Scientific descriptions in the Quran

Musings on Life

While in recent times some scientific discoveries have dealt a deathblow to many religious beliefs, it is amazingly the same discoveries of science have highlighted various aspects of the Quran and they are found compatible with them.

The Qur’an goes beyond simply encouraging all human beings to be aware of the natural world. It also contains widely dispersed references on a variety of subjects which are not only scientifically accurate, but in some cases, quite advanced relative to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and to the surprise to many, there are some references such as ‘extra-terrestrial-life’, which are yet to be discovered. For the Muslim who reads and understands these references, they serve to strengthen his or her faith of course. For the non-Muslim who questions the authenticity or authorship of the Qur’an, these references provide some interesting answers.

Three categories of Verses in the Quran related to Science

There are various verses in the Quran which indicate scientific phenomena. For ease of understanding we may categorize them in three heads:

• The first categoryindicates a general description of the comprehensible natural phenomenon going on in the Universe and various objects scattered all over the world. These are presented by the Quran as “SIGNS”(“ayaats” in Arabic): something which indicate ‘Control’, ’Power’, ‘Organization’ in the system mentioned in the verse; moreover it indicates coordination, interlinking and interdependence among different systems operating in the nature; all these to the highest perfection, without any flaw. For example read the following verse carefully:

[Quran 2:164] Behold! in the creation of the heavens & the earth , in the alteration of the Night & the Day , in the sailing of the ships through the Ocean for the profit of mankind , in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies and the life which He gives there with to an earth that was dead ; in the beasts of all kinds that He Scatters through the earth ; in the change of the winds and the clouds which they trail like slaves between the sky and the earth ; (Here) indeed are SIGNS for a people that are Wise .

[Quran 10:6] For, verily, in the alternating of night and day, and in all that God has created in the heavens and on earth there are messages indeed for people who are conscious of Him!
There is a long list of very interesting signs worth reading minutely. (For dearth of space we are not quoting these here) as an example see this verse:

[Quran 30:22] And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who are possessed of [innate] knowledge!
Mark that each verse starts with ‘And among His Signs is’ and ends with such clauses as ‘verily,in that are indeed Signs for people who contemplate’, ‘who listen’, ‘who use their intellect’
• In the second categorythere are verses which contain certain words indicating some scientific facts.See a few examples:
10:5 He it is who has made the sun a [source of] radiant light and the moon a light [reflected], and has determined for it phases so that you might know how to compute the years and to measure [time]. None of this has God created without [an inner] truth. Clearly does He spell out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge.

Here the word ‘Ziya’in’ Arabic for ‘shining’ attributed to the sun as its qualifier, it indicates a light which comes out of something blazing but the word ‘Noor’ attached to the Moon ascribed to soothing cool light . Again the word “Qaddarahu” (measured it) comes from the root word ‘qadara’ in Arabic which means “a very calculated and measured quantity in due proportion’’. As we know the planet earth and its satellite moon are so well calculated and are at a measured distances and angles of axis of rotation with reference to the sun that even a slight change in any parameter will change the whole eco system of the earth.

[Quran 78:6&7] Have we not made the earth a resting-place [for you],and the mountains [its] pegs?
In these verses the words ‘Mehad’ (resting place) and ‘Autada’ (pegs) are very significant from scientific point of view, the first indicates that the earth with all its high speed of rotation (1670 Km/hr at the equator about its axis of rotation and the speed of it 107,000 Km/hr along its orbit round the Sun)amazingly seems to be a very comfortable place for the mankind . The term Autada word indicates that the mountains are not just heavy rocky masses kept over the surface of earth but they are ‘pegged into the earth’. The researchers found roots under each mountain which penetrate the depths of the Earth. Researcher were amazed when they found that this fact has been revealed in the Quran says “And the mountains as pegs?’’

