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Q / A
Answering Common Misconceptions

39. Mountains Moving Like Clouds!


Assalamu alaykum

I have read in the Qur'an something like a reference to "the mountains moving like clouds". How would the mountain move like clouds? Please elaborate.

Thank you


Movement of the mountains like clouds is referred to in (Sūrat An-Naml: Verse No. 88), that says (English meaning):

*  And you see the mountains, that you reckon inert, and (really) they pass by like clouds – the handiwork of Allah.

The earth, that looks to us at rest ("you reckon inert"), rotates around itself, together with what it sustains such as mountains, at a speed of 1,669 km/h, and at a speed of 53,624 km/h around the sun ("they pass by like clouds"). As to the above verse, classical interpreters of the Holy Qur’an, unaware of the concept of earth self-rotation, thought that this would refer to an independent destructive movement of the mountains on the Day of Resurrection. As the verse is amid other verses dealing with the major events of that day, this interpretation did seem plausible. Yet, the verse refers clearly to the motion of mountains as: ‘the handiwork of Allah’ in His creation, and not as the 'destruction' that will take place on the Day of Resurrection. Such destruction of mountains is clearly described elsewhere in the Holy Qur'an. Read e.g.:

* When the earth will be convulsed with a (severe) convulsion, And the mountains crumbled with a violent crumbling, So that they become disseminated dust particles. (Sūrat Al-Wāqi`ah: Verses Nos.4-6)

* On the Day when the heaven will be as molten metal, And the mountains will be as wool-tufts. (Sūrat Al-Ma`ārij: Verses Nos.8-9)

* The Day (whereon) mankind will be like disseminated moths, And the mountains will be like carded wool tufts. (Sūrat Al-Qāri`ah: Verses Nos.4-5)

* On the Day when the earth and the mountains will be in commotion, and the mountains become a heap of sand let loose. (Sūrat Al-Muzzammil: Verse No.14)

* So when the stars will be obliterated, And when the heaven will be riven, And when the mountains will be crushed. (Sūrat Al-Mursalāt: Verses Nos.8-10)  

Now, we can see that mentioning the verse dealing with the 'mountains passing by like clouds' (Sūrat An-Naml: Verse No. 88) amid verses that deal with the Day of Resurrection (Verses Nos. 82-90), is to repeatedly remind people of the graces and merits bestowed on them by Allah during their lifetime, as contrasted with the reckoning of the world to come. This applies also to a preceding verse, i.e. (Sūrat An-Naml: Verse No. 86) that deals with the grace of creating the day and the night (English meaning):

 * Have they not seen that We have made the night for them to rest in it, and the daytime a beholder? Surely in that are indeed signs for a people who believe.

It is not uncommon in the Holy Qur’an to alternately mention scenes from the Hereafter and the signs of Allah’s creation. This unique literary approach could be so that our grasp of tangible day-to-day signs of Allah's power would strengthen our belief in the unseen.

The continual rotation of the earth around its axis, is also referred to variously elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an, in such precise scientific expressions, as in the following examples (English meanings):

A- The day 'stripping' from the night:

* And a sign for them is the night; We naslakh (strip, Arabic: to gradually scrape off or remove the skin, or the like) the daytime from it, and so, only then they are in darkness. (Sūrat Yasin – Verse No. 37)

It is known that the atmospheric envelope facing the sun receives sunlight and becomes illuminated due to the scattering of light by gaseous molecules and ions. The other half of the envelope at this time is totally in darkness. With the earth’s rotation, the illuminated part is gradually replaced with darkness, and hence stripped of the part of the envelope that was in daytime, and then night gradually prevails. The expression also suggests that the outer space is essentially dark, a fact confirmed by recent space travels. A similar description is given by the following verse:

* He brings the night as a cover over the day, seeking it rapidly (Sūrat Al-A`raf – Verse No. 54)

Here, the use of the word: ‘rapidly’, also refers to the high velocity of the earth’s rotation, a fact that we cannot grasp as we observe the alternation of day and night.

B- Rolling over::

* He (Allah) yukawwir (rolls in a spherical manner) the night over the daytime, and He yukawwir the daytime over the night. (Sūrat Az-Zumar – Verse No. 5)

The verse also refers to the conglobation of the earth.

C- The movement of the night and the day::

* And He it is Who has created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, each 'yasbahun' (float) in an orbit. (Sūrat Al-Anbiya’ – Verse No. 33)

* It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. They all float, each 'yasbahun' (float) in an orbit. (Sūrat Yasin – Verse No. 40)

The Arabic word yasbahun, is the plural form of the verb referring to more than two subjects. (Arabic grammar differentiates between the dual and plural subjects.) Thus, the word ‘float’ or yasbahun in Arabic does not refer only to the sun and the moon.

D- Points of sunrise:

* And We made the people who were considered weak to inherit the eastern (points of sunrise) of the land and the western (points of sunset) parts thereof which We have blessed. (Sūrat Al-A`raf – Verse No. 137)

* Lord of the heavens and of the earth, and all that is between them, and Lord of every point of the sun's risings. (Sūrat As-Saffat – Verse No. 5)

* So I swear by the Lord of all points of sunrise and sunset in the east and the west that surely We are Able. (Sūrat Al-Ma`arij – Verse No. 40)    
Sunrise is repeatedly referred to in the Holy Qur’an in the plural Arabic 'mashariq': meaning risings. Thus it refers to the different and successive risings of the sun to the earth due to its rotation. If the earth were motionless there would be only one point for sunrise and another for sunset everywhere at the same time.

I hope this answer could have shed light on only few proofs of the scientific perfection of the Qur'an, the Word of the Ever-Knowing Creator of the universe.

Useful Links:

Mountains as Stabilizers for the Earth

The Mountains Created as Pegs

The Qur'an on Mountains

Earth in the Qur'an