Qur'an and scientific developments

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Does the Qur'an allude to scientific developments?

Before answering this question, we should point out one important fact: Considering science as opposed to religion and scientific study as separate from and independent of the Qur’an is just as mistaken as trying to reduce the Qur’an to a science textbook and showing that every new scientific theory or fact is to be found in it.

For example, some have claimed, especially in Turkey, that the dabbet al–ard (little moving creature) mentioned in Qur’an 27:82 is the virus that causes AIDS. However, this is a hasty conclusion for several reasons: the Qur’an is silent about this dabbe’s nature; if we accept this assertion, we also must accept other venereal disease-causing bacteria or viruses; and, we cannot know whether new viral diseases and more lethal than AIDS will appear in the future. The context in which dabbet al-ard appears suggests that it will emerge toward the end of this world, when almost no one believes in God. So, we must not show haste in trying to find some type of correspondence between a Qur’anic verse and every new development in science and technology.

Scientific theories are usually like clothes, for both are discarded after a while. Trying to show that every new scientific fact or theory can be found in the Qur’an displays the Muslim world’s inferiority complex and makes science more important than the Qur’an. Each Qur’anic verse and expression has a universal content. Therefore, any time-specific interpretation can address only one aspect of that universal content.

Every interpreter, scientist, and saint prefers a particular aspect as a result of his or her spiritual discovery or intuition, personal evidence, or natural disposition. Besides, we accept both Newton’s physics and Einstein’s physics as “science” and therefore true. Although in absolute terms both may be false, there certainly must be some truth in both.

Causality is a veil spread by God Almighty over the rapid flux of existence so that we can plan our lives to some degree. This means that Newton’s physics and Einstein’s physics are only relatively true. In short, while pondering the Qur’anic verses, we should consider the relative truths found in existence and our lives, which are much more numerous than the unchanging absolute truths.

Qur’anic expressions have multiple meanings.

Qur’anic expressions have multiple meanings. For example, consider the verses: He let forth the two seas that meet together, between them a barrier, they do not overpass (55:19-20), which are repeated daily by Muslim worshippers. These verses indicate all the pairs of “seas” or realms, spiritual and material, figurative and actual, from the realms of Lordship and servanthood to the spheres of necessity and contingency, from this world to the Hereafter (including this visible, corporeal world and all unseen worlds), the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the Mediterranean and Red Seas, salt water and sweet water in the seas and underground, and such large rivers as the Euphrates and Tigris that carry sweet water and salty seas to which they flow. All of these, together with many others I do not need to mention here, are included in these verses, whether literally or figuratively.

So even if a Qur’anic verse or expression appears to point exactly to an established scientific fact, we should not restrict its meaning to that fact; rather, we should consider all other possible meanings and interpretations as well.

On the other hand, sometimes the Qur’an does point or allude to specific scientific developments and facts. Being the Divine Revelation that includes everything of wet or dry (6:59), it cannot exclude them. Indeed, it refers to them directly or indirectly, but not in the manner of science and materialistic or naturalistic philosophy.

The Qur’an is not a science textbook that has to explain cosmological or scientific matters at great length.

The Qur’an is not a science textbook that has to explain cosmological or scientific matters at great length; rather, it is the eternal interpretation of the Book of the Universe and the interpreter of all natural and other sciences. It comments upon the visible and invisible worlds, and discloses the spiritual treasures of the Divine Beautiful Names in the heavens and the Earth. The Qur’an is the key leading to an understanding of the hidden realities behind the events taking place in nature and human life, and is the tongue of the hidden worlds in the manifest world.

The Qur’an is like the sun shining in the spiritual and intellectual sky of Islam. It is the sacred map of the next world; the expounder of the Divine Attributes, Names, and acts; and the educator of humanity that guides us to truth and virtue. It is a book of law and wisdom, worship and prayer, Divine commands and prohibitions. Fully satisfying our spiritual and intellectual needs, it leaves no theological, social, economic, political, or even scientific issue undiscussed, whether in brief or in detail, directly or through allusion or symbols.

The Qur’an considers creation only for the sake of knowing its Creator; science considers creation only for its own sake.

The Qur’an considers creation only for the sake of knowing its Creator; science considers creation only for its own sake. The Qur’an addresses humanity; science addresses only those who specialize in it. Since the Qur’an uses creation as evidence and proof to guide us, its evidence must be easily understandable to all of us non-specialists. Guidance requires that relatively unimportant things should be touched on briefly, while subtle points should be discussed as completely as possible through parables and comparisons. So that people are not confused, guidance should not change that which is obvious. If it did, how could we derive any benefit?

Essentially, like everything else, science has its source in one of God Almighty’s Beautiful Names. The Name All-Healing shines on medicine; geometry and engineering depend on the Names All-Just, All-Shaping, and All-Harmonizing; and philosophy reflects the Name All-Wise. As pointed out above, the Creator refers in the Qur’an to everything that He has allowed us to learn and use for our material and spiritual progress.

