Meaning of ‘seven Earths’

Meaning of ‘seven Earths_ 1

 
Does the Quran really say that there are seven Earths? And if Earths are seven, then where are they?

Let us reflect on the verse in question:

God is He who has created seven/numerous Heavens/Highs and of the Earth/Low the like of them. Through the midst of them descends from on high, unceasingly, the Command that you might know that God has power over all things and that God encompasses all things in His knowledge. 65:12

Often translated as Earth, the word ‘ard’ in Arabic means both planet Earth and land as well as down or LOW. In the same way as the word ‘samawat’, often translated as Heavens, means both Heavens and HIGHS.

Now, if Heavens/Highs thus implies the upward or outward ends of the macrocosm, and Earths/Lows therefore implies downward or inward ends of the microcosm, then the verse above takes us to and from the farthest galaxies to the innermost depths of an atom.

In our imaginary journey we travel telescopically, towards the infinite vastness of the outer cosmos, towards the seven HIGHS, as well as microscopically, towards the unfathomable depths of the subatomic world, towards the seven LOWS.

In our outward journey we find seven Heavens or seven layers of celestial systems one above another (67:3, 71:15): solar system, galaxy, cluster, supercluster, filament, universe-1 and the multiverse.

And then, on our way back we find that all these seven (a Quranic number that also connotes numerous or innumerable) Highs have their own Lows, and their own Earths (with possible extraterrestrial ‘life forms’ in them? cf. 1:2, 3:83, 5:18, 16:8, 16:49, 17:55, 19:93-94, 27:65, 30:26, 37:11, 42:29, 55:33, 74:31).

Further in our inward journey towards our planet, we find that our atmosphere has, in a relative sense, seven layers: Troposphere, Stratosphere, Ozonosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, Ionosphere and Exosphere.

And our Earth itself has, in a relative sense, seven strata or layers1: lithosphere-water, lithosphere-land, asthenosphere, upper mantle, inner mantle, outer core and inner core. …

When we travel even further in, inside the smallest particles of Earthly materials, we see that atoms, the basic building blocks of matter, have a seven-layered structure, with up to seven energy levels or electron orbits, each having up to seven energy sublevels, like the seven Heavens. And we see that matter itself2 exists in seven states.

Nonetheless, this can be viewed from yet another perspective. We note that the verse doesn’t link the word ‘seven’ to the Earth in a straight way, but obliquely through the expression ‘the like of them’ (‘mithlahunna’), making the number ‘seven’ relative, rather than absolute. This is in line with the fact that seven, like seventy, also occurs in the Quran to signify ‘numerous’ or ‘innumerable’, which is a common connotation of ‘seven’ in Arabic (e.g., 31:27; cf. 9:80,15:43-44, 2:161).

The rainbow can be cited here as an example that demonstrates how ‘seven’ can be equivalent to ‘innumerable’. While, to many people like Newton, the rainbow or the visible spectrum of colours appears to contain only seven colours, it is actually a continuum made of an infinite number of gradations with no discernible distinction between neighbours. As we observed elsewhere, The Quran promotes religious pluralism by recurrently referring to the spiritual rainbow of seven colours.

The concept ‘seven Earths/Lows’ is also found in other theological systems3, including Jewish, Jain and Hindu cosmologies, some of which describe them as seven lower worlds (underworlds) or spiritual spheres that represent seven layers of lowly existence.

It is important to note that the expression ‘the like of them’ (‘mithlahunna’) in the phrase ‘created seven/numerous Heavens/Highs and of the Earth/Low the like of them’ alludes not only to the similarity of the Earths/Lows to the Heavens/Highs in number but also to their similarity in relation to their origin and evolution, along with their structure and function. Fascinatingly, for instance, not only that the Earth with its strata resembles the cosmic systems, even every single atom itself is a ‘like of the Heavens’ as every atom structurally and functionally mirrors any celestial system like the Solar system.

Often rendered as ‘descends’, the verbal form ‘yatanazzalu’ in the phrase ‘Through the midst of them descends … the Command’ implies ‘descends with recurrence and continuity’, and its combination with the noun ‘al-amr’ (the command, the decree) reflects the concept of God’s unceasing creative activity encompassing from the highest to the lowest, and from the outermost to the inmost, i.e., from the farthest galaxies to the innermost subatomic domains.

Summary

Above we have briefly studied the verse 65:12, with special focus on the statement “God is He who has created seven/numerous Heavens/Highs and of the Earth/Low the like of them”.

In our attempt to rationalise this specific mention of seven here, we considered the possibility that the number seven shares a strong relationship with the way our universe is created and structured. Also, we tried to grasp the expression seven Earths/Lows with its potential connotations, such as seven Earth-like celestial bodies, seven layers of the atmosphere, seven strata of the Earth, seven quantum levels inside the atoms, seven states of matter, seven colours of spiritual rainbow, seven underworlds, seven layers of lowly existence, seven something else and so on. Besides, we noted that the number seven, in Quranic idiosyncrasy, may simply connote numerous or innumerable.

***********************************

Note 1

The structure of the Earth is divided into three main layers and is subdivided into more layers, which one can roughly/relatively count as seven or so. Related links:

https://prezi.com/v2ev8od3hyjy/the-7-layers-of-the-earth/

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structure_of_the_Earth

Note 2

The seven states of matter are Solids, Liquids, Gases, Ionized Plasma, Quark-Gluon Plasma, Bose-Einstein Condensate and Fermionic Condensate.

Note 3

The concept ‘seven Earths/Lows’ is also found in other theological systems. The Sumerian underworld visited by Inanna was seven-gated. According to the Jewish commentary Midrash, Earths are seven in number. Hindu Puranas describe seven lower worlds (underworlds) along with seven upper worlds (Heavens). In Jain cosmology, there are seven levels of Naraka or abyss, representing seven layers of lowly existence.

Advertisements

Does the Quran really say that the Sun sinks in a murky lake?

Does the Quran say that the Sun sinks in a muddy lake

 

Question: The Quran says that Zul-qarnain REACHED the place where the sun sinks in a murky lake (18:86). So, god thinks there is a setting place of the sun on the earth!

Can you refute this very obvious SCIENTIFIC ERROR in the Quran?

Answer: Before drawing any conclusion, we would first like to have a look into the issue.

 

A CLOSER LOOK INTO 18:86

Let us read the verse in its context:

So he followed a course, 18:85

Until, when he REACHED A SETTING of the Sun, it APPEARED to him that it was SETTING in a murky spring. 18:86

On a closer study of the above, and the highlighted words in particular, we get the following findings:

The verse narrates a setting of the Sun, not a drowning of the Sun

Translated here as ‘a setting’, the word ‘maghrib’ derives from ‘gharaba’ (blacken, darken), which is opposite of ‘sharaqa’ (shine, brighten, 39:69).

Thus ‘a setting’ portrays a process of blackening or darkening (‘gharaba’) of the Sun as appears to an observer on the Earth.

This is very DIFFERENT from an actual, physical sinking (‘gharaqa’) of the Sun.

The verse deals with an event of setting rather than a place of sinking

Then the phrase ‘it was SETTING’ – which uses the word ‘gharaba’ (set, darken) instead of ‘gharaqa’ (sink) – further confirms that it refers to a perceptible phenomenon of Sun’s setting rather than a physical place of Sun’s drowning.

The verse refers to ‘a setting point’ – not ‘the setting point’ – of the Sun

The word ‘maghrib’ (setting) in singular form occurs 7 times in the Quran (2:115, 2:142, 2:177, 2:258, 18:86, 26:28, 73:9). In all these occurrences, with the exception of 18:86, it appears as ‘al-maghrib’ (the setting), i.e. prefixed with ‘al’ (‘the’).

So it is remarkable that 18:86, i.e. the verse we are discussing here, is the only occurrence in the Quran where the word ‘maghrib’ is without the definite article ‘al’ (‘the’). Thus, rather than referring to ‘THE SETTING’, it actually refers to ‘A SETTING’.

In other words, in 18:86 Zul-qarnain does not reach ‘the (point of) sunset’, but reaches only ‘a (point of) sunset’, i.e. only one of the many (points of) sunsets.

Elsewhere the Quran itself confirms that ‘points of sunset’ are many (70:40). This clarifies the Quranic position that the Sun doesn’t set in a particular point only. And, therefore, the Sun never ‘sinks’ in a specific place.

Please note that, though ‘maghrib’ actually means ‘a setting’, we may also render it as ‘a (point of) setting’, in order to facilitate our understanding of this complex natural phenomenon of sunset.

The verse correctly states that one can reach a point of sunset

The Quran has been misjudged by the claim that one cannot reach a point of sunset.

A sunset point is a place where you experience a sunset at a given moment. However, because sunset is a space-time (four dimensional) phenomenon, the sunset point is not static but is moving around the Earth together with its axial rotation.

Let us reflect. As the Earth is spinning around itself facing the Sun, the Sun is setting continuously on successive points of the globe, while simultaneously rising on their counterparts (37:5, 7:54, 39:5, 70:40).

Thus, at a given moment there is a specific point/place on the Earth where the perceivable event of sunset occurs. You can reach that point/place at that particular moment to experience the sunset.

Sunset comes back to that specific point approximately every 24 hours. But if you travel fast towards the west, you can reach other points of sunset, earlier than 24 hours.

Every time you experience a sunset, you are at a sunset point.

Now consider a place A on the Earth where the Sun will set today at 10:00 GMT. And you are currently at one hour walking distance from that place. So now it is 9:00 GMT. It means that if you walk one hour towards A, you will reach a sunset point at 10:00 GMT where you will experience the sunset.

The verse defines sunset as a subjective perception

Then interestingly, the phrase ‘it APPEARED to him’ precisely describes sunset through the eyes of Zul-qarnain.

Thus the Quran defines sunset not within the context of an objective scientific description of the Sun’s motion but merely as a subjective, visual perception of an earthly observer. This concurs with the definition of sunset in modern physics.

This is further consistent with our earlier findings that the verse uses the expression ‘setting’, instead of ‘drowning’, and ‘a setting’, instead of ‘the setting’.

