QUR'AN AND MODERN SCIENCE: COMPATIBLE OR INCOMPATIBLE?
Ever since the dawn of human life on this planet, Man has always sought to understand Nature, his own place in the scheme of Creation and the purpose of Life itself. In this quest for Truth, spanning many centuries and diayath civilizations, organized religion has shaped human life and determined to a large extent, the course of history. While some religions have been based on books, claimed by their adherents to be divinely inspired, others have relied solely on human experience.
Al-Qur'an, the main source of the Islamic faith, is a book believed by Muslims, to be of completely Divine origin. Muslims also believe that it contains guidance for all mankind. Since the message of the Qur'an is believed to be for all times, it should be relevant to every age.
There was a time, in the history of world civilization, when 'miracles', or what was perceived to be a miracle, took precedence over human reason and logic. But how do we define the term 'miracle'? A miracle is anything that takes place out of the normal course of life and for which humankind has no explanation. However, we must be careful before we accept something as a miracle. An article in 'The Times of India' Mumbai, in 1993 reported that 'a saint' by the name 'Baba Pilot' claimed to have stayed continuously submerged under water in a tank for three consecutive days and nights. However, when reporters wanted to examine the base of the tank of water where he claimed to have performed this 'miraculous' feat, he refused to let them do so. He argued by asking as to how one could examine the womb of a mother that gives birth to a child. The 'Baba' was hiding something. It was a gimmick simply to gain publicity. Surely, no modern man with even the slightest inkling towards rational thinking would accept such a 'miracle'. If such false miracles are the tests of divinity, then we would have to accept Mr. P. C. Sorcar, the world famous magician known for his ingenious magical tricks and illusions, as the best God-man.
A book, claiming Divine origin, is in effect, claiming to be a miracle. Such a claim should be easily verifiable in any age, according to the standards of that age. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the last and final revelation of God, the miracle of miracles revealed as a mercy to mankind. Let us therefore investigate the veracity of this belief.
Literature and poetry have been instruments of human expression and creativity, in all cultures. The world also witnessed an age when literature and poetry occupied pride of position, similar to that now enjoyed by science and technology.
Muslims as well as non-Muslims agree that Qur’an.Surah is Arabic literature par excellence - that it is the best Arabic literature on the face of the earth. The Qur'an, challenges mankind in the following ayaths:
"And if ye are in doubt As to what We have revealed From time to time to Our Servant, then produce a Soorah Like thereunto; And call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, If your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot –And of a surety you cannot. Then fear the Fire Whose fuel is Men and Stones – Which is prepared for those Who reject Faith." [Qur'an Surah Baqarah 2:23-24]
The challenge of the Qur'an, is to produce a single Surah like [any of] the lessons it contains. The same challenge is repeated in the Qur'an several times. The challenge to produce a Surah, which, in beauty, eloquence, depth and meaning is at least somewhat similar to a Qur'anic Surah remains unmet to this day. A modern rational man, however, would never accept a religious scripture, which says, in the best possible poetic language, that the world is flat. This is because we live in an age, where human reason, logic and science are given primacy. Not many would accept the Qur'an's extraordinarily beautiful language, as proof of its Divine origin. Any scripture claiming to be a divine revelation must also be acceptable on the strength of its own reason and logic.
The Qur'an is not a book of science but a book of 'signs', i.e. aayath. There are more than six thousand 'signs' in the Qur'an of which more than a thousand deal with science.
The creation of the universe is explained by astrophysicists in a widely accepted phenomenon, popularly known as the 'Big Bang'. It is supported by observational and experimental data gathered by astronomers and astrophysicists for decades. According to the 'Big Bang', the whole universe was initially one big mass (Primary Nebula). Then there was a 'Big Bang' (Secondary Separation) which resulted in the formation of Galaxies. These then divided to form stars, planets, the sun, the moon, etc. The origin of the universe was unique and the probability of it occurring by 'chance' is zero. The Qur'an contains the following ayath, regarding the origin of the universe: "Do not the Unbelievers see That the heavens and the earth Were joined together (as one Unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?"[Qur’an.Surah21:30]
The striking congruence between the Qur'anic ayath and the 'Big Bang' is inescapable! How could a book, which first appeared in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago, contain this profound scientific truth?
Scientists say that before the galaxies in the universe were formed, celestial matter was initially in the form of gaseous matter. In short, huge gaseous matter or clouds were present before the formation of the galaxies. To describe initial celestial matter, the word 'smoke' is more appropriate than gas. The following Qur'anic ayath refers to this state of the universe by the word dhukhan which means smoke:
"Moreover, He Comprehended In His design the sky, And it had been (as) smoke: He said to it And to the earth: 'Come ye together, Willingly or unwillingly.' They said: 'We do come (Together), in willing obedience.' " [Qur’an.Surah41:11]
Again, this fact is a corollary to the 'Big Bang' and was not known to the Arabs during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). What then, could have been the source of this knowledge?
In early times, people believed that the earth is flat. For centuries, men were afraid to venture out too far, lest they should fall off the edge. Sir Francis Drake was the first person who proved that the earth is spherical when he sailed around it in 1597. Consider the following Qur'anic ayath regarding the alternation of day and night: "Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day And He merges Day into Night?" [Qur’an.Surah31:29]
Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes to day and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night.
The following ayath also alludes to the spherical shape of the earth: "He created the heavens And the earth In true (proportions): He makes the Night Overlap the Day, and the Day Overlap the Night." [Qur’an.Surah39:5]
The Arabic word used here is Kawwara meaning 'to overlap' or 'to coil'– the way a turban is wound around the head. The overlapping or coiling of the day and night can only take place if the earth is spherical.