The Qur’an’s primary aims are to make God Almighty known, to open the way to faith and worship, and to organize our individual and social life so that we may attain perfect happiness in both worlds. To achieve this aim, it refers to things and events, as well as scientific facts, in proportion to their importance. Thus the Qur’an provides detailed explanations of the pillars of faith, the fundamentals of religion, the foundations of human life, and essentials of worship, but only hints at other relatively less significant things. The meaning of a verse may be compared to a rosebud: it is hidden by successive layers of petals. A new meaning is perceived as each petal unfolds, and people discover one of those meanings according to their capacity and are satisfied with it.

How does the Qur’an allude to scientific facts and developments

by way of the miracles of the Prophets?

One way the Qur’an hints of technological advances and marks their final development is by mentioning the miracles of the Prophets.

Traveling by air

► The verse,

And to Solomon (We subjugated) the wind: its morning stride was a month’s journey and the evening stride was a month’s journey. (34:12)

which expresses the subjugation of the wind to Solomon as one of his miracles, says: ‘The Prophet Solomon covered the distance of two months walk in two strides by flying through the air.’ By this it suggests that the road is open for mankind to cover the same distance in the air. ‘So, O mankind! Since the road is open to you, attain this level and do so!’

Almighty God also means by this verse:

O man! A servant of mine did not obey his carnal desires, and I mounted him on the air. If you give up laziness and benefit properly from certain of My laws in nature, you too can mount it.

Inventing a device to obtain water

► The verse,

When Moses asked for water for his people, We said: ‘Strike the rock with your staff.’ Then gushed forth therefrom twelve springs (so that) each tribe knew their drinking place’, (2:60)

indicates that it is quite possible to benefit with simple tools from the treasuries of Mercy under the earth. In places hard as rock even, the water for life may be drawn with so simple a device as a staff. Thus, through this meaning, the verse says to man, ‘You can find the finest blessing of Mercy, the water for life, with a staff-like device. Therefore, come on, work and find it!’

Through this verse, God Almighty suggests:

O man! Since I gave to a servant of Mine who relied on Me such a staff that he draws with it the water for life from wherever he wishes, you too can obtain a device resembling it provided you rely on My laws of Mercy. So, come and do so!

One of the important results of the scientific developments which mankind have achieved is the invention of devices with which water is caused to well up from most of the places where they are applied. The verse points to further goals and limits beyond that, just as the previous one specified further attainments far ahead of today’s planes.

The farthest point in medical developments

►The verse,

I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead by God’s leave, (2:60)

concerning a miracle of Jesus, upon him be peace, alludes to and encourages the highest level of healing with which the Lord endowed him. It suggests:

It is possible to find cures for even the most chronic ailments. Therefore, O man! O calamity-stricken sons of Adam! Do not despair! Whatever the ailment, its cure is possible. Search for it and you will find it. It is even possible to give a temporary tinge of life to death.

By the verse God Almighty means:

O man! To a servant of Mine who renounced the world for My sake, I gave two gifts, one the remedy for spiritual ailments, the other the cure for physical sicknesses. Dead hearts were quickened through the light of guidance, and ill people who were as though dead found health through his breath and cure. You too may find the cure for all illnesses in My ‘pharmacy’ in nature where I attached to each thing many important purposes. Work and find it! You will certainly find if you seek it!

Thus, this verse marks the final point of medical developments, a point far ahead of the present level, and urges man towards it.

Using iron and copper in industry and extracting minerals

► The verses,

We made the iron supple for him. (34:10), and, We gave him wisdom and sound judgment in speech and decision. (38:20)

which are about David, upon him be peace, and,

We caused the fount of copper to gush forth with him. (34:12)

which is about Solomon, upon him be peace, indicate that the softening of iron is one of the greatest bounties of God, through which He shows the virtue of a great Prophet of His. Softening of iron, that is, making it soft like dough, and smelting copper, and extracting minerals is the origin and source, and basis of all material industries. So, the verses state:

Softening iron, making it like dough and fine like a thread, and smelting the copper are a great bounty granted to two great Prophets who ruled in a part of the world according to God’s commandments, and they are the means to most general industries.’ Since God endowed a Prophet who was both a Messenger and a Caliph, that is, one who was both a spiritual and worldly leader, with wise speech and craftsmanship and industry, He urges people to speak wisely and encourages them toward craftsmanship and industry.

By these verses, God Almighty also suggests:

O sons of Adam! I gave such wisdom to the tongue and heart of one of My servants who obeyed My religious commandments that he judged of and distinguished between all things with perfect clarity and discerned the truth. Also, I endowed him with such skill that he could cast iron into whatever mould he wished, and make use of it as an important source of strength for his rule. Since this is possible, and since iron is of great significance for, and you are in much need of it in, your social life, that wisdom and skill will be bestowed on you provided you obey My commands of creation, My laws of nature. In the course of time you will attain it!

