Six Or Eight Days Creation?
Addressing The Unaddressed Arguments
Some of the readers maybe surprised as to why I am publishing an article on this topic when Muslims for the past decade have already responded (*,*,*,*,*,*,*) to this argument. The reason is because I have noticed that a number of specific arguments have not been addressed directly. Hence, in order to not give the critics any excuse to boast about them putting forth arguments Muslims haven't responded to I found it beneficial to "seal the deal" regarding this argument.
Now Muslim apologists have generally provided two possible responses to this argument.
First Response (a more traditional response): Verse 10 of Surah 41 encompasses verse 9 where the two days mentioned in verse 9 are included under the four days mentioned in verse 10. Hence, verses 9 and 10 together do not speak about six days, but four days only. Then verse 12 speaks about two days, which then gives us six days.
Second Response (a more modern response): We assume that verses 9 and 10 are separate from one another and indeed add up to six days, however verse 11's mentioning of the word thumma (and then going on to speak about the seven firmaments of heaven) implies a parallel act as opposed to being a sequential act. So in this way it's not eight days, but six days of creation.
Most of my readers know me to be a person who usually favors traditional responses, hence in this paper I will be seeking to only address those arguments against the first response that have not been addressed already and will not be providing a defense of the second view.
Also at the end of this paper I will be dealing with some of the narrations I have observed missionaries putting forth regarding this topic.
Dealing With the Arguments Put Forth Against Response #1:
Jochen Katz states:
Had the first period been four and the second two days, the second could be included in the first, since "filling the earth" is part of "creating the earth", but the other way around doesn't make sense. The earth that isn't existing yet cannot be filled. But mathematically it is just not possible to include four days in two days. And it is very clear from the text that the first two days are connected with "creating" the next four days are characterized by "putting ON it", "bestowing on it", "giving them".
Jochen argues that it is not possible to include four days into two days and that "filling the earth" as mentioned in verse 10 is part of "creating the earth" as mentioned in verse 9. That's fine, but no one is arguing that the four days are included within the two days, but rather the two days are included within the four days. Even Jochen cites Yusuf Ali who says exactly that:
The Commentators understand the "four Days" in verse 10 to include the two Days in verse 9, so that the total for the universe comes to six Days. This is reasonable, because the processes described in verses 9 and 10 form really one series. In one case it is the creation of the formless matter of the earth; in the other case it is the gradual evolution of the form of the earth, its mountains and seas, and its animal and vegetable life, with the "nourishment in due proportion", proper to each.
However, Jochen thinks that we cannot include the two days within the four days because:
Had the first period been four and the second two days, the second could be included in the first, since "filling the earth" is part of "creating the earth",
Jochen's objection is that because verse 9 states "two" (according to Jochen this is the "first period") while verse 10 states "four" (according to Jochen this is the "second" period) that means we cannot include four within two. However, the simple response to Jochen is: Why should we rank the two days in verse 9 as the "first period"? There is no clear sequential order between verses 9 and 10. Verse 9 could be talking about the creation of the earth alone, but then in verse 10 elaborates that its creation plus furnishing took four days.
Christian apologist Dr. William Campbell even recognizes this possibility:
Therefore, it seems logical to make the basic assumption that in Muhammad's understanding some of these days were concurrent and going along together, thus allowing a total of only six days.
Sam Shamoun similarly is open to the validity of the argument:
The first thing we would like to point out is that Yahya's claim that the four days of v. 10 are not separate from the first two days is simply an assumption. Yahya assumes that the first two days are included within the four days, but provides no proof for his assertion. Assuming something isn't the same as proving it. As such, his assumption may or may not be true. In fact, if the Quran didn't have anything else to say regarding the order of creation, we would concede that Yahya's explanation may be a valid one. As such, one could not conclusively or dogmatically claim that the Quran is in error here. Nor could one conclusively or dogmatically deny that the Quran is in error. It would simply come down to one's prior assumptions about the Quran, whether they believed in it or not. A believer would obviously accept Yahya's harmonization, whereas an unbeliever might not.
