Do the Qur’an and the Bible support the flat earth theory, or the science on the subject of a round earth? Where is the belief coming from that they do?
Though the concept of a spherical earth was developed in ancient Greece around the seventh century BCE, starting with Pythagoras, the issue of spherical shape of the earth remained rather unsettled until the sixteenth century. Aristotle had hinted at the spherical shape of the earth some 330 years before Christ.
There is some evidence that the concept of a spherical earth was widely held by scientific community as far back as the early church period, but many lay people still believed in a flat earth model until a few centuries ago. (Some still do! Check out the” International Flat Earth Research Society “).
What did the Qur’an say on this subject?
Far from a unique concept at the time, the Qur’an however does refer to the spherical shape of the earth.
O company of Jinn and men, if you have power to penetrate (all) regions of the heavens and the earth; then penetrate (them)! You will never penetrate them save with (Our) sanction. Quran (55:33)
You may very appropriately ask the question: Where does this verse say that the earth is spherical?
Good question indeed. It does not say it outright. But let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s ponder a little more, like the Qur’an repeatedly asks us to do.
The Arabic word used for “regions” in this verse is Aqtaar. It is a plural of the word Qutr or “diameter” and is frequently used in Arabic geometry texts. Thus, Yuksel has translated the verse as follows:
O Tribes of Jinn and humans, if you can penetrate the diameters of heavens and earth …
A diameter is obviously a measure for a spherical object. If earth were flat, it would not have a diameter.
This verse points out that the earth is spherical, in an indirect way—not an uncommon approach by the Qur’an, leaving the reader to do the pondering.
Moreover, there are several passages in the Qur’an that refer to the day and night merging into each other gradually.
See you not that Allah merges Night into Day and He merges day into night; that He has subjected the sun, and the moon (to His law), each running its course for a term appointed; and that Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do? Quran (31:29)
Once again one might take the meaning literally-days gradually turning into night. We all know that. There is really no new information there.
However, the merging of day and night gradually would indicate a rotating round earth, and thus can only mean that the earth is not flat, otherwise the night and day will not merge but change suddenly.
Bible, “Four Corners of the Earth” and the Flat Earth Theory
The flat earth theory has taken momentum in recent times among (some) Christians, aided by the ease of spreading the message on social media. It is also claimed that the Catholic Church was preaching the flat earth theory until about 500 years ago. There are at least three references to the “four corners of earth” in the Bible.
And He will lift up a standard for the nations and assemble the banished ones of Israel and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 11:12
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Revelation 7:1
But the Christian scholars also point out that the “four corners” of the earth does not indicate a flat earth. The argument is put forth that, as is the case with numerous other passages, this is used metaphorically, or as an idiom, to mean ‘from all over the earth’.
Dr. Danny Faulkner, a physicist and astronomer, and editor of the Creation Research Society Quarterly argues in an article titled Does the Bible Teach That the Earth Is Flat? on Answers in Genesis, that the medieval church actually never taught the flat earth theory and further argues my point about the ‘four corner of the earth” being used as an idiom
The Celestial Bodies Moving in Orbits
For many centuries, the concept of a geocentric universe was prevalent among European scientists, whereby the earth stood still in the center and everything else, including the sun, moved around the earth. In 1543 CE, Copernicus published his theory of a heliocentric system, whereby the earth moved around a stationary sun, something Galileo championed and was sentenced by the Catholic Church for heresy in 1633 CE.
The Quran described that the sun and other celestial bodies move in orbits:
It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course. 21:33 (Translation by Yousuf Ali), or “And He it is Who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all (orbs) travel along swiftly in their celestial spheres.” (Translation by Shakir)
In another verse, the concept of the sun and the moon moving in their respective orbits is once again mentioned as follows:
Neither is it allowable to the sun that it should overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day, and all float on in a sphere. 36:40 (Shakir), OR “It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit.” (Pickthall)
These verses indicate that the celestial bodies not only move in an orbit but also imply that each has their own distinct orbit, as they cannot “overtake” each other.
The sun and the moon will circle for an “appointed term”.
There is consensus in the scientific community that our sun will continue to burn its hydrogen and helium and it will eventually die when all the fuel is consumed.
But this concept of a finite life for stars (including our own sun and the moon) only came to be known in the last few centuries.
See you not that Allah merges Night into Day and he merges Day into Night; that He has subjected the sun, and the moon (to His law), each running its course for a term appointed; and that Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do? Quran 31:29
The Qur’an may not have told us something “groundbreaking” per se. At the very least, it is consistent with modern knowledge, and it invites us to ponder on the world and the universe around us.
You may argue the meaning of the verses is “stretched” to fit into modern knowledge. If that is indeed the case, what then is the idea or the purpose of mentioning all this in the Qur’an? What is the alternative meaning for these (and numerous other) passages?
As I have mentioned in our prior posts, the Qur’an is NOT a book of science. It does not teach us science. But it clearly invites us to ponder on science and God’s signs around us. The underlying message is clear: the “science” and “religion” are not mutually exclusive.
Bible On the Collapse of The Universe as A Scroll
Long before we knew that our solar system has finite life, the Bible mentions the end of the universe, not just the solar system.
And all the hosts of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll. The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves from a grapevine, or shriveled figs from a fig tree. Isaiah 34:4
I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. Revelation 6:12-14
Allah Knows Best.
Almighty Allah is the highest and most knowledgeable, and the attribution of knowledge to him is the safest.
Right from Almighty Allah and wrong from me and Satan
Prepared by Mohamad Mostafa Nassar- Australia.
Make sure to copy and email this post for your reference, you might need it later.
Arrogance is not only a sign of insecurity, but also a sign of immaturity. Mature and fully realised persons can get their points across, even emphatically without demeaning or intimidating others.