Flat Earth and the Qur'an
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This article takes a closer look at some of the Qur'anic verses that imply its author assumed the earth is flat.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Analysis
- 2.1 Qur'an 2:22 - firashan (thing spread to sit or lie upon)
- 2.2 Qur'an 15:19 - madad (extend, stretch out)
- 2.3 Qur'an 20:53 - mahdan (bed)
- 2.4 Qur'an 43:10 - mahdan (bed)
- 2.5 Qur'an 50:7 - madad (expand, stretch out)
- 2.6 Qur'an 51:48 - farasha (spread out) mahidoon (spreaders)
- 2.7 Qur'an 71:19 - bisaatan (carpet)
- 2.8 Qur'an 78:6-7 - mihadan (bed)
- 2.9 Qur'an 79:30 - daha (spread out or ostrich egg?)
- 2.10 Qur'an 88:20 - sutihat (spread out flat)
- 2.11 Qur'an 91:6 - taha (spread out)
- 3 Further Proof
- 3.1 Qur'an 18:86 - Setting and rising places of the sun
- 3.2 Qur'an 2:187 and 17:78 - Fasting and prayer times
- 3.3 Qur'an 2:144 - Praying towards the Ka'aba
- 3.4 Qur'an 18:47 - Without mountains the Earth will be entirely apparent
- 3.5 Qur'an 20:105-107 Without mountains the Earth will be a level plain
- 3.6 Qur'an 55:17 - The two easts and two wests
- 3.7 Qur'an 2:22 - The heavens are a canopy / building
- 3.8 Flat Earth Beliefs of Muhammad and His Followers
- 4 General Apologetics
- 5 Conclusion
- 6 See Also
- 7 External Links
- 8 References
The fact that the Earth is not flat has been known for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks Pythagoras (570 - 495 BC), Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) and Hipparchus (190 - 120 BC) all knew this. The Indian astronomer and mathematician, Aryabhata (476 - 550 AD) knew this. And so did the early Christian scholars Anicius Boëthius (480 - 524 AD), Bishop Isidore of Seville (560 - 636 AD), Bishop Rabanus Maurus (780 - 856 AD), the monk Bede (672 - 735 AD), Bishop Vergilius of Salzburg (700 - 784 AD) and Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274 AD). In fact, contrary to what we are often told, the sphericity of the Earth was common knowledge among early medieval Europeans and the Holy Roman Empire from as early as 395 AD used an orb to represent the spherical Earth.
If the Qur'an is a letter-by-letter dictation from Allah, it should also concur with this fact that was known throughout the world before its revelation, and it should contradict the flat Earth model widely believed in by the 7th century Bedouins of Arabia. Yet the evidence is that the Qur'an supports the flat Earth model (as well as geocentrism).
For plentiful evidence that the earliest Muslims believed in a flat Earth, and a discussion of the failed attempts by ibn Taymiyyah and others to demonstrate that they believed in a round Earth, see the article Did Muhammad and the Earliest Muslims Know the Earth is Round?.
In this analysis, we look at direct references to the shape of the Earth in the Qur'an. Verse 88:20 is particularly worth highlighting for its use of a word that was deeply associated with flat surfaces.
Arabic word definitions in English are from Lane's Lexicon of classical Arabic (not to be confused with modern Arabic). Note that the Arabic word al-ard can mean the land or the Earth. However, it is perfectly obvious from the context that in the verses below al-ard means the entire Earth, not a local area of land.
The section after this one discusses indirect evidence that the Qur'an supports a flat Earth model, and perhaps contains even stronger evidence than the direct statements below.
Qur'an 2:22 - firashan (thing spread to sit or lie upon)
Allathee jaAAala lakumu alarda firashan[He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him].
فِرَٰشًا = firashan = a thing that is spread upon the ground, a thing that is spread for one to sit or lie upon.
Qur'an 15:19 - madad (extend, stretch out)
Waal-arda madadnaha waalqayna feeha rawasiya waanbatnafeeha min kulli shay-in mawzooninAnd the earth We have spread out (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.
مَدَدْ = madad = extend by drawing or pulling, stretch out, expand
Qur'an 20:53 - mahdan (bed)
Allathee jaAAala lakumu al-arda mahdan wasalaka lakum feeha subulan waanzala mina alssama-imaan faakhrajna bihi azwajan min nabatinshattaHe 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.
مَهْدًا = mahdan = cradle or bed; a plain, even, or smooth expanse
Qur'an 43:10 - mahdan (bed)
Allathee jaAAala lakumu al-arda mahdan wajaAAala lakum feeha subulan laAAallakum tahtadoona(Yea, the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out, and has made for you roads (and channels) therein, in order that ye may find guidance (on the way);
مَهْدًا = mahdan = cradle or bed; a plain, even, or smooth expanse
Qur'an 50:7 - madad (expand, stretch out)
Waal-arda madadnaha waalqayna feeha rawasiya waanbatnafeeha min kulli zawjin baheejinAnd the earth- We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and produced therein every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs)-
مَدَدْ = madad = extend by drawing or pulling, stretch out, expand
Qur'an 51:48 - farasha (spread out) mahidoon (spreaders)
Waal-arda farashnaha faniAAma almahidoonaAnd the earth have We laid out, how gracious is the Spreader (thereof)!
