One of the objections levied against the Qur’an by Mr. Jochen Katz is:
Does Allah’s day equal to 1,000 (Sura 22:47, 32:5) or 50,000 years (Sura 70:4)?
Observe how similar 32:5 and 70:4 are worded (in English – I don’t know the Arabic) “ascend unto him in a day the measure whereof is [fifty] thousand years [of your reckoning].”
Maybe it originally was “fifty thousand” in both and “fifty” dropped out in one place? A corrupted manuscript? Or does God just not know how to relate the length [of] his days to human years?
To fully comprehend the objection, let us first have a look at the referred verses of the Qur’an.
Verse 22: 47 translates as:
and surely a day of your Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning
Verse 32: 5 translates as:
He decides all affairs from the heavens to the earth then these [affairs] go up to Him in a day, the length of which is a thousand years of your reckoning.
Verse 70: 4 translates as:
The angels and the ruh ascend upto Him in a day the length of which is fifty thousand years
I believe that even if one is ignorant of the Arabic language and is solely dependent on the English translations of the Qur’an, one cannot say that the stated verses contradict each other in any way.
In the article that follows, I shall first of all show that there is no contradiction in the stated verses from the perspective of the English language. Secondly, I shall show that as in the English language, there is absolutely no contradiction in the verses from a purely Arabic perspective.
In Allah alone I put my trust.
From The English Perspective
The word “day”, in the English language is not used only for the 24-hour time interval, that extends from one sunrise to the other. It is used in a number of connotations. For example, in ‘one day I’ll get my revenge’, the phrase ‘one day’ is used for sometime in the future, not for the 24-hour interval of time. The phrase: ‘this day and age’, means nowadays. When somebody says: ‘Would there ever be a day when the weak and the oppressed are heard?’, the phrase ‘a day’ means a time in the future. When Edmund Spencer said:
Ah! when will this long weary day have end,
And lend me leave to come unto my love? (Epithalamion)
by the word ‘day’, he was not referring to the 24-hour time interval, but to the time of agony that he was going through at the time. When Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood . . . that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice . . . that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
by the phrase ‘one day’, he meant a particular time in future, not the 24-hour time interval.
It is quite obvious from the above examples of everyday English usage that the word ‘day’ is used in a number of meanings. One of these meanings is ‘a particular period of time’. Keeping this meaning of the word ‘day’, have a look, once again at the English translation of the referred verses of Qur’an:
The first verse (22: 47) says:
and surely a day near your Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning
This verse simply means that for Allah, a thousand years of our reckoning is no more than what a 24-hour day is for us.
The second verse (32: 5) states:
He decides all affairs from the heavens to the earth; then these [affairs] go [back] up to Him in a day, the length of which is a thousand years of your reckoning.
This verse informs us that Allah’s plans for the heavens and the earth are implemented and referred back to Him, in a day (i.e. in a period of time) that is like a thousand years of human reckoning.
The third verse (70: 4) says:
The angels and the ruh ascend upto Him in a day the length of which is fifty thousand years
This verse informs us that it takes the angels and the ruh (i.e. Gabriel) a day (i.e. a period of time) which is as long as 50 thousand years in our reckoning, to ascend upto Him.
Look at the three verses closely and you shall see that they relate to different phenomenon. The first one states that a thousand years of our reckoning is like but a day for Allah; the second one states that Allah’s plans are implemented and referred back to Him in periods which are as long as a thousand years for us, in other words it says that Allah makes plans for thousand-year intervals; while the third one states that it takes the angels and the ruh a period equivalent to what is 50 thousand years for us, to ascend to the Most Exalted. Obviously, if the Qur’an, at one place, had said that a thousand years of our reckoning is like a day to Allah, while at another had stated that in the eyes of Allah, one day is like 50 thousand years of our reckoning; or if it had said at one place that it takes the angels a thousand years to ascend to the Most Exalted, while at another had stated that the angels ascend to Allah in 50 thousand years of our reckoning; or if at one instance it had declared that Allah’s plans are implemented and are referred back to Him in one thousand years while at another had stated that the period involved in this implementation and reference is 50 thousand years, it, most certainly, would have been a case of contradictory statements. The case, as everybody can see, is not so. The Qur’an has stated different time periods for different phenomenon. How can anyone, in such a case, say that the statements in question are contradictory?
Mr. Katz is of the opinion that because it takes the angels 50 thousand years to ascend to Allah and because “all affairs are returned” to Allah through the angels, therefore, verse 32: 5 and 70: 4 are actually referring to the same phenomenon. He writes:
The last two verses are talking about the same thing. The word which is usually translated affair(s) (amr in 32:5), is a Qur’anic term that has to do with the Spirit and angels in that verse. That verse talks about the “amr” that “will asend to Him.” The context tells us of some(thing) who (that) ascend and of course descend.
Sura 17:85 says:
They ask thee concerning the Spirit (of inspiration), say the Spirit (comes) by command [Amr] of my Lord.
Notice the connection between “Amr” and “Spirit” in the above verse.
Then Sura 97:4 says:
Therein come down the angels and the Spirit by God’s permission [Amr].
Here again the connection between the “Amr” and “the Spirit and the angels.”
Mr. Katz’s point (in my own words) is: because the affairs are returned to Allah through the angels, therefore, verse 32: 5 and 70: 4 are actually referring to the same phenomenon and a difference in these two verses thus amounts to a contradiction.