By softening iron and smelting copper, man has achieved great progress in industry, and great power in material terms. These verses direct man’s attention towards this truth, and just as much as they warned the people of former times who did not appreciate how important it was, so too they warn those lazy people of the present.

The ultimate point in the transmission of images and sounds

► The verse,

One with whom was knowledge of the Book said: ‘I will bring it to you before your gaze returns to you (in the twinkling of an eye).’ When Solomon saw it set in his presence... (27:40)

describes this wonderful event: In order to procure the transport of the throne of the Queen of Saba, one of Solomon’s ministers who was well versed in the transport of things said: ‘I’ll have the throne here in your presence in the twinkling of an eye.’ The verse suggests that it is possible to transport things over long distances, either bodily or in their images. In fact, God Almighty bestowed this on Solomon, upon him be peace, who was honored with kingship as well as Divine Messengership, as a miracle so that, in order to maintain his infallibility and justice he might personally be informed of all the regions of his extensive realm and see the conditions of his subjects and hear of their troubles. That means, if man relies on Almighty God, and appeals to Him in the tongue of his potentials as Solomon did in the tongue of his infallibility, and if he acts in conformity with His laws in the universe and with what attracts His favor, the world may become like a town for him. While the throne of the queen was in the Yemen, it was seen in Damascus either bodily or in image. For sure, the forms of the men around the throne were also seen and their voices heard. The verse points in a splendid fashion to the transport of forms and transmission of sounds over long distances, and in effect says:

O rulers! If you wish to realize perfect justice, try to see and know your realm in all its details, as Solomon did. For, only by rising to the level of being informed whenever he wishes about every part of his realm, may a just ruler who cherishes his subjects be saved from being held accountable, and may realize perfect justice.

God Almighty means by this verse:

O sons of Adam! I bestowed on a servant of Mine a vast realm, and in order that he might realize perfect justice throughout it, I allowed him to know personally of its state and of everything that was happening there. Since I have created every individual with a capacity to rule according to My commands, I have also given him, as a requirement of My Wisdom, the potential to scan the face of the whole earth and comprehend whatever is in it. If every individual does not succeed in attaining to that point, as a species mankind may realize it. If, however, they do not achieve it physically, they can do it, like the saints, in spiritual terms. Therefore, you may benefit from this great blessing. Come on, let Me see you do it! On condition you do not neglect your duties of worship, strive in such a way that you may turn the face of the earth into a garden every part of which you may see, and the sounds from every corner of which you may hear!

Heed the decree of the Most Merciful in the verse,

He it is Who has made the earth subservient to you, so walk in the paths thereof and eat of His providence. Unto Him is the resurrection (of the dead). (67:15)

Thus, the verse mentioned above about Solomon marks the ultimate point in the transmission of images and sounds, which constitutes one of the latest and most significant developments in science and technology, and encourages men towards that furthest point.

Employing jinn, devils and evil spirits

►The verses,

Others linked together in chains, (38:38) and, Of the evil ones were some who dived for him, and did other work. (21:82)

which state that Solomon, upon him be peace, made the jinn, devils, and evil spirits obedient to him, succeeding in preventing their evil and employing them in beneficial work, say:

The jinn, who are conscious beings and the most important inhabitants of the earth next to men, may serve man. Contact may be made with them. Devils too may be made to give up enmity and to serve willingly or unwillingly. God Almighty made them subservient to a servant of His who was obedient to His commands.

These verses imply:

O man! I made the jinn, and devils, including their most evil ones, obedient to a servant of Mine, who obeyed Me. If you submit yourself to My commands, most of the creatures, including even jinn and devils, may be subjugated to you.

Thus, these verses mark the ultimate point in occult or supernatural sciences dealing with paranormal events like spiritism, the attraction of spirits, and communication with the jinn, which have appeared as a blend of art and science and out of the extraordinary material and spiritual sensitivity of man. These verses urge man not, as happens nowadays, to be subjugated to the jinn, devils, and evil spirits, who sometimes call themselves the spirits of the dead, and to become their plaything, and a laughing-stock, but to subjugate and employ them through the Qur’an, and be saved from their evil.

Attraction of spirits or communication with the spirits of the dead

► These verses, as well as certain others like

Then We sent to her Our spirit and it assumed for her the form of a perfect man. (19:17)

point, besides the attraction of spirits, to the fact that spirit beings may assume visible forms. However, what the Qur’an alludes to here is not modern necromancy, which some so-called ‘civilized’ people practice by communication by magic with evil spirits who introduce themselves as spirits of the dead. Rather, it is as certain kinds of saints (like Muhy al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi) who, for a serious reason, communicate with good spirits whenever they want, make contact with them and form a relation with them, and by going to their abodes and to a degree drawing near to their atmosphere, benefit from their spirituality.