The earth is not exactly round like a ball, but geo-spherical i.e. it is flattened at the poles. The following ayath contains a description of the earth's shape:
"And the earth, moreover, Hath He made egg shaped." [Qur’an.Surah79:30] [The Arabic word dahaha has been translated by A. Yusuf Ali as "vast expanse", which also is correct. The word dahaha also means an ostrich-egg.]
The Arabic word for egg here is dahaha, which means an ostrich-egg. The shape of an ostrich-egg resembles the geo-spherical shape of the earth. Thus the Qur'an correctly describes the shape of the earth, though the prevalent notion when the Qur'an was revealed was that the earth is flat.
It was believed by earlier civilizations that the moon emanates its own light. Science now tells us that the light of the moon is reflected light. However this fact was mentioned in the Qur'an 1,400 years ago in the following ayath:
"Blessed is He Who made Constellations in the skies, And placed therein a Lamp And a Moon giving light." [Qur’an.Surah25:61]
The Arabic word for the sun in the Qur'an, is shams. It is referred to as siraj, which means a 'torch' or as wahhaj which means 'a blazing lamp' or as diya which means 'shining glory'. All three descriptions are appropriate to the sun, since it generates intense heat and light by its internal combustion. The Arabic word for the moon is qamar and it is described in the Qur'an as munir, which is a body that gives nuri.e. light. Again, the Qur'anic description matches perfectly with the true nature of the moon, which does not give off light itself and is an inert body that reflects the light of the sun. Not once in the Qur'an, is the moon mentioned as siraj, wahhaj or diya or the sun as nur ormunir. This implies that the Qur'an recognizes the difference between the nature of sunlight and moonlight.
Consider the following ayaths related to the nature of light from the sun and the moon:
"It is He who made the sun To be a shining glory And the moon to be a light (of beauty)." [Qur’an.Surah10:5]
"See ye not How Allah has created The seven heavens One above another, And made the moon A light in their midst, and made the sun As a (Glorious) Lamp?" [Qur’an.Surah71:15-16]
For a long time European philosophers and scientists believed that the earth stood still in the center of the universe and every other body including the sun moved around it. In the West, this geocentric concept of the universe was prevalent right from the time of Ptolemy in the second century BC. In 1512, Nicholas Copernicus put forward his Heliocentric Theory of Planetary Motion, which asserted that the sun is motionless at the centre of the solar system with the planets revolving around it.
In 1609, the German scientist Yohannus Keppler published the 'Astronomia Nova'. In this he concluded that not only do the planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun, they also rotate upon their axes at irregular speeds. With this knowledge it became possible for European scientists to explain correctly many of the mechanisms of the solar system including the sequence of night and day.
After these discoveries, it was thought that the Sun was stationary and did not rotate about its axis like the Earth. I remember having studied this fallacy from Geography books during my school days. Consider the following Qur'anic ayath: "It is He Who created The Night and the Day, And the sun and the moon: All (the celestial bodies) Swim along, each in its Rounded course." [Qur’an.Surah21:33]
The Arabic word used in the above ayath is yasbahun . The word yasbahun is derived from the word sabaha. It carries with it the idea of motion that comes from any moving body. If you use the word for a man on the ground, it would not mean that he is rolling but would mean he is walking or running. If you use the word for a man in water it would not mean that he is floating but would mean that he is swimming.
Similarly, if you use the word yasbah for a celestial body such as the sun it would not mean that it is only flying through space but would mean that it is also rotating as it goes through space. Most of the school textbooks have incorporated the fact that the sun rotates about its axis. The rotation of the sun about its own axis can be proved with the help of an equipment that projects the image of the sun on the table top so that one can examine the image of the sun without being blinded. It is noticed that the sun has spots which complete a circular motion once every 25 days i.e. the sun takes approximately 25 days to rotate around its axis.
In fact, the sun travels through space at roughly 150 miles per second, and takes about 200 million years to complete one revolution around the center of our Milky Way Galaxy.
"It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law)." [Qur’an.Surah36:40]
This ayath mentions an essential fact discovered by modern astronomy, i.e. the existence of the individual orbits of the Sun and the Moon, and their journey through space with their own motion. The 'fixed place' towards, which the sun travels, carrying with it the solar system, has been located exactly by modern astronomy. It has been given a name, the Solar Apex. The solar system is indeed moving in space towards a point situated in the constellation of Hercules (alpha Layer) whose exact location is firmly established.
The moon rotates around its axis in the same duration that it takes to revolve around the earth. It takes approximately 29½ days to complete one rotation. One cannot help but be amazed at the scientific accuracy of the Qur'anic ayaths. Should we not ponder over the question: "What was the source of knowledge contained in the Qur'an?"
The light of the sun is due to a chemical process on its surface that has been taking place continuously for the past five billion years. It will come to an end at some point of time in the future when the sun will be totally extinguished leading to extinction of all life on earth. Regarding the impermanence of the sun's existence the Qur'an says: "And the Sun Runs its course For a period determined For it; that is The decree of (Him) The exalted in Might, The All-Knowing." [Qur’an.Surah36:38] [A similar message is conveyed in the Qur'an in 13:2, 35:13, 39:5 and 39:21]
The Arabic word used here is mustaqarr, which means a place or time that is determined. Thus the Qur'an says that the sun runs towards a determined place, and will do so only up to a pre-determined period of time – meaning that it will end or extinguish.
Space outside organized astronomical systems was earlier assumed to be a vacuum . Astrophysicists later discovered the presence of bridges of matter in this interstellar space. These bridges of matter are called plasma, and consist of completely ionized gas containing equal number of free electrons and positive ions. Plasma is sometimes called the fourth state of matter (besides the three known states viz. solid, liquid and gas). The Qur'an mentions the presence of this interstellar material in the following ayath: "He Who created the heavens And the earth and all That is between." [Qur’an.Surah25:59]
It would be ridiculous, for anybody to even suggest that the presence of interstellar galactic material was known 1400 years ago.
