By Zaghlool El-Naggar:
The Glorious Qur’an reads: “And by the sea that is set on fire.” (Surat At-Tur 52:6).
This Qur’anic verse comes in the context of an oath to emphasize the special significance of the subject matter by which the oath is given, as Allah (all glory be to Him) is definitely above the need to give such an oath.
Searching for Meanings
Now, what is the special significance of the sea that is set on fire? Both water and fire are incompatible, as water quenches fire, and fire sets water to boiling and evaporation.
How then can an ocean full of water be set on fire? Such incompatibility has driven early commentators on the Holy Qur’an to suggest that this could only happen on the Last Day, depending on another Qur’anic verse where such an event is explicitly described (Surat At-Takwir 81: 6).
Nevertheless, the context in which the oath “by the sea set on fire ” and 5 preceding verses describe realities that are all currently existing in our present day work, and hence another linguistic meaning for the adjective “al-masjour” other than “set on fire” was earnestly searched for.
Among the linguistic meanings derived from such an adjective is: “full of water and restrained from further encroachment over the nearby continental masses”.
This is correct, because the largest quantity of fresh water today (77% of all water on land) is entrapped in the form of very thick ice sheets in the two Polar Regions as well as in the form of ice caps to highly elevated mountains.
For such a great mass of ice to melt, an increase of only 4° – 5° C in the temperature of the lower atmosphere above the average summer temperatures is needed.
In such a case, this melt can raise the water level in present day seas and oceans by more than 100m, which is enough to drown most of the present day plains where the majority of human settlements exist.
Nevertheless, Earth scientists have recently discovered that all of the present day oceans and some seas (such as the red Sea and the Arabian Sea) are physically set on fire, while others (such as the Mediterranean, the Black and the Caspian Seas) are not.
As mentioned previously, more than 64,000 km of mid-ocean ridges have – so far – been mapped around mid-ocean rift valleys.
These oceanic ridges are basically composed of volcanic basaltic rocks that have been spouting out from the oceanic rift zones (at temperatures of about 1000° C or even more).
Such intensive oceanic volcanicity builds up the mid-oceanic ridges and spreads them out laterally, by the phenomenon known as sea-floor spreading.
As they are constantly fed by fresh basaltic flows, new slabs of the oceanic crust are built on both sides of the rift zones.
Mid-oceanic volcanism evolves from fissure volcanism that emanates from the mid-oceanic rift systems where the oceanic crust is rifted and the opposite sides of the rift zone are pushed aside by the emanating magma.
Basaltic flows and eruptions, fed from elongated secondary magma chambers below the center of the mid-oceanic ridge, pour out along the ridge axis. Sea-floor basalt from the surface of the oceanic crust, (which is about 7km thick on the average) normally consists of:
0-1 km of sediments (top) 1 km of pillow lava basalts 5 km of gabbro sills fed by dikes (bottom). Post-eruptive phenomena that can result from interaction of phreatic waters with buried hot rocks include the following (cf. Emiliani, C., 1992, p 203):
- Hot springs, which are formed when phreatic water is heated and mineralized in contact with hot rocks.
- Geysers, which are periodic eruptions of boiling hot water (200°C or even more) due to circulation with superheated waters at depth, which are in direct or indirect contact with hot rocks (1000°C or even more).
- Fumaroles, which are gaseous exhalations of water vapor enriched with SO², H²S, HCI, and HF (in order of abundance).
- Solfataras, which are fumaroles rich in sulfur compounds.
Most of the current volcanic activity at the bottoms of seas and oceans has been going on for the past 20-30 million years, although some have persisted in their activity for 100 million years or even more (e.g. the Canary Islands).
During such long periods of activity, the formed volcanic cones were gradually carried away for several hundreds of kilometers from the constantly renewed plate edge.
Consequently, such drifting volcanic cones became out of reach of the magma body that used to feed them and hence, faded out and died.
The current floor of the Pacific Ocean contains a great number of submerged, subdued volcanic craters (guyots), besides a large number of violently active volcanoes (e.g. the ring of fire).
Form the above mentioned discussion it is obvious that all seas and oceans that are currently experiencing sea-floor spreading are physically set on fire, while closing seas are not.
Such fire on the seabed is in the form of very hot basaltic flows and other magmatic extrusions pouring out from the rift valley systems that rupture the Earth’s lithosphere.
Such rifts run for terms of thousands of kilometers across the globe, in all directions, to a depth of 65-150 km where it connects the seabed with the extremely hot plastic, semi – molten (asthenosphere) and hence cause such seas to be physically set on fire.
This most striking fact of our planet was not known until the very late sixties and early seventies of this century. The explicit Qur’anic precedence with such a very striking, but deeply hidden fact of our seas and oceans is a clear testimony that this Glorious Book is the word of The Creator, in its Divine Purity.