In how many days the heavens and the earth were created?
Among the many’ verses that describe the creation of the earth taking place in six days are:
– Your Guardian-Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and is firmly established on the throne (of authority) (7:54)
– Verily your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days (10:3)
– He it is Who created- the heavens and the earth in six Days (11 :7)
– He Who created the heavens and the earth ,and all that is between, in six days, (25 :59)
– It is Allah Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all between them, .in six Days. (32:4)
– We created the heavens and the earth and all between them in Six Days, (50:38)
– He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in Six Days, ( 57:4)
There is no discrepancy between these verses describing the creation of the world in six "days" and the scientific position that the creation of the world took place over the period of billions of years. This is because the "day" mentioned in these verses are among the days of Allah which are not equal to the twenty four hour days that we are used to. This is highlighted in the following story of the Qur’an: Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins to its roofs. He said, "Oh! . How shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?" but "Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then, raised him up (again). He said, "How long did! thou tarry (thus)?" He said: (Perhaps) a day or part of a day. " He said, "Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years; but look at thy food and thy drink; they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey: And that We may make of thee a sign unto the people, Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with "flesh." When this was shown clearly to him, he said, "1 know that Allah hath power over all things. " (2:259)
So what was experienced as one earth day consisting of twenty four hours in, actuality was almost 37,000 earth days. This is the same difference that one finds in other Qur’anic stories such as the people of the Cave in chapter eighteen where Allah says, "Said one of them, (How long have ye stayed (here)?’ They said, (We have stayed (perhaps) a day, or part of a day’" (18:19). However, the reality was quite different: "So they stayed in their Cave three hundred years, and (some) add nine (more) Say: ((Allah) knows best how long they stayed’." (25-26) Likewise it is mentioned in the Qur’ an ,that the disbelievers will feel as if they lived in this world for only a brief moment or less:
The Day when the Trumpet will be sounded: that Day, We shall gather the sinful, bleak eyed (with terror). In whispers will they consult each other: "Yet tarried not longer than ten (Days); We know best what they will say, when their leader most eminent in conduct will say: ‘.’Ye tarried not longer than a day! (20:102- . 104)
As for the "days of Allah", the Qur’an says that they are a thousand years by the calculations of humans, "Yet they ask thee to hasten on the Punishment! But Allah will not fail in His Promise. Verily a Day in the sight of thy Lord is like a thousand years o/your reckoning" (22:47) and even this is a rough approximation as the verse’ uses the letter (kat) to indicate that the relation used is a similitude and not an exact proportion.
All this goes to show that when the Qur’an mentions that Allah created the world in six days it is a reference to the six days of Allah which are of a different calculation than our human twenty four hour days. This is not something that is unusual since we are familiar with talking about light "years" which is quite longer than human years. The same could be said about other terms used in science that mean certain things in their scientific use and another in their everyday use.
As for the second conception, the apparent discrepancy between the world being created in six days or eight, the matter is in regards to chapter forty one, verses nine through twelve:
Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds. 10. He set on the (earth), mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance with (the needs of) those who seek (Sustenance)
Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke:
He said to it and to the earth, ”’Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly. "They said, "We do come (together), in willing obedience".
12. So He completed them as seven firmaments in two Days, and He assigned to each heaven its duty and command. And We adorned the lower heaven with lights, and (provided it) with guard. Such is the Decree of (Him) the Exalted in Might, Full of Knowledge.
In these verses, it is clearly stated that Allah created the "earth" literally the ground in two days and the rest of the contents of planet earth in four more days to complete the six day period of the creation of our world as held throughout the Qur’an. The misconception of creation being eight days is perhaps due to verse twelve where another two days is mentioned as the time of creation of the seven heavens. However, these days are not separate from the six. In other words, Allah created the ground in two days then He created the mountains etc. in another two days to give a total of four days. The four days mentioned in verse ten is a complete tally of days from verses nine and ten. Then Allah created the seven heavens in two days making a total of six days. This is how classical commentators understood these verses. Imam Qurtubi for example said that the verse saying "in four days" is the equivalent of someone saying, "I went from Basrah to Baghdad in ten days then to Kufah in fifteen days". This means the entire journey took fifteen days not the trip from Baghdad to Kufahl 7. Imam al-Zamakhshari said that the verse "in four days" means that the creation of the earth and its contents took four days, no more and no less18 and al-Zajjaj says in his commentary that this verse means the task was completed at four days.