The Qur’anic model of the heavens and the earth

In this presentation I am going to make two central arguments: firstly, that the Qur’an’s presentation of the Creation is unambiguously that of a geo-centric, flat-earth environment and, secondly, that this view confirms that held in the Hebrew scriptures.

I’ve done my research and encourage you to do yours. And if you are willing to put yourself into a position to deprogram yourself, then Eric Dubay’s 200 Proofs The Earth is Not a Spinning Ball is an excellent place to start. Just look it up on YouTube. But if you won’t do that much, that’s your decision.

I am not here arguing for or against the flat-earth view of the Creation. What I am doing here is talking about what a particular book (the Qur’an) says and drawing the attention to the fact that it agrees, in general, with what a collection of books says which is variously computed and variously defined as the Bible, and which we will call here for simplicity’s sake the Hebrew Bible.

The Hebrew Bible

So, the first thing to understand is that the Qur’an basically supports the conception of the heavens and the earth found in the Hebrew Bible.

hebrew conception of heavens and earth

In this model, the earth is an expanse of land spread out. Barring valleys and mountains, it is – in the aggregate – flat. Beneath the earth are waters, and the earth itself has foundations. The sky is a firm structure (in Biblical parlance called the firmament) and this structure has gates. There are waters below the earth (called the great deep) and there are waters above the firmament.

Some among those who claim the Hebrew Bible try to shoehorn its contents into conformity with the icons and dogma of the modern-day cult of scientism. However, many do not. And it is an uncontested fact that the model I am presenting as that found in the Hebrew Bible was that supported and espoused by the Church for the first 1500 years of its history.

Apologists for Qur’anic “scientism”

The Qur’an, likewise, has those who attempt to square the circle between it and the (often changing) dogmas of the church of scientism. However, the fact is that since the heliocentric model was made orthodoxy, the Qur’an has been criticised on the basis of its presentation of an entirely different model.

I will summarise the current required dogma: we live on a sphere rotating at 1,000 miles per hour at its equatorial circumference while hurtling around the sun through the vacuum of space at 67,000 miles per hour, while the solar system moves at  514,000 mph within its trajectory around the centre of a galaxy which is itself moving at 1.3 million miles per hour. The waters of the oceans are convex while the sky is an endless, boundless expanse filled with countless stars the closest of which is trillions of miles away. And this entire model is based upon a force called gravity whose postulates can nowhere be demonstrated and requires that we accept something which militates against our sense, our experience, and which we cannot verify.

There exist those who try to wrest the Qur’anic verses into conformity with what the religion of scientism claims. They pull this and push that. And such attempts may gain purchase in the mind of someone who is ignorant of the fuller picture. But a plain reading of the relevant verses when taken together exposes such a deceit. The fact is entirely plain: while if the heliocentric model is false that does not necessarily mean the Qur’an is true (both could be false), if the heliocentric model is true, then the Qur’an simply must be false. There is no other logical conclusion.

The earth is flat

Let’s start simply:

Who made the earth for you a carpet
And the sky a structure
And sent down from the sky water
Then brought forth thereby some fruits as provision for you.
So make not equals to God.
And you know. (2:22)

Here the earth is a carpet. Show me a round carpet. A carpet is spread out flat. It just is.

And the earth we spread out
And cast therein firm mountains
And caused to grow therein every sort of balanced thing. (15:19)

Who made the earth for you as a bed
And inserted roads for you therein
And sent down water from the sky[…] (20:53)

Who made the earth a bed for you
And placed roads for you therein that you might be rightly guided (43:10)

And the earth we spread out
And cast therein firm mountains
And we caused to grow therein every sort of delightful kind (50:7)

And the earth we spread out:
How excellent are those who level! (51:48)

And God made for you the earth an expanse
That you might travel the broad ways thereof. (71:19-20)

At 79:30 we find a verb which is much manipulated by modernising apologists, those who wish to make the Qur’an conform to the dogmas of scientism. The verb is daḥā which means to spread out, to flatten. This is the only instance of this root.

