BY MUMIN SALIH · JULY 2, 2015
Muslim scholars still claim that the Quran contains numerous scientific miracles. Many Muslim Arabs regard those claims as the most important reason why they accept Islam as the true divine religion.
The term ‘scientific miracle’ is a contradictory expression, just like saying a black white. Science is based on explanations and calculated results, while miracles are unpredictable and unexplainable. However, by claiming the Quran has ‘scientific miracles’, Muslim scholars only mean that the Quran is correct and it agrees with science. Of course, any book is supposed to be correct, but since the Quran is centuries old, Muslims believe it was expected to be wrong, had it been authored by a man.
The issue of scientific miracles in the Quran is fairly recent, only about four decades old. There was nothing about this subject in the standard Islamic education as approved by Al-Azhar and Arab governments until at least the 1970s. Before that, Arab Muslims were taught that the language of the Quran is miraculous – a claim many Arabs didn’t find convincing.
In the last century, Arabs passed through a brief period of renaissance marked with some decline in their interest in religion. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Arabs woke up to the painful fact that they were far behind the west in science and in technology. Muslim clerics lost some of their influence as they were unable to provide answers to questions of modern life and were often considered as obstacles to development.
The rescue came from Maurice Bucaille, a French doctor who worked for the Saudi king in the 1970s. The generously paid doctor learned the skill of how to make the Muslim Arabs happy by praising their religion and culture. His book about the Bible, the Quran and modern science was published in 1976 and claimed that the Quran, unlike the bible, was free from scientific errors. Oil money seems to have paid well. To the Islamists it was like winning the jackpot.
To this point, I must say that I never met a Muslim who actually read Maurice Bucaille book, although they all knew about it. But that didn’t matter because the important point was the fact that a western Christian has admitted that the Quran is scientifically accurate. If a Muslim wrote such a book it wouldn’t have made such an impact, as the material contained was not the issue but the author was. Speaking of myself, I read parts of the book during the height of my religious interest and was never really convinced of its arguments, but who cares? What mattered to me was the fact that a western Christian made an admission that the Quran is correct, scientifically. I believed all the claims made in the book not because they convinced me but because they happened to suit me. Keep in mind though that those days it wasn’t usual for westerners to praise Islam or convert to it.
Maurice Bucaille’s book, being written by a western Christian, made me clench to Islam longer. It must have had a similar impact on other Muslims as well. Its success stimulated the Saudis to spread the word through other means such as special TV programs and to establish the International Commission of Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunna. Sheikh Zindani was appointed in charge of the commission which encouraged pseudo-academics to do as many as possible of pseudo- research that supported their point.
Obviously, Maurice Bucaille didn’t believe his own claims because if he did he should have converted to Islam immediately to save his soul. Having read the Quran, he must have learned that the unbelievers will be burnt in hell fire for eternity. Some Muslims claim that he had lately converted to Islam, which does not make any difference; he certainly wasn’t sure he will live to see the light of another day.
The appearance of the ‘Miracle Specialists’
Maurice Bucaille’s success lead to the appearance of a new breed of Muslim scholars called ‘the miracle specialists’ whose role was to spread this myth of Quranic miracles to the world. They first targeted the Muslims (to strengthen their faith) and then the non-Muslims working in Saudi Arabia (those days, non-Muslim conversions to Islam were generously rewarded). Exploring scientific miracles in the Quran became a big business in the Islamic world with its own celebrities.
Because true Muslims believe the Quran to be Allah’s words, they also believe it must be absolutely accurate. Everything else in life must give in to maintain the integrity of such absolute belief. When the Quran doesn’t agree with common sense or logical thinking, then these have to be modified to conform with the Quran’s logic. Good Muslims must dismiss as wrong any scientific finding that opposes the teachings of the Quran, even if it appears to be correct. Who knows? the scientific evidence might change in the future (with Allah’s willing), but the Quran will never change.
True Muslims’ golden rule is that Allah is always right while everything else can be wrong. If a scientific fact is not in line with Quranic teachings, it simply doesn’t become a fact at all. Any true Muslim will choose to be on Allah’s side even when it is against the entire world. True Muslims do not really need modern science to strengthen their faith. However, they understand that not all Muslims have a perfect faith like theirs; therefore, proving that the Quran is in harmony with science is always welcome.
