One of the things that we used to hear so much about in the Muslim Daw’ah circles is how the Qur’an discloses information of a miraculous scientific nature. This was made popular by the likes of Dr. Zakir Naik and Harun Yahya. This line of argumentation for the veracity of Islam has fallen out of use.
Used only by those who are not in the know. Meaning that we have moved on from that line of argumentation.
“Allah disdains not to use the similitude of things, lowest as well as highest. Those who believe know that it is truth from their Lord; but those who reject Faith say: “What means Allah by this similitude?” By it He causes many to stray, and by it many He leads into the right path; but He causes not to stray, except those who forsake (the path),-” (Qur’an 2:26)
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied,
“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:10-17)
Touching on a post related to Dr. Keith Moore and Dr. Maurice Bucaille and what I feel was deliberate obfuscation on the part of Muslim missionary organizations in regards to the personal convictions of the two men I felt it would be appropriate to begin a series discussing the now popular topic of text in the Qur’an that are thought to anticipate modern scientific discoveries.
All too often Muslims use this approach to convince people of the divine authority of the Qur’an. One wonders what Muslims were doing to convince people of the divine authority of the Qur’an before the floodgates opened in the 20th century that lead to all these ‘profound’ discoveries in exegesis.
First let me state that I do not believe that the Qur’an is a book of science. I also do not believe that the Qur’an is protected by an interlocking mathematical code based upon the number 19*
For my article taking a look at that claim you my refer to: https://primaquran.com/2022/10/04/over-it-are-19/
I believe that the Qu’ran itself makes it very clear its purpose as outlined here:
This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah;Who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them;And who believe in the Revelation sent to you, and sent before your time, and (in their hearts) have the assurance of the Hereafter.They are on (true) guidance, from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper. ( Qur’an 2:2-5)
This book will be guidance for you without doubt IF the following conditions are met.
1) You are in awe of the Creator. -Which would mean having a belief in a Creator to begin with.
2) Belief in the unseen. If you don’t believe in the unseen put the book down it will have no effect on you.
3) You are what is called ‘a seeker’. You establish a connection to the divine through some form or pensive reflection, supplication, prayers, meditation.
4) You give to others from what you have been given. -If you are in a situation to be able to do so.
5) Afterlife. You believe in life after life. In other words you don’t believe we are a body with a soul; but a soul with a body.
However, none of the above precludes the possibility that the Qur’an could contain information that coincides with science.
The problem with those who see amazing scientific breakthroughs of a scientific nature in the Qur’an is that amazing feats of imagination, and huge stretches in exegesis are required to put forth many of these claims.
As the saying goes, “I’ll see it when I believe it.”
We will be dealing with issues of literary devices among them, poetic expression, ambiguity, analog, and parables.
Let us begin shall we?
“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 29:41)
I understand this that a spider’s web can be destroyed by a strong gust of wind. The spider’s web and the wind both being creations are vulnerable. Ultimately if we put our faith or our trust in anything other than Allah (swt) we are putting our faith in something that is not solid. I see it as a literary device or a play on words used to encourage believers to put their faith and trust in nothing other than Allah (swt).
However, if I demand literalism and try and push the Qur’an as a book of amazing scientific breakthroughs I am left with a rather embarrassing fact. Measure for measure the silk in the spider’s web is the strongest fiber on the Earth!
Please see the following:
We could have asked our friends when the Qur’an says, “but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider’s house” flimsiest in comparison to what? No comparison is given.
But watch someone come along and say, “Actually this verse proves the Qur’an is even more miraculous!” “Allah knew human beings would discover that the spiders web is so strong but in reality compared to Allah it is nothing!”
To which believers like myself would be stretching our heads and saying, ‘Huh?‘
Another example using idioms as a literary device.
“When he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: “O Zul-qarnain! (you have authority,) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness.” (Qur’an 18:86)
Now the phrase in question here is: Hatta itha balaghamaghriba ashshamsi wajadaha
Now many commentators who want to force the issue of the Qur’an preempting science will only focus on the Arabic word ‘wajada’. Meaning that the sun doesn’t really set in the ocean but only that he (Zul Qarnian) perceived it as such. That is fine and well but what they conveniently leave out is the phrase ‘Hatta itha balaghamaghriba ashshamsi’ which mentions the setting of the sun.
Many of you may recall the meaning of maghrib prayers is the ‘sunset‘ prayer.
Now everyone knows our daily news papers and television use the terms ‘sunset‘ and ‘sunrise’ knowing full well that is not literally the case. Again the Qur’an is using terminology that is familiar to its readers. This is why in a so called ‘sahih‘ or sound hadith we find the thoughts of the prevalent culture on the matter here:
Sufyan (al-Thawri)- Al-A’mash- Ibrahim (b. Yazid al-Taymi)- Yazid al-Taymi- Narrated Abu Dharr: The Prophet asked me at sunset, “Do you know where the sun goes (at the time of sunset)?” I replied, “Allah and His Messenger know better.” He said, “It goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates Itself underneath Throne and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the west. And that is the interpretation of the Statement of Allah: “And the sun is quickly proceeding towards its destination. That is the designing of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. ” (36.38) (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith 421)
Yet another example and this is one is rather disappointing as well.
“And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.” (Qur’an 99:8)
This is another text of the Qur’an abused by people trying to make it seem as if the Qur’an was making profound comments about particle physics or sub atomic particles in general!
The word in question is the Arabic word dharra
Taken from the following site: http://www.linguisticmiracle.com/tafsir/zalzala
“Dharra – smallest thing imaginable. To the arabs, the smallest thing imaginable was the ant’s egg, and they called it dharra. We might describe dharra as an atom or speck in the english language. Dharra – the light dust you see floating in the air when the sun is shining – through the window – on a sunny day. Each of these dust particles is a dharra. This signifies the smallest and most lightest imaginable thing being a dharra of good or evil which will be seen on that Day.”
“The smaller something is, the lighter it is in weight, and the smallest speck may seem worthless, but on that Day there will be full justice on big and the smallest of matters.”
In other words the Qur’an was not on some mission to disclose information about sub atomic particles or atoms, neutrinos or even the higgs boson but was simply relating to humanity that the smallest of things will not go unnoticed be it good or bad.
Here are how some translations deal with this text here:
Interestingly the Muhsin Khan translation says, “And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it.”
Dr. Zakir Naik is a proponent for this kind of wild interpretation of the text. Here is a classic example of Dr. Zakir Naik making leaps with the text:
You can see another example in the translation here:
You will note that Pickthall translates the word dharra as such:
“Lo! Allah wrongeth not even of the weight of an ant; and if there is a good deed, He will double it and will give (the doer) from His presence an immense reward.” (Qur’an 4:40)
However, not to be outdone people like Harun Yahya and others have begun translating the verses in question as “sub atomic particles” because an atom is not the smallest ‘thing‘.
However, with current breakthroughs in particle physics I guess one would need to revise their translation of the Qur’an every 10 -15 years so they could replace electrons with neutrinos and quarks and than re-revise the translation to read higgs boson and so forth.
I sincerely call upon my Muslim brothers and sisters to stop this. Just stop. Its enough already. The best way to translate Qur’an 99:8 is ‘iota‘ or ‘smallest thing‘ very simple, that way it covers everything that could possibly be discovered!
The Arabic word dharra has come to adopt words such as atom and sub atomic particles as part of its meaning. However, it is not the meaning inherent in the word.
Yet this is what happens when over zealous individuals start to read things into the text that simply is not there.
I hope that you will stick with us as we continue this series:
Does the Qur’an disclose information of a miraculous scientific nature?