Heaven was created before earth

Sura 91 verses 1-10A creation full of contrasts

"In the sun and in the bright morning,
and by the moon when he follows her;
during the day when he lets her shine
and at night when it covers them;
by heaven and what has built it,
and by the earth and what it has spread;
with every soul and what has formed it
and gave you sin and the fear of God!
He who purifies it thrives;
Whoever destroys them will be put to shame. "

Numerous early Qur'anic suras are introduced by oaths that often name basic cosmic processes such as day and night. The passage presented begins with three complementary pairs of oath objects: sun and moon, day and night, heaven and earth. The first two of these couples are combined with natural and seemingly independent processes such as the dawn of day and night.

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The two oath objects heaven and earth, on the other hand, are followed by indirect references to their divine form: "in heaven and what has built it, / and in earth and what it has spread." Creator gradually emerges from behind his creation.

Nicolai Sinai teaches Islamic studies at the renowned Oxford University in England. (Photo: N.Sinai) Then the focus of the passage narrows on the human subject and his ability to "sin" and to "fear God". The Qur'an culminates in an announcement of otherworldly reward and punishment: “Those who purify them - by which the human soul is meant - thrive; / Whoever destroys them will be put to shame. "

The basic theme of these Quranic verses is binary opposites. Just as the natural world is shaped by the contrast between day and night and is divided into heaven and earth, so the moral reality is shaped by the contrast between "sin" and "fear of God"; and this moral opposition is continued in the contrast between bliss on the other side and damnation on the other side.

According to Islamic sources, similar vows were also used in the sayings of ancient Arabic fortune tellers. Even if the historical reliability of such reports is not undisputed, it is probable that Koranic oath passages do indeed make use of an existing literary genre - a genre which the first addressees of the Koran are likely to have associated with the claim to supernatural inspiration.

At the same time, this prescribed form of speech is put into the service of a new religious message in a literarily sophisticated way: the world is the product of a divine creator; and it is characterized in all areas by a two-valued basic structure.

The Koran thus proves to be a text that adopts means of expression from its historical environment in order to make them bearers of its own theological concerns.