[Quran 79:32] The Quran says “And the mountain has He firmly fixed” “Yet in another verse: “He set on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with you” [Quran 31:15]
[Quran 16:68] And [consider how] YourSustainer has inspired the bee: “Prepare for yourself dwellings in mountains and in trees, and in what [men] may build [for you by way of hives];
[Quran 16:69] And then eat of all manner of fruit, and follow humbly the paths ordained for you by thy Sustainer.” [And lo!]There issues from within these [bees] a fluid of many hues, wherein there is health for man. In all this, behold, there is a message indeed for people who think!
The remarkable points here are the words used for the verbs (in Arabic verse) for the Bee are such that indicate feminine gender of the bee: the researchers have found it very recently that indeed it is the feminine bees which do their jobs mentioned above.
• The third categoriesof verses are those which reveal direct descriptions of scientific facts showing compatibility with modern science

[Quran 36:38] And the sun runs his course for a period determined for him: That is the measuring of the Mighty, the Wise.
[Quran 13:2] It is God who has raised the heavens without any supports that you could see, and is established on the throne of His Almightiness; and He [it is who] has made the sun and the moon subservient [to His laws], each running its course for a term set [by Him]. He governs all that exists. Clearly does He spell out these messages, so that you might be certain in your innermost that you are destined to meet your Sustainer [on The Judgment Day].

In these two verses and on many other occasions in the Quran are mentioned that the sun and moon are running unto their destinations (i.e. for a predetermined time) and that this movement is an orbit (Arabic word used for it is ‘falak; it is clearly mentioned at two places 21:33 and 36:40)

[Quran 21:33] 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 orbit.

[Quran 36:40] 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). The cosmologist tell us that in the sun the actual fuel burning is hydrogen with a fast rate and it will all exhaust in about 200 million years.
[Quran 41:12] And We adorned the skies nearest to the earth with lamps, and made them secure: That is the measuring of the Mighty, the Knower.
Three remarkable points are to be noted:

a)stars are described as lamps which imply that stars are burning bodies.
b)the earth is made secured (from harmful elements though not mentioned here by name ) but emphasis falls upon the word “secured”; justified by scientific discoveries how harmful cosmic rays are barred to enter our atmosphere ,the Ozone Layer acting as shield.
c)with the word measuring Arabic :“taqdeer”(this word coming from the root ‘qadara’ ,mentioned above meaning ‘ordering something with the sophisticated measuring and proportionality). Iit is emphasised here that some stars are set near the Earth as an adornment and that this planet is made protected in the best possible measured way. All these are scientific facts well known to us today.