These are some of the examples of how the divine revelation chooses the right words and expressions.

In line with the above, 18:86 should be understood as ‘Until, when he reached a point where he perceived a setting of the Sun …’.

SUMMARY

We find the verse 18:86 scientifically accurate due to our following observations:

  • The verse narrates a setting of the Sun, not a drowning of the Sun.
  • It deals with an event of setting rather than a place of sinking.
  • It refers to ‘a setting point’ – not ‘the setting point’ – of the Sun. This is in line with the Quranic concept that ‘points of sunset’ are many and, therefore, the Sun doesn’t ‘sink’ in any particular place.
  • It correctly states that one can reach a point of sunset.
  • It defines sunset as a subjective perception. This is true from a modern scientific perspective.

 CONCLUSION

The verse 18:86 contains no scientific error.

 

Earth in the Quran

Earth’s axial rotation

Apart from the non-specific references to Earth’s motion, there are in the Quran many specific references to Earth’s axial rotation.

Earth’s orbital revolution

Apart from the non-specific references to Earth’s motion, there are in the Quran a few ‘specific’ references to the orbital motion of an axially rotating Earth.

Earth is a spinning ball

There is nothing in the Quran that supports a Flat Earth. Rather the Quran is in complete harmony with the modern scientific inference that our Spaceship Earth is a beautiful, spinning BALL.

Earth as a spaceship

Please observe how the Quran draws an analogy between the astronomical objects like Sun, Moon and revolving Earth orbiting in space and the ships gliding through the sea.

Two Easts and two Wests

Our solar planet as a revolving globe has ‘twin’ sunrise points (active versus mirror) and ‘twin’ sunset points (active versus mirror) at any given meridian and its counterpart.

Earth is a spinning ball

Earth is a spinning ball

 

The Quran affirms a Spherical Earth

As the Quran is a book of ‘signs’ and not a textbook of science – and because its intent is therefore very different from that of a modern science book when it mentions natural phenomena – we do not expect in it any direct or detailed reference to Earth’s actual shape.

However, interestingly, there are in the Quran quite a few allusions to the SPHERICAL SHAPE of our planet Earth. Below we will try to go through some of them.

 

Night and day are REVOLVING around each other:

A constant spinning cycle around a ‘ball’

Night and day are described throughout the Quran as dynamic counterparts of a revolving cycle:

God is He who revolves the night and the day: most surely there is a lesson in this for those who possess sight. 24:44

He draws the veil of night over the day, each pursuing the other in rapid succession. 7:54

In the succession of the night and the day … are signs for a people who are conscious. 10:6

Now look into this thought-provoking statement that clearly portrays a circular motion:

He coils the night around the day and He coils the day around the night. 39:5

Translated here as ‘coils around’, the verb ‘yukawwir’ is derived from its root-verb ‘kawwara’, which essentially means to ‘roll around’ or ‘wrap around’, e.g. a turban around the head, and can be translated as coil, roll, cycle, wrap, wind, spin, circle, rotate around etc (cf. 81:1). It is originally related to ‘kurah’, the Arabic word for BALL, which goes along with the notion that the Earth is ‘rolling and rounded’.

Also, if night and day are in a revolving cycle, then what does that cycle revolve around? Apparently around a sphere. But, because only spinning can shape a natural object into a sphere, a round Earth cannot be anything but a rotating Earth. To the mind of a 21st century reader, this will unmistakably relate to Earth’s axial rotation and depict the Earth as a spinning BALL.

Thus we get in the Quran a set of related verses (e.g. 2:164, 3:190, 7:54, 10:6, 23:80, 24:44, 25:62, 39:5, 45:5) that describe night and day as coiling around each other, as if in a spinning cycle about a rounded ball.

Night and day are interpenetrating each other through BENDING:

A continuous winding around a ‘sphere’

This sense of circular motion is further reinforced by a set of related verses (3:27, 22:61, 31:29, 35:13, 57:6) that describe night and day as interpenetrating each other through continuous BENDING in a process of perpetual coiling, e.g.:

He merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night. 57:6

That is because God merges the night into the day, and merges the day into the night. 22:61

(cf. Earth’s axial rotation: 2:164, 3:27, 3:190, 7:54, 10:6, 22:61, 23:80, 24:44, 45:5, 25:62, 31:29, 35:13, 36:40, 39:5, 57:6, 91:3-4, 92:1-2).

Rendered as ‘merges’, the key word here is ‘yooliju’, which also implies ‘bending’ or inserting through a bend (like inserting a sword into its sheath). This connotation is supported by the word ‘wolujun’, derived from the same root wlj, which means ‘a bend, or a place of bending, of a valley’.

So, here again, night and day are incessantly rotating about each other in a closed, continuous curvature (circle or sphere) as equal halves of a cyclical process, as if constantly winding around a sphere.

TWO sunrise points and TWO sunset points:

Opposite meridians on a rotating globe

Staying within this context of revolving night and day, please ponder on the following brainstorming statement:

Sustainer of the two sunrise points and Sustainer of the two sunset points. 55:17

Remarkably, the Quran elsewhere describes ‘the utmost remoteness’ as ‘the distance between the two sunrise points’ (43:38), i.e. distance from any point to its opposite farthest point. This clarifies ‘two sunrise points’ as ‘two opposite points of sunrise located at the maximum possible distance’. The same applies to ‘two sunset points’.

