2. Some Christian missionaries claim that the Quran teaches Muslims that the sun sets in a murky pool.
This is a false claim, the Quran does not teach such inaccuracy. The verse the Christians pick out from the Quran is 18:86
86. Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: “O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority,) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness.” (1)
Hesham Azmy & Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi explain this verse:
““Until, when he reached the setting of the sun…”: The translation of this part of the verse does not say that Zul-Qarnain reached the place where the sun sets LITERALLY, rather it means here that Zul-Qarnain was facing the direction in which the sun is setting. The “setting of the sun,” is an Arabic idiom meaning ‘the western-most point’ of his expedition. However, in general, idioms should not be literally translated.
“…he found it set in a spring of murky water”: The Qur’an is obviously describing what Dhul-Qarnain saw. What Dhul-Qarnain saw was the image of the sun setting in a dark body of water. Since the Qur’an is clearly describing this from Dhul-Qarnain’s direct point of view (the Qur’an is quite explicit here in doing that), there is in fact no problem with the description of what Dhul-Qarnain saw. Of course the Critic is right when he says that “the sun does not set in a spring of murky water”, but try standing at a beach during the time when the sun is about to set and the Critic would be able to see the sun “entering” the sea far in the horizon. This therefore gives us the conclusion that Dhul-Qarnain was somewhere west and by a large body of water, possibly the sea.
Therefore, it is clear the verse says that Dhul-Qarnain went west and saw the sun setting over the horizon so that it looked to him as though it was setting into the sea, which is murky-looking. Probably the critic have never stood by on the beach and observe the sun set” (2)
The unscholarly nature of the claim against the Quran extends further as the critics overlook the authoritative explanations of this verse by the early Muslim scholars. These authoritative explanations (by ibn Kathir and al-Qurtabi) teach us that the Quran is not talking literally therefore it is not telling Muslims to belive the Sun sets in a pool of water. The question is why did the critics ignore what the authorities (al-Qurtabi and inb-Kathir) on this verse had to say as the authorities reflect the earliest,purest and moste accurate understanding of the Quran (2).
However, if the Christian critic is going to continue with such unscholarly and down-right deceptive methodology then it would be reasonable for one to expect the Christian critic to be consistent and extend the same level of thought to biblical verses, such as:
Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh? (Deuteronomy 11:30 KJV)
This verse of the Bible (Deut 11:30) is obviously not meant to be taken literally, just like the Quranic verse 18:86. The hypocrisy of the Christian critic is displayed quite openly in the way the critic uses one method for the Quranic verse while another for the Bible. If the critic was consistent then he/she would claim the bible to be unscientific here. However, just like the Quranic verse in question, the Bible verse is obviously not to be taken literally.
“In the New Testament, Jesus is reported to have said about the Queen of Sheba that she came from the ends of the earth (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). Would the author also say that Jesus’ words were also foolish and false and would he reject him also? Obviously, we know that the Queen Sheba did not come from the ends of the earth. Yemen is not the end of the earth. The author would say that Jesus spoke metaphorically. We say the same thing, that in the story of Zul Qarnain, God spoke metaphorically”(3)
So to summarise this section; the critic of Islam takes the Quranic verse 100% literally when it is not meant to be taken to such a literal level, the critic of Islam ignores the authorities of the Quran as the authorities on the Quran confirm the verse in question is not to be 100% literally. The critic who is Christian also falls into the realms of hypocrisy as he/she applies a different standard for the Quran and the Bible.
May Allah guide us all and save Muslims and non-Muslims from the critic’s misinformation/deception. Ameen.
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation of the Quran (18:86)