The separation concept that the heaven emerged from the earth indeed implies the structural ability of the heavens to fall; furthermore it implies the concept of a central earth. Sura 2: 29 informs us:
‘It is He Who created for you all things that are on earth; moreover His design comprehended the heavens, for He gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments; and of all things He has perfect knowledge.’
Kathir comments on this verse:
‘These Ayat indicate that Allah started creation by creating the earth, then He made heaven into seven heavens. This is how a building usually starts, with the lower floors first and then the top floors.’
Then Kathir refers to Mujahid who states:
“Allah created the earth before heaven, and when he created the earth, smoke burst out of it. This is why Allah said: Then He Istawa ila (turned towards) the heaven when it was smoke (41: 11). ‘And made the seven heavens’ means, one above the other, while the ‘seven earths’ means, one below the other” (Tafsir, Ibn Kathir, Volume 1, 2000: 179-81).
Whether this view is equated with the orbits of the celestial world is spurious; obviously, if the earth is bottom level there are no orbits except for semi orbits; and interestingly certain Qur’anic passages do relate to a sun setting in and rising from the earth.
It is plausible therefore that the author might derive information from various contradictory sources. In fact Several passages in the Qur’an imply that the sun sets on the earth; see Sura 18: 86-94; while others imply that the sun orbits along with the moon (see Sura 36: 40).
As to the position of the earth, only a minority of the Greek philosophers assumed the earth to orbit. The early Pythagoras concept envisaged a universe which moved in a circle around its centre (Plotinus Ennead II, A.H. Armstrong (trans.), London: William Heinemann Ltd & Cambridge Massachusetts:Harvard University Press, 1966: 47. See also Russell, 1991: 222; and Arthur Fairbanks, Pythagoras, 1898: 136).
Democritus believed that the earth in the start changed its place, due to its smallness; yet due to its growth, density and increased weight it became stationary (Tr. E.H. Gifford, Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel), Chapter LVIII----Of the Earth’s motion, book 15: 1903: 849, http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/eusebius_pe_15_book15.htm). Aristarchus of Samos (310-230 BC) is the only philosopher known to have believed that the earth and all the planets orbited the sun (Russell, 1991: 223).
Apart from these, the majority of Greek and Roman philosophers envisaged the earth to be fixed in a central position and surrounded by the orbit of planets (Zeller, 1881: 275; reference to Anaxemenes; see also reference Thales, in Fairbanks, Thales, Aet. iii. 11; 377, 1898: 6 and Lucretius, 1957: 187: ‘We now have to consider how the earth remains fixed in the middle of the world.’).
Furthermore, most philosophers considered the starry host to emerge from the earth, whether from its exhalation, through vapour (Fairbanks, Hipp. Philos. 7; Dox. 560 and Arist. Meteor. ii. 7; 365, 1898: 18-20; reference to Anaxemander), or by ether catching earthly material (Fairbanks, Aet. Plac. ii. 13; 341, 1898: 255; reference to Anaxagoras’ theory of ether approach the earth and catching up rocks, which are turned into fiery stars).
Anaximander, described the surface of the earth as being covered by an incomprehensible fiery sphere, which suddenly separated and broke into distinct circles, from which the sun, moon and stars arose; the majority followed the same thought (For reference to Anaxemander’s concept see Fairbanks, Hipp. Phil. 6; Dox. 559, 1898: 13-14; See also Aristotle in Eduard Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, 1963: 200).
Furthermore Plato’s Timaeus describes the earth as the oldest body in the universe, created alongside the universe. The earth is described as a globe and the planets perform their orbits around it; his theory describes the stars and the entire universe, matter and space to expand from an entity of which the earth was fused (see Plato’s Timaeus, Critias, Cleitophon, Menexenus, Epistles, (trans.) R.G. Bury, Loeb Classical Library, London: William Heinemann Ltd/Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harward University Press, 1966: 79-87. Lucretius, 1957: 187).
Since the Qur’an follows the observation of the unbelievers (see Sura 21: 30), we must assume that the Qur’an follows their line of reasoning; hence that the earth is central and is or either stationary or possibly bottom-level are plausibility’s.
The issue has been fiercely debated among authors of several factions. Polemical articles, usually point to a range of passages implying a fixed earth in the Qur’an:
‘…the earth stand by His command’ (Sura 30: 25)
‘Allah grasps the heavens and the earth lest they move from their places’ (Sura 35: 41)
‘…He…has made the earth as a fixed abode’ (Sura 27: 61)
‘He…set on the earth firm mountains, lest it should shake with you’ (Sura 31: 10)
‘God…made…the earth a resting place’ (Sura 2: 22; see also 16: 15)
While, only Sura 35: 41 and 27: 61 might explicitly imply a fixed earth, the reply from contemporary Muslim apologists has been interesting. Osama Abdallah in an attempt to refute the allegation, claims that ‘fixed’ rather than describing a stationary earth, implies an earth completing its job, virtually by orbiting the sun (Osama Abdallah, Does the Noble Quran support, Answering-Christianity.com):
Here however Abdallah and authoritative commentators such as Kathir do not agree; Kathir states in his interpretation of Sura 27: 61:
‘Is not He Who has made the earth as a fixed abode, meaning, stable and stationary, so that it does not move or convulse, because if it were to do so, it would not be a good place for people to live on. But by His grace and mercy, He has made it smooth and calm, and it is not shaken or moved’
(Tafsir.com Tafsir ibn Kathir, sura 27):