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Seven Heavens

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The Seven Heavens (Seven Skies) or al-Samāwāt al-Sabʿ (Arabic: السَّماوات السَّبْع) or Sabʿ Samāwāt (Arabic: ٍسَبْع سَماوات) is a word in the Qur'an referring to the existence of the Seven Heavens. Other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, also talk about the Seven Heavens. The notion has explicitly occurred in the Qur'an seven times. Muslims have proposed different views regarding what is meant by the Seven Heavens in the Qur'an. There are hadiths talking about Seven Earths as well.

According to Quranic verses, the creation of the Seven Heavens occurred gradually in six days. According to a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), the "Dominions of the Heavens" that is said in the Qur'an to have been shown to Abraham (a)[1] was the same as the Seven Heavens and Earths and the creatures in them. According to hadiths concerning the Prophet (s)'s Mi'raj, he ascended to the Heavens, up to the Seventh Heaven.

The Seven Heavens in Different Religions

The Seven Heavens are mentioned in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.[2] The Qur'an has mentioned explicitly the Seven Heavens seven times in the suras al-Baqara: 29, al-Isra': 44, al-Mu'minun: 86, al-Fussilat: 12, al-Mulk: 12, al-Nuh: 3 and al-Talaq: 15, and two times implicitly.

The Seven Earths

Unlike the word, "sama'" (sky or heaven), which is used in the Qur'an in the plural form together with number seven[3], the word, "ard" (Earth), is used in the singular form, with no mention of how many earths there are. Some people say that the Quranic verse, "It is Allah who has created seven heavens, and of the earth [a number] similar to them."[4], implies that there are Seven Earths from a Qur'anic point of view.[5] There are explicit hadiths according to which there are Seven Earths.[6] Also, the phrase, "al-aradin al-sab'" (Arabic:الأرَضِینَ السَّبْع), (the Seven Earths), appears in a dhikr which is recommended in manual of fatwas to be recited in the prayer's qunut.[7]

Views of Muslims

The debate over what is meant by the Seven Heavens has a long history among Muslims.[8] Muslim scholars have proposed various views and accounts of the Seven Heavens.[9] Some of them have tried to interpret the Seven Heavens in terms of their concurrent scientific theories.[10] Here are some accounts of the Seven Heavens:

  • The number of heavens is nine, where al-Kursi and 'Arsh are the 8th and the 9th heavens. The view was espoused by 'Allama Majlisi and Mulla Hadi Sabzawari. It was proposed in order to interpret the Seven Heavens in terms of Ptolemy's theory[11] of the nine celestial spheres.[12]
  • The Seven Heavens are the same as the seven planets. This view was proposed when Uranus and Neptune were not still discovered. The view was espoused by al-Fakhr al-Razi.[13]
  • The Seven Heavens are the circuits of the seven planets.[14]
  • The Seven Heavens ARE material, but all the planets, stars and galaxies of our world are inside the first heaven, and the other six heavens are outside the realm of human knowledge. The view was espoused by Nasir Makarim Shirazi.[15]
  • The Seven Heavens are NOT material heavens; rather the phrase refers to spiritual phenomena, such as closeness to God. The view was propounded by 'Allama Tabataba'i in his al-Mizan. However, he did not totally reject the existence of material heavens.[16]
  • The number, SEVEN, has been used in the Qur'an in the case of the heavens just to imply their abundance. Thus, by the "Seven Heavens" the Qur'an means that there are many heavens.[17]
  • The Seven Heavens are material heavens that were, according to the Qur'an, one single heaven at the beginning, which were produced from gas (or as put by the Qur'an, smoke.[18]).

The Creation of the Seven Heavens in Six Days

According to seven verses of the Qur'an, God created the heavens and the Earth in 6 days.[19] According to Sura Qaf, "And We did certainly create the heavens and earth and what is between them in six days.[20]

According to a hadith, Imam al-Baqir (a) considered the objection that when the heavens were not still created, time did not exist either. So, how does God say that He has created them in "six days"? He then replied that there is another heaven known as the "Highest Sphere" (al-Falak al-A'la) on which the time is based.[21]

The Reason for the Gradual Creation

According to a hadith from Imam al-Rida (a), God had the power to instantaneously create the heavens and the Earth. The reason for the gradual creation was to show each creature to angels in order, so that they could argue for the existence of God from their incipience.[22]

