Reconciling between universe expansion theory and the Hadeeth about the distance between heaven and Earth

Reconciling between universe expansion theory and the Hadeeth about the distance between heaven and Earth

Question

There is a hadith that states that the distance between the earth and the heaven is 500 years. How do we reconcile between that hadith and the question whether the universe expands or not and whether the earth is moving or not?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, is His slave and Messenger.

The Ahadith that were reported about the determination of the distance between the heaven and earth contain varying determinations of this distance, and the chain of narrators of these Ahadith are NOT entirely authentic.

Therefore, some contemporary scholars, such as Al-Albani and Al-Arnaa’oot, declared them WEAK. Al-‘Iraaqi also declared them WEAK in his revision of the Hadeeth reports in Ihyaa’ ‘Uloom Ad-Deen.

Moreover, Ibn Jamaa‘ah criticized those who related these Ahadith, saying in Eedhaah Ad-Daleel Fi Qat‘ Hujaj Ahl At-Ta‘teel Book:

“This Hadeeth is weak, objectionable and it is not authentic as related from Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him. Allah forbid that Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, would say a thing when undeniable logical evidence opposes it …

Also, the Hadeeth by Al-‘Abbas, stated before the above Hadeeth, mentioned that between each heaven and the other there are seventy one, or seventy two, or seventy three years. In Ibn Majah’s Sunan, something similar to this was reported. So, look at the great difference between these two narrations.” [End of quote]

As regards the scholars who related and supported these reports, such as Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Hibbaan, Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim, they interpreted it in a way that is not impossible according to the mind or is not contradicted by facts.

They interpreted the amount mentioned in an acceptable manner, such as by determining these years in a way that is not known to us, such as those mentioned in the words of Allah (which mean) {And indeed, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of those which you count.} [Quran 22:47]

The solution for this is to attribute the knowledge of these years to Allah, as it is a relative matter. Shaykh Al-Ghunaymaan said in his commentary on Fat-h Al-Majeed:

“This variation is with consideration for the speed and slowness of the traveling … Otherwise, there are movements much faster than this: Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, ascended from the earth to the seventh heaven in one night … Also, some texts provide that the angels ascend with the soul to the first heaven.

And then they ask for the door to be opened for them. If the first heaven is opened, they proceed; otherwise, they bring the soul down again. If the soul is righteous, the lowest heaven is opened for it, and it ascends, and then the angels ask for the second, the third, the fourth until the seventh heaven is opened …

This ascension and descension and returning of the soul to its body happens during the process of preparing the dead, between his death and washing, enshrouding and the praying of the funeral prayer over him … All this tells us about the variation in the travel speed, in its ascension and travel.

Also, Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, would be asked about something and Jibril (Gabriel) would descend immediately from the heavens with an answer from Allah the Almighty, and Jibril is the nearest angel to Allah the Almighty.

To conclude, all this tells us about the variation in travel speed, and that the amount determined in this Hadeeth is relative, and it does not apply to everything; rather, it is a relative matter, and it varies depending on the speed of travel, so it does not constitute a problem … Also, the mention of these distances is to make the matter understood in our minds only.

And it is not exact; Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, addresses us with what we can understand and grasp; he brings the matter closer to our reasoning and understanding.” [End of quote]

Therefore, even if this Hadeeth is authentic, it does not contain any known actual determination of the distance between the earth and the heaven, and nor does it contain any actual known determination of the distance between each of the seven heavens.

Because the speed and even the time itself is not specified. We cannot authoritatively assert what is meant by it – whether it is the years of this world or the Hereafter or something else.

This is if we interpret the number that is mentioned in the Hadeeth according to its literal meaning, and not as an exaggeration or approximation. This is similar to the verse in which Allah says (what means): {One of them wishes that he could be granted life a thousand years} [Quran 2:96]

And in which Allah says (what means):

{The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.} [Quran 97:3] Allah also says (what means): {If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times – never will Allah forgive them.} [Quran 9:80]

If this is the case, then there is no contradiction between this Hadeeth and what is known as the universe expansion theory or other theories.

As regards the issue of the earth’s movement, there is nothing problematic about this, and this has become an accepted scientific fact, and this does not contradict the evidence in the revealed texts of the earth’s stability, i.e. that it is made stable by the mountains so that those upon it are not moved with it.

As Allah says (what means):

{Is He [not best] who made the earth a stable ground and placed within it rivers and made for it firmly set mountains and placed between the two seas a barrier? Is there a deity with Allah? [No], but most of them do not know.}

[Quran 27:61]

Allah also says (what means): {And We placed within the earth firmly set mountains, lest it should shift with them, and We made therein [mountain] passes [as] roads that they might be guided.}

[Quran 21:31]

This is also a relative matter. It is a description of the conditions of those who live on the earth, even though the earth itself revolves and glides without disorder or shifting (shaking), but rather swims in a regular and precise manner that makes it stable for those upon it.

Allah Knows best.

Ibn Kathir Partial Error about the 500-year distance when clarifying Clarification of Quran (13:2)

Reconciling between universe expansion theory and the Hadeeth about the distance between heaven and earth