In 1925, an American astronomer by the name of Edwin Hubble, provided observational evidence that all galaxies are receding from one another, which implies that the universe is expanding. The expansion of the universe is now an established scientific fact. This is what Qur’an.Surahsays regarding the nature of the universe: "With the power and skill did We construct the firmament: For it is We who create the vastness of Space." [Qur’an.Surah51:47]
The Arabic word musi'un is correctly translated as 'expanding it', and it refers to the creation of the expanding vastness of the universe. Stephen Hawking, in his book, 'A Brief History of Time', says, "The discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century."
The Qur'an mentioned the expansion of the universe, before man even learnt to build a telescope! Some may say that the presence of astronomical facts in the Qur'an is not surprising since the Arabs were advanced in the field of astronomy. They are correct in acknowledging the advancement of the Arabs in the field of astronomy. However they fail to realize that the Qur'an was revealed centuries before the Arabs excelled in astronomy. Moreover many of the scientific facts mentioned above regarding astronomy, such as the origin of the universe with a Big Bang, were not known to the Arabs even at the peak of their scientific advancement. The scientific facts mentioned in the Qur'an are therefore not due to the Arabs' advancement in astronomy. Indeed, the reayath is true. The Arabs advanced in astronomy, because astronomy occupies a place in the Qur'an.
In ancient times a well-known theory by the name of 'Theory of Atomism' was widely accepted. This theory was originally proposed by the Greeks, in particular by a man called Democritus, who lived about 23 centuries ago. Democritus and the people that came after him, assumed that the smallest unit of matter was the atom. The Arabs used to believe the same. The Arabic word dharrah most commonly meant an atom. In recent times modern science has discovered that it is possible to split even an atom. That the atom can be split further is a development of the 20th century. Fourteen centuries ago this concept would have appeared unusual even to an Arab. For him the dharrah was the limit beyond which one could not go. The following Qur'anic ayath however, refuses to acknowledge this limit: "The Unbelievers say, 'Never to us will come The Hour': say, 'Nay! But most surely, By my Lord, it will come upon you – by Him Who knows the unseen – from Whom is not hidden the least little atom in the heavens or on earth: nor is there anything less than that, or greater, but is in the Record Perspicuous.' " [Qur’an.Surah34:3] [A similar message is conveyed in the Qur'an in 10:61]
This ayath refers to the Omniscience of God, His knowledge of all things, hidden or apparent. It then goes further and says that God is aware of everything, including what is smaller or bigger than the atom. Thus the ayath clearly shows that it is possible for something smaller than the atom to exist, a fact discovered only recently by modern science.
In 1580, Bernard Palissy was the first man to describe the present day concept of 'water cycle'. He described how water evaporates from the oceans and cools to form clouds. The clouds move inland where they rise, condense and fall as rain. This water gathers as lakes and streams and flows back to the ocean in a continuous cycle. In the 7th century BC, Thales of Miletus believed that surface spray of the oceans was picked up by the wind and carried inland to fall as rain. In earlier times people did not know the source of underground water. They thought the water of the oceans, under the effect of winds, was thrust towards the interior of the continents. They also believed that the water returned by a secret passage, or the Great Abyss. This passage is connected to the oceans and has been called the 'Tartarus', since Plato's time. Even Descartes, a great thinker of the eighteenth century, subscribed to this view. Till the nineteenth century, Aristotle's theory was prevalent. According to this theory, water was condensed in cool mountain caverns and formed underground lakes that fed springs. Today, we know that the rainwater that seeps into the cracks of the ground is responsible for this.
The water cycle is described by the Qur'an in the following ayaths:
"Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth? Then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colours." [Qur’an.Surah39:21]
"He sends down rain From the sky And with it gives life to The earth after it is dead: Verily in that are Signs For those who are wise." [Qur’an.Surah30:24]
"And We send down water from the sky according to (due) measure, and We cause it to soak in the soil; And We certainly are able to drain it off (with ease)." [Qur’an.Surah23:18]
No other text dating back 1400 years ago gives such an accurate description of the water cycle.
"And We send the fecundating winds, Then cause the rain to descend From the sky, therewith providing You with water (in abundance)." [Qur’an.Surah15:22]
The Arabic word used here is lawaqih, which is the plural of laqih from
The Qur'anic descriptions are absolutely accurate and agree perfectly with modern data on hydrology. The water cycle is described in several aayaath of the Glorious Qur'an, including 3:9, 7:57, 13:17, 25:48- 49, 36:34, 50:9-11, 56:68-70, 67:30 and 86:11.
In Geology, the phenomenon of 'folding' is a recently discovered fact. Folding is responsible for the formation of mountain ranges. The earth's crust, on which we live, is like a solid shell, while the deeper layers are hot and fluid, and thus inhospitable to any form of life. It is also known that the stability of the mountains is linked to the phenomenon of folding, for it was the folds that were to provide foundations for the reliefs that constitute the mountains. Geologists tell us that the radius of the Earth is about 3,750 miles and the crust on which we live is very thin, ranging between 1 to 30 miles. Since the crust is thin, it has a high possibility of shaking. Mountains act like stakes or tent pegs that hold the earth's crust and give it stability. The Qur'an contains exactly such a description in the following ayath: "Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse, and the mountains as pegs?" [Qur’an.Surah78:6-7]
The word awtad means stakes or pegs (like those used to anchor a tent); they are the deep foundations of geological folds. A book named 'Earth' is considered as a basic reference textbook on geology in many universities around the world. One of the authors of this book is Frank Press, who was the President of the Academy of Sciences in the USA for 12 years and was the Science Advisor to former US President Jimmy Carter. In this book he illustrates the mountain in a wedge-shape and the mountain itself as a small part of the whole, whose root is deeply entrenched in the ground. [Earth, Press and Siever, p. 435. Also see Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens, p. 157] According to Dr. Press, the mountains play an important role in stabilizing the crust of the earth.
