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In verse 51:7 the Arabic word l-ḥubuki means physical pathways or roads.
Quran verse 36:40 says that the sun and the moon are in orbit around the Earth, and that it is “not ordained” for the sun to outpace the moon. [Actually, the sun outpaces the moon during the new moon, when the side of the moon facing the earth is not illuminated by the sun.]
Rashad Khalifa’s interpretation of 36:40 is deliberately vague. By not implying that Allah forbids it, Khalifa hid a science error in the Quran.
The Nuri & Hoque footnote to Quran verse 23:17 dishonestly redefined the 7 paths as being not the sun, moon and 5 known planets going around the Earth, but as the orbits around the sun of 7 planets.
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Islamic Golden Age conception of the 7 heavens (at the time of the Quran, the stars were thought to be closer to the Earth than the 7 heavens)
Prior to Islam, “seven heavens” was a concept of ancient Mesopotamian polytheistic religion. In ancient belief the 7 heavens above the Earth are the paths around the Earth of the moon, the sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Some thought these paths were actual physical roadways on spherical transparent shells.
In verse 51:7 the Arabic word l-ḥubuki is translated as “pathways” by the Quran Dictionary. About 80% of Quran translators translate l-ḥubuki as paths, pathways, ways, passageways, tracks or highways
THE SUN AND THE MOON ORBIT THE EARTH
Quran verse 36:40 says that the sun and the moon are in orbit around the Earth, and that it is “not ordained” for the sun to outpace the moon. [Actually, the sun outpaces the moon during the new moon, when the side of the moon facing the earth is not illuminated by the sun. When the overtaking lines up exactly, it is called an eclipse of the sun. The hadiths say the prophet Mohammed was afraid of an eclipse of the sun.]
Rashad Khalifa’s interpretation of 36:40 is that “The sun is never to catch up with the moon” is slightly different from the Saudi-approved Umm Muhammad (Sahih International) translation of “It is not allowable …” and the Google search of “yanbaghī quran corpus dictionary” translation of “[is not] permitted” which both imply that Allah forbids the sun to overtake the moon as it chases the moon across the sky.
Khalifa’s interpretation, by eliminating any wish or command of Allah, allows the interpretation that the sun only appears (to an observer on Earth) to be moving around the Earth, and that actually the Earth rotates.
In other Quran verses where the word “yanbaghī” is used, the word usually means that Allah [or a person] wants someone to do something. Therefore the intended meaning of the verse must be that the Sun is obeying the command of Allah to move across the sky, not Khalifa’s hint that the rotation of the Earth creates the illusion that the sun is moving.
Footnote 35 of http://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/36/index.html
interprets “not overtaking” in 3 ways, stating all 3 are true. His 1st meaning is that the sun’s gravity is not causing the moon to crash into the sun. This is true, but not a topic mentioned in the verse
His 2nd meaning is that the sun will not enter the orbit of the moon around the Earth and collide with the moon. The concept of the sun entering the orbit of the moon around the Earth does not make much sense. The diameter of the sun is more than 3 times the distance from the moon to the Earth.
His 3rd meaning is that “It is not possible” for the sun and the moon to be seen in the sky at the same time.
Actually, at sunrise the entire moon is often visible in the west at the same time as the rising sun.
THE SUN SPINS ON ITS AXIS
It is now known, from observing the motion of sunspots, that the sun spins on its axis.
Quran verse 21:33 states that the sun floats (or swims) in an orbit around the Earth. One Muslim website incorrectly interprets this verse as revealing the scientific fact that the sun spins on its axis.
THE SUN IS SMALLER THAN THE EARTH
On a Muslim television show broadcast from Iraq on October 31 2007, recorded by MEMRI, a Muslim imam explained that the Quran teaches that the sun is smaller than the earth, takes 24 hours to circle the Earth, and that the Earth is flat, not round. He says anyone who disagrees is a heretic. Watch the video at
STELLAR PARALLAX EVIDENCE
The scientific evidence that the Earth travels around the sun is very strong. Not only do the laws of gravity predict it, but it explains why stellar parallax (first confirmed in 1838) occurs.
Stellar parallax predicts that stars which are closer to us than most other stars appear in a slightly different position in the sky (relative to the position of the more distant stars) in different months of the year.
Stellar parallax was thought about by scholars of the Islamic Golden Age.
But they rejected the concept because their astronomers could not detect it. If their assumption were true that the stars were indeed not much further away than Jupiter, their astronomers would have been able to detect it if it existed. Their error was not realizing how very very far away stars are.
Stellar parallax was not mentioned in the Quran, because the Quran teaches that the stars are very near to Earth, not even as far away as the moon.
ALTERNATIVE MEANING OF 7 HEAVENS
The Nuri & Hoque footnote to Quran verse 23:17 redefined the 7 paths as being not the sun, moon and 5 known planets going around the Earth, but as the orbits around the sun of 7 planets. But this does not make sense. Counting both Uranus and Neptune gives a count of at least 8. Counting neither of them gives a count of only 6. Counting the planet that broke apart to form the asteroids but not counting Uranus or Neptune would be far-fetched.
In their footnote to Quran verse 51:7 they claim the verse means there are planets circling other stars.
THE MOON IS AFIRE
Some Muslim websites claim that Quran verse 25:61 says that the moon reflects the light of the sun. The evidence they give is that the sun is described as a “lamp” but the moon is merely described as “munīran” which they inaccurately translate as “shining”.http://www.islamawakened.com/Quran/25/61/w4wcv.html
But if you look up the word “munīran” in an Arabic to English dictionary, “munīran” is the adjective (active participle) form of the noun “nīran”.
This is the equivalent of adding “ing” to a noun or verb in English. For example “jump” becomes “jumping”. The word “nīran” means “a fire”.
Do a Google search of “munīran Quranic corpus” and click on the dictionary link.
A person who speaks Arabic would have no difficulty in understanding the meaning of the word “munīran”.
The problem is that in English you cannot in this context simply add “ing” to transform the noun “fire” into an adjective “firing”. This makes it difficult to translate “munīran” into English.
A more accurate translation of “munīran” would be “blazing”, “ablaze”, “afire” or “on fire”.
Image by unknown painter from Kashmir, via Wikimedia Commons
image credit https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mohammed%C2%B4s_Paradise.jpg#mw-jump-to-license