In Just Six Days?
The Qur'an states that “Allah created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six days” (Qur'an 7:54), and this information is repeated in other verses as well. On the surface, it seems remarkably similar to the time frame given in the Book of Genesis of the Bible. Does such a teaching contradict scientific evidence that the universe developed over billions of years?
It Depends on Your “Day”
The verses of the Qur'an that mention “six days” use the Arabic word youm (day). This word appears several other times in the Qur'an. One verse describes the Day of Resurrection as “a Day the measure whereof is [as] fifty thousand years” (Qur'an 70:4). Another verse clearly states that “a Day in the sight of your Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning” (Qur'an 22:47). The word youm is thus understood to be a long period of time, an era or eon, rather than a day of twenty-four hours as we know it.
Therefore, Muslims interpret the description of a “six-day” creation to mean that God created the universe in six distinct periods, or eons. The length of these periods is not precisely identified, nor are the specific developments that took place during each period.
Did God Rest?
One distinct difference between the creation story in Islam, as opposed to that given in the Book of Genesis, is what happened at the end of the sixth “day,” when the creation was finished. According to the Bible, God looked over His creation, and “saw that it was good.” God was finished, and on the seventh day He rested.
In the Qur'an, a distinct point is made that the Almighty Creator is beyond any need for rest. “We created the heavens and the earth and all between them in six days, nor did any sense of weariness touch Us” (Qur'an 50:38). In the Islamic story, God established Himself on the Throne, to oversee all of creation.
God is never “done” with His work, because the process of creation is ongoing — every minute of the day, every day of every year. Each new child who is born, every seed that sprouts into a sapling, every new species that appears on earth, is a part of the ongoing process of God's creation. “He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then established Himself on the Throne. He knows what enters within the heart of the earth, and what comes forth out of it, what comes down from heaven, and what mounts up to it. And He is with you wherever you may be. And God sees well all that you do” (Qur'an 57:4).
Muslims do not observe a Sabbath. Friday is the day when Muslims gather for congregational worship during the noon prayer time. However, it is not a day of rest. The community gathers to pray and then returns to normal daily routines and work.