How many layers does the earth and sky consist of?

The Details of the Question

- You state that the Quran says that the sky and the earth are made up of 7 layers, but in many places, it is stated that the atmosphere is made up of 4-5 layers and the earth is made up of 4 layers...

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We should state that since expressions such as seven, seventy and seven hundred express multiplicity in Arabic, the “seven layers” might also refer to the multiplicity of those layers.

On the other hand, the layers of the sky and the layers of the atmosphere are not the same.

In addition, the first layer of the sky does not consist of the atmosphere and its layers only.

While interpreting such verses, Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır states the following:

“We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars. The word ‘dunya’ is the feminine form of ‘adna’, which means ‘the nearest’. The apparent meaning of this statement is that all the stars are in the nearest heaven. Therefore, the nearest heaven mentioned here is not only the orbital sphere of the moon around the earth, nor is it only the realm of the solar system, but it is the sphere of the stars in general, that is, the sphere of three dimensions.” (see the interpretation of as-Saaffat, verse 6)

Accordingly, it is possible to consider all the visible skies as one sky of this world and to understand that there are six other layers of the sky. Different meanings are in question related to the expression about the earth.

The atmosphere, together with its layers, is in the first layer of the sky. The stars are also in the first layer of the sky. The stars are not between the layers of the atmosphere because according to the information given by the science of astronomy, the distance of even the closest star to the Earth is calculated in light years, but the Magnetosphere, the last layer of the atmosphere, reaches up to 64,000 km. The atmosphere surrounds the earth. The stars are much farther away.

There is no single view as to what the layers of the heavens are. It is definitely very difficult to determine what it means. What we say is the information that the Quran describes the heavens as “seven heavens”. What those seven heavens mean is a matter of interpretation. Interpretations can turn out to be right or wrong. Considering the layers of the heavens as layers of the atmosphere is already a matter of debate.

- We can gain a broader perspective by looking at the explanations of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi summarized below:   

About the Globe of the Earth:

- Firstly, the verse’s meaning is one thing and the parts of the meaning and points confirming it, another. The meaning cannot be denied if one of the many parts of the universal meaning is absent. Of the numerous parts of the universal meaning concerning the seven levels of the heavens and seven layers of the earth, seven points confirming it are clearly apparent. The verse does not explicitly state that “the earth has seven layers.” It says, “Allah created the earth like the seven heavens, and made it a dwelling place for His creatures.” It does not say, “I created the earth in seven levels.” Its similarity is in regard to createdness and being the habitation of creatures.

- The globe of the earth is certainly very small in relation to the heavens. However, as the exhibition, display, gathering place and center of countless divine artefacts, as the heart and immaterial center of the vast, endless heavens, it is equivalent to them, like the heart may be seen as equivalent to the body. The earth, which is like the heart of the universe, resembles the heavens in seven ways in terms of the number “seven”:

1. The earth has seven climes, as was supposed from early times.

2. It also has the well-known seven continents, Europe, Africa, Oceania, the two Asias, and the two Americas.

3. It also has, together with the seas, the East, West, North, and South, the well-known seven regions of this face and on the face of the New World.

4. It also has the various, contiguous seven levels from the center to the outer crust, which have been established by science.

5. It has the famous seven universal elements called the “seven levels”, which comprise the seventy simple elements that are the means of perpetuating animate creatures’ lives.

6. It also has the four elements of “water, air, fire, and earth”, together with the “animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms”, making seven levels and realms.

7. It also has the seven realms of the earth verified by those who uncover the secrets of creation and the people of witnessing, who are very numerous, their testimony that they are the worlds and habitations of jinn, demons, and other various sentient and living creatures.