Invention of cassette-recorders and players and communication with animals

►The verses,

We subdued the hills to hymn the praises (of their Lord) with him at nightfall and after sunrise. (38:18); and, O you mountains! Echo His psalms of praise! and you birds! And We made the iron supple for him. (34:10); and, We have been taught the language of birds. (27:16)

which are about David’s miracles, point out that Almighty God gave to the glorifications of David, upon him be peace, such a strength and a tone so resonant and pleasing that they brought the mountains to ecstasy, which, each like a huge gramophone or a man, formed a circle against the horizon around the chief reciter—David—and repeated the glorifications. Is this possible and a reality?

Yes, it is reality. Every mountain with caves can speak to man in human language like a parrot. For if you declare before a mountain, ‘All praise be to God,’ the mountain will echo it back. Since God Almighty has granted this ability to mountains, for sure it can be developed.

Since God endowed the Prophet David, upon him be peace, with both Messengership and Caliphate on the earth in exceptional form, He made this seed of ability flourish as a miracle in due measure with that comprehensive Messengership and magnificent sovereignty such that great mountains followed him, in the manner of soldiers, or students, or disciples, and under his direction and in his tongue, they declared the glorifications of the All-Majestic Creator. Whatever David, upon him be peace, uttered, they repeated. At present, due to the means of communication being multiplied and developed, a great commander can get a large army dispersed through the mountains to repeat his declaration of ‘God is the greatest!’ all together at the same time, and make the mountains speak and ring with the words. Now if an ordinary commander can make the mountains ring with the words of those present in them, for sure, a magnificent commander of Almighty God can get them actually to utter and recite God’s glorifications. Besides this, as I explained earlier in this book, each mountain has a collective personality and corporate identity, and offers glorifications and worship particular to itself. This means that just as every mountain recites glorifications in the tongue of men by way of echoing, so too it glorifies the All-Majestic Creator in its own particular tongue.

The sentences,

We have been taught the tongues of birds, (27:16) and, The birds assembled, (38:19)

point out that Almighty God bestowed on David and Solomon, upon them be peace, knowledge of the languages of the bird species, and of the tongues of their abilities, that is, of what they would be useful for. Since this is a reality, since the face of the earth is a laden table of the Most Merciful One, which He has set up in honor of man, most of the other animals and birds, which benefit from that table, may have been subjugated to man to serve him. God has put to work some of the smallest animals like the honeybee and silkworm, and employs them through the guidance of His special inspiration in a way that greatly benefits man. Also, by enabling man to use pigeons in various tasks and make certain birds like parrots speak, He has added to the beauties of human civilization. Similarly, if the ways of making use of other birds and animals are discovered, among them are many species which may be employed for important tasks just as domestic animals are employed.

For example, if the languages of starlings are known, which destroy locusts without eating them, and their movements can be arranged and regulated, they can be employed against plagues of locusts; what a valuable service they would render free of charge! Thus, the verses mentioned show the ultimate point in subjugating birds and benefiting from them, and in making lifeless beings speak like a telephone or a gramophone, and, by specifying the farthest aim in this field, the verses urge man toward it.

By the same verses, God Almighty indicates:

O men! In order that his infallibility as a Prophet and his justice as a sovereign might not be damaged even to the slightest degree, I subjugated to one of your fellow men, who was totally submitted to Me, the huge creatures in My Kingdom and made them speak, and I put most of My troops and animals in his service. Likewise, since I have entrusted to each of you the Supreme Trust2 from the bearing of which the heavens, earth, and mountains held back, and endowed you with the potential to become My vicegerent—one who will rule on the earth according to My commands—you should yield to the One in Whose hand are the reins of all creatures, so that the creatures in His Kingdom may yield also to you, and you may use them in the Name of the One Who holds their reins, and rise to a position worthy of your potential.

Since this is the reality, then rather than playing on the gramophone or record-players and other musical apparatus, harmful and obscene pieces, playing with pigeons, and being occupied with useless things like wasting time in making parrots speak, try for a most agreeable, elevated and sacred sort of amusement, that the mountains may function as huge gramophones for you as for David, and at the touching of the breeze the tunes of Divine praises and glorifications may reach your ears from the trees and plants, and the mountains may manifest themselves as wonderful creatures that recite Divine glorifications in thousands of tongues, and most birds may turn to be each an intimate friend or an obedient servant, like Solomon’s hoopoe. They may both entertain you and drive you with zeal towards the perfections and attainments of which you are capable, and not cause you to fall from the position required by your humanity, as vain amusements do.

Invention of fridges

► In the verse,

We said: ‘O fire! Be coolness and peace for Abraham.’ (21:69)

which is about one of Abraham’s miracles, there are three subtle indications:

• Like every element in nature, fire does not act on its own and blindly, rather it performs a duty under a command. It did not burn the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, for God commanded it not to burn him.