In my own translation, I render this verse:

And after that he spread out the earth (79:30)

Generally, other translators render likewise:

Yusuf Ali: And the earth, moreover, hath He extended (to a wide expanse);
Pickthal: And after that He spread the earth,
Arberry: and the earth-after that He spread it out,
Shakir: And the earth, He expanded it after that.
Sarwar: After this, He spread out the earth,
Hilali/Khan: And after that He spread the earth;
Malik: After that He spread out the earth,
Maulana Ali: And the earth, He cast it after that.
Free Minds: And the land after that He spread out.

Embarrassed by the obvious contradiction between plain sense of this verb and the requirements of what is called science, some have attempted to associate it with ostrich eggs, and thereby to link it with that concept of roundness which is found in popular assertions about the shape of the earth. For example, Khalifa renders:

He made the earth egg-shaped.

But this is sleight-of-hand distortion. What is true is that there exists in Arabic the word udḥīya (ostrich nest) which is based on the same root; however, this word derives from the fact that the female ostrich has no nest in the traditional sense, but rather spreads out and flattens a place on the ground where she lays her eggs.

The dictionaries agree.

Lisan Al Arab

Al-udhy, Al-idhy, Al-udhiyya, Al-idhiyya, Al-udhuwwa: The place in sand where an ostrich lays its egg. That’s because the ostrich spreads out (تَدْحُوه, tadhūh) the earth with its feet then lays its eggs there, an ostrich doesn’t have a nest.

Lane’s Lexicon

Dahw (دحو)

  1. Daha (., MM_b;,, 1,) first pers. Dahouth aor, yad’hoo inf. N. dahoo He spread; spread out, or forth; expanded; or extended;(S, Msb, K; ) a thing; (K; ) and, when said of God, the earth; (Fr, S, Mb, 1V; ) As also daha first pers. dahaithu (K in art. daha) aor. yaad’heae inf. n. dahae: (Msb, and K in art. dahae : ) or He (God) made the earth wide, or ample; as explained by an Arab woman of the desert to Sh: (TA : ) also, said of an ostrich, (S, TA,) he expanded, and made wide, (TA,) with his foot, or leg, the place where he was about to deposit his eggs: (S, TA : ) and, said of a man, he spread, &c., and made plain, even, or smooth. (TA in art. dhaha).

The case is very clear when we consider the nest of the ostrich – which is entirely consonant with the conception of the world as a flat plane with a barrier at its periphery.

The earth is fixed and unmoving

If: he who made the earth a fixed lodging
And made rivers in its midst
And made firm mountains therein
And made a barrier between the two seas:
Is there any god with God?
The truth is: most of them know not. (27:61)

God it is who made for you the earth a fixed lodging
And the sky a structure
And fashioned you
And made good your forms
And made provision of good things for you.
That is God
Your lord.
So blessed be God
The Lord of All Mankind.
He is the Living.
There is no god save he.
So call to him sincere to him in doctrine.
Praise belongs to God
The Lord of All Mankind.
Say thou: I am forbidden to serve that to which you call besides God
When there has come to me clear evidence from my lord.
And I am commanded to submit to the Lord of All Mankind. (40:64-66)

The waters below

Within the Biblical view the earth is a plane encased by what is called the firmament (i.e. a hard structure) with waters below and waters above.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:6-8)

The fact of waters above and waters below is confirmed at Genesis 7:11:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

The Qur’an conveys a similar notion of waters gushing forth – or bubbling up – from within the earth, possibly as the result of volcanic activity.

