Further debate of the issues.
Muslim Responses by Randy Desmond
Date: Fri, 27 Sep 1996 08:56:15 PDT

Resolving the proposed "Days" conflict:

Surah:Verse Context
22:47 This verse talks about the unbelievers wanting God to hasten on their punishment. Then it says "a day in the sight of your lord is like a 1000 years of your reckoning.
32:5 In the end will all affairs go up to Him in a day equal to 1000 years of your reckoning.
70:4 The angels and the spirit ascend to Him in a day equal to 50,000 years of your reckoning.

For the presented arguement to be correct, these verses would have to be talking about the same things at the same time from the same points of view. Angels are not affairs. A day in God's sight is not a day for which the angels ascend. At best we could say that the day when all affairs go up to Him is the same length as a day in God's sight. So please notice that the days which differ in terms of years of our reckoning are not even related to the same subject matter. The only inherently obvious connection between these verses is the fact that the days are reckoned in human years. It should then be clear that there is no contradiction among these verses at all.

Now in whose sight is this time period "a day"? Isn't it the natural thing to see that the statement of "a day" always means "a day in the sight of your lord"? It certainly is not a day in the sight of "affairs" which do not have "sights" at all. The day is the measurement in the sight of the person "addressed" which in each case is Allah. First it is the unbelievers which want to hasten Him, in the other verses it is affairs or angels which ascend to Him.

I think the above answer misses the point. I am not comparing angels and affairs. I am comparing time periods. If I say it takes me one day to climb Mount Vernon, and then I say it takes a mule one day to climb Mount Vernon, wouldn't you conclude that that I am talking about the same sort of day, even though two very different subjects take this length of time to climb the same mountain? In fact, if time is not a fixed reference then it is useless. If we make an appointment on the phone to meet in an hour at a restaurant and you wait three hours until I finally come, trust me, you wouldn't be very happy if I say "Well, that was one hour in my time. What is your problem?" We are different people and we have different understandings of what "one hour" means. It takes you one hour of your time to get there and it takes me one hour of my time to get there. It is not my fault that our "hours" are not compatible.

I hope you see that your above proposed solution doesn't solve the problem. It is not that the time of different actions is measured, but it is the problem that God's day which is used to measure these actions is sometimes (supposedly) equal to 1,000 and sometimes to 50,000 human years. The Qur'an sets up a contradictory equation like 1 "God Day" = 1,000 human years and 1 "God Day" = 50,000 human years. The matter of what is measured with this time line of "God Days" has no bearing on the question.

The answer I gave hits the point right smack-dab in the middle, and I will explain where Jochen's reasoning is flawed.

He mention's "In fact, if time is not a fixed reference then it is useless." Well, all those "day"s mentioned in the verses are reckoned to human years. Is that not a fixed reference?

Isn't time relative? Is a day on the moon the same as a day on earth? mars? What about other galaxies?

Notice the problem is once again context.

No, nothing smack-dab... : But this day is "Allah's" day, isn't it? You didn't answer that point. And do you now really want to make Allah move around to change his timeframe? God is always everywhere and I don't think his timeframe changes. You are getting in dangerous water with your rather far fetched explanations now.

Are all the "day"s mentioned God's day? Only one verse says that a day of 1000 years of our reckoning is a day in the sight of God. The Qur'an already answered that. I mentioned that in my initial response, and it was answered.

You accuse me of far fetched explanations and wanting to move God around. What? I only illustrated that time is relative. Where did I imply God physically moving around (I seek shelter in God from such thoughts).

I was also told by the Arab scholar that "yawm" (day) can mean a time-period. It seems only natural that it should be defined.

Read my first response again, and think about it.

Think about the assumptions you make when "finding" a contradiction. Are those assumptions always true? If not, your contradiction is at best speculation. What about proving there is no contradiction? All I have to do is show that there is some level where there is no contradiction (in facts, context, definitions, etc...), and my assumptions at that level can not contradict with each other or the Qur'an either. You have the harder job. Perhaps we should list all assumptions of these proposed contradictions and see if they are valid, first.

An Arab responds:

He said that the word for day (Yawm in Arabic) can mean a period of time, and not a literal day. Well, according to my dictionary Yawm means only one of two things:

  1. a literal day (from sunrise to sunset or 24 hours)
  2. today.

It can never mean just an abstract period of time. Dictionary entry: yawm

Let us get even more involved here.

In the verse about the 50,000 years it must be remembered that Allah is addressing people not angels. Hence the length of the days and their value is measured in human terms, ie. human days. 24 hours ???

Also the word "Amr" in 32:5 cannot be understood in that verse as a word or command in the sense of Allah's spoken word. If it was a command then it does not need 1,000 years to get excuted, for Allah says to the thing "be!" and it is. Hence it does not need to ascend back to Allah. So what is involved here is creatures that take time to descend and ascend.

Also some commentators said the 1000 years is twice the distance between heaven and earth [i.e. the time for ascending (back) to Allah from the receiving of the command, descending for its execution on earth, and the way back.] This understanding is also documented in the famous Mishkat al-Masabih, Vol. IV, Chapter XLIII, Hadith No. 33:

The Apostle of Allah and his companions were seated when lo! there came a cloud upon them. The prophet asked: Do you know what it is? They replied Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: these are clouds, these are the water-carrying agencies of the world which Allah drives towards a people who are not gratefull to Him and who do not call Him. Afterward he asked: do you know what is above you? They replied: Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: Verily it is a firmament raised up protected roof and held up wave. Then he asked: Do you know what is (the distance) between you and this? they replied: Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: between you and this, there is five hundred year's (journey). Then he asked: Do you know what is above that? They replied Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: As for two heavens, the distance between them is five hundred years. Then he said likewise till he counted seven heavens, the distance between every two heavens being what is between heaven and earth. He asked next: Do you know what is above that? They replied Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: Above that is the throne, and between it and heaven is the distance of two heavens. He asked next: Do you know what is under you? They replied Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: Verily it is earth. He asked next: Do you know what is below that? They replied Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: Below it there is another earth, between them there is the distance of five hundred years' journey, till he enumerated seven earths, between every two earths is the distance of five hundred years. Then he said: By one in whose hand there stands the life of Muhammad, had you sent a bucket with a rope down the lowest earth, it would have fallen upon Allah. Then He read: He is the First and the Last, and the Open and the Secret, and He has knowledge over every thing.

