Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Doctrine - Creation according to Muhammad - Heavens and Earth (Part 1)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran, in describing the creation of the heavens and the earth, is at variance with the Jewish scriptures in many points. First is the reckoning of the number of days of creation. In most places, the Koran assigns six days to the days of creation.
"Surely your Lord is God, who created the heavens and the earth in six days -- then sat Himself upon [mounted] the Throne," (Koran 7:52)
"God is He that created the heavens and the earth, and what between them is, in six days, then seated Himself upon the [ascended his] Throne." (Koran 32:3)
However, in other verses, the number is either two or four.
"What, do you disbelieve in Him who created the earth in two days, and do you set up compeers to Him [assign Him peers]? And He set therein [on Earth] firm mountains [tower] over it, and He blessed it, and He ordained therein its diverse sustenance in four days, equal to those who ask [for the cravings of all alike]." (Koran 41:8-9)
One could argue that Muhammad was indicating that the actual creation of the Earth took two days and the creation of everything upon the earth took four, thus making up the six days total. However, either way, this does not match with the Jewish timeline of creation. On day one God created the heavens and the Earth, at least in their basic form.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day." (Genesis 1:1-5)
As for the rest of the six days, on day two God created the atmosphere that separated the waters below from the waters above. "God called the expanse heaven." (Genesis 1:8) In day three He separated the waters from the land and caused vegetation to grow. On day four He separated the lights in the sky into the sun, moon, and starts. On day five He created all animal life upon the Earth. Finally, on day six, He created mankind. In such a timeline, it is hard to reconcile the statements of Muhammad into just two days for the creation of the Earth and four days for the things on the earth. In the Judaic story, when did the creation of the Earth end and the creation of those things things on Earth begin? Day one, day two, day three, or day four? One could argue for day one, since it says in that day God created the earth, or one could argue for day three, since that is when land appeared and the first life appeared on the Earth. Either way, day two does not seem like a logical day to pick for the completion of the creation of Earth. Furthermore, such a delineation into two and four days is not made anywhere in the Judaic or Christian scriptures.

Muhammad goes on to teach that God, in creating the heavens, actually created seven heavens.
"And We created above you seven ways [heavens]" (Koran 23:7)
"And We have built above you seven strong ones [solid heavens]" (Koran 78:12)
"who created seven heavens one upon another." (Koran 67:3)
In fact, in one verse, Muhammad also alludes to the possibility of seven Earths below corresponding to the seven heavens above.
"It is God who created seven heavens, and of earth their like [and as many earths]." (Koran 65:12)
Unfortunately, Muhammad does not define what these seven heavens are. The idea of multiple heavens can be seen in the Book of Genesis when God refers to the creation of heaven in the plural. "In the beginning God created the heavens."(Genesis 1:1) Heaven, as a term is rather imprecise as it could mean our atmosphere, the realms of outer space, and the place where God lives. In this simple example we could construct three heavens that appear in tiers, or levels, one upon the other. This is what Paul could have been referring to when he said, "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago — whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows — such a man was caught up to the third heaven." (2 Corinthians 12:2

It is also possible that Muhammad was including in these seven heavens the orbital systems of the planets; each planet making up a level of heaven by its orbit and each planet being the earth that is "its like." In this case, the planets could have been Earth, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn or some other collections of planets, the moon, and the Sun. However, such a composition of "heavens" being built "one upon another" would have necessitated the Earth being the center of their orbits, something which we now know to be untrue. We could excuse Muhammad in his error noting that he was not an astronomer, but we cannot excuse him in his insistence of receiving this information, word-for word, directly from God the creator. It is interesting that neither the Jewish or Christian scriptures stipulate such a system of heavens as being based on direct revelation from God. Also, such an interpretation is further complicated by Muhammad's references to the lower heavens.
"We have adorned the lower heaven with the adornment of the stars and to preserve [guard] against every rebel Satan; [That] they listen [overhear] not to the High Council, for they are pelted [darted at] from every side, rejected [driven off], and theirs is an everlasting chastisement [torment]," (Koran 37:6-9)
"And We adorned the lower [lowest] heaven with lamps [lights], and made them things [placed theme there] to stone [to be hurled at the] Satans; and We have prepared for them the chastisement [torment] of the Blaze [flaming fire]." (Koran 67:5)
In other verses, Muhammad assigns the air, birds, and rains to the heavens as well. Taking all these verses in total, it is hard to determine exactly what Muhammad meant by the seven heaves, their layered order, and their composition. However, regardless, no where does the Jewish or Christian scriptures speak of seven heavens.

It is also interesting to note that Muhammad, in describing the lower heavens, says that they were made as a defense against Satans, lest they should listen in on the counsel of heaven, and that God provided stones (maybe hail?) to pelt them with lest they should come too close. All this before mankind was created and sin entered into the world. However, the Jewish scriptures record that, "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) To me, necessity of defenses and stones for pelting Satans seem less that good and makes us wonder about a God who created the heavens and the Earth with sin in mind. It is interesting to note that in the list of things created, from the Jewish scriptures, hell is not included. It seems that it was either created later, after sin arrived, or altered from its original intent or purpose to serve its purpose of eternal punishment. "The eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)

Muhammad also intimates as to the weight of heaven; that it is always pressing down upon us and would crush us if God permitted.
"Hast thou not seen how that God has subjected to you all that is in the earth and the ships to run upon the sea at His commandment, and He holds back heaven lest it should fall upon the earth, save by His leave?" (Koran 22:64)
Here is is uncertain which of the seven heavens Muhammad is referring to, or if he is referring to all of them together. However, God has designed the world to exist in harmony and balance. The idea of God standing in the way of our destruction from His own creations, while present in the Koran, is foreign to the language and faith of both the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The truth is that God has designed the heavens to float above the Earth. This is a statement of His wisdom in creation, not His strength to hold them up.

More to come...
David Robison

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