Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting Allah’s Cosmology

Sam Shamoun

Not only does the Quran claim in several places that the earth is flat,

And the earth We have stretched it out, SPREAD IT FLAT, and cast therein firm mountains, lest it should sway beneath its inhabitants, and caused to grow therein every kind of balanced thing, [every kind of thing] known and determined. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 15:19; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

And the earth, We spread it out: We made it level: what excellent Spreaders then!, We are. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 51:48; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And God has made the earth a FLAT [open] expanse for you, (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 71:19; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Not spherical as astronomers assert,

And the earth, how it was laid out FLAT?, and thus infer from this the power of God, exalted be He, and His Oneness? The commencing with the [mention of] camels is because they are closer in contact with it [the earth] than any other [animal]. As for His words sutihat, ‘LAID OUT FLAT’, this on a literal reading suggests THAT THE EARTH IS FLAT, which is the opinion of MOST OF THE SCHOLARS THE [revealed] LAW, AND NOT A SPHERE as astronomers (ahl al-hay’a) have it, even if this [latter] does not contradict any of the pillars of the Law. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 88:20; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

And that it was created even before the seven heavens were made and fashioned,

and after that He spread out the earth: He made it FLAT, for it had been created BEFORE THE HEAVEN, but without having been spread out; (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 79:30; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

It also makes the erroneous assertion that mountains are actually pegs or stakes, which Allah cast down from heaven above for the purpose of insuring that the flat earth remains stable!

And he hath thrown upon the earth [mountains] firmly rooted, lest it should move with you, and [also] rivers, and paths, that ye might be directed: S. 16:15 Sale

He hath created the heavens without visible pillars [to sustain them], and hath thrown on the earth [mountains] firmly rooted, lest it should move with you; and he hath replenished the same with all kinds of beasts: And we send down rain from heaven, and cause every kind of noble [vegetable] to spring forth therein. S. 31:10 Sale – cf. Q. 50:7

Have we not made the earth for a bed, and the mountains for stakes [to fix the same]? S. 78:6-7 Sale

Here is how some of Islam’s greatest expositors interpreted Q. 16:15,

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

(And the mountains He has fixed firmly.) (79: 32). (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And Q. 78:7:

and the mountains pegs?, with which the earth is tied down like tents are tied down with pegs (the interrogative is meant as an affirmative). (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and underline emphasis ours)

(And the mountains as pegs) meaning, He made them as pegs for the earth to hold it in place, make it stable and firm. This is so that it may be suitable for dwelling and not quake with those who are in it… (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The Quran further states that hail actually comes from the mountains, which are in heaven!

'hast thou not seen how God drives the clouds, then composes them, then converts them into a mass, then thou seest the rain issuing out of the midst of them? And He sends down out of heaven mountains, wherein is hail, so that He smites whom He will with it, and turns it aside from whom He will; wellnigh the gleam of His lightning snatches away the sight. S. 24:43 Arberry 

Compare this verse with the following version:

Hast thou not seen how Allah wafteth the clouds, then gathereth them, then maketh them layers, and thou seest the rain come forth from between them; He sendeth down from the heaven mountains wherein is hail, and smiteth therewith whom He will, and averteth it from whom He will. The flashing of His lightning all but snatcheth away the sight. Pickthall

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (Nun): '(Nun) He says: Allah swears by the Nun, which is the whale that carries the earths on its back while in Water, and beneath which is the Bull and under the Bull is the Rock and under the Rock is the Dust and none knows what is under the Dust save Allah. The name of the whale is Liwash, and it is said its name is Lutiaya'; the name of the bull is Bahamut, and some say its name is Talhut or Liyona. The whale is in a sea called 'Adwad, and it is like a small bull in a huge sea. The sea is in a hollowed rock whereby there is 4,000 cracks, and from each crack water springs out to the earth. It is also said that Nun is one of the names of the Lord; it stands for the letter Nun in Allah's name al-Rahman (the Beneficent); and it is also said that a Nun is an inkwell. (By the pen) Allah swore by the pen. This pen is made of light and its height is equal to the distance between Heaven and earth. It is with this pen that the Wise Remembrance, i.e. the Guarded Tablet, was written. It is also said that the pen is one of the angels by whom Allah has sworn, (and that which they write (therewith)) and Allah also swore by what the angels write down of the works of the children of Adam, (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Q. 68:1; bold and underline emphasis ours)


Book of Model Behavior of the Prophet (Kitab Al-Sunnah)

(1695) Chapter: The Jahmiyyah

Narrated Al-Abbas ibn AbdulMuttalib:

I was sitting in al-Batha with a company among whom the Messenger of Allah was sitting, when a cloud passed above them.

The Messenger of Allah looked at it and said: What do you call this? They said: Sahab.

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

Grade: Da'if (Al-Albani)

Reference: Sunan Abi Dawud 4723

In-book reference: Book 42, Hadith 128

English translation: Book 41, Hadith 4705 (; italic and underline emphasis ours)


Sunan Ibn Majah

The Book of the Sunnah

It was narrated that 'Abbas bin 'Abdul-Mutallib said:

"I was in Batha with a group of people, among them whom was the Messenger of Allah. A cloud passed over him, and he looked at it and said: 'What do you call this?' They said: 'Sahab (a cloud).' He said: 'And Muzn (rain cloud).' They said: 'And Muzn.' He said: 'And 'Anan (clouds).' Abu Bakr said: "They said: 'And 'Anan.'" He said: 'How much (distance) do you think there is between you and the heavens?' They said: 'We do not know.' He said: 'Between you and it is seventy-one, or seventy-two, or seventy-three years, and there is a similar distance between it and the heaven above it (and so on)' until he counted seven heavens. 'Then above the seventh heaven there is a sea, between whose top and bottom is a distance like that between one heaven and another. Then above that there are eight (angels in the form of) mountain goats. The distance between their hooves and their knees is like the distance between one heaven and the next. Then on their backs is the Throne, and the distance between the top and the bottom of the Throne is like the distance between one heaven and another. Then Allah is above that, the Blessed and Exalted."

Grade: Da'if (Darussalam)

English reference: Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 193

Arabic reference: Book 1, Hadith 198 (; italic and underline emphasis ours)

In light of the foregoing, it shouldn’t surprise us that people that would actually believe in and publish such fairy tales and nonsense as facts, would also believe that Muhammad was a true prophet and that the Quran is a revelation from the true God.


Related Articles

The Quran and the Shape of the Earth