The miracle specialists follow an aggressive approach in selling their lies. They inject scientific language and terminology into ordinary Arabic text to give it a scientific appearance. They know it is unlikely for their their simple audience to double check the accuracy of the claims they make. They developed a clever strategy to solve the incompatibilities between Quran and science. While the Quran is made of divine words that cannot be changed or modified, the interpretation of those words can be changed. After all, Arabic dictionaries and the interpretation books are not divine, therefore, can be changed.
For two decades after the establishment of the International Commission of Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunna, its officials were very busy hunting for gullible western academics. Surprisingly, there was no shortage of western scientists who were willing to endorse, in return for money and fame, whatever appealed to the miracle advocates. The willing scientists got invitations to the frequent meetings lavishly organised by the commission. The presence of the western scientists in such meetings was of significance as it gave the presented papers some kind of authenticity from what looked like a neutral party. However, the scientific value of the presence of western scientists in meetings where the discussion is centred on Arabic knowledge remains anyone’s guess.
Prophets and Miracles
The Quran told the stories of many prophets who were armed with miracles, which served the purpose of a divine stamp of authenticity. For example, Moses had his famous stick, which converted to a snake and with which he caused the sea to split. Sulaiman was in control of the wind and the jinn and was able to understand the language of animals. Jesus had the capability to cure the sick and wake up the dead. No human being who witnessed any of those miracles could argue with them, although it was up to them whether to believe in the prophet or not.
The Quran’s miracles, assuming there are any, are very different because they are invisible and, to those who can imagine their existence, are only about common knowledge. Furthermore, their recognition needs to be worked out by people with good command of Arabic, uncritical minds and special kind of imagination (or even hallucination). The irony is that the Quran, if we are supposed to believe it, says with undisputed clarity that Mohammed had no miracles. The Quran repeated this assertion multiple times in a number of verses -Mohammed had no miracles. The Arabs, the Quran says, promised Mohammed to believe in him if he produced to them a miracle but he didn’t. The reason, according to the Quran, was that Allah had enough of sending miracles people who didn’t believe in them.
The claims about scientific miracles in the Quran is a risky business since it exposes the Islamic scripture to scientific scrutiny. For centuries, the Muslims believed that the Quran is a divine book authored by the infallible Allah, therefore, it is absolutely perfect. The finding of one mistake, no matter how trivial, means that the Quran was neither authored nor preserved by Allah and the entire system of Islam collapses in an instant.
The number of claims of scientific miracles keeps rising with every conference about the subject. Probably there are hundreds of claims by now but none of them deserves consideration. This article will look at three of the most pivotal claims made by the so called miracles specialists to expose their lies.
The Shape of the Earth
The Muslim scholars claim that the Quran described the shape of the earth correctly, albeit they are not sure in which verse.
The Quran describes the shape of the earth very clearly, and in numerous verses, as FLAT. It actually used most, if not all, the Arabic expressions to make its point. Interestingly, a thousand years before the Quran, the Greeks were aware of the spherical shape of the earth and calculated its circumference with reasonable accuracy. Even in Mohammed’s time, a flat earth was the knowledge of the ignorants.
The following is a list of the verses referring to the shape of earth. The Arabic words used in the Quran are in bold.
Q. 13:3 “And He it is who hath outstretched the earth, and placed on it the firm mountains”
Q. 15:19 “And the earth have WE spread out”
Q. 20:53 “[since he is the One] Who has laid out the earth as a carpet for you”
Q. 2:22 “Who made the earth a bed for you, and the heaven a roof”
Q. 43:10 “(Yea, the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out”
Q. 50:6-7 “What, have they not beheld heaven above them, how we have built it, and decked it out fair, and it has no cracks? And the earth — We stretched it forth, and cast on it firm mountains, and we caused to grow therein of every joyous kind”
Q. 51:48 “And the earth we have spread out, and how excellently do we spread it out”
Q. 71:19 “And God has laid the earth for you as a carpet”
Q. 78:6 “Have WE not made the earth as a bed, And the mountains as pegs”
Q. 79:27-30 “What, are you stronger in constitution or the heaven He built? He lifted up its vault, and levelled it, and darkened its night, and brought forth its forenoon; and the earth – after that He spread it out…”
Q. 88:20 “Nor even how the earth has been flattened out”
Q. 91:5-6 “By the heaven and that which built it and by the earth and That which extended it”
The Quran describes the shape of earth using the following Arabic words:
Madda, Madadnaha, Firasha, Mahdan, Farashnaha, Bisata, Mihada, Dahaha, Tahaha and Sutehat.
