33- O society of jinns and men, cross the diameters of the
heavens and the earth, if you have the ability, then pass
beyond them. But you cannot, unless you acquire an
55-Gracious, 33

The Arabic word for diameter is “kutr” of which the plural is “aktar;”
this refers to the fact that the heavens and the earth have a plurality of
diameters. The Arabic language has a special plural to express “duality;” the word aktar expresses a magnitude superior to one or two. We
must be careful in the case of three-dimensional objects; “diameter”
exists only in spheroid figures. In the case of a perfect sphere we cannot speak of a plurality of diameters, for, in a perfect sphere, there can
be only one diameter. We observe in the verse the use of the plural,
which is remarkable.
This verse is particularly important, as it refers to the geoidal structure of the world. Doubts about the spheroid structure of the world
were dispelled by the law of gravitation of Newton (1642-1724).
Previously it was believed that men, the living beings and the seas
beneath the surface of the earth would have fallen down had the world
been a sphere. Isaac Newton’s law of gravitation convinced men that
their belief was false. Objections to the sphericity of the world were
henceforth withdrawn, although many people still adhered to their
former convictions. If you spoke of “diameters” of the earth, Newton
would have corrected you saying: “the diameter of the earth.” A
sphere can have but one diameter but in the geodesic sphere, which is
the actual shape of the world, this is possible.


The mention in the verse of “the diameters of the heavens” is also significant. Until man took cognizance of the primeval explosion and the
expanding universe, many scientists believed space to be infinite.
Space continuously expands and wherever it expands a new and still
larger diameter is formed (this was explained in Ch. 1, 2 & 3). As a
matter of fact, scientists have likened space to an inflating balloon in
accord with the statement of the verse. Measurements taken at various
spots in space would give different diametrical results, while even
these measurements taken would change every instant. The use of the
plural for the diameter of the heavens is of towering importance, since
there is more than just one diameter and because the concept of infinite space is refuted.
The equatorial axes and the diameters in between the equatorial
axis will be the longest, while the shortest diameter will be in the polar
region. Other diameters will range in between. The diameter measured from the level of the poles to the end point of the atmosphere,
the one drawn from the equator to the end point of the atmosphere,
and the diameters in between differ also.
We should like to draw your attention to a point. In a good many
translations of the Quran there are references to the confines of the
earth and the heavens, to its periphery and contours and frontiers, and
the word “diameters” is skipped. Indeed, the extremities of the diameter of an area give the contour, the limits and the periphery of that
area. We draw the attention of translators to this subtle point.

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