The Quran: the Sun Sets in a Mud Puddle?
The Quran contains a considerable amount of uninspired folklore from Jewish (and other) sources. It also occasionally incorporates elements of mythology and fairytale in its pages. In a surah that Muslim sources identify as one in which Muhammad answered questions designed by Jewish rabbis to challenge his prophethood (Pickthall, n.d., pp. 211-212), the Quran relates the story of Dhu‘l-Qarneyn—“The Two-Horned One.” In conveying the story, the Quran gives credence to the outrageous superstition that the Sun sets in a mud puddle:
They will ask thee of Dhu’l-Qarneyn. Say: I shall recite unto you a remembrance of him. Lo! We made him strong in the land and gave him unto every thing a road. And he followed a road till, when he reached the setting‑place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout: We said: O Dhu’l‑Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness. He said: As for him who doeth wrong, we shall punish him, and then he will be brought back unto his Lord, who will punish him with awful punishment! But as for him who believeth and doeth right, good will be his reward, and We shall speak unto him a mild command. Then he followed a road till, when he reached the rising‑place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom. So (it was). And We knew all concerning him (Surah 18:84-92, emp. added).
Observe that the Quran’s account is not worded in such a way as to be allowable on the basis of accommodative or phenomenal language—even as we speak of the Sun setting or rising. The inclusion of the location of the Sun’s setting—a muddy spring—places the account squarely into the realm of myth.
The same mistake is made earlier in the same surah (vss. 10-27) when the Quran lends credibility to the legend of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” (see Campbell, 2002; Gilchrist, 1986). The legends (which predate the Quran) spoke of seven (the number varies) noble Christian youths who fled persecution during the reign of Decius the Emperor who died in A.D. 251. The youths took refuge in a cave near Ephesus, but then were sealed in to die. Instead, their lives were miraculously preserved by falling into a deep sleep that lasted for nearly 200 years, a sleep the Quran claims lasted 309 years (vs. 26). For the Quran to dignify such outlandish tales is to disprove its own inspiration.
Campbell, William (2002), The Quran and the Bible in the Light of History and Science, [On-line], URL: http://answering-islam.org.uk/Campbell/contents.html.
Gilchrist, John (1986), Muhammad and the Religion of Islam, [On-line], URL: http://answering-islam.org.uk/Gilchrist/Vol1/5c.html.
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
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