Now, the dialectical expression ‘two sunrise points and two sunset points’ – as points of successive sunrises and sunsets in the revolving cycle of night and day – makes sense only when considered on a spinning globe.

Let us reflect. As the Earth is rotating around itself facing the Sun, the Sun is rising continuously on successive parts of the globe, while simultaneously setting on their counterparts (cf. 37:5, 7:54; 39:5; 73:9). Since any sunrise point at a given meridian thus represents the mirror sunset point in relation to its counter meridian, and vice versa, we get two sunrise points (one is active and the other is mirror) and two sunset points (one is active and the other is mirror; cf. Asad’s note on 43:38).

Then, even if we understand the expression as Two Easts and two Wests, we still require a globe. As all directions on a sphere are relative, what appears as East and West to an observer at one end would appear as West and East to another observer at the opposite end. Since we perceive East as West and West as East depending on our direction of observation, we eventually find ourselves on a globe with two Easts and two Wests.

Earth is a cradle and a MERRY-GO-ROUND: 

Rotating, so round

The Quran describes our planet as a cradle (mahd, 20:53, 43:10; cf. 78:6, 3:46, 5:110, 19:29), which in Arabic also connotes a merry-go-round:

He it is who has made the Earth a cradle for you. 43:10

This may simultaneously allude to both Earth’s axial rotation and Earth’s orbital revolution. But a rotating Earth cannot be anything but a round Earth.

Earth is an oblate SPHEROID: 

An imperfect sphere

Now we will look into the following passage that has been misread by Flat Earthers as the mainstay of their argument from the Quran:

And He made its (Heaven’s) night dark and brought out its brightness (the Sun, 91:1).

And the Earth, after that, He unfolded it/unrolled it/spread it out. 79:29-30

First, this seems a curious reference to the creation of bright matter (Sun and other stars) out of dark matter, with a further reference to Earth’s formation as secondary to solar evolution. Then the expression “And the Earth, after that, He unfolded it/unrolled it/spread it out” alludes to the unfolding (evolution) of the nascent Earth through gradual physical, chemical and geo-biological diversification (cf. unfolding and folding of the Universe; 21:30, 21:104; cf. 81:1, 41:11). In addition, if we understand the word ‘ard’ as ‘land’, we get the alternative meaning “the land, He spread it out” (cf. 13:3, 15:19, 19:30, 50:7, 79:30, 88:20; also cf. 25:45), which describes the crust, the carpet-like cover spread out on our planet. However, since a carpet put on the spherical surface of a huge ball appears relatively flat, the expression doesn’t prove a Flat Earth. Rather it concurs with some of the advanced geological concepts like continental drift, plate tectonics and sea-floor spreading. It may also indicate the flattening of the continental crust by various natural factors like the pressure of ice age glaciers that made the lands suitable for agriculture and human habitation.

Now, in the above, the verb daḥā – which literally means spread out, unfolded or unrolled – shares common origin with its cognates, like dahw (to unroll), dahraja (to roll), midhan (roller), dahya (egg), dahaha (ostrich-egg), udhiya (ostrich-nest), dahal (marble) and almadahi (round stone, round object). All these undertones of ‘daḥā’, all indicating some rolling or roundness of a spheroid or a rounded egg, make some exegetists perceive the word as a reference to the actual geo-spherical shape of the Earth – an oblate spheroid with slightly squished poles, i.e. an almost perfect sphere. While the Earth originated as a ‘cosmic egg’ shooting out probably from a spinning, solar nebula, even in its present state it is ellipsoid (oval) in form, loosely resembling a rounded egg. Moreover, structurally similar to a rounded egg, made of three layers (shell, white and yolk), the Earth itself is made of three geological layers (crust, mantle and core).

A final word

There is nothing in the Quran in support of a Flat Earth. Rather the Quran is in complete harmony with the modern scientific inference that Our Spaceship Earth is a beautiful, spinning BALL.

***********************************

Related reading:

Earth’s axial rotation

Earth’s orbital revolution

Earth as a spaceship

Two Easts and two Wests

Earth as a spaceship

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, we are all crew.” – Marshall McLuhan


Earth as a spaceship


ASTRONOMICAL OBJECTS AS SAILING SHIPS

Please note how the Quran draws an analogy between the ASTRONOMICAL OBJECTS like Sun, Moon and revolving Earth (signified by revolving night and day) orbiting in space and the SHIPS gliding through the sea:

Do you not see how God merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night, and has subjected the Sun and the Moon, each pursues its course for a term appointed? …

Have you not seen the SHIPS speeding through the sea, carrying God’s provisions, so that He might show you some of His wonders? 31: 29, 31

This analogy between the orbiting celestial objects and the sailing ships is recurrent throughout the Quran:

It is He who has made the SHIPS subject to you, that they may sail through the sea by His command …

And He has made serving to you the Sun and the Moon pursuing their courses, and He has made serving to you the night and the day. 14:32-33

