'Called Together' or 'Ripped Apart'?
Ansar Al 'Adl
The allegation is as follows:
Calling together or ripping apart? In the process of creation heaven and earth were first apart and are called to come together [41:11], while 21:30 states that they were originally one piece and then ripped apart.
Let us first read the verses in question:
41:11 Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come both of you, willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do come (together), in willing obedience."
21:30 Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?
Simply by taking a quick look at the verses, one already begins to see that these verses do not pose a contradiction at all. Furthermore, it there is a lack of scientific knowledge displayed by the author of this allegation, as we shall see.
1. These verses are not referring to the same concept at all. Let us examine the two different concepts of astronomy involved here:
a) From research in astronomy, human beings have begun to understand a concept known as the Big Bang, which describes the origin of the universe. Verse 21:30 is widely held by Muslim scholars to refer to the Big Bang, when the universe was initially combined as a primary nebula and then exploded leading to the formation of various galaxies etc. (This scientific miracle is described here and here). With this mind, the Qur'an is actually very accurate in describing the initial union of all creation before being split.
b) The concept of the Big Bang is very different from the concept of accretion of cosmic dust. The latter describes the formation of stars and planets through the condensation or 'coming together' of matter in space. Verse 41:11 is generally taken by Muslim scholars to refer to the collection of cosmic dust into the various celestial bodies present today, specifically the heavens and the earth. Perhaps the misunderstanding arises from interpreting the heavens in this verse to be another reference to the universe as a whole. But as we have already explained, this is not the case. The word as-samaa simply describes what is above, and in this case simply refers to the immediate atmosphere of the earth. Verse 41:11 is described in greater detail here and well as here.
2. Verse 21:30 can also be taken to refer to the earth's atmosphere as well, without any conflict. If one considers the formation and development of earth, the original atmosphere was blended together with the Earth and only became separate in its second stage. Hence, verse 21:30 is very accurate in describing the heavens and the earth as initially joined together before being cloven asunder, either by volcanic out-gassing or cometary impacts. According to this interpretation, verse 41:11 would be chronologically before verse 21:30.
3. An additional point can be made about the phrases used in verse 41:11. When the verse mentions that the heavens and the earth were ordered to come, this does not necessarily imply that they actually came together and merged. Other verses of the Qur'an used the same phrase:
37:83-84 And verily, among those who followed his (Noah's) path was Abraham. When he came to his Lord with a pure heart.
It is obviously understood that Abraham did not come to his Lord physically, but rather in terms of submission and obedience. Hence, this verse could simply be taken as God asking the heavens and the earth to submit to His will, either voluntarily or involuntarily. From this linguistic perspective, there is also no conflict between this verse and 21:30.
These explanations sufficiently demonstrate how these verses cannot be considered a contradiction in any way.
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