Response to Zakir Naik's Claims for the Quran, Appendix

The Quranic Account of Creation and Science

Sam Shamoun

Dr. Zakir Naik claims that the Quranic account of creation is compatible with modern scientific views on the origin of the universe. Naik also asserts that the Genesis account of creation is totally incompatible with science.

Seeing that this has already been addressed in the second part of our rebuttal, we would simply like to strengthen the case against the Quran's alleged compatibility with modern science.

As we examine both the Quran and the Muslim interpretation of particular Quranic passages, one thing clearly sticks out. Namely, Dr. Naik regularly neglects the authentic interpretation of his own prophet Muhammad in relation to key Quranic passages that Naik often uses to show compatibility with modern science. Dr. Naik seems to realize that he must discard his own prophet's interpretation to maintain credibility with both scientists and laypersons. This is due primarily to the fact that ascribing to Muhammad's understanding of the Quran would leave Naik with gross scientific errors, showing quite clearly that the Quran is incompatible with established scientific theories and fact.

This said, we therefore proceed with our examination of key Quranic passages and the authentic Muslim interpretation of these passages to show whether Naik's claim of scientific compatibility holds any weight.

Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds. He set on the (earth), mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein its sustenance, in four Days, alike for (all) who ask. THEN (thumma) He turned to the sky, and it had been (as) 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. S. 41:9-12

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

Dr. William Campbell comments:

a. The Quranic Days of Creation.

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

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

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

"Say, 'Do you deny Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you join equals to Him? He is the Lord of the worlds, and He placed therein firm hills rising above it, and blessed it and measured therein its nourishment in four days, according to (the need) of those who ask (for food). Then He turned equally to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth, "Come together willingly or unwillingly." They both said, "We come obediently." And He completed them seven heavens in two days and inspired in each heaven its command, and We adorned the lower heaven with lamps and rendered it guarded. That is the decree of the Mighty, the Knower.'"

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

So now we have a contradiction!?

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

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

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

These Quranic statements do not agree at all with modern theories of the beginning of the universe, but I shall allow others to attempt a solution to that. (Campbell, The Qur'an & the Bible in the Light of History & Science [Middle East Resources 1992, ISBN 1-881085-00-7], pp. 178-179; bold italic emphasis ours)

Not only do the passages above contradict modern science, but they also contradict the following Quranic passage as well:

What! Are ye the more difficult to create or the heaven (above)? (Allah) hath constructed it: On high hath He raised its canopy, and He hath given it order and perfection. Its night doth He endow with darkness, and its splendor doth He bring out (with light). And the earth, MOREOVER (bad'a), hath He extended (to a wide expanse); He draweth out therefrom its water and its pasture; And the mountains hath He firmly fixed;- S. 79:27-32

According to this passage, the heavens came first then the earth.

To resolve these problems, Muslims posit new meanings to already established Arabic words. Worse still, Muslims attach meanings to words that, although valid for a different era, were not known or defined as such by either Muhammad or his companions.

For instance, Muslims presume that the term thumma does not necessarily imply sequential or chronological time. Rather, the term can also denote parallel action as well.

Words have different meanings in different context at different times. Hence, we must read the available literature from the seventh century Arabia in order to know what thumma meant to Muhammad and his companions. We are reminded of the words of Abdullah Yusuf Ali:

"Every serious writer and thinker has a right to use all the knowledge and experience he possesses in the service of the Qur'an. But he must not mix up his own theories and conclusions, however reasonable, with the interpretation of the Text itself, which is usually perfectly perspicuous, as it claims to be. Our difficulties in interpretation often arise from various causes, of which I will mention just a few:

"(1) Arabic words in the Text have acquired other meanings than those which were understood by the Apostle and his Companions. All living languages undergo such transformations. The early Commentators and Philologists went into these matters with a very comprehensive grasp, and we must accept their conclusions. Where they are not unanimous, we must use our judgment and historic sense in adopting the interpretation of that authority which appeals to us most. We must not devise new verbal meanings." (Yusuf Ali as cited by Dr. William Campbell, The Qur'an and the Bible in the light of History and Science [Middle East Resources, PO Box 96, Upper Darby, PA 19082), pp. 9-10)

Therefore, we must look at the way the early Muslim scholars understood the term thumma, especially its use in the context of creation. Once this is done, one discovers that both Muhammad and his Companions believed that the earth was created first and then the heavens. This indicates that nearly all the early Muslims understood the use of thumma in the Quranic account of creation as referring to sequential or chronological development or time. Most, if not all, Muslim commentators such as at-Tabari and Ibn Kathir record this fact. 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:

"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.'"

