Does Verse 30 of Sura al-Nazi`at Refer to a Spherical Earth?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by

Answered by Ustadha Sulma Badrudduja

Question: asalamu alaikum,

‏79:30 والارض بعد ذلك دحاها

Some people say the meaning here is ‘the earth is egg shaped’, whereas others say The Arabic word Dahaahaa is extracted from the root Daha which means spreading, the verse does not mean that He made it egg-shaped, which one is correct?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

والأرض بعد ذلك دحاها “And the earth, after that, He spread out.” [al-Nazi`at, 30]

The foremost scholars of Quranic exegesis mention that “dahaha” in the ayah means “spread it out,” or “extended it.” The original lexical meaning of the word is from the meaning of “removing something from one place to another,” which we could understand as “leveling” [Al-Tabari, Jami` al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an; Al-Asfahani, Mu`jam Alfaz Mufradat al-Quran].

In the context of these ayat, the spreading out can be understood as a spreading of the land in preparation for the bounties of food and water which Allah brings forth from it. As the next ayah in the surah states, “He brought therefrom its water and its pasture.” [Al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir]

However, this does not contradict the spherical shape of the earth since the immediate surface will generally appear flat. The spherical shape of the earth is alluded to in the ayah, “…He wraps the night over the day, and wraps the day over the night…” [al-Zumar, 5] The word wrap, “yakawwiru,” is understood to mean in a circular fashion, as the Arabs used it for wrapping a turban.

A related point: The scholars mention that when understanding ayat that have a scientific purport, we should be careful, as Muslims, to remember that our ultimate criterion for reality is the words of Allah. We take reality to be what Allah describes to us, not simply what scientific conclusions, often based on theories that are subject to change, tell us. Allah’s words have never contradicted the new and amazing things we continually learn about His creation, and this will always be the case.

And Allah knows best.


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