Location of the Moon & the Stars

Introducing one his writings[1], Mr. Katz says:

The Qur'an teaches that there are seven heavens one above the other [67:3, 71:15], and that the stars are in the lower heaven [67:5, 37:6, 41:12], but the moon is depicted as being in/inside the seven heavens [71:16], even though in reality the stars are much further away from the earth than the moon.

I really do not think much needs to be said about this objection raised by Mr. Katz. It is quite clear that whether the moon lies in the nearest of the seven heavens or the farthest among them, in either case, there is absolutely nothing wrong in 'depicting' it 'as being in/inside the seven heavens'.

What exactly is the 'error' in this statement?

Mr. Katz explains:

However, the Qur'an specifically assigns the stars to a lower or even the lowest heaven, while it states the relationship of the moon to the totality of the seven heavens is that it is "in them" (fehinna). This gives the impression that the moon is at least as far away as the stars if not further.

However, he further writes:

Had the Qur'an formulated "and the moon in the middle of them" then this would have been unambiguously wrong. The formulation "in them" is vague enough to still allow the possibility of the moon to be in the lowest heaven as well. The wording of the Qur'an is certainly less than scientific in this instance and suggesting wrong notions even though it is sufficiently vague to not make it a clear error.

The reader is requested to keep in mind that the Qur'an has not even made an indirect hint, at any place, to imply that it is written in a 'scientific' diction. The Qur'an is not a book of science. It has neither made any such claims nor has it uncovered any unknown 'scientific' or material facts.

The 'vagueness' in the statement is simply because of the fact that clarifying such issues is not even remotely related to the message of the Qur'an[2].

Nevertheless, it is obvious from Mr. Katz's stipulations that the referred statement of the Qur'an, 'scientifically vague' as it is, can in no case be considered a 'scientific' error.

In his referred article, Mr. Katz has cited a number of references from the Qur'an to evidence that the Arabic words 'Fihaa', 'Fihinna', 'Fihim' and 'Fihi' (i.e. 'in it' or 'in them') etc. are used to imply 'within', which does not necessarily imply 'lying at the periphery'[3], but is, generally, used for something which lies somewhere close or around the center of something else. To fully understand, Mr. Katz's contention, consider the following diagrams:

Mr. Katz contends that the referred Arabic words have generally been used in the Qur'an to refer to a refer to a situation depicted in square A given above, not to that depicted in square B. Nevertheless, Mr. Katz should realize that, even if his understanding of all the cited references is accepted to be correct, to establish the said 'scientific' error, what needs to be established is a "bit" more than what he has succeeded in establishing. The point that would truly establish the said 'scientific' error is that the referred Arabic words for 'within' cannot be used for something that lies at the periphery of something else. In other words, what Mr. Katz needs to establish is that the referred Arabic words for 'within' cannot be used for the situation depicted in Square B, as shown in the diagram.

© Copyright April 2001. All Rights Reserved with the Author

[1] Mr. Katz's complete article titled "The Location of the Moon and the Stars" may be accessed at: www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Science/moon_locus.html.

[2] It may be of interest to note that most of the statements in the Qur'an, which refer to one or the other phenomena of nature have generally been worded in such a way that they serve their respective purpose (within their respective contexts), without unduly uncovering any unknown 'scientific' facts. In my opinion, the miracle of the Qur'an at such instances, is not in 'exposing' any unknown 'scientific' facts (as some Muslims like to believe), but in generally restricting itself to its message and making references to these natural phenomena in such words, which would not only serve their desired purpose, but also would not allow its addressees' minds to wander away from its message. It is obvious that had the Qur'an clearly mentioned any unknown and, at that time, undiscoverable facts of nature, it would clearly have driven the inquisitive mind away from the message of the Qur'an into discovering and, subsequently verifying or refuting, the Qur'anic statements. This would, in turn, have rendered the Qur'anic message completely ineffective. In view of this fact, the Qur'an has, generally, based its message either upon the (correctly) known facts of nature or upon clearly observable signs of nature.

[3] As the moon does, with reference to the 'seven heavens'.