Here worth mentioning are the four consecutive passages from the same chapter (Surah Anbiya):
[Quran 21:30] 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?
[Quran 21:31] And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with them, and We have made therein broad highways (between mountains) for them to pass through: that they may receive Guidance.
[Quran 21:32] And We have made the heavens as a canopy well-guarded: yet do they turn away from the Signs which these things (point to)!
[Quran 21:33] 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.
This whole passage of four verses is packed with facts closely compatible with latest scientific data. In short, the following facts are indicated here:
a. That the whole universe was assembled at one junction and God caused it to explode and disperse:an indication of the Big Bang Theory, the latest theory among the modern cosmologists for Creation of the Universe.Currently, the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe is the cosmological paradigm most widely accepted by astronomers. It holds that about 15 billion years ago the universe began with the explosive expansion of a single, extremely dense matter, the primordial mass. It was only after the development of radio telescopes in 1937 that, the necessary observational precision was achieved so that the astronomers could arrive at the above conclusion.
b. That every living organism was created from water: it is a conclusion to which our latest knowledge in biological science point.
c. That mountains were formed by Him to keep the earth in dynamic balance (this term ‘dynamic balance’ we use in Mechanical Engineering parlance, as the earth is rotating about its own axis and at the same time it is revolving about the sun with a speed far greater than that of a bullet from AK-47 rifle; and yet amazingly it is perfectly balanced.
d. That the ‘sky of the earth’ was made protected from such harmful elements. The word sky here refers to the Arabic word used ‘samaa’ conveys a meaning of ‘canopy’ apart from the usual meaning ‘heavens’.
e. That each heavenly body,planets, stars and galaxies revolve in its own “falak”(orbit).This was not known at the time of the Prophet that all celestial bodies are moving and that too ‘moving in orbits’; this is a finding of the recent times.
f. Day and night; the sun and the moon were created and that each of them (and by corollary each star) is swimming in its orbit. Descriptions of ‘orbit’ is remarkable and the word “yasbahoon“(swimming) is amazing.
It is the very latest information in the field of cosmology that between the stars and galaxies exists no ‘vacuum’ but is filled with ‘inter- stellar dust ‘Interstellar Gas.
[Approximately 99% of the interstellar medium is composed of interstellar gas, and of its mass, about 75% is in some form of hydrogen (either molecular or atomic), with the remaining 25% as helium. The interstellar gas consists partly of neutral atoms and molecules, as well as charged particles, such as ions and electrons. This gas is extremely dilute, with an average density of about 1 atom per cubic centimeter. (For comparison, the air we breathe has a density of approximately 30*1018 molecules per cubic centimeter.) Even though the interstellar gas is very dilute, the amount of matter adds up over the vast distances between the stars.See the detail on http://www-ssg.sr.unh.edu/ism/what1.html]
This fact is also indicated in the following verses where a clause “the heavens and the earth and all in between them” is used at 19 places: 15:85,19:65,20:6,21:16,25:59,26:24,30:8 and many other verses; see one example:
[Quran 30:8] Do they not reflect in their own minds? Not but for just ends and for a term appointed, did Allah create the heavens and the earth, and all between them.

Every thing in the World is in due Proportion and Balance
[Quran 13:8] Allah does know what every female (womb) does bear, by how much the wombs fall short (of their time or number) or do exceed. Every single thing is before His sight, in (due) proportion.
[Quran 54:49]Behold, everything have We created in due measure and proportion;
These are very remarkable statements everything in the whole universe, from the configurational details of an atom to the movements of stars and galaxies; from the design of DNA to the sophisticated balance of hormones in a man; all indicate a very sophisticated proportion, well balanced design in each of the things we see in the world . A slight alteration in any dimension will thoroughly upset the proportion and order causing havoc not only in the thing concerned but entire inter-linked system as well.
Gender Determination in an embryo-Man is responsible not Woman
The concept of “Gender Determination” as being described by geneticists is one of the outstanding information revealed in the Quran. This information is universally acknowledged that sperms are the deciding factors in determining the gender (male or female) in the embryo. This determination through the male sperm is due to the fact that sperms have X and Y chromosomes, while the female ovum has only X Chromosomes (X, X). Through the Quran, The Almighty informs us that it is the male sperms that determine the type of gender for the new offspring:
[Quran 75:36-40] “Does man think that he will be left uncontrolled (without purpose)? Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in humble form)? Then did (God) make and fashion (him) in due proportion. And of him He made two sexes, male and female…”
[Quran 75:37] Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)?
[Quran 75:38] Then did he become a leech-like clot; then did (Allah) make and fashion (him) in due proportion.

[Quran 75:39] And fashioned out of it (Arabic in the Quran: ja’alaminhu—meaning ‘making, fashioning out of the sperm to which ‘minhu’ indicates) the two sexes, the male and the female.

These verses indicate that the sex of the child in the womb of a mother is determined by the ‘nutfa’ (a very small quantity of semen) of man and it is not dependent on the ovum of the woman. This is a statement from the Quran which surprises us as it is the latest finding of recent times. This statement of the Quran amazes the modern man as to how the Quran could mention such a sophisticated factwhich could be known now only after invention of Electron Microscope.
Embryo behind Three Veils
[Quran 39:6] “He creates you in your mothers’ wombs, one act of creation after another, in three veils of darkness. Thus is God, your Sustainer: unto Him belongs all dominion: there is no deity save Him: how, then, can you lose sight of the truth?”
In three veils of darkness: Means three anatomical layers: abdominal layer the uterus itself and the surrounding of the foetus (placenta, embryonic membranes, amniotic fluid).
Comments on the above Quranic statements by anexpert
Keith L. Moore:A noted embryologist and expert in his field, upon being presented with the statements made in the Qur’an regarding the stages of the formation of the embryo from the mixing of the male and female gametes up to the embryo’s full development remarked “It has been a 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 (pbuh) from God or Allah because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later.“Professor Moore presented his findings to scientists at several conferences. Several Canadian periodicals published many of Moore’s statements and in addition he presented three television programmes in which he highlighted the compatibility of modern science with what has been revealed in the Qur’an 1400 years ago. Consequently, he was asked: “Does this mean that you believe that the Qur’an is the word of God?” to which he replied “I find no difficulty in accepting this.”
In fact Professor Moore was so amazed at the accuracy of the descriptions and the terminology used for the various stages of the development of the embryo that he modified his own textbook on the subject. He incorporated all the relevant Qur’anic passages and authentic statements of the Prophet Muhammad into his book, “The Developing Human: Clinically oriented embryology” with Islamic additions, which was published by WB Saunders in 1987 and was a standard university textbook in the United States.The book now contains passages of the Qur’an and the Hadeeth (verified statements of the Prophet Muhammad) for every stage of development and Professor Moore has also adopted the classification used in the above two sources.http://www.quranandscience.com/human/135-dr-keith-moore-confirms-embryology-in-quran.html

Expanding Universe
In 1925, Edwin Hubble (after whom the Hubble Space telescope is named) provided the observational evidence for the expansion of the universe. Stephen Hawking (author of ‘A Brief History of Time’) states: “The universe is not static, as had previously been thought, it is expanding”. So what did God reveal in the Quran, 1400 years ago?
[Quran 51:47] “And the firmament, We constructed with power and skill and verily We are expanding it”.
Extra Terrestrial Life (ET)
At the end of this article I quote verses which indicate a very surprising description that there are living beings in other places besides this earth. Extra Terrestrial life (ET) is the current topic of discussion in scientific circles. Refer these verses in the Quran, for brevity we show the translations of the first two only:42:29,65:12,16:49,17:44,24:41,22:18.
• 42:29(Asad) And among His signs is the [very] creation of the heavens and the earth, and of all the living creatures which He has caused to multiply throughout them: and [since He has created them,] He has [also] the power to gather them [unto Him¬self] whenever He wills. “in both” (Arabic word used is ‘feehima’ meaning ‘in both’ denoting the heavens and the earth . In the Qur’an, the expression “the heavens and the earth” invariably denotes the universe in its entirety.(see explanatory note of Asad in http://www.islamicity.com/QuranSearch/ )
(16:49) All the living creatures in the heavens and the earth and all the angels prostrate themselves in adoration before Allah; *42they do not show any arrogance at all;
*42 That is, “Not only all things on the earth alone but also all things in the heavens, including all those whom people have been regarding as gods and goddesses. and considering to be closely related to Allah are subservient to God, and have no share whatsoever in His Godhead.”
Incidentally, it implies the existence of living creatures not only on the earth but in the planets, too. (See the detail here: http://www.islamicstudies.info/tafheem.php?sura=16&verse=41&to=50)

[Quran 65:12] Allah is He Who created seven Firmaments and of the earth a similar number.Through the midst of them (all) descends His Command: that ye may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah comprehends, all things in (His) Knowledge.
(Most commentators of the Quran are of view that ‘seven’ mentioned here and at many places in the Quran mean as ‘many in number’. The translation “of the earth a similar number” isfor the Arabic words used in the text are “waminaalardimithlahunna”
See the translation and commentary of this verse by the renowned exegetist A.A.Maududi below: (refer to http://www.quranenglish.com/tafheem_quran/065.htm ) The explanatory note on this verse is worthy of due attention of the modern cosmologists and interesting to laymen.
The Protected Roof