فَرَشَْ = farasha (see also 2:22 above for the noun) = spread or expand, spread a bed or carpet
الْمَهِدُونَ = mahidoon from مهد = make plain, even, smooth, spread a bed
There is also a hadith in which the plural noun furushaat is used, meaning "beds":
It was narrated from Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “I see what you do not see, and I hear what you do not hear. The heaven is creaking and it should creak, for there is no space in it the width of four fingers but there is an angel there, prostrating to Allah. By Allah, if you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much, and you would never enjoy women in your beds (الْفُرُشَاتِ, al-furushaat), and you would go out in the streets, beseeching Allah.’”
Qur'an 71:19 - bisaatan (carpet)
WaAllahu jaAAala lakumu al-arda bisatanAnd Allah has made the earth for you as a carpet (spread out),
بِسَاطًا = bisaatan = A thing that is spread or spread out or forth, and particularly a carpet (from the same root we also have بَسَاطٌ = bisaatun = Land, expanded and even; and wide or spacious) 
This word is also used in a hadith in At-Tirmidhi:
... Then he came to hug the Prophet (s.a.w) and uttered that his father and mother should be ransomed for him. Then he went to grove of his and he spread out a mat for them (فَبَسَطَ لَهُمْ بِسَاطًا, fa-basata la-hum bisaatan, literally "and-(he)spread for-them a-mat"). Then he went to a date-palm and returned with a cluster of dates which he put down. ...
So the derived verb basata refers to spreading out (thus flattening) a carpet.
Qur'an 78:6-7 - mihadan (bed)
Alam najAAali al-arda mihadan Waaljibala awtadanHave We not made the earth as a wide expanse, And the mountains as pegs?
مِهَٰدًا (same as مَهْدًا mahdan) = cradle or bed; a plain, even, or smooth expanse
Qur'an 79:30 - daha (spread out or ostrich egg?)
Many Islamist apologists attempt to deflect criticism that the Qur'an promotes the mistaken belief of a flat earth by the word دَحَىٰهَآ (dahaha) used in Qur'an 79:30, commonly translated as ‘He spread it’ or ‘He stretched it’.
Transliteration: Waal-arda baAAda thalika dahaha
Literal: And the earth/Planet Earth after that He stretched/spread it. 
Word by word:
- وَ - wa - and
- ٱلْ - al - the
- أَرْضَ - ard - Earth
- feminine in Arabic
- بَعْدَ - ba'ada - after
- ذَٰلِكَ - dhalika - that
- دَحَىٰ - dahaa - (he) spread
- verb 
- هَآ - ha - her
- or "it" in the English translation, referring to the Earth.
- دَحَىٰ - dahaa - (he) spread
دَحَىٰهَآ is a verb with a suffixed pronoun, so it cannot mean a noun "ostrich egg". In the apologist interpretation the verb would have to mean "he made it in a shape of an ostrich egg". It is absurd to think that such a little word could mean something so complex.
The هَا (-ha) suffix pronoun meaning literally "her" is also repeated in the surrounding verses as a literary device:
أَأَنْتُمْ أَشَدُّ خَلْقًا أَمِ السَّمَاءُ ۚ بَنَاهَا 79:27 Aantum ashaddu khalqan ami alssamao banaha
79:28 رَفَعَ سَمْكَهَا فَسَوَّاهَا RafaAAa samkaha fasawwaha
79:29 وَأَغْطَشَ لَيْلَهَا وَأَخْرَجَ ضُحَاهَا Waaghtasha laylaha waakhraja duhaha
79:30 وَالْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ دَحَاهَا Waalarda baAAda thalika dahaha
79:31 أَخْرَجَ مِنْهَا مَاءَهَا وَمَرْعَاهَا Akhraja minha maaha wamarAAaha
79:32 وَالْجِبَالَ أَرْسَاهَا Waaljibala arsaha
So the -ha in 79:30 is a pronoun as well as in other verses and the pronoun is completely missing in the translation "ostrich egg".
Some translations have attempted to translate the word dahaha to mean made egg-shaped or like an ‘ostrich egg’.
Some will also falsely claim that the root word for dahaha is duhiya, which they claim means ostrich egg.
The Qur’an mentions the actual shape of the earth in the following verse:
“And we have made the earth egg shaped”. [Al-Qur’an 79:30]
The Arabic word Dahaha means egg shaped. It also means an expanse. Dahaha is derived from Duhiya which specifically refers to the egg of an ostrich which is geospherical in shape, exactly like the shape of the earth.
Thus the Qur’an and modern established science are in perfect harmony.
A further apologetic is to point to a game played by Meccans in their attempt to link dahaha with roundness.
[Transliteration] Waal-arda baAAda thalika dahaha [79:30]
The key word in the above verse is “dahaha”. In Arabic, there is a phrase, “iza dahaha” which means “when he throws the stones over the ground to the hole”. The hole is called “Udhiyatun”. “Almadahi” signify round stones according to the size of which a hole is dug in the ground in which the stones are thrown in a game. “Almadahi” also signify a round thing made of lead by the throwing of which persons contend together. So there is a signification of ROUNDNESS in the root of the word “dahaha”. According to some etymologists, the word for the “egg of an ostrich” also has the same root as “dahaha”. They also take from this that the earth is of the shape of the egg of an ostrich. Latest science findings confirm that the earth is not exactly spherical but the earth is an ellipsoid, i.e. flattened by its poles,[ just like the shape of an egg of an ostrich].The Arabic words for “flat” or “level” or “straight shaped” are “sawi” and “almustavi”. There is not a single place in Quran where there is any indication of the earth being “flat” or “straight shaped”. The word “faraash” in 2:22, 51:48; the word “wasia” in 4:97, 29:56, 30:10; the word “mahd” in 20:53, 43:10, 78:6; the word “basaat” in 71:19; the word “suttihat” in 88:20; and the word “tahaaha” in 91:6, all may mean, “to spread”, “to expand” or “to extend” with slight differences in their connotations but none signify the earth being straight-shaped or flat.
One of the meanings of dahaha is to 'throw' and that is the derivation of the words 'almadahi and udhiyatun'. It is not anything to do with their shape. In any case, the contention that almadahi and udhiyatun conveys the concept of roundness which they link to the root of dahaha is false for the reason that the 'roundness' of the almadahi and udhiyatun is only in two dimensions. The almadahi is round like a piece of Arab bread (i.e. shaped like a disc) and the udhiyatun is also round in two dimensions.
Oblate and prolate spheroids
There are two problems with the egg-shaped Earth claim. One is that their statements about the words daha and duhiya are false, as proven further below. But even if they were right about that, it would prove the Qur'an to be incorrect because while the Earth and an ostrich egg are both spheroids, they are of fundamentally different types of spheroid.
The Earth is very nearly, but not absolutely a perfect sphere. It is in fact an oblate spheroid, which means that the radius from its centre to either of its two poles is shorter than the radius to the equator. In other words, there is a very slight bulge around the equator. The radius from the centre of the Earth to the north or south poles is 6,357km, and the radius from the centre to the equator is 6,378km, a difference of less than 1 percent. This is caused by the rotation of the Earth around its polar axis, which produces a centripetal force that is greatest at the equator.
An ostrich egg, much like all eggs, can be described as a prolate spheroid. This is because the radius from its centre to either of its two poles is longer than the radius to the equator, as though it were a sphere that had been pulled from two ends. It certainly is not an oblate spheroid. You can see in the image an oblate spheroid (top left), and a prolate spheroid (bottom left). Even holding an egg on its side (top), you cannot make it look like an oblate spheroid in 3D. They are fundamentally different shapes. The shape of the ostrich egg is in fact like a prolate spheroid (bottom). No matter how you hold the egg, it is a prolate spheroid and not an oblate spheroid.
Oblate and prolate spheroids are fundamentally different shapes. In a flat 2d image without texture or shading they might look the same, but in three dimensions you cannot make one look like the other no matter how you turn it.
Daha and Duhiya
In Arabic, each word must be derived from its root. The root usually consists of three letters that can be manipulated, by adding vowels, prefixes and suffixes in order to produce different words with different meanings. For example, "ka-ta-ba" (to write) is the root for many words such as kitab (book), maktaba (library), katib (author), maktoob (written), kitabat (writings) et cetera.
Let's now take the word claimed to mean egg of an ostrich, "Duhiya". This word is not a root. It is a noun and is derived from "da-ha-wa" (دحو), the same root that the verb "dahaha" (دَحَىٰهَآ) in 79:30 comes from (the 'ha' at the end there is just a pronoun suffix meaning 'it'). Furthermore, Duhiya does not even mean the egg of an ostrich. This is what the most respected dictionaries have to say on this subject:
Lisan Al Arab
Translation: Al-udhy, Al-idhy, Al-udhiyya, Al-idhiyya, Al-udhuwwa:The place in sand where an ostrich lays its egg. That's because the ostrich spreads out (تَدْحُوه, tadhooh) the earth with its feet then lays its eggs there, an ostrich doesn't have a nest.
