Refutation of an Apology for a Cosmological Claim in the Qur’an

I was challenged by a correspondent, “Does this website make any sense to you?” I interpret her question to be about the webpage, authored by Mohammad Awais Tahir, not the whole website.

I began to reply in the same medium, but decided to post it originally here, instead, since I can incorporate links to references more easily.

The webpage DOES makes sense, but it does not seem to me to support its thesis.

In the first paragraph, it begins to set the stage for the argument by trying to imply that it shall contradict the assertion that the Qur’an says that the Earth was created before the “heavens”. However, what that paragraph actually implies is that the Earth and the “heavens” were created at the same time.

Equating the “heavens” with the Universe, I note that findings in Cosmology indicate that the Earth formed about 10,000,000,000 years after the Expansion Event (“Big Bang”). So, the implication above is false, while if the argument against which this is a defense has a correct conclusion, the Qur’an has it exactly backwards, in order.

The stage is further set with an erroneous description of the state of the science in Cosmology. What the evidence indicates that the Expansion was from a region, not from a point. To extrapolate it back to a point seems unwarranted, and is a variety of over-generalization. Also, whether the Expansion implies that everything was “created” from “nothing” is speculation, not established as fact. A true fact is, though, that we have absolutely no evidence that “nothing” exists or has ever existed.

The main point in the argument is that there is a mistranslation of the Arabic word ثُمّ

At the risk of committing an Ad Hominem attack, I note that the author of the apology refers to one verse by the transliterated word ‘ayat’, which is the plural of ‘ayah’, which means ‘verse’. Since this is about one verse, the author errs in the use of the plural. This does not falsify his main thesis, but brings doubt in his competence in judging translations.

Before his first paragraph, he had quoted three translations, one of which clearly indicates an order of “creation”, while it is not so clear in the other two. The other two, however, do not indicate simultaneity, either. He left out that of the Sahih International translation, “It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, [His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things.”, which indicates cherry-picking.

The author then gives a few English words into which, transliterated, ‘tumma’ is translated, but he leaves out more than are offered elsewhere: “thereupon subsequently afterwards furthermore moreover next then” -cherry-picking, again?- and claims that only one of these is appropriate.

However, even if his choice, ‘moreover’ is correct, that still insinuates that the “creation” of the “heavens” was additional, if not after, that of the Earth. The priority of the Earth in this ayah, even if not chronologically, betrays a geocentric view. He then quotes an analysis, a ‘tafseer’, that deceptively switches the order, putting the priority on the “heavens”.

After his failed refutation of the interpretation he doesn’t like, he continues, building a counter-argument that also fails. I’m needing to attend to other matters, so I’ll come back to this later, or tomorrow, to refute his counter-argument.

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