The Arabic word “dahw” means rotundity like that of the ostrich’s egg. The above verse was also interpreted to refer to the shaping of the earth in the form of an ostrich egg. Prof. Dr. Suleyman Atefl, former head of Religious Affairs in Turkey, gives the following definition of the word, based on the famous Arabic dictionary Lisan u’l Arab: “The word ‘dahw’ means to spread out, giving (something) a round shape.” The word “dahw” had also been defined as a game played with walnuts. Derived from the same stem, the word “medahi” referred to round stones. Despite the meaning of rotundity concealed in words derived from the word “dahw” there have been translators for whom a spherical earth was difficult to conceive, who had to translate it as “to spread out.” The actual shape of the earth does have the shape of an ostrich egg. Thus the shape of the earth is spheroid with depressions at the poles. The exact figure of the earth which had posed a problem throughout history was established by the Quran.
He made the earth egg-shaped. (79:30)
Even the books written a few centuries after the descent of the Quran likened the shape of the earth to a tray. Beliefs according to which the earth rested on the horns of an ox or was supported by a fish reigned over mentalities in the Arabic peninsula and many believed that earthquakes occurred when the fish down below waved its tail. The Prophet had no ocean-going ship to cross the earth from one extremity to the other, that would have supplied him with evidence proving the spheroid shape of the earth, nor had he a spacecraft from which he could have had an overall view of our world that would have provided him a photographic image of it, as he was not equipped with a camera. Our knowledge of the sphericity of the earth, which seems to us as an established fact, was then beyond the comprehension and imagination of the majority. Therefore, the Quran’s statement to this effect failed to be grasped. Men believed that the verse referred to the plenitude of the earth, ignoring the sense of rotundity.
Thus, at a time when most of the people believed in the shape of earth’s figure as a tray supported by an ox or fish, the Quran had beautifully described its actual shape. The fact that ostriches abounded in the Arabian Peninsula at the time must have permitted those who inquired into this mystery to hold an ostrich egg in their hands and examine it. The geoidal form is a gentle indication of this. The subtlety of the Quran’s expressions provides men with evidence.
O people! Verily there has come to you an infallible proof from your Lord. We have sent unto you a manifest light. (4:174)