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Misunderstanding of a verse of the Quran and hadith regarding the sun and moon

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Question: As-Salamu ‘Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh:

And He has made the sun and the moon, both constantly pursuing their courses, to be of service to you; and He has made the night and the day, to be of service to you. ( سورة إبراهيم , Ibrahim, Chapter #14, Verse #33) Qur’an.

Narrated Abu Dharr: Once I was with the Prophet in the mosque at the time of Sunset. The Prophet said, “O Abu Dharr! Do you know where the Sun sets?” I replied, “Allah and His Apostle know best.” He said, “It goes and prostrates underneath (Allah’s) Throne; and that is Allah’s Statement:– ‘And the Sun runs on its fixed course for a term (decreed). And that is the decree of All-Mighty, the All-Knowing….’ (36.38) (Book #60, Hadith #326) Bukhari.

It seems that in both the Qur’an and Hadith the Sun is being said to move around the Earth. This seems unscientific because we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Why is the sun being said to do the motion around the earth? Was-Salamu ‘Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

Country: USA


Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuHu,
Regarding the first verse:

وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ دَائِبَيْنِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ

Arabic dictionaries mention that the word الدائبان ad-daa’ibaan means day and night. While the word’s trilateral root preserves other meanings too, like persistence, habitually. (Lisan al-Arab v. 16, p. 1310) Wherefore, according to the Quran expert of the Sahabah, Abd Allah b. Abbas, it implies, “Their untiring persistence in obedience to Allah.” (Tafsir al-Baghawi v. 4, p. 353) The main lexical reference works do not describe the word to denote one thing orbiting another.

Allah is telling us that, day in and day out, the sun and the moon provide us with a “service” that is indubitably in our best interests. Many services we probably have not even realized, but just the moon’s influence on the tides and the sun’s influence on maintaining a gravitational central force for the earth’s solar system keep a balance and harmony, only possible with Allah’s will and power. It seems like Allah is calling our attention to one of the many blessings that He bestows on us all, that He subjugated the sun and moon that they continually function thereby favoring us with the blessing and sustenance of day and night. Allah continues in the 34th verse of Surah Ibrahim, “And He gave you all that you asked Him for, if you try to enumerate Allah’s blessings, you will not be able to enumerate them…”

Regarding the hadith, it is in Sahih al-Bukhari v. 2, p. 382 #3199. This text does not contain explicit mention that the sun orbits the earth.

The hadith mentions the sun prostrating beneath the Arsh. To this detail, many ulama, for instance Khattabi as related by Hafiz Zayn al-Din al-‘Iraqi in Tarh al-Tathrib v. 8, p. 259, maintained that this is from the knowledge of the unseen, and thus we accept it, while knowledge of it is only with Allah. Therefore, we accept the hadith just as it is, while much of its meaning is beyond the scope of our understanding.

In both the 37th and 38th verses of Surah Yasin, Allah draws one’s attention again to the day and night, “And a sign for them is the night; it removes by it the day, so then they are in darkness (37) along with the sun proceeding on its fixed course (38)…” In Mafatih al-Ghayb v. 26, p. 62-63, al-Fakhr al-Razi discussed that the particle lam may indicate time. The sun is proceeding on its course, both in respect to each day, from its rising to its setting. Likewise, in respect to how we observe the sun’s fixity in movement during the yearly cycle, from one month to the next. By this all, it proceeds to a fixed time, the Final Hour, the Day of Judgment. Allah says in the 13th verse of Surah Fatir, “He merges the night into day, and merges the day into night, and subjugates the sun and the moon, all proceeding on to an appointed time.” The major books of tafsir consider the phrase in this verse لأجل مسمى to be the end of the world and the coming of the Last Hour.

Allah has given many blessings to us; He has given us the days of our lives, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, to get ready for when these fleeting worldly moments end. The Quran shows us in so many places how temporary things really are. At times, we are reminded of this very straightforwardly. Additionally, we are given examples from the world around us to sit and ponder upon. If something awe-inspiring like the sun is counting down to its last, then what about us?

Allah continues in Surah Yasin, “And the trumpet will again be blown and they will come quickly from their graves to their Lord. (51) They will say, ‘Woe is to us! Who raised us from our resting places!?’ [It will be said to them], ‘This is what the Merciful promised, and the Messengers spoke the truth.’ (52) It will be only a single shout, behold they shall all be brought before Us! (53) This Day, none shall be wronged in anything, nor will you be requited except in what you used to do. (54)” Truly, Allah is great.

And Allah knows best.

Shafiifiqh.com Fatwa Dept


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