The Time Period for Creation
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

The Biblical Genesis account says that God created all in six days. The Qur’ān, however, has a real problem here as 41:9, 10, 12 have a total of eight days of creation (4+2+2=8) Meanwhile, all other verses give the total number of days of creation as six. This is a problem of self-contradiction. Can you explain?


According to the Qur’ān, the creation of this universe took place in six days. The verse you have pointed out also says so, and I’ll try to explain how it does so. However, before I begin this explanation, I would like to point out two things:

Firstly, in these set of verses, the real objective is not to actually describe the process of creation. Rather the actual objective is to point out the fact that the Almighty has created this universe and all what it contains with great interest, vigour and thoroughness. This painstaking manner in which He carried out the task shows that He has definite plans about it. The whole exercise is not meant to entertain Him as some of the addressees of the Qur’ān were alleging at that time. He could have created this world in the flash of an eye, but He created it in stages much like how a house is built with work going in simultaneously at its various areas. This shows that He has some great purpose in mind. In other verses of the Qur’ān, we come to know that this purpose is to call man to give an account of his deeds he does with his own free will. He would be asked about the attitude he adopted after being blessed with so many favours from the Almighty. So if this perspective is kept in mind, one can easily grasp the fact that the description of this process as stated in the Qur’ān is very literary – in a manner that directs one’s emotions and feelings to what transpired at the beginning of time. The style adopted is to affectionately remind and prod man of this great event and what it entails. The description is not a mere mathematical enumeration of the days of creation.

The second thing which needs to be realized is that the word ‘days’ in this description does not refer to the twenty-four hour day which we are used to. Rather, as other places of the Qur’ān clarify, the length of God’s days is one thousand ‘human’ years (see: 22:47).

I will now try to explain how these verse also say that the total time period of creation is six days. Let us first take a look at these verses:

Is it that you deny Him Who created the earth in two days. And do you join equals with Him. He is Lord of all the worlds. He set on it [-- the earth –] mountains standing firm, high above and bestowed blessings on the earth and measured therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion in four days in accordance with the needs of those who seek [sustenance]. Then He directed His attention to the sky which [at that time] was in the form of smoke. He said to it and to the earth: ‘Obey Our directive’, willingly or unwillingly. They said: ‘We shall do as you say in willing obedience’. So He gave the directive that they be made as seven skies in two days and He assigned to each sky its duty. (41:9-12)

A deep deliberation on the above verses leads to the following conclusions:

1. The earth was created in two days and then it was given completion in four days. This brings the total to six

2. The sky was also created in these two days. Initially, it was in the form of smoke. However, the ‘original’ sky was converted into seven skies in two more days which completed the process regarding the skies. This brings the total to four.

3. The four days of creation of the skies were within the six days of the creation of the earth.

4. Hence the total time period of creation was six days. As the verses seem to suggest more time was consumed in the completion of the earth since it was to harbour human beings and as such needed to be made ready to suit their needs. The sky on the other hand, it seems, did not require as many days.

5. As pointed out earlier, the completion work on both the skies and the earth was a simultaneous process. Therefore the two days mentioned in the completion of the skies are not to be added to the six overall days. Rather they lie within this period.

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