For instance, a comparison between celestial objects and ships is obvious in these parallel references to the ships not sinking and Heavens not collapsing:

See you not that God has made subject to you all that is on the Earth? And the SHIPS that sail through the sea by His Command? He withholds the Heaven from falling on the Earth except by His leave: for God is Compassionate, Merciful to man. 22:65

The Heavens are about to rent asunder from above themselves; and the Forces hymn the praise of their Sustainer and seek for­giveness for those on Earth: Behold! Verily God is the Forgiving, the Merciful. …

And among His signs are the VESSELS that sail through the seas, lofty as mountains. 42:5, 32

Apparently, the physical mechanics that keeps ships floating along the sea by preventing them from sinking by opposing Earth’s centripetal pull is like the one that maintains the celestial bodies orbiting in the vast cosmic ocean by constantly resisting gravitational collapse.

A similar dynamics is responsible for maintaining sea levels, for keeping the Moon in its orbit around the Earth, for keeping the Earth and the other planets in their orbits around the Sun, for holding the Sun and other stars in their orbits around their galactic centres, for keeping galaxies in their orbits around a centre in clusters, for holding clusters in their orbits around a centre in superclusters, and so on.

EARTH AS A ‘LOADED SHIP’

Below is a further continuation of this ongoing analogy, this persistent comparison between the revolving astronomical objects (including the revolving Earth) and the sailing ships.

Now carefully observe how the specific analogy here between the ‘rotating Earth (rotating cycle of night and day) revolving in orbit’ and a ‘loaded ship carrying human race’ graphically illustrates our planet Earth as a SPACESHIP:

Neither is it for the Sun to overtake the Moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; and ALL swim along in orbit.

And a Sign unto them is that We bear their race in a loaded SHIP;

And We have created for them things of a similar kind whereon they (will) ride. 36:40-42

Please note the clear association between ‘SWIM along in orbit’ in 36:40 and ‘loaded SHIP’ in 36:41. Also the link between ‘FALAK’ (orbit) and ‘FULK’ (ship) that further relates 36:40 to 36:41. Obviously, ‘their race’ above denotes the human race as a whole.

Parenthetically, this portrays the ‘rotating Earth (‘rotating night and day’) swimming in orbit’, as a ‘loaded ship carrying human race’ …

And, more precisely, as a loaded SPACESHIP! …

A spaceship that resembles various watercrafts and flying vessels including future starships and planets potentially suitable for human habitat (‘things of a similar kind whereon they (will) ride’)! …

Our Earth is a self-contained spaceship and all of us astronauts were beamed down here into the bodies with our memories erased. Everything we need for life – food, water, oxygen and so on – is provided for us. We are also provided with hundreds of elements to tinker with, billions of atoms and molecules to utilise and recycle, and underground fossils to use and reuse, and we are rewarded with technological candies each time we learn a letter or sentence from the book of nature …

Everything is interconnected with a complex network according to a well calculated plan or cosmic blueprint.

While pondering on the Earth we can find endless evidence of the ‘planned measuring’ of physical, astronomical, chemical, geological and Bio ‘constants’ divinely gifted to the spaceship Earth and its inhabitants.

This perceived image of the Earth as a ‘loaded spaceship’ is reinforced in our mind when we read the above passage in the context of other passages containing similar analogy between the celestial objects (including the Earth) and the ships (2:164; 10:18, 22; 14:32-33; 16:12-14; 22:65; 31: 29-31; 35:12-13; 36:40-42; 42:5, 32; 43:9-12; 45:12-13).

THE COSMIC OCEAN

So the trend to draw an analogy between the orbiting astronomical objects (including the Earth) and the sailing ships is persistent throughout the Quran. Here are a few more examples:

Behold! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, in the succession of the night and the day, and in the SHIPS that speed through the sea with what benefits man … there are messages for a people reasoning. 2:164

Say, “Are you informing God of what He does not know in the Heavens or in the Earth?” … 

He it is who moves you across land and sea; until when you are in the SHIPS, and they sail on with them in a pleasant breeze, and they rejoice. 10:18, 22

And He has made subservient for you the night and the day and the Sun and the Moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: most surely there are messages in this for a people reasoning. …

And on that one sees SHIPS ploughing through the waves, so that you might go forth in quest of some of His bounty, and thus have cause to be grateful. 16:12-14

It is God who has subjected to you the sea that the SHIPS may run thereon by His command, that you may seek of his Bounty, and that you may be thankful.

And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the Heavens and whatsoever is in the Earth: it is all from Him. Behold, in that are messages indeed for those who reflect. 45:12-13

Now note how the passage below describes not only ‘two seas’ but also yet another sea – the cosmic sea of the solar system:

And the two seas are not alike: … And you see the SHIPS cleave through it that you may seek of His bounty and that you may be thankful.

He merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night, and He has subjected the Sun and the Moon. Each pursues its course for a term appointed. 35:12-13

Thus the Quran portrays moving celestial bodies including the Earth as sailing ships, while comparing the cosmos with ocean (2:164; 10:18, 22; 14:32-33; 16:12-14; 22:65; 31: 29-31; 35:12-13; 36:40-42; 42:5, 32; 43:9-12; 45:12-13; 52:5-6).

