In answering this question, this verse 21:33 is used which has the translation of

And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming.

When I picked Mohsin Khan, Picktal, Yousaf ali translation, all mention orbit in translation except Shakir which translates it as follows

all (orbs) travel along swiftly in their celestial spheres.

Now, even Google translate mentions orbit. But I am still not sure because I know Arabic a little. Here is how I break down this verse word by word.

كُلٌّ - All فِي - in فَلَكٍ - the Sky يَسْبَحُونَ - Swim (ok can be translated to float as well)

Where does the word orbit come from in Translation when it is not mentioned in the verse?

If I translate the words "The sun and moon travel in an orbit", I get this in Google

الشمس والقمر في المدار العائمة

So here is my question, where does the word orbit come from in translation? or am I missing something?

  • 1
    Google is hardly a reliable translator, especially of (classical) Arabic. I would suggest you refer to a proper dictionary (e.g. Lane's Lexicon)
    – goldPseudo
    Sep 22, 2012 at 20:12
  • I hope they start Arabic Language community soon. I have tons of questions to ask like this one. BTW, +1 for this question. I think the answer is "No". Sep 22, 2012 at 20:26
  • 1
    @AhmedHan: There is a proposal about Arabic Language. Sep 22, 2012 at 22:08

1 Answer 1


Your problem comes from the word فَلَك, from it comes the word orbit, but does it really mean orbit?

I'll quote It's meaning from the Major Arabic dictionary Lisan Al-Arab (completed in 1290 - 688 Hijri):

الفَلَك مَدارُ النجوم والجمع أَفْلاك والفَلَكُ واحد أَفْلاك النجوم [...] وفَلَكُ كل شيء مُسْتداره ومُعْظمه.

The فَلَك is the orbit of stars, its plural is أفْلاك, and فَلَك is the singular, i.e, one orbit of the orbits of stars [...] and the فَلَك of everything is the rounding of it or the majority of it.

Lisan Al-Arab by Ibn Manzhour, The Letter ف, section فلك.

مدار is the "place form" of the verb دار, which means orbit (the verb), so مدار means orbit (the noun).

So obviously yes, Qur'an refers specifically to the orbit, i.e, the round way/road which sun and moon move (float) in.

  • It would help I think if you added two things to make this an even stronger answer: 1) When was Lisan al-Arab written and 2) what do madaarun and mustadar mean?
    – Ansari
    Sep 22, 2012 at 23:01
  • @Tamer Shlash Could you explain what you mean with the round way/road which SUN and moon move in??
    – Kilise
    Feb 6, 2016 at 9:51
  • @Kilise for the moon, it orbits around the earth. For the sun, it orbits around the centre of the Milk Way galaxy, see here for details: starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/questions/… Feb 6, 2016 at 11:28
  • Thanks. Just wanted to clear out if that was what you meant.
    – Kilise
    Feb 6, 2016 at 11:37

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