In my opinion, the answer is quite simple. Verse 70: 4 states that it takes the angels and the ruh, a period of 50 thousand years to ascend to the Most Exalted. It does not say that the Most Exalted, takes this period to reach the angels and the ruh, if and when he so desires. If He wants to summon the angels, or make His presence felt to them, it could be before the winking of an eye. What is it, in these verses (or any other ones) that hinders such an assumption?
Whatever the case may be, it is quite clear that the two verses concern different phenomena. One relates to time it takes the angels and the ruh to reach the Exalted ‘chambers‘ of Allah, and the other to the time interval of God’s planning for the world and its implementation. It is obviously not necessary that to receive these plans or to report their implementation, the angels and the ruh have to ascend to the Exalted ‘chambers‘ of Allah.
From The Arabic Perspective
The Arabic word, translated in English as ‘day’ is ‘yawm’.
The point that needs to be established from the Arabic perspective is that the word ‘yawm’ in the Arabic language, like the word ‘day’ in the English language, is not restricted in its meaning to the 24-hour interval of time.
Some references from the Arabic literature are provided below to establish this point:
One of the pre-Islamic poets says:
متى يساعدنا الوصال ودهرنا
يومان: يوم نوى ويوم صدود
(mata yusa’idona’l-wisa’lo wa dahrona yawman: yawmo nawan wa yawmo Sadudi)1
The word ‘yawm’ in the above verses has been used to mean phases and periods, it can by no means be taken to mean the 24-hour time interval.
`amar ibn Kulthum says:
بيوم كريهة ضربا وطعنا
أقر به مواليك العيونا
وإن غدا وإن اليوم رهن
وبعد غد بما لا تعلمينا
(beyawmi karihatin dharban wa ta`nan aqarra bihi mawa’li’ki’l-`oyu’na. wa inna ghadan wa inna’l-yawma rahnun wa ba`da ghadin bema la ta`lami’na)2
In this verse, the words ‘ghadan’, ‘al-yawm’ and ‘ba`d ghadin’ meaning tomorrow, today and the day after tomorrow have not been used in their literal sense but to imply the present, the near and the far-off future.
Abu’l-a`la’ al-Mu`arri’ has also used the word ‘al-yawm’ in the same meaning. He says:
ثلاثة أيم هي الدهر كله وما هي إلا الأمس واليوم والغد
(thalathatu ayyamin hia al-dahro kullohu wa ma hunna illa al-amsi wa’l-yawmi wa’l-ghad)3
Ibn abi wabakil says to his beloved:
يطول اليوم لا أمقاك فيه
ويوم نلتقي فيه فصير
(yatu’lu’l-yawm la alqaki fihi wa yawm naltaqi fihi qasiru)4
Once again, the word ‘yawm’ in this verse simply refers to the time when the poet is with, or away from, his beloved; it does not mean the 24-hour interval of time, that we usually term as a ‘day’.
Husain ibn Matir al-asadi says:
له يوم بؤس فيه للناس أبوس
ويوم نعيم فيه للناس أنعم
(lahu yawmo bu’sin fihi linna’si abwasu wa yawmo na`i’min fihi linnas an`amu)5
In this verse again, the word ‘yawm’ is used for different phases in the life of the subject, not for the 24-hour time interval in his life.
يوماه: يوم ندى ويوم طعان
(yawmaho: yawmo nadan wa yawm ti`ani)6
Ibn Manzur, in his book Lisa’nu’l-Arab has referred to this verse of Shammar and has derived the following conclusion:
ويوماه: يوم نعم ويوم بؤس. فاليوم ههنا بمعنى الدهر أي هو دهره كذلك.
(لسان العرب، ج ١٢، ص ٦٥٠)
(wa yawmaho: yawmo ni`am wa yawmo bo’usin, fa’l-yawm hahuna bema`na al’dahar ay: howa dahrohu kazalik)7
In the light of the above references, we can easily infer that the word ‘yawm’ is used not only for the 24-hour interval of time but also for a phase in one’s life and a period of time etc.
As in these poetic verses, the word ‘yawm’ in verse 32: 5 and 70: 4 has been used for a period of time. This period of time, is different for two different phenomena. I do not see any reasonable grounds to say that such difference amounts to a contradiction.
I am sure if Mr. Katz will consider my arguments with an open mind, he shall see that his argument of numerical discrepany, at least in this particular case, holds no ground. I request Mr. Katz to look at the Qur’an with the same mental attitude with which he looks at the Bible. . .
is that asking for too much?
© Copyright 1998. All Rights Reserved with the Author
- How is it possible for us to be together for our time consist [only] of two days: A day of being away from each other and a day when we are stopped from meeting. [↩]
- [I inform you of] the battle day which was the day of the unleashed sword and the spear, which was a source of great pleasure for your cousins; today, tomorrow and the day after entail things that are hidden from you [I, therefore, inform you only of events of the days gone by]. [↩]
- Time consists only of three days, these are: yesterday, today and tomorrow. [↩]
- It is a long day in which I do not meet you; while a day in which we meet is a short one. [↩]
- He has a day of battle, in which people are faced with the toughest of times and a day of generosity when people are blessed with bounties. [↩]
- His life consists of two days: the day of bounty and the day of battle. [↩]
- He has two days: the day when he is bountiful and the day when he is in the battle field; the word ‘day’ here means time, i.e. His life consists of two types of times. [↩]