Six days of creation

It has been alleged that the Qur’an contradicts itself when it comes to stating the number of days taken for the creation of the universe. The verses under discussion are from the 41st chapter of the Qur’an:

9. Say, “Do you indeed disbelieve in He who created the earth in two days and attribute to Him equals? That is the Lord of the worlds.”

10. And He placed on the earth firmly set mountains over its surface, and He blessed it and determined therein its [creatures’] sustenance in four days without distinction – for [the information] of those who ask.

11. Thumma He directed Himself to the heaven while it was smoke and said to it and to the earth, “Come [into being], willingly or by compulsion.” They said, “We have come willingly.”

12. And He completed them as seven heavens within two days and inspired in each heaven its command. And We adorned the nearest heaven with lamps and as protection. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing.

Two days in verse nine, added by four days in verse 10 and two more days in verse 12 would indicate that the total days taken for creation were eight whereas the Qur’an states elsewhere that the universe was created in six days[1].

Apparently one would think that the four days mentioned in 41:10 include the two days mentioned in 41:9. However, when it is mentioned that Allah directed Himself to the heaven, it is also mentioned that He said to the earth to come into being (verse 11). This would mean that the four days in 41:10 do not include the two days of 41:9 because if the earth had been created already (verse 9), the order of creation of earth would not come again. The bottom line is that when Allah ordered the heavens and the earth to come into being (verse 11), the process of creation started and the events of verse 9 and verse 12 started simultaneously. The events of verse 9 and verse 12 ended simultaneously as well and then the events stated in verse 10 came into being. The two days of 41:12 were simultaneously being created with the four days of 41:10. Maududi clarifies:

Here, the commentators generally have been confronted with this question: If it is admitted that the creation of the earth took two days and the setting up of the mountains and placing of the provisions and blessings in it took four days, and the creation of the heavens, as mentioned below, took another two days, the total number of the days would be eight, whereas at several places in the Qur’an Allah has said that the creation of the earth and heavens took six days in all. (For example, see AI-A `raf: 54, Yunus: 3, Hud: 7, AI-Furqan: 59). On this very basis, almost all the commentators agree that these four days include the two days of the creation of the earth. That is, two days were taken for the creation of the earth and two days for the creation of the rest of the things within the earth, as mentioned below. Thus, the earth along with its provisions became complete in four days in all. But this not only is against the apparent words of the Qur’an, but the difficulty also is, in fact, an imaginary difficulty, to avoid which need for this interpretation has been felt. The two days of the creation of the earth are, in fact, not separate from the two days in which this universe as a whole was created. If we consider the following verses, we see that in them the creation of both the earth and the heavens has been mentioned together, and then it has been stated that Allah made the seven heavens in two days. These seven heavens imply the whole universe, one part of which is also our earth. Then, when like the other countless stars and planets of the universe this earth also took the shape of a unique globe within two days, Allah began to prepare it for animate creatures, and in four days created in it all those provisions which have been mentioned in the above verse. What development works were carried out in the other stars and planets in these four days have not been mentioned by Allah, for not to speak of the man of the period of the revelation of the Qur’an, even the man of the present age does not have the capability to digest and assimilate this information.[2]

The explanation is completely harmonious and also makes sense. However, some have argued against this explanation stating that the Arabic word Thumma (ثم) always means then where something follows another. This is one of the meanings of the word but is not always the case.

We find Arabic poetry testifying to this fact:

 قل لمن ساد ثم ساد أبوه

ثم قد ساد قبل ذلك جده

Say to those who prevailed, thumma prevailed the father,

Thumma his grandfather has prevailed before that.[3]

Thumma in the poetry does not refer to any sequence because the father and the grandfather have been stated after the thumma whereas a son cannot come before the father or the grandfather. The better word for thumma here would be moreover.

جَنُوح دِفاق عَنْدَلٌ ثم أُفرِعَت

لَهَا كَتِفَاها في مُعَالىً مُصَعَّد

Swiftly she rolls, her cranium huge, her shoulder-blades high-hoisted to frame her lofty, raised superstructure.[4]

The translator does not use ‘then’ for ‘thumma’ and presents the poetry in a way that does not denote sequence.

The Qur’an itself testifies to this.

And [recall] when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights. Thumma you took [for worship] the calf after him, while you were wrongdoers.[5]

In this verse, thumma is used but after is also used after the incident. Does this mean that there is repetition of the same thing? Definitely not. Here thumma means and rather than then. A practical example would be to say as follows:

I will wake up at six, then I will go to the office after waking up.

