How can the day have more than two ends (20:130)?

Question

God tells us in 11:114 to observe the Salat at the two ends (tarafai) of the day, these are the sunrise and the sunset.
Why then do we read in 20:130 that the day has more than two ends (atraaf)?

Reply

How many ends does a piece of string have? The answer can only be two. There are many different points on a string but only two ends. The same goes for any linear object. There will always be two ends, one on each extremity.
The day is also linear and is composed of a succession of minutes and hours.
The day has a start point and an end point. There are many different points during the day, but there are only two ends/extremities of any one day. The ends of the day are sunrise and sunset. So why does God speak of more than two ends of the day in 20:130?

Due to the spinning and also the tilt of the earth, sunrise and sunset do not occur at the same time every day but there are different times for sunrise and sunset on different days of the year. In addition, the sun does not rise from the same place every day and the same applies to the sunset. Since the ends of the day are sunrise and sunset, it follows that we have different ends of the day (time and location) on different days of the year. In actual fact, we have a different set of sunrise and sunset for every day of the year. Different locations on the globe will also have different sets of sunrise/sunset for the same day.

The use of the plural (more than two) for an event which we normally think of as being only two is not unique to the example of the “ends of the day” in the Quran.
We see a similar phrasing in 70:40 where God speaks of multiple Easts and multiple Wests:

So I swear by the Lord of the Easts and the Wests; We are indeed able.
70:40

How can there be more than one East and one West? When we look at a compass it will always give us the same East and the same West at any time of the year if our location is unchanging, so why does God speak of multiple Easts and multiple Wests?
This can be explained in connection to the lines of longtitude and latitudes:




For people on different lines of longitude or meridians, they will be looking at different Easts and different Wests. In addition, people who are on the same line of longitude but on different lines of latitude will also be looking at different Easts and Wests. Please see diagram.

The East viewed by person A is a different than the East viewed by person B.
Also, the East viewed by person X is different than the East viewed by person Y.


The result is that there are multiple Easts and multiple Wests for different people who are at different locations on the globe.
The concept in 70:40 (multiple Easts and Wests) is the same as that in 20:130 (many ends of the day).

For different people in different locations, the ends of the day will be at different times. In addition, for any one person at any location, the ends of the day will be at different times on different days of the year.