Quranic Vision of Creation

  January 07, 2024   Read time 5 min
Quranic Vision of Creation
The Christians accept Genesis as Scripture—that is, God’s true word— and so their account of Creation is identical with that of the Jews, though it was originally read, of course, in a Greek or later a Latin translation, and was often commented upon in a very different way.
For the Muslims, on the other hand, the Scripture called the Quran superseded the Book of Genesis; and though its source is the same as that in Genesis, God Himself, there are obvious diVerences in detail in its view of Creation. It was God who raised the skies without support, as you can see, and assumed His throne, and enthralled the sun and the moon (so that) each runs to a predetermined course. He disposes all aVairs, distinctly explaining every sign that you may be certain of the meeting with your Lord.
And it was He who stretched the earth and placed upon it stabilisers and rivers; and made two of a pair of every fruit; (and) he covers up the day with the night. In these are signs for those who reflect. On the earth are tracts adjoining one another, and vineyards, fields of corn and date-palm trees, some forked and some with single trunks, yet all irrigated with the selfsame water, though We make some more excellent than others in fruit. There are surely signs in them for those who understand. (Quran 13:2–4)
Much of the “biblical” material in the Quran, or perhaps better, the Torah material in the Quran—the Quran is in its entirety “Bible” to the Muslim—is not presented in a continuous narrative line in the manner of Genesis but often simply alluded to, frequently to support or illustrate another point. Hence the subject of Creation comes up in diVerent places, as here again in Quran 32, where the moral consequences of Creation are homiletically drawn at the beginning and the end of the passage.
It is God who created the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them, in six spans, then assumed all authority. You have no protector other than Him, nor any intercessor. Will you not be warned even then? He regulates all aVairs from high to low, then they rise to perfection step by step in a (heavenly)day whose measure is a thousand years in your reckoning. Such is He, the knower of the unknown and the known, the mighty and the merciful, who made all things He created excellent; and first fashioned man from clay, then made his oVspring from the extract of base fluid, then proportioned and breathed into him His spirit, and gave you the senses of hearing, sight and feeling, and yet how little are the thanks you oVer. (Quran 32:4–9)
It is already apparent that, among other differences between Genesis and the Quran, there is the matter of chronology, as the Muslims themselves were well aware. The people of the Torah [that is, the Jews] say that God began the work of Creation on Sunday and finished on Saturday, when He took His seat upon the Throne, and so they take that as their holy day. The Christians say the beginning (of Creation)fell on a Monday and the ending on Sunday, when He took His seat on the Throne, so they take that as their holy day. Ibn Abbas [a companion of Muhammad and an active transmitter of traditions from the Prophet] said that the beginning was on a Saturday and the ending on a Friday, so that the taking of His seat was also on a Friday, and for that reason we keep it as a holy day. It was said by the Prophet, may God bless him and give him peace, “Friday is the mistress among the days. It is more excellent in God’s sight than either the Breaking of the Fast (at the end of Ramadan)or the Feast of Sacrifice (in connection with the Pilgrimage liturgy). On it occurred five special things, to wit: Adam was created, on it his spirit was breathed into him, he was wedded, he died, and on it will come the Final Hour. No human ever asks his Lord for anything on Friday but that God gives him what he asks.” Another version of this prophetic tradition reads: “. . . ask, so long as it is not something forbidden.” (Al-Kisa›i, Stories of the Prophets) [jeffery 1962: 171–172]
Christians found the chief moral implications of Genesis in the story of Adam’s sin and the original couple’s banishment from Eden. The Muslims too read the Creation story in a moral manner, chiefly because the Quran presented it from precisely that perspective. Here, however, the emphasis is not on the fall of Adam but on the sin of the angels. He made for you all that lies within the earth, then turning to the firmament He proportioned several skies: He has a knowledge of every thing. And when the work of Creation was completed, there followed this dialogue in heaven. Remember when the Lord said to the angels: “I have to place a trustee [the Arabic word is khalifa, Caliph; see chapter 3 below] on the earth.” They said, “Will You place one there who would create disorder and shed blood, while we intone Your litanies and sanctify Your name?” And God said, “I know what you do not know.” Then He gave Adam the knowledge of the nature and reality of all things and every thing, and set them before the angels and said, “Tell me the names of these if you are truthful.” And they said, “Glory to You, (O Lord), knowledge we have none save what You have given us, for You are all-knowing and allwise.”
Then He said to Adam: “Convey to them their names.” And when he had told them, God said, “Did I not tell you that I know the unknown of the heavens and the earth, and I know what you disclose and know what you hide?” Remember, when We asked the angels to bow in homage to Adam, they all bowed but Iblis, who disdained and turned insolent, and so became a disbeliever. And We said to Adam: “Both you and your spouse will live in the Garden, eat freely to your fill wherever you like, but approach not this tree or you will become transgressors.” But Satan tempted them and had them banished from the (happy) state they were in. And We said: “Go, one the enemy of the other, and live on the earth the time ordained, and fend for yourselves.” Then his Lord sent commands to Adam and turned toward him: Indeed He is compassionate and kind. (Quran 2:29–37)

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