The ending words “… after waking up” are not required because the word then is very clear that going to office would be after waking up. There are numerous examples of this sort in the Qur’an. A few more below:

…And if they fight you, they will show you their backs; thumma they will not be aided.[6]

Showing the backs itself means that they would not be aided and so to say that there is a sequence here where not being aided would be after showing backs would be incorrect. These two are simultaneous.

If one feels that this is not a direct explanation of the word thumma and is rather an interpretation, then the more direct ones should satisfy this misconception.

There is not upon those who believe and do righteousness [any] blame concerning what they have eaten [in the past] if they [now] fear Allah and believe and do righteous deeds, and thumma fear Allah and believe, and thumma fear Allah and do good; and Allah loves the doers of good.[7]

Fear of Allah is a command of Allah that is to be followed always without any sequence. It would be incorrect to say that one should believe and do righteous deeds and then fear Allah. Fear of Allah is something that is simultaneous to believing and doing righteous deeds. Thumma here should better be translated as moreover instead of then.

Another more direct and clear meaning verse is as follows:

Say, “Travel through the land; thumma observe how was the end of the deniers.”[8]

How would one travel through the land and then observe? This verse is the most clear when it comes to understanding other proper meaning of the word thumma. Observing would be an act that would be conducted along with travelling.

Another verse that clarifies other meanings of thumma is as follows:

Thumma We gave Moses the Scripture, making complete [Our favor] upon the one who did good and as a detailed explanation of all things and as guidance and mercy that perhaps in [the matter of] the meeting with their Lord they would believe.[9]

In the context, the previous discussion is with Prophet Muhammad –may Mercy and Blessings of Allah be upon him. So to say then the scripture was given to Prophet Musa (عليه السلام) would not be suitable and hence a better translation would be and instead of then.

And We have certainly created you (khalaqnaakum), [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Thumma We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated.[10]

Khalaqnaakum is a plural word which would mean that ‘created you’ is for mankind and not just Adam (عليه السلام). If it was just Adam (عليه السلام), then one could say that the prostration order was then but since it refers to mankind and prostrating order had been given before creating mankind, then is not much applicable and moreover makes more sense here.

Another very clear verse is as follows:

Thumma eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.[11]

The preceding verse speaks of inspiration to the bee. If there was a sequence with thumma here, then eating of fruits would have to be after the inspiration. This way a person would have to eat after the inspiration to the bee. This proves that thumma is not always then and here it is and.

Thumma, surely it is We who are most knowing of those most worthy of burning therein.[12]

Have you not considered your Lord – how He extends the shadow, and if He willed, He could have made it stationary? Thumma We made the sun for it an indication.[13]

Allah would not know something after it has happened. He already knows and always knows. Another simple point is that a shadow is because of the sun and not vice versa. How can sun be made an indication after the shadow? This indicates that thumma does not necessarily have a sequence and can be simultaneous and or moreover.

Indeed, Allah knows best.


[1] Qur’an 7:54, 10:3, 11:7, 25:59 and 32:4

[2] Tafsir Maududi Surah 41

[3] See Tafsir Ibn Kathir (1/102), Ibn Hisham Al-Ansari pg. 159.

[4] Poetry by Tarafah ibn al Abd, translated by A.J. Arberry. Also see Tahrir wal Tanweer, Ibn Ashur (377-1/376)

[5] Qur’an 2:51

[6] Qur’an 3:111

[7] Qur’an 5:93

[8] Qur’an 6:11

[9] Qur’an 6:154

[10] Qur’an 7:11

[11] Qur’an 16:69

[12] Qur’an 19:70

[13] Qur’an 25:45

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7 thoughts on “Six days of creation

  1. Asslamu Alaikum Wa’rahmatullahi wabarakatuhu,

    Brother Adeel,
    I have just discovered this article and found it quite explanatory regarding the verses 41:9-12,
    I’ve also been researching on this very context of Qur’an after i found alleged contradictions in it imposed by critics of islam and i will thanks you for enlightening us on the detailed meaning of Thumma with Qur’anic similitudes.

