Science and the Quran Revisited

A Response to a Muslim’s Arguments for the Inspiration of the Quran

[Part 1]

Sam Shamoun

INTRODUCTION

Muslim apologist Nadir Ahmed (NA for short) had a debate on Paltalk with Muslim turned atheist Denis Giron of FreeThought Mecca on the issue of the Quran and Science. You may click on any of the following links to listen to the recorded debate (*, *, *).

You can also follow a transcript of their debate as well as further written debates on the same subject here:

http://www.joes.com/home/ahmedgiron/

Giron did a masterful job of demonstrating that none of the propositions set forth by NA led to the conclusion that God was the author of the Quran.

What we would like to do in this series is to take Giron’s argument a step further and show that not only do NA’s arguments fail to prove that the Quran is divine in origin, but that most of the propositions are scientifically incorrect. As Giron noted, the only truly miraculous nature of these arguments is the manner in which NA and others reinterpret them (more like misinterpret) in order to make the Quran fit in with modern science.

We plan to break down our rebuttal into two main sections:

Part 1:   Islamic Hermeneutics: Proposing a Methodology to Insure Proper Interpretation of the Quran
Part 2:   Analysis and Refutation of The Alleged Scientific Claims Within the Quran

Islamic Hermeneutics:
Proposing a Methodology to Insure Proper Interpretation of the Quran

The Quran, in several places, states that it is in Arabic:

An Arabic Quran without any crookedness, that they may guard (against evil). S. 39:28 Shakir

And thus have We revealed to you an Arabic Quran, that you may warn the mother city and those around it, and that you may give warning of the day of gathering together wherein is no doubt; a party shall be in the garden and (another) party in the burning fire. S. 42:7 Shakir

The hadith literature states that the Quran is in Quraish Arabic, the dialect of Muhammad’s tribe:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed IN THEIR TONGUE." They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510)

The Quran explains the reason for it being in Arabic:

Surely We have revealed it -- an Arabic Quran -- that you may understand. S. 12:2 Shakir

A Book of which the verses are made plain, an Arabic Quran for a people who know: S. 41:3 Shakir

Surely We have made it an Arabic Quran that you may understand. S. 43:3 Shakir

The foregoing implies that the Quran was recited in Arabic so that the Arabs of Muhammad’s time would be able to understand its teachings. Therefore, in order to understand the true meaning of the Quran we must see how these words were understood in the time of Muhammad, and not read later meanings into the text. We are reminded of the words of Abdullah Yusuf Ali:

"Every serious writer and thinker has a right to use all the knowledge and experience he possesses in the service of the Qur'an. But he must not mix up his own theories and conclusions, however reasonable, with the interpretation of the Text itself, which is usually perfectly perspicuous, as it claims to be. Our difficulties in interpretation often arise from various causes, of which I will mention just a few:
"(1) Arabic words in the Text have acquired other meanings than those which were understood by the Apostle and his Companions. All living languages undergo such transformations. The early Commentators and Philologists went into these matters with a very comprehensive grasp, and we must accept their conclusions. Where they are not unanimous, we must use our judgment and historic sense in adopting the interpretation of that authority which appeals to us most. We must not devise new verbal meanings." (Yusuf Ali as cited by Dr. William Campbell, The Qur'an and the Bible in the light of History and Science [Middle East Resources, PO Box 96, Upper Darby, PA 19082], pp. 9-10; see also the online edition; underlined emphasis ours)

Moiz Amjad of Understanding Islam, in responding to a question on the relationship between the Quran and Science, states:

The Qur'an is not a book of science. It does not present itself as such. The Qur'an, on the contrary, is a book of spiritual, moral and religious guidance for man. Nevertheless, because the Qur'an has repeatedly referred to the material world around us or to historical incidents, as evidence of the correct beliefs, which it wants man to accept, one may sometimes feel that the Qur'an has uncovered a 'scientific' or a 'historical fact'. This, however, is not correct. The Qur'an has generally not uncovered any scientific fact'. It has generally referred only to those 'facts' of the material world, which were already known to its addressees. Keeping this aspect of the Qur'an in perspective, let us now turn to your specific questions:

1. Although developing a relationship between the Qur'an and science cannot be termed as 'prohibited', yet, in view of the foregoing clarification, it would obviously not be correct to do so;

2. Being a revelation from the Lord of the worlds, the Qur'an does not entail any incorrect reference to the material world. Thus, even though the Qur'an is not a book of science, yet it is out of the question that it may entail any reference to the material world, which any scientific discovery proves to be incorrect. Thus, it is quite justified to judge the Qur'an on the basis of 'scientific facts' (not theories);

3. I completely disapprove conveying the message of the Qur'an in scientific terms. In my opinion, the message of Islam should be conveyed in the same style as the Most Wise and the Most Knowledgeable has done, in the book revealed for the purpose; and

4. The Qur'an has prompted scientific research by continually directing man to ponder over the material world that surrounds him, which would further substantiate the message delivered by the Qur'an[1]. This encouragement of the Qur'an definitely had positive effects upon the study of scientific facts by the Muslims, which previously was sometimes even considered sacrilegious. (Source)

We will seek to demonstrate that, contrary to Mr. Amjad’s claim, the Quran is not a revelation from God and does in fact contain gross scientific errors.