Shaykh Al-Munajjid cites the classical scholars who explain how this is perfectly acceptable according to the language:
This is a misunderstanding, and the answer to it is as follows:
There is no contradiction between the time period mentioned in these verses and the other verse which says that it was six days.
In these verses - from Soorah Fussilat - we see that Allaah is telling us that He "created the earth in two Days".
Then He "placed therein (i.e. the earth) firm mountains from above it, and He blessed it, and measured therein its sustenance (for its dwellers)" in four days equal- i.e., in two days that were added to the two days in which He created the earth, so the total is four days. It does not say that the creation of the mountains and the measuring of the sustenance took four days.
Perhaps the confusion which is mentioned in the question stems from this, i.e., from thinking that the four days are added to the two days in which the earth was created, equaling six, and then adding the two days in which the heavens were created ("Then He completed and finished from their creation (as) seven heavens in two Days") - making a total of eight days, not six days. But this confusion can be dispelled by dealing with this mistaken notion. So the earth was created in two days, and the mountains were created and the sustenance measured in two more days which makes a total of four, i.e., this took the other two days. Then the creation of the seven heavens took two days. So the total is six days of the Days of Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted.
The mufassireen commented on this fact which deals with the mistaken notion. Al-Qurtubi said:
"in four days" - this is like someone saying, "I set out from Basra to Baghdad in ten days and to Kufa in fifteen days, i.e., a total time of fifteen days." (al-Jaami' li Ahkaam al-Qur'aan, vol. 15, p. 343).
Al-Baghawi said: "in four days" means the creation of what is in the earth. The measuring of the sustenance was on Tuesday and Wednesday, which along with Sunday and Monday add up to four days. This is like saying "I married a woman yesterday and today I married two" - one of whom is the woman whom he married the day before.
Tafseer al-Baghawi, 7/165
Al-Zajjaaj said: "in four days" means two days added to the previous two days.
Al-Kashshaaf, vol. 3, p. 444
These verses - from Soorah Fussilat - confirm the other verse, which says that the creation of the heavens and the earth was completed in six days. So there is no contradiction concerning the period in which Allaah created the heavens and the earth. There cannot be any such contradictions in the Qur'aan.
As for Jochen's comment:
since "filling the earth" is part of "creating the earth",
That is a possible method of categorization, however another way could be that "creating the earth" simply means creating the land mass and surface (i.e. its foundations), while "filling the earth" just simply means filling the earth with mountains, trees, etc.
Jochen also goes on to say:
That verse 9 and 10 describe different stages is further supported by the text structure since the two phases are "separated" by the second line of verse 9 asking a rhetorical question to the listener/reader based on what has been done in this first stage. Before it goes on to look at the second stage of creation.
Despite the question ending with verse 9 there is no grammatical indication that verse 10 must then be speaking about a completely different stage of creation excluding the 2 days mentioned in verse 9.
Sam Shamoun expresses objections as to why he thinks that the four days in verse 10 don't encompass the 2 days mentioned in verse 9:
To help the readers better understand the point, the author is essentially claiming that the four days of Q. 41:10 encompass the first two days of Q. 41:9, which means that these days are not intended to be added together since that would give us a total of six days.
There are at least two problems with the author's position. One problem is with the author's appeal to the preposition fee since this is simply being used in conjunction to the period of time it took for Allah to create the earth's nourishments such as vegetation, mountains etc. The Quran is basically using the preposition in relation to the creation of these things taking place within a period of four days, apart from the two days of the previous citation. To put it simply, the preposition, in and of itself, tells us very little regarding whether the two days of Q. 41:9 are included within the four days mentioned in Q. 41:10.
This leads us to the second problem with the author's harmonization. A careful analysis provides evidence against the view that the two days of Q. 41:9 are part of the four days mentioned in Q. 41:10. Carefully note what verse 10 says:
And He made IN (feeha) IT mountains above its surface, and He blessed therein (feeha) and made therein (feeha) its foods, in (fee) four periods: alike for the seekers. Shakir
This text presupposes the existence of the earth, otherwise how could Allah place mountains in an earth that didn't already exist? In other words, there must have been an earth in order for mountains and food to be placed therein, which assumes that the two days of Q. 41:9 are not part of the four days that it took Allah to create the earth's nourishments and provisions.
