(Draft Article) Objection: Verse 86:11 is not about the capacity of the heavens to return back rain

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By MuslimAnswers.net Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

Statement: Dr. Naik says verse: 86:11 talks “specifically about the capacity of heavens to return back rain” i.e. the stage of evaporation. This is clearly not so. This verse is about the return of the firmament (sun, moon, stars) that happens every 24 hours[1].


In the non-Muslim’s objection to this Verse we see a problem in how the interpretation is presented from his side. The Verse in question says:

وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الرَّجْعِ

I swear by the sky that rains (Verse 86:11)

Actually, we were unable to find a detailed connection in Dr. Naik’s booklet between this particular Verse and the water cycle. He does mention certain other Verses in his longer exposition concerning the water cycle in the Qur’an, but this particular Verse is only listed in passing as far as we can see.

Whatever the case may be, we think that while this Verse does not warrant a bold declaration of an amazing scientific declaration, yet it is incorrect to say the only correct exegesis for this Ayah is its description of the return of the sun, moon, and stars every 24 hours. Rather, the interpretation from a number of the contemporary traditional scholars is that it refers to the quality of rain to come down and then return. Thus, in the Ma’ariful Quran interpretation we read:

وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الرَّجْعِ  (I swear by the sky that rains…86:11). The word raj’ refers to ‘the rain that comes down repeatedly’. In other words, the rain that comes down and stops and then returns[2].

It is of note that even among the older interpretations there were some interesting comments made about this Verse. For example, in the interpretation of this Verse in the Tafsir of Imam ar-Razi (d. 606 AH), he gives a number of reasons why the raj’ in here refers to the rain as opposed to other possibilities (such as the celestial bodies as mentioned by certain interpreters).  Among them he says that the Arabs of the Prophet’s (Salla Allahu Alayhi wa Sallam) time thought that the clouds carry the water from the seas of the Earth with them, then return it back to the Earth as rain. He also mentions a report attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas (Radhia Allahu Anhu) where he says that this rain returns time and time again[3].

This is an important point for our discussion, for it would show that one cannot discount the possibility that some mention of evaporation is being made in here, even as we see that this may have been already known to the Arabs at the time of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Wa Sallam). If such is the intended meaning of the Verse and the modern explanations concerning the water cycle are indeed true, we would state that the Qur’an is correct on this matter even as we say that it is not an amazing scientific declaration ages ahead of its time.

If someone mentions to us that the interpreters were merely mentioning the easily observable fact that rain comes year after year, or season after season, then there can be no blame imputed on the Qur’an for mentioning this. Yes, it would not be a “modern scientific miracle”, but it would not be false either, nor would it discount the possibility of the water cycle being one of the possible meanings in addition to the obvious seasonal cycles of rain. This is why we stress on researching the matters based on the traditional scholars, old and new, so that the different possibilities may be acknowledged without extreme bias towards or against “modern scientific explanations” clouding the interpretations. And through Allah is our success.




[1]  It has come to our knowledge that the non-Muslim who first gave us this and other similar objections has basically taken them from a well-known anti-Muslim polemicist. It is not our intention to specifically name this person, but we think it is necessary that if a non-Muslim has read the Qur’an and needs some clarifications or has some objections, then he can provide us with his personal questions and we can discuss such questions with him.

Of course, we will nevertheless answer all the objections that come to us, but we ask the non-Muslim to please take the Qur’an seriously, and not restrict himself to copying from an “objection bank”, since in the latter case, there will be many more artificial “veils” between himself and the Qur’an. Yes, every lay person needs to filter his understanding of the primary Islamic texts, but this filtering is through the scholars of Islam, not through the anti-Islamic polemicists. And with Allah is our success.