The Qur'an clearly mentions the function of the mountains in preventing the earth from shaking: "And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with them." [Qur’an.Surah21:31]
The Qur'anic descriptions are in perfect agreement with modern geological data.
The surface of the earth is broken into many rigid plates that are about 100km in thickness. These plates float on a partially molten region called aesthenosphere. Mountain formations occur at the boundary of the plates. The earth's crust is 5km thick below oceans, about 35km thick below flat continental surfaces and almost 80km thick below great mountain ranges. These are the strong foundations on which mountains stand. The Qur'an also speaks about the strong mountain foundations in the following ayath: "And the mountains Hath He firmly fixed." [Qur’an.Surah79:32] [A similar message is contained in the Qur'an in 88:19, 31:10 and 16:15]
Consider the following Qur'anic ayaths: "He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together: between them is a barrier which they do not transgress." [Qur’an.Surah55:19-20]
In the Arabic text the word barzakh means a barrier or a partition. This barrier is not a physical partition. The Arabic word maraja literally means 'they both meet and mix with each other'. Early commentators of the Qur'an were unable to explain the two opposite meanings for the two bodies of water, i.e. they meet and mix, and at the same time, there is a barrier between them. Modern Science has discovered that in the places where two different seas meet, there is a barrier between them. This barrier divides the two seas so that each sea has its own temperature, salinity and density. [Principles of Oceanography, Davis, pp. 92-93] Oceanologists are now in a better position to explain this ayath. There is a slanted unseen water barrier between the two seas through which water from one sea passes to the other.
But when the water from one sea enters the other sea, it loses its distinctive characteristic and becomes homogenized with the other water. In a way this barrier serves as a transitional homogenizing area for the two waters. This scientific phenomenon mentioned in the Qur'an was also confirmed by Dr. William Hay who is a well-known marine scientist and Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado, USA. The Qur'an mentions this phenomenon also in the following ayath: "And made a separating bar between the two bodies of flowing water?" [Qur’an.Surah27:61]
This phenomenon occurs in several places, including the divider between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean at Gibralter. But when the Qur'an speaks about the divider between fresh and salt water, it mentions the existence of "a forbidding partition" with the barrier.
"It is He Who has let free the two bodies of flowing water: one palatable and sweet, and the other salty and bitter; Yet has He made a barrier between them, and a partition that is forbidden to be passed." [Qur’an.Surah25:53]
Modern science has discovered that in estuaries, where fresh (sweet) and salt-water meet, the situation is somewhat different from that found in places where two seas meet. It has been discovered that what distinguishes fresh water from salt water in estuaries is a "pycnocline zone with a marked density discontinuity separating the two layers." [Oceanography, Gross, p. 242. Also see Introductory Oceanography, Thurman, pp. 300-301.] This partition (zone of separation) has salinity different from both the fresh water and the salt water. [Oceanography, Gross, p. 244 and Introductory Oceanography, Thurman, pp. 300-301]
This phenomenon occurs in several places, including Egypt, where the river Nile flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
Prof. Durga Rao is an expert in the field of Marine Geology and was a professor at King 'Abdul-'Aziz University in Jeddah. He was asked to comment on the following ayath: "Or (the unbelievers' state) is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by (dark) clouds: depths of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it! For any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!" [Qur’an.Surah24:40]
Prof. Rao said that scientists have only now been able to confirm, with the help of modern equipment that there is darkness in the depths of the ocean. Humans are unable to dive unaided underwater for more than 20 to 30 meters, and cannot survive in the deep oceanic regions at a depth of more than 200 meters. This ayath does not refer to all seas because not every sea can be described as having accumulated darkness layered one over another. It refers especially to a deep sea or deep ocean, as the Qur'an says, "darkness in a vast deep ocean". This layered darkness in a deep ocean is the result of two causes:
1. A light ray is composed of seven colours. These seven colours are Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red (VIBGYOR). The light ray undergoes refraction when it hits water. The upper 10 to 15 metres of water absorb the red colour. Therefore if a diver is 25 metres under water and gets wounded, he would not be able to see the red colour of his blood, because the red colour does not reach this depth. Similarly orange rays are absorbed at 30 to 50 metres, yellow at 50 to 100 metres, green at 100 to 200 metres, and finally, blue beyond 200 metres and violet and indigo above 200 metres. Due to successive disappearance of colour, one layer after another, the ocean progressively becomes darker, i.e. darkness takes place in layers of light. Below a depth of 1000 meters there is complete darkness. [Oceans, Elder and Pernetta, p. 27]
2. The sun's rays are absorbed by clouds, which in turn scatter light rays thus causing a layer of darkness under the clouds. This is the first layer of darkness. When light rays reach the surface of the ocean they are reflected by the wave surface giving it a shiny appearance. Therefore it is the waves which reflect light and cause darkness. The unreflected light penetrates into the depths of the ocean. Therefore the ocean has two parts. The surface characterized by light and warmth and the depth characterized by darkness. The surface is further separated from the deep part of the ocean by waves. The internal waves cover the deep waters of seas and oceans because the deep waters have a higher density than the waters above them. The darkness begins below the internal waves. Even the fish in the depths of the ocean cannot see; their only source of light is from their own bodies.
The Qur'an rightly mentions: "Darkness in a vast deep ocean overwhelmed with waves topped by waves ... "
In other words, above these waves there are more types of waves, i.e. those found on the surface of the ocean. The Qur'anic ayath continues, " ... topped by (dark) clouds; depths of darkness, one above another."