According to this tradition from Ibn Abbas, Muhammad believed the earth and everything within it was created on the first four days whereas the heavens and the constellations were created afterwards on Thursday and Friday. Hence, Muhammad believed that vegetation was created even before the heavens and the sun, a gross scientific error!

"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.'"

We again have the heavens being created after the earth.

At-Tabari then comments:

"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."

At-Tabari is therefore honest enough to state that both the Quran and Muhammad's interpretation of it clearly posit the creation of the heavens, the sun and the entire constellations after the earth and its nourishment had already been made.

Ibn Kathir comments on S. 2:29:

Before Allah mentioned proof of the creation to the disbelievers and what they witness in themselves. In this verse, He mentions another proof of the creation of the heavens and the earth: <He created for you all that there is on earth; then He turned to the sky and fashioned it into seven heavens.>

Mujahid said that Allah created the earth before the heavens, and when He did, smoke evolved and rose- by the will of Allah- <then He turned to the sky>. The action of turning to the sky involves movement because the verb is followed by the preposition (to). <and fashioned it into seven heavens.> that is created seven heavens. The interpreters do not agree as to whether Allah created the earth before the heavens or vice versa. Each has evidence although the evidence of those supporting the opinion that the creation of the earth preceded the heavens IS STRONGER BECAUSE ALLAH SAID: <He created for you all that there is on the earth; then he turned to the sky> using the adverb "then", WHICH IMPLIES SEQUENCE, that is Allah created the earth and what is in it, then He moved to the sky and fashioned it into seven heavens. On the other hand, those who support the opinion that the creation of the heavens was before the earth refer to the verse <What! Are you harder to create than the heaven which He has built? He raised it high and fashioned it. He made dark its night and brought out its light. And after that He spread the earth, And then drew its water and its pastures. Then the mountains he fixed:> (79:27-32) This was narrated by Ibn Jarir who quoted Qatadah. However, this opinion is not sound; in fact, the truth is the reverse. Al-Bukhari mentions in his Sahih that when Ibn 'Abbas was asked about this very issue his reply was that the earth was created before the heavens, and that it was spread out after the creation of the heavens. The phrase 'spread out' was further explained in the verse <And after that he spread the earth, And then drew from it water and pastures. Then the mountains He fixed:> (79:31-32) whereby the action of spreading is explained by drawing out the water stored in it and thus causing plants to flourish in their myriad types, forms, kinds, colours and shapes. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Part 1 Surah Al-Fatiah Surah Al-Baqara, ayat 1 to 141, abridged by Shaikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rafai'i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1998 second edition], pp. 92-93; bold italic emphasis ours)

Here also is Ibn Kathir's lengthy commentary on S. 41:9-12:

<Who created the heavens and the earth in Six Days> (7:54),

is explained in more detail; the creation of the earth and the creation of the heaven are discussed separately. Allah says that He created the earth FIRST, because it is the foundation, and the foundation should be built first, then the roof. Allah says elsewhere:

<He it is Who created for you all that is on the earth. Then He rose over (Istawa ila) the heaven and made them seven heavens>

With regard to the Ayat ...

<Are you more difficult to create or is the heaven that He constructed? He raised its height, and has perfected it. Its night He covers with darkness and its forenoon He brings out (with light). And after that He spread the earth, And brought forth its water and its pasture; And the mountains He has fixed firmly, (to be) a provision and benefit for you and your cattle.> (79:27-33)

This Ayah states that the spreading of the earth came after the creation of the heavens, but the earth itself was created BEFORE the heavens according to some texts. THIS WAS THE RESPONSE OF IBN 'ABBAS, may Allah be pleased with him, as recorded by Al-Bukhari in his Tafsir of this Ayah in his Sahih. He recorded that Sa'id bin Jubayr said: "A man said to Ibn 'Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, saying: ‘I find some things in the Qur'an which confuse me: ...

... And Allah says:

<Are you more difficult to create or is the heaven that He constructed?> until; ...

