In the first of a series of articles on creation, DR YUSUF NOOR provided a glimpse into how the scientific community viewed how the universe came into being. He now looks at how the Quran describes the layout of the solar system. He emphasises that the amazing scientific truths expressed in the Quran should be traceable to the original documents of earlier revelations.
REMEMBER that the message given to Nabi Muhammad (SAW) in the form of the Quran is essentially the same as that of the earlier revelations. As stated in the article, ‘The origin of creation’, verses not quoted will have a footnote at the end of the article.
Since the sun is a star, the Quranic description of the sun applies to stars as well. The Quran describes stars as bodies that generate their own light (10:5) (1). They move in orbits of their own (36:38) (2).
There are different sizes of stars and the large ones exert powerful gravitational forces (15:16) (3). Stars have a life cycle – the various phases they pass through are referred to in the following verses: Red-giant phase (75:9, 55:37 and 81:6), white dwarf (81:1), supernovae (86:1-3) and (53:49) and black holes (15:16). These verses are discussed in a future article, ‘The life cycle of stars’.
In Quran 37:6 a key Arabic word (kawakib) means Earth; it is also a title applied to the planet Venus and hence may be applicable to planets in general. Since planets share certain features, a description of the Earth may also have a bearing on the other planets.
Verse 79:30 describes the Earth as oval-shaped (4) while 7:54 states: ‘(God) makes the night cover the day each pursuing each other in rapid succession.’ If darkness follows light in a repetitive cycle on a spherical body (and assuming illumination by the sun as we understand it) as suggested by these two verses, it follows that such a body must be rotating and therefore all the other planets.
In 24:35 (5), the same Arabic word kawakib (translated as planets) appears, which is compared to glittering pearls. Comparing planets to glittering pearls is appropriate since planets, like pearls, are more or less spherically shaped and, like pearls, shine as a result of reflected light from the sun. Planets also move in elliptical orbits according to Quran 21:33 (6).
Comets are referred to as ‘…..Heavenly bodies that recede, continue to run their courses, go into hiding before returning,’ (Quran 81:15). Thus, comets pursue an orbital path and go ‘into hiding’ before returning to their departure point. The phrase ‘go into hiding’ hints at their very large orbits.
They spend long periods of time away before returning after their ‘hibernation’. In another verse (Quran 114:1), the Arabic word khunnas which describes a comet in 81:15 above, is applied to a person who steps forward to whisper into the ear of another and steps back again.
What is characteristic about this motion is that the head or face of the whisperer remains in the direction of the person being whispered to while his back points in the opposite direction. Similarly, when a comet approaches the sun, some of the ice evaporates and the comet grows a tail which is attached to its head. Speeding towards the sun its head faces the sun while its tail (back) projects in the opposite direction. As it is flung around the sun and recedes from it, its face continues to point towards the sun and its tail away from it, just like the whispering motion described.
Reference to asteroids is made in the following verse: ‘We could cause the Earth to swallow them [disbelievers] or cause fragments of a celestial body to fall down upon them.’ (Quran 34:9) This is a familiar theme in the Quran; it uses a natural phenomenon to convey a religious principle, the threat of divine retribution.
Meteorites (including comets and asteroids) are hinted at in Quran 22:65: ‘It is [His gravitational laws] that hold the celestial bodies [in their orbits] so that they may not fall upon the Earth other than with His leave.’
The verse alludes to the possibility of space objects striking the Earth, a fact disclosed hundreds of years after the Quran appeared. My insertion (bracketed words) may be explained as follows. It is permissible, in fact sensible, to interpret where appropriate, God as God’s laws. The Arabic word Rabb describes one of the key titles of God, the Law Giver.
In the Quran, God is at the centre of existence and He interacts with the natural world through His laws. The term ‘Sunnah-Allah’ in the Quran signifies His ways or His divine laws. This line of reasoning is supported by verse 31:20, which states that the entire creation is subject to His laws (7).
The other bracketed phrase (in their orbits) is derived from 21:33 (6) which points to the motion of celestial bodies in their individual orbits. My insertion of gravity is deduced from 77:25 (8), 13:2 (9) and 55:5 quoted below. The first two verses will be discussed in a future article dealing with gravity.
Such is the composition of the solar system: the planets, moons, asteroids, comets and meteorites revolving around a centrally placed sun: ‘Indeed, We have created multiple orbits above you’ (Quran 23:17), and as stated before, they move in accordance with precise mathematical laws: ‘The sun and the moon [and all other celestial bodies] follow pathways [exactly] computed.’ (Quran 55:5)
Our solar system is not unique. So far, more than two thousand solar systems have been discovered. Their multiplicity is addressed in two verses: ‘Do you not see how God has created multiple solar systems [consisting of] several layers one above the other, [and created them] in stages and has placed in every one of them a moon that reflects light and a sun that generates light?’ (Quran 71:15)
The many Earth-like worlds is addressed in: ‘God is He who created multiple cosmic systems and of the Earth a similar number.’ (Quran 65:13) These two verses will be discussed in the article on extra-terrestrial existence.
- Dr Yusuf Noor is the author of Document X: Direct Evidence of God’s Existence. More information is available at https://documentx.net/
1 ‘He it is who made the sun a source of light and the moon [a body] that reflects light and ordained that it [the moon] moves across space and measured out stages for her that you might know the number of years and the measure [of time]’ (Quran 10:5).
2 ‘The sun moves in an orbit of its own’ (Quran 36:38).
3 ‘We have set up [unseen] structures in space [derived from] large stars which become manifest through their great [gravitational] forces, and are gateways’ (Quran 15:16).
4 ‘[Long after the origin of the universe] He began shaping the Earth, gradually increasing it in size until it reached its oval configuration’ (Quran 79:30).
5 ‘The glass is as if it were luminary bodies (kawakib) glittering like pearls’ (Quran 24:35).
6 ‘Each [celestial body] floats silently and effortlessly in its elliptical orbit with its own kind of motions’ (Quran 21:33).
7 ‘He has subjected whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the Earth [to His laws]’ (Quran 31:20).
8 ‘Have We not made the Earth draw to itself the living and the non-living?’ (Quran 77:25).
9 ‘Your Lord is He who raises the celestial bodies with an invisible pillar and is firmly established on the throne of authority. He has subjected the sun and the moon [and all other celestial bodies] to [His gravitational laws], each pursuing a course for a term appointed [in accordance with those laws]. He governs everything that exists’ (Quran 13:2).