the people of illumination have seen a level of the earth particular to demons which has a breadth of a thousand years, it is not in the seed of the earth that pertains to the Manifest World; but is a manifestation of its branches and levels in the World of Similitudes. Since an apparently insignificant level of the earth has such a vast manifestation in another world, surely it may be said that it has seven levels which are the equivalent of the seven levels of the heavens. In order to call to mind the above points, the Qur’an’s verses allude to them by showing in a miraculously concise way that the tiny earth is the equivalent of the seven levels of the heavens.
SECOND IMPORTANT MATTER
The seven heavens and the earth and all that is in them extols and glorifies Him [to the end of the verse](17:44) * And has applied His design to the heavens and fashioned them into seven heavens, and He has full knowledge of all things.(2:29)
Numerous verses like these depict the heavens as sevenfold. It is appropriate to write here only a summary of this matter, which of necessity we expounded extremely briefly in the commentary Isharat al-I’jaz (Signs of Miraculousness), while on the front in the first year of Great War. It is as follows:
Ancient philosophy conceived of the heavens as being nine in number; accepting in the tongue of the Shari‘a the throne of God and seat of God together with the seven heavens, they depicted the heavens in strange manner. The glittering terms of the philosophers held mankind under their sway for many centuries. In fact, many Qur’anic commentators were compelled to make the apparent meanings of verses conform to their school. In this way the All-Wise Qur’an’s miraculousness was veiled to an extent. As for the new philosophy, called modern science, in the face of the excesses of ancient philosophy about the heavens it went to the other extreme and quite simply denied the heavens’ existence. The former went to excess and the latter was deficient; they were unable to portray reality in its entirety.
As for the sacred wisdom of the All-Wise Qur’an, it left aside such excess and deficiency, and choosing the middle way said that the All-Glorious Maker created the seven levels of the heavens. The planets swim in the heavens like fish and glorify God. It says in a Hadith: “The skies are waves held back.”1 That is, the heavens are an ocean the waves of which are stationary.
Tirmidhi, Tafsir Sura 58, 1; Musnad, ii, 370; al-Mubarakfuri, Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi, No: 3352; al-Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, viii, 132.