I believe Shaykh Al-Munajjid's citations of the classical scholars who are masters of the Arabic language suffice to refute what Shamoun has just said. I will particularly re-cite:
"in four days" - this is like someone saying, "I set out from Basra to Baghdad in ten days and to Kufa in fifteen days, i.e., a total time of fifteen days." (al-Jaami' li Ahkaam al-Qur'aan, vol. 15, p. 343).
Sam Shamoun argues that the Qur'an makes it clear that the heavens were created after the earth and not before:
Elsewhere in the Quran we find that the order of creation is actually reversed!
Are ye the harder to create, or is the heaven that He built? He raised the height thereof and ordered it; And He made dark the night thereof, and He brought forth the morn thereof. AND AFTER THAT (bad'a) He spread the earth, And produced therefrom the water thereof and the pasture thereof, And He made fast the hills, A provision for you and for your cattle. S. 79:27-33
However, this passage no where states that the heavens were created before the earth was created. Rather, the verse is speaking about the "spreading" of the earth.
Imam Al-Tabari in his commentary on Surah 79:30 mentions the difference of opinion regarding this passage. He provides citations from Ibn Abbass who said in one citation that Allah created the earth with its food and nourishments before the heavens without spreading the earth. Then He made the heaven into seven firmaments and then afterwards He spread the earth. (Source). In another narration Ibn Abbass said that the nourishments and plants are not good without day and night and Allah only spread the earth until after the sky came. (Source). Despite these narrations from Ibn Abbass being weak, the validity of the argument could still be accepted. Al-Tabari views this to be the apparent reading of the text; however Al-Tabari did present a different view where he cited the likes of Mujahid and Al-Suddi who said the spreading of the earth occurred along with the heaven being made into seven firmaments. They argued that linguistically ba'ada thalika translated as "afterwards" in verse 30 doesn't necessarily have to mean "afterwards" and present Surah 21:105 & 68:13 as examples.
Dealing With Some of The Narrations Put Forward:
Shamoun cites the following hadith from Saheeh Muslim:
"Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (mpbuh) took hold of my hands and said: Allah the Exalted and Glorious, created the clay on Saturday and He created the mountains on Sunday and He created the trees on Monday and He created the things entailing labour on Tuesday and created light on Wednesday and He caused animals to spread on Thursday and created Adam (pbuh) after 'Asr on Friday; the last creation at the last hour of the hours of Friday, ie. Between afternoon and night."
However, as Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî said, there are some doubts surrounding this hadith:
Al-Bukhârî writes in al-Târâkh al-Kabîr:
"Some of them have said that it is from Abû Hurayrah who took it from Ka`b al-Ahbâr. This is the most correct view.
Ibn Kathîr, in his commentary of the Qur'ân writes:
This hadîth is one of the unusual hadîth found in Sahîh Muslim. `Alî al-Madînî, al-Bukhârî, and a number of other leading scholars of hadîth have criticized it, saying that it is the statement of Ka`b and that Abû Hurayrah merely heard it from Ka`b al-Ahbar and some narrators merely got confused and attributed it to the Prophet (peace be upon him). This has been thoroughly researched by al-Bayhaqî.
Ibn Taymiyah comments:
"It is a defective hadîth. It has been declared defective by more than a few scholars." [Majmû` al-Fatâwâ (17/236)]
Moreover, regarding the text itself, al-Qurtubî points out in his commentary on Sahîh Muslim that the text does not convey its meaning with sufficient coherence. He writes in al-Mufhim:
This hadîth has been related in other sources besides Sahîh Muslim with various conflicting narrations. In some of them the Earth is created on Sunday and Monday while the mountains are created on Tuesday and the trees, rivers, and inhabitants are created on Wednesday, and the Sun, Moon, stars, and angels created on Thursday, and Adam on Friday. These are single-narrator hadîth that conflict with one another and do not provide any practical instruction. We must not rely upon them in determining the order of appearance of created things during those days.
What he is saying is that even if we regard the hadîth as authentic - as a number of scholars do - there remains the problem that there is too much incoherence in its many conflicting narrations to provide evidence for the order of events.
