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Did Quran tell that universe is steadily expanding?

This article analyses the claim that Quran told that universe has been constantly expanding, and it is scientifically accurate, and thus it is is Quranic miracle.

Apologetic Claim

Apologists present the following verse

وَالسَّمَاءَ بَنَيْنَاهَا بِأَيْدٍ وَإِنَّا لَمُوسِعُون

Muhammad Assad: AND IT IS We who have built the universe with [Our creative] power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it.

Dr. Mohammad Tahir-ul-Qadri: And We built the heavenly universe with great might. And surely, We are expanding (this universe) more and more.

The Clear Quran, Dr. Mustafa Khattab: We built the universe with ˹great˺ might, and We are certainly expanding ˹it˺.

Safi Kaskas: We built the universe with power, and We are steadily expanding it.

Zakir Naik writes regarding this verse:

The Arabic word mûsi‘ûn (in verse 51:47) is correctly translated as ‘expanding it’, and it refers to the creation of the expanding vastness of the universe. Stephen Hawking, in his book, ‘A Brief History of Time’, says, “The discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century.” The Qur’aan mentioned the expansion of the universe, before man even learnt to build a telescope!


Critics point out that:

  • This translation of verse 51:47 is not correct.
  • Only modern apologists started doing this translation, otherwise no earlier translator did this translation.
  • And none of the Qur'an Mufassirin (i.e. Quran interpreters) of last fourteen centuries ever come to this conclusion from this verse.

Correct translation of verse 51:47

The dispute is only about the last two words of the verse 51:47 (i.e. وَإِنَّا لَمُوسِعُونَ wa-innā lamūsiʿūna)

CorpusQuran website gives word by word grammar and translation of Quran. It writes[1]:

  • وَإِنَّا (wa-innā) Translation: "and indeed, We (Allah)"
  • لَمُوسِعُونَ (lamūsiʿūna) Translation: "(are) surely (its) Expanders".

Therefore, the correct translation of this verse should be:

(Quran 51:47) And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We (Allah) are [its] expander.

The term “lamūsi‘ūn” in this verse is a "NOUN"  and not a "Verb", and it describes "God" and not the "heaven" (i.e. the term “lamūsi‘ūn” means "God is the Expander", and not "the Universe is Expanding").

The earlier Quran Translators did the correct translation:

Yusuf Ali: With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for it is We Who create the vastness of space.

Pickthal: We have built the heaven with might, and We it is Who make the vast extent (thereof).

Shakir: And the heaven, We raised it high with power, and most surely We are the makers of things ample.

Word by Word Translation: And the heaven We constructed it with strength, and indeed, We (are) surely (its) Expanders.

Wؒord "وسع": Literal Meaning vs Figurative Meaning

The root word of لَمُوسِعُونَ (lamūsiʿūna) is وسع . However in Quran, this word and it's derivatives have been used in the meanings of "Encompassing".

Look at the following verses:

وَسِعَ رَبِّى كُلَّ شَىْءٍ عِلْمًا

Sahih Intl: My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge

Yusuf Ali: My Lord comprehendeth in His knowledge all things

Also see verses 7:89 and 20:98.

Also see verse 65:12, where directly the word of "احاط" (encompass) has been used instead of "wasi'a"

وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ قَدْ أَحَاطَ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عِلْمًۢا

Sahih Intl: and that Allah has encompassed all things in knowledge.

Pickthall:and that Allah surroundeth all things in knowledge.

So, then verse 51.47 must be understood as follows: "And the heaven We built it with might and We lamūsi‘ūn (encompasses it)."

This verse confirms that the heaven is completely within and under God’s control. There is no reference whatsoever to expansion of the heaven. The term “lamūsi‘ūndescribes God not the heaven.

ٖThus few translator used this figurative translation:

Farook Malik: We have built the heavens with Our hands, for We have the power to do so.

Abdul Majid Daryabadi: And the heaven! We have built it with might, and verily We are powerful.

Maududi: And heaven – We made it with Our Own Power and We have the Power to do so.

Next verse 51:48 also exposes this wrong translation

Critics also point out that exactly the same grammar has been used in the next verse 51:48.

Yousuf Ali: And We have spread out the (spacious) earth: How excellently We do spread out!

In this verse, the word الْمَاهِدُونَ (spreader/smoother) has exactly the same grammar (Active Participle Form I) as the word لَمُوسِعُونَ (i.e. expander) in the previous verse. Therefore, according to the translation pattern of modern Islam apologists, then the translation of this verse should be:

(Quran 51:48) We have spread out the earth; and We are still steadily spreading/smoothing it.

Since this is against the modern science, and earth is not steadily spreading, thus here modern Islam apologists did the correct translation:

Asad: And the earth have We spread out wide - and how well have We ordered it

The Clear Quran: As for the earth, We spread it out. How superbly did We smooth it out!

Safi Kaskas: And the earth We spread it out, How well We smoothed it out.

Therefore, this next verse 51:48 also proves that in the earlier verse 51:47, the term “lamūsi‘ūn” means "God is the Expander", and not "the Universe is Expanding".

Universe consists of "Space", while Quranic HEAVEN is a solid canopy which could not expand

Critics also point out that according to science, universe consists of space and galaxies are travelling away from each other in this space and thus it is considered as an expansion of the universe.

But according to the writer of Quran, :

الذي جعل لكم الارض فراشا والسماء بناء وانزل من السماء ماء فاخرج به من الثمرات رزقا لكم فلا تجعلوا لله اندادا وانتم تعلمون
Who has made the earth your couch, and the heavens your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith Fruits for your sustenance; then set not up rivals unto Allah when ye know (the truth).

The word translated as canopy is binaa or binaan ( بِنَاء ). This word means "building"[2]. Here, the heavens are described as a multi-story building over the earth. There are seven layers or stories to this building called the heavens. The heavens are built on a foundation called "the earth". The tafsir of Ibn Kathir, among others, elaborates this[3]:

These Ayat indicate that Allah started creation by creating earth, then He made heaven into seven heavens. This is how building usually starts, with the lower floors first and then the top floors

And according to Ahadith, prophets are residing upon these solid heavens along with their nations.

Thus, it is impossible for a solid canopy to expand.