SHAFAQNA – Calling the Qur’an amazing is not something done only by Muslims, who have an appreciation for the book and who are pleased with it; it has been labelled amazing by non-Muslims as well. In fact, even people who hate Islam very much have still called it amazing.
One thing which surprises non-Muslims who are examining the book very closely is that the Qur’an does not appear to them to be what they expected. What they assume is that they have an old book which came fourteen centuries ago from the Arabian desert; and they expect that the book should look something like that – an old book from the desert. And then they find out that it does not resemble what they expected at all. Additionally, one of the first things that some people assume is that because it is an old book which comes from the desert, it should talk about the desert. Well the Qur’an does talk about the desert – some of its imagery describes the desert; but it also talks about the sea – what it’s like to be in a storm on the sea.
Some years ago, the story came to us in Toronto about a man who was in the merchant marine and made his living on the sea. A Muslim gave him a translation of the Qur’an to read. The merchant marine knew nothing about the history of Islam but was interested in reading the Qur’an. When he finished reading it, he brought it back to the Muslim and asked, “This Mohammed, was he a sailor?” He was impressed at how accurately the Qur’an describes a storm on a sea. When he was told, “No as a matter of fact, Mohammed lived in the desert,” that was enough for him. He embraced Islam on the spot.
He was so impressed with the Qur’ans description because he had been in a storm on the sea, and he knew that whoever had written that description had also been in a storm on the sea. The description of “a wave, over it a wave, over it clouds” (Surah Nur, 24:40) was not what someone imagining a storm on a sea to be like would have written; rather, it was written by someone who knew what a storm on the sea was like. This is one example of how the Qur’an is not tied to certain place and time. Certainly, the scientific ideas expressed in it also do not seem to originate from the desert fourteen centuries ago.
The Smallest Thing
Many centuries before the onset of Mohammed’s Prophethood, there was a well-known theory of atomism advanced by the Greek philosopher, Democritus. He and the people who came after him assumed that matter consists of tiny, indestructible, indivisible particles called atoms. The Arabs too, used to deal in the same concept; in fact, the Arabic word dharrah commonly referred to the smallest particle known to man. Now, modern science has discovered that this smallest unit of matter (i.e., the atom, which has all of the same properties as its element) can be split into its component parts. This is a new idea, a development of the last century; yet; interestingly enough, this information had already been documented in the Qur’an (Surah Saba’, 34:3) which states: “He [Allah] is aware of an atom’s weight in the heavens and on the earth and even anything smaller than that…”
Undoubtedly, fourteen centuries ago that statement would have looked unusual even to an Arab. For him, the dharrah was the smallest thing there was. Indeed, this is proof, that the Qur’an is not outdated.
Another example of what one might expect to find in an “old book” that touches upon the subject of health or medicine is outdated remedies or cures. Various historical sources state that the Prophet (pbuh&hf) gave some advice about health and hygiene, yet most of these pieces of advice are not contained in the Qur’an. At first glance, to the non-Muslims this appears to be a negligent omission. They cannot understand why Allah would not “include” such helpful information in the Qur’an. Some Muslims attempt to explain this absence with the following argument: “Although the Prophet’s advice was sound and applicable to the time in which he lived.
Allah, in His infinite wisdom, knew that there would come later medical and scientific advances which would make the Prophet’s advice appear outdated. When later discoveries occurred, people might say that such information contradicted that which the Prophet (pbuh&hf) had given. Thus, since Allah would never allow any opportunity for the non-Muslims to claim that the Qur’an contradicts itself or the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh&hf), He only included in the Qur’an information and examples which could stand the test of time.” However, when one examines the true realities of the Qur’an in terms of its existence as a divine revelation, the entire matter is quickly brought into its proper perspective, and the error in such argumentation becomes clear and understandable.
It must be understood that the Qur’an is a divine revelation, and as such, all information in it is of divine origin. Allah revealed the Qur’an from Himself. It is the words of Allah, which existed before creation, and thus nothing can be added, subtracted or altered. In essence, the Qur’an existed and was complete before the creation of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh&hf), so it could not possibly contain any of the Prophet’s own words or advice. An inclusion of such information would clearly contradict the purpose for which the Qur’an exists, compromise its authority and render it inauthentic as a divine revelation.
Consequently, there was no “home remedies” in the Qur’an which one could claim to be outdated; nor does it contain any man’s view about what is beneficial to health, what food is best to eat, or what will cure this or that disease. In fact, the Qur’an only mentions one item dealing with medical treatment, and it is not in dispute by anyone. It states that in honey there is healing. And certainly, I do not think that there is anyone who will argue with that!
Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)) and the Qur’an
If one assumes that the Qur’an is the product of a man’s mind, then one would expect it to reflect some of what was going on in the mind of the man who “composed” it. In fact, certain encyclopedias and various books claim that the Qur’an was the product of hallucinations that Mohammed underwent. If these claims are true – if it indeed originated from some psychological problems in Mohammed’s mind – then evidence of this would be apparent in the Qur’an. Is there such evidence? In order to determine whether or not there is, one must first identify what things would have been going on in his mind at that time and then search for these thoughts and reflections in the Qur’an.
It is common knowledge that Mohammed (pbuh&hf) had a very difficult life. All of his daughters died before him except one, and he had a wife of several years who was very dear and important to him, who not only proceeded him in death but died at a very critical period of his life. As a matter of fact, she must have been quite a woman because when the first revelation came to him, he ran home to her, afraid. Certainly, even today one would have a hard time trying to find an Arab who would tell you, “I was so afraid that I ran home to my wife.” They just aren’t that way. Yet Mohammed (pbuh&hf) felt comfortable enough with his wife to be able to do that. That’s how influential and strong woman she was. Although these examples are only a few of the subjects that would have been on Mohammed’s mind, they are sufficient in intensity to prove my point.
The Qur’an does not mention any of these things – not the death of his children, not the death of his beloved companion and wife, not his fear of the initial revelations, which he so beautifully shared with his wife – nothing; yet these topics must have hurt him, bothered him, and caused him pain and grief during periods of his life. Indeed, if the Qur’an was a product of his psychological reflections, then these subjects, as well as others, would be prevalent or at least mentioned throughout.
Scientific Approach to the Qur’an
A truly scientific approach to the Qur’an is possible because the Qur’an offers something that is not offered by other religious scriptures, in particular, and other religions, in general. It is what scientists demand. Today there are many people who have ideas and theories about how the universe works. These people are all over the place, but the scientific community does not even bother to listen to them. This is because within the last century the scientific community has demanded a test of falsification. They say, “If you have theory, do not bother us with it unless you bring with that theory a way for us to prove whether you are wrong or not.”
Such a test was exactly why the scientific community listened to Einstein towards the beginning of the century. He came with a new theory and said, “I believe the universe works like this; and here are three ways to prove whether I am wrong!” So the scientific community subjected his theory to the tests, and within six years it passed all three. Of course, this does not prove that he was great, but it proves that he deserved to be listened to because he said, “This is my idea; and if you want to try to prove me wrong, do this or try that.”
This is exactly what the Qur’an has – falsification tests. Some are old (in that they have already been proven true), and some still exist today. Basically it states, “If this book is not what it claims to be, then all you have to do is this or this or this to prove that it is false.” Of course, in 1400 years no one has been able to do “This or this or this,” and thus it is still considered true and authentic.
I suggest to you that the next time you get into dispute with someone about Islam and he claims that he has the truth and that you are in darkness, you leave all other arguments at first and make this suggestion. Ask him, “Is there any falsification test in your religion? Is there anything in your religion that would prove you are wrong if I could prove to you that it exists – anything?” Well, I can promise right now that people will not have anything – no test, no proof, nothing! This is because they do not carry around the idea that they should not only present what they believe but should also offer others a chance to prove they’re wrong. However, Islam does that.
A perfect example of how Islam provides man with a chance to verify it authenticity and “prove it wrong” occurs in the 4th chapter. And quiet honestly, I was very surprised when I first discovered this challenge. It states (Surah An-Nisa, 4:82): “Do they not consider the Qur’an? Had it been from any other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”
This is a clear challenge to the non-Muslim. Basically, it invites him to find a mistake. As a matter of fact, the seriousness and difficulty of the challenge aside, the actual presentation of such a challenge in the first place is not even in human nature and is inconsistent with man’s personality. One doesn’t take an exam in school and after finishing the exam, write a note to the instructor at the end saying, “This exam is perfect. There are no mistakes in it. Find one if you can!” One just doesn’t do that. The teacher would not sleep until he found a mistake! And yet this is the way the Qur’an approaches people.
Ask Those Who Have Knowledge
Another interesting attitude that exists in the Qur’an repeatedly deals with its advice to the reader. The Qur’an informs the reader about different facts and then gives the advice: “If you want to know more about this or that, or if you doubt what is said, then you should ask those who have knowledge.” This too is a surprising attitude. It is not usual to have a book that comes from someone without training in geography, botany, biology, etc., who discusses these subjects and then advises the reader to ask men of knowledge if he doubts anything. Yet in every age there have been Muslims who have followed the advice of the Qur’an and made surprising discoveries.
If one looks to the works of Muslim scientists of many centuries ago, one will find them full of quotations from the Qur’an. These works state that they did research in such a place, looking for something. And they affirm that the reason they looked in such and such a place was that the Qur’an pointed them in that direction.
For example, the Qur’an mentions man’s origin and then tells the reader, “Research it!” It gives the reader a hint where to look and then states that one should find out more about it. This is the kind of thing that Muslims today largely seem to overlook – but not always, as illustrated in the following example.