THE FORCE OF GRAVITY AND ORBITAL MOVEMENTS
No! I swear by the planets-that recede, that ride their course [and] hide themselves. (Qur’an, 81: 15-16)
The word “khunnas” in Surat at-Takwir 15 bears such meanings as shrinking and cowering, retracting and turning back. The Arabic expression translated as “hide themselves” in the 16th verse is “kunnas,” the plural form of “kaanis,” which refers to a specific path: entering a nest, the home of a body in motion, or things entering their homes and hiding there.
Again in verse 16, the word “jawaar,” the plural form of “jariyah,” which means one that moves and flows, is translated as “that ride their course.” Bearing the meanings in mind, it is very possible that these verses refer to the gravitational forces of the planets and their movements around their orbits.
These words in the above verses fully describe orbital movements stemming from the force of gravity. Of these, the word “khunnas” refers to the planets’ attraction towards their own centers and also their attraction towards the Sun, which is the center of our Solar System. (Allah knows best.)
The force of gravity already existed in the universe-although it was only possible to reveal this attractive force with mathematical formula with Sir Isaac Newton, who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. The word “jawaar” in the following verse emphasizes the orbital movements that arise as a result of the centrifugal force that opposes this attractive one.
There is no doubt that the use of the word “jawaar” together with “khunnas” (attraction towards the centre, shrinkage) and “kunnas” (path, entering the nest, the home of a body in motion) indicates an important scientific truth that nobody could have known about 1,400 years ago. (Allah knows best.) Moreover, these verses, one of the subjects sworn on in the Qur’an, are another indication of the importance of the subject.
THE SPHERICAL EARTH
He has created the heavens and the Earth for truth. He wraps the night up in the day, and wraps the day up in the night. (Qur’an, 39:5)
In the Qur’an, the words used for describing the universe are quite remarkable. The Arabic word which is translated as “to wrap” in the above verse is “yukawwir.” In English, it means “to make one thing lap over another, folded up as a garment that is laid away.” For instance, in Arabic dictionaries this word is used for the action of wrapping one thing around another, in the way that a turban is put on.
The information given in the verse about the day and the night wrapping each other up includes accurate information about the shape of the world. This can be true only if the Earth is round. This means that in the Qur’an, which was revealed in the 7th century, the roundness of the world was hinted at.
However, it should be remembered that the understanding of astronomy of the time perceived the world differently. It was then thought that the world was a flat plane and all scientific calculations and explanations were based on this belief.
However, the glorious Qur’an has employed the most definitive words when it came to describing the universe. These facts, which we could only correctly fathom in our century, have been in the Qur’an for a vast length of time.
THE EARTH’S DIRECTION OF ROTATION
You will see the mountains and reckon them to be solid; but they go past like clouds-the handiwork of Allah Who gives to everything its solidity. He is aware of what you do. (Qur’an, 27:88)
The above verse emphasizes that the Earth not only rotates but that it also has a direction of rotation. The direction of movement of the main cloud masses at 3,500-4,000 meters (11,500-13,000 feet) high is always from West to East.
That is why it is generally the state of the weather in the West which is looked at in meteorological forecasts. (“Effects of Rotation (Coriolis Effect),” The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation)
The main reason why cloud masses are pulled from West to East is the direction in which the Earth rotates. As we now know, our Earth spins from West to East. This scientific fact, only recently established by science, was revealed in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago, at a time when the Earth was believed to be flat, and to be resting on the back of an elephant.
THE EARTH’S GEOID SHAPE
After that He smoothed out the Earth. (Qur’an, 79:30)
In the above verse, the word “dahaa” is used in the original Arabic. It, translated as “smoothed out,” comes from the word “dahaw,” meaning “to spread.” Although the word “dahaw” also means to cover or to set out, the meaning of the verb is more than just a prosaic setting out, since it describes setting out in a circle.
The concept of roundness is also present in other words derived from “dahaw.” For example, the word “dahaw” also refers to children dropping a ball into a hole in the ground, games involving throwing stones into holes and games played with walnuts. Words derived from that root are also used for an ostrich making a nest, cleaning stones from where it is about to lie down, the place where it lays its eggs and the egg itself.
Indeed, the Earth is round, in a manner reminiscent of an egg. The slightly flattened spherical shape of the Earth is known as geoid. From that point of view, the use of the word “dahaa” contains important information about the shape that Allah has given to the Earth. For hundreds of years, people imagined the Earth to be completely flat and only learned the truth thanks to technology. Yet, this fact was revealed in the Qur’an fourteen centuries ago.
THE DIAMETERS OF THE EARTH AND SPACE
Company of jinn and men, if you are able to pierce through the confines of the heavens and Earth, pierce through them. You will not pierce through except with a clear authority. (Qur’an, 55:33)
The Arabic word translated as “confines” in the above verse is “aqtaar.” This is the plural form of the word “qutr,” meaning diameter and refers to the skies and the Earth having many diameters. It is possible in Arabic to tell from the form in which a word is used whether it is singular, plural (more than two), or employed in a dual form. Therefore, the form of the word used here, the plural, refers to another piece of miraculous information.
A three-dimensional body can only be said to have a single diameter if it is perfectly spherical. The term “diameters” can only refer to an irregular but basically spherical shape. This word chosen in the Qur’an-diameters-is important from the point of view of indicating the geoid shape of the Earth. The second noteworthy subject in the verse is that the Earth and the heavens are mentioned separately in reference to diameters.
According to Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the universe is expanding. But this does not mean that the galaxies and other heavenly bodies are being dispersed in space. This means that space is expanding and that the distance between the galaxies is increasing.
The definition of the “confines of the heavens” in Surat ar-Rahman 33 indicates the spherical structure of space. (Allah knows best.) In the same way that the diameters of space will be different from different points in space, so the diameters of a constantly expanding space will also display differences. From that point of view the use of the plural form of the word confine is full of wisdom, and is one of the indications that the Qur’an is the revelation of our Omniscient Lord.