There are several ways one goes about uncovering the understanding of the first Muslims. First, as we stated, in order to understand the so-called scientific statements within the Quran we need to see what these passages meant to the Arabs of the seventh century, particularly the first Muslims.[1]

We must also seek to understand the Quran in light of the Quran since it is the oldest Muslim record in our possession.

Furthermore, one must examine literature from before and during the time of the first Muslims. This may entail looking at pre-Islamic sources such as Jewish, Christian, Greek, and Arabian literature.

Fourthly, we need to look at the interpretation given in Islamic sources such as the Sira literature, hadith collections and Muslim commentaries. In fact, NA claims to be a Salafi Muslim. The following lengthy section defines what a true Salafi believes:

The Salafi Da'wah is that of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. It is the Religion of Islam - pure and free from any additions, deletions or alterations. It is to adhere to the Path of the Messenger (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and of the True Believers (as-Salaf us-Salih). As-Salaf is a collective term referring to the Pious Pioneers in Islam and all those who follow in their footsteps in belief, actions and morals…

As-Salaf us-Salih (or briefly: the Salaf) refers to the first and best three generations of Muslims. They are the Companions (Sahabah) of the Prophet (S), their immediate followers (Tabiun), and the followers of the Tabi'in. These were praised by the Prophet (S): The best of people is my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them [Bukhari and Muslim]. The term Salaf applies also to the Scholars of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah after the first three blessed generations who followed their way in belief and practices.

Allah (T) said (what means): The first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirin (those who migrated from Makkah to al-Madinah in obedience to Allah) and the Ansar (the citizens of al-Madinah who gave aid to the Muhajirin), and also those who follow them in the best way; Allah is well pleased with them, and they are with Him [At-Tawbah 9:100].

Among these scholars are (the number following the name is the Hijri year of death): Abu Hanifah (150), al-Awzai (157), ath-Thawn (161), al-Laith bin Sad (175), Malik bin Anas (179). Abdullah bin al-Mubarak (181), Sufyan bin 'Uyainah (198), ash-Shafi'i (204), Is'haq (238), Ahmad bin Hanbal (241), al-Bukhari (256), Muslim (261), Abu Dawud (275), Ibn Taymiyyah (728), adth-Dthahabi (748), Ibn ul-Qayyim (751), Ibn Kathir (774), Muhammad bin 'Abdil Wahhab (1206) and his many students, and, in our time: 'Abd ul-'Aziz bin Baz, Muhammad Nasir ud-Din al-Albani and others…

The description "Salafi" applies to one who truly attaches himself to the Salaf. This attachment is not to an arbitrary single person or group of people. It is an attachment to that which will never err - to the guidance of Muhammad (S), his Sahabai, and their true followers. Likewise, Salafiyyah (the Salafi Da'wah) is not blind following of any particular Shaikh or Imam. It is adherence to the Qur'an and Sunnah as understood and practiced collectively by as-Salaf as-Salih. A true Salafi values Tawhid, singling out Allah in all acts of worship: in supplication, in seeking aid, in seeking refuge in times of ease and hardship, in sacrifice, in making vows, in fearing and hoping and total reliance, and so on. A true Salafi actively seeks to remove shirk (polytheism) with all his capacity. He knows that victory is not possible without true Tawhid, and that shirk cannot be fought with the likes of it (i.e., with another form of shirk). A true Salafi adheres to the Sunnah of the Prophet (S) and of his companions after him.

The Prophet (S) said, Adhere very closely to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided successors after me; bite on to it with your molar teeth, and beware of the newly invented matters. [Authentic; recorded by Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidthi. Whenever there is a difference of opinion, a true Salafi refers matters to Allah and His Prophet (S), acting in accordance with the ayah: If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you do believe in Allah and the Last Day, that is better and more suitable for final determination [An-Nisa 4:59]. He gives precedence to the Word of Allah and of His Prophet (S) over the opinion of anyone else, in according with the ayah: Believers! Do not put your opinions forward ahead of Allah and His Messenger, and fear Allah. Verily Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing. [Al-Hujurat 49:1]…

The Salafi Manhaj (methodology) maintains that these forms of Tawhid are inseparable from one another. They are the essence of the meaning of the testimony: "La ilaiha illa 'Llah, Muhammadun Rasulu 'Llah" (There is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah, and Muhammad is Allah's Messenger). The Salafi methodology places special emphasis on the Tawhid of Ittiba' because of the general tendency among many Muslims to neglect it. Thus it emphasizes the following items.