<And after that He spread the earth.> (79:27-32)

So He mentioned the creation of the heavens before the earth, then He said:

<Say: "Do you verily disbelieve in Him who created the earth in two Days?" ...> until; ...

<We come willingly.> Here He mentioned the creation of the earth before the creation of the heavens ...’

Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with Him, replied: ‘...

Allah created the earth in two days, THEN He created the heavens, THEN He (Istawa ila) the heaven and gave it its shape in two more days. THEN He spread the earth, which means that He brought forth there from its water and its pasture. And he created the mountains, sands, inanimate things, rocks and hills and everything in between, in two more days. This is what Allah says:

<(He) spread (the earth)> (79:30)

And Allah saying:

<(He) created the earth in two Days> So He created the earth and everything in it in four days, and He created the heavens in two days ...’" (Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged Volume 8 Surat Al-Ahzab, verse 51 to the end of Surat Ad-Dukhan, pp. 517-521; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Ibn Kathir continues:

<(He) created the earth in two Days> means Sunday and Monday...

<He placed therein firm mountains from above it, and He blessed it.>

means, He blessed it and gave it the potential to be planted with seeds and bring forth produce...

<And measured therein its sustenance>

means, what its people need of provision and places in which to plant things and grow crops. This was on Tuesday and Wednesday, which together with the two previous days add up to four days...

...<Then He completed and finished their creation (as) seven heavens in two Days>

means, He finished forming them as seven heavens in two more days, which were Thursday and Friday. (Ibid., pp. 521-522; bold emphasis ours)

The problem with Ibn Kathir's proposed harmonization is that it contradicts both the Quran in S. 41:9-12 and the traditions cited earlier by at-Tabari that the earth and all its life-sustaining items, such as vegetation, was created before the heavens, a fact affirmed in Sahih Muslim, Chapter MCLV, The beginning of creation and the creation of Adam, Hadith No. 6707:

"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."

Muhammad states that vegetation preceded the formation of light, i.e. the sun. This presumes that the heavens were fashioned after God had already created the earth and all its nourishment.

Some Muslims have tried to claim that this tradition is weakly attested. Yet, M.S.M Saifullah notes that not all Muslims agree that this hadith is weak. In a footnote to on his articles, # 64, Saifullah quotes some Muslims that believed this tradition to be actually sound:

64. Ibn Taimiyyah, Majmu' Fatawa (37 vols., ed. Abd al-Rahmân b. Qasim & his son Muhammad, Riyad, 1398), 18:18f. Ibn Taimiyyah mentions that Imâm Muslim's authentication of this hadîth is supported by Abû Bakr al-Anbari & Ibn al- Jauzi, whereas al-Baihaqi supports those who disparaged it. Al-Albani says that it was Ibn al-Madini who criticised it, whereas Ibn Ma'in did not (the latter was known to be very strict, both of them were shaikhs of al-Bukhârî). He further says that the hadîth is Sahih, and does not contradict the Qur'ân, contrary to the probable view of the scholars who criticised the hadîth, since what is mentioned in the Qur'ân is the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, each of which may be like a thousand years, whereas the hadîth refers to the creation of the earth only, in days which are shorter than those referred to in the Qur'ân (Silsilah al-Ahadîth as-Sahihah, no. 1833). (Source: this article)

Ibn Kathir himself cites this hadith from Abu Hurayrah with approval. Ibn Kathir commented on S. 7:54 stating:

Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Huraryah saying: Allah's Messenger told me:...

((Allah created the dust on Saturday, and He created the mountains on Sunday, and He created the trees on Monday, and He created the unpleasant things on Tuesday and He created the light on Wednesday and He spread the creatures through out it on Thursday and He created Adam after 'Asr on between 'Asr and the night.)) (Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged Volume 4, Surat Al-A'raf to the end of Sura Yunus, p. 77)

Here is Yusuf Ali's footnote to S. 41:9-12, #4470:

"...The Commentators understand the 'four Days' in verse 10 to include the two Days in verse 9, so that the total for the universe comes to six Days. This is reasonable, because the processes described in verses 9 and 10 form really one series. In one case it is the creation of the formless matter of the earth; in the other case it is the gradual evolution of the form of the earth, its mountains and seas, and its animal and vegetable life, with the 'nourishment in due proportion', proper to each.