• There is a degree of heat which burns through coldness. That is, it has an effect like burning. Through the word ‘Be peace!’,1 God Almighty commanded the cold: ‘Like heat, do not burn him either!’ That is, through its coldness, fire at that degree produces an effect like burning. It is both fire, and, at the same time, cold. As science accepts it, there is a degree of fire called ‘white heat’, which does not radiate its heat to its surroundings; instead, attracting the heat around it to itself, it causes the surrounding area to become cold enough to freeze liquids like water, and in effect burns them through its cold. (It may be noted here, incidentally, that there must surely be in Hell, which contains all the degrees and sorts of fire, this intense cold.)

• Just as there is an immaterial substance like belief, and an armor like Islam, which will remove the effects of Hellfire and protect against it, so too there must be a physical substance which will protect against it, which will prevent the effects of worldly fire. For, as is required by His Name, the All-Wise, and since this world is the abode of wisdom, [the abode where everything takes place for a definite purpose and usually according to cause and effect] God Almighty acts behind the veil of cause and effect. Therefore, the fire did not burn Abraham’s body, nor did it burn his garments, He gave them a state which resisted fire. Thus, the verse suggests:

O nation of Abraham! Be like Abraham, so that your garments may be your guard against the fire, your greatest enemy, both here and there, the other world. Coat your spirit with belief, and it will be your armor against Hellfire. Likewise, there are certain substances which Almighty God has treasured in the earth for you. They will protect you from the evil of fire. Search for them, extract them, and coat yourselves with them!

As an important step in his progress, mankind has discovered a substance, out of which he has made a coat which fire does not burn. However, see how elevated, fine, and beautiful a garment this verse points to, which will be woven on the loom of hanifan Musliman (purity of belief in and submission to God), and which will not be rent for all eternity.

Teaching Adam the Names implies the ultimate points and final goals of human attainment and progress

► Also, the verse,

He taught Adam the names, all of them. (2:31)

states that, as his greatest miracle in the cause of supreme vicegerency, Adam, upon him be peace, was taught the names. While the miracles of other Prophets each point to a certain particular wonder in the course of scientific and technological progress, the miracle of Adam, upon him be peace, who was the father of all the Prophets and the Opening of the Office of Prophethood, alludes almost explicitly to the ultimate points and final goals of all human attainment and progress.

By this verse, God Almighty suggests:

O sons of Adam! By way of proof of his superiority over the angels in the issue of vicegerencey, I taught your father all the Names.2 Being his sons and the inheritors of his abilities, you should learn all the Names and show your worthiness of that superiority before all other creatures in the universe, such that vast creatures like the earth are made obedient to you. Come on, step forward, hold on to one of My Names and rise! Nevertheless, your father was deceived by Satan once and for all, and temporarily fell to the earth from an abode like the Garden. Beware! do not follow Satan in your progress and make it the means of falling from the heavens of Divine Wisdom into the misguidance of attributing creativity to nature or real effect to cause and effect in the creation and operation of nature. Raise your head and, studying My Beautiful Names, make the sciences and your progress steps by which to ascend to those heavens. Then you may rise to My Names of Lordship, which are the essences and sources of your sciences and attainments, and through the telescope of those Names, you may look to your Lord with your hearts.

1. An interpreter of the Qur’an remarks: ‘If He had not said, “Be peace!”, it would have burnt him with its coldness.’

2. The Names taught to Adam, upon him be peace, are the names of things or the keys to all human knowledge or the Divine Names, in the manifestation of each of which a branch of science originates. For example, medicine has its source in the Name, the All-Healing, engineering in the Names, the All-Determiner and the Giver of Certain Measure.

What other examples can be given to illustrate

the Qur’an’s allusions to scientific facts and developments?

• The Creator, Who is not bound by the human concept of time, informs us that, in a general sense, the future will be the age of knowledge and information, as well as an age of faith and belief:

Soon We shall show them Our signs in the outer world and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is truth. Is it not enough that your Lord witnesses all things? (41:53).

From the very early days of Islam, Sufis have interpreted this verse as a sign and assurance of the spiritual wisdom for which they strive. But if the verse is read in the context of scientific progress, a progress significantly initiated and advanced by Muslims, the mere fact of the verse will be seen to be a miracle.

Everything within the fold of human thinking and research affirms the Creator’s Oneness, as the true nature and interrelationship of microcosm and macrocosm come to be further disclosed and better understood. When we see hundreds of books on this point, we understand that what was Divinely revealed is near at hand. Even now we feel that we shall soon hear and even understand testimonies and praises to God through thousands of nature’s tongues:

The seven heavens and the Earth, and all things therein, declare His Glory. There is not a thing but celebrates His praise. And yet you do not understand how they declare His Glory. Truly He is Oft-Forbearing, Most Forgiving. (17:44)

We already understand something of this verse’s import. The smallest atoms as well as the largest nebulae speak to us, in the language of their being, of their submission to the One God and so glorify Him. However, those who can listen to and understand this universal praise are very few.

