Science in the Qur’an – Part 1

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Chapter 1: From a Gaseous Mass to the Heavens and the Earth

The Qur’an was revealed in the seventh century. Many statements pertaining to physical phenomena are dispersed throughout the Qur’an. These are there in the Qur’an to draw the attention of people to the wonders of Allah’s creation.

Any other seventh century book making statements about the physical universe would surely contain mistakes. Our knowledge of physical sciences in the twentieth century is far advanced beyond the imagination of people living the seventh century. What will come as a surprise to many people is that of all the numerous statements about scien- tific matters found in the Qur’an, not one of those have proved contrary to the established facts of science. On the other hand, many of those statements have already been verified by modern scientific studies, and we confidently expect that as various fields of knowledge advance, other Quranic statements will likewise prove true.

Let us look at some of the statements which science has already verified.

Concerning the creation of the heavens and the earth, the Qur’an says that prior to the creation, the Heaven was smoke. God then commanded it and the earth to come into being and they came willingly (see surah 41:1 1). How does that compare with modern scientific explanations? Let us hear a scientific explanation and then judge for ourselves.

The French scientist Dr. Maurice Bucaille in his book called The Bible, the Qur’an and Science explains: “At the earliest time it can provide us with, modern science has every reason to maintain that the universe was formed from a gaseous mass principally com- posed of hydrogen and a certain amount of helium that was slowly rotating” (p.147).

Didn’t the Qur’an say that the Heaven was smoke before its creation? Dr. Bucaille explains the connection be- tween his description and that of the Qur’an as follows: “Smoke is generally made up of a gaseous substra- tum, plus, in more or less stable suspension, fine particles that may belong to solid and even liquid states of matter at high or low temperature” (p. 143).

He therefore sees no contradiction of the Quranic use of the Arabic word dukhan (translated smoke) and a modern interpretation of that word as a gaseous mass with fine particles when speaking of the formation of the universe.

We notice here two remarkable features of the Qur’an. The first feature is that it expresses scientific truths that will be verified many centuries later. The second feature is that the Qur’an expresses those truths using terms and expressions that would avoid confusing its first readers in the seventh century. The seventh century reader of the Qur’an can easily relate to the image of smoke, and the twentieth century scientist can easily interpret the word as a gaseous mass.

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Chapter 2: The Fusing and Separating of the Heavens and the Earth

How do modern scientists explain the formation of the universe? Dr. Maurice Bucaille explains it in his book, The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, as follows:

“The basic process in the formation of the universe . . . Iay in the condensing of material in the primary nebula followed by its division into fragments that originally constituted galactic masses. The latter in their turn split up into stars that provided the sub- product of the process, i.e. the planets” (p. 149).

Does the Qur’an say anything about this condensing and separation of the primary material to result in the forma- tion of our universe? Let’s have a look. Our creator, Allah, says in his final book: “Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then we clove them asunder . . .” (Qur’an 21:30). This could also be translated as follows: “Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were fused together, then we separated them . . .” (Qur’an 21:30).

Dr. Bucaille sees this as “the reference to a separation process of a primary single mass whose elements were initially fused together” (p.143).

Thus the Qur’an gives an accurate account of the forma- tion of the universe to call upon humankind to recognise the power of their creator.

This raises an interesting question: How could a man living in the seventh century invent these ideas which could not be confirmed until modern times? And how could he in so doing avoid the mythical and fanciful ideas prevalent in human history?

Dr. Bucaille mentions some of these myths for contrast: “When, as in Japan, the image of the egg plus an expression of chaos is attached to the above with the idea of a seed inside an egg (as for all eggs), the imaginative addition makes the concept lose all semblance of seriousness. In other countries, the idea of a plant is associated with it; the plant grows and in so doing raises up the sky and separates the heavens from the earth. Here again, the imaginative quality of the added detail lends the myth its very distinctive character” (p. 152).

In contrast to those myths, the Qur’anic statements are “free from any of the whimsical details accompanying such beliefs; on the contrary, they are distinguished by the sober quality of the words in which they are made, and their agreement with scientific data” (p. 152).

It must be that the Qur’an is not the product of any human or humans, but a revelation from Allah. The Qur’an says: “The revelation of the scripture whereof there is no doubt is from the Lord of the Worlds” (Qur’an 32:2).

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Chapter 3: Avoiding the Mistakes of Genesis

As we saw in chapter 2, both the Qur’an and modern science confirm that the heavens and the earth were cre- ated simultaneously, having been separated from a pri- mary nebula. It is important to understand that the Bible, the most famous record of the creation prior to the Qur’an gives a sequence for the creation of the heavens and the earth that is today found unacceptable from a scientific standpoint. If the Qur’an was the work of human beings it is difficult to imagine how they could have avoided the human errors so firmly fixed in the minds of people from the previous records.

In the Bible, in Genesis, chapter 1, we read that God created light which He called day, and separated it from the darkness which He called night (see v. 3). Today we know that the alternation of day and night is caused by the earth’s movement in relation to the sun. But, according to Genesis, the sun was not created until the fourth day (see v. 16). So how could day and night alternate before that?

A related problem is that vegetation is created on the third day (see vv. 11-12) whereas the sun which is neces- sary for sustaining vegetation does not appear until the fourth day.

“What is totally untenable” says Dr. Bucaille, “is that a highly organized vegetable kingdom with reproduction by seed could have appeared before the existence of the sun” (The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, p. 42).