Shamoun is aware of this response and states:
Some Muslims have tried to claim that this tradition is weakly attested. Yet, M.S.M Saifullah notes that not all Muslims agree that this hadith is weak. In a footnote to on his articles, # 64, Saifullah quotes some Muslims that believed this tradition to be actually sound:
64. Ibn Taimiyyah, Majmu' Fatawa (37 vols., ed. Abd al-Rahmân b. Qasim & his son Muhammad, Riyad, 1398), 18:18f. Ibn Taimiyyah mentions that Imâm Muslim's authentication of this hadîth is supported by Abû Bakr al-Anbari & Ibn al- Jauzi, whereas al-Baihaqi supports those who disparaged it. Al-Albani says that it was Ibn al-Madini who criticised it, whereas Ibn Ma'in did not (the latter was known to be very strict, both of them were shaikhs of al-Bukhârî). He further says that the hadîth is Sahih, and does not contradict the Qur'ân, contrary to the probable view of the scholars who criticised the hadîth, since what is mentioned in the Qur'ân is the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, each of which may be like a thousand years, whereas the hadîth refers to the creation of the earth only, in days which are shorter than those referred to in the Qur'ân (Silsilah al-Ahadîth as-Sahihah, no. 1833). (Source: this article)
Well, it has not been claimed that there is a unanimous agreement regarding the authenticity of this narration, nor is one required in order for one to confidently state one's position regarding the matter if he has strong arguments to support his position. Merely citing scholars agreeing with your position would be nothing more than an appeal to authority when not backed up with evidence. If one is unsure about which side is correct then the only honest and sensible thing to do would be to remain neutral.
Shamoun trying to act knowledgeable points out that this hadith is also narrated in Musnad Ahmad and then argues:
Thus, we have two different hadith compilers that transmitted this narration!
As if that is somehow relevant! The authenticity of a narration is determined upon its chain of transmission and textual content and not on how many hadith compilers transmit it!
Shamoun then proceeds to argue about how reliable Saheeh Muslim is (which all Muslims acknowledge, but forgets that Muslims don't treat Saheeh Muslim as infallible as the Qur'an) and that Ka`b al-Ahbar is trustworthy (which no one denied, but Ka'b was known for transmitting Israe'iliyaat and we don't know whether he has done so in this case as well). These are nothing more than useless layman arguments that don't require any serious attention.
Doesn't the difference among Muslims regarding the validity (or lack thereof) of this report from Sahih Muslim simply provide more proof that the religion of Islam is based on shaky foundations and that its sources are filled with mass confusion and contradictions?
No it does not "provide more proof that the religion of Islam is based on shaky foundations", since the narration in question teaches no significant Islamic doctrine. This is unlike the case with the Bible where a number of textual variants exist touching upon doctrinal issues. A few examples are presented by Metzger and Ehrman:
Just within the Gospels, reference can be made to the Prologue of John (e.g., 1.18), the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke (e.g., Matt. 1.16, 18; Luke 1.35), the baptism accounts (e.g., Mark 15.34; Luke 3.22; John 1.34), and the various passion narratives (e.g., Mark 15.34; Luke 22.43-44; John 19.36). Moreover, a number of variants effect a range of issues that continue to interest historians and exegetes of the New Testament, including such questions as whether the Gospels could have been used to support "adoptionistic" Christology (e.g., Mark 1.1; Luke 3.22; John 1.34) or one that was "antidocetic" (e.g., the Western noninterpolations), whether Luke has a doctrine of the atonement (e.g., Luke 22.19-20), whether members of the Johannine community embraced a gnostic Christology (e.g., 1 John 4.3), and whether any of the authors of the New Testament characterizes Jesus as God (e.g., Heb. 1.8). [Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 2005, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, footnote #52, pp. 284-285]
Also, as brother Ansar pointed out, there is not necessarily a contradiction between the hadith from Sahih Muslim and the Qur'an:
But for the sake of argument, let's agree with those scholars who say it is authentic. One may claim that this hadith seems to indicate that the perception that these days of creation refer to epochs or periods is incorrect. In addition, it also seems to suggest that creation took place over seven days and not six. In response to these claims, we may mention the following points: ...
