And at the Earth [land], how it is spread out

[88:20] And at the Earth, how it is spread out?

The Overwhelming

In Arabic, the noun sat’h  سطح means rooftop! while the books of tafseer refer to it as a mountain; only if it has a flat top! I have to admit that this verse and other similar ones have challenged me for sometime as they seem, to the casual reader, to contradict scientific facts, other verses refer to the Al Mighty as he spread the land, laid down the land, expanded the land, made the land a cradle and made the land a mattress [bed] as listed below:

All references in this article are linked to the original sources such as Wikipedia, Quran Al Tafsser, APOD and other scientific references.

Quranic Ayahs (verses) are colored in green to distinguish them from our own writing, you will notice that within the translations are bracketed terms such as [Your] were embedded by the translator as he believed that this is what is meant by the Ayahs as in the following example [67:4] Then return [your] vision twice again. [Your] vision will return to you humbled while it is fatigued.

The word “Ard” in Arabic أرض refers to the both the planet earth and the land (crust), in a similar fashion to the word Earth in English, however, there is a rule of thumb in the Quran that when Earth is paired with Heavens, then it refers to planet Earth, while if it is referenced alone then it refers to the land we walk on (crust), the only exception is when the Quran refers to the creation of the planet as the planet was created in the first four days and the heavens were created in the next two days. as such you will find the term [land] in italic that refers to adjustments made by the writer.

[2:22[He] who made for you the earth [land] a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him].

[88:20] And at the Earth [land], how it is spread out?

[78:6] Have We not made the earth [land] a [cradle] resting place?

[79:30] And after that He spread the earth [land] 

[13:3] And it is He who spread the earth [land] and placed therein firmly set mountains and rivers; and from all of the fruits He made therein two mates; He causes the night to cover the day. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. [13:4] And within the land are neighboring plots

[15:19] And the earth [land] – We have spread it and cast therein firmly set mountains and caused to grow therein [something] of every well-balanced thing.

[50:7] And the earth [land] – We spread it out and cast therein firmly set mountains and made grow therein [something] of every beautiful kind,

[71:19] And Allah has made for you the earth [land] an expanse

[91:6] And [by] the earth [land] and He who spread it

The reference to such event in multiple locations in the holly Quran tells us that this was no ordinary event, while doubters and atheist on the other hand use such verses to claim that the Quran contradicts science by claiming that the earth is flat! And this is what prompted me to write this article.

The books of tafseer insist on the explanation: “A mountain; only if it has a flat top”! for both words (سطح = sath = surface) and (بساط = bisat = rolled out), while the tafseer of spread the earth  in the books of tafseer: “expanded the land … and it was mentioned that it was from the mother of all villages (Mecca) that the land was expanded”, and this is what we will explain … right now!

Solar systems in the making, the creation of planetary systems in the Orion Nebula
Solar systems in the making as photographed by the Hubble space telescope in the Orion Nebula, Fussilat, Miracles of Allah

The prevailing theory for planet formation is that planets were formed as a result of a supernova explosion, during which, parts of the subsequent nebula (smoke cloud) collapsed into a thin disk of gas and dust where a protostar formed at the core, surrounded by rotating protoplanetary disks that continued to accumulate material into the newly formed planets as we described in our article “No I swear by the slinkers, runners and sinkers“. The accumulation of material meant that kinetic energy (motion) was transformed into potential energy (heat), thus perfectly rounded molten planets were born; such as earth.

white butter-like and the land was expanded from underneath
The first landmass to rise above the water surface was were Kaaba is, a white butter-like material just above water surface and Allah expanded the land from underneath

Science has two theories on how water existed on earth, the first states that the water was in a gaseous state and when atmosphere cooled, it came down as rain, while the second theory states that planet earth was bombarded by comets rich in water as we described in our untranslated article “how Allah brought down water كيف انزل الله الماء“. This is supported by several sayings by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) that indicate that the early earth was totally submerged under water and then a landmass rose just above the water surface, the tip of which was neither rock nor mud but in between, from which, Allah expanded the land mass. Another reference by Ibn Omar states that Kaaba was the first landmass to surface above the water, it was  white butter-like from which the land was expanded from underneath. Other prophet sayings even specify the time between the appearance of land and the beginning of the expansion at 2000 years.