بَنَى السماءَ فَوْقَنا طِباقَا
ثم دَحا الأَرضَ فما أَضاقا
قال شمر : وفسرته فقالت دَحَا الأَرضَ أَوْسَعَها ; وأَنشد ابن بري لزيد بن عمرو بن نُفَيْل : دَحَاها , فلما رآها اسْتَوَتْ
على الماء , أَرْسَى عليها الجِبالاو دَحَيْتُ الشيءَ أَدْحاهُ دَحْياً بَسَطْته , لغة في دَحَوْتُه ; حكاها اللحياني . وفي حديث عليّ وصلاتهِ , اللهم دَاحِيَ المَدْحُوَّاتِ يعني باسِطَ الأَرَضِينَ ومُوَسِّعَها , ويروى ; دَاحِيَ المَدْحِيَّاتِ . و الدَّحْوُ البَسْطُ . يقال : دَحَا يَدْحُو و يَدْحَى أَي بَسَطَ ووسع
Translation: To daha the earth: means to spread it out. Then it mentions a couple of Arabic poems that confirm this meaning. Anyone who can read Arabic will find this to be the definitive proof that Daha means to spread out.
Al Qamoos Al Muheet
Translation: Allah daha the Earth: He spread it out.
Translation: To daha something: means to spread it out. For example: Allah daha the Earth.
1. Daha (., MM_b;,, 1,) first pers. Dahouth aor, yad'hoo inf. N. dahoo He spread; spread out, or forth; expanded; or extended; (S, Msb, K; ) a thing; (K; ) and, when said of God, the earth; (Fr, S, Mb, 1V; ) As also daha first pers. dahaithu (K in art. daha) aor. yaad’heae inf. n. dahae: (Msb, and K in art. dahae : ) or He (God) made the earth wide, or ample; as explained by an Arab woman of the desert to Sh: (TA : ) also, said of an ostrich, (S, TA,) he expanded, and made wide, (TA,) with his foot, or leg, the place where he was about to deposit his eggs: (S, TA : ) and, said of a man, he spread, &c., and made plain, even, or smooth. (TA in art. dhaha ) - Also, said of a man, (K,,) aor. yad’hoo, inf. n. dahwu(TA,) i.q. Jamie as also daja; on the authority of 1Abr. (TA.) (You say, dhahaha He compressed her; like as you say, dhajaha.) _ Also He threw, or cast, and impelled, propelled, oi removed from its place, a stone, with his hand (TA.) One says also, to him who is playing with walnuts, abidil maddha va adhhuhu, meaning (Make thou the distance far, and) throw it. (S,TA.: See also midh’hath, in two places. And of a torrent one says, dhaha bilbat’hai It cast along (the soft earth and pebbles in its course; or drove then along). (TA.) And of rain, one says, dhaha Al hissa an waj’hil Ardhi (S,Msb) It drove the pebbles from the surface of the earth; (Msb; ) or removed them. (TA.) (See also dhaha, in the next art.) And aldhahwu bilhijarathi also signifies The vying, one with another, in throwing stones, and striving to surpass (in doing so); as also al Midahath (inf. n- of dahee). (TA marra yad’hoo inf.n. dahow said of a horse, He went along throwing out his fore legs without raising his hoofs much from the ground. (S,TA.) = dhahal bathan The belly was, or became, large, and hanging down; (Kr, K; ) and Indhahee (the belly) was, or became, wide, or distended: (MF : ) or both signify it (the belly) became swollen, or inflated, or big,. and hung down, by reason of fatness or disease; as also Dhau and Indah (TA in art dooh.) 3. Dhahee inf.n. Mudahath: see 1. 5. Thud'hee He spread out, or extended, himself; syn. Thabassuth. (K: in art. Daha.) You say, nama fulan fathadhahha Such a one slept, and (extended himself so that he) lay upon a vide space of ground (TA in that art.) - And thadhahhathil ibilu fil ardhi The camels made hollows in the ground where they lay down, it being soft; leaving therein cavities like those of bellies: thus they do only when they are fat. (El-'Itreefee, TA in art. Daha. ) 7. see 1, last sentence. 9. id'havi (of the measure if’alath for if’alle like Ar’awa) It (a thing, TA) was, or became, spread, spread out or forth, expanded, or extended. (K.)
Dhahin (act. part n. of 1). Allahumma dhahil Mad’huwwath in a prayer of ‘Alee, means O God, the Spreader and Expander of the (seven) earths: (TA : ) al Mdhuwwath (properly) signifies the things that are spread, &c.; as also Al Mudh’hiyyath. (TA in art. dhaha ) _ Al’Matharuddahee The rain that removes (or drives) the pebbles from the surface of the earth. (TA.)