When  our command had come to pass and the oven gushed forth (11:40)

And we instructed him:
Make thou the ship under our eyes and our instruction.
Then when our command comes
And the oven boils up
Then load thou therein of each kind two
And thy household save him against whom the word has gone forth among them.
And speak thou not to me on behalf of those who do wrong. (23:27)

The people of Nūḥ rejected before them:
They rejected our servant and said: One possessed.
And he was driven away.
And he called to his lord: I am defeated so help thou.
Then opened we the gates of the sky with pouring water
And caused the earth to gush forth in springs.
And the waters met for a determined purpose.
And we carried him upon that of boards and nails
That sailed before our eyes as a reward for him who was rejected.
And we have left it as a proof
So is there any who will remember? (54:9-15)

Additionally, the Qur’an mentions gates on the Day of Judgment:

The Day of Decision is an appointed time:
The day the trumpet is blown and you come in crowds
And the sky is opened and becomes gates (78:17-19)

These verses – both from the Book of Genesis and from the Qur’an – hold that there is water below and water above, and that the waters above are held in place by a fixed, firm structure in which are windows or sluices of some kind.

While enjoying a correspondence between themselves these conceptions are entirely irreconcilable with scientism’s iconography or dogmas concerning the nature of what we see above us.

Firm mountains as ballast; the sky as a roof; pillars

Having established that in the Qur’anic conception of the earth it, like the Hebrew Bible, presents the earth as overspreading waters beneath it, it is worth considering the following:

And the earth we spread out
And cast therein firm mountains
And caused to grow therein every sort of balanced thing. (15:19)

And he cast into the earth firm mountains lest it sway with you[…] (16:15)

And we made in the earth firm mountains lest it sway with them
And we placed therein mountain passes as ways that they might be rightly guided.
And we made the sky a roof protected
And they are disinclined towards its proofs (21:31-32)

He created the heavens without pillars you can see.
And he cast into the earth firm mountains lest it sway with you.
And he spread therein every sort of creature.
And we sent down water from the sky
And caused to grow therein every sort of noble kind. (31:10)

Thus, the purpose – or at least additional effect– of the mountains is that the earth not sway with us. This makes sense in the Biblical conception of the earth as stationary and supported by a body of water, and none whatever if we live on ball spinning wildly at 1000 miles per hour at the equator.

It is not my intention to impose upon Biblical exegesis, however the following verse from Isaiah perhaps indicates something close to what we see above in the Qur’an:

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)

The sky

We touched on the presentation in the Qur’an of the sky as a roof above. We find confirmation of this following:

Are you harder in creation
Or the sky?
He built it.
He raised the ceiling thereof
And fashioned it.
And he made dark its night
And brought forth its day. (79:27-29)

The Qur’an speaks in many places of the sky as something hard and firm, something which will crack on the Day of Judgment.

When the sky cracks (82:1)

Who created seven heavens in layers.
Thou seest no disharmony in the creation of the Almighty.
So look thou again: seest thou any rifts? (67:3)

So how will you be in prudent fear – if you deny – of a day which will make the children white-haired
Wherein the sky will crack open?
His promise will be fulfilled. (73:18)

And we have expounded for men in this Qur’an every sort of example
But most men refuse save denial.
And they say: We will not believe thee until thou cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us
Or there be for thee a garden of date-palms and grapes and thou cause rivers to gush forth therein abundantly
Or thou cause the sky to fall – as thou hast claimed – upon us in pieces
Or thou bring God and the angels as surety… (17:89-92)

The Day of Judgment

(And they ask thee about the mountains:
Say thou: My lord will scatter them utterly
And leave them a level plain
Wherein thou wilt see neither deviation nor bend.) (20:105-107)

What is beyond?

I have no idea what lies beyond. So far as I know, no one knows. This is what the Qur’an says:

God is he who created seven heavens
(And of the earth their like)
The command descending between them
That you might know that God is powerful over all things
And that God has encompassed all things in knowledge. (65:12)

Again, I am not offering these as scientific proof. I am presenting what a book says. And this is what it says.

These are not distortions of the text. The words I have emphasised and commented upon are rendered naturally and honestly.

The plain case is that in the “enlightened” view of the universe, these verses make no sense since they describe an entirely different model. And those who try to twist these verses into conformity with the Copernican-NASA version are misrepresenting the words on the page. The Qur’an agrees in general terms with the Hebrew Bible although it offers information in addition to that which I could find in it.

Make of that what you will.

Download this article in PDF

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

follow me on: