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Al-Salam-`alaykum. I read a fatwâ purportedly by the Sheikh Ibn Bâz (may Allah forgive him) wherein he said: "The Earth is flat. Whoever claims it is round is an atheist deserving of punishment." Sheikh Ibn Bâz was one of the greatest scholars of today. However, I do not understand this fatwâ. Please explain it to me.

Answered by

Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî, former professor at al-Imâm University in Riyadh
All praise is due to Allah, and may peace be upon His Messenger.

Here is Sheikh Ibn Bâz’s fatwâ on the matter:
According to the people of knowledge the Earth is round. Indeed, Ibn Hazm and other scholars have declared that there is consensus on this matter among the people of knowledge This means that all of the surface of the Earth is connected together so that the form of the planet is like a sphere.

Nevertheless, Allah has spread out the Earth's surface in relation to us, and He has placed upon it firm mountains, the seas, and life as a mercy for us. For this reason, Allah said: "And (do they not look) at the Earth, how it was spread out flat (sutihat)." [Sûrah al-Ghâshiyah:20]

Therefore, the Earth has been made flat for us in regards to our relationship to it to facilitate our lives upon it and our comfort. The fact that it is round does not prevent that its surface has been made flat for us. This is because something that is round and very large, then its surface will become very vast or broad, having a flat appearance to those who are upon it."
This is the fatwâ of Sheikh Ibn Bâz about the shape of the Earth. So do not listen to those who lie against him and try to make it seem as though he was some "old fool" who did not even know that the Earth is round. Such people are rumor mongers who narrate whatever they hear without verification the accuracy of what they say.

As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "It is sufficient to consider a man a liar when he narrates everything that he hears." [Sahîh Muslim]