By Dr. Zaghlool El-Naggar, Ph.D. 27/08/2002
What we see of mountains is just the “tip of the iceberg”.

The illustrious Qur’an reads:
“ألم نجعل الأرض مهادا*والجبال أوتادا*”a(النبأ:6-7)a

“Have We not made the Earth as a levelled expanse?* and the mountains as pegs?*” (LXXVIII:6,7)

Here, I shall comment on the second of these two verses (verse #7 only, despite the great geologic importance of the preceding verse (#6) which will be dealed with in another article).

The description of mountains as pegs (or pickets) clearly implies that such striking geomorphic features are not just the lofty elevations that are seen on the surface of the Earth (as most current glossaries and encyclopedias define them), but their downward extensions in the Earth’s lithosphere is highly emphasized. In as much as most of the picket (or peg) is hidden in soil or rock and its function is to hold one end of the tent to the surface of the ground, modern earth sciences have just proved that mountains possess very deep roots that stabilize lithospheric plates as well as the whole planet.

What we see of mountains above the ground surface is nothing but the tops of great masses of rocks that penetrate the lithosphere and float in a more dense substratum (the asthenosphere) as icebergs float in oceanic water. Mountains have downward extensions below the ground surface that are 10-15 times their outward elevations (depending on the average density of the rocks of which the mountain is formed and that of the material in which its root is immersed).

A mountain mass with an average specific gravity of 2.7 (that of granite) can sink into a layer of plastic simatic rock (with an average specific gravity of 3.00 until the range is floating with a submerged part (or root) of about nine-tenths, and a protrusion of one tenth its total length.

Thus, we can see that by one word (awtad = pegs or pickets) the Holy Qur’an describes both the outward lofty elevations of mountains, their very deep, downward extensions (to much greater depths than their elevations) and their function as a means of fixation for the whole planet as well as for its lithospheric plates.

The term “picket” or “peg” which is used by the Holy Qur’an to describe mountains, is both literally and scientifically more precise than the term “root” which is currently used to describe the hidden, downward extension of mountains.

The fact that mountains have deep downward extensions below the ground surface and that their main role is to stabilize the Earth as a planet, and its outer rocky cover (particularly that which constitutes continental plates) have only been discerned by specialists very recently, although scientist have pondered about the possibility of mountains having roots as early as the second half of the nineteenth century. However, the process of formation of such downward extensions as well as their role in halting the sudden, jerky movements of the planet and of its lithospheric plates have only begun to be understood in the framework of modern astronomy and the very recent concept of plate tectonics (late 1960’s and early 1970’s).

The precedence of the Holy Qur’an with more than 143 centuries in describing mountains as pegs (or pickets) and in defining their main role as “stabilizers for the Earth, let it should shake with us” is a clear testimony that the Qur’an is the word of The Creator, and that Mohammed (PBUH) is His final messenger.

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Dr. Zaghlool El-Naggar is a Fellow of the Islamic Academy of Sciences. Member of the Geological Society of London, the Geological Society of Egypt and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fellow of the Institute of Petroleum, London. Prof. Naggar is the author/co-author of many books and more than 40 research papers in the field of Islamic Thought, Geology, General Science and Education. He was awarded by the Ministry of Education in Egypt the top “Secondary Education Award” as well as the seventh Arab Petroleum Congress Best Papers Award in 1970. Elected a member of the IAS Council (1994 and 1999), Prof. Naggar is currently working at the Arab Development Institute.