Inhabitants of the Seven Heavens

According to hadiths, creatures such as angels and some prophets (a) live in each of the Seven Heavens. For example, according to a hadith cited in Tafsir al-Qummi regarding the Prophet (s)'s Mi'raj, the prophet Adam (a) and some angels, such as the Angel of Death, inhabit the first heaven; prophets John the Baptist (a) and Jesus (a) live in the second heaven; the prophet Joseph (a) lives in the third heaven; the prophet Idris (a) lives in the fourth heaven; Aaron (a) the son of Amram lives in the fifth heaven, and Moses (a) the son of Amram lives in the sixth heaven.[23]

The Prophet Muhammad's Ascension to the Seven Heavens

Main article: Mi'raj

There are frequently cited hadiths in Shiite and Sunni books of hadiths according to which the Prophet (s) ascended to the heavens in an event known as Mi'raj in which he went up to the seventh heaven.[24] This is pointed out in two Quranic suras of al-Isra' and al-Najm. There was a dialogue between God and the Prophet (s) during the Mi'raj, which came to be known as the Hadith of Mi'raj. The hadith is cited in Irshad al-qulub.[25]

The Seven Heavens and the Divine Kursi

Riyad al-salikin has quoted from Sunni sources of hadiths that the Prophet (s) introduced the greatness of Kursi compared with the Seven Heavens to be a ring in a vast desert.[26]

Dominions of the Heavens and the Earth

In Sura al-An'am, verse 75, the Qur'an talks about showing the malakut or the dominions of Heavens and the Earth to the prophet Abraham (a). According to hadiths, the heavens in this verse are the same as the Seven Heavens. According to a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), the verse implies that God has shown the Seven Heavens and Earths and creatures inside them to Abraham (a). According to this hadith, God has done the same for the Prophet (s) and Imams (a) as well.[27]


  1. Qur'an6: 75: Thus did We show Abraham (a) the dominions of the heavens and the earth, that he might be of those who possess certitude.
  2. Riḍāyī Iṣfahānī, Pazhūhishī dar iʿjāz-i ʿilmī-yi Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 126-127.
  3. Five times as (سَبْع سَماوات, Sab' samawat) in the Qur'an2: 29, Qur'an41: 12, Qur'an65: 12, Qur'an67: 3, Qur'an71: 15 and two times as (السماواتُ السَّبْع, al-Samawat al-sabʿ) in the Qur'an17: 44 and Qur'an23: 86.
  4. Qur'an, 65:12
  5. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 24, p. 260.
  6. ʿArūsī al-Huwiyzī, Tafsīr nūr al-thaqalayn, vol. 1, p. 734.
  7. Tawḍīḥ al-maṣāʾil-i marājiʿ, vol. 1, p. 771.
  8. Riḍāyī Iṣfahānī, Pazhūhishī dar iʿjāz-i ʿilmī-yi Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 127.
  9. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 1, p. 166.
  10. Miṣbāḥ Yazdī, Maʿārif-i Qurʾān, p. 231.
  11. According to, Ptolemy thought that all celestial objects — including the planets, Sun, Moon, and stars — orbited Earth. Earth, in the center of the universe, did not move at all.
  12. Riḍāyī Iṣfahānī, Pazhūhishī dar iʿjāz-i ʿilmī-yi Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 127, 128.
  13. Riḍāyī Iṣfahānī, Pazhūhishī dar iʿjāz-i ʿilmī-yi Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 128-129.
  14. Riḍāyī Iṣfahānī, Pazhūhishī dar iʿjāz-i ʿilmī-yi Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 129.
  15. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 1, p. 167.
  16. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 16, p. 247.
  17. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 1, p. 166-167.
  18. And it [the heaven] was smoke. (وَ هِیَ دُخانٌ) Qur'an, 41: 11
  19. Qurʾān, 7:54; 10:3; 11:7; 25:59; 32:4; 50:38; 57:4.
  20. Qurʾān, 50:38.
  21. Fayḍ al-Kāshānī, Tafsīr-i ṣāfī, vol. 2, p. 204.
  22. Fayḍ al-Kāshānī, Nawādir al-akhbār, p. 85-86.
  23. Qummī, Tafsīr al-Qummī, vol. 2, p. 3-12.
  24. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 6, p. 609.
  25. Daylamī, Irshād al-qukūb, vol. 1, p. 199-206
  26. Sayyid ʿAlī Khān Kabīr, Rīyāḍ al-sālikīn, vol. 6, p. 349.
  27. ʿArūsī al-Huwiyzī, Tafsīr nūr al-thaqalayn, vol. 1, p. 734.


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