Sunset, sunrise & the muddy pool

When Dhul-Qarnayn (alternate spelling: Zulkarnain) traveled as described in the Quran, he found sun setting in a muddy pool and rising on a people. Read different translations of chapter 18 verse 86 to 90. Also read word by word translation of these four verses.
Yusuf Ali's translation: Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People. (18:86)

Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had provided no covering protection against the sun (18:90)

There is a Hadith also in Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 025, Hadith Number 3991:
Narated By Abu Dharr: I was sitting behind the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) who was riding a donkey while the sun was setting. He asked: Do you know where it sets? I replied: Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: It sets in a spring of warm water (hamiyah).

Also read sahih (authentic) Muslim, Hadith number 297-99 where muhammad says sun has a rising place, a setting place and a resting place.

Muslims, in order to show there is nothing wrong in the verse 86 or 90, will use the tafsir (exegesis) of scholars like Ar-Razi, al-Baidawi, al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, al-Jalalyn etc. But it is a fact that they lived 5/6/7 century after Muhammad. Thus they lived at a time when muslims actually knew something about the comparative sizes of the sun and the earth. The Qur'an states (quite clearly) that Dhul-Qarnain reached the place where the sun sets, and that when he got there, he found the sun setting in a murky pool. The Quran claims to be perfectly clear, so any reinterpretation is cut off from the start. As if this weren't enough, we have a Sahih narration in Sunan Abu Dawud, according to which Muhammad told one of his companions that the sun does indeed set in a pool of water.

Several centuries go by, and as muslims conquer lands and ponder on basic astronomy, they start learning about the universe from the works of actual scientists. By the time of ar-Razi, al- Baidawi, al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, ibn Jalalayn...muslims (like everyone else on the planet) are well aware of the fact that the sun is quite massive compared to the earth. Thus, Muslim scholars were forced to reinterpret the Quran in light of actual scientific knowledge.

Since these scholars interpret the Quran in a manner far more consistent with a scientific understanding of the world, muslims ignore what the Quran actually says (along with its claims of perfect clarity), and they ignore Muhammad's silly views of where the sun sets. That is, muslims throw out both the Quran and the Hadith. Instead, muslims cling to the reinterpretations of late Muslim commentators who based their understanding of the universe on actual science rather than on the Quran and declare that, there's no scientific error in Surah 18:86.

Muslims from half a millennium after Muhammad reinterpret the passage because they know that, taken at face value, Surah 18:86 is obviously false. Science forced them to abandon the perfect clarity of the Quran. Science forced them to throw out a Sahih narration from the Hadith. Science forced them to commit innovation. (Science also forcing them to abandon these classical commentaries too!!)  Therefore, there's no error in the Quran. This is how "Quranic error management procedure" is performed by muslims to avoid the obvious problems in their book.

When we turn to a much earlier commentary, for example, the commentary of Muhammad's companion Ibn Abbas:
(Till, when he reached the setting place of the sun) where the sun sets, (he found it setting in a muddy spring) a blackened, muddy and stinking spring; it is also said that this means: a hot spring, (and found a people thereabout) these people were disbelievers...

Ever notice that, the closer we get to Muhammad, the less reinterpretation we find? Is this a coincidence? Not at all. Muhammad and his companions believed that the sun sets in a pool. Much later, Muslims realized that this is false, so they were forced to reinterpret the Quran's clear narrative and Voila! the Quran is so amazingly always accurate!

For an in-dept analysis, read:
  1. Dhul Qarnayn and the sun controversy in the Quran 
  2. Muhammad and the Sun’s Setting Place
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6 Responses to this post

    Anonymous said...

    I left islam when I was 40 yrs old . Only when I decied to interept the quran to its actual meaning specially early sources I found that we have been brainwashed ,its only take me 24 hrs to abandon relegions and pradaise that we been dreaming off for 40 yers, but I feel much better now

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the article it will be very helpful for a coming debate.
    - Opus Obscure

    Anonymous said...

    Good, succinct article. The links at the bottom have excellent and rare details.

    Anonymous said...

    Oh you people with seals on your hearts, especially the apostate who commented confirming his shameful act in this thread, read the holy Qur'an and ponder on its timeless beauty, revealed to our beloved Prophet (pbuh) who was illiterate btw! Open your hearts and free yourselves from your ignorance and your depressing wandering in falsehood - deep down when you are alone you know your soul yearns for the truth and is unhappy in its present state. The answer to your question, a question which is twisted through Satan's mischief, is as follows: Some Christian missionaries claim that the Quran teaches Muslims that the sun sets in a murky pool. I wonder how people who don't even understand the arabic language and its rules come up with such conclusions, even the earliest muslims did not come up with such conclusions.

    18:86. Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near ithefound a People: We said: "O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority,) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness."

    A common Christian objection to the verse is by claiming it to be a “scientific contradiction”,they reason: If the presence of scientific facts can prove the Qur’an’s divine origins, the presence of scientific falsehood can disprove divine origins. For example, Sura’ 18:86 :

    This is a false claim, the Quran does not teach such inaccuracy.

    Critics of this verse should be aware that the Qur’an is not descriptive prose, and the words of the Qur’an is of high poetical eloquence, something which the Bible is not able to claim. Since the beauty of the Qur’an is in its poetical nature, therefore it is only natural that the Qur’an uses emphatic expressions to describe something like a “sunset”. Keep in mind that the Qur’an is in poetical prose and is meant to be a challenge to the pagan Arabs in Mecca who prided themselvesaswriters of good poetry. Those neophytes who like to use this verse as a stick to beat Islam with should try to study the Arabian Literature and History of that period before coming up with silly conclusions.

    “Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: “O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness.”

    This English translation was taken from A. Yusuf Ali. Let us analyse the verse part by part.

    “Until, when he reached the setting of the sun…”: The translation of this part of the verse does not say that Zul-Qarnain reached the place where the sun sets LITERALLY, rather it means here that Zul-Qarnain was facing the direction in which the sun is setting. The “setting of the sun,” is an Arabic idiom meaning ‘the western-most point’ of his expedition. However, in general, idioms should not be literally translated.

    “…he found it set in a spring of murky water”: The Qur’an is obviously describing what Dhul-Qarnain saw. What Dhul-Qarnain saw was the image of the sun setting in a dark body of water. Since the Qur’an is clearly describing this from Dhul-Qarnain’sdirect point of view (the Qur’an is quite explicit here in doing that), there is in fact no problem with the description of what Dhul-Qarnain saw. Of course the Critic is right when he says that “the sun does not set in a spring of murky water”, but try standing at a beach during the time when the sun is about to set and the Critic would be able to see the sun “entering” the sea far in the horizon. This therefore gives us the conclusion that Dhul-Qarnain was somewhere west and by a large body of water, possibly the sea.

    Thus, it is clear to us that the above-mentioned verse is only considered “unscientific” if we would also consider that similar emphatically-used phrases suchas“Japan, the land of the rising sun” or “Sabah, the land beneath the wind” to be “u

    Refat Ferdous said...

    Why people called zulkernain a person with two horns.

    Refat Ferdous said...

    Why people called zulkernain a person with two horns.

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