrounds the earth.

Then God created the seven seas. The first is called Baytush and surrounds the earth from behind Mount Qaf. Behind it is a sea called Asamm, behind which is a sea called Qaynas, behind which is a sea called Sakin, behind which is a sea called Mughallib, behind which is a sea called Muannis, behind which is a sea called Baki, which is the last. These are the seven seas, and each of them surrounds the sea before it. The rest of the seas in which are creatures whose number only God knows, are like gulfs to these seven. God created sustenance for all these creatures on the fourth day, as He hath said: And he provided therein the food of the creatures designed to be the inhabitants thereof, in four days; equally, for those who ask (41:10).

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.

And the earth was tossed about with its inhabitants like a ship, so God sent down an angel of extreme magnitude and strength and ordered him to slip beneath the earth and bear it up on his shoulders. He stretched forth one of his hands to the East and the other to the West and took hold of the earth from end to end [Note: this again presumes that the earth is flat]. However, there was no foothold for him, so God created from an emerald a square rock, in the middle of which were seven thousand holes. In each hole there was a sea, description of which is known only to God. And He commanded the rock to settle beneath the angel’s feet. The rock, whoever, had no support, so God created a great bull with forty thousand heads, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouths, tongues and legs and commanded it to bear the rock on its back and on its horns. The name of the bull is al-Rayyan. As the bull had no place to rest its feet, God created a huge fish, upon which no one may gaze because it is so enormous and had so many eyes. It is even said that if all the seas were placed in one of its gills, they would be like a mustard seed in the desert. This fish God commanded to be a foothold for the bull, and it was done. The name of this fish is Behemoth. Then He made its resting place the waters, beneath which is the air, and beneath the air is the Darkness, which is for all the earths. There, beneath the Darkness, the knowledge of created things ends. (Ibid., translated by Wheeler M. Thackston Jr. [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., Distributed by Kazi Publications; Chicago, IL 1997], pp. 8-10; bold emphasis ours)

Here is a quick summary of what we discovered from the preceding sections, particularly from all of the traditions which are purported to have come from Muhammad and his companions such as Ibn Abbas, Muhammad’s cousin who is considered to be one of the most knowledge Muslims that have ever lived:

  1. Allah has spread out or flattened the earth on the back of a great fish (or whale).
  2. Allah created mountains to keep the earth from shaking due to the movement of the fish.
  3. The fish is floating in some extra-terrestrial water.
  4. The water is upon a rock.
  5. This rock is on the back of an angel.
  6. The angel himself is standing upon a rock.
  7. This other rock is supported by wind which is neither in the heavens nor the earth!
  8. Other traditions say that the great fish is underneath the seventh earth.
  9. On the fish’s back there is a rock the size of the heavens and earth.
  10. There is an ox upon this rock having 40,000 horns!
  11. Furthermore, this ox supports all the seven earths upon its back!
  12. Other traditions say that the ox is supported by the fish.
  13. There is a sea above the seventh heaven.
  14. Finally, above this seventh heaven there are eight mountain goats!

After citing all these citations there can be no doubt that the author of the Quran, the first Muslims, and some of the earliest Muslim commentators, believed that the earth was flat. Furthermore, the evidence shows that the first Muslims held to erroneous and fanciful views of the cosmos that parallel the Greek and Indian myths and fairytales.

Now contrast this with the simplicity of the Holy Bible:

"He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing." Job 26:7

"It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;" Isaiah 40:22


Finally, A Contradiction

As we saw above, the Quran in many places says that the earth has been spread out. In this next passage, the Quran proclaims that on the Day of Judgment the earth will be spread out:

When the heaven bursts asunder, And hearkens unto her Lord - and this is incumbent upon her - And when the earth is SPREAD OUT (muddat) And cast out all that is in her, and appears to become empty S. 84:3-4 Sher Ali

The earth being spread out at the end of time assumes that at the present moment it is not, which contradicts those passages that say it already has been stretched out! Note again the following citation:

And He it is Who spread (madda) the earth and made in it firm mountains and rivers, and of all fruits He has made in it two kinds; He makes the night cover the day; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect. S. 13:3 Shakir

Lest someone deny that surah 84 is referring to the end of time we present the comments of Ibn Kathir:

Splitting the Heavens asunder and stretching the Earth forth on the Day of Resurrection

Allah says ...

<When the heaven is split asunder,> This refers to the Day of Judgement ...

<And listens to and obeys its Lord> meaning, it listens to its Lord and obeys His command to split apart. This will occur on the Day of Judgement ...

<and it must do so.> meaning, it is right for it to obey the command of its Lord, because it is great and cannot be rejected, nor overcome. Rather it overpowers everything and everything is submissive to it. Then Allah says ...

<And when the earth is stretched forth,> meaning, when the earth is expanded, spread out and extended ... (Source)

Hence, not only does the Quran hold to an erroneous view of the cosmos, it even contradicts itself regarding the current state and shape of the earth!


Recommended Links

www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Science/earth_flat.html
www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Science/earth_egg.html
www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Science/seven_earths.html
www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/hadith_cosmology.htm
www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Naik/quranclaims2.htm#part5
http://www.faithfreedom.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6713
http://humanists.net/avijit/article/flat_earth_kasem.htm
http://humanists.net/avijit/openChallenge.html


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