Earth’s orbital revolution

Earths orbital revolution

 
The Earth rotates from west to east about its axis: one complete rotation takes a day. The rotation of the Earth is responsible for the alternate periods of light and darkness, i.e. day and night. This is Earth’s axial rotation (2:164, 3:27, 3:190, 7:54, 10:6, 22:61, 23:80, 24:44, 45:5, 25:62, 31:29, 35:13, 36:40, 39:5, 57:6, 91:3-4, 92:1-2).

The Earth also revolves in an orbit around the Sun, once in a year, i.e. about 365 days. The path of this revolution, the Earth’s orbit, is an ellipse rather than a circle. This is Earth’s orbital revolution (20:53, 21:33, 35:13, 36:40, 39:5, 43:10; cf. 78:6, 79:27-31, 91:1-6, 24:35, 12:4, 6:74-79, 78:12-13, 41:12, 27:24 , 37:1-7, 67:5, 10:3-6).

Thus, apart from the non-specific indications of Earth’s motion that we discussed elsewhere (e.g. 20:53, 43:10, 78:6, 41:11, 35:41, 77:25-26, 55:10, 2:22, 27:88), there are in the Quran a few ‘specific’ allusions to the orbital motion of an axially rotating Earth.

Below we will attempt to go through them.

Orbital motion of an axially rotating Earth

The Quran describes our planet Earth as a ‘mahd’ (20:53, 43:10; cf. ‘mihaada’ 78:6; cf. 3:46, 5:110, 19:29), which means in Arabic both a ‘cradle’ and a ‘merry-go-round’. This simultaneously alludes to both the axial and orbital motion of the Earth.

Earth’s orbital motion, in addition to axial, appears in an idiosyncratic way in the following statements:

It is He who created the night and the day and the Sun and the Moon. All swim along in orbit. 21:33

He merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night, and He has subjected the Sun and the Moon. Each pursues its course for a term appointed. 35:13

This reference to the orbital motion of an axially rotating Earth gets more precise in the following verse:

He COILS the night around the day and He coils the day around the night; and He has subjected the Sun and the Moon: each RUNNING ALONG a course for a term appointed. 39:5

It is interesting to observe how the two separate verbs above – ‘yukawwir’ (‘coils’, like a rotating ‘ball’ or ‘kurah’) and ‘yajree’ (‘runs along’, a motion which is in orbit; cf. All swim along in orbit. 21:33) – make a clear distinction between the two types of terrestrial motion.

Thus, while the verb ‘coils’ indicates Earth’s axial rotation causing the succession of night and day, the verb ‘runs along’ refers to the orbital motion of ‘each (‘kullun’), which as a plural pronoun here includes ‘the revolving night and day’ (the revolving Earth) along with the Sun, Moon and so on.

This parallel allusion to Earth’s orbital and axial motion gets even more specific in the following statement:

Neither is it for the Sun to overtake the Moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; and ALL swim along in orbit. 36:40

All these verses maintain that ‘the rotating night and day’ – an allusion throughout the Quran to the revolving Earth – ‘swim along in orbit together with the ‘swimming’ of the Sun and the Moon, which are Earth’s star and satellite respectively. Thus we get simultaneous references to Earth’s both types of motion.

‘Rotating night and day’ are orbiting around the Sun

Let us ponder on this verse, apparently explicit about Earth’s orbital and axial motion:

Neither is it for the Sun to overtake the Moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; and ALL swim along in orbit. 36:40

This implies that celestial objects, like the Sun, the Moon and so on, cannot normally deviate from their courses or collide with each other, as they are held and arranged in their orbits in perfect order by the precise laws of motion. Also, the day and the night cannot outstrip each other as they incessantly occur on opposite sides of the revolving Earth.

Now – following this mention of the moving heavenly bodies like the Sun and the Moon and then of revolving night and day (cf. 39:5) – the phrase ‘ALL swim along in orbit clearly indicates that the rotating Earth (‘revolving night and day’) is also swimming along in an orbit.

However, night and day – while swimming along in an orbit – will cease to exist, if they are not constantly around their source, the Sun.

In other words:

If ‘revolving night and day’ are swimming along in an orbit, their orbit has to be around the Sun, the continuous cause of night and day!

This is the exact description from a spaceship about the planet Earth, which – with its axial rotation that generates the constant cycle of day and night – is moving forward in its orbit around the Sun.

That Earth’s orbital revolution is around the Sun is further confirmed by a parallel reading of the above verse together with e.g. 79:27-31, 91:1-6, 24:35, 12:4, 6:74-79, 78:12-13, 41:12, 27:24 , 37:1-7, 67:5 and 10:3-6.

Please observe that the verb ‘yasbahun’ (‘swim along’) is in plural and so does the word ‘kullu’ here also refers to plural (‘all’). In Arabic, plural necessarily implies more than two subjects, as there is separate verbal form for dual. So, neither ‘kullu’ is a pronoun for the Sun and the night only, nor ‘yasbahun’ involves only them, but both overwhelmingly exceed them both and, thus going beyond them, encompass everything: putting absolutely everything in the Universe in compulsory motion in ‘orbits’, ordained and strictly governed by divine Law.