In the Qur’an, God calls our attention to a very interesting attribute of the sky:
[Quran 21:32] We made the sky a preserved and protected roof yet still they turn away from Our signs.
This attribute of the sky has been proved by scientific research carried out only in the 20th century.
The atmosphere surrounding the earth serves crucial functions for the continuity of life. i.) While destroying many meteors big and small as they approach the earth, it prevents them from falling to earth and harming living things.

ii.) In addition, the atmosphere filters the light rays coming from space that are harmful to living things. Interestingly, the atmosphere lets only harmless and useful rays– visible light, near ultraviolet light, and radio waves pass through. All of this radiation is vital for life. Near ultraviolet rays, which are only partially let in by the atmosphere, are very important for the photosynthesis of plants and for the survival of all living beings. The majority of the intense ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun are filtered out by the ozone layer of the atmosphere and only a limited–and essential–part of the ultraviolet spectrum reaches the Earth.

iii.) The atmosphere also protects the earth from the freezing cold of the space, which is about minus 270 degree Celsius.
iv) In addition to the atmosphere, the Van Allen Belt, a layer caused by the magnetic field of the Earth, also serves as a shield against the harmful radiation that threatens our planet. This radiation, which is constantly emitted by the Sun and other stars, is deadly to living things. If the Van Allen belt did not exist, the massive outbursts of energy called solar flares that frequently occur in the Sun would destroy all life on Earth.
Dr. Hugh Ross has this to say on the importance of Van Allen Belts to our lives:

In fact, the Earth has the highest density of any of the planets in our Solar System. This large nickel-iron core is responsible for our large magnetic field. This magnetic field produces the Van-Allen radiation shield, which protects the Earth from radiation bombardment. If this shield were not present, life would not be possible on the Earth. The only other rocky planet to have any magnetic field is Mercury – but its field strength is 100 times less than the Earth’s. Even Venus, our sister planet, has no magnetic field. The Van-Allen radiation shield is a design unique to the Earth.

An Extra Note:

Dr. Maurice Bucaille, a French Surgeon, scientist and university scholar, and the author of one of the most popular books about scripture and science, “The Bible, The Quran and Science” and “What is the Origin of Man” writes:
In `La Bible,, le Coran et la Science’ [The Bible, the Qur’an and Science], which first appeared in the original French in 1976 and which subsequently appeared in English in 1978, I set forth the main points of these findings. On November 9, 1976, I gave a lecture to the Academic de Medecine[French Academy of Medicine] in, which I explored the statements on the origins of man contained in the Qur’an; the title of the lecture was `Donneesphysiologiques et embryologiques du Coran’ [Physiological and Embryological Data in the Qur’an. I emphasized the fact that these data, which I shall summarize below, formed part of a much wider study. The following are some of the points, which arise from a reading of the Qur’an:
• A concept of the creation of the world which while different from the ideas contained in the Bible, is fully in keeping with today’s general theories on the formation of the universe;
• Statements that are in perfect agreement with today’s ideas concerning the movements and evolution of the heavenly bodies;
• A prediction of the conquest of space; notions concerning the water cycle in nature and the earth’s relief, which were not proven correct until many centuries later.

All of these data are bound to amaze anyone who approaches them in an objective spirit. They add a much wider dimension to the problem studied in the present work. The basic point remains the same, however: we must surely be in the presence of facts which place a heavy strain on our natural propensity for explaining everything in materialistic terms, for the existence in the Qur’an of these scientific statements appears as a challenge to human explanation.”
“It makes us deem it quite unthinkable for a man of Muhammad’s time to have been the author of such statements, on account of the state of knowledge in his day. Such considerations are part of what gives the Qur’anic revelation its unique place among religious and non-religious texts, and forces the impartial scientist to admit his inability to provide an explanation based solely upon materialistic reasoning.”

(See the detailed interesting discussion in “What is the origin of Man?” And “the Bible the Quran and Science” now available in the Internet: search these titles in Google)

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