• What the Qur’an reveals about the embryo’s formation and developmental phases in the uterus is striking. Consider the following:

O mankind! If you have a doubt about the Resurrection, (consider) that We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like cloth, then out of a lump of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (what We will) to you. (22:5)

In another verse, this development is explained in greater detail, and the distinct phases are emphasized more clearly:

Man We created 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 lump (embryo); then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh. Then We developed out of it a new (distinct, individual) creature. (23:12–4)

• What the Qur’an says about milk and its production is as brilliant as the drink itself, and our understanding of it has brought us great benefits:

And verily in cattle (too) will you find an instructive sign. From what is from their bodies, between excretions and blood, We produce, for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it (16:66).

The Qur’an narrates the process in remarkable detail: part-digestion and absorption of what is ingested as food, and then a second process and refinement in the glands. Milk is a wholesome and agreeable source of human nourishment, yet it is a secretion rejected by its owner as useless.

• The Qur’an reveals that all things are created in pairs:

Glory be to God, who created in pairs all things, of what the earth produces, of themselves, and of which they have no knowledge (36:36).

Everything that exists has counterpart, whether opposite or complementary. The complementarity of human, animal, and certain plant genders has long been known. But what about the pairs of things of which we have no knowledge? This may refer to a whole range of entities, inanimate as well as animate. In the subtle forces and principles of nature within (and among) animate or inanimate entities, there are many kinds of pairs. All things, from atoms to clouds, as our modern instruments confirm, occur in twos.

• The Qur’an recounts, in its own unique idiom, the first creation of the world and of its living inhabitants:

Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as a single mass), before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (21:30).

This meaning of this verse is clear, and should not be obscured with different hypotheses as to whether the primary material in creation is an ether or a large cloud, a huge nebula or a mass of hot gas, or something else. The Qur’an states that every living thing was created of water. Whether the water itself was caused by gases and vapors rising from the ground, condensing, and then returning as rain to form seas and prepare a suitable environment for life, or by some other process, is relatively unimportant.

The verse explicitly presents the universe as a single miracle of creation; each thing in it is an integral part of that miracle, and contains signs that prove its claim. Everything is interconnected, just like the leaves of a massive tree—they are all different, but resemble each other and are linked to a common root. The verse also emphasizes water’s vitality and significance, for it constitutes three-fourths of the body mass of most living creatures.

• The sun has a special and significant place. The Qur’an reveals its most important aspects in four words, whose full meaning cannot be rendered easily:

And the sun runs its course (mustaqarr) determined for it. That is His decree, the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing (36:38).

In this context, mustaqarr may mean a determined orbit, a fixed place of rest or dwelling, a determined route in time. We are told that the sun runs a predetermined course toward a particular point. The solar system, as we now know, is heading toward the constellation Lyra at an almost inconceivable speed: Every second we come ten miles closer (almost a million miles a day). Our attention is also drawn to the fact that when the sun finishes its appointed task, it will abide by a command and come to rest.

Note:

The sun moves (in its course) to a resting-place for it (36:38).

Before elucidating other meanings and connotations, remember that earlier peoples’ sense-derived information led them to believe that the sun moved around a motionless Earth. Science and observation later showed that the Earth spins on its own axis and orbits the sun, which is relatively motionless. First, since people see the sun moving, the Qur’an mentions it as moving. Second, the Qur’an mentions the sun here to illustrate the magnificent order prevailing throughout the universe as a sign of God’s Might and Knowledge:

A sign for them is the night. We strip it of the day, and behold! they are in darkness. And the sun moves (in its course) to a resting-place for it. That is the measuring and ordaining of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. And for the moon We have appointed mansions till it returns like an old shriveled palm-leaf. It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. They float, each in an orbit. (36:37-40)

We understand from this context that the sun’s function is vital. The word mustaqarr (stability) applies to is course and the place in which stability is secured. So, the statement can mean that the sun has a central position in the universe’s order. Second, the preposition used here, li, has three meanings: for, to, and in. Therefore, the exact meaning of this statement is: The sun moves following a route or course to a fixed place determined for it for the purpose of its (system’s) stability.

Recently, solar astronomers have observed that the sun is not motionless; rather it quivers, shakes, and continually rings like a well-hit gong. (Bartusiac, M. (1994) ‘Sounds of the Sun’, American Scientist, January-February, pp.61-68) The resulting vibrations reveal vital information about its deep interior and hidden layers, information that affects calculations of the universe’s age. Also, knowing exactly how the sun spins internally is important in testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Like so many other significant findings in astronomy, this one was totally unexpected. Some astronomers have commented that it is as if the sun were a symphony orchestra, with all its instruments being played simultaneously. At times, all the vibrations combine to produce a net oscillation on the solar surface that is thousands of times stronger than any individual vibration.