Every one of the above words means FLAT. I am trying to think of other words in the Arabic language that mean flat but can’t find any! It is clear that Allah, according to the Quran, wants to tell man that earth is flat, and he used all the available Arabic vocabulary to make his point. Flat is precisely what the Arabs understood from the Quran for centuries.
It is clear that the Quran made a fatal error in describing the shape of the earth. The Muslims, however, do not admit defeat because it would mean the falsehood of their religion, which is unthinkable to them. Faced with such a dilemma, the Muslim scholars had to think of some explanations without harming the ‘absolute perfection’ of the Quran.
They re-interpreted the Quran and changed the laws of the language, even they invented new meanings for the words. Most scholars say: “Well, focus on verse 79:30 and ignore the others, the verse uses the word ‘dahaha’ which means egg shaped, modern science discovered that the earth isn’t a sphere but egg shaped”. The Muslim scholars who bothered to read about the difference in the earth’s diameters should have read the difference is not significant enough to make it look like an egg. From outer space, the earth still looks like a sphere. The main point, however, is that the word dahaha doesn’t mean eggs, it means flat in all Arabic dictionaries. It is the flat bed prepared by the Ostrich to lay its eggs. The Muslim scholars clenched to the word ‘eggs’ in the above definition and ignored the rest of it. They even started using the word to mean an egg, in their articles, books and TV programs, which generated some criticism from other Arabs.
Other Muslim scholars follow a different route; they would apologise for the mistakes made by their colleagues in interpreting the word dahaha but still insist that the Quran described the earth as sphere. They say: “well, ignore all the above verses and read with me verse 39:5, which is not mentioned above, it mentions the word ‘yukawwer’ ( to make like a sphere) clearly”. Verse 39:5 reads: “ He wraps the night up in the day, and wraps the day up in the night”. Indeed, the word yukawwer, which is translated here as “wraps”, also means to make like a ball. However, the word does not refer to earth, it refers to the day and night.
A third group of Muslim scholars follow a philosophical approach. They say: When the Quran says earth is flat it means the earth appears to be flat, so wherever you are on earth it appears to you flat, and this can happen only if the earth is round!! But the Quran doesn’t use the word appear (tahsabuha in Arabic) at all. The Quran has used words that mean appear to you in other verses and could have used them again in this context to make its point, but it didn’t. My question to the Muslim scholars is: Assume that the earth is really flat, and Allah wanted to say it in the Quran, how else the information could be communicated? what other expressions left that could be used? Are there any other Arabic expressions left in the language that Allah has not used in the Quran to give the meaning of flat?
Until we get a convincing answer, I am afraid the earth remains flat according to the Quran.
Development of the human embryo
The miracle specialists claim that the Quran described the stages of the human embryo development in verses (Q.23: 12-14): “Verily We created man from a product of wet earth (12). Then we placed him as a drop of seed in a safe lodging (13). Then We fashioned the drop a clot (‘alaqa, something sticky ), and of the clot (‘alaqa) We fashioned a chewed lump, and of the chewed lump We fashioned bones, and We clothed the bones (with) meat. Then We produced it as another creation…(14)”
The verses say that Allah created man from a drop (of the seminal fluid). There is no reference to the ovum, which is a fatal error. Then the verses say that Allah placed the drop in a safe place (we assume it is the uterus) and the drop was created into something sticky (alaqa), then this sticky thing was made into something that looked like a chewed lump, then this chewed lump was fashioned into bone, then Allah dressed this bone with flesh. This is another fatal error as there is no stage when the embryo is made of bony skeleton waiting to be dressed with flesh.
The above verses used words like: notfa (drop), alaqa (sticky thing, or blood clot), mudgha (chewed lump). They are the kind of words that desert women would use. I don’t see in these verses anything more than a description similar to what ladies would describe a miscarriage. Miscarriages can happen at various stages of early pregnancy; so embryos look different in each stage.