8. The existence of seven further globes, resembling our globe, that are the dwelling places of living creatures and that have the living conditions is understood from the statements of the Quran. (see Lem’alar, On İkinci Lem’a, pp. 64-69)

About the Seven Heavens:

Ancient philosophy conceived of the heavens as being nine in number; accepting in the tongue of the Shari’a the throne of God and seat of God together with the seven heavens, they depicted the heavens in strange manner. The glittering terms of the philosophers held mankind under their sway for many centuries. In fact, many Quranic commentators were compelled to make the apparent meanings of verses conform to their school. In this way the All-Wise Quran’s miraculousness was veiled to an extent.

As for the new philosophy, called modern science, in the face of the excesses of ancient philosophy about the heavens it went to the other extreme and quite simply denied the heavens’ existence. The former went to excess and the latter was deficient; they were unable to portray reality in its entirety.

As for the sacred wisdom of the All-Wise Quran, it left aside such excess and deficiency, and choosing the middle way said that the All-Glorious Maker created the seven levels of the heavens. The planets swim in the heavens like fish and glorify God. It says in a Hadith: “The skies are waves held back.” That is, the heavens are an ocean the waves of which are stationary. (see Lem’alar)

We shall prove this Quranic truth extremely briefly with rules and seven aspects of meaning.

First Rule: It is established by science and philosophy that limitless space is not an infinite vacuum, but is filled with matter called ‘ether’.

The Second: It is established by science and reason, indeed by observation, that a matter which fills space is the bond of the laws governing the heavenly bodies like those of attraction and repulsion, and is the conductor and transmitter of such forces in matter as light, heat, and electricity

The Third: It has been established empirically that while remaining as ether, it has various forms and formations like other matter. Just as there are three states of the same matter, liquid, gas and solid, for instance, steam, water, and ice; so, there is nothing to reasonably prevent ether having seven states or levels; it cannot be objected to in any way.

The Fourth: If the heavenly bodies are studied carefully, it will be seen that there is a difference in the levels. The level that contains the vast nebular sphere called the Milky Way of course does not resemble the level of the fixed stars.

It is as if those stars have ripened and matured like the fruits of summer, while the uncountable stars apparent in the form of a cloud in the Milky Way are constantly emerging and beginning to mature. According to accurate conjecture, the level of fixed stars also appears different to the level of the solar system. And so on. One may adduce seven systems and seven levels which differ from one another.

The Fifth: It is established by conjecture, sense, inductive reasoning, and experience that if a material is given order and form and if other artefacts are made from the material, it is transformed into various levels and forms.

For example, when a diamond mine is worked, from the material, ashes, coal, and diamonds are produced.

And when fire is lit, it separates into the levels of flame, smoke, and embers.

And when water and oxygen are combined, levels like water, ice, and steam are formed.

That is to say, when a single substance is worked, it may separate into levels. In which case, when Creative Power started to work in the substance called ether, in accordance with the verse, فَسَوَّيهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمٰوَاتٍ “And fashioned them into seven heavens,” it created from it seven sorts of heavens as differing levels.

The Sixth: The above indications necessarily indicate both the existence, and the plurality, of the heavens. Since the heavens are certainly numerous, and the Bringer of Sure News (UWBP) stated in the tongue of the Quran that they number seven, for sure they are seven.

The Seventh: Since in Arabic, terms like seven, seventy, and seven hundred express multiplicity, those universal seven levels may comprise multiple levels.

In short: The All-Powerful One of Glory created the seven heavens from ether, and forming it into levels, ordered it with a truly fine and wondrous order and sowed the stars in it.

Since the Quran of Miraculous Exposition is a pre-eternal address speaking to all the classes of all mankind and the jinn, for sure each of those classes will receive its share from the Quran’s verses and its verses will contain various and numerous meanings, both explicit and implicit, in a way that will satisfy the understanding of each.

Yes, the breadth of the Quranic address and the comprehensiveness of its meanings and indications and its conforming to and flattering all the degrees of understanding from the most uneducated common people to the highest of the elite shows that all its verses have an aspect which looks to each class. (see Lem’alar)

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