The breakup of Pangea into today's continents
The breakup of Pangaea into today’s continents – Fussilat

Thus, Kaaba was the location were the landmass expanded above the water surface, and was later split into “neighboring plots” that drifted and collided with each other causing the creation of firmly-set mountain chains at the sides of the plots, then again they drifted apart and at subsequent stages became Pangaea (Mother continent) that was again split into the continents that we now know. The Almighty described the event in Surat Abasa [80:25] How We poured down water in torrents, [80:26] Then We broke open the earth [land], splitting it [80:27] And caused to grow within it grain [80:28] And grapes and herbage [80:29] And olive and palm trees [80:30] And gardens of dense shrubbery [80:31] And fruit and grass.

As such, the words “spread”, “laid down”, “expanded”, “cradle” and “mattress” do not refer to the shape of planet earth, but rather to the way the landmass rose above the water surface and later expanded, as Allah, the Al Mighty,  made it a cradle for land life including us humans. Currently, landmass covers only 29% of the earth’s surface while the rest is water.

A mountain; only if it has a flat top

In geology, there are three types of mountains: folded mountains, volcanic mountains and fault-block mountains, however, none has a flat top! On the other hand, seamounts or under-water mountains can have a flat top if the mountain (Guyotreaches the water surface  as waves keep eroding new eruptions on the surface. Yes, a mountain ; only if it has a flat top! this is what the books of tafseer referred to [13:3] And it is He who spread the earth [land] and placed therein firmly set mountains and rivers; and from all of the fruits He made therein two mates; He causes the night to cover the day. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. [13:4] And within the land are neighboring plots.

 Seamounts are formed as a result of underwater lava eruptions that accumulate material in layers creating an underwater mountin, if the mountain reached the water surface, the tip becomes flat as a result of erosion by waves.
Seamounts are formed as a result of underwater lava eruptions that accumulate material in layers creating an underwater mountain, if the mountain reaches the water surface (Guyot), the tip becomes flat as a result of erosion by waves.

As the first landmass surfaced, angels roamed around it in circles to glorify the Creator, and this is what we do during Hajj and Omra, we perform “tawaf”. [3:96] Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds. [3:97] In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham. And whoever enters it shall be safe. And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves – then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds. And also [22:26] And [mention, O Muhammad], when We designated for Abraham the site of the House, [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who stand [in prayer] and those who bow and prostrate.

Sorat Al Ghashia “The overwhelming” starts by describing the state of two groups of people just after the day of judgement based on their belief and deeds, [88:1] Has there reached you the report of the Overwhelming [event]?

Group 1: [88:2] Some faces on that day will be humbled, [88:3] toiling, weary, [88:4] roasting in a scorching fire, [88:5] made to drink from a boiling spring. [88:6] They will have no food except cactus, [88:7] neither nourishing, nor availing against hunger.

Group 2: [88:8] Other faces on that day will be delicate, [88:9] pleased by their efforts; [88:10] in a lofty Garden, [88:11] in which they will not hear any vanity; [88:12] therein is a running spring; [88:13] therein are lofty couches, [88:14] and goblets set, [88:15] and cushions arrayed, [88:16] and carpets spread out.

So believe in Allah and do good and you will be guaranteed Group 2.

Update: March 3, 2020: A new scientific research based on isotope analysis has revealed that earth was totally submerged by water when it was 1.5 billion years old. Read the article and reference here.

By: Husein A. Kattab


We utilize hyperlinks in our article to refer to the original sources, however, additional references are added that we encountered during our research.

  1. شرح مغلطاي لسنن ابن ماجة
  2. غريب الحديث
  3. موقع فضيلة الدكتور زغلول النجار
  4. روي عن رسول الله ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قوله‏:‏ كانت الكعبة خشعة على الماء فدحيت منها الأرض‏,‏ والحديث ذكره الهروي في غريب  الحديث‏  ورد حديث مشابه أخرجه الطبراني والبيهقي في الشعب عن ابن عمر ـ رضي الله عنهما ـ موقوفا عليه‏:‏ أنه ـ أي البيت الحرام ـ كان أول ما ظهر على وجه الماء عند خلق السماوات والأرض زَبدة ـ بفتح الزاي‏,‏ أي كتلة من الزَبد ـ بيضاء فدحيت الأرض من تحته.
  5.  ومثله “أول ببيت ظهر على وجه الماء عند خلق السموات والأرض خلقه الله تعالى قبل الأرض بألفي عام وكانت زبدة بيضاء على الماء فدحيت الأرض من تحتها”

من تأليف حسين كتّاب

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