Commenting on the Qur’anic verse: The sun moves to a resting-place for it, several decades before this totally unexpected discovery, Said Nursi wrote:

As the word “moves” points to a style, the phrase “in its course” demonstrates a reality. The sun, like a vessel built of gold, travels and floats in the ocean of the heavens comprising ether and defined as a stretched and tightened wave. Although it quivers and shakes in its course or orbit, since people see it running, the Qur’an uses the word “travel” or “float.” However, since the origin of the force of gravity is movement, the sun moves and quivers in its orbit. Through this vibration, which is the wheel of its figurative movement, its satellites are attracted to it and preserved from falling and scattering. When a tree quivers, its fruits fall. But when the sun quivers and shakes, its fruits—its satellites—do not fall.

Again, wisdom requires that the sun should move and travel on its mobile throne—its course or orbit—accompanied by its soldiers—its satellites. For the Divine Power has made everything moving, and condemns nothing to absolute rest or motionlessness. Divine Mercy allows nothing to be condemned to inertia, which is the cousin of death. So the sun is free; it can travel, provided it obeys the laws of God and does not disturb others’ freedom. So it may actually be traveling, as its traveling may also be figurative. However, what is important according to the Qur’an is the universal order, the wheel of which is the sun and its movement. Through the sun, the system’s stability and orderliness are ensured.

Such is the richness of the Qur’an, which explains many truths in so few words. Here, in only four words, many vague things were clarified at a time when people generally believed that the sun made a daily circuit around the Earth.

• Another inspiring and eloquent Qur’anic verse concerns the universe’s spreading out or expansion in space. This concept is mentioned in only four words:

And the firmament: We constructed it with power and skill, and We are spreading it (51:47–8).

The verse reveals that the distance (space) between celestial bodies is increasing, which means that the universe is expanding. In 1922, the astronomer Hubble claimed that all galaxies, except the five closest to Earth, are moving further away into space at a speed directly proportional to their distance from the Earth. According to him, a galaxy one million light years distant is moving away at a speed of 168 km/year, one two million light years distant at twice that speed, and so on. Le Maître, a Belgian mathematician and priest, later proposed and developed the theory that the universe is expanding. No matter how we try to express this reality, whether through Hubble’s coefficient or a future theory, the Revelation is unmistakably clear on the reality itself.

• The Qur’an provides some indication of the invisible operation of various laws as attraction and repulsion, rotation and revolution:

God is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see (13:2).

All celestial bodies, from individual satellites to entire solar systems, move in order, balance, and harmony. They are held and supported by invisible pillars, some of which are repulsion or centrifugal forces: He holds back the sky from falling on earth except by His leave (22:65).

At any moment, the heavens could fall upon the Earth. That the All-Mighty does not allow this to happen is yet another instance of the universal obedience to His Word; modern science explains this as a balance of centripetal and centrifugal forces. What is of far greater importance, however, is that we turn our minds to that obedience and to the Divine Mercy that holds the universe in its reliable motion, rather than deciding to follow Newton’s or Einstein’s theories about the mechanical and mathematical terms of that obedience.

• Previously, some Qur’anic commentators thought a reference to traveling to the moon, once considered a very remote possibility, could be found in:

By the moon’s fullness! You shall surely travel from stage to stage (84:18–9).

Earlier commentators took this as a figurative reference to our spiritual life, which they considered an ascent from one stage to the next, and from one heaven to another. Others interpreted it as referring to change in general, from one state to another. Over time, later interpreters gave ambiguous meanings, because the literal meaning did not agree with their beliefs about traveling such distances. But in fact, the more appropriate sense of the words following the oath “By the moon!,” given the verse’s immediate context, is that of really traveling to the moon, whether literally or figuratively.

• The Qur’anic description of the Earth’s geographical shape and change in that shape are particularly interesting:

Do they not see how We gradually shrink the land from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will be victors? (21:44).

The reference to shrinking could relate to the now-known fact that the Earth is compressed at the poles, rather than to the erosion of mountains by wind and rain, of coastal areas by the sea, or of the gradual desertification of agricultural land.

• At a time when people generally believed that the Earth was flat and stationary, the Qur’an explicitly and implicitly revealed that it is round. More unexpectedly still, it also says that its precise shape is more like an ostrich egg than a sphere:

After that He shaped the earth like an egg, whence He caused to spring forth the water thereof, and the pasture thereof (79:30–2).

The verb daha’ means “to shape like an egg,” and its derived noun da’hia is still used to mean “an egg.” As this scientific fact may have appeared incorrect to scientists living before the advent of modern science, some interpreters misunderstood the word’s meaning. They understood it as “stretched out,” perhaps fearing that its literal meaning might be difficult to understand and thus mislead people. Modern scientific instruments recently established that the Earth is shaped more like an egg than a perfect sphere, and that there is a slight flattening around the poles as well as a slight curving around the equator.

• A barrier between two ‘seas’:

He has let forth the two seas, that meet together. Between them a barrier, they do not overpass (55.19-20).