Hence, Yusuf Ali concurs with our assessment.

So problematic the passage S. 79:27-32 turned out to be for Muslims, that At-Tabari presents their struggles in trying to reconcile this passage with the other Quranic verses stating that heaven was created after the earth:

Others said: God created the earth with the food it provides before heaven, without spreading it out. "Then He stretched out straight toward heaven and fashioned it into seven heavens."

Thereafter, He spread out the earth.

Those who said

According to 'Ali b. Dawud- Abu Salih ('Abdallah b. Salih_- Mua'wiyah (b. Salih)- 'Ali b. Abi Talhah- Ibn 'Abbas, commenting on God's word when He mentioned the creation of the earth before heaven and then mentioned heaven before the earth: (It is explained by the fact that) He created the earth with the food it provides before heaven, without spreading it out. "Then He stretched out straight toward heaven and fashioned it into seven heavens." Thereafter, He spread out the earth. This is (meant by) God's word: "And it was the earth that He spread out thereafter."

According to Muhammad b. Sa'd- his father- his paternal uncle- his father- his father- Ibn 'Abbas, commenting on: "And it was the earth that He spread out thereafter. He brought forth from it its water and its pasture, and the mountains He anchored firmly." It means that He created the heavens and the earth. When he had finished with heaven before creating food of the earth, He spread the food on it after creating heaven. And He firmly anchored the mountains. This is meant by "spreading it out." The food and the plants of the earth used to be good only on the night and the day. This (meant by) God's word: "And it was the earth He spread out thereafter." Have you not heard that He continues: "He brought forth from it its water and its pasture"?

Abu Ja'far (al-Tabari) says: Regarding this, the correct statement, in our opinion, is the one of those who said: God created the earth on Sunday. He created the heaven on Thursday, and He created the stars and the sun and the moon on Friday. (We consider it correct) because of the soundness of the report mentioned earlier on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas from the Messenger of God. The tradition transmitted to us on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas is not impossible. It says that God created the earth but did not spread it out. Then He created the heavens "and fashioned them (into seven heavens)," and thereafter "spread out" the earth. "He then brought forth its water and its pasture, and the mountains He anchored firmly." Indeed, in my opinion this is the correct statement. That is because the meaning of "spreading out" is different from that of "creating." God says, "Are you more difficult to create than the haven He constructed? He raised high its roof and fashioned it. He darkened its night and brought forth its morning. And it was the earth He spread out thereafter. He brought forth from it its water and its pasture, and the mountains He anchored firmly." (Ibid., pp. 214-216)

The preceding hadiths transmitted on the authority of Ibn Abbas claim that the earth's nourishment, i.e. food, water etc., was created only after the formation of the heavens. As was already noted, this contradicts S. 41:9-12 as well as the other traditions and Yusuf Ali's footnote that posit the creation of food, vegetation etc. prior to the formation of the heavens. Therefore, these hadiths along with Yusuf Ali's comments leave no room for understanding S. 79:27-32 in the manner prescribed by Ibn Kathir.

At-Tabari also comments on those who would try to translate ba'da in S. 79:27-32 to mean other than "after that":

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)

The renowned Muslim commentators, the two Jalals, were also of the opinion that the earth was 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!

Now the author of the Quran could have avoided all these difficulties by using a different word in place of thumma, a word which does not necessarily convey sequence or chronology. For instance, the Quran in several places mentions the creation of the heavens and the earth by either placing heavens before the earth or vice-versa, where the Arabic wa (and) is used in place of thumma:

Lo! your Lord is Allah Who created the heavens AND (wa) the earth in six Days, THEN (thumma) mounted He the Throne. He covereth the night with the day, which is in haste to follow it, AND (wa) hath made the sun AND (wa) the moon AND (wa) the stars subservient by His command. His verily is all creation and commandment. Blessed be Allah, the Lord of the Worlds! S. 7:54

Lo! your Lord is Allah Who created the heavens AND (wa) the earth in six Days, THEN (thumma) He established Himself upon the Throne, directing all things. There is no intercessor (with Him) save after His permission. That is Allah, your Lord, so worship Him. Oh, will ye not remind? S. 10:3