These clouds as explained are barriers one over the other that further cause darkness by absorption of colours at different levels.
Prof. Durga Rao concluded by saying, "1400 years ago a normal human being could not explain this phenomenon in so much detail. Thus the information must have come from a supernatural source."
Consider the following Qur'anic ayath: "Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" [Qur’an.Surah21:30]
Only after advances have been made in science, do we now know that cytoplasm, the basic substance of the cell is made up of 80% water. Modern research has also revealed that most organisms consist of 50% to 90% water and that every living entity requires water for its existence. Was it possible 14 centuries ago for any human-being to guess that every living being was made of water? Moreover would such a guess be conceivable by a human being in the deserts of Arabia where there has always been scarcity of water? The following ayath refers to the creation of animals from water: "And Allah has created every animal from water." [Qur’an.Surah24:45]
The following ayath refers to the creation of human beings from water: "It is He who has created man from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord Has power (over all things)." [Qur’an.Surah25:54]
Previously humans did not know that plants too have male and female gender distinctions. Botany states that every plant has a male and female gender. Even the plants that are unisexual have distinct elements of both male and female. "And has sent down water from the sky. With it have We produced diayath pairs of plants each separate from the others." [Qur’an.Surah20:53]
"And fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two." [Qur’an.Surah13:3]
Fruit is the end product of reproduction of the superior plants. The stage preceding fruit is the flower, which has male and female organs (stamens and ovules). Once pollen has been carried to the flower, they bear fruit, which in turn matures and frees its seed. All fruits therefore imply the existence of male and female organs; a fact that is mentioned in the Qur'an.
In certain species, fruit can come from non-fertilized flowers (parthenocarpic fruit) e.g. bananas, certain types of pineapple, fig, orange, vine, etc. They also have definite sexual characteristics.
"And of everything We have created pairs." [Qur’an.Surah51:49]
This refers to things other than humans, animals, plants and fruits. It may also be referring to a phenomenon like electricity in which the atoms consist of negatively – and positively – charged electrons and protons.
"Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge." [Qur’an.Surah36:36]
The Qur'an here says that everything is created in pairs, including things that the humans do not know at present and may discover later.
"There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you."[Qur’an.Surah6:38]
Research has shown that animals and birds live in communities, i.e. they organize, and live and work together.
Regarding the flight of birds the Qur'an says: "Do they not look at the birds, held poised in the midst of (the air and) the sky? Nothing holds them up but (the power of) Allah. Verily in this are signs for those who believe." [Qur’an.Surah16:79]
A similar message is repeated in the Qur'an in the ayath: "Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (Allah) Most Gracious: truly it is He that watches over all things." [Qur’an.Surah67:19]
The Arabic word amsaka literally means, 'to put one's hand on, seize, hold, hold someone back,' which expresses the idea that Allah holds the bird up in His power. These ayaths stress the extremely close dependence of the birds' behaviour on Divine order. Modern scientific data has shown the degree of perfection attained by certain species of birds with regard to the programming of their movements. It is only the existence of a migratory programme in the genetic code of the birds that can explain the long and complicated journey that very young birds, without any prior experience and without any guide, are able to accomplish. They are also able to return to the departure point on a definite date.
Prof. Hamburger in his book 'Power and Fragility' gives the example of 'mutton-bird' that lives in the Pacific with its journey of over 15,000 miles in the shape of figure '8'. It makes this journey over a period of 6 months and comes back to its departure point wit a maximum delay of one week. The highly complicated instructions for such a journey have to be contained in the birds' nervous cells. They are definitely programmed. Should we not reflect on the identity of this 'Programmer'?
"And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men's) habitations; then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), And find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord." [Qur’an.Surah16:68-69]
Von-Frisch received the Nobel Prize in 1973 for his research on the behaviour and communication of the bees. The bee, after discovering any new garden or flower, goes back and tells its fellow bees the exact direction and map to get there, which is known as 'bee dance'. The meanings of this insect's movements that are intended to transmit information between worker bees have been discovered scientifically using photography and other methods. The Qur'an mentions in the above ayath how the bee finds with skill the spacious paths of its Lord.
The worker bee or the soldier bee is a female bee. In Surah an-Nahl chapter no. 16, ayaths 68 and 69 the gender used for the bee is the female gender (fa'sluki and kuli), indicating that the bee that leaves its home for gathering food is a female bee. In other words the soldier or worker bee is a female bee. In fact, in Shakespeare's play, "Henry the Fourth", some of the characters speak about bees and mention that the bees are soldiers and that they have a king. That is what people thought in Shakespearean times. They thought that the worker bees are male bees and they go home and are answerable to a king bee. This, however, is not true. The worker bees are females and they do not report to a king bee but to a queen bee. But it took modern investigations in the last 300 years to discover this.
The Qur'an mentions in Surah al-'Ankabut, "The parable of those who take protectors other than Allah is that of the spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the Spider's house – if they but knew." [Qur’an.Surah29:41]
Besides giving the physical description of the spider's web as being very flimsy, delicate and weak, the Qur'an also stresses on the flimsiness of the relationship in the spider's house, where the female spider many a times kills its mate, the male spider.
Consider the following Qur'anic ayath: "And before Solomon were marshaled His hosts – of jinn and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. At length, when they came to a (lowly) valley of ants, one of the ants said: 'O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it.' " [Qur’an.Surah27:17-18]
In the past, some people would have probably mocked at the Qur'an, taking it to be a fairy tale book in which ants talk to each other and communicate sophisticated messages. In recent times, research has shown us several facts about the lifestyle of ants, which were not known earlier to humankind. Research has shown that the animals or insects whose lifestyle is closest in resemblance to the lifestyle of human beings are the ants. This can be seen from the following findings regarding ants:
1. The ants bury their dead in a manner similar to the humans.
2. They have a sophisticated system of division of labour, whereby they have managers, supervisors, foremen, workers, etc.