    But i have an objection with your explanation at certain points, for which i’ll quote you.

    you said the following;
    “This would mean that the four days in 41:10 do not include the two days of 41:9 because if the earth had been created already (verse 9), the order of creation of earth would not come again. The bottom line is that when Allah ordered the heavens and the earth to come into being (verse 11), the process of creation started and the events of verse 9 and verse 12 started simultaneously. The events of verse 9 and verse 12 ended simultaneously as well and then the events stated in verse 10 came into being.”

    In verse 11 Allah ordered both Heaven & Earth to come into being and they replied “We come willingly”

    Just after they said “We come” in verse 11, in conclusion of their submission and acceptance of coming into being Allah said “So he ordained them as seven heavens….” Creation of Earth is not being talked about.

    Moreover even if we assume it to be right and proceed further we”ll find that it’ll not just contradict science but also Qu’ran as In Chapter 79 verses 27 to 30 “The Creation of Earth has been mentioned to have executed AFTER heavens”, moreover it’ll also contradict modern science as according to cosmological data Earth came into existence just after stars not simultaneously. neither it was created in first 2 days.

    I Hope you’ll consider this and reflect more on these verses as i believe that these verses contain accurate chronology of creation which can be confirmed by scientific knowledge.

    I’m waiting and expecting your reply.

    Peace be upon you.

    • Wa’alaykumusSalaam wr wb,

      This is a good question; perhaps I was not able to explain it in clearer words. The seven heavens were created in two days (verse 12) and the earth is included within the seven heavens. So if earth is a part of the seven heavens, it was also created within these two days (verse 9). Stars were created as part of the order in verse 12. To sum it up, heavens were created before the earth and all of the heavens (including the earth) were created in two days. Heavens were created and then afterwards the earth was created (collectively the seven heavens) were created within the two days. Then what happened afterwards on earth took four days.

      We need to keep a few things in mind; the duration of the six days is not mentioned to us so we do not know whether they were equal in duration or some were longer than others; perhaps the four days of creation of mountains and other things on earth were of shorter length. Allah knows best. Even if they were of similar length, it would not make a difference to the verses under discussion.

  2. Asslamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu

    Brother Adeel, thanks for sparing your time and replying.

    You said “We need to keep a few things in mind; the duration of the six days is not mentioned to us so we do not know whether they were equal in duration or some were longer than others; perhaps the four days of creation of mountains and other things on earth were of shorter length. Allah knows best. Even if they were of similar length, it would not make a difference to the verses under discussion.”

    This according to me doesn’t make sense as Mentioning days are like constraints or units, yes we don’t know what is the period which these units/aeons/epochs contain with respect to the time we measure.

    So, Accordingly A Unit cannot have different measure of periods.

    Now, another thing I wanna discuss is about the Seven Heavens,
    You said it right that Earth comes within Seven Heavens but it is not necessarily true that if Seven Heavens were created Earth has to be there, As Existence of Earth is relied upon the Existence of seven Heavens but not vice versa.

    Now, another point you missed out of what I said is “When Both Heaven & Earth said We come Willingly the Verse next to it is a conclusion of their coming”

    Which began with “So”, which is apparently used to show what happened after they said ” We come ”
    But we find that Earth is not being talked about in Verse 12.

    Another, thing in this as you said that they came simultaneously because of the reason Earth was commanded to come into being and it agreed coming.

    The Question is If Allah wanted to inform us That They Both Heaven and Earth came simultaneously then couldn’t he have said that in Verse 9 i.e. in one single verse? Instead of saying it two different Verses which can also raise confusion.

    Now, I want to share with you my contention on these Verses, as I had told you that i have also been researching.

    My side of research has brought me to the following points.

    1. 4 Days of Verse 10 coincides Two Days of Earth mentioned in Verse 9.
    2. According to Verse 12 only Heavens along with stars came into existence as mentioned and it doesnt include creation of Earth.
    3.Just because out of six days first two days are occupied by the creation of heavens, 4 days are left which is later occupied with earth.

    This explaination doesn’t even satisfy Qur’anic Verse 79:27-30 but Also Science.

    As Stars here are created before earth in two days and in two days Earth is created which adds up to 4 days.

    So if i were to calculate it i’d have found that earth is (6-4)days = 2 days old.

    You can confirm it with cosmological chronology of Universe using Modern science.

    As Even Modern cosmology says “Earth’s age is 1/3rd of the age of Universe”.

    And if this explanation is right then 2 Days old earth is also 1/3rd of the age of 6 days old heaven.

    I want you to consider this and reflect more on these verses which can bring more conclusive points in our expedition to the closest reality of these verses.