And He it is Who created the heavens AND (wa) the earth in six Days - AND (wa) His Throne was upon the water - that He might try you, which of you is best in conduct. Yet if thou (O Muhammad) sayest: Lo! ye will be raised again after death! those who disbelieve will surely say: This is naught but mere magic. S. 11:7

A revelation from Him Who created the earth AND (wa) the high heavens, S. 20:4

Who created the heavens AND (wa) the earth AND (wa) all that is between them in six Days, THEN (thumma) He mounted the Throne. The Beneficent! Ask anyone informed concerning Him! S. 25:59

And verily We created the heavens AND (wa) the earth, AND (wa) all that is between them, in six Days, and naught of weariness touched Us. S. 50:38

He it is Who created the heavens AND the earth in six Days; THEN (thumma) He mounted the Throne. He knoweth all that entereth the earth and all that emergeth therefrom and all that cometh down from the sky and all that ascendeth therein; and He is with you wheresoever ye may be. And Allah is Seer of what ye do. S. 57:4

It is evident that the Arabic conjunction, wa, in these passages is not meant to emphasize the order of creation, i.e. that the heavens were created first etc., but to creation in general, i.e. that God created the entire cosmos. In some of these passages the conjunction stands in contrast to thumma, where thumma clearly conveys sequence or time. For instance, thumma is used in relation to God assuming the throne after finishing his work of creation. This shows that thumma, at least in these passages, implies a time sequence.

Thus, the author of the Quran knew of a word (wa) that does not necessarily imply time or order, and even used it when recounting the creation account. This clearly provides additional evidence for our claim that the author, by not using this word in surahs 2:29 and 41:9-12, truly believed that the earth was created before the heavens and used a word (thumma), which primarily denotes time sequence and/or order, to convey that.

This, therefore, leaves us with an irreconcilable contradiction not just with established scientific theories, but within the Quran itself.

Dr. Naik is a Sunni Muslim. Therefore, as a Sunni Muslim we presume he accepts the authority of both the Sunnah and the authentic Hadiths since these things are foundational for Sunni Muslims. As Dr. William Campbell notes:

The word Hadith could be translated as a speech or a saying or even small talk. But in Islamic theology the term refers to a narrative concerning a deed or utterance of the Prophet Muhammad reported by his companions. These are broken down into various classes such as the Hadith Qudsi in which God Himself speaks, and the Hadith Nabawi in which the words, and the custom or practice (Sunna) of Muhammad are recorded.

At one time the words "sunna" and "hadith" were almost synonymous, but later the word "sunna" came to have a special religious meaning. The sayings and practices of Muhammad, in addition to being repeated for the spiritual edification of the believer, were codified as legally binding precedents. Called the "Sunna", it thus became a second source of law in addition to the law found in the Qur'an, and the following story will help us understand its importance.

After having lived in Tunisia for some time, I met a Mu'addib. A Mu'addib is a person who helps the families of the dead in their mourning by reciting the Qur'an over the graves of the dead relatives. This man, though poorly dressed, was very well informed. Not only did he know his own religion, but he was knowledgeable about many subjects - quoting Abraham Lincoln and other men of history.

As we talked, the conversation turned to religion, and when he spoke about Islam he made the following statement,

"Our religion is based on the Qur'an and the Hadith, 50-50."

To give another example of the importance of the Hadith (also called "traditions" in English) it has recently been reported that 200,000 volumes of the Qur'an and the Hadith of Al-Bukhari have now been printed in the Uygur language in China. We would expect that after many years of persecution under atheism and the Red Guard, the Muslims would want to reprint the Qur'an just as the Chinese Christians want to reprint the Bible. But we see that in addition they wished to print a collection of the Hadith.[1] (Al-Bukhari, along with Muslim, is one of the most respected of those who collected the traditions of Muhammad.)

When in conversation, Muslims quote Hadith almost as often as the Qur'an to prove a doctrine under discussion. One friend explained it this way, "The Qur'an gives the basic doctrine. The Hadith shows the things which are not clear in the Qur'an and makes plain the decrees of the Qur'an".