Ud'hiyy (S.K) (Originally od'huwa of the measure Uf’ool from dhahaithu but said in the S to be of that measure from dhahouthu the dial. var. dhahaithu not being there mentioned,) and and id’hiyy and Ud’hiyyath and ud’huwwath (K) The place of the laying of eggs, (S, K,) and of the hatching thereof, (S,) , of the ostrich, (S. K. ) in the sand; (K; ) because that bird expands it, and makes it wide, with its foot, or leg; for the ostrich has no (nest such as is termed) Ush (S: ) pl. Adahin (TA in the present art.) and Adahee (i. e., if not a mistranscription, Adahiyyu agreeably with the sing.): (TA in art. dhaha and mudhhiyya (likewise) signifies the place of the eggs of the ostrich. (S.) (Hence,) binthu Adh’hiyyathun A female ostrich. (TA.)_(Hence also,) Al Udkhiyyu and Al Id’hiyyu A certain Mansion of the Moon, (K, TA,) (namely, the Twenty-first Mansion,) between the Na’aai’m sa’dha zabih (more commonly) called Al Baldath likened to the Adhahhee of the ostrich. (TA.)
Ud’huwwath and udh’hiyyath: see the next preceding paragraph, in three places: - and for the latter, see also mid’hath, below.
Mad’han see ud’hiyy
Mid’hath A wooden thing with which a child is driven along (yud’ha), and which, passing over the ground, sweeps away everything against which it comes (K, TA.) - Accord. to Sh, A certain thing with which the people of Mekkeh play: he says, I heard El-Asadee describe it thus: Almadahiyy and Almasadiyy signify stones like the (small round cake of bread called) qursath, according to the size which a hole is dug, and widened a little: then they throw those stones (yad’hoona biha) to that hole and if the stone fall therein, the person wins; but if not, he is overcome: you say of him yad’hoo and yasdoo when he throws the stones (Iza dhahaha) over the ground to the hole: and the hole is called ud'hiyyath. (TA.) (Accord. to Freytag, the authority of the Deewan El-Hudhaleeyeen, A round thing made of lead, by the throwing of which persons contend together.)Almadhuwwath and almad’hiyyath see Dahin.
Note above that Lane also translates udhiyy (أُدْحِىٌّ) to mean the place in the sand where the ostrich lays its eggs, and not the eggs themselves.
Tafsirs on the verse 79:30
The tafsirs explain that this verse describes the Earth to be flat.
(And after that He spread the earth) even then He spread it on the water; it is also said: 2,000 years after that He spread it on the water,
"Ostrich egg" mentioned in a hadith
There is no hadith saying that the Earth is shaped like an ostrich egg. But "ostrich egg" is mentioned in one hadith so we can check whether the word دَحَىٰهَآ (dahaha) is used in the original Arabic.
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُوسَى الْقَطَّانُ الْوَاسِطِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا يَزِيدُ بْنُ مَوْهَبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا مَرْوَانُ بْنُ مُعَاوِيَةَ الْفَزَارِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ، حَدَّثَنَا حُسَيْنٌ الْمُعَلِّمُ، عَنْ أَبِي الْمُهَزِّمِ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قَالَ فِي بَيْضِ النَّعَامِ يُصِيبُهُ الْمُحْرِمُ " ثَمَنُهُ "
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, concerning an ostrich egg (بَيْضِ النَّعَامِ) taken by a Muhrim: “Its cost (must be paid as a penalty).”
Of course it isn't, because "ostrich egg" needs two words. "Egg" is بَيْضِ (baydi) and "ostrich" is النَّعَامِ (an-na'ami). So ostrich egg is called baydi an-na'ami and not dahaha in Arabic.
Qur'an 88:20 - sutihat (spread out flat)
Wa-ila al-ardi kayfa sutihatAnd at the Earth, how it is spread out?
سَطَّحَ = spread out or forth, expand
The word was used to describe making the flat top or roof of a house or chamber and making a top surface flat.
Words from the same root mean the flat top surface or roof of a house or chamber, a flat plane in geometry, a level place upon which dates can be spread, a rolling pin (which expands the dough), plane or flat.
In the tafsir Al-Jalalayn (from 15. century) we can read that the word sutihat means the Earth is flat which is the opinion of the Islamic scholars:
And the earth how it was laid out flat? and thus infer from this the power of God exalted be He and His Oneness? The commencing with the mention of camels is because they are closer in contact with it the earth than any other animal. As for His words sutihat ‘laid out flat’ 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.
- (*) The Arabic original says "وعليه علماء الشرع", literally "and-on-it (are) scholars (of) law". The word "most" was added by English translators, probably to make it less embarrassing.
- The phrase "flat earth" today is commonly translated as الأرض مسطحة (al-ard musattaha), the word musattaha is from the same root as the word sutihat.
Qur'an 91:6 - taha (spread out)
Waal-ardi wama tahahaBy the Earth and its (wide) expanse
Qur'an 18:86 - Setting and rising places of the sun
Hatta itha balagha maghriba alshshamsi wajadaha taghrubu fee AAaynin hami-atin wawajada AAindaha qawman qulna ya tha alqarnayni imma an tuAAaththiba wa-imma an tattakhitha feehim husnanTill, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhu'l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness.
