Was Life Present on Earth Before Humanity?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

The Quran states: “And when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.’ They said, ‘Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?’ Allah said, ‘Indeed, I know that which you do not know.'”

Does it mean that there was life before humans on earth?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

There is nothing clear and decisive on this matter.

Some of the major Quranic commentaries mention that the Jinn were present on earth prior to human beings. This is narrated by al-Tabari from Ibn Abbas who states, “The first to reside on earth were the Jinn. They spread corruption and bloodshed in it and killed one another. So, God sent Iblis with an army of angels and he fought them until they were forced to settle on islands and mountain tops. God then created Adam and placed him on earth. Thus, God said, ‘I will place upon earth a successor.’

There are a few other narrations in this regard. At the same time, some narrations mention that there was no creation present on earth prior to Adam.

Ultimately, the existence of beings before Adam is a possibility but its knowledge is known only to God.

[al-Tabari, Jami al-Bayan (2:455-56)]

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman. There he studies Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir.

Contemplating A Future Without Honey… Or Bees, by Saleema Umm Bilal

Saleema Umm Bilal reviews a documentary on the wholesale destruction of bee colonies that has shaken her to the core.

Just today, I was talking to my kids about the new, raw honey my husband bought us. It was thick, creamy and smelled so good. Bilal and Amina were eager to try some as I stirred it into my chai. I couldn’t help but spill out of my mouth, “Can you believe this comes from those busy buzzing bees??”… and then I paused and worried a little, which Bilal immediately sensed.

“What? What’s wrong?” he asked as I gave Amina a half spoonful.

“Well, it’s scary because the bees are having trouble finding flowers to drink nectar from and make honey. We aren’t seeing that many bees anymore.”

From that came a whole host of questions. In my simplified and, to be honest, ignorant explanation I started describing how all the smoke the kids notice from cars, airplanes, motorcycles, the one factory they’ve seen, etc is mixing with the beautiful clouds in the sky. When that happens, it’s like a blanket covering our Earth. They guessed that the Earth warms up, especially as the sunlight hits us. That sounds nice and cozy but it’s making the planet too hot, and causing problems. His face looked worried but we kept chatting. We got back to the issue of bees and honey when my son realized I might not be able to use honey anymore in my tea, something I enjoy so much. He almost laughed and then felt bad when he said, “You’ll have to use sugar…”

Then he quickly asked, “What about Shifa?” That’s the love of his life, his 4 month old sister. “Will she be able to taste honey?” (All this time, Amina is listening and enjoying the thick, sweet beautiful topic of discussion.) I had always heard those sentimental words, “I want my kids/the future to enjoy what I had…” And I always felt bit smug hearing them be used. But this time, it made me feel empty inside. I looked at her, in her swing, sitting a little bit from the kitchen table. I had hope God would let her taste something so pure like honey, one day. I did fear her kids would not. I knew I could not sit around status quo without doing my part to make sure they would.

We concluded that we need to make changes. Bilal suggested battery cars. I thought, less Amazon Prime. The solution is all that and much more. We have to live differently, dress differently, eat differently and spend differently… All the billions of people on this planet, if we want to keep enjoying and surviving. It starts with me and my family. and you and yours.

Later that same day, my sister sent me this video link. It had such an impact on me, I decided to send it to every email in my contacts list. Please watch, let it move you, and share with everyone you can. God is Great, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. I believe that and I believe He gave us free will to choose how we act.

“Before the Flood,” captures a three-year personal journey alongside Academy Award-winning actor and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio as he interviews individuals from every facet of society in both developing and developed nations who provide unique, impassioned and pragmatic views on what must be done today and in the future to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet. The film was released on October 30, 2016 and made available free by National Geographic through November 8, 2016. The “Before the Flood” website shows ways in which you can watch the full movie. Video from KarmaTube.

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Reflecting on Water, the Anti-DAPL Movement, and Our Stewardship of the Earth

In response to the call from a native American tribal leader, there’s been a groundswell of support among North American based faith leaders to pray and reflect in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock working to preserve local waters from the DAPL project. Ustadh Sharif Rosen delivered the following reflection at a prayer vigil, with particular focus on working to preserve the blessing of water. This movement combining both social justice and our roles as stewards of the earth appears to be one that Muslims should be invested in, however possible, he writes.


