I n S h o r t : The All-Powerful One of Glory created the seven heavens from ether, and forming it into levels, ordered it with a truly fine and wondrous order and sowed the stars in it. Since the Qur’an of Miraculous Exposition is a pre-eternal address speaking to all the classes of all mankind and the jinn, for sure each of those classes will receive its share from the Qur’an’s verses and its verses will contain various and numerous meanings, both explicit and implicit, in a way that will satisfy the understanding of each.
Yes, the breadth of the Qur’anic address and the comprehensiveness of its meanings and indications and its conforming to and flattering all the degrees of understanding from the most uneducated common people to the highest of the elite shows that all its verses have an aspect which looks to each class. Thus, in consequence of this mystery, as an example, seven classes of men understand as follows the meaning of seven various levels from the universal meaning “seven heavens:”
A short-sighted and narrow-minded class of men understands the atmosphere from the verse “and fashioned them into seven heavens.” While another class of men befogged by astronomy understands the famous stars known popularly as the seven planets, and their orbits. Yet another group understands seven celestial globes resembling our globe, which are inhabited by living creatures.1 A further group of men understands the solar system being separated into seven levels, and seven solar systems together with our system. And yet another group undertands the ether being separated into seven levels. Another class of men with broader ideas counts all the visible skies gilded with stars as a heaven, and saying that it is this world’s heaven, understands that there are six levels of heavens besides it. And mankind’s seventh and highest class do not consider the seven heavens to be restricted to the Manifest World, and understands that the Worlds of the Hereafter and the Unseen, and this world, and the World of Similitudes all have seven heavens, each of which is an encompassing container and roof.
Similarly, there are many further particular meanings in the universal of the verse, like the above-mentioned seven levels of meaning of the seven levels. Everyone receives his share according to his understanding and everyone finds his sustenance at that heavenly table.
Since the verse has thus numerous points confirming it, the unreasoning philosophers and foolish astronomers attacking the verse in that way on the pretext of denying the heavens is like silly children throwing stones at a
See, al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, ii, 535; al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan, xxviii, 153-4.