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Please note that I am dividing this question into two parts. One part consists of Hadith that allegedly say that the Earth was formed before sun, stars, and heavens. The part-2 contains references from Qur'an that say that the Heavens were created before the Earth.

In their explanation of Qur'an 50:38, many Qur'anic commentators cite a narration that seemingly says that the Earth was created before heavens, suns, stars, etc. The following narration has been deemed as authentic by Tabari and it has been cited in his works:-

Now then, this being so, there is (also) a sound tradition from the Messenger of God told us by Hannad b. al-Sari, who also said that he read all of the hadith (to Abu Bakr)- Abu Bakr b. 'Ayyash- Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal- 'Ikrimah- Ibn Abbas: The Jews came to the Prophet and asked him about the creation of the heavens and the earth. He said: God created the earth on Sunday and Monday. He created the mountains and the uses they possess on Tuesday. On Wednesday, He created trees, water, cities and the cultivated barren land. These are four (days). He continued (citing the Qur'an): 'Say: Do you really not believe in the One Who created the earth in two days, and set up others like Him? That is the Lord of the worlds. He made it firmly anchored (mountains) above it and blessed it and decreed that it contain the amount of food it provides, (all) in four days, equally for those asking'- for those who ask. On Thursday, He created heaven. On Friday, He created the stars, the sun, the moon, and the angels, until three hours remained. In the first of these three hours He created the terms (of human life), who would live and who would die. In the second, He cast harm upon everything that is useful for mankind. And in the third, (He created) Adam and had him dwell in Paradise. He commanded Iblis to prostrate himself before Adam, and He drove Adam out of Paradise at the end of the hour. When the Jews asked: What then, Muhammad? He said: 'Then He sat straight upon the Throne.' The Jews said: You are right, if you had finished, they said, with: Then He rested. Whereupon the Prophet got very angry, and it was revealed: 'We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us. Thus be patient with what you say. (Al-Tabari, Abu Ja’far, Tarikh ar-Rusul wal Muluk, Vol.1, 22)

According to Asbab Ul Nuzul and the narration cited by Tabari above, the Earth was created on Sunday and Monday. On the other hand, stars, sun, moon, Heavens etc were created AFTER earth on Thursday and Friday. This same narration is also cited by Ali Ibn Ahmad Al-Wahidi in his work.

This narration is also found in Tafsir Al-Bhaghawi:-

خلق الله الأرض يوم الأحد والاثنين، والجبال يوم الثلاثاء، والمدائن والأنهار والأقوات يوم الأربعاء، والسموات والملائكة يوم الخميس إلى ثلاث ساعات من يوم الجمعة، وخلق في أول الثلاث الساعات الآجال، وفي الثانية الآفة، وفي الثالثة آدم

According to wikipedia, Bhaghawi primarily relies on 11 reliable chains of narrations, which al-Baghawi mentions in the introduction to his work.

However, I am not sure if Bhaghawi also considers this narration as authentic and I do not know why he cited it in his work.

I think many critics of Islam often cite this narration in order to prove that Islam teaches that the Earth predates heavens and stars because the sequence of creation of Earth, stars, heavens, etc clearly starts with the creation of Earth and then it ends with the creation of heavens, stars, etc. It has been asumed that the creation actually started on Sunday (with the creation of Earth) and the creation ended on Friday (with the creation of star, sun, and moon). This is what the sequence suggests.

Question: What is the reality of this narration? Is this narration authentic? If this narration is authentic, then how can we reconcile this with science? Science CLEARLY states that the heavens, sun, stars, etc were created WAY BEFORE the Earth was created.

------------------------------------PART-2---------------------------------------

Creation Of The Earth Before Heavens In The Qur'an?

The Glorious Qur'an says,

Then He turned towards the heaven when it was ˹still like˺ smoke, saying to it and to the earth, ‘Submit, willingly or unwillingly.’ They both responded, ‘We submit willingly. So He formed the heaven into seven heavens in two Days, assigning to each its mandate. And We adorned the lowest heaven with ˹stars like˺ lamps ˹for beauty˺ and for protection. That is the design of the Almighty, All-Knowing.(Glorious Qur'an 41:11-12)

These verses of Qur'an state that the heaven was still in the period of infancy because it was "smoke-like". Some people suggest that this smoke-like heaven is the seven layers of atmosphere that cover up the Earth. However, the very next verse clearly suggests that the lower heavens were adorned with stars and we know that the seven layers of the amosphere are not "adorned with the stars". So does the Glorious Qur'an say that the Earth was formed BEFORE Heavens as the verse suggests that the heavens was in the state of infancy (i.e. smoky)?

In the commentary of Qur'an 79:30, Tafsir Al-Jalalayn state:-

"and after that He spread out the earth He made it flat for it had been created before the heaven but without having been spread out;"

The following is taken from Ibn Kathir's Abridged version of commentary:-

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According to THIS SOURCE,

"The Earth was formed about 4.6 billion years ago, that's 4,600,000,000 years ago. It was formed by collisions of particles in a large cloud of material. Slowly gravity gathered together all these particles of dust and gas and formed larger clumps. These clumps continued to collide and gradually grew bigger and bigger eventually forming the Earth. The earth at this time was very different to how we know it today."

I think the answer lies somewhere in the question. Can any wise person please explain?

Jazakallah.