3. Once in a while they meet among themselves to have a 'chat'.
4. They have an advanced method of communication among themselves.
5. They hold regular markets wherein they exchange goods.
6. They store grains for long periods in winter and if the grain begins to bud, they cut the roots, as if they understand that if they leave it to grow, it will rot. If the grains stored by them get wet due to rains, they take these grains out into the sunlight to dry, and once these are dry, they take them back inside as though they know that humidity will cause development of root systems and thereafter rotting of the grain.
The bee assimilates juices of various kinds of flowers and fruit and forms within its body the honey, which it stores in its cells of wax. Only a couple of centuries ago man came to know that honey comes from the belly of the bee. This fact was mentioned in the Qur'an 1,400 years ago in the following ayath: "There issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for men." [Al-Qur'an16:69]
We are now aware that honey has a healing property and also a mild antiseptic property. The Russians used honey to cover their wounds in World War II. The wound would retain moisture and would leave very little scar tissue. Due to the density of honey, no fungus or bacteria would grow in the wound. A person suffering from an allergy of a particular plant may be given honey from that plant so that the person develops resistance to that allergy. Honey is rich in fructose and vitamin K. Thus the knowledge contained in the Qur'an regarding honey, its origin and properties, was far ahead of the time it was revealed.
The Qur'an was revealed 600 years before the Muslim scientist Ibn Nafis described the circulation of the blood and 1,000 years before William Harwey brought this understanding to the Western world. Roughly thirteen centuries before it was known what happens in the intestines to ensure that organs are nourished by the process of digestive absorption, a ayath in the Qur'an described the source of the constituents of milk, in conformity with these notions.
To understand the Qur'anic ayath concerning the above concepts, it is important to know that chemical reactions occur in the intestines and that, from there, substances extracted from food pass into the blood stream via a complex system; sometimes by way of the liver, depending on their chemical nature. The blood transports them to all the organs of the body, among which are the milk-producing mammary glands.
In simple terms, certain substances from the contents of the intestines enter into the vessels of the intestinal wall itself, and these substances are transported by the blood stream to the various organs.
This concept must be fully appreciated if we wish to understand the following ayath in the Qur'an: "And verily in cattle there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of what is inside their bodies, coming from a conjunction between the contents of the intestine and the blood, A milk pure and pleasant for those who drink it." [Qur’an.Surah16:66] [Translation of this Qur'anic ayath is from the book "The Bible, the Qur'an and Science" by Dr. Maurice Bucaille]
"And in cattle (too) ye have an instructive example: from within their bodies We produce (milk) for you to drink; there are, in them, (besides), numerous (other) benefits for you; and of their (meat) ye eat." [Qur’an.Surah23:21]
The Qur'anic description of the production of milk in cattle is strikingly similar to what modern physiology has discovered.
A few years ago a group of Arabs collected all information concerning embryology from the Qur'an, and followed the instruction of theQur'an: "If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message." [Qur’an.Surah16:43 & 21:7]
All the information from the Qur'an so gathered, was translated into English and presented to Prof. (Dr.) Keith Moore, who was the Professor of Embryology and Chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Toronto, in Canada. At present he is one of the highest authorities in the field of Embryology. He was asked to give his opinion regarding the information present in the Qur'an concerning the field of embryology. After carefully examining the translation of the Qur'anic ayaths presented to him, Dr. Moore said that most of the information concerning embryology mentioned in the Qur'an is in perfect conformity with modern discoveries in the field of embryology and does not conflict with them in any way. He added that there were however a few ayaths, on whose scientific accuracy he could not comment. He could not say whether the statements were true or false, since he himself was not aware of the information contained therein.
There was also no mention of this information in modern writings and studies on embryology. One such ayath is: "Proclaim! (or read!) In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created – created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood." [Qur’an.Surah96:1-2]
The word alaq besides meaning a congealed clot of blood also means something that clings, a leech-like substance. Dr. Keith Moore had no knowledge whether an embryo in the initial stages appears like a leech. To check this out he studied the initial stage of the embryo under a very powerful microscope in his laboratory and compared what he observed with a diagram of a leech and he was astonished at the striking resemblance between the two!
In the same manner, he acquired more information on embryology that was hitherto not known to him, from the Qur'an. Dr. Keith Moore answered about eighty questions dealing with embryological data mentioned in the Qur'an and Hadith. Noting that the information contained in the Qur'an and Hadith was in full agreement with the latest discoveries in the field of embryology, Prof. Moore said, "If I was asked these questions thirty years ago, I would not have been able to answer half of them for lack of scientific information."
Dr. Keith Moore had earlier authored the book, 'The Developing Human'. After acquiring new knowledge from the Qur'an, he wrote, in 1982, the 3rd edition of the same book, 'The Developing Human'. The book was the recipient of an award for the best medical book written by a single author. This book has been translated into several major languages of the world and is used as a textbook of embryology in the first year of medical studies.
In 1981, during the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Dr. Moore said, "It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Qur'an about human development. It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from God or Allah, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God or Allah." [The reference for this statement is the video tape titled 'This is the Truth'.For a copy of this video tape contact the Islamic Research Foundation]
Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, U.S.A., proclaims: " ... these Hadiths, sayings of Muhammad peace be upon him could not have been obtained on the basis of the scientific knowledge that was available at the time of the writer (7th century). It follows that not only is there no conflict between genetics and religion (Islam) but in fact religion (Islam) may guide science by adding revelation to some of the traditional scientific approaches … there exist statements in the Qur'an shown centuries later to be valid which support knowledge in the Qur'an having been derived from God."
