al-Zumar: Of Football, Days, and Nights
As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah
In Surah al-Zumar, Allah says,
خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ ۖ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى ۗ أَلَا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفَّارُ
“He created the heavens and earth in truth. He wraps the night over the day and wraps the day over the night and has subjected the sun and the moon, each running [its course] for a specified term. Unquestionably, He is the Exalted in Might, the Perpetual Forgiver.” [al-Zumar: 5]
Look at the word I’ve highlighted above (‘wrap’). This is taken from the Sahih International translation of the Qur’an, but almost every single translation that I’ve come across has a different word for the above. They all try to bring out the meaning and message of what is happening. Examples of what some translations say…
“… He makes the night to go in the day and makes the day to go in the night” – Muhsin Khan
“… He maketh night to succeed day, and He maketh day to succeed night” – Pickthall
“… He makes the Night overlap the Day, and the Day overlap the Night” – Yusuf Ali
“… He makes the night cover the day and makes the day overtake the night” – Shakir
However, let us dig a bit further into the linguistics to get a fuller image…
The Arabic word used in the Qur’an at this particular point, is actually ‘Yukawwiru‘ (from: كوَّر) which gives the sense that something is being connected to something else either by way of wrapping, or drawing into a circle, or forming into a ball etc (in fact, the term ‘football‘ or ‘ball‘ is ‘kurah‘ which comes from this root). So we get the message that the night comes over the day in a ‘kurah‘ or ‘takwir‘ fashion, i.e. in a wrapping, or ball, or circular movement.
This is very interesting because it gives the hint and the knowledge that the night comes over the day in a gradual circular way. At the time the Qur’an was being revealed to our Prophet (s), no-one knew that the earth was round, but this verse is actually hinting at just that!
If one knows the science behind how day and night succeed each other, they will know that the circular/ball form of the earth and its spinning on its axis is what allows the sun’s light to move across the planet in a certain manner which gives birth to the day. At the same time, on the other side of the ball-shaped earth, this same movement and shape is what allows night to move in (due to the lack of sunlight – which can’t reach other areas again due to the ball shape of the earth).
Subhan’Allah. Through the language, you not only realise that the verb Allah used (yukawwiru) gives such a great hint of earth being round, but you also get the perfect image of how night and day succeed each other on this rounded earth. May Allah grant us understanding, ameen!