Ustadh Sharif Rosen’s reflection

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
Allah, the Creator of the Heavens and Earth says in the Quran, in the chapter entitled “Rome”,
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ يُرِيكُمُ الْبَرْقَ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَيُنَزِّلُ مِنَ السَّمَاء مَاء فَيُحْيِي بِهِ الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا
إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ
{And from His signs is that He shows you thunder which incites awe and hope, and He sends down waters from the sky by which the earth is revived after its death; indeed, in this, is a great sign for those of intellect} [30:24]
ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
{Corruption has surfaced in the land and the sea from what human hands have earned that they might turn back} [30:41]
The current struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project in the United States represents only one flashpoint in the wider crisis affecting each living creature. The insatiable desire to control and exploit our most precious resources is nothing less than a declaration of war on our own selves.
God invites us to witness and reflection upon His signs in the creation; to view existence through the lens of sacred meanings embedded therein.  As scholars like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf remind us, we might then see that the state of the earth’s waters mirrors the inward and outward state of humanity who have been tasked as custodians of the earth.  Thus, when our oceans, rivers and streams are corrupted with acidity, garbage, and toxins; when our seas are over-fished and then, overrun with hyper-consumers like the brainless, heartless, spineless jellyfish on one hand; and the far more destructive predator, ourselves on the other, by sacred measures, the imbalance we have caused is setting the table for our own annihilation.
Water is among the greatest proofs of God’s mercy; in this life as our sustenance and means to purity; in the next life, where the lush, shaded groves of the Garden are nourished by pure, flowing waters.  The Arabic word for water is ma-a, whose letters form the roots for the word mahiya which means “essence”.  Water is who we are, in the very composition of our bodies, and what will enrich us again in the world to come.  Yet, in our relationship with water now — whether through our care or our abuse — we may see the reflection of who we really are, or rather, what we have become.
The noble poet, Imam Muhammad al-Busiri, God have mercy on him, may as well have been describing the blessing of water when he said, “The more familiar and obvious a thing, the more subtle and hidden it is.”
Our prayer is that we not be of those who let all of that which is most valuable, most near to us, go neglected, and then, damaged beyond repair.
May we aid the struggle to preserve the right of all peoples to access the cleansing and pure water that is among God’s great mercies to all of creation.
May we support the centuries-old cause of the native peoples of this continent, and in all lands as they defend their lives, their water, their cultures, their sovereignty and dignity.
May we apply our entire selves to the restoration of sanity and balance in this world — in its ecology, in our consumption, in our political and economic systems, in our social discourse, in our aspirations, in our religion and spirituality, and in our very souls.
May our life’s impact be wide in benefit, but our footprint, gentle.
And all praise is God’s alone.

Is the World Seven Thousand Years Old?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: I’m confused about two hadiths I have read as they seem to imply that the earth is 7000 years old even though science says the earth is billions of years old. Is there a dispute in their authenticity or is there a different interpretation?

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well.

General Principle for Understanding Revealed Texts

A general principle is that revealed texts are interpreted in a manner that accords with known facts, not in ways that contradict them.

There are a number of hermeneutical tools scholars employ to understand narrations in a way that makes sense of the text and the surrounding knowledge environment. The inability to reconcile them with empirical and observed truths constitutes a reason for scholars to consider a report fabricated.

A non-Literal Reading of Such Narrations

One such tool to make sense of the narrations in question is to consider them as intending to highlight the closeness of the Hour, not to give a specific numerical value for days remaining on Earth. That is, to consider them a type of example or comparison [ibn Hajar, Fath; ibn Rajab, Fath]. This would accord with the general meaning of other narrations that indicate the proximity of the Hour (see below), as well as allowing for those who uphold the veracity of the transmissions.

Many Scholars Consider these Narrations Fabrications

A modern reader would likely critique them because they do not seem to reconcile, prima facie, with current scientific understandings of dating the age of the universe. However, a number of classical scholars – including ibn Hazm, Qadi ‘Iyad, ibn al-‘Arabi, and al-Sakhawi – largely considered them fabricated for a different reason.
That is, that the narrations specify an age for the universe, seven thousand years, and indicate that about five hundred years remain. If this were the case, one could ostensibly calculate the end of the universe. Ibn al-Qayyim, in al-Manār al-Munīf, says that if these narrations were true, one could easily calculate from his time that there only remains of the universe two hundred and fifty one years.
This contradicts the Qur’anic text, which clearly states that this knowledge is something God has reserved for himself. For example: People ask you about the Hour; say: Its knowledge is with God alone [Qur’an; 33.63].

It is also contrary to established Prophetic narrations in the same vein, such as the Hadith of Gabriel, in which the Prophet – peace and blessings of God be upon him – was asked about the time of the Hour. He replied, ‘The one being asked is not more knowledgeable about it than the one asking’ [Muslim].

For this reason, a number of scholars have considered these narrations fabrications. Ibn Kathir, in his Nihāya, for example, holds that no narration that delimits the beginning of the universe, or indicates how much remains, is authentic. Ibn Rajab, in his Fath, argues in a similar fashion. Qadi ‘Iyad uses a similar line of reasoning to reject these reports, arguing that these time frames have already passed, and the world has not ended, clearly indicating the falsity of the contents of the reports. Ibn Hajar adds to this that since the time of Qadi ‘Iyad, three hundred years have additionally passed. [ibn Hajar, Fath].

The Closeness of the Hour

A number of Prophetic narrations, as mentioned above, do indicate the closeness of the Day of Judgment. He said – peace and blessings of God be upon him – that “I was sent, along with the Hour, like this” and held up his index and middle fingers together, indicating the proximity of the two events [Bukhari].

Such narrations indicate that what remains of this world is minimal compared to what has already passed. However, no one knows their actual lengths, and there does not appear to be anything authentically transmitted on the matter [ibn Rajab, Fath].

Further discussion, along with analysis of chains of transmitters, can be found in the sources cited above. See, for example, ibn Hajar, Fath.

