Chapter 9 : What Holds up the Sky?
First, Shabir begins with the assumption that the Quran communicates the scientific realization that there are gravitational forces at work in preventing the heavenly bodies from colliding. It is therefore not surprising that Shabir ends up finding what he has already assumed must exist. This entails that Shabir must engage in circular reasoning and begs the question by assuming what he has yet to prove.
Second, as we shall shortly see the Quran assumes that heaven is actually a dome surface hovering over the earth. We will also document that some Muslim scholars clearly believed that the heavens have invisible pillars supporting them. The amazing thing about this is that these Muslims scholars used the very same verses alluded above by Shabir to prove their point!
If the author of the Qur'an was a human being, it would have been very easy for the author to copy the answer to this question from the Bible. But today no one will believe that answer.
Actually, what is unbelievable is Shabir's gross misrepresentation of Biblical cosmology. Hence, the problem is not with the Holy Bible but rather with Ally's distortion of the Biblical text.
In the New American Bible, a picture is drawn to show how the authors of the Bible imagined the world to look like. In that picture, the sky "resembles an overturned bowl and is supported by columns" (The New American Bible, St. Joseph's Medium Size Edition, pp. 4-5). The earth in that picture is flat, and is also supported by pillars. After describing the picture at length, the editors of that Bible conclude by calling that idea of the world a "prescientific concept of the universe."
The only thing Shabir has demonstrated is the gross misrepresentation of the Holy Bible by some translators of the New American Bible.
The fact is that the Holy Bible does not teach that the heavens above are a metal dome since it clearly states that there is a plurality of heavens:
But, is it true? -- God dwelleth on the earth! lo, the heavens, and the heavens of the heavens do not contain Thee, how much less this house which I have builded! 1 Kings 8:27; YLT
Both Moses and Solomon affirm that the vastness of the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain the presence of God who created them. This is also pointed out in Jewish writings that posit seven heavens destroying the myth that the Jewish worldview based on scripture was that the universe was a three storied physical structure. Certainly these writers had no concept of heaven being a metallic dome above the earth.
The apostle Paul clearly indicates that there are at least three heavens and that the third heaven is the spiritual abode of God. Presumably, the first would be the sky with the second being the universe above.
Second, the Holy Bible elsewhere indicates that the heavens are suspended over nothing:
Dr. Henry Morris comments:
Third, the Holy Bible also teaches that the earth is round not flat:
Dr. Morris notes:
"as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12
Dr. Morris claims:
"The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow." Ecclesiastes 1:6-7
Dr. Morris indicates:
Dr. Morris also comments on the statement in verse 7 on streams running into the sea:
Thick clouds [are] a secret place to Him, And He doth not see; And the circle (khug) of the heavens He walketh habitually, Job 22:14 YLT
"He has described a circle (Hebrew- khug) on the face of the waters, at the boundary between light and darkness." Job 26:10
"When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle (khug) on the face of the deep." Proverbs 8:27
"It is he who sits above the circle (khug) of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in." Isaiah 40:22
Again, Dr. Morris' comments on these last three passages:
Wesley's Commentary states:
Fourth, scientists tell us that the universe is expanding. The Holy Bible alludes to this expansion:
"Who cover yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain." Psalm 104:2 NKJV
"It is he who sits upon the circle above the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in." Isaiah 40:22 NKJV
Although the Holy Bible does not specifically convey these scientific connotations in modern scientific jargon, employing instead non-technical terms, it is rather interesting to examine the idea of a tent and its connection to the way the universe operates. For example, just as a tent must be spread open in order for it to be used, so scientists explain that the universe had to expand in order to produce the necessary life-permitting elements that would enable humans to live upon the earth. Furthermore, just as an old fashioned tent is erected by leaning upon a center mast, science tells us that the entire universe revolves around an axis.
So much for Shabir's arguments on the Bible's supposed unscientific views of the universe.
Finally, Shabir commits the logical fallacy of appealing to authority since he assumes that by appealing to an official Catholic Bible this somehow proves his point. Shabir needs to provide evidence to support the claims made by the authority cited. Neither Shabir nor his sources provide any facts to support the assertions made by Shabir.
At the time when the Qur'an was being revealed, anyone could have easily believed this description which was already found in the Bible. It is only in modern times that people would know better. How did the author of the Qur'an avoid this mistake?
Actually, had Muhammad studied the Holy Bible he would have had less conflict with scientific fact and would have avoided the gross scientific mistakes contained within the Quran.
God says in the Qur'an that He created the heavens "without any pillars that you can see" (Qur'an 31:10).
Correction. Shabir thinks it is God speaking in the Quran. Yet, the evidence will show that God is not the author of the Quran, at least not the true God anyway.
Again, the Qur'an says:
"God is the One Who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see" (Qur'an 13:2).
Dr. Maurice Bucaille comments:
"These two verses refute the belief that he vault of the heavens was held up by pillars, the only things preventing the former from crushing the earth" (The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, p.154).
To be able to avoid that prescientific error, the author of the Qur'an must have been either a modern scientist, or God Himself.
