Further debate on the number of days in creation:

A Muslim Response by Randy Desmond

I had talked with a scholar of the Qur'an about this who is also native speaker of Arabic. The fact is that "thumma" can mean "furthermore." (I had mistakenly heard the scholar as saying "therefore" and had posted a response based on that mistranslation which Jochen showed did not make sense with respect to Surah 2:29. I checked back and I was at fault. I have since been corrected on that point, and I apologize for any confusion caused. Needless to say, I am also embarrassed) Looking back at the original verses at the top of the page, we see Jochen has it translated as "Moreover". So Jochen actually had the right translation all along.

As for the comment by Jochen

Furthermore, there is yet to be found a verse in the Qur'an where "thumma" does signify a "parallelism" and not a "sequence".

If we look at Surah 102. You will notice "thumma" is used twice (verses 3 and 4, and verses 6 and 7). In Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation it is translated as "again", and it signifies a parallelism (in fact the same things).

Thus, knowing that in the Qur'an the number of days of creation is six in all other places, we can know what meaning to apply to "thumma." And if we care to take notice, we will find that the heavens and the earth were also created concurrently...

Surah 21:30

"Have not the disbelievers seen that the heavens and the earth were one piece and We parted them? And we made every living thing from water. Will they not then believe?"

Jochen mentions this alternate meaning of "thumma" ("furthermore/moreover") and rules it out by saying that God _then_ turned to the heavens. The implication being that turning is a sequential act. The problem is that only the "then" meaning of "thumma" would indicate a sequential time domain dependency. The result is we know "He turned" but we don't know when. "He turned" is one word in Arabic and does not imply any sort of sequential activity. It only denotes an activity that happened in the past.

Now, going on to verse 11 of surah 41, if you have the Arabic along side the English, you will see the first word has a round letter with a dot above it and a slash above that. That prefix is what has been translated as "so" at the top of this web page. The meaning of that prefix is that what comes next is a conclusion based on what has already been given - like the English word "so". This "so" in no way implies a time dependency like a time dependent "then". Now please notice that the Qur'an is concluding, "So He completed them as seven firmaments in two days".

Taking all the verses which talk about the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, it becomes obvious which meaning of "thumma" fits the data best. Therefore, any claim that a contradiction exists is purely speculative at best and ignores all the data.

As for conflicting with scientific theories, when we don't ignore other verses in the Qur'an regarding the subject matter the "contradiction" dissolves and the meaning can fit with scientific theories of astronomy.

Okay, the "embarrassing version" is removed. And my comment on it as well. But I have to point out that I am not ignoring all the data. On the basis of what did I do my exposition? It wasn't Shakespeare's Hamlet. I have looked in quite some detail at several Qur'an passages.

I know that Muslims have to come up with some response to this. I feel it is pretty weak. If normal language has any definite meaning then my interpretation is rather straight forward. Does Arabic not have words to express something like "at the same time"? The above harmonization is extremely forced. Does he really want to read Sura 2:29 as

He it is Who hath created for you all that is on earth.
Moreover (and at the same time as creating the earth and everything on it) He turned to the heaven, and made them into seven heavens.

You decide for yourself whether turning to together with then or with moreover makes a better translation. Both in Surah 41 and here the natural interpretation seems to be the one I presented. Harmonization with the "six day creation verses" does force this artificial construction. It is an ad hoc argument and not convincing in my eyes. If the creation of the heavens is indeed supposedly concurrent then the verb "turning to" is an extremly odd choice of words.

Maybe I am willing to trade this contradiction for the admission that the Qur'an is indeed very unclear and quite hard to understand ... contradicting the statement that it is in clear Arabic.

But I am not the only one. The following online Muslim website, which is devoted to answering questions on Islam, argues along the same lines of Y. Ali:

This is a misunderstanding, and the answer to it is as follows:

There is no contradiction between the time period mentioned in these verses and the other verse which says that it was six days.

