What does it mean that the “Sun runs on to its place of settlement?” When is this? How is this?
Abû Dharr al-Ghifârî, one of the Prophet Muhammad’s Companions, relates the following:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to me: “O Abû Dharr! Do you know where the Sun goes when it sets?”
I said: “Allah and His Messenger know best.”
He said: “It goes until it prostrates beneath the Throne. Then it seeks permission and permission is granted to it. Soon it will prostrate and it will not be accepted from it, and seek permission and will not be granted permission. It will be said to it: ‘Go back where you came from.’ Then it will rise from its setting place. This is Allah’s statement: ‘And the Sun runs on to its place of settlement. That is the determination of the Mighty the Knowing. [Sûrah YâSîn: 38]’.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (3199, 7424)]
It is also found in. Its text, as related by Abû Dharr al-Ghifârî, is as follows:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said one day: “Do you know where the Sun goes when it sets?”
They said: “Allah and His Messenger know best.”
He said: “It goes until it arrives at its place of settlement beneath the Throne. Then it falls down in prostration and remains like that until it is said to it: ‘Arise! Go back from whence you came.’ Then it goes back and rises from its place of rising. Then it goes until it arrives at its place of settlement beneath the Throne. Then it falls down in prostration and remains like that until it is said to it: ‘Arise! Go back from whence you came.’ Then it goes back and rises from its place of rising. Then it goes without people finding anything wrong with it until it arrives at that place of settlement it has beneath the throne. Then it will be told: ‘Arise! Enter upon the morning rising from your setting place’.”
Then Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Do you know when that will be? It will be when ‘its faith will not avail a soul which had not believed before or earned some good from its faith. [Sûrah al-An`âm: 157]’.” [Sahîh Muslim (159,205) ]
The hadîth is also found in Sahîh al-Bukhârî
in a highly abridged form (4803, 7433). Its text reads:
I asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) about Allah’s statement: “And the Sun runs on to its place of settlement... [Sûrah YâSîn: 38]”.
He said: “Its place of settlement is beneath the throne.”
Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî, in Fath al-Bârî
, his commentary on Sahîh al-Bukhârî
This was how Wakî` related it from al-A`mash in an abbreviated form. It is a narration by meaning. In the previous narration of the hadîth, the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked Abû Dharr: “Do you know where the Sun goes when it sets?” [Fath al-Bârî (8/688)]
What about the fact that the Earth goes around the Sun?
Some people have wondered how these texts should be understood in relation to the Earth's movement around the Sun and the fact that sunrise and sunset are a consequence of the Earth revolving around its axis. What they fail to realize is that these texts talk about the Sun's relationship to the Throne of Allah, not its relationship to the Earth.
The first point that we need to consider is that nowhere in any of these texts is it mentioned that the Sun is revolving around the Earth. The word used for the Sun’s motion in all of these texts is the verb “tajrî
” meaning “to go, flow, proceed”. This verb is not qualified by any other words indicating a spherical motion of any kind or any specific type of motion relative to the Earth.
The second point that we must consider is that nowhere does the hadîth discuss the mechanics of the Sun’s motion in any way. Likewise, it says nothing about the mechanics of the motions of the Sun and the Earth on that fateful day when the Sun will rise from the West.
Thirdly, the place of settlement mentioned in the hadîth is beneath the throne and not under the Earth.
What we know scientifically about the Sun is that it is indeed in motion. It is traveling around the center of the galaxy at roughly 220 km/s in an orbit that takes about 230 million years to complete.
It may be interesting to take note of the fact that the Qur’ân mentions an orbital motion for the Sun. Allah says: “It is not for the Sun to overtake the Moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit.” [Sûrah YâSîn
However, we must caution that the verse says nothing about the nature or placement of the Sun’s orbit. It states only that the Sun has one.
As for the Sun’s relationship to the Throne, which is what the hadîth is discussing, this is something that we cannot speculate about. The Throne is part of the Unseen and we know nothing about it except what Allah and His Messenger tell us about it. It follows that the Sun’s behavior in relationship to the throne, both spatially and temporally, is also a matter of the Unseen.
We must believe whatever Allah and His Messenger inform us about the Sun's relationship to Allah's Throne and not speculate any further on the subject.
We can, therefore, safely conclude that these texts are not taking about the Sun’s relationship to the Earth at all. They certainly do not indicate that the Sun orbits the Earth.