Neither Shabir nor Bucaille have read the Quran carefully since the Quran is not denying that the heavens have pillars. Rather, the Quran denies that the heavens have ANY VISIBLE PILLARS, implying that the pillars of heaven are invisible to the human eye. Note the different ways S. 13:2 and 31:10 are translated:
Allah it is Who raised up the heavens without VISIBLE SUPPORTS... Pickthall
Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that YE CAN SEE... Y. Ali
Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars THAT YOU CAN SEE... Shakir
Allâh is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars THAT YOU CAN SEE... Al-Hilali & Khan
God is the One Who raised the heavens without a pillar AS YOU CAN SEE... Sarwar
It was God who raised the heavens WITHOUT VISIBLE PILLARS... N.J. Dawood
It is God who hath reared the Heavens without pillars THOU CANST BEHOLD... J.M Rodwell
God is the One Who has raised up the Heavens without any support YOU CAN SEE... T.B. Irving
God is He who raised up the heavens without pillars YOU CAN SEE... A.J. Arberry
He has created the heavens without supports THAT YOU CAN... Pickthall
He created the heavens without any pillars THAT YE CAN SEE... A. Y. Ali
He created the heavens without pillars AS YOU SEE THEM... Shakir
He has created the heavens without any pillars, THAT YOU... Al-Hilali & Khan
He created the heavens without pillars THAT YOU CAN SEE... Rashad Khalifah
He created the heavens without pillars THAT YOU SEE... Muhammad Ali
He created the heavens without pillars THAT YE CAN SEE... E.H. Palmer
He raised the heavens WITHOUT VISIBLE PILLARS... N.J. Dawood
He has created the heavens WITHOUT ANY VISIBLE SUPPORT... T.B. Irving
He created the heavens without pillars YOU CAN SEE... A.J. Arberry
In light of the preceding translations, we are left with the conclusion that the heavens do in fact have pillars but that these supports are invisible. Interestingly, Ibn Kathir's commentary on Surah 13:2 highlights the point that some Muslims interpreted 13:2 as implying that the heavens do have pillars. Yet, these pillars are not visible:
meaning, 'there are pillars, but you cannot see them,' according to Ibn 'Abbas, Mujahid, Al-Hassan, Qatadah, and several other scholars. Iyas bin Mua'wiyah said, "The heaven is like a dome over the earth," meaning without pillars. Similar was reported from Qatadah, and this meaning is better for this part of the Ayah, especially since Allah said in another Ayah,
<He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth except by His permission.> [22:65]
Therefore, Allah's statement,
<..that you can see>, affirms that there are no pillars. Rather, the heaven is elevated (above the earth) without pillars, as you see. This meaning best affirms Allah's ability and power. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir-Abridged Volume 5 Surah Hud to Surat Al-Isra', Verse 38, Abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore July 2000], pp. 232-233)
Seeing that the early Muslims were in dispute over the exact meaning of Surah 13:2, and seeing that Ibn Abbas believed that this passage did refer to invisible pillars, both Bucaille's and Shabir's attempt of demonstrating scientific compatibility crumbles from underneath their feet.
Furthermore, Ibn Kathir likens the heavens to a dome surface above the earth. Commenting on S. 21:32, Kathir states:
means, covering the earth like a dome above it. This is like the Ayah,
<With Hands We constructed the heaven. Verily, We are able to extend the vastness of space thereof.> [51:47]
<By the heaven and Him Who built it.> [91:5]
The building and making described here refers to the raising of the dome, as when the Messenger of Allah said,
<Islam is built on five.>
i.e., five pillars, which can only refer to a tent as familiar among Arabs. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Volume 6, p. 443; bold emphasis ours)
The following Quranic verse also points to the sky as an actual physical dome covering the earth:
Ibn Kathir comments:
If He willed, He could give the sky permission to fall on the earth, and whoever is in it would killed, but by His kindness, mercy, power, He withholds the heaven from falling on earth, except by His leave..." (Ibid., p. 611; bold emphasis ours)
Therefore, we discover that the claim that the Holy Bible teaches that the earth is a flat surface with the skies serving as an overturned bowl surrounded by columns is actually the Quranic view of cosmology!
Two conclusions can be drawn from these statements. First, the sky must be a solid surface, otherwise it couldn't kill anyone when falling down nor would it be able to fall at all. Furthermore, the only way for the heavens to cover the earth like a dome and for Allah to prevent them from crashing upon the earth is if in fact the earth is flat!
Finally, these statements regarding the heavens having no visible supports was known even before Muhammad's time. Zaid ibn Amr ibn Nufail, one of the persons who had abandoned the paganism of Arabia for the belief in one God, composed a poem in which he said:
... Thou of thy goodness and mercy
Didst send a messenger to Moses as a herald.
Thou saidst to him, Go thou and Aaron,
And summon Pharaoh the tyrant to turn to God
And say to him, 'Did you spread out this (earth) without a support,
Until it stood fast as it does?'
Say to him 'Did you raise this (heaven) WITHOUT SUPPORT?
What a fine builder than you were!'
... (Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, being a translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasulullah [Oxford University Press, Karachi, tenth impression 1995], p. 101; capital emphasis ours)
It is rather intriguing that Zaid used more precise scientific language than did the author of the Quran. His poem clearly shows that he believed that the heavens have no invisible pillars preventing them from falling, unlike the Quranic verses which only deny that the heavens have visible pillars!
In the service of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
Responses to Shabir Ally and his "Islamic Information"
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