The Sea Set on Fire
Allah, the Almighty, says in His Holy Book:
“And by the sea kept filled (or it will be fire kindled on the Day of Resurrection).” (Soorah Al-Toor, 52:6)
This Verse comes in the form of an oath, although Allah, the Exalted, is far above any need to swear an oath; hence, we understand that the object by which the oath is sworn – “the sea kept filled (or it will be fire kindled on the Day of Resurrection)” – is of special significance. What, then, is the special signif-icance of the sea kept filled or the sea set on fire?
Water and fire are incompatible substances, as water extinguishes fire, and fire makes water boil and causes it to evaporate. So how can the sea which is filled with water be set on fire?
Because of this contradiction, the early commentators suggested that this was something that would happen on the Day of Resurrection, on the basis of another Verse that gives the same meaning, which is the sixth verse of Soorah Al-Takweer:
“And when the seas become as blazing fire or overflow”.
However, the context of this Verse (in Soorah Al-Toor) and the five preceding Verses point to things that are happening in our present life, so the exegetes tried to find a linguistic meaning other than “setting on fire”.
Among the meanings that were derived from this word was the following: “the sea that is filled with water and is prevented from overwhelming neighboring continental masses.” This meaning is correct, because the largest quantity of freshwater today, which comprises 77 percent of all the water on land, is entrapped in the form of thick layers of ice on the polar regions of the north and south, as well as the snow that covers the summits of high mountains. Melting of this enormous amount of ice needs no more than an increase of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius in the average summer temperature. If that hap-pens, the water level in the seas and oceans will rise by more than 100 meters above its natural level, which would cause submersion of most of the land areas where man now lives.
Even though this meaning is correct, scientists and researchers have recently discovered that all oceans and some seas – such as the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea – are indeed set on fire, while others – such as the Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas – are not.
As mentioned above, more than 64,000 km of mid-ocean ridges have so far been mapped around mid-ocean rift valleys. These ridges at the bottom of the ocean are formed of volcanic basaltic rock that flows out of the oceanic rift zones at temperatures of more than one thousand degrees Celsius, form-ing these huge new layers of volcanic oceanic crust and causing lateral spread, which is known as sea-floor spreading.
The new areas of oceanic crust are formed on both sides of the ridge due to ongoing flow of new bas-alt. Mid-oceanic volcanism develops from fissure volcanism, which in turn stems from the mid-oceanic rift systems where the oceanic crust is split and the opposite sides of the rift zone are pushed aside by the emerging magma.
Basalt emerges in the form of eruptions and flows along the axis of the ocean ridge. These basalt erup-tions and flows are fed by secondary magma chambers that exist below the mid-ocean ridges.
The basalt that is present on the oceanic crust at the bottom of the ocean, which has an average thick-ness of approximately 7 km from top to bottom, consists of the following: 0-1 km of sediment, 1 km of basalt pillow lava, and 5 km of gabbro sills (flat rock formations that exist between two other layers as the result of volcanic eruption) fed by dikes.
A number of post-eruptive phenomena occur as the result of interactions between groundwater and hot rocks, including the following:
1- Hot springs, which result from the heating and mineralization of underground water due to the presence of volcanic rock.
2- Geysers, which are periodic eruptions of boiling hot water (200 degrees Celsius or more) due to cir-culation with superheated underground water at depths which are in direct contract with hot rocks whose temperature exceeds 1,000 degrees Celsius.
3- Fumaroles, which are openings that emit steam that is saturated with compounds such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, hydrogen sulfide, hydrochloric acid and hydro fluoride.
4- Solfataras, which are fumaroles that are rich in different sulfur compounds.
Most of the volcanic activity that is currently occurring at the bottom of the seas and oceans has been going on for between twenty and thirty million years, and some of that volcanic activity has been going on for more than a hundred million years, such as that in the Canary Islands. During this lengthy period of volcanic activity, the volcanic cone was gradually pushed hundreds of kilometers away from the edge of the oceanic plate which is continually being renewed; thus the volcanic cone moves away from the mass of magma that fed it, and gradually ceases to be active. The seafloor of the Pacific Ocean cur-rently contains a huge number of submerged, extinct volcanoes (guyots), as well as many other volca-noes that are violently active.
From the above discussion we may understand that all the seas and oceans that experience seafloor spreading are indeed set on fire, whereas those that have started to close up are not.
These fires on the ocean floor exist in the form of very hot basaltic flows and other magmatic erup-tions pouring out from the rift valley systems that rupture the Earth’s lithosphere (crust and upper-most part of the mantle).
These rifts run for thousands of kilometers in all directions around the globe to a depth of 65 to150 kil-ometers, where they connect the ocean floor with the extremely hot, semi-molten, plastic layer of the asthenosphere. Thus these ocean floors are actually set on fire.
This astonishing fact was not discovered by modern science until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hence, the fact that the Holy Qur’an mentioned this astonishing fact that was buried at the bottom of the ocean is the best evidence of the pure and true origin of this Holy Book.
It is said in Arabic, “Sajara Al-Tannoor” or the oven blazed, i.e., a fire was lit under it until it became hot. At the time when the Qur’an was revealed and for many centuries afterward, the Arab mind could not comprehend this fact: how could the sea be set on fire when water and heat are opposites?
It was only discovered recently that this Earth on which we live has an outer rocky layer, and this layer is rent with a huge network of cracks which stretch for hundred of kilometers along and across the Earth, reaching depths between 65 and 150 kilometers. What is amazing is that these cracks are con-nected to one another in a way that makes them like one single crack, which the scientists liken to the line on a tennis ball. These cracks have also developed in the ocean floor and magma, which is very hot, emanates from these cracks and heats the sea. The water, despite its huge volume, does not ex-tinguish these fires, and the magma, despite its high temperature (more than a thousand degrees Cel-sius) is not able to make this water evaporate; this phenomenon is one of the most amazing of natural phenomena to scientists.
The volcanoes on the ocean floor are more numerous and more violently active than the volcanoes on dry land, and they extend along the ocean floor.
What is amazing about this wording – “Wal-Bahr il-Masjoor (And by the sea kept filled or it will be fire kindled on the Day of Resurrection)” (Soorah Al-Toor, 52: 6) is that because of the lack of oxygen on the seafloor, the volcanic lava that is flowing through the cracks on the ocean floor cannot shine bright-ly along the crack, so it is usually dark and black, but very hot, without any flame, like the pan at the bottom of a traditional oven, the bottom of which may be heated by any fuel so that it becomes very hot, hot enough to bake bread on it. This is the exact linguistic meaning of the word Masjoor, and there is no other word that could take its place and give the same precise meaning. Think about the greatness of this miraculous divine eloquence.
(From Ayat Al-‘Ijaz fil-Qur’an Al-Kareem by Dr. Zaghloul An-Najjar)
[from “Scientific Miracles in the Oceans & Animals” by “Yusuf Al-Hajj Ahmad”, published by Darus-salam, 2010]
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