God knows best.

Shuaib Ally

Green and Environmental Stewardship in Islam

What is the place of green and environmental stewardship in Islam? Ustadh Amjad Tarsin answers by citing several prophetic traditions emphasizing environmental consciousness and awareness. He gives three practical steps that Muslims should take to fulfill their role as stewards of the earth. Our thanks to ISNA Canada for the recording.

Resources on Green and Environmental Stewardship of the Earth

Cover photo by Tim Douglas

Is It Obligatory to Believe That the Earth Is Stationary and That the Sun Orbits Around It?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Recently I read that it is obligatory for Muslims to believe that the earth is stationary and that the sun orbits around it. Can you tell me what belief we should have?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

It is known that the earth orbits the sun, not the other way around.

The Qur’an was not revealed as a book of science. Nor was the sunna primarily interested in elucidating points of scientific fact. Rather, the point of both of these sources is to instruct humans regarding the manner in which they should live in order to recognize God and attain to felicity. In other words, the Qur’an and sunna are sources of guidance: “Indeed, this Qur’an guides to the straightest way and gives glad tidings to the believers,” (17:9) and “A book we have sent down to you so you may bring forth mankind from darkness to light.” (14:1).

From this perspective, references to the earth, sun, stars, the moon, and other celestial objects within the primary sources is primarily for the purpose of drawing the attention of human beings towards the creation of God. It is through reflecting on these created things that humans are able to recognize the existence and power of God: “Indeed, in the alternation of the night and day and in what God has created within the heavens and the earth are signs for those who are pious.” (10:9)

Science & Scripture

With this in mind, the basic principle is that whenever a literal or outward reading of a verse of the Qur’an or an authentic saying of the Prophet seems to contradict a decisively established point of fact, then that verse or saying is interpreted in a manner that accords to this established point of fact.

Take the following verse: “The sun and the moon follow exact courses.” (55:5). One interpretation given for this verse by classical exegetes is that the sun and moon actually move in an orbit around the earth. In his commentary, Imam Alusi (d. 1317/1854) states that some philosophers in his time argued that it was the sun that was stationary and the earth that revolved around it. Imam Alusi comments on the position of these philosopher by stating:

“We have heard that they altered their position again by stating that the sun moves around another star. This indicates that their initial position [regarding the sun being stationary] lacks clear evidence… and we stick to the literal purport of the texts so long as there is no decisive evidence contrary to it. If such evidence exists, then we resort to interpretation, and there is great scope for this.” [Ruh al-Ma`ani]

There are a number of critical points that the above statement demonstrates.

(a) despite holding a contrary position, Imam Alusi acknowledges that if the evidence of those who state the sun is stationary is established, then that is the position that will be adopted.

(b) that the primary texts themselves allow for a sufficient scope of interpretation that would allow for such a position.

In other words, there is nothing decisive in the meaning indicated by such verses that would prevent us from understanding them in a manner that corresponds to contemporary scientific evidence. This evidence, as we now know, establishes in a convincing fashion that the earth rotates around the sun. In so far as the prerogative to determine the movement of celestial bodies belongs to those in the fields of astronomy, cosmology, etc., those in the field of religious scholarship are required to submit to their opinions on these issues.

How Do We Interpret These Verses

Keeping the above mind, there are a number of ways to interpret verses that seemingly indicate the movement of the sun:

(a) Looking at it from the perspective of the purpose of the Qur’an as a book of guidance calling upon creation to reflect, these verses are simply describing celestial bodies as they appear to the onlooker. This is a powerful method of making man reflect in so far as it appeals to his or her actual experience of these celestial bodies. It describes the celestial in a manner that people were accustomed to and described it in a language they understood.

(b) That the words signifying the movement of the sun refer to its rotation on its own axis, known as solar rotations, or to the revolution of the sun around the galaxy. It does not refer to its revolution around the earth i.e. geocentrism.

(c) That some of these verses have metaphorical meanings.

I am unable to go through all the verses that directly relate to this issue. However, the above should be provide a general overview of the issue.

The upshot is that it is not obligatory to believe that the sun revolves around the earth. Rather, the principles of our tradition dictate that we accept the heliocentric model of the universe that currently stands as the consensus position of those specializing in the study of celestial bodies.


Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Was the Earth Created Before Adam or After Him as a Punishment?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Is earth a place of punishment for Adam (as) or did Allah(SWT) created earth for mankind before Adam(as) ate that fruit in paradise?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
Yes, the earth was created before Our Master Adam (Allah bless him and give him peace).
Allah Most High says, “[Prophet], when your Lord told the angels, ‘I am putting a successor on earth,’ they said, ‘How can You put someone there who will cause damage and bloodshed, when we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your holiness?’ but He said, ‘I know things you do not.’” [2.30]
Earth is the place for Our Master Adam and his descendants to manifest their vicegerency. It is not a place of punishment, rather the opportunity given to us to spread and uphold the religion of Allah with mercy and sincere striving after which He will grant those who believed and worked righteous deeds everlasting Paradise under His Supreme Good Pleasure.
And Allah alone gives success.
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani