Is Islam Based on Early Sumerian Culture, and Was the Universe Created in Six Days?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: Our sons have some questions on Islam that are causing them doubt:

(1) Its origins, with the notion that Islam had its basis in Horus, early Sumeria, and while Islam denounces paganism, yet it has many of its rituals steeped in pagan rituals stemmed from pagan times.

(2) The other notion is that the earth was created in 6 days, which is an argument that our sons believe is nonsensical.

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

Is Islam Based on Early Sumerian Culture?

No, Islam is not based on early Sumerian culture, or any other culture for that matter.

There is some discussion that the crescent moon and star symbols, for example, can possibly be dated back to ancient Sumeria. Those particular symbols are certainly not prescribed by the Qur’an and Prophetic Sunna, although incorporating them into Islamic culture does not contravene the Sacred Law either.

In any case though, there is clearly a distinction between the adoption of certain symbols into Islamic culture, and between the notion that “Islam is based on” early pagan culture. Islam is a revealed religion from God Himself, to serve as His final summons to humanity — a summons to leave the shackles of falsehood, injustice and oppression, and instead embrace true life and freedom in servitude and submission to the Divine.

The Invitation of Islam

Islam is an invitation to the most beautiful banquet imaginable: a feast of honor, truth, service, devotion, and remembrance of God in all of one’s states and situations. And it was brought to us by a human being who embodied perfection in his character, words, deeds and states — our Master and Liegelord Muhammad, whose character was described by his wife Aisha as being in full accordance with divine revelation.

As he once told his Companions, “Verily, God sent me with perfected character of beauty, and flawless deeds of splendor.” [Mustadrak Hakim, rigorously authenticated]

He is the last and final Prophet, the culmination of all Prophets and Messengers beforehand, and he is the very best of creation. May God’s peace and blessings be upon him and all Prophets, forever.

As for evidence of the truthfulness of this invitation, one need only give serious thought to the overwhelming and undeniable evidence of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an — proving that it is revelation from God the Exalted– as well as the other innumerable miracles of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

While a detailed exposition of this evidence would take diligent study for an extended period of time, as the literature of Islam’s miracles fills entire volumes of exegesis and commentary, the following article can hopefully serve as a concise and summarized presentation:

The Truth of Islam, the Qur’an, & the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)

I would also strongly encourage your sons to read extensively about the life of our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), from books such as:

-Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, by Martin Lings

-Our Master Muhammad The Messenger of Allah: His Sublime Character & Exalted Attributes: Volume 1, trans. Khalid Williams and Volume 2

-Ash-Shifa of Qadi Iyad, trans. Aisha Bewley

Was the Universe Created in Six Days?

With respect to the Qur’anic verses that mention the universe being created in six “days” (e.g., 7:54), many classical exegetes maintained that the word “day” was not the 24-hour period that we experience now, since the latter is based on the revolution of the earth vis-a-vis the sun, both of which were not yet in existence.

Rather, they explain six “days” (sitta ayyam) as six “undefined periods of time” (sitta awqat). There is linguistic evidence for this, and indeed, the Qur’an itself describes a “day” as “50,000 years” in one verse (70:4), and as “like 1000 years of your reckoning” in another verse (22:47).

Perhaps the phrase “six days” could be most accurately translated as “six eons” or the like, especially in light of what we know now of the age of the universe based on scientific calculation. Such a translation would be congruous with both the Arabic language, as well as those authoritative sources of Qur’anic commentary that explained six “days” (sitta ayyam) as six “undefined periods of time” (sitta awqat).

[see for example: Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta'wil; Abu Su'ud, Irshad al-Aql al-Salim; Ibn Ashur, Tahrir wal Tanwir]

And Allah knows best.
Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani