The Qur’an and the Setting of the Sun in a Murky Spring

“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! ,either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness” (Qur’an 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.” (Qur’an 18:90)

I believe these are the translations most favoured by atheist and skeptics.  There are no parenthesis around any of the text in English.  

For example: he found it [as if] setting in a dark (Safi Kasas translation)

or

he found it [seemed to be] setting into a muddy spring (Abdel Haleem)

Source is: https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/18/86/

So I want to do away with any translation that has parenthesis. As if the authors are aware of the problem of the apparent reading of the English translation.  However, I do want to bring another text into the discussion. I will use Arberry, a non Muslim Christian translation of the Qur’an.  I will use this translation because it bolsters the resolve of the skeptic and the atheist.  Yet, we will see why insh’Allah

“And the sun — it runs to a fixed resting-place; that is the ordaining of the All-mighty, the All-knowing.” (Qur’an 36:38)

What I have noticed is that Christians and Jews do not use these type of arguments as they once did to attack the veracity of the Qur’an.

Why Christians and Jews do not use these type of arguments against the Qur’an anymore.

Why is that?

“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.  So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!” (Joshua 10:12-14)

“And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.” (Revelation 8:10)

Does everyone realize that the smallest star discovered so far is the size of Saturn. I hope people realize that you cannot actually hurl a star down to Earth the size of Saturn because that would do more than fall upon a third of the rivers!  

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2017/07/11/smallest-star-universe-has-been-discovered/469773001/

There simply would be no earth left!

What about this scientific blunder and simply fallacious statement.

“Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9)

Let’s give some context shall we?

“He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.” (Ezekiel 47:8)

Can it be said that the Dead Sea is freshwater?  Does salt water become freshwater?

“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches”  Matthew 13:31-32)

This is not to be condescending and I do apologize if it comes across as such. However, if you were to talk to the average everyday speaker of the English language, and even those of you who speak it as a second or third language would you know the following if someone stopped and asked you?

Give me an example of the predicate of the sentence.  Give me an example of a lowercase nominative. Even some people would need to pause and think what a helping verb is! Many people are simply not grounded in the grammar of their own language.

The Qur’an uses metaphor.  Example:

“Then your hearts became hardened after that, being like stones or even harder. For indeed, there are stones from which rivers burst forth, and there are some of them that split open and water comes out, and there are some of them that fall down for fear of Allah. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.” (Qur’an 2:74)

I am surprised the atheists and the skeptics have not asked us Muslims for examples of a stone that you can split open and water would come forth. Or anywhere on the Earth where we can find water gushing forth from stones!

The Qur’an uses idioms. Example:

And who say, “Our Lord, bestow upon us from our spouses and offspring that will be the comfort of the eyes, (Literally: the coolness (when) the eyes settle down) and make us an imam (leader) of the pious.” (Qur’an 25:74)

Now the view common to people in the time in which the Qur’an was revealed would be:

  1. That the world/earth is flat.
  2. That the Sun revolves around the earth.

Here is a question you never see Muslim’s involved in daw’ah, apologetics or polemic ask these skeptics and atheist.   Using the Arabic language of the 7th century how would you construct the sentences of Qur’an in 18:86 and 18:90 that would be palatable to 21st century understanding?  

For example, if the Qur’an would have used a different way of describing events we would have been described as flat earthers!

On the flat earth wiki the question is asked:

How do you explain day/night cycles and seasons?

“The sun moves in circles around the North Pole. When it is over your head, it’s day. When it’s not, it’s night. The light of the sun is confined to a limited area, and its light acts like a spotlight upon the Earth.”

Source: (https://wiki.tfes.org/Flat_Earth_-_Frequently_Asked_Questions)

Now let us look at the two passages in question again:

“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! ,either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness” (Qur’an 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.” (Qur’an 18:90)

The English translated text “he found it” in Arabic wajadaha.

“And establish prayer and give zakah, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. Indeed, Allah of what you do, is Seeing.” (Qur’an 2:11)

‘will find it’ in Arabic is tajiduhu

No one among the Muslims believes that a person is going to find their prayers, or purification of wealth, and good actions in a pile some where with Allah (swt).   It is perceived, as the verse itself says, that Allah (swt) is acquainted with what we do. Our intention behind every action, everything.  Now you have to wonder what Zul-qarnain actually found, given his own empirical data about the sun.

