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Answering Common Misconceptions
 

38. Plural "Easts" and "Wests" in the Qur'an

Question:
 
In the Noble Qur'an, Allah has mentioned Himself as Rabb (Lord) of "easts" and "wests." Can someone explain why east and west were used in plural forms?

Answer:

The Holy Qur'an, being the final word of the Ever-Knowing Allah to mankind, is a glimpse of His infinite knowledge. Every word, expression, or chapter in so meticulously chosen and phrased such as to give the utmost precision of meaning, as well as splendid eloquence and deep impact. The words: "East" and "West" have been mentioned in the Qur'an using the three Arabic morphological forms, i.e. single, dual, and plural; in each case to purposely give a specific meaning (s).

In the singular form, reference is often to the geographic east and west directions of the planet Earth, as in the following verses (English meaning):

bullet It is not benignancy that you turn your faces around in the direction of East and West; but benignancy is (in him) who believes in Allah, and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Prophets, and brings wealth in spite of his love for it (Or: offers out of love for Him) to near kinsmen, and the orphans, and the indigent, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and (to ransom) necks, (i.e. captives “slaves”) and keeps up the prayer, and bring the Zakat, (i.e. pay the poor-dues) and they who fulfil their covenant when they have covenanted, and the patient (ones) in misery and tribulation, and while in violence; (i.e. during fighting) those are (they) who act sincerely, and those are they who are the pious. [meaning of Qur'an 2:177]

Also, the singular form could refer to the alternation of sun rising and setting, by which the day and night alternate to maintain the life on earth, as in the following verse (English meaning):

·      Ibrahîm (Abraham) said, “Yet surely Allah comes up with (i.e., brings) the sun from the East, so come up with (i.e., bring) it from the West.” Then the one who disbelieved was confounded; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.

         [meaning of Qur'an 2:258]

Alternatively, the combined expression "East and West" is used to express the domination of Allah over the whole earth, albeit the whole Creation Examples of this use can be read in the following verses (English meaning):

bullet And Allah has the East and the West …  [meaning of Qur'an 2:115]
bullet Say, “To Allah (belong) the East and West; He guides whomever He decides to a straight Path.” [meaning of Qur'an 2:142]

·      He (Moses) said, “The Lord of the East and the West and whatever is between them (both), in case you (can) consider.” [meaning of Qur'an 26:2]

·   The Lord of the East and the West; there is no god except He; so take Him to yourself for an Ever-Trusted Trustee. [meaning of Qur'an 73:9]

On the other hand, the dual form, used in other verses, could refer to either of two meanings:

1- the separate rising and setting of the sun and the moon, both of which were and are the basis for defining the time units, and the solar and lunar calendars, e.g. as in the following verse (English meaning):

bulletThe Lord of the two easts and The Lord of the two wests. [meaning of Qur'an 55:17]

2- The two extreme points of earliest sunrise and latest sunrise, along any latitude of the globe in any one day (this is explained in #4 of the "plural" meanings below). This is a possible meaning of the (dual) "two easts" in the following verse (English meaning):

bulletUntil, when he comes to Us, he says, “Oh, would that there had been between me and you the distance of the two easts!” [meaning of Qur'an 43:38]

Coming to the plural forms "Easts" and "Wests," they were used in the in the following verses of the Qur'an (English meaning):

bullet The Lord of the heavens and the earth, and whatever is between them both and The Lord of the Easts. [meaning of Qur'an 37:5]
bullet Yet no, I swear by The Lord of the Easts and the Wests; surely We are indeed (the) Determiners. [meaning of Qur'an 70:40]

In these verses, the plural forms could carry a number of physically significant meanings. They could refer to either or all of the following phenomena:

1-     The "apparent" rising and setting of each of the celestial bodies relative to the earth, due to the rotation of the earth around its own axis and around the sun.

2-     The different (consecutive) times of sunrise or sunset as we move around the globe from east to west along any latitude (time zones).

3-     The variable times of sunrise and sunset in the same location around the four seasons; and hence the variation in the length of daytime between summer and winter. This variation widens as we move towards the poles from the equator.

4-     As the axis of rotation of the earth around itself is inclined to its axis of rotation around the sun, the time of sunrise differs (in the same day) along the same altitude as we move to higher or lower latitudes.

From this last fact, it follows that in any one day, the year round, there are oppositely two extreme latitudes (north and south): one with the earliest time of sunrise and the other with the latest. This explains the Qur'anic use of the dual form pointed to above.

Now we could see how the wise and precise linguistic usage of the same word (east or west) in different morphological forms (singular, dual, or plural) could exactly fit several physical phenomena of this marvelous creation of the Ever-Knowing Ever-Determiner Allah.  

Useful Links:

Proving the Qur’an Is the Word of God

Knowing God through Science

Proving Islam – Planet Earth