2. The second claim that these seven days contradict the Qur'anic six days is obviously wrong because one can clearly see that these days include the creation of much that is not mentioned in the Qur'an, including Adam, clay, animals, etc. The Qur'an only specified the time for the creation of the heavens and the earth. Therefore, the question is, "How do these days relate to those of the Qur'an? Is there an overlap?"
Its possible that there is some overlap. These periods may be slightly smaller than those mentioned in the Qur'an. The only creation that they have in common is that of the mountains, but as we know mountains have formed throughout earth's history and therefore it does not have to refer to the exact same creation period.
Shamoun attempts to respond by saying:
First, a careful reading of the hadith actually shows that it took Allah more than seven days to create the cosmos. Notice that the narration claims that Allah created the clay of the earth on Saturday which presupposes the prior existence of the earth in some form, perhaps as gaseous matter. After all you cannot have the clay of the earth without first having an earth from which to fashion clay!
Shamoun forgot to prove one thing: how does he know that the hadith is speaking about the creation of the COSMOS?
Shamoun goes on to say:
Second, it is obvious that the author hasn't pondered over the Quran carefully since it clearly says that Allah created everything in six days:
Who created the heavens and the earth AND ALL THAT IS BETWEEN THEM IN SIX DAYS. Then He Istawâ (rose over) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). The Most Beneficent (Allâh)! Ask Him (O Prophet Muhammad SAW), (concerning His Qualities, His rising over His Throne, His creations, etc.), as He is Al-Khabîr (The All-Knower of everything i.e. Allâh). S. 25:59 Hilali-Khan
GOD is the One who created the heavens and the earth, AND EVERYTHING BETWEEN THEM IN SIX DAYS, then assumed all authority. You have none beside Him as Lord, nor do you have an intercessor. Would you not take heed? S. 32:4 Khalifa
We created the heavens and the earth AND ALL BETWEEN THEM IN SIX DAYS, nor did any sense of weariness touch Us. S. 50:38 Y. Ali
The foregoing makes it rather apparent that the Quran does teach that Allah created the entire cosmos and everything within it in six days, which expressly contradicts the narration of Sahih Muslim that it took more than seven days for him to do so.
What does Shamoun mean when he says that Allah created "everything" in six days? Allah continues to create until today. How does Shamoun understand the verse? Does he understand it to mean that we are still in the sixth epoch or does he understand it to mean that the verse is only talking about "everything" that existed at a particular time? Regardless, there is no necessary contradiction between the hadith and the Qur'anic passage. Shaykh Al-Albani in Mishkaat Al-Masaabeeh, Volume 3, page 1597, Hadith no. 5734 said:
æáíÓ åæ ÈãÎÇáÝ ááÞÑÁÇä ÈæÌå ãä ÇáæÌæå ÎáÇÝÇ áãÇ Êæåãå ÈÚÖåã º ÝÅä ÇáÍÏíË íÝÕá ßíÝíÉ ÇáÎáÞ Úáì æÌå ÇáÃÑÖ æÃä Ðáß ßÇä Ýí ÓÈÚÉ ÃíÇã ¡ æäÕ ÇáÞÑÁÇä Úáì Ãä ÎáÞ ÇáÓãÇæÇÊ æÇáÃÑÖ ßÇä Ýí ÓÊÉ ÃíÇã áÇ íÚÇÑÖ Ðáß áÇÍÊãÇá Ãä åÐå ÇáÃíÇã ÇáÓÊÉ ÛíÑ ÇáÃíÇã ÇáÓÈÚÉ ÇáãÐßæÑÉ Ýí ÇáÍÏíË æÃäå - ÃÚäí ÇáÍÏíË - ÊÍÏË Úä ãÑÍáÉ ãä ãÑÇÍá ÊØæÑ ÇáÎáÞ Úáì æÌå ÇáÃÑÖ ÍÊì ÕÇÑÊ ÕÇáÍÉ ááÓßäì
And it is not standing in contradiction with the Qur'an as some have imagined. The hadith is detailing the modality of creation on the face of the earth and that occurred in seven days. The Qur'anic passage, which states that the earth and heavens were created in six days does not contradict this due to the possibility that these six days are different from the seven days mentioned in the hadith and that it - and I mean the hadith - talks about a stage from amongst the stages of the evolution of creation on the face of the earth until it became suitable to live in.
Shamoun also cites other narrations:
Since this Hadith doesn't really resolve the problem, we need to look at other Hadiths and/or sources. The following traditions are taken entirely from The History of al-Tabari, Volume 1 - General Introduction and from the Creation to the Flood (trans. Franz Rosenthal, State University of New York Press, Albany 1989), pp. 187-193. All bold and capital emphasis ours:
"We have stated before that time is but hours of night and day and that the hours are but traversal by the sun and the moon of the degrees of the sphere. Now then, this being so, there is (also) a sound tradition from the Messenger of God told us by Hannad b. al-Sari, who also said that he read all of the hadith (to Abu Bakr)- Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash- Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal- 'Ikrimah- IBN ABBAS: The Jews came to the Prophet and asked him about the creation of the heavens and the earth. He said: God created the earth on Sunday and Monday. He created the mountains and the uses they possess on Tuesday. On Wednesday, He created trees, water, cities and the cultivated barren land. These are four (days). He continued (citing the Qur'an): 'Say: Do you really not believe in the One Who created the earth in two days, and set up others like Him? That is the Lord of the worlds. He made it firmly anchored (mountains) above it and blessed it and decreed that it contain the amount of food it provides, (all) in four days, equally for those asking'- for those who ask. On Thursday, He created heaven. On Friday, He created the stars, the sun, the moon, and the angels, until three hours remained. In the first of these three hours He created the terms (of human life), who would live and who would die. In the second, He cast harm upon everything that is useful for mankind. And in the third, (He created) Adam and had him dwell in Paradise. He commanded Iblis to prostrate himself before Adam, and He drove Adam out of Paradise at the end of the hour. When the Jews asked: What then, Muhammad? He said: 'Then He sat straight upon the Throne.' The Jews said: You are right, if you had finished, they said, with: Then He rested. Whereupon the Prophet got very angry, and it was revealed: 'We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us. Thus be patient with what you say.'"
The chain of transmission contains Abu Bakr bin Ayyash bin Saalim Al-Asadi (ÃÈæ ÈßÑ Èä ÚíÇÔ Èä ÓÇáã ÇáÃÓÏì) who made many mistakes in his transmissions as he grew older with his memory deteriorating. We cannot be sure when he transmitted this narration.
The chain also contains one of Abu Bakr's teachers Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal, whose real name is Sa'eed bin Al-Marzabaan Al-Abasi (ÓÚíÏ Èä ÇáãÑÒÈÇä ÇáÚÈÓì), who has been discarded by the scholars of hadith as unreliable.
Hence, this narration is not Islamically authoritative.
Here is the next narration Shamoun cites:
"According to al-Muthanna- al-Hajjaj- Hammad- 'Ata' b. al-Sa'ib- 'Ikrimah: The Jews asked the Prophet: What about Sunday? The Messenger of God replied: On it, God created the earth and spread it out. They asked about Monday, and he replied: On it, He created Adam. They asked about Tuesday, and he replied: On it, He created the mountains, water, and so on. They asked about Wednesday, and he replied: Food. They asked about Thursday, and he replied: He created the heavens. They asked about Friday, and he replied: God created night and day. Then, when they asked about Saturday and mentioned God's rest(ing on it), he exclaimed: God be praised! God then revealed: 'We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us.'"
First of all, Ikrimah was born in the year 25 A.H. This means that he was not an eye witness and since he did not reveal who told him this story we cannot trust this story. This is especially since there were scholars like Imam Malik who spoke very negatively about his reliability.
Secondly, this narration contradicts other more reliable narrations, which state that Adam was created on Friday as opposed to Monday. And it also contradicts the Qur'anic claim regarding the creation of the earth and its contents in four days.
So this narration is definitely not Islamically authoritative.
Return to Refuting Allegations of Internal Contradictions in the Qur'an
Return to Homepage