Mulla Naseeruddin: “The Sun sets in murky water according to the Qur’an”. This is a common question thrown at Muslims to prove a scientific error in the Holy Qur’an and disqualify it to be the Word of God. It stems from the following verse
حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغْرِبَ الشَّمْسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغْرُبُ فِي عَيْنٍ حَمِئَةٍ
“Until, when he (Dhul Qarnain) reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water:“ (Qur’an Surah al-Kahf 18:86)
Firstly, we have to realize that the Holy Qur’an is not a book to teach us science. It primarily calls humanity to their Creator and offers guidance to on how to do the same. It gives glad tidings for the righteous and warns against sin.
Arya Siddhanti: We agree that quran is not a book of science . The present example is in front of us. The vedas call man to worship the one and only AUM . Promises rewards for good deeds and punishment for bad deeds. What is new in the quran? It is just recycling the words of the vedas at best, with errors. The vedas are much older than quran.
Occassionally it may refer to some historical and scientific information or natural phenomena, but that is only supplementary. Even that information is provided to enable us to reflect upon it and recognize the Lordship and Majesty of God. Same is the case with mentioning the story of Dhul Qarnain.
Arya Siddhanti: This proves that it is not a book of god at all. It is a narrative with biographies [of men and their struggles to become better off in terms of knowledge, women and booty] , fables [men slept for 309 yrs] , half-truths [virgin birth] and some universal truths gathered by discussions with pharisees, christian priests et al. Further, the identity of dhul qar nain is still unclear. People are debating between cyrus and alexander. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhul-Qarnayn.
What is the deception of allah in not clearing this and other doubts in quran?
MN: The present verse in question, is not at all trying to make a scientific statement. Therefore, to evaluate it in scientific terms would be gross injustice to it. This verse is simply referring to a person’s (in this case Dhul Qarnain) vision/perception. In other words, the verse is not saying that the sun, at the referred place, used to set in a murky lake; on the contrary, it is informing us that Dhul Qarnain reached a place on his westward campaign, where it appeared to him as if the sun was setting in a murky lake.The Arabi texts uses the word Wajada وَجَدَ, This word has been defined in an authoritative lexicon of Qur’anic terms Mufradat al-Quran of Imam Raghib Isfahani as follows
وجود بإحدى الحواس الخمس
Perceiving something using one of the five senses
The same meaning is given by the Lexicon of Edward William Lane
Edward William Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon p. 2924: found it , etc.
What we find is that Qur’an has used the word from the perspective of Zulqarnain and merely describes his perception and how it appeared in his sight. The description is very much valid for on a shore that is how sunset actually seems. May be the following image helps a bit.
Classical Muslim exegets have always understood this verse to mean what I have explained. You can check up authoritative commentaries of Baidawai, Ibn Kathir, Alusi, Jalalayn, etc. They all say that is an eloquent description of Dhul Qarnain’s perception.
Arya Siddhanti :
until, when he reached the setting of the sun, the place where it sets, he found it setting in a muddy spring (‘ayn hami’a: [a spring] containing ham’a, which is black clay): its setting in a spring is [described as seen] from the perspective of the eye, for otherwise it is far larger [in size] than this world; and he found by it, that is, [by] the spring, a folk, of disbelievers. We [http://www.islam-watch.org/SyedKamranMirza/How-Many-Gods-in-Islam.htm] said, ‘O Dhū’l-Qarnayn — by [means of] inspiration — either chastise, the folk, by slaying [them], or treat them kindly’, by [merely] taking them captive.
Now all of us can read what Tafsir Jalalyn says. It says “he found it setting in a muddy spring, described as seen from the perspective of the eye” .
U have tried to throw mud in our eyes by using the photo of the sunset whereas jalalyn talks of a muddy spring. The real point here is that the earth in quranic perspective is flat.
U can also see the depiction of earth by your islamic predecessors here :
Taken from Zekeriya Kazvinî’s “Acaib-ül Mahlûkat” (The Wonders of Creation). Translated into Turkish from Arabic. Istanbul: ca. 1553.
This map depicts “a traditional Islamic projection of the world as a flat disk surrounded by the sundering seas which are restrained by the encircling mountains of Qaf”. wikiislam.
MN: We all have the same perception when we stand on the shores of an ocean. Even in this age of science, we continue to use words like Sunrise and Sunset, when in fact, we know that the Sun neither rises not sets. It is only the Earth rotating on its axis, which makes us perceive Sunrise and Sunset. On this basis, even in our languages, we have always used certain epithets for different regions of the world. For example, Japan is a country and in Japanese language, this name means “Land of the Rising Sun”. In India, the Easternmost State is Arunachal Pradesh. This name also means “Land of the dawn-lit mountains”. Norway is known as “Land of the Midnight Sun”. All these are based on human perception and not meant as scientific names. All these phrases are used to convey a particular meaning, which is more than clear for all those who hear them.
Arya :All this u have learned from science and not from Islam. Further, what is so great about this verse, that it had to be included in the book of allah ? Were people ignorant of this discovery that the sun sets in a muddy spring and salvation depended on it ? [ M N: Quran primarily calls humanity to their Creator and offers guidance to on how to do the same.] What guidance is there in this verse? [to enable us to reflect upon it and recognize the Lordship and Majesty of God.] Yes, I am beginning to reflect upon it and the lordship…..