I wrote an article long time ago on this particular issue that ‘Quran says Sun sets in murky water’, which can be read here. I believe all the critics of Islam have written on this issue and many have successfully proved to Muslims too that there are scientific errors in Qur’an. But recently an Islamic website propagated that there is no such error in Quran in hope that those who are unaware of this error may never know what the truth is. In this article I’ll quote the relevant part of the claim and I’ll answer to those claims using authentic and canonical scriptures of Islam.
CLAIM: “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:
“Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhu’l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness.” Quran 18:86
REPLY: This is a common question thrown at Muslims because, when any Non-Muslim read Quran for the first time, they do not expect the owner of this universe ‘Allah’ to make such a silly mistake in his book, which he calls a guidance to mankind. Even if we ask a child of 2nd grade to write an essay on ‘Setting place of Sun’, even they won’t write such a statement, then how come the Lord himself utter such thing? Apart from this Quran in multiple places calls itself to be a clear book (5:15), which is most easily understood (44:58 , 54:22 , 54:32, 54:40), explained in detail (6:114) etc, but still there are millions of people who believe that Quran has errors, or they misunderstand Quran as per Muslims.
CLAIM: 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. Occasionally 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 stroy of Dhul Qarnain.
REPLY: This part is quite interesting, because the author says that Quran is not a book of science, but still I would say unfortunately millions of Muslims work day and night to find a single statement in Quran which is consistent with established science. So that they can brag about their Holy Book and fool some people to convert into Islam. If we visit to any Islamic site, there will be a complete section or category of ‘Science in Quran’, still when a contradictory statement is caught in Quran, they claim it to be book of SIGNS and not SCIENCE. Anyways, I don’t have the problem with what Muslims call their Holy Book to be, but yes I don’t agree that Quran gives glad tidings for righteous and warns against sin, because Quran is the only religious book in face of earth, which calls its followers to kill those who reject Islam or are Non-Muslims, and the recent case is of U.K soldier beheading. Quran exhorts Muslims to do sin which is ironical to what the author has claimed above. The historical information are there in Quran, because the tribe of Muhammad demanded him to give some evidence of his Prophet-hood, to which he replied by telling stories of past.
CLAIM: 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 .
REPLY: OK, for the sake of argument I accept that the verse in question is not trying to make a scientific statement, but even we can’t ignore that unintentionally the verse contradicts an established scientific fact. In easy words, the verse in question has some part in it, which is against science. Also, as we know that Quran is a verbatim word of God, so it would be injustice to not evaluate each and every verse of Quran in scientific terms. Because if we find even a single error,contradiction,mistake,pseudo-science in Quran, then it is easy to prove that Quran is not from God, but man-made. If we look into the context of the verse in question, we find that few people of Mecca asked Muhammad about Dhul Qarnain, because they doubted Muhammad’s prophet hood claim and they wanted to check his knowledge about the person. On this occasion Allah came to help him and he recited Muhammad the whole story of Dhul Qarnain (not really, Muhammad made this entire story by himself, and he wrote the entire Quran too). So even if the story is informing us about Dhul Qarnain vision, still if Allah informed it, it has to be scientifically and historically correct.
Also the verse (Quran 18:86) talks about a specific place where the sun sets. The word used in Quran is maghriba which means ‘(the) setting place’ of sun. So we can’t take west in general, Allah is talking about a specific place where sun sets, where Dhul Qarnain reached. The Arabic word Wajada وَجَدَ used in the verse means ‘and he found’ in literal sense.
CLAIM: 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
REPLY: Again I don’t have any problem with how Edward William Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon defines the word, because the meaning is simply proving me correct. The meaning as per dictionary is:
Oxford dictionary defines the word perceived as: to become aware of, know, or identify by means of the senses: so it hardly matters how Dhul Qarnain became aware of, knew, identified by his senses, that sun sets in muddy pool, the verse is still unscientific, which makes Quran a word of man. This is not all, as per the word to word new Quran dictionary, Wajada means ‘and he found’ (literally). The very word is also used in Quran 18:77 where it is used in very real sense.
CLAIM: 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.
REPLY: As I said before that even if it was from perspective of Dhul Qarnain, still it has to be scientifically correct as the all knowing Lord of world is reciting it. The author uses a picture of Sun setting in horizon to prove his case, but it is not that simple. We can’t take example of sun setting in shore, because the water body as per the verse 18:86 in Quran is not SEA or OCEAN, but a small pool or say muddy spring, which cannot produce the effect of sun setting in horizon. The word used for the water body in the verse is ‘ʿaynin’, which as per all almost all Arabic dictionary means ‘spring, pool or small lake’, so even by our wildest imagination we can’t make it a SEA or OCEAN, where the sun setting in horizon can be observed. The problem increases when the Prophet of Islam says the same thing in one of his Hadith:
Abu Dharr said: I was sitting behind the Apostle of Allah who was riding a donkey while the sun was setting. He asked: Do you know where this sets? I replied: Allah and his Apostle know best. He said: It sets in a spring of warm water. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith 3991)
CLAIM: 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.
REPLY: I don’t have much to say on this, because most of the times Muslims them-self claim that Tafsirs are not the authority of Islam, and they may be wrong. The earlier scholars of Islam interpreted the verses as Muhammad explained them, and one of them is Ibn Abbas, who was companion and cousin of Prophet himself, he wrote about the verse:-
(Till, when he reached the setting place of the sun) where the sun sets, (he found it setting in a muddy spring) a blackened, muddy and stinking spring; it is also said that this means: a hot spring, (and found a people thereabout) these people were disbelievers: (We said: O Dhu’l-Qarnayn!) We inspired him (Either punish) either kill them until they accept to believe that there is no deity except Allah (or show them kindness) or you pardon them and let them be.
So if we have to believe Ibn Abbas then the verse is scientifically wrong, I also quoted the words of Prophet himself, which again is scientifically wrong. Muslims are insulting their own Prophet and Allah by not preaching and following what their Prophet preached and their god revealed. It Blasphemous, and punishment for blasphemy in Islam is DEATH. Also don’t forget to watch the video below: