What is Islam's teaching on cosmology?

by Matt Slick

Cosmology is the study of the universe, it's makeup, it's beginning, and even its future.  Mohammed borrowed from the contemporary cosmological views held by various teachers of the time and wove them into his teachings about the universe and the world.  he stated that the universe was vast (Surah 51:47) and that it was created from smoke (Surah 41:11).  of particular interest is the teaching of seven heavens and seven earths.

  • Surah 67:3, "He Who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?"
  • Surah 71:15, "See ye not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another." 
  • Surah 65:12, "Allah is He Who created seven Firmaments and of the earth a similar number. Through the midst of them (all) descends His Command: that ye may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah comprehends, all things in (His) Knowledge."

Was this a new idea?  Not at all.  The concept of seven heavens was common in the Mediterranean area at that time. Consider the following quote.

  • Babylon:  "In Babylonian thought, Winckler says, "there were seven heavens and seven hills."1
  • Hinduism:  "So Vishnu took the man successively to the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh heavens, each of which was a hundred times more enchanting than the preceding one."2
  • Mesopotamia:  “A tradition of seven heavens and seven earths was popular in the Near East during the latter part of the first millennium B.C.E. and the first millennium C.E.,” writes Wayne Horowitz (Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, 217).3

Mohammed did not offer anything new. Just as he borrowed monotheism from the Jews and the Christians, he borrowed cosmological views from pagans as he developed the Quran. This show he was not inspired.

Six Day Creation or two day?

Another teaching in Islamic cosmology where the heavens and the earth were created in six days. This is, of course, reminiscent of the Bible in Genesis 1 where God made the eavens and the earth in six days. Again, this is nothing new and Mohammed seems to have borrowed this cosmological view from the Old Testament.

  • Surah 10:3, "Verily your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and is firmly established on the throne (of authority), regulating and governing all things. No intercessor (can plead with Him) except after His leave (hath been obtained). This is Allah your Lord; Him therefore serve ye: will ye not receive admonition?"
  • Surah 11:7, "He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days - and His Throne was over the waters - that He might try you, which of you is best in conduct. But if thou wert to say to them, “Ye shall indeed be raised up after death,” the Unbelievers would be sure to say, “This is nothing but obvious sorcery!”

Clearly Muhammad taught in the Quran that the heavens and the earth were created in six days, at least in the two verses above. But there's a problem because he also taught that the seven heavens were created in two days. Consider this:

  • Surah 41:9-12, "Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds. 10 He set on the (earth), mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance with (the needs of) those who seek (Sustenance). 11 Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: “Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly.” They said: “We do come (together), in willing obedience.” 12 So He completed them as seven firmaments in two Days, and He assigned to each heaven its duty and command. And We adorned the lower heaven with lights, and (provided it) with guard. Such is the Decree of (Him) the Exalted in Might, Full of Knowledge."

Two days is not the same thing as six days. Either the earth was created in six days or it was created in two days. Both cannot be true.

Earth

The Quran teaches that Allah made the earth in two days, and that the earth is flat.

  • Surah 41:9, "Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds."
  • Surah 20:53, "He Who has, made for you the earth like a carpet spread out; has enabled you to go about therein by roads (and channels); and has sent down water from the sky.” With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from the others.
  • Surah 71:19, "‘And Allah has made the earth for you as a carpet (spread out)."

Some people might say that "spread out" is only symbolic since the earth appears flat to us when it is actually a sphere. But that is negated by the following quote:

  • "As for His words sutihat, ‘laid out flat’ [spread out], this on a literal reading suggests that the earth is flat, which is the opinion of most of the scholars of 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." (http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbworld.aspx?pageid=8589953039)

The Support of a Whale, Water, and a Rock

As is typical of those who are not inspired of God, mythological views are often woven into so-called sacred documents. Likewise, the teachings of Mohammed reflect a mystical cosmology concerning on what the earth rests. Please consider the following:

  • "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." (http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=68&tAyahNo=1&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0)

Muhammad's cosmology that was incredibly insufficient and was based on superstitious beliefs of the time. If he had been inspired of God, would you have made such ridiculous claims?  Of course not.

Falling stars

We know falling stars are very small particles that enter our atmosphere at such a high rate that the friction causes great heat which results in them glowing.  However, according to Muhammad falling stars are meant to drive away evil spirits

  •  Surah 67:5, "And we have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the Penalty of the Blazing Fire."

 

Conclusion

Muhammad taught a cosmology that reflected superstition and scientific inaccuracies. He demonstrated that his knowledge did not come from God but  was instead a mixture of biblical revelation and contemporary superstitious beliefs. But, there was no way for his contemporaries to know what the truth actually was. He was free to make up things as he went along, and this he did.

Muhammad was not inspired of God.

  • 1. (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. 2nd half of year 1908. The Babylonian Universe Newly Interpreted, Published by the society, 22, Albemarle Street, London, MDCCCCVIII, p. 979, with footnote, (Was die ebere Welt hat, hat auch die untere. Es giebt demnach sieben Himmel und sieben Hollen oder Hollenstufen" (op. cit., p. 34))https://books.google.com/books?id=oPgAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA979&dq=babylonian+universe+seven+heavens&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjoyt2CjL7JAhUJ0GMKHVifBVcQ6AEIMDAB#v=onepage&q=babylonian%20universe%20seven%20heavens&f=false
  • 2. http://creative.sulekha.com/sevenheavens-in-ancient-hindu-scriptures_618811_blog
  • 3. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2014/02/seven-heavens
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.