This can only happen on a flat Earth. For a detailed discussion of the key words in these verses, evidence showing that early Muslims took it literally, and contemporary Arabic and Syriac poems of the same legend, see the article Dhu'l-Qarnayn and the Sun Setting in a Muddy Spring.
Qur'an 2:187 and 17:78 - Fasting and prayer times
This verse tells Muslims, when fasting, to not eat, drink, or have sexual intercourse during sunlight hours. This can cause a huge problem for those who live close to the North or South poles. Many Muslim scholars have tried to contrive rules to save Muslims from this problem, such as using the times of the nearest country having a moderate latitude. The need for such innovations was unforeseen in the Qur'an.
The closer we get to the poles, the longer our days or nights become. They can eventually extend for up to several months each, making this verse, the fourth Pillar of Islam, impossible to practice without starving yourself to death. Again, this problem would not exist on a flat earth model.
Even for cities further south like Aberdeen in Scotland, the gap between the night prayer (Isha) and the dawn prayer (Fajr) is around 4 and a half hours in June, so anyone following these rules has to interrupt their sleep around 3.20am, then go back to sleep before getting up for the day. Such issues would not have crossed the mind of a 7th century man in Arabia, who believed that everyone experiences sunrise and sunset when he does, and where it would be perfectly natural to arise at dawn any time of the year.
Qur'an 2:144 - Praying towards the Ka'aba
This verse tells all Muslims to pray towards the Ka'aba (qiblah being the direction that one has to face in order to do this). This is only possible on a flat earth model. Due to the sphericity of the earth, a prayer in any direction will point towards the sky/outer-space, not Mecca.
For people who are praying a great distance from Mecca, their qiblah would be somewhere down towards the ground, and the people who are located on the opposite 'side' of the earth would have to pray vertically downward towards the center of the earth.
So, for example, Muslims in the Solomon Islands in fact blaspheme against Allah, because they defecate toward the direction of the Ka'aba when they answer the call of nature.
Even if we were to use the traditional Muslim method of determining qiblah (i.e. a great circle) this would still be blasphemous because you would be simultaneously praying with your face and backside aimed towards the Ka'aba.
There is also one point on the opposite 'side' of the earth where any direction for all 360 degrees would be facing 'towards' Mecca and consequently, there would be no one direction that would be the correct one.
In addition to all of the direct evidence we have provided, this is just one of the problems which indirectly indicate that the narrator/writer of the Qur'an believed in a flat earth model.
Qur'an 18:47 - Without mountains the Earth will be entirely apparent
Wayawma nusayyiru aljibala watara al-arda barizatan wahasharnahum falam nughadir minhum ahadanAnd (bethink you of) the Day when we remove the hills and ye see the earth emerging, and We gather them together so as to leave not one of them behind.
بَارِزَةً = baarizatan = Wholey, or entirely, apparent or manifest, Land that is open, apparent, or uncovered, upon which is no mountain or any other thing.
Qur'an 20:105-107 Without mountains the Earth will be a level plain
Wayasaloonaka AAani aljibali faqul yansifuha rabbee nasfan Fayatharuha qaAAan safsafan La tara feeha AAiwajan wala amtanThey will ask thee of the mountains (on that day). Say: My Lord will break them into scattered dust. And leave it as an empty plain, Wherein thou seest neither curve nor ruggedness.
The word فَيَذَرُهَا Fayatharuha ('And he will leave it') has the feminine 'ha' suffix, meaning 'it'. It almost certainly refers to the Earth, which is not explicitly mentioned, and is a feminine noun. Similarly the word translated 'Wherein' is فِيهَا feeha (literally 'in it') and has the feminine 'it' suffix too. There are no other singular feminine nouns in these verses, so because we have some additional context to this verse thanks to 18:47, we should conclude that they refer to al-ard (the Earth).
قَاعًا = qaAAan = an even place; plain, or level, land that produces nothing; plain, or soft, land, low, and free from mountains.
صَفْصَفًا = safsafan = a level, or an even, tract of land or ground.
عِوَجًا = AAiwajan = crookedness, a curvity, bending, winding, contortion, wryness, distortion, or uneveness
أَمْتًا = amtan = curvity, crookedness, distortion, or uneveness; ruggedness and smoothness in different places; depression and elevation; small hills and hollows.
AAiwajan and amtan are inconclusive regarding their implications for the shape of the Earth as a whole, but qaAAan safsafan means a level, barren plain.