The French scientist Jacques Cousteau has discovered that the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean differ in terms of their chemical and biological constitution. He conducted various undersea investigations at the straits of Gibraltar in order to explain this phenomenon, concluding that unexpected fresh water springs issue from the southern and northern coasts of Gibraltar. These water spouts gush towards each other at an angle of 45°, forming a reciprocal dam like the teeth of a comb. Due to this fact, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean cannot intermingle. Subsequent to this assessment, Cousteau was amazed upon being shown the Qur’anic verse, He has let forth the two seas, that meet together. Between them a barrier, they do not overpass (55.19-20). These verses further invite our attention to the plankton composition of the seas, and to the flora and fish distributions that change with variations in temperature.

• As a last example, consider what the Qur’an says about the sun and the moon:

We have made the night and the day as two signs; the sign of the night We have obscured, while the sign of the day We have made to enlighten you (17:12).

According to Ibn ‘Abbas, the sign of the night refers to the moon, and the sign of the day to the sun. Therefore, from “the sign of the night We have obscured,” we understand that the moon once emitted light just as the sun does, and that for some reason God took its light from it, causing it to darken or become obscured. While the verse accurately recounts the moon’s past, it also points to the future destiny of other heavenly bodies.

There are many other verses in the Qur’an which shed light upon scientific facts, and invite everyone to study. Certainly, the day will come when God will have shown mankind His signs in the outer world, as well as in their own inner worlds and it will be manifest to them that the Qur’an is the truth: We shall show them Our signs in the outer world and in their own selves until it will be manifest to them that it (the Qur’an) is the truth (48.53). Humankind will concentrate more on sciences in the future and the Qur’an, which is the counterpart in letters of the universe, the realm where God’s Names are manifested, will prove itself to be God’s Revelation.

We must remember, however, that while the Qur’an alludes to many scientific truths, it is not a textbook of science or scientific explanations. Rather it is, and has always been understood by believers to be, the book of guidance that teaches us the way to right belief and right action so that we may be worthy of Divine Mercy and Forgiveness. It is the responsibility of Muslims to ensure that the pursuit of scientific and other kinds of knowledge is conducted in the light of the Qur’an, which so encourages and supports it. We must do this so that the resulting knowledge will not engender arrogance and self-pride, for such feelings lead to mental desolation and human degradation, not to mention the degradation of the Earth, our temporary home and Divinely given trust.

Why then have Muslims not developed sciences and discovered such Qur’anic truths, and why are they under the dominion of the West?

To the extent that the time and the prevalent conditions conditions allowed them to, Muslims did discover the truths of the Qur’an and, obeying its injunctions, founded a magnificent civilization, which lasted for many centuries.

A typical example: while explaining the meaning of the verse, We send the wind fertilizing, and cause water to descend from the sky, and give it you to drink (15.22), Ibn Jarir al-Tabari writes about how the winds fertilize clouds so that rain may form. The verse clearly mentions the winds fertilizing clouds because it is about the formation of rain. As has recently been discovered, clouds are also charged with electricity and it is only when positive and negative poles in clouds form a circuit that rain forms.

Also, in his Tafsir named al-Bahr al-Muhit, Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi records from Abu Ja’far ibn al-Zubayr that from the initial verses of sura al-Rum, Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been defeated in the nearer land, and they, after their defeat, will be victorious within nine years—God’s is command in the former case and in the latter—and in that day believers will rejoice in God’s help to victory. He helps to victory whom He wills. He is the Mighty, the Merciful, Abu’l Hakem ibn Barrajan deduced many years before the exact date—with its year, month and day—the recapture of Jerusalem by Muslims from the Crusaders in 1187.

Islam ruled two-thirds of the old civilized world for at least eleven centuries. During its whole history of fourteen centuries, it has had to confront continual onslaughts from both the East and West and it was able to retain its superiority until the eighteenth century. However, when moral and spiritual decay and laziness and negligence of what was going on around them were added to the endless attacks from the West and East, the magnificence and supremacy of the Islamic civilization began to decline until its collapse in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Military victories and a sense of superiority had induced the Muslims to become content with what they had achieved and to neglect further researches in sciences. They had abandoned themselves to living their own lives, reciting the Qur’an but without ever studying its deeper meanings. Meanwhile the Western world had been making great advances in sciences and technology, which they had carried forward from the Islamic civilization. As already mentioned, sciences are in reality the languages of the Divine book of creation and an aspect of religion. Therefore, whoever neglects to study this book and benefit from it is destined to lose in the worldly life, and this negligence was one of the main reasons why Muslims fell under the domination of the West.

It is impossible that the present Western civilization will endure long since it is materialistic and far from satisfying man’s perennial needs. Western sociologists such as Oswald Spengler and others have predicted the collapse of this civilization, which is against basic human nature and values. Either it will abandon itself to its inevitable decay or equip itself with the creeds and moral and spiritual values of Islam, as well as its social and economic principles. In other words, Muslims will re-discover that, in essence, science and religion are two aspects of the same reality and know that to be a Muslim means, first of all, to represent the beauties of Islam in practical life. The luminous world of the future will be founded upon the firm foundations of Islamic morality, spirituality and its socio-economic and political order.

 

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