In Geology, the phenomenon of ‘folding’ is a recently discovered fact. Folding is responsible for the formation of mountain ranges. The earth’s crust, on which we live, is like a solid shell, while the deeper layers are hot and fluid, and thus inhospitable to any form of life. It is also known that the stability of the mountains is linked to the phenomenon of folding, for it was the folds that were to provide foundations for the reliefs that constitute the mountains. Geologists tell us that the radius of the Earth is about 3,750 miles and the crust on which we live is very thin, ranging between 1 to 30 miles. Since the crust is thin, it has a high possibility of shaking. Mountains act like stakes or tent pegs that hold the earth’s crust and give it stability. The Qur’an contains exactly such a description in the following verse: “Have We not made The earth as a wide Expanse, And the mountains as pegs?” [Al-Qur’an 78:6-7]
The word awtad means stakes or pegs (like those used to anchor a tent); they are the deep foundations of geological folds. A book named ‘Earth’ is considered as a basic reference textbook on geology in many universities around the world. One of the authors of this book is Frank Press, who was the President of the Academy of Sciences in the USA for 12 years and was the Science Advisor to former US President Jimmy Carter. He illustrates the mountain in a wedge shape and the mountain itself as a small part of the whole, whose root is deeply entrenched in the ground. According to Dr. Press, the mountains play an important role in stabilizing the crust of the earth.
The Qur’an clearly mentions the function of the mountains in preventing the earth from shaking: “And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm, Lest it should shake with them.” [Al-Qur’an 21:31]
MOUNTAINS FIRMLY FIXED
The surface of the earth is broken into many rigid plates that are about 100 km in thickness. These plates float on a partially molten region called the aesthenosphere. Mountain formations occur at the boundary of the plates. The earth’s crust is 5 km thick below oceans, about 35 km thick below flat continental surfaces, and almost 80 km thick below great mountain ranges. These are the strong foundations on which mountains stand. The Qur’an also speaks about the strong mountain foundations in the following verse: “And the mountains Hath He firmly fixed.” [Al-Qur’an 79:32]
BARRIER BETWEEN SWEET AND SALT WATERS
Consider the following Qur’anic verses: “He has let free the two bodies Of flowing water, Meeting together: Between them is a Barrier Which they do not transgress.” [Al-Qur’an 55:19-20]
In the Arabic text, the word barzakh means a barrier or a partition. This barrier is not a physical partition. The Arabic word maraja literally means ‘they both meet and mix with each other. Early commentators of the Qur’an were unable to explain the two opposite meanings for the two bodies of water, i.e. they meet and mix, and at the same time, there is a barrier between them. Modern Science has discovered that in the places where two different seas meet, there is a barrier between them. This barrier divides the two seas so that each sea has its own temperature, salinity, and density. Oceanologists are now in a better position to explain this verse. There is a slanted unseen water barrier between the two seas through which water from one sea passes to the other.
But when the water from one sea enters the other sea, it loses its distinctive characteristic and becomes homogenized with the other water. In a way, this barrier serves as a transitional homogenizing area for the two different natures of water. This scientific phenomenon mentioned in the Qur’an was also confirmed by Dr. William Hay who is a well-known marine scientist and Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado, U.S.A. The Qur’an mentions this phenomenon also in the following verse: “And made a separating bar between the two bodies Of flowing water?” [Al-Qur’an 27:61]
This phenomenon occurs in several places, including the divider between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean at Gibraltar. But when the Qur’an speaks about the divider between fresh and saltwater, it mentions the (Principles of Oceanography, Davis, pp. 92-93.) existence of “a forbidding partition” with the barrier. “It is He Who has Let free the two bodies Of flowing water: One palatable and sweet, And the other salty and bitter; Yet has He Made a barrier between them and a partition that is forbidden to be passed.” [Al-Qur’an 25:53]
Modern science has discovered that in estuaries, where fresh (sweet) and saltwater meet, the situation is somewhat different from that found in places where two seas meet.
It has been discovered that what distinguishes fresh water from saltwater in estuaries is a “pycnocline zone with a marked density discontinuity separating the two layers.” This partition (zone of separation) has salinity different from both the fresh water and the saltwater. This phenomenon occurs in several places, including Egypt, where the river Nile flows into the Mediterranean Sea.