Islam and the Earth’s rotation

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The hadîth ash-sharîf reported by al-Bukhârî and Muslim states: “The Doomsday will not take place until the sun rises in the west. At that time, all people will have îmân, but it will avail them nothing.” The sun’s rising in the west is scientifically possible as well. Allahu ta’âlâ may disrupt the Earth’s usual orbit and create a new orbit for it. When its path is changed, then the sun will have risen in the west.

Muhammad ‘Uthmân Efendi of Medina, in his book Basîrat-us-sâlikîn, printed in 1341 (1923 A.D.) in Istanbul, rejected the rotation of the earth[1] by saying mawdû’ about sahîh hadîths. He mislead the youth. In contrast, in many books, Islâmic scholars, for instance Abû Bakr Râzî in his books Kûriyat-ul-Ard (Kûriyet-ül-Erd) and Sharh-i Mawâqif, has proven that the earth is a rotating spherical globe. Fiqh ‘ulamâ’ have written cases on this fact. The sacred meaning of the 22nd âyat of Sûra Baqara is, ‘Your Rabb has made the earth just like a bed for you.’ Tafsîr-i Azîzî says, ‘ He made it calm and motionless for you to sit and to sleep on.’ The sacred meaning of the fifteenth âyat of Sûra Nahl is: ‘I put the mountains on the earth lest it would shake you.’ Tafsîr Sâwî explains this as, ‘He created the mountains lest the earth could move and cause you trouble.’ And the book Baidâwî says, ‘Before the creation of the mountains, the earth was a globe without any rocky areas on its face. While rotating or during any other movement it would shake. When the mountains were created, they prevented it from moving, suffering and shaking.’ [And Geologists inform us that the radius of the Earth is about 3, 750 miles and the crust on which we live is very thin, it has a high possibility of shaking. Mountains act like stakes or tent pegs that hold the earth’s crust and give it stability]. 64th âyat of sûra Mumin is, ‘Allah is He who made the earth a resting place for you.’ Shaikhzâda says, ‘Abdullah ibni Abbâs said that a resting-place means the place of destination, and station.’ It is seen that the âyats of Qur’ân al-karîm and the tafsîr books inform us that the surface of the earth is like a saddle, a mattress, motionless and comfortable. It will not be true to deduct that the earth is motionless, and, therefore, it does not rotate on its axis and that does not move around the sun. Today, these two movements of the earth are known for certain and the prayer times are thereby calculated. Imâm-i Ghazâlî goes on and says. “When met with events that are understood to be certain and true through calculation and experimentation, it is necessary to interpret âyats and hadîths, that is, to adapt their meanings according to them. Many interpretations have been done in this way.” Let us mention also that it is not a job for the ignorant, such as ourselves, to give meanings to âyats and hadîths. To be a religious savant, that is, to have a say in the religion, it is necessary to go up to the degree of ijtihâd [Ijtihâd means to infer meanings from the figurative âyat-i-kerîmas in the Qur’ân al-kerîm. A scholar who is learned enough to perform ijtihâd is called a mujtahid. Performing ijtihâd requires first learning the basic essentials of Islam, the Qur’ân al-kerîm, all the hadîth-i-sherîfs with all the particulars and details entailed, such as the time of revelation of each âyat-i kerîma, where and upon what event it was revealed, the âyat-i-kerîmas that invalidated others, which ones invalidated which ones, and so forth, learning all the scientific branches of the time, which in turn requires years of lucubration and self-sacrifice. This quotation would be too short even to explain all the requirements. Our aim here is to help our readers to develop an idea as to the stupendous size of the job of ijtihâd. Those scholars who devoted all their worldly lives to this unutterably painstaking job of ijtihâd did us so great a favour by doing so that any degree of gratitude on our part would fall short of paying them their dues.]. There is no such exalted savant in the world today. Now the non-savants write religious books for various purposes, and by giving âyats and hadîths meanings at random, they say that Allahu ta’âlâ says so, or that the Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu alaihi wa sallam’ commands so and so. They change Islâm into a game. We should not buy or read religious books of this sort. We should find and read books that contain the unchanged words of religious savants. But, it is a pity, such religious books are almost nonexistent today. On the other hand, it is deplorably seen that most of the books that carry the names of great Islâmic savants and which are sold as translations from them contain harmful additions, deletions and changes. What is even more pathetic to realize about these existing books, some of which are quite well-known, is that a number of ignorant people have been carrying on this business of writing books for centuries, adapting some âyats and hadîths to the wrong scientific teachings of their times and thereby giving them wrong and funny meanings. What pleases the enemies of the religion most is to see Muslims deny (because of some ignorant do-gooders) facts that are proven through science and which are evident. For this will help them mislead younger generations. If scientists say that matter, the cell, the living and the lifeless came to being later while they had been nonexistent, it does not harm Islâm whether they came to existence incidentally in the sea or through some other way; for it is Allahu ta’âlâ who makes everything.