Humans since the Stone Age must have noticed that man’s semen was necessary for a woman to get pregnant. They also must have noticed how embryos look like after miscarriages at various stages of pregnancy. I wonder how else a woman in 7th century Arabia would describe her understanding of the development of the human embryo.
The Arabs, and indeed the Jewish tribes in Arabia, criticised Mohammed whenever he said something that looked absurd to them. On this occasion, they did not. There is no shred of evidence that these verses were met with any criticism, which indicates that the verses must have agreed with the prevailing knowledge of the 7th century.
The miracle specialists cherish the embryo subject because it is their most significant success. It happened in 1981 when Prof. Keith Moore of Canada fell into the trap set for him by the Saudi organisation dealing with the Quranic miracles. He shamelessly accepted that the Quran has an accurate description of the development of the embryo. Overnight, Moore became a celebrity enjoying the VIP treatment in his frequent trips to Islamic countries. He even published a special edition of his embryology book, apparently financed by Osama Bin laden, to whom he made an acknowledgement. Prof. Moore’s statement is widely used by Muslims who consider it as the end of discussion. Of course, Dr. Moore doesn’t speak Arabic and had no clue on how the Quran described the embryo.
When Muslims write articles about the Quran’s description of the embryo, or indeed any other ‘scientific miracle’, they follow an interesting pattern. The writers ignore all of the Quran’s errors on the subject. In the embryo example, they do not address the skeletal embryo which Allah covers with flesh, and the omission of the role of the ovum. In the shape of the earth example, they ignore the entire list of words that mean flat and focus on something that exists only in their imagination. Their articles usually start with a lengthy scientific introductions to the subject, complete with scientific diagrams and terminology. The strategy overwhelms the readers who get the impression that only specialists can understand this level of Quranic science. And its all because the Quran mentioned the sticky stuff and the chewed lump!
Muslim scholars claim that the Quran accurately describes the geology of the mountains in verses 16:15 and 78:7
First claim: Mountains and earth’s stability
The miracle specialists claim that the modern theory of plate tectonics holds that mountains work as stabilisers for the earth. The Quran explains the theory in verse Q. 16:15 “And He has thrown onto the earth mountains lest it shakes with you..”
This claim is not true, the mountains do not stabilise the earth; actually they are a result of tectonic instability.
Second claim: Mountain structure
The miracle specialists claim that the Quran described the geological science of mountains in this verse Q. 78:7 “Have We not made the earth a bed? and the mountains as pegs”.
The Arabic word ‘awtad’( translated as pegs) was more than enough for the miracle specialists to publish articles, write books and organise conferences to praise its scientific value. The Arabs insert pegs deep into the ground to support their tents. Modern science proved that mountains also have roots deep into the earth’s crust, therefore, the Quran spoke of a scientific miracle.
As usual, the Muslim miracle scholars ignore the serious error in the preceding verse, where the Quran describes the earth as flat as a bed, and focus on pegs. Unfortunately for them the Quran used the word awtad in other places to describe high rising structures, not deep rooted ones. Actually the Quran referred to the Pharaohs’ pyramids (mountain-shaped) as ‘awtad’, not once but twice:
Verse 38:12 “..and Pharaoh, the owner of the pegs”
Verse 89:10 “And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the pegs”
The above two verse are a proof that the Quran uses the word ‘awtad’ to mean high rising structures, not deep rooted ones.
When it comes to the mountains, the Quran actually makes a far more serious error; literally an out of this world error, not once or twice but dozens of times. The Quran says that the mountains do not belong to the earth at all but were thrown down on the earth (by Allah) to stop it from shaking. The Quran always speaks of the mountains as different entities from the earth, just like the sky. The following is a small sample of those verses:
Q 88: 18-20 “And at the sky, how it is raised? And at the mountains, how they are erected? And at the earth, how it is spread out?”
Q.15:19 “And the earth we have spread out; and thrown thereon mountains…”
Q. 31:10. “He created the skies without any pillars that you can see; He’s thrown down on the Earth Mountains, lest it should shake with you…”
Q. 50:7. “And the earth- We have spread it out, and thrown down thereon mountains…”
Q. 16:15 “And He has thrown down mountains on the earth, lest it should shake with you…”
I am afraid that on the miracles issue, we have to stand by the Quran because it is right and Muslim scholars are wrong.
The Quran said that Allah stopped sending miracles.
And the Quran itself proved it.