Qur'an 55:17 - The two easts and two wests
Rabbu almashriqayni warabbu almaghribayni(He is) Lord of the two Easts and Lord of the two Wests
The commentaries (tafsirs) are unanimous that this refers to the two places where the sun rises on the summer and winter solstices (almashriqayni), and where it sets on those solstice days (almaghribayni), which also fits with the literal meanings of mashriq and maghrib. Similarly, verse Quran 70:40 was understood to refer to all the different places where the sun rises and sets between these ranges (almashariqi waalmagharibi). This might seem perfectly fitting for an author who believed in a flat Earth and a sun that moves around the world every day, where these locations are objective facts of cosmography.
The problem is that in reality, the Earth is a spinning sphere, so that even if we consider these locations to be points on the horizon, they are entirely a matter of perspective. Any two viewpoints on Earth will have different points on the horizon where the extremities of rising and setting appear during the year, and if they are at different latitudes, then even the angular range between these perceived extremities is different too. Indeed, the entire Earth is covered with places from which the sun can appear to someone, somewhere, to rise, and similarly, to set.
Qur'an 2:22 - The heavens are a canopy / building
Allathee jaAAala lakumu al-arda firashan waalssamaa binaan waanzala mina alssama-i maan faakhraja bihi mina alththamarati rizqan lakum fala tajAAaloo lillahi andadan waantum taAAlamoonaWho has made the earth your couch, and the heavens your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith Fruits for your sustenance; then set not up rivals unto Allah when ye know (the truth).
The word translated as canopy is binaa or binaan ( بِنَاء ). This word means "building". The heavens are as a multi-story building over the earth. There are seven layers or stories to this building called the heavens. The heavens are built on a "flat" foundation called "the earth". The tafsir of 'ibn Kathir confirms this:
Flat Earth Beliefs of Muhammad and His Followers
If the Quran claimed that the Earth is spherical, Muhammad and his followers, who spoke the Arabic language of that time, including respected interpreters such as Ibn 'Abbas, would have shown some inkling of this knowledge. Instead, hadith narrations record only flat Earth beliefs (see the article Did Muhammad and the Earliest Muslims Know the Earth is Round?). Some even held a belief that the Earth is placed on the back of "the whale".
Qur'an 22:61, 31:29, & 39:5 - night and day merging / overlapping
Thalika bi-anna Allaha yooliju allayla fee alnnahari wayooliju alnnahara fee allayli waanna Allaha sameeAAun baseerunThat is because Allah merges night into day, and He merges day into night, and verily it is Allah Who hears and sees (all things).
Alam tara anna Allaha yooliju allayla fee alnnahari wayooliju alnnahara fee allayli wasakhkhara alshshamsa waalqamara kullun yajree ila ajalin musamman waanna Allaha bima taAAmaloona khabeerunSeest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and he merges Day into Night; that He has subjected the sun, and the moon (to his Law), each running its course for a term appointed; and that Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do?
Khalaqa alssamawati waal-arda bialhaqqi yukawwiru allayla AAala alnnahari wayukawwiru alnnahara AAala allayli wasakhkhara alshshamsa waalqamara kullun yajree li-ajalin musamman ala huwa alAAazeezu alghaffaruHe created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He makes the Night overlap the Day, and the Day overlap the Night: He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His law): Each one follows a course for a time appointed. Is not He the Exalted in Power - He Who forgives again and again?
Muslims sometimes claim "Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes to day and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night."
This claim is false. Consider that everyone who has ever believed in a flat Earth was aware of the gradual transition from night to day. The gradual shift from day to night and vice versa would still happen on a flat earth model. The only difference is that the flat earth model would be lit up at the same time, there would be no timezones just the same night and day for everyone.
A simple experiment can be done to demonstrate the point. All that is needed is a dark room, table and flashlight. If the flashlight is slowed raised above the edge of the table (similar to a sunrise), a gradual shift from darkness to light will be observed. So verses 31:29 and 22:61 give no information about the Earth's shape. They are merely observations that anyone can make.
Looking now at verse 39:5, it is sometimes claimed that the word يُكَوِّرُ yukawwiru (he overlaps / winds around) implies that the Earth is round because this verb كور was used for example, for wrapping a turban around a head. The first problem with this claim is that it is very much compatible with ancient conceptions of a flat Earth with a hemisphere or spherical firmament. Similarly, verses such as Quran 21:33 that mention the sun and moon (as well as the night and the day) each having a falak (rounded course) do not interfere with a flat Earth model.
In addition, these verses, as well as others, erroneously refer to night and day as two active entities. They are in fact simply the times when, for an observer on the surface of the Earth, they are on the sunlit or shadowed side of the planet as it rotates upon its axis. The night does not "overlap" or "wrap" around the day because there is only light, and darkness is nothing but the absence of light. The Qur'an could hardly be more wrong here. A less bad description would be to say that the Earth passes through night and day. Moreover, attempts to interpret 39:5 as the rotation of the Earth require contradictory shifts in the meaning of the words halfway through the sentence, as explained in a more detailed discussion of 39:5 on the page Geocentrism and the Qur'an.
