Does The Qur'an allude to scientific and technological developments
through miracles of the prophets?
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Not a thing, fresh or withered, wet or dry, but it is in a
Manifest Book. (6:59)
According to one interpretation, the Manifest Book is the Qur’an. This
verse states that everything, wet or dry, is found in it. Is that really so?
Yes, everything is found in it, but everyone cannot see that everything
therein as the things are found at different levels. The Qur’an contains all
things, either in the form of seeds, or of nuclei, or of summaries, or
principles, or signs, and they are found either explicitly or implicitly, or
allusively, or vaguely, or suggestively. One or other of these forms is
preferred according to occasion, in a way fitting for the purposes of the
Qur’an and in connection with the requirements of the context. For example:
How does the Qur’an allude to scientific and technological wonders?
As the result of man’s progress in science and industry, some scientific
and technological wonders such as planes, electricity, motor vehicles, and
means of radio and telecommunication have come into existence and taken the
most prominent position in the material life of mankind. As it addresses the
whole of mankind [at all times], the wise Qur’an certainly does not ignore
these. Indeed, it has not ignored them and points to them in two ways:
- By way of the miracles of the Prophets.
- In connection with certain historical events.
Down with the makers of the trench of the fuel-fed fire! When they sat by
it, and were themselves the witnesses of what they did to the believers.
They ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in God,
the Mighty, the All-Praised One. (85:4-8)
... in the loaded fleet. And We have created for them the like thereof
whereon they ride. (36:41–2)
Verses like these point to trains, while the following verse, besides
having many other meanings and connotations, alludes to electricity:
God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light
is as a niche wherein is a lamp, The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it
were a shining star. Kindled from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the
East or of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of it self) though
no fire touched it: Light upon light.1 God guides to His Light whom He
Since numerous people have occupied themselves with the second sort of
verses, those which allude to modern technological wonders in connection
with historical events, and since they require much care and detailed
explanation, and are in great number, for the present I shall content myself
with these verses that allude to trains and electricity.
God made Prophets also the masters and forerunners of material progress
As God Almighty sent the Prophets to human communities as leaders and
vanguards in respect of spiritual and moral progress, so also He endowed
them with certain wonders and miracles and made them the masters and
forerunners with respect to man’s material progress. He commands men to
follow them absolutely.
Thus, just as by speaking of the spiritual and moral perfections of the
Prophets, the Qur’an encourages people to benefit from them, so too in
presenting their miracles it intends that people should try to achieve the
like of them by scientific means. It may even be said that like spiritual
and moral attainments, material attainments and wonders were also first
given to mankind as a gift through Prophetic miracles. The Prophet Noah,
upon him be peace, was the first to build ships, and Joseph, upon him be
peace, the clock. Therefore, the ship and clock were first given to mankind
as Prophetic miracles. It is a meaningful indication to this reality that so
many craft guilds take a Prophet as the ‘patron’ or originator of their
craft. For example, seamen take Noah, watchmakers take Joseph, tailors take
Enoch, upon them be peace, and so on.
Since truth-seeking scholars and the science of eloquence have agreed
that each of the Qur’an’s verses contains guidance and instruction, then the
verses concerning the miracles of the Prophets, the most brilliant among the
Qur’an’s verses, should not be taken as historical events; rather, they
comprise numerous indications of guidance. By mentioning the miracles of the
Prophets, the Qur’an shows the ultimate goal of scientific and technological
developments, and specifies their final aims. It urges man forward toward
those aims. Just as the past is the field for the seeds of the future and
mirror to its potential picture, so too the future is the time to reap the
harvest of the past life and mirror to the actual situation. Now, out of
many examples, I shall point out only a few:
examples of verses alluding to scientific progress through miracles of The