Thus the phrase ‘and ALL swim along in orbit’ refers not only to the motion of the Earth or various celestial bodies like the Sun or the Moon, but also to the motion of the entire cosmos – from the colossal motion of superclusters, to the quantum motion at subatomic levels, to the motion or action as a fundamental attribute, essential for the existence of matter (energy) itself.

It is remarkable that the expression ‘KuLlun FiY FaLaK’ (36:40; cf. 21:33) – which literally means ‘all in orbit/ circuit’, alluding to the motion of the Sun, Moon, Earth etc in ‘a path that repeats itself’ – is palindromic (cyclical) in itself29, i.e. it reads the same backward or forward. Thus the expression itself – with letters arranged in a circular pattern (K, L, F, Y, F, L, K) reading the same backward or forward – symbolizes an ongoing circuit, i.e. the circular/ ellipsoid orbits.

Earth is a ‘loaded spaceship’

Now we will read 36:40 in context and observe the analogy between ‘the rotating Earth (‘rotating night and day’) swimming in orbit’ and ‘a loaded ship carrying human race’:

Neither is it for the Sun to overtake the Moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; and ALL swim along in orbit.

And a Sign unto them is that We bear their race in a loaded ship;

And We have created for them things of a similar kind whereon they (will) ride. 36:40-42

Please note the clear association between ‘SWIM along in orbit’ in 36:40 and ‘loaded SHIP’ in 36:41. Also the link between ‘FALAK’ (orbit) and ‘FULK’ (ship) that further relates 36:40 to 36:41. Obviously, ‘their race’ above denotes the human race as a whole.

Parenthetically, this portrays the ‘rotating Earth (‘rotating night and day’) swimming in orbit’, as a ‘loaded ship carrying human race’ …

And, more precisely, as a loaded SPACESHIP! …

A spaceship that resembles various watercrafts and flying vessels including future starships and planets potentially suitable for human habitat (‘things of a similar kind whereon they (will) ride’)! …

This perceived image of the Earth as a ‘loaded spaceship’ is reinforced in our mind when we read the above passage in the context of other similar passages that persistently portray moving celestial bodies including the Earth as sailing ships, while comparing the cosmos with ocean (2:164; 10:18, 22; 14:32-33; 16:12-14; 22:65; 31: 29-31; 35:12-13; 36:40-42; 42:5, 32; 43:9-12; 45:12-13).

Also read Earth as a spaceship

Earth’s axial rotation

earths-axial-rotation-1

 
The Earth rotates from west to east about a line, its axis. One complete rotation takes a day (about 24 hours).

This is Earth’s axial rotation, which is responsible for the alternate periods of light and darkness, i.e. day and night.

Apart from the non-specific indications of Earth’s motion (e.g. 20:53, 43:10, 78:6, 41:11, 35:41, 77:25-26, 55:10, 2:22, 27:88), and the relatively ‘specific’ allusions to Earth’s orbital revolution, there are in the Quran a few ‘specific’ allusions to Earth’s axial rotation.

Below we will cite a few examples.

Earth is a cradle and a MERRY-GO-ROUND

The Quran describes our planet Earth as a cradle (mahd, 20:53, 43:10; cf. 78:6, 3:46, 5:110, 19:29), which in Arabic also connotes a merry-go-round. Can this be an allusion to both the axial and orbital motion of the Earth?:

He it is who has made the Earth a cradle for you and has made for you ways therein that you may be guided. 43:10

Have We not made the Earth as a cradle? 78:6

He is the One who has made the Earth a cradle for you and has traced out for you ways therein. 20:53

Night and day are REVOLVING around each other

How does the Earth look like when observed from the outer space?

It is round; it is a loaded ship, floating in the cosmic ocean, orbiting around the Sun; and it is also spinning around itself …

Cosmonauts have observed and captured from their spaceships what happens here: as the Earth turns on its own axis, the Sun permanently lights up the half of the Earth’s surface that is facing it, while the other half of the globe is in darkness.

In other words, as the Earth rotates about itself facing the Sun, the Sun rises continuously on successive parts of the globe, while simultaneously setting on their counterparts. Please read:

He draws the veil of night over the day, each pursuing the other in rapid succession. 7:54

This rotation of the night and the day, i.e. the process of their perpetual coiling with interpenetration of one section by another, is quite clearly described here:

God is He who revolves the night and the day: most surely there is a lesson in this for those who possess sight. 24:44

Just as if the concept of the Earth as a revolving sphere, resulting in the succession of the night and the day, had already been conceived at that time, which is obviously not the case:

Behold! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, in the succession of the night and the day … there are messages for a people reasoning. 2:164

Behold! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and in the succession of the night and the day, there are indeed messages for those with minds. 3:190

In the succession of the night and the day and what God has created in Heavens and Earth are signs for a people who are conscious. 10:6

And in the succession of the night and the day, and in what God sends down of sustenance from the Heaven … there are messages for a people reasoning. 45:5

And He it is who gives life and causes death, and His is the succession of the night and the day. Will you not then reason? 23:80

And He it is who made the night and the day to succeed each other, for him who desires to celebrate His praises or desires to be thankful. 25:62

Why does the Quran continuously use the expression ‘the succession of night and day’ rather than ‘the setting and rising of the Sun’? This idiosyncratic language must sound challenging to a modern reader.