The Editor of the book Quarante Hadiths de Imam Nawawi[2] says in his preface, "The Qur'an, the word of God revealed to Muhammad; and the Hadith, the teachings of the Prophet, are the two sources of Islam. The knowledge of this religion would be impossible apart from these two texts." (Ibid., pp. 54-55)


As I said above, this was all very puzzling. On the one hand the Hadith seemed extremely important; and on the other hand it seemed arbitrary and not important at all. Then I read Fazlur Rahman's book entitled Islam, in which he makes the following statement:

"For, if the Hadith as a whole is cast away, the basis for the historicity of the Qur'an is removed at one stroke."[11] (Italics his, boldfacing mine)

Some readers may disagree with this statement, but if they consider it carefully, I think that they will have to agree that it is true. For although the Qur'an contains narrative material, it has very little narrative material about Muhammad's life, the battles he fought, etc.

Therefore it is true, if the Hadith as a whole were removed, we would know almost nothing about how Muhammad used to go out to fast and meditate in a cave, or how the first revelation came, or the flight to Medina. Though the Battle of Badr is very important to Islamic history, it is mentioned by name exactly one time in the Qur'an, in the Sura of the Family of 'Imran (Ali 'Imran) 3:123 from 2-3 AH. To understand what happened and why it was so important one must turn to the Hadith, and in Section Three, Chapter III of this book, almost all the material on the origin of the Qur'an is from the Hadith.

The logical conclusion is that the Qur'an, believed by every Muslim to be pure revelation, can only be proved and justified as pure revelation, by using the human,[12] less certain material from the Hadith. Therefore every Muslim, even one who belittles the Hadith, must decide whether the testimony of Abu Bakr, 'Umar Ibn Khattab, 'Uthman, and the others quoted in the Hadith is true enough and has been transmitted with enough accuracy so that their reports of Muhammad bringing the Qur'an can be believed. (Ibid., pp. 60-61)

The introduction to Muslim author, Habib-Ur-Rahman Azami's book, The Sunna In Islam - The Eternal Relevance of the Teaching and Example of the Prophet Muhammad (UK Islamic Academy, 1989), states:

This monograph which we are privileged to present to English readers expounds the true role and degree of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and establishes the eternal relevance of the Sunnah and the Qur'an. Islamic Shari'ah is complete only with recourse to both,the Qur'an and the Sunnah. As Allah has promised to preserve the Qur'an, so also He has arranged for the preserving of an authentic and exhaustive record of the life-example, the sayings and deeds, of the Prophet. In every age, Allah has created souls devoted to the mission of preserving the Sunnah. (Ibid, p. 5; bold emphasis ours)

The author himself notes,

The Qur'an is both the foundation and fountain of Faith and, among the fundamentals of Divine Law, the Shari'ah, its place is unique. Its purpose however is only to lay down the principles. Its elaboration and interpretation are left to the Sunnah and the Hadith. (Ibid., p. 8)


Along with the teaching of the Scripture, the teaching of 'wisdom' has also been declared to be the Prophet's function.

For a proper understanding of the word 'wisdom' we first refer to the Qur'an itself which contains numerous verses stating that 'wisdom', too, was one of the things revealed by Allah. In al-Nisa', for example, it is said:

'Allah revealeth unto thee the Scripture and wisdom, and teacheth thee that which thou knewest not. The grace of Allah towards thee has been infinite (al-Nisa' 4:113).

And in al-Baqarah:

And remember Allah's grace upon you and that which He hath revealed unto you of the Scripture and of wisdom, whereby He doth exhort you (al-Baqarah 2:231).

From Surah Al-Ahzab we learn that with the verses of the Qur'an, 'wisdom', also, was recited in the apartments of the pious wives of the Prophet:

And bear in mind that which is recited in your houses of the revelations of Allah and of wisdom (al-Ahzab 33:34).

Now, what else was read in the houses of the Prophet's wives apart from the Scripture? And what other things did the Prophet recite to his pious wives besides the Qur'an? It could be nothing more but his own Sunnah and Traditions. In addition, since the command given in this verse is to bear wisdom in mind, the necessity of learning the Sunnah and the Tradition by heart is self-evident. Moreover, knowledge, recitation and learning by heart are not an end in themselves. Their real object is in their action. From above the Tradition, therefore, the obligation to act upon the Sunnah and the Tradition is manifest.

So when 'wisdom' is simply another name for Sunnah, we can establish from the three verses given earlier (in which 'wisdom' like the Scriptures is stated to be a Divine revelation) that the Sunnah, too, was taught directly by the Almighty Creator to His Messenger.

