Quran & Science: An ayah of Surah Al-Kahf points out relationship between solar and lunar years

Professor Tariq Muneer, Edinburgh – UK

وَلَبِثُوا فِی کَھفِھِم ثَلٰثَ مِایؑۃٍسِنِینَ وَازدَادُواتِسعًا (سورۃ الکھف، آیۃ ۲۵)
Translation provided by M Pickthall: And (it is said) they tarried in their Cave three hundred years and add nine. Surah Al-Kahf: 25.

The above verse of Quran offers a deep insight into the relationship between the movements of the sun and moon. The famous Muslim scholar Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Abu Bakr al-Ansari al-Qurtubi who was a mufassir, muhaddith and faqih from Cordoba, Spain has provided an eloquent tafsir of the above ayah. We can examine Qurtubi’s work in the light of our most recent knowledge of the true solar and lunar years in this short article, but first let us recall Qurtubi’s biography. After Cordoba’s capture by the Christian rulers of Northern Spain in 1236 Qurtubi left for Alexandria. He then passed to Cairo, and settled in MunyaAbi’l-Khusavb where he spent the rest of his life. He was buried in MunyaAbi’l-Khusavb, Egypt in 1273.

The basic purpose of Qurtubi’s Tafsir was to deduce juristic injunctions and rulings from the Qur’anic Ayah but in this connection he has very aptly commented on the meanings of Ayah, scrutiny of difficult words, composition and rhetoric and relevant narrations in the exegesis. The preface of his book also provides important discussions on the sciences of the Qur’an.

Among the newer translations of Qurtubi’s work is an Urdu translation of the first volume by Dr Ikram-ul-Haq Yaseen. Work on the second volume is in progress. The first volume has been published by the Shari`ah Academy, at International Islamic University, Islamabad. First and second part of Bengali translation have been published by Tawheed Publication from Bangladesh. It will be published in 23 volumes. One volume has been translated into English and published by Dar al-Taqwa, London.

With reference to the above ayah Qurtubi’s interpretation is that it provides a relationship between solar and lunar years, i.e. 300 solar years = 309 lunar years. We shall examine this claim closely.

The Quranic story of the sleepers of ‘The Cave’ is also found with some variation amongst other cultures and traditions. The origins of the seven sleepers also seem to be in ancient Hindu scriptures as the story of God Indra who went through a similar experience when the Asuras took over the world and he went into penance inside a lotus flower. This got translated into Iranian texts as the story of Zervan and then entered Turkish legend as the story of Kormusta or Hormudz. The following web-link refers to above paragraph.
Let us now have a closer look at the relationship between the solar and lunar years:
The older and now defunct Julian calendar had a leap year every fourth year, while the Gregorian calendar has a leap year every fourth year except century years not exactly divisible by 400. The changeover from the Julian to Gregorian calendar occurred in October of 1582, according to the scheme instituted by Pope Gregory XIII. Common perception is that there are 365.25 days in a year. Thus a four-year cycle = 4*365+1 = 1461 days.

A four hundred year cycle = 146100 – 3 = 146097 days as century years that are not divisible by 400 are not considered as leap years. A four thousand year cycle has 10 x 146097 – 1 = 1460969 days as a year that is divisible by 4000 in not considered to be a leap year. Thus, in an average year the number of days = 1460969 / 4000 = 365.24225.

Likewise, a lunar year has 354.3670556 days. Thus if we count the number of days in 300 solar years (109572.7) and compare them with 309 lunar years (109499.4) the answer we get is that the number of days from the two systems match with a 99.93% accuracy. Subhan Allah!