Resolving the proposed "(The/A) Garden(s)" conflict:

"The Garden" is "a garden" consisting of many "gardens" each of which can be referenced as "a garden".

Fair enough. I think this is a good answer. At least it is a very good answer for a Christian. I am a little baffled though to hear this kind of reasoning from a Muslim. After all this is nearly the same reasoning as Christians have for the Trinity, which is ONE God revealing himself in THREE persons, each of which is is truly God (in His essential being) [and 'referenced' as God in the Holy Bible]. And that is exactly what Muslims usually strongly reject as utter nonsense ...

Another response

Misha'al Al-Khadi makes as usual a lot of words but say essentially only the same as the above.*

I have already stated that I am happy enough with that answer. However, Al-Kadhi's response is as often a cure worse than the problem. His answer starts with the following gem

There are several errors in such a response. First there is the logical fallacy of saying another book has similar features, therefore it can't be an error in my book. Well, it could be an error in both. Pointing fingers never solves your own problem.

Second, Al-Kadhi is wrong about the Bible. He has as usual only read one particular translation of the Bible, the rather outdated KJV ([1], [2], etc.). In the Hebrew it is the same word both times, ha-shamayim = the heavens. I do not know why the KJV translates it this way. The NIV translates it more correctly and no contradiction exists between those two verses. The finger pointing method only left Al-Kadhi with his own problems.

Response by "The Learner"

Resolving the proposed "Number of Groups for Judgement" conflict:

Let's look at the verses that are claimed to contradict...

Surah 56:7

And you shall be sorted out into three classes.

Continuing in Surah 50 the classes are mentioned; Companions of the Right Hand, Companions of the Left Hand, and those Nearest to God. (Note: those Nearest to God are defined as those foremost in faith)

Surah 90:18-19

(18) Such are the Companions of the Right Hand. (19) But those who reject Our signs, they are the Companions of the Left Hand.

Here it does not mention the third group. Does that mean the third group does not exist? It does not say "You will be sorted into two groups." In fact, looking at verse 17 of the same surah in conjunction with these verses we see that these verses are plain. They are defining who are the Companions of the Right Hand and of the Left Hand, and not counting the total number of groups for judgement.

Surah 99:6-8

(6) On that day will men proceed in companies sorted out to be shown there deeds that they had done. (7) So anyone who has done an atom's weight of good will see it (8) and anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil will see it.

This does not mention what the companies are or how they will be sorted, it only mentions what the people will see; their deeds. And it should be pointed out that companies is plural, not singular and not dual. So we can infer from these verses that there are at least three groups.

What we then have from these verses respectively is (1) a count of the number of groups and naming of the groups (2) a definintion of two of the groups already mentioned, and (3) a description that there will be at least three groups for Judgement and people will see their deeds. Where is the conflict or contradiciton?

Resolving the proposed "Who at the Time of Death" conflict:

If you look at the solution of "Messengers to Pharaoah" below, you will notice that it is possible and quite reasonable that an assignment of a task can be done with a chain of command under the one assigned to the task.

Let me illustrate it. If a leader is credited with saving his country's economy, did he not assign tasks to the people under him? And did not those under him further assign tasks to complete the work? Then who is it that saved the economy? The leader? Those directly under him? or those workers under the the appointees of the leader? The answer is they all did.

Resolving the proposed "Messengers to Pharaoh" conflict:

If we look in Surah 20:24, Moses (Peace be upon him) is given the order from God to go to Pharaoh. Reading on, in 20:29, Moses (Peace be upon him) is praying to God that his brother, Aaron (Peace be upon him), would be sent as a helper, and in 20:31-32, Moses (Peace be upon him) qualifies his need of his brother which is to add to Moses(Peace be upon him)'s strength and share in the his task. Please notice that the purpose is to share in Moses(Peace be upon him)'s task. Knowing this, please reread those verses Jochen mentions and verify for yourself that there is no contradiction.

Resolving the proposed "Number of Wings on the Angels" conflict:

The verse mentioned does not say that the angels have "only" 2 or 3 or 4 pairs of wings. In fact, the Arabic does not say "or" in between the 2,3 and 4. The Arabic says "and" denoting possibilities. Having more wings is just not qualified or disqualified. It is interesting to note that the same verse continues on saying God adds to creation as He pleases.

I am wondering if you would apply the same reasoning in verse 4:3. Isn't this the same kind of construction? Muslims have always read the 'Marry women of your choice, two "and" three "and" four' to mean "anything up to four" but more was certainly disqualified.

It is a question of consistency in interpretation. Otherwise interpretation becomes completely arbitrary and your interpretation has no claim to be more right than my interpretation if there are no consistent rules and principles.

Good point. The Qur'an is first before Hadith. So this is certainly not a contradiction within Qur'an, but does raise a question about compatability with one hadith.

And I'm not convinced it is a contradiction between Qur'an and Hadith. Angels are beings of light and can take beautiful forms. Could Gabriel not have changed form? I think from your Biblical experience, you know they do.

Contradictions in the Qur'an
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