What does the following verse denote?
(He is the Lord of two Easts, and two Wests.)1
In the Holy Qur’an the mention of East and West is done in the form of dual also. (i.e. two easts and two wests) and in the plural form of also e.g.
(But nay! I swear by the Lord of the Easts and the Wests that We are certainly able.)2
At one more place it is stated: “We gave the earth under the control of those people (i.e. organization (group) of Israelites), who had become weak and feeble.
On this basis the words of East and West are used in the plural form also, which points out at numerous tenets. And in the dual form also which indicate towards two tenets.
The Commentators have given two meanings of those verses.
First is that two Easts and two Wests are two hemispheres (i.e. southern and northern or eastern and western). Some have considered this verse to be an indication to existence of one hemisphere (i.e. the great American continent before it was discovered, which is beyond the subject under discussion. In the same way by Easts and Wests is meant different points of the earth, in which every point with reference to one point is east, whereas the same point with reference to another point is west.
In other words, out of the peculiarities of the sphere, one is that its every point with reference to that point which is situated on its West side is counted as East and with reference to the point in front it is West. Therefore some people think that such verses are indication that the earth is round.
The other meaning is that Easts and Wests are many, that means the sun has so many points of its sunrise and sunset, because sun never rises and sets at the same point on any two days. And because of the Sun's inclination towards north and south (which is the result of the inclination of surface in relation to the moving earth around its axis and around the sun).
Sun rises every day from one point and sets on the other. Therefore when we keep in mind the sum total of those Easts and Wests, then we should interpret them as the plural of east and west. And when we keep in mind only the big northern inclination of sun to its last point (beginning of summer) and the big southern inclination's last point (beginning of winter), then we should interpret them as dual form of East and West.
This is the miracle of the Holy Qur’an that in a very short passage it draws the attention of people towards the astonishing mystery of creation.
Because we know that alterations in sunrise and sunset affect the nourishment and sustenance of foliage, flowers and fruits and generally on the common conditions of all living things and it has a deep effect on the decoration of the created world.
* By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Shaykh Nasir Makarim Shirazi & Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani.
1- Surah Rahman (The Most Gracious) 55:17
2- Surah Maarij (The Way of Ascent) 70:40