In these verses – from Soorah Fussilat – we see that Allaah is telling us that He “created the earth in two Days”.

Then He “placed therein (i.e. the earth) firm mountains from above it, and He blessed it, and measured therein its sustenance (for its dwellers)” in four days equal– i.e., in two days that were added to the two days in which He created the earth, so the total is four days. It does not say that the creation of the mountains and the measuring of the sustenance took four days.

Perhaps the confusion which is mentioned in the question stems from this, i.e., from thinking that the four days are added to the two days in which the earth was created, equaling six, and then adding the two days in which the heavens were created (“Then He completed and finished from their creation (as) seven heavens in two Days”) – making a total of eight days, not six days. But this confusion can be dispelled by dealing with this mistaken notion. So the earth was created in two days, and the mountains were created and the sustenance measured in two more days which makes a total of four, i.e., this took the other two days. Then the creation of the seven heavens took two days. So the total is six days of the Days of Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted.

The mufassireen commented on this fact which deals with the mistaken notion. Al-Qurtubi said:

in four days” – this is like someone saying, “I set out from Basra to Baghdad in ten days and to Kufa in fifteen days, i.e., a total time of fifteen days.” (al-Jaami’ li Ahkaam al-Qur’aan, vol. 15, p. 343).

Al-Baghawi said: “in four days” means the creation of what is in the earth. The measuring of the sustenance was on Tuesday and Wednesday, which along with Sunday and Monday add up to four days. This is like saying “I married a woman yesterday and today I married two” – one of whom is the woman whom he married the day before.

Tafseer al-Baghawi, 7/165

Al-Zajjaaj said: “in four days” means two days added to the previous two days.

Al-Kashshaaf, vol. 3, p. 444

These verses – from Soorah Fussilat – confirm the other verse, which says that the creation of the heavens and the earth was completed in six days. So there is no contradiction concerning the period in which Allaah created the heavens and the earth. There cannot be any such contradictions in the Qur’aan..

And Allaah knows best.

Islam Q&A (www.islam-qa.com)

(Question #31865: Were the heavens and the earth created in six days or eight?)

Thus, this Muslim site argues that the four days of v. 10 include the first two days of v. 9, and that the heavens were created after the earth and its provisions. The above website understands thumma to be sequential in nature, which contradicts modern scientific theories on the origin of the universe.

In regard to the remark on Surah 102: We find there a repetition of the same statement several times, making it again and again, and that means it is said several times one after the other. It is the sequence of utterance. The event refered to is one and the same, that is true, but the "thumma" is justified nevertheless because it structures a sequence. And it still is nowhere used in connection to several parallel events. Here it is only one event, refered to in a sequence of repetitions, one coming after the other.

Arabic dictionary entry on thumma.

In regard to "parting the earth and the heavens" as proof for the concurrent creation, that is argument from silence. is "parting" the same as creating, forming and filling? It doesn't seem so. In Sura 41 again, as discussed above, there is first the creation of the earth and subsequently the filling of the earth as seen in 41:9 and 10. So maybe Allah first "parted" them, then did all his forming and filling work on the earth, and then does do the details of forming and filling on the heavens. But this is not indicated anywhere to be concurrent. How long does "parting" take? And still you have not explained why all the major commentators include the first two days with the next four, and not as you do the first two concurrent with the last two. Were they all not able to understand the Arabic properly? Did they maybe indeed read thumma to mean "then" and this was not an option for them?

Actually it is seemingly getting worse all the time. Thanks for pointing out this verse. I hadn't seen that before. Look again at these two verses 41:11 & 21:30 and see how a new contradiction arises before our very eyes.

Another response was: "God created the universe in 6 days & the next 2 days were for final touches."

Several articles in response were produced by Moiz Amjad [*, *, ...].
In separate articles we answer to responses given by

Contradictions in the Qur'an
Answering Islam Home Page