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Salam aleykum wa rahmatullahi wa baraktahu, I have read alot about this and I hope you got your answer after all these years. So the Quran says that Allah created the earth and all that is in it in 4 days total then he turned to the heaven (singular) then made them seven heavens. So in Islam we don't give our own opinions we go back to the Salaf who knew the quran better then us. I'll divide this into points: 1. Classical interpration 2. the order 3. The Smoke.

  1. We find Ibn Abbas saying that the earth was created first then the heavens was created and after that the earth was spread out, you can find this in Ibn Kathir's tafsir of 2:29 and 41:9-12. What alot of people don't know also is that Ibn Qatada RA gave his opinion also. His opinion was that the earth was not created first but the smoke of heaven was already existing. You can find this in Qurtubis tafsir of 2:29. This makes what we call in Islam a ithkhilaf( Disagreement between the companions of the prophet sallahualayhisalam) So in Islam we use the statements of the companions and the salaf to explain our religion to us. Sometimes the companions disagreed in some matters therefore our scholars looks at the evidence and chooses which opinion is best. We know that some of the companions or salaf used to convey stories or teachings from the Ahl Kitab (jews and christians) these hadith's are called Isralliyyat, that's why you can find in tafsir the whale which is under the earth and so on. So the companions used to narrate stories of creation which were from the isralliyat. You can see in Sahih Bukhari 3461 that the prophet sallahu alayhi wa salam said "Narrate from Bani Israel (Jews and Christians) there is no sin in it." and the prophet said regarding Jews who taught the Torah to muslims "Do not believe the people of the book nor disbelieve them" Bukhari 4485. So we can see that the prophet sallahualayhi wasalam allowed narrating from the people of the book and that the Salaf did it. Now we have two interpatations of 2:29 and 41:9-12 that is the heaven was created before the earth and that the earth was created before the heaven, and both opinions are fine to have which you can choose. I know alot of people who whoose the opinion of Ibn Abbas and othes who choose Ibn Qatadas opinion, both are valid and good.
  2. So I've showed you that there are two opinions of these ayahs. The correct order of creation in Shaa Allah regarding the heavens and the earth is 1. Heaven was created 2. Earth was created 3. After earth was created then the heaven was formed into seven heavens and so on. If you look at the 41:9-12: "Ask ˹them, O Prophet˺, “How can you disbelieve in the One Who created the earth in two Days? And how can you set up equals with Him? That is the Lord of all worlds." "He placed on the earth firm mountains, standing high, showered His blessings upon it, and ordained ˹all˺ its means of sustenance—totaling four Days exactly—for all who ask." "Then He turned towards the heaven when it was ˹still like˺ smoke, saying to it and to the earth, ‘Submit, willingly or unwillingly.’ They both responded, ‘We submit willingly.’" If the read these ayats you will see that the heaven was already existing after the earth was created. "Then he turned towards the heaven" which indicates that the heaven already exists.
  3. The last part of this is the smoke. "What does the smoke mean?" "What is the smoke refering to?" "Was the whole universe just smoke after the earth was created?" Does this not mean the earth was created before stars?" Are questions one might have. So in logic there is an premise which alot of people should know regarding these scientific statements. The premise is "Scientfic language is the only accepted language to use" if you think about it you will clearly know this statement is wrong. If science was the only accepted language to speak the me saying the sun has set or that the sun has risen is wrong, because surely according to them the correct thing to say is the earth has rotated enough so that we can see the sun. Or if I tell you to pass me the book then you critize me for not saying pass me the atoms. Now the quran is not a scientfic book, it's aim is not to show us science things but for humans to reflect and wonder upon the great creation. Now Allah refers to the beginning the universe as something as "smoke" Now if we look at nebulas pictures today or deep far away in space we see these nebulas. Is it wrong to call these nebulas smoke? No of course not. Nebulas clearly look like smoke. So one person can explain the same thing but use other terms for it, this is common knowledge. I am not saying the smoke 100% refers to nebulas but I am saying that their argument is not good. Allah might have refered to the smoke or he did not but we know that using the term smoke is a good term for refering to nebulas or the start of the universe. Now the question "If all of heaven or universe was smoke while the earth was finished does not mean that earth came before stars or planets?" The answer to this is very simply in Shaa Allah. In arabic the word "Samaa" means heaven or that is above. If you read the quran you will find in many places the the rain comes from the "samaa" or the stars are in the "samaa" and so on. Heaven (samaa) simply means something this is above. If a bird is sitting upon a high building the bird is in the "samaa". So the quran is saying the the earth was created, the "samaa" aka what is above was in state of smoke. Now comes the anti islam claim that Islam teaches the entire "samaa" heaven was smoke. Now ask yourself this, what is above the creation? The Throne, The pen, the tablet... does Islam teach that the throne and the pen and the tablet was all smoke since samaa includes everything that is above? No of course not. From this we know that some of heaven was in a state of smoke, not all of it. Even today if you look many light years away from the earth you will find nebulas which look like smoke. So their claim that the earth was created before stars is wrong, not all of heaven was smoke but some part of it was, like it is today. I hope this helps you and others who are looking for the answer. I wrote this pretty quickly while at my job and therefore I might have had spelling mistakes or been not clear in some matters, but feel free to ask me regarding this, I will inn Shaa Allah answer.
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  • Jazakallah for answer. You may add more to your answer when you get time. I am also investigating this issue and I hope we will find an answer by the will of Allah. Only Allah is the source of strength.
    – Ren
    Dec 4, 2021 at 0:46

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