As we turn from the Qur'an to its teacher, it again becomes clear that there was another thing, aside from the Qur'an, which was revealed by Allah to the Prophet. Namely, 'wisdom'. Says he: 'The Qur'an was bestowed upon me, and, along with it, another thing which is similar to it' (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Darmi).

In view of these pronouncements, both from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, the learned scholars of Islam are in agreement that the word 'wisdom' in, 'And teacheth you the Scripture and wisdom' (Al Imran 3:164), and in similar verses denotes the Sunnah, and further, that the Sunnah, too, is a kind of Divine revelation. Ibn Qayyim, for instance, remarks: 'Allah, the Glorious One, sent down two kinds of revelations to His Messenger and made it obligatory to believe in and act upon both of them. These are the Qur'an and wisdom.' Ibn Qayyim then quotes in support the verses referred to by us earlier and goes on to say that: 'The Scripture mentioned in them means the Qur'an and 'wisdom', in the unanimous opinion of the pious precursors, the Sunnah. What the Messenger communicated after learning about it from Allah and what Allah revealed through the tongue of His Messenger are equally required to be accepted. It is a fundamental and universally accepted principle among the Muslims and whoever denies it is not one of them. The Prophet himself said: 'The Qur'an was bestowed upon, and, along with it, another thing which was similar to it' (Kitab al-Ruh). (Ibid., pp. 14-15; bold emphasis ours)

Finally, renowned Muslim scholar Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, comments on the sources Muslims must appeal in order to understand such things as possession:

From the aforementioned arguments, it may be concluded that those who deny the possibility of diabolical possession rely on only two sources- Qur'anic texts and logic- while those who affirm it rely on three- Qur'anic texts, texts from the Sunnah and logic. According to the correct methodology of Qur'anic interpretation outlined by Ibn Katheer in the introduction of his exegesis of the Qur'aan, the interpretations of the Sunnah are essential for determining the correct understanding of the Qur'anic text. Ibn Katheer wrote,

If it is asked what is the best method of interpretation, the reply is that the most correct method is that of [interpretation of] the Qur'aan by the Qur'aan. This is because what has been generalized in one place has been specified in another. If an explicit explanation is not found in another verse, then the answers are found in the Sunnah, for it explains and clarifies the Qur'aan. In fact, Imaam Muhammad ibn Idrees ash-Shaafi'ee said, "Whatever the Messenger of Allaah ruled was based upon what he understood from the Qur'aan...

Due to this fact, the Messenger of Allaah stated,

'I have been given the Qur'aan and something similar to it along with it.'

He meant the Sunnah, because the Sunnah was revealed to him as the Qur'aan was revealed, except that it was not recited as the Qur'aan was recited. (Philips, The Exorcist Tradition in Islaam [Dar Al Fatah; Sharjah U.A.E., 1997], pp. 87-88; bold emphasis ours)

In light of the preceding factors and considerations we would like to ask Zakir Naik the following questions:

  1. Do you accept the Sunna of your prophet? Do you accept the authentic traditions attributed to your prophet?
  2. If you answer yes, then why do you neglect to include your prophet's own interpretation and understanding of the Quranic passages that you often use to prove scientific compatibility?
  3. Is it because you realize that to cite your prophet's own interpretation of the Quran would sound the death knell to your theory of Quranic compatibility with modern science?
  4. Why do you propose new interpretations and new meanings to words that go against the consensus of Muslim commentators such as Ibn Kathir and at-Tabari? Why do you propose meanings that neither your prophet nor his companions ever dreamed of?
  5. Why do you use science as the standard to test what you believe to be God's truth? Is science a superior and infallible criterion over against what you believe to be God's ultimate Criteria, the Quran al-Furqan?
  6. Is it not dishonesty on your part to neglect the authoritative interpretation of your prophet in order to convince people ignorant of your traditions that the Quran is a scientific miracle?
  7. Since you believe in the Day of Judgment and eternal damnation, do you not realize that your deceptive methods can cause innocent people to believe in a lie and suffer eternal consequences because of it?

Perhaps Naik would care to answer these questions. Until then we will continue to remain in the service of our risen Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ, God's eternal beloved Son. Amen. Come Lord Jesus, we love you forever!

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