At one time, upon reading about the things that were declared as they appeared in their books, Jews and Christians thought that the facts were so that the earth was smooth and motionless and that the sun was turning around it, that the sky was put over the earth like a tent, that Allâhu ta’âlâ sat on a throne, like a man, and managed all affairs[2]. Because scientific knowledge, which is discovered through experiments, disagreed with these beliefs of theirs, they said that scientists were irreligious. Upon this unjust judgement, scientists attacked Judaism and Christianity. For example, William Draper, who is famous for his enmity against religions, says in his book Conflict Between Knowledge and Religion, “There is no human being who is apart from the universe, dominating the universe, and can do what he wishes.” This word of his shows that he thinks of Allâhu ta’âlâ as a human being and therefore denies Him. At another place, by stating, “There is a power in the universe which dominates everything, yet this is not the god whom the priests believe,” he indicates that he thinks that Allâhu ta’âlâ should be the greatest of the powers of physics and chemistry.

As it can be understood, the irreligious ones among scientists have either rightfully attacked the things which the priests and the ignorant populace have misunderstood, or they have denied the imaginary beliefs that were inculcated into their minds and which clashed with their time’s scientific knowledge, which they took for granted. If they had read and understood the scientific information which Islamic savants had derived from the Qur’ân with its subtlety and correctness, they all would have seen the fact and become Muslims willingly

While explaining the Eight-eighth (88th) âyat of Naml Sûra, “You see the mountains stand motionless, but in fact they are moving like clouds,” Qâdî Baydâwî states, “The mountains which, as you see, seem to stay in their places, are travelling fast thru space. When big objects move speedily in a direction, those who are on it do not feel its motion.” In the interpretation of the thirty-third âyat of Anbiyâ Sûra, Fakhraddîn-i Râdî writes that Dahhâk and Kalbî said that the moon, the sun and the stars rotated about their axes and revolved in their orbits. While explaining the twenty-ninth âyat of Baqâra Sûra, Fakhraddîn-i Râdî says, “Asîruddîn-i Abharî, the author of the physics book Hidâya and of the logic book Îsâgujî, used to teach with the astronomy book entitled Majastî by Ptolemy. Somebody who considered the use of such a book as intolerable asked him with a harsh voice why he was teaching it to Muslim children. He answered that he was interpreting the sixth âyat in Sûra Kaf which purports, ‘Don’t they see how beautifully I have created the earth, the skies, the stars, and the planets?’ thus giving him a beautiful reply.” Imâm-i Râdî writes in his interpretation that this reply of Abharî’s was correct and stated that those scientists who observe Allah’s creatures understand the infinitude of His power very well.

The famous Ibni Hazm Alî bin Ahmad proved in his book Al-Fasl that the earth was round through âyats and hadîths nine centuries ago. The earth’s diameter and inclination angles toward the sun were measured in the deserts of Sinjâr and Kufa by Mûsâ bin Shâkir’s sons, Ahmad and Muhammad, in the time of Khalîfa Ma’mûn. The tools for astronomy made by these two brothers are clear documents for the importance which the Muslims of that time laid on knowledge and science. Ahmad died in 265, and Muhammad died in 259 [873 A.D.]. Their books on algebra and astronomy were translated into English by Lorenz, and in 1247 [1831 A.D.] they were edited in London together with the Arabic versions. In high schools in Europe none of the names of these people, who are only a few among the many other scientists, is taught to the students. Nor in the books of science translated from them is anything written for Muslim children about their ancestors’ discoveries. The names of Islamic savants who had great discoveries are not given at all. Those Christians who did something rather insignificant are praised as scientists. This enmity towards Islam has even spread over Islamic countries, too.

The book Asrar-i malakut, collected the meanings which Islamic savants had given to those ayats about the earth, the moon, the sun, the sky and the stars; thus the book proved that they fully agreed with today’s modern discoveries. After reading Islamic books, scientists have admired the Qur’an, understanding that it has predicted every experiment, every new discovery precisely as it appeared.

After reading Islamic books, scientists have admired the Qur’ân, understanding that it has predicted every experiment, every new discovery precisely as it appeared. The ignorant, who know nothing of science, of Islamic books, read the books written by the enemies of Islam or by priests; hence, they misunderstand Islam and become enemies of religion. Like these people, some people who have become enemies of Islam blindly give themselves such titles as poet, journalist, novelist, admirer and supporter of Turkish culture, and even man of religion or specialist of Islamic history. These individuals try to make youngsters irreligious by means of writings full of very loathsome lies and slanders. They drift both themselves and the masses to perdition.

Once there were many such savants. One of them was Imâm-i Muhammad Ghazâlî (rahmatullahi ’alaih). His work is a witness to his depth in religious knowledge and his high grade in ijtihâd. He who reads and understands these writings of his will know him. He who does not know him will attempt to impute his own defects to him. In order to understand a savant, one has to be a savant. He was specialized in all the branches of the scientific knowledge of his time, too. He was the Rector of Baghdad University. After learning Greek, the second language of that time, in two years, he examined Roman and Greek philosophy and science, and proclaimed their errors, their disgrace in his books. He wrote about the rotation of the earth, the structure of matter, the calculations of solar and lunar eclipses and many other technical and social facts.

Another Islâmic savant was Imâm-i Rabbânî Ahmad-i-Fârûqî. It has been unanimously stated by religious authorities that his depth in religious knowledge, his high grade in ijtihâd, and especially his perfection in tasawwuf were above the mind’s ability to comprehend. The books that have appeared recently in the United States have begun to be illuminated by the rays of this sun of happiness. Imâm-i Rabbânî ‘rahmatullâhi aleyh’ was specialized in the scientific knowledge of his time, too. In the two hundred and sixty-sixth letter of the first volume of his book Maktûbat,he writes, “My son Muhammad Ma’thûm has recently completed reading the book Sharh-i Mawâqif. During his lessons, he has well understood the errors and the defects of the Greek philosophers. He has learned many facts.” This is a scientific book and has been taught until recently in the high (university) division of Islâmic madrasas. Mawâqif was written by Qâdî ’Adûd and this, (that is, the book mentioned above by Imâm-i-Rabbânî), is the revision of it by Sayyed Sharif Alî Jurjânî [740-816 A.H. (1336-1413 A.D.)]. A great Arabic work of about a thousand pages, it explains all the scientific knowledge of that time. The book is divided into six parts, each of which contains different sections. In the second paragraph of the third chapter of the first section of the fourth part, it proves that the earth is spherical, and in the sixth paragraph, it proves that it rotates from west to east. It also gives valuable information about atoms, various states of matter, forces and psychological events.