We have already seen that the Qur’an states, and modern science confirms, that the heavens and the earth were formed together. Dr. Bucaille explains as follows: “Earth and moon emanated, as we know, from their original star, the sun. To place the creation of the sun and moon after the creation of the earth is contrary to the most firmly established ideas on the formation of the elements of the solar system” (p. 42). By giving a sequence in which the sun and moon are created after the creation of the earth, the Genesis account proves erroneous. On the other hand, the Qur’an, by speaking of the simultaneous creation of the heavens and the earth, has judiciously avoided the errors of the Genesis account.

Could the Qur’an have been authored by a human? No! Dr. Bucaille asks: “How could a man living fourteen hundred years ago have made corrections to the existing description to such an extent that he eliminated scientifically inaccurate material and, on his own initiative, made statements that science has only in the present day been able to verify?” (p.151).

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Chapter 4: Six Days of Creation or Six Periods?

Today we know that the creation process can be measured in billions of years.

The priestly editors or the Bible could not have known this. In their eagerness to enjoin Sabbath observance on others they wrote that God rested on the very first Sabbath day after finishing up his work of creating the heavens and the earth.

The six days of creation in the book of Genesis, then, are clearly like six days of any seven-day week. The Priestly editors have made it clear that a day is meant a period from one sunset to another. Six days meant from Sunday to Friday. They believed that the reason the Sabbath day became holy is that God Himself had rested on that day. Thus the editors tell us:

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2).

If that is not far enough, the editors took the idea that God rested farther still when they wrote as follows: “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (The Holy Bible, King James Version, Exodus 31: 17).

The idea that God rests like humans and gets refreshed like humans had to be corrected by Jesus, on whom be peace, when, according to John, he declared that God never stops working, even on the Sabbath day (see John 5:16). God clarified the matter in His own words when he declared: “And verily we created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six days, and naught of weariness touched us” (Qur’an 50:38 see also v. 15).

The above qur’anic verses clearly refute the idea that God rested. God, according to the Qur’an does not get tired. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes him (Qur’an 2:255).

But how about the period of creation? Was that six days in the Qur’an too? Tn the above quotation from the Qur’an the term translated ‘days’ could mean, according to Dr. Maurice Bucaille, “not just ‘days’, but also ‘long periods of time’, an indefinite period of time (but always long)” (The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, p. 139).

Dr. Bucaille notes that the Qur’an also speaks of “a day whereof the measure is a thousand years of your reckon- ing” (Qur’an 32:5). The Qur’an also speaks of”a day whereof the measure is 50,000 years” (Qur’an 70:4).

Dr. Bucaille also points out that long before our modern ideas of the length of time involved in the creation, com- mentators of the Qur’an understood that when the Qur’an speaks of six days of creation, it does not mean six days like ours, but rather six periods. Abu al Su’ud, for ex- ample, writing in the sixteenth century, understood it as six events (see The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, p.l39).

Again, we see that the Qur’an has avoided repeating an error which was established in a previous book—an error that will not be discovered until modern times. In view of this, can anyone insist that the Qur’an is the work of a man?

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Chapter 5: How Old is the Earth?

The Bible provides a chronology of history that extends back to the creation of Adam and Eve and to the creation of the earth. From this chronology it is possible to deter- mine the date of the creation and hence the age of the earth.

Archbishop Ussher of Armagh (1581-1657) had calcu- lated the year of creation to be 4004 B.C. If that was not precise enough, Dr. Lightfoot of Cambridge worked out that the exact time when God completed His creation was 9 a.m. on Friday, October 23, 4004 B.C. (see the book 7whinking about God by Sr. R. W. Maqsood, p. 63).

Many religious groups and sects have used this date in predicting precise dates for the end of the world, but all such predictions have so far proved erroneous. The one fact against them is that the world is still intact and we are very much alive. One reason al1 of those predictions failed is that they are calculated from a false date of cre- ation. If 4004 B.C. was the year of creation, that would make the earth less than six thousand years old. No scien- tist can accept this today.

Modern scientists estimate that the earth is 4.5 billion years old with a maximum error of 2.2 % (see The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, p. 148). Knowing this, many educated people lost faith in religion. They naturally felt that the Word of God should not contain errors of this kind. Others maintain that the Word of God was meant to teach only that truth which God wanted put into the scrip- tures for our salvation It iq therefore immaterial if the

book contains historical or scientific errors. As the scien- tist Galileo put it, the Bible is there to teach people how to go to heaven; it is not there to teach people how the heavens go. Some maintain, therefore, that it is under- standable that the book will contain some historical and scientific errors since it was written by human beings who lived a long time ago and did not share our modern knowl- edge.

The Qur’an, on the other hand, does not contain any historical or scientific or any kind of error. God chal- lenges us to test this claim by examining the book for ourselves (see Qur’an 4:82).

The Qur’an does not repeat the incorrect biblical chro- nology we have seen above. The Qur’an does not give a chronology since its purpose is not to provide us with the details of history, but only to teach us the lessons arising from specific events in history.

The Qur’an does, however tell us that God measured the sustenance of the earth in four periods (Qur’an 41 :10). As to what could be the significance of these four periods, Dr. Bucaille comments as follows: “One could perhaps see in them the four geological periods described by modern science, with man’s appearance, as we already know, taking place in the quaternary era. This is purely a hypothesis since nobody has an answer to this question” (The Bible, the Qur ‘an and Science, p. 150).

How did the author of the Qur’an avoid the mistake in chronology committed by so many others, and believed in by so many others even up to our present day? Could a man in the seventh century have known that the earth was much more than six thousand years old? How could he come by this modern knowledge unless God was revealing knowledge to him?

God tells us that the Qur’an is His book and not the work of any man (see Qur’an 10:37).

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