The Role of Mountains in the Stability of the Earth

mountains

In nine places of the Qur’an,[1] mountains are mentioned with the expression rawāsiya:

 وَجَعَلْنَا فِي الأرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَنْ تَمِيدَ بِهِمْ وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا فِجَاجًا سُبُلا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ

We set firm mountains in the earth lest it should shake with them, and We have made therein broad highways (between mountains) for them to pass through: that they may receive Guidance.”[2]

The mountains are described as rawāsiya because they are the ‘firm ones’ which are based on strong foundations and it is derived from the term rasati ’s-safīnah which means “ship’s anchor”. Because of this anchor, the ship remains stable in the middle of the raging sea. As such, the mountains are like anchors which prevent the earth from shaking on account of its rotation.

The mountains are also described with the term awtād which means “nails” which keeps the earth from scattering together:

 وَالْجِبَالَ أَوْتَادًا

“…And the mountains as pegs?[3]

In this regard, the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) said something which satisfactorily clarifies the inimitable expressions of the Qur’an. Imām ‘Alī (‘a) thus says:

وَجَبَلَ جَلاَمِيدَهَا وَنُشُوزَ ضس مُتُونِهَا وَأَطْوَادِهَا فَأَرْسَاهَا في مَرَاسِيهَا وَأَلْزَمَهَا قَرَارَاتِهَا فَمَضَتْ رُؤُسُهَا فِي الْهَوَاءِ، وَرَسَتْ أُصُولُهَا فِي الْمَاءِ، فَأَنْهَدَ جِبَالَهَاعَنْ سُهُولِهَا، وَأَسَاخَ قَوَاعِدَهَا فِي متُونِ أَقْطَارِهَا، وَمَوَاضِعِ أَنْصَابِهَا فَأشْهَقَ قِلاَلَهَا، وَأَطَالَ أَنْشَازَهَا وَجَعَلَهَا لِلْأَرْضِ عِمَاداً، وَأَرَّزَهَا فِيهَا أَوْتَاداً، فَسَكَنَتْ عَلَى حَرَكَتِهَا مِن أَنْ تَمِيدَبِأَهْلِهَا، أَوْ تَسِيخَ بِحِمْلِهَا، أَوْ تَزُولَ عَنْ مَواضِعِهَا. فَسُبْحَانَ مَنْ أَمْسَكَهَا بَعْدَ مَوَجَانِ مِيَاهِهَا.

He also created high hills, rocks of stones and lofty mountains. He put them in their positions and made them remain stationary. Their peaks rose into the air while their roots remained in the water. In this way He raised the mountains above the plains and fixed their foundations in the vast expanse wherever they stood. He made their peaks high and made their bodies lofty. He made them like pillars for the earth and fixed them in it like pegs. Consequently, the earth became stationary; otherwise it might bend with its inhabitants or sink inwards with its burden, or shift from its positions. Therefore, glorified is He who stopped it after the flowing of its waters.[4]

In some parts of this speech, it is said that notwithstanding its movements and motions, the earth is prevented from shaking and scattering together. From this speech, three points can be inferred:

  1. The earth has various movements, yet in spite of these movements, it remains stable and firm;
  2. The earth’s surface is firm and solid such that its inhabitants and contents do not sink therein.
  3. In its rotation, revolution and other movements, the earth is constant and firm, and it does not swerve from the axis determined for it.Now, we can grasp better the fine and subtle points in the statement of Imām ‘Alī (‘a) in the first sermon of Nahj al-Balāghah, in which instead of the word jibāl (mountains), the word ṣukhūr (rocks) has been used: ﴿ وَجَعَلْنَا فِي الأرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَنْ تَمِيدَ بِهِمْ ﴾The Imām (‘a) connects the mountain’s being ṣakhrah to the stability and firmness of the earth.
  4. The rocky mountain ranges – with their different curves and contours – have vital role in the stability of the earth, its surface and contents as they keep the earth intact notwithstanding the frames underground.
  5. We set firm mountains in the earth lest it should shake with them.”[5]
  6. This statement is the interpretation of the abovementioned verse:
  7. ووتّد بالصخور مَيَدأن أرضه.
  8. These points have been confirmed by current scientific discoveries and research studies. In view of this vital role of the mountains which make life possible on the vast extent of the earth, the mountain ranges which are scattered on the firm surface of the earth are like chains which are put around the earth.

—–

Notes:

[1] Sūrat al-Ra‘d 13:3; Sūrat al-Naml 27:61; Sūrat al-Ḥijr 15:19; Sūrat Qāf 50:7; Sūrat al-Naḥl 16:15; Sūrat Luqmān 31:10; Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ 21:31; Sūrat al-Fuṣṣilat 41:10; Sūrat al-Mursalāt 77:27.

[2] Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ 21:31.

[3] Sūrat al-Naba’ 78:7.

[4] Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon 211, p. 328.

[5] Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ 21:31.

ulumquran1(Excerpt from Muhammad Hadi Ma’rifat, INTRODUCTION TO THE SCIENCES OF THE QUR’AN, Volume 1, trans. Mansoor Limba and Salim Rossier (Tehran: SAMT Publications, 2014))

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