Earth is flat only from our perspective
Nevertheless, Allah has spread out the Earth's surface in relation to us, and He has placed upon it firm mountains, the seas, and life as a mercy for us. For this reason, Allah said: "And (do they not look) at the Earth, how it was spread out flat (sutihat)." [Sûrah al-Ghâshiyah:20]Therefore, the Earth has been made flat for us in regards to our relationship to it to facilitate our lives upon it and our comfort. The fact that it is round does not prevent that its surface has been made flat for us. This is because something that is round and very large, then its surface will become very vast or broad, having a flat appearance to those who are upon it."
Some Islamic websites attribute the above quote to Sheikh Ibn Bâz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who at one time believed the Earth was flat. While some of the verses quoted in this article make reference to humans, most do not. They are describing what Allah supposedly did when creating the entire Earth, not that the Earth seems flat to a human from a small local perspective on its spherical surface (an illusion that would be dispelled for the Arabs in the 8th century as they gained astronomical knowledge). Moreover, some of these verses also mention Allah placing mountains, or the sky as a ceiling or canopy, and therefore such verses must apply to the Earth's shape as a whole. The argument further ignores the very unambiguous choice of word in verse 88:20 quoted above, which also means a flat surface in geometry. Try as they might, apologists cannot give "flat" and "round" the same meaning.
Most importantly, the argument ignores the indirect and further evidence in the Further Proof section above. That section contains the best evidence for a flat Earth cosmography in the Qur'an, stronger even than the verses that directly describe the creation of the Earth.
Shaykh Abdul-Aziz Ibn Baaz, the former supreme religious authority of Saudi Arabia, believed the earth is flat, and so does Muslim Researcher on Astronomy Fadhel Al-Sa'd, who declared in a televised debate aired on Iraqi Al-Fayhaa TV (October 31, 2007) that the Earth is flat as evidenced by Qur'anic verses and that the sun is much smaller than the Earth and revolves around it.
As devout Muslims, they have good reason to conclude the Earth is flat; the Qur'anic verses 15:19, 20:53, 43:10, 50:7, 51:48, 71:19, 78:6, 79:30, 88:20 and 91:6 all clearly state this and not a single verse in the Qur'an hint to a spherical earth.
- Cosmology - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Cosmology
- Did Muhammad and the Earliest Muslims Know the Earth is Round?
- A version of this page is also available in the following languages: French, Czech. For additional languages, see the sidebar on the left.
- Is the Earth Egg-Shaped? - Answering Islam
- The Earth is Flat - Islam Monitor
- A Tribute to a Muslim Genius (Sheik Abdul-Aziz Ibn Baaz) - Islam Watch
- Views of the Earth - World Treasures of the Library of Congress, July 29, 2010
- "Myth of the Flat Earth", Wikipedia, accessed June 12, 2013 (archived), http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Myth_of_the_Flat_Earth&oldid=556807448.
- Globus cruciger - Wikipedia, accessed September 9, 2009
- فِرَٰشًا firashan - Lane's Lexicon page 2371
- مد madda (مدد) - Lane's Lexicon page 2695
- مَهْدً mahdan - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
- مَهْدً mahdan - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
- مد madda (مدد) - Lane's Lexicon page 2695
- فرش farasha - Lane's Lexicon page 2369
- مهد mahada - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
- بِسَاطًا bisaatan - Lane's Lexicon page 204
- مَهْدً mahdan - Lane's Lexicon page 2739
- Islam Awakened - Quran 79:30
- Answering Christianity on dahaha
- Q & A - Zakir Naik - dahaha
- QuranTeachings.co.uk - 79:30
- دحو dahawa - Lane's Lexicon page 857
- سطَح sataha - Lanes Lexicon page 1357
- بَارِزَةً baarizatan - Lane's Lexicon page 187
- قَاعًا qaAAan - Lane's Lexicon page 2994
- صَفْصَفًا safsafan - Lane's Lexicon page 1694
- عِوَجًا AAiwajan - Lane's Lexicon page 2187
- أَمْتًا amtan - Lane's Lexicon page 95
- مَشْرِقُ mashriq - Lane's Lexicon page 1541
- مَغْرِبُ maghrib - Lane's Lexicon page 2241
- بِنَاء binaa - Lane's Lexicon page 261
- Tafsir 'ibn Kathir
- كور kawara - Lane's Lexicon page 2637
- Muslim Edicts Take on New Force - New York Times, February 12, 1995.
- Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ben Baz (1395 AH [1974 AD]), "Evidence that the Earth is Standing Still", Islamic University of Medina, Saudi Arabia. First edition, p. 23.
- Iraqi Researcher Defies Scientific Axioms: The Earth Is Flat and Much Larger than the Sun (Which Is Also Flat) - MEMRI TV, Video No. 1684