"Now let man but think from what he is created! He is created from a drop emitted – proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs." [Qur’an.Surah86:5-7]
In embryonic stages, the reproductive organs of the male and female, i.e. the testicles and the ovaries, begin their development near the kidney between the spinal column and the eleventh and twelfth ribs. Later they descend; the female gonads (ovaries) stop in the pelvis while the male gonads (testicles) continue their descent before birth to reach the scrotum through the inguinal canal. Even in the adult after the descent of the reproductive organ, these organs receive their nerve supply and blood supply from the Abdominal Aorta, which is in the area between the backbone (spinal column) and the ribs. Even the lymphatic drainage and the venous return goes to the same area.
The Glorious Qur'an mentions no less than eleven times that the human being is created from nutfah, which means a minute quantity of liquid or a trickle of liquid which remains after emptying a cup. This is mentioned in several ayaths of the Qur'an including 22:5 and 23:13. [The same is also mentioned in the Qur'an in 16:4, 18:37, 35:11, 36:77, 40:67, 53:46, 75:37, 76:2 and 80:19]
Science has confirmed in recent times that only one out of an average of three million sperms is required for fertilising the ovum. This means that only a 1/three millionth part or 0.00003% of the quantity of sperms that are emitted is required for fertilization.
"And made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised." [Qur’an.Surah32:8]
The Arabic word sulalah means quintessence or the best part of a whole. We have come to know now that only one single spermatozoon that penetrates the ovum is required for fertilization, out of the several millions produced by man. That one spermatozoon out of several millions, is referred to in the Qur'an as sulalah. Sulalah also means gentle extraction from a fluid. The fluid refers to both male and female germinal fluids containing gametes. Both ovum and sperm are gently extracted from their environments in the process of fertilization.
Consider the following Qur'anic ayath: "Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm." [Qur’an.Surah76:2]
The Arabic word nutfatin amshajin means mingled liquids. According to some commentators of the Qur'an, mingled liquids refers to the male or female agents or liquids. After mixture of male and female gamete, the zygote still remains nutfah. Mingled liquids can also refer to spermatic fluid that is formed of various secretions that come from various glands. Therefore nutfatin amsaj, i.e. a minute quantity of mingled fluids refers to the male and female gametes (germinal fluids or cells) and part of the surrounding fluids.
The sex of a fetus is determined by the nature of the sperm and not the ovum. The sex of the child, whether female or male, depends on whether the 23rd pair of chromosomes is XX or XY respectively. Primarily sex determination occurs at fertilization and depends upon the type of sex chromosome in the sperm that fertilizes an ovum. If it is an 'X' bearing sperm that fertilizes the ovum, the fetus is a female and if it is a 'Y' bearing sperm then the fetus is a male.
"That He did create in pairs – male and female, from a seed when lodged (in its place)." [Qur’an.Surah53:45-46]
The Arabic word nutfah means a minute quantity of liquid and tumna means ejaculated or planted. Therefore nutfah specifically refers to sperm because it is ejaculated. The Qur'an says: "Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)? Then did he become a clinging clot; then did (Allah) make and fashion (him) in due proportion. And of him He made two sexes, male and female." [Qur’an.Surah75:37-39]
Here again it is mentioned that a small quantity (drop) of sperm (indicated by the word nutfatan min maniyyin) which comes from the man is responsible for the sex of the fetus.
Mothers-in-law in the Indian subcontinent, by and large prefer having male grandchildren and often blame their daughters-in-law if the child is not of the desired sex. If only they knew that the determining factor is the nature of the male sperm and not the female ovum! If they were to blame anybody, they should blame their sons and not their daughters-in-law since both the Qur'an and Science hold that it is the male fluid that is responsible for the sex of the child!
"He makes you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness." [Qur’an.Surah39:6]
According to Prof. Keith Moore these three veils of darkness in the Qur'an refer to:
1. anterior abdominal wall of the mother
2. the uterine wall
3. the amnio-chorionic membrane.
"Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then we made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!"[Qur’an.Surah23:12-14]
In this ayath Allah states that man is created from a small quantity of liquid which is placed in a place of rest, firmly fixed (well established or lodged) for which the Arabic word qararin makin is used.
The uterus is well protected from the posterior by the spinal column supported firmly by the back muscles. The embryo is further protected by the amniotic sac containing the amniotic fluid. Thus the foetus has a well protected dwelling place. This small quantity of fluid is made into alaqah, meaning something which clings. It also means a leech-like substance. Both descriptions are scientifically acceptable as in the very early stages the foetus clings to the wall and also appears to resemble the leech in shape. It also behaves like a leech (blood sucker) and acquires its blood supply from the mother through the placenta. The third meaning of the word alaqah is a blood clot. During this alaqahstage, which spans the third and fourth week of pregnancy, the blood clots within closed vessels. Hence the embryo acquires the appearance of a blood clot in addition to acquiring the appearance of a leech. In 1677, Hamm and Leeuwenhoek were the first scientists to observe human sperm cells (spermatozoa) using a microscope. They thought that a sperm cell contained a miniature human being which grew in the uterus to form a newborn. This was known as the perforation theory. When scientists discovered that the ovum was bigger than the sperm, it was thought by De Graf and others that the foetus existed in a miniature form in the ovum. Later, in the 18th century Maupertuis propagated the theory of biparental inheritance. The alaqah is transformed into mudghah which means 'something that is chewed (having teeth marks)' and also something that is tacky and small which can be put in the mouth like gum. Both these explanations are scientifically correct. Prof. Keith Moore took a piece of plaster seal and made it into the size and shape of the early stage of foetus and chewed it between the teeth to make it into a 'Mudgha'. He compared this with the photographs of the early stage of foetus. The teeth marks resembled the 'somites' which is the early formation of the spinal column.