    I found your blog different and intellectual in comparison to others when I discovered refutation on Martin Taverille allegations on Qur’an that it says Sun set in muddy spring, until I came here I was about to believe that no Muslim has yet dared to refute his intellectual looking paper but you came as an exception thereby I Recognize your potentia as Alhamdulillah your refutation was convincing on intellectual scale, so do I expect from you the same on this matter.

    Peace be upon you.

    • 1. A day that we encounter is not exactly 24 hours and every day is of a different length so this criticism doesn’t matter. Ignore the day thing; I just mentioned that as a side note. It does not have much impact on our argument.

      2. You are right. The existence of earth depends on the seven heavens but not the other way round but I fail to see how it is relevant to what I wrote. Verse 11 speaks of invitation to the heavens and the earth to come and both of them said that they come willingly. Now why would you assume that verse 12 does not speak of the earth when heavens include the earth? Our sky (heaven) ends somewhere and another starts and all that is in our universe is a part of the lower heaven (which has been adorned with stars); likewise this is true for seven heavens. Our heavens include all the planets, stars and the earth as well.

      As for this view contradicting Qur’an 79:27-30 and science, then please read what I wrote again. I said that heavens and earth were ordered at the same time and they both agreed; then heaven was created and then afterwards earth was created and all this happened in two days. This is what I had written in earlier reply:

      “heavens were created before the earth and all of the heavens (including the earth) were created in two days. Heavens were created and then afterwards the earth was created (collectively the seven heavens) were created within the two days”.

  3. Thanks for replying again,

    1.You’re right the day we encounter on earth is not Exactly 24 hours it has a minimal change over time due to planetary motion of Earth but it doesn’t make a difference on a day being a unit as Earth day is a round off of 24 hours since millenniums and it’ll continue to be so.

    This is not irrelevant to our discussion as day is considered to be a unit of time and if length of days differ it’ll not give us a meaning satisfying the meaning, for such conditions the word “phrase or stage” should’ve been used.

    2. When i said the following ” The existence of earth depends on the seven heavens but not the other way round ” from which you also agreed, by this I inferred that “If Heavens are created, it doesn’t necessarily mean Earth is created too” because Heaven existence is not dependant on Earth, Therefore Earth can be created thereafter.

    Now, More than hundred times Qur’an mentions Heavens & the Earth separatly, I’m not saying that it means Earth Doesn’t come under Heavens but Qur’an deals with them separately because it has a Geocentric approach(I’m not Talking about Geocentric Model).

    Even if we look in these Verses, We find that Allah Deals with heaven & Earth seperately.

    So, If Verse 12 did really talk about Earth coming out into being simultaneously with heaven then it should’ve been mentioned like always.
    But reality is that Earth is not mentioned, so saying Earth came simultaneously is grounded on Assumption.

    3. You didn’t even consider my contention which is accurate in terms of Science as well as Qur’an.

  4. Asslamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu,

    Brother I went through this article and found this quite interesting, as I was looking for answers about this Verse since months and fortunately I happened to discover this.

    But it seems that I’m stumbled upon a sentence you’re written which I found quite assumption and that which doesn’t follow its premise.

    “However, when it is mentioned that Allah directed Himself to the heaven, it is also mentioned that He said to the earth to come into being (verse 11). This would mean that the four days in 41:10 do not include the two days of 41:9 because if the earth had been created already (verse 9), the order of creation of earth would not come again.”

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow the premise.

    1. In Verse 11 Order of Creation comes for both Heaven & Earth.
    2. In Verse 9, Earth has already been created.
    3. Therefore, Verse 10’s four days do not include Two days of Verse 9.

    I’m failed this see that how this is derived from the above Premises.

    Please elucidate on this matter.

    • Wa’alaykumusSalaam wr wb,

      I had to re-read my original post and your question a number of times to refresh the intricacies of the argument so if I fall short of clarifying properly, please forgive me and inform me so I may try again:

      Verse 9 speaks of creation of earth in two days and 10 speaks of what is on the earth in four days. What is on the earth does not include the earth with it. Any ways it is not conclusive so lets move forward. Verse 11 speaks of the order to both heavens and the earth to come into being and they both responded affirmatively so we know for a fact that the commencement of heavens and the earth started together. Where do we see both of these starting together? In verses 9 and 12. By this understanding, it does not fit that the four days mentioned in verse 10 include the two days of verse 9. Allah knows best.

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