by Dr. Umayyah Eco
Ph.D. in Astrophysical Floristics & Cosmic Horticulture
University of Mushrikeenistan
Regardless of what your reaction would be, the reality is that several sites on the net are claiming precisely this, and the authors of such sites wonder why the kuffaar are not acknowledging this clear sign from the One who is known as al-Haqq. One prominent Muslim apologist on the net who has put forth such an article is none other than Osama Abdallah, whose claims about Islamic science have been critiqued by the FTMecca before (exempli gratia:  ). In this instance, Osama actually challenged a resident FTMeccan to justify his lack of iman in light of this aya, hence the writing of this article.
Much of the work of approaching this claim has already been performed by our brothers in the Christian portion of the global ikhwaan al-Mushrikeen. Jochen Katz' wonderful Answering-Islam page has submitted two articles ( ) in response to Shibli Zaman's (now defunct?) article on the subject. While it had some unique insights to contribute, the general claims made by akhoona Shibli were essentially identical to those made by Osama and literally dozens of other Muslims on the net, thus Katz' response to Zaman can easily serve as a rough response to Mr. Abdallah as well.
The relevant passage appears in Soorat ar-Rahman 55:37. The text speaks of the last days, stating that the heavens will come apart, and then it will "become red like oil" (kaanat wardat(an) ka'd-Dihaani). Indeed, warda is the Arabic word for rose, but the Arabic seems to be employing this more in an adjectival sense, and the verb root means to be rose-colored or red. This is supported by the part which states that it will be like dihaan, which means oil or paint or some substance of that type. If the text meant rose strictly as a noun, it would be strange that it would be a rose like oil. It seems more reasonable to understand this as referring to stating that the sky will turn red, like oil, paint or some substance of that color.
The question now is, what is so amazing about that? A reference to the sky turning red during the end times does not exhibit knowledge of the way a star system looks when it sheds shells of gas. A reference to the heavens turning red is sufficiently vague enough to mean anything. A few web sites on the net (exempli gratia) attribute the claim that during the end times the sky will turn "the color of blood" to a belief held among Native Americans of the Hopi tribe. There's reference in Lucian's ancient work, Philopseudes, to an Ethiopian Wizard who would turn the heavens the color of blood. The world of fiction actually gives a number of literary references to such a phenomenon. Interestingly, a fourth century Chinese chronicle recorded just such an alleged event:
On the night of a jen-yin day in the 12th month of the 1st year of the Yung-Hsing reign-period a red vapor (aurora) appeared across the heavens accompanied by a crashing sound.It is now necessary to explain why such references have been alluded to. Are we claiming that the author of the Qur'an had access to the Chinese chronicle quoted above? Are we claiming that this person was influenced by post-Islamic Hopi prophecy or works of modern fiction? Of course not. In fact, we're not even claiming that the author of the Qur'an witnessed an aurora of the sort described above. However, the value of mentioning such texts is what it can teach us about the sort of exegesis Osama (and others) are employing.
When dealing with issues of Qur'anic science, the most important issue is the one which proponents of the scientific-hermeneutic approach are the most loath to discuss: author's intention. If you can interpret a text in such a way that allows you to correlate it with some scientific fact, does that mean it was the author's intention for the text to be a reference to this said scientific fact? The answer is no, and the fact is that such exegesis doesn't even tell us if the author was even aware of such a fact.
As we have seen, people can make references to the sky turning red without knowing anything about the cat's eye nebula. The Chinese chronicle was of value because it records someone witnessing the sky turning red without having anything to do with the cat's eye nebula. The person who witnessed the alleged event could have very sensibly believed that it would happen again in the future, but stating that some day in the future there will be a red aurora in the sky accompanied by a crashing sound does not entail the sort of knowledge of astronomy that Osama hastily ascribed to the author of the Qur'an.
There is no attempt by proponents of this polemic to demonstrate, for example, that science has determined (based on observations of the Cat's Eye Nebula) that upon its death the universe will exhibit a red color. Thus in the end, all we have is the Qur'an making vague reference to the sky being red during the end times. Surely there is nothing miraculous about that.