This mudghah is transformed into bones (izam). The bones are clothed with intact flesh or muscles (lahm). Then Allah makes it into another creature.
Prof. Marshall Johnson is one of the leading scientists in US, and is the head of the Department of Anatomy and Director of the Daniel Institute at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in US. He was asked to comment on the ayaths of the Qur'an dealing with embryology. He said that the ayaths of the Qur'an describing the embryological stages cannot be a coincidence. He said it was probable that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had a powerful microscope. On being reminded that the Qur'an was revealed 1,400 years ago, and microscopes were invented centuries after the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Prof. Johnson laughed and admitted that the first microscope invented could not magnify more than 10 times and could not show a clear picture. Later he said: "I see nothing here in conflict with the concept that Divine intervention was involved when Muhammad (peace be upon him) recited the Qur'an."
According to Dr. Keith Moore, the modern classification of embryonic development stages which is adopted throughout the world, is not easily comprehensible, since it identifies stages on a numerical basis i.e. stage I, stage II, etc. The divisions revealed in the Qur'an are based on distinct and easily identifiable forms or shapes, which the embryo passes through. These are based on different phases of prenatal development and provide elegant scientific descriptions that are comprehensible and practical.
Similar embryological stages of human development have been described in the following ayaths:
"Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)? Then did he become a clinging clot; then did (Allah) make and fashion (him) in due proportion. And of him He made two sexes, male and female." [Qur’an.Surah75:37-39]
"Him Who created thee, fashioned thee in due proportion, and gave thee a just bias; in whatever form He wills, does He put thee together." [Qur’an.Surah82:7-8]
At the mugdhah stage, if an incision is made in the embryo and the internal organ is dissected, it will be seen that most of them are formed while the others are not yet completely formed. According to Prof. Johnson, if we describe the embryo as a complete creation, then we are only describing that part which is already created. If we describe it as an incomplete creation, then we are only describing that part which is not yet created. So, is it a complete creation or an incomplete creation? There is no better description of this stage of embryogenesis than the Qur'anic description, "partly formed and partly unformed", as in the following ayath: "We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed." [Qur’an.Surah22:5]
Scientifically we know that at this early stage of development there are some cells which are differentiated and there are some cells that are undifferentiated – some organs are formed and yet others unformed.
The first sense to develop in a developing human embryo is hearing. The foetus can hear sounds after the 24th week. Subsequently, the sense of sight is developed and by the 28th week, the retina becomes sensitive to light. Consider the following Qur'anic ayaths related to the development of the senses in the embryo: "And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding)." [Qur’an.Surah32:9]
"Verily We created man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: So We gave him (the gifts), of hearing and sight."[Qur’an.Surah76:2]
"It is He Who has created for you (the faculties of) hearing, sight, feeling and understanding: little thanks It is ye give!" [Qur’an.Surah23:78]
In all these ayaths the sense of hearing is mentioned before that of sight. Thus the Qur'anic description matches with the discoveries in modern embryology.
"Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers." [Qur’an.Surah75:3-4]
Unbelievers argue regarding resurrection taking place after bones of dead people have disintegrated in the earth and how each individual would be identified on the Day of Judgement. Almighty Allah answers that He can not only assemble our bones but can also reconstruct perfectly our very fingertips.
Why does the Qur'an, while speaking about determination of the identity of the individual, speak specifically about fingertips? In 1880, fingerprinting became the scientific method of identification, after research done by Sir Francis Golt. No two persons in the world can ever have exactly the same fingerprint pattern. That is the reason why police forces worldwide use fingerprints to identify the criminal. 1,400 years ago, who could have known the uniqueness of each human's fingerprint? Surely it could have been none other than the Creator Himself!
It was thought that the sense of feeling and pain was only dependent on the brain. Recent discoveries prove that there are pain receptors present in the skin without which a person would not be able to feel pain. When a doctor examines a patient suffering from burn injuries, he verifies the degree of burns by a pinprick. If the patient feels pain, the doctor is happy, because it indicates that the burns are superficial and the pain receptors are intact. On the other hand if the patient does not feel any pain, it indicates that it is a deep burn and the pain receptors have been destroyed. The Qur'an gives an indication of the existence of pain receptors in the following ayath: "Those who reject our signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire; as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise." [Qur’an.Surah4:56]
Prof. Tagatat Tejasen, Chairman of the Department of Anatomy at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, has spent a great amount of time on research of pain receptors. Initially he could not believe that the Qur'an mentioned this scientific fact 1,400 years ago. He later verified the translation of this particular Qur'anic ayath. Prof. Tejasen was so impressed by the scientific accuracy of the Qur'anic ayath, that at the 8th Saudi Medical Conference held in Riyadh on the Scientific Signs of Qur'an and Sunnah he proclaimed in public: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger."
To attribute the presence of scientific facts in the Qur'an to coincidence would be against common sense and a true scientific approach. The Qur'an invites all humans to reflect on the Creation of this universe in the ayath: "Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day – there are indeed signs for men of understanding." [Qur’an.Surah3:190]
The scientific evidences of the Qur'an clearly prove its Divine Origin. No human could have produced a book, fourteen hundred years ago, that would contain profound scientific facts, to be discovered by humankind centuries later. The Qur'an, however, is not a book of Science but a book of 'Signs'. These signs invite Man to realize the purpose of his existence on earth, and to live in harmony with Nature. TheQur'an is truly a message from Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It contains the same message of the Oneness of God, that was preached by all prophets, right from Adam, Moses, Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them).
Several detailed tomes have been written on the subject of Qur'an and modern science and further research in this field is on. Insha'Allah, this research will help mankind to come closer to the Word of the Almighty.
Notes from the lecture of Dr. Naik,