Lo! Your Lord is God Who created the heavens and the earth in six days.
Then He ascended the Throne… (Qur’an 7:54)
And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy… (Genesis 2:3).
The Abrahamic faiths share a belief in the completion of creation in six days, with the seventh day, or Sabbath, having a hallowed aura of particular veneration and sanctity. Reflecting on this notion, the prominent Ismaili dignitary, al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din Shirazi, observes that the exoteric expositors of this doctrine are completely befuddled in their explanations of it. By confounding scriptural statements which, in his view, are clearly symbolic, with crude speculations about the creation of the physical universe in six twenty-four hour periods, they have completely misunderstood the sacred texts.
Al-Mu’ayyad reasons that time itself is marked by the movement of the celestial spheres, with the rising and setting of the sun indicating to human beings the passing of the days. Now, if creation had yet to occur, if God had yet to fashion the sun, the earth and the planetary bodies, how then could these verses refer to the passage of time, as it is conventionally understood?
The sage is even less impressed by those who claim, citing a Qur’anic verse, that the creation of the heavens and the earth takes God six days, each spanning a thousand years.1 Certainly, he opines, the Creator, whose power is infinite, is not limited by time in his creation; as He says in the Qur’an, ‘Ours is but a single Command, like the twinkling of an eye’ (54:50).2 There must therefore be a deeper meaning to the six days of creation, he asserts, and it is the place of ta’wil, of esoteric exegesis, to unveil that meaning.3