At the time of the descent of the Quran, people believed that the light of the stars would last forever. This at a time when the inner structure of the stars was a mystery and the fact that the energy of the stars would, one day, be exhausted was not known. The Quran’s prediction about the end of the stars is a miraculous statement.
While the verses speak of the putting out of stars, the planets, not light sources, will scatter. The Arabic word for a star is “najm,” while “kavkab” is a planet. Given the fact that the planets are dependent on a central star, when this star is no more, the planets will necessarily scatter. (There have been translators who translated both words as stars without heeding the difference between them.) Planets are not light sources, therefore their extinction is out of question. The Quran displays its miraculous attribute in all its statements.
When the sun is rolled. (81:1)
The Arabic word “takwir” refers to the wrapping of the turban around the head in a spiral form; it also means the rolling or winding of a thing into a ball or round mass, or around something. The scene describes how the end of the sun will come. Like all the other stars, our sun also consumes hydrogen atoms by transforming them into helium atoms and releasing energy in the form of radiation, heat and light. The transformation of hydrogen into helium stops with the exhaustion of the hydrogen. Even without the effect of other potential causes, the sun will have to come to an end for this reason. Before their extinction, the stars, according to their sizes, pass through such phases as red giant, white dwarf or black hole. In view of its magnitude, our sun must turn first into a red giant before dying.
The sun has been a subject of worship in the history of mankind. People who did not believe in the end of the universe considered the sun itself to be an immortal divinity and thought that the universe and the earth would last eternally; there have been those who believed in the transmigration of souls everlastingly. Having eventually been convinced by scientific discoveries that the world was doomed to die one day, the minds that idolized the sun and the belief in the eternal reincarnation cycle lost their support. The belief in the Hereafter described in the Quran and the end of the universe are interconnected as the stages of a system. Taking cognizance of the fact that the end of the universe will eventually come has reinforced the belief in the Hereafter.
And verily the Hour is coming, no doubt about it, and that God will resurrect those who are dead. (22:7)
The description of the end of the universe in the Quran relating to the end of the sun and of the world is given in striking colors. What the people at the Prophet’s time knew about astronomy could not possibly have permitted them to describe such occurrences. Muslims who lived at the time of the revelation of the Quran believed in all these, not because of scientific deductions but because they had faith in the fact that it was easy for God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, to destroy them. All the statements of the Quran about the disappearance of the stars, the sun and the earth are corroborated today by scientific discoveries.
EARTHQUAKES WITH BOILING SEAS
When the earth will be shaken up. (56:4)
When the Hour comes, the entire earth will be shaken by a terrible earthquake. The Quran says that the tremor will cause mountains to be pulverized, and men will run to and fro in panic. As for the sea, we have the following indications:
An earthquake will pulverize mountains, hot lava will burst forth from many corners of the earth. Volcanoes will erupt and lava will rise from the sea. It is unlikely that the depiction of the end of the world was an exaggeration of natural disasters that Muhammad experienced in his lifetime. The area where Muhammad lived was not on a major earthquake fault-line, and those who spent most of their lives in the middle of desert, most likely, never witnessed the eruption of a volcano in mid-ocean!
When the wild beasts are summoned. (81:5)
The Quran draws our attention to the herding together of animals. We know today that animals react to a tremor even before we, as human beings, realize it. For instance, in the zoo in Seattle Woodland, the odd movements of elephants and the restlessness of gorillas in their cages were observed before the earthquake was felt by human beings. This is a domain in which further research studies are being conducted. In view of this statement of the Quran, we think that this research should be intensified.
The contents of the earth, the magma, the molten rock, will rise to the surface as lava, as described in the verses quoted.
The Quran would like us to turn our attention to the most serious event of earth history to come. Advanced science has demonstrated that the end of the world and the universe is inevitable. No one can assert any longer that the stars and the sun will shine forever, and that the universe and the earth will abide to eternity.
Are they waiting until the Hour comes to them suddenly? Its signs have already appeared. How can they benefit then when it has come upon them? (47:18)
The contents of the earth, the magma, the molten rock, will rise to the surface as lava.