The Sun Sets in a Muddy Spring! (Fun Islamic Fact #10)
For fans of Islamic “science,” Muhammad gives us an amazing seventh-century astronomy lesson. (Hint: The sun sets in a muddy pool!)
Welcome to “Fun Islamic Facts,” where I share fun facts about Muhammad and the Qur’an, whenever jihadis go on a killing spree.
Do you know where the sun goes when it sets? Allah tells us in Surah 18, verses 83-86 of the Qur’an, where Dhul-Qarnain, the Islamic name for either Alexander the Great or Cyrus the Great, takes a little trip to the edge of the world.
And they ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say: “I shall recite to you something of his story.” Verily, We established him in the earth, and We gave him the means of everything. So he followed a way. Until, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a spring of black muddy (or hot) water. And he found near it a people. We (Allah) said (by inspiration): “O Dhul-Qarnain! Either you punish them, or treat them with kindness.”
Notice all the scientific errors in verse 86. Allah says that there is a place where the sun sets. No, there isn’t. Allah says that Dhul-Qarnain reached it. No, he didn’t, because it doesn’t exist. Allah says that there are people who live there. These people must be imaginary, because, again, the place doesn’t exist. Allah says that the sun sets in a spring of muddy water. No, it doesn’t. If the sun is setting in a spring somewhere on the earth, the sun must be much smaller than the earth. No, it isn’t.
Muslims who are embarrassed by the sheer stupidity of this passage try to explain it away by insisting that the Qur’an is only saying that Dhul-Qarnain reached some sort of body of water and saw the sun’s reflection in the water. “Thus,” these embarrassed Muslims claim, “the passage is merely describing the way things appeared to Dhul-Qarnain.”
But that interpretation simply won’t work, for three reasons.
First, this story isn’t being told from Dhul-Qarnain’s perspective. It’s being told from Allah’s perspective. Allah says, “We established him,” “We gave him the means,” so Allah is the narrator of this story. And Allah declares that Dhul-Qarnain “reached the setting place of the sun,” that he “found it setting in a spring of black muddy (or hot) water,” and that he “found near it a people.” So unless Muslims are trying to convince us that Allah himself was confused about what Dhul-Qarnain found, they need to take Allah’s description seriously.
Second, the Qur’an claims repeatedly to be perfectly clear. If Allah wanted to say, “Even though Dhul-Qarnain thought he reached the setting-place of the sun, he was mistaken because he was only seeing a reflection in a pool,” there are perfectly good Arabic words to say that. But that’s not what Allah says in his perfectly clear Qur’an. Instead, Allah plainly states that Dhul-Qarnain “reached the setting place of the sun,” that he “found it setting in a spring of black muddy (or hot) water,” and that he “found near it a people.”
Third, according to Islamic doctrine, Muhammad is the greatest human interpreter of the Qur’an. And Muhammad tells us exactly where the sun goes when it sets. Sunan Abu Dawud 4002:
It was narrated that Abu Dharr said: “I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah while he was on a donkey, and the sun was setting. He said: ‘Do you know where this (sun) sets?’ I said: ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said: ‘It sets in a spring of warm water.’”
Since Muhammad says nothing about Dhul-Qarnain here, Muslims can’t assert that Muhammad was merely describing some sort of optical illusion that Dhul-Qarnain saw. This is Muhammad telling one of his companions where the sun goes when it sets. And according to Muhammad, the sun sets in a spring of water.
Hence, Muslims who try to reinterpret Surah 18, verse 86 of the Qur’an are telling us that Allah was confused about what Dhul-Qarnain saw, that the Qur’an is horribly unclear, and that modern Muslims understand the Qur’an better than Muhammad did. But in Islam, this would be blasphemy.
The only way to be a faithful Muslim, then, is to believe that, in spite of everything we know about our world and the universe, the sun actually sets in a muddy pool, and is therefore much smaller than the earth. Perhaps faithful Muslims can schedule a tour-bus, so that we can all visit the place where the sun sets and meet all the wonderful people who live there. They must have amazing tans.
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