|What Shape is the Earth?
Today we can look at a globe
and know that the earth is somewhat like a ball, a sphere. The Quran
makes certain statements that led Muslim scientists to understand long
before their European counterparts that the earth is spherical. When Europe
was in the dark ages thinking that the earth was flat, Muslim students
were using globes for studying the earth in Islamic universities.
Since it was not the purpose of the Quran to teach science, the
Quran did not need to state explicitly that the earth is spherical
in shape (or more precisely, a geoid). But some of what the Quran
says stimulates you to think of the world as a globe. Take, for example,
the following verse:
Have you not seen how God merges the night into the day and merges
the day into the night? (Quran 31:29).
Another verse tells us that God coils the day and night around:
He coils the night upon the day and He coils the day upon the night
The word coils in the verse above is a translation of the
Arabic verb kawwara which is used in describing the action of coiling
a turban around the head. To understand this statement fully, readers
of the Quran had to think of the earth as a sphere.
To fully appreciate the above two statements in the Quran, try this
experiment at home:
You need a flashlight and a globe. Take these items into a dark room.
Using the flashlight to simulate the light of the sun, shine the light
upon the globe. Notice that only one half of the globe is lighted up.
The other half is in darkness. Half the world is having day, the other
half is having night. Now, recall that the earth is continuously rotating
on its axis and will go around completely in twenty four hours. Slowly
turn the globe around to simulate this rotation. Notice that as the globe
turns, the day is going around the globe to light up the other half of
the world. The night is also going around the globe to give rest to the
other half of the world.
The day and night are perpetually coiling around the earth with some degree
ofinterpenetration. This is exactly how it appears to astronauts during
their space flights.
Dr. Bucaille makes the following remark: This process of perpetual
coiling, including the interpenetration of one sector by another, is expressed
in the Quran just as if the concept of the earths roundness
had already been conceived at the time which was obviously not
the case. (The Bible, the Quran and Science, p. 165).
This obviously did not reflect the level of learning of the time, but
was helpful in stimulating Muslim scientists to conceive of the earth
in its real shape. How couldthis knowledge get into the Quran?