  1. The sun is more hot than other days.  Even look at this sentence I used in English, It is problematic. it is not that the sun may necessarily be hotter than other days, it is that the proximity of the sun is closer to the earth during certain times of the year.
  2. The sun appears brighter on some days more than others.
  3. The sun obviously does not literally set in a murky spring because it’s light is not doused or put out. If the Qur’an was describing something literal you would think that the sun being dipped in a murky spring would produce some type of note worthy phenomena.

Let us look at some other verses in this conversation.  Qur’an 21:33. I will use three orientalist/Christian translations; not necessarily Islam friendly.

“It is He who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon, each swimming in a sky.” Arthur John Arberry

“It is He who hath created the night, and the day, and the sun, and the moon; all the celestial bodies move swiftly, each in its respective orb.” -George Sale  (all celestial bodies) is not in the Arabic text.

“And He it is who hath created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, each moving swiftly in its sphere.” -John Medows Rodwell

Now those are the type of text that flat earthers would just love to use. Do note that one thing that is clear about the three above translations taken together is that the moon and the sun “do something” in their own respective sphere/lane.  

Now why I say “do something” is that the Arabic that is used is the same word for ships. So a ship can float and seem stationary and yet a ship can be moving at the same time. A force can move a ship.

Let’s look at another verse: Qur’an 36:40

“It behoves not the sun to overtake the moon, neither does the night outstrip the day, each swimming in a sky.” Arthur John Arberry

“It is not expedient that the sun should overtake the moon in her course; neither doth the night outstrip the day: But each of these luminaries moveth in a peculiar orbit.” George Sale

“To the Sun it is not given to overtake the Moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day; but each in its own sphere doth journey on.” John Medows Rodwell.

The empirical data that people see and observe is that the sun does indeed over take the moon. The empirical data that people see and observe is that the night does outstrip the day. Yet, Allah (swt) described natural phenomena couched in a language that contradicts the idea that the earth is flat. (sunset/sunrise).

All the text taken in their literal apparent sense state that:

The Sun sets, the Sun rises.  This does not happen in a flat earth.

The Sun and the Moon float/move in their own respective sphere, orb. Something that apparent empirical data does not suggest.  (different spheres of influence).

The Sun does not over take the moon (as if they were in the same lane-line) something that apparent, empirical data suggest. (your turn/my turn).

Now one more verse that clearly shows that the sun setting in a murky spring is in accord with the empirical observable data that human beings see and witness.  This verse, subhan’Allah, has something very interesting to say.

“And the sun — it runs to a fixed resting-place; that is the ordaining of the All-mighty, the All-knowing.” (Qur’an 36:4) Arberry translation.

Interestingly the words used in Qur’an 18:86 is taghrubu (setting) maghriba (The setting of the sun) are both used to denote the west.  Out of our five daily prayers, the fourth prayer is called the ‘maghrib’ prayer.  North Africa is known as the ‘maghreb’ -a western most place or place where the sun sets.

Where as in Qur’an 36:4 this verse says nothing about setting in a murky spring.  The Arabic here is ‘limus’taqarrin‘.  The verse is describing the ultimate end of the sun. The choice of ‘limus’taqarrin’ is mind blowing.  After reflecting on this I had to stop typing and do sujudd and thank Allah (swt) that I am a Muslim! Al hamdulillah!

What is the general root meaning?

https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/Quran-roots/Eng/Qaf-Ra-Ra-1173.html

To be or become cool, remain quiet, be steadfast, be firm, refresh, be stable, be firm, receive satisfy, affirm, agree, settle, last. qarar – stability, a fixed or secure place, depository, place ahead. qurratun – coolness, delight. aqarra (vb. 4) – to confirm, cause to rest or remain. istaqarra (vb. 10) – to remain firm. mustaqirrun – that which remains firmly fixed or confirmed, in hiding, is lasting, which certainly comes to pass, which is settled in its being/goal/purpose. mustaqar – firmly fixed/established, sojourn, abode. qurratun – coolness, refreshment, source of joy and comfort. qawarir (pl. of qaruratun) – glasses, crystals.

https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/roots/Qaf-Ra-Ra.html

“To be or become cool, remain quiet, be steadfast, be firm, refresh, be stable, be firm, receive satisfy, affirm, agree, settle, last. qawarir-glasses, crystals

which is settled in its being/goal/purpose.”  Which is also interesting because the Arabic that is used indicates a stage that has been fulfilled but not that it does not have any more purpose of use. One purpose has been served and purpose a new purpose awaits. 

 “Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts? (Qur’an 47:24)

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