Night and day are merging into each other through BENDING

A continuous winding around a ‘sphere’

This sense of circular motion is further reinforced by a set of related verses (3:27, 22:61, 31:29, 35:13, 57:6) that describe night and day as interpenetrating each other through continuous BENDING in a process of perpetual coiling, e.g.:

You merge the night into the day and merge the day into the night, and You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living. 3:27

That is because God merges the night into the day, and merges the day into the night, and that God is Hearer, Seer. 22:61

Do you not see how God merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night? 31:29

He merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night, and He has subjected the Sun and the Moon. Each pursues its course for a term appointed. 35:13

He merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night. 57:6

Rendered as merges, the key word here is yooliju, which also implies bends or inserts through a bend (like inserting a sword into its sheath). This connotation is supported by the word wolujun, derived from the same root wlj, which means ‘a bend, or a place of bending, of a valley’. When we walk on a bend of a valley, we see the horizon changing steadily.

So, here again, night and day are incessantly rotating about each other in a closed, continuous curvature (circle or sphere) as equal halves of a cyclical process.

A constant spinning cycle around a BALL

Thus, night and day are described throughout the Quran as dynamic counterparts of a revolving cycle:

God is He who revolves the night and the day: most surely there is a lesson in this for those who possess sight. 24:44

He draws the veil of night over the day, each pursuing the other in rapid succession. 7:54

In the succession of the night and the day … are signs for a people who are conscious. 10:6

Now look into this thought-provoking statement that very clearly portrays a circular motion:

He COILS the night around the day and He COILS the day around the night.  39:5

Translated here as ‘coils around’, the verb ‘yukawwir’ is derived from its root-verb ‘kawwara’, which essentially means to ‘roll around’ or ‘wrap around’, e.g. a turban around the head, and can be translated as coil, roll, cycle, wrap, wind, spin, circle, rotate around etc (cf. 81:1). It is originally related to ‘kurah’, the Arabic word for BALL, which goes along with the notion that the Earth is ‘rolling and rounded’.

Also, if night and day are in a revolving cycle, then what does that cycle revolve around? Apparently around a sphere. But, because only spinning can shape a natural object into a sphere, a round Earth cannot be anything but a rotating Earth. To the mind of a 21st century reader, this will unmistakably relate to Earth’s axial rotation and depict the Earth as a spinning BALL.

Thus we get in the Quran a set of related verses (e.g. 2:164, 3:190, 7:54, 10:6, 23:80, 24:44, 25:62, 39:5, 45:5) that describe night and day as coiling around each other, as if in a spinning cycle about a rounded ball.

Now, the use of this particular expression ‘coils around’ was once thought to be a purely poetic one. But current astronomical knowledge confirms that the term is scientifically accurate in describing the Earth’s spinning movement around itself.

It is the ‘revolving night and day’ that veils and unveils the ‘static Sun’

Day and the Sun are still there, somewhere, when veiled by night

Functions of the night and the day – veiling and unveiling – are described in the Quran as dynamic counterparts of an unceasingly revolving cycle (39:5, 7:54, 92:1-2). This includes specific reference to a simple natural phenomenon, Veiling of the day by the night:

By the Night as it veils,/ And by the Day as it reveals, 92:1-2

He draws the veil of Night over the Day, each pursuing the other in rapid succession. 7:54

But the night veils not only the day, but also the Sun:

And the Day as it reveals him (the Sun);/ And the Night as it veils him; 91:3-4

In other words, the day and its disclosure, the Sun (91:3), both are still there, somewhere, after the sunset (91:4), when the self-rotating Earth progressively draws a cover of darkness over them (He draws the veil of night over the day. 7:54).

Here we get an important clue. It is the ‘revolving night and day’ (7:54) that veils and unveils the ‘static Sun’ (91:3-4); not the moving Sun that brings the stationary night and day. If the Sun moved around a motionless Earth, then it would be the Sun that would reveal the day, not the other way round.

Once again, this alludes to Earth’s rotation around its own axis facing the Sun (3:27, 3:190, 7:54, 10:6, 22:61, 24:44, 45:5, 25:62, 31:29, 35:13, 36:40, 39:5, 57:6, 91:3-4). In this dynamics, the night and the day can never outstrip each other as they incessantly occur on opposite sides of the revolving planet:

Neither is it for the Sun to overtake the Moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; and ALL swim along in orbit. 36:40

The high speed of the rotation itself

Then the high speed itself of Earth’s axial rotation gets special attention in the verse below:

He draws the veil of night over the day, each pursuing the other in rapid succession. 7:54

It is interesting to observe how the divine wisdom uses the unique expression ‘rapid’ (‘hathithan’, used only once in the Quran) to precisely refer to an actual speed, i.e. rotational speed of the Earth itself, which is about 1040 miles per hour at equator.