Europeans have derived most of their scientific knowledge and its basis from Islâmic books. While Europeans assumed that the earth was flat like a tray surrounded by a wall, Muslims had known that the earth was spherical and was rotating. This fact is written in detail in the books Shârh-i Mawâqif and Ma’rifatnâma. They measured the length of the meridian in the open plain of Sinjar between Mûsul and Diyâr-i Bekr, finding the result as it is found today. Nûr-ud-dîn Batrûjî, who passed away in 581 [1185 A.D.], was a professor of astronomy at the Islâmic University of Andalusia. He wrote today’s astronomy in his book Alhayât. When Galileo, Copernicus and Newton said that the earth rotated after learning this fact from Islâmic books, they were deemed guilty for their words. Galileo was judged and imprisoned by priests. Until the Tanzîmât [reforms of Abdulmajîd in 1839], scientific lessons had been taught in madrasas. Enlightened men of religion had been educated. They had been leading the world. When scientific lessons were abrogated, explorations and inventions stopped. The West began to gain on the East.

A passage from the book Tahafut-ul-Falasife by Imam-i Ghazali has been translated from Arabic into Turkish and has been written on the forty-fifth page of the book Marifatnama. There, he says, “Scientists’ words are of three types. Their words of the first type explain the facts which scientific experiments have discovered. Though these words of theirs agree with Islam, their wording is wrong. For instance, they say, ‘Nothing can move by itself. There is a power which makes everything move. This power is a natural force. Everything is made by nature.’ On the other hand, Islam says, ‘Nothing can move by itself. There is a power that makes every object move. This power is Allah’s power. Everything is made by Allahu ta’ala.’ It can be understood that Islam and science agree on the same thing; there is only one difference; appellations. We do not object to these words of theirs. Only, we admit them only after altering the names. Their words of the second type are about things which Islam does not explain, but commands, ‘Research and find out!’ Whether we believe their words of this type or not, it does not cause the iman to be lost. For example, they say that a lunar eclipse is a result of our earth coming between the sun and the moon, and they can predict its time, for the moon looks very bright when it is facing the sun. When the earth’s shadow is cast on the moon, it becomes obscure and indistinct, being unable to receive any light from the sun. And a solar eclipse is caused by the moon coming in between the earth and the sun, and thereby obstructing the sun from being seen from the earth. They say that a lunar eclipse takes place in the middle of the Arabic months, and a solar eclipse happens on the first or the last night of a month.”

Their ideas of the third type are those which disagree with what is declared clearly in the Shariat. All of these things are hypotheses, that is, suppositions or fabrications under the curtain of science, fruits of sheer bigotry and ignorance. That everything was created out of nothing, that Hadrat Adam’s body, which was made from sticky mud, came to life by changing into flesh and bones, that Allahu ta’ala exists with His Attributes, the things that will happen at the end of the world, and the Resurrection are all within the principles of iman. One should not believe in thoughts that disagree with these or that will ruin the belief in these realities. A real scientist will not utter words disagreeing with these beliefs because they are not things which disagree with science. It is necessary to persuade everybody to believe in them and to refute those who oppose them.

The sun, earth and moon are spherical-shaped, like a water melon, and they all move in the first heaven. [In fact, the Sun travels, carrying with it the solar system through space at roughly 150 miles per second, and turns around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy every 200 million years.]. Ancient physicists said that each of the seven planets was in one heaven. On the other hand, it is declared in Sûrat-ul-Mulk that all the stars are in the first heaven, which also consists of the earth. [However, Islam teaches that the space which is full of millions of stars each of which is a sun is only the first sky. This first sky, is only a drop of ocean beside the second sky. And each of the seven skies is as much bigger than the one it surrounds].

Tafsîr al-Baydâwî: Surah Nahl – 15
Tafsîr al-Baydâwî: Surah Naml – 88

[1]: A person who objects to the Earth’s rotation by saying that Muslims should not believe such words as these will have striven to harm the religion and to demolish Islâm. If one says that they do not agree with the Sharî’at, while the rules and experiments of arithmetics, physics and chemistry prove that these words are correct, scientists will doubt the correctness of the Sharî’at, thinking that Islam disagrees with science, instead of doubting such a person’s words. It has been experienced that the harm done by an ignorant person who wants to help Islâm by using illogical methods is greater than the harm done by those who attack Islâm systematically.

[2]: Kindly see the article, –Allah is free, far from occupying spaces on our website for detailed information.

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