1. Belief that the revelation to the Prophet (S) is the final revelation, and that it is composed of two complementary and inseparable parts: the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The Prophet (S) said: I have indeed been given the Quran and, along with it, something similar to it. [Authentic; recorded by Abu Dawud and ad-Darimi]. And he (S) said: As long as you hold fast to two things which I have left among you, you will never go astray: Allah's Book and my Sunnah. [Authentic; recorded by al-Hakim].

2. Belief that obedience to the Messenger must be absolute, and that his position is unapproachable by anyone else among humanity. The Prophet (S) is alone to be obeyed and followed. All beliefs, statements, deeds and morals which conflict with his teachings are to be rejected and avoided. Believers! Obey Allah and His Messenger and do not turn away from him when you hear (his Message). [Al-Anfal 8:20].

3. Directing perfect love to Prophet Muhammad (S), which should be exhibited in adherence to his commands, swiftness in obeying him, putting his statements above and ahead of all others, studying his Sirah, and studying and implementing his Sunnah in everyday life. The Prophet (S) has said: None of you believes until I become more beloved to him than his father, child and all mankind. [Recorded by Muslim].

It is unfortunate that true adherence to the Way of the Prophet (S) has weakened in the Ummah and true love for him has all but disappeared because of:

1. Abandoning his Sunnah and removing it from our daily lives, belittling it, and developing an attitude of pride and arrogance toward it.

2. The spread of numerous unsubstantiated and fabricated hadiths among Muslims.

3. The spread of many bid'ahs (innovations) among Muslims.

4. Blind following of a specific madth'hab (Taqlid).

5. Delivering Islamic verdicts without knowledge or evidence.

6. Ceasing to implement the Shari'ah (Islamic laws) throughout the lands of Islam and replacing it by the ways and laws of the Kuffar (disbelievers)…

Tazkiyah, on the other hand, means to be purified or to purify oneself by adhering to Allah's commands. In its best form, it would be to worship Him with complete surrender, submission, and devotion. This is a great favor that Allah (T) bestowed on this Ummah. Allah did confer a great favor upon the believers when He sent a Messenger (i.e., Muhammad (S)) from amongst themselves reciting unto them His signs (i.e., the Quran) and purifying them (from sins and ignorance by adopting his way) and instructing them in the Book (the Quran) and Wisdom (the Sunnah) while before they had been in manifest error. [Al 'Imran 3:164]. The following points should help clarify the true meaning of Tazkiyah.

1. The Qur'an and Sunnah are the only sources for Tazkiyah.

2. The Prophet (S) is the purest of mankind in his soul. His character reflected the teachings of the Qur'an. Therefore, he is our model for Tazkiyah. Allah says (what means): Indeed in the Messenger of Allah is a beautiful pattern of conduct to follow for anyone whose hopes lie in Allah and the Last Day and who remembers Allah abundantly. [Al-Ahzab 33:21].

3. The Prophet's Companions and the rest of the Salaf are, as a group, a fine model to be followed in Tazkiyah.

4. There is no way of drawing closer to Allah except by adhering to what Prophet Muharnmad (S) came with. The Prophet (S) has said: If anyone introduces into this affair of ours (i.e., the religion of Islam) anything which does not belong to it, it will be rejected from him. [Recorded by Muslim].

5. There is no way to attain Tazkiyah but through the teachings of Islam. Allah says (what means): O you who believe! Enter into Islam wholeheartedly (i.e., obey all the regulations of Allah and His Messenger) and follow not the footsteps of Shaytan. Verily! He is to you an open enemy. [Al-Baqarah 2:208]. Thus there can be no Tazkiyah through deviant approaches of various groups, such as the Sufis who have corrupted the beliefs and practices of the Muslims.

6. The Salafi Manhaj represents the true exemplification of piety. It is Iman without hypocrisy, purity without corruption…

Consequently, the aims of the Salafi Da'wah are no different than those of the Da'wah of Islam. Therefore the Salafis remain distinct from the various sects and groups in the way and methodology of their Da'wah. They call to Islam as a whole - to its correct understanding and implementation. Misguided groups and deviant sects emphasize and call to particular aspects of Islam, thereby neglecting its other aspects to suit their own needs, as well as losing sight of the purpose and perspective for which they have been created; which is, as Allah has stated (meaning): I have not created Jinn and people except (for this purpose): that they may worship Me. [Adth-Dthariyat 51:56]. And He has said (what means): And they were not commanded except with this: that they should worship Allah (alone), being sincere in His Din and being Hanifs (upright, true and conscientiously turning away from Shirk). [Al-Bayyinah 98:5]. This, in essence, is the call of all the Prophets: calling to the Tawhid of Allah, to the annihilation of shirk, to sincerity in His worship, to obedience to His Messengers, and to adherence to their way. This is also the essence of the Salafi Da'wah. This can further be itemized into the following practical objectives:

1. Return to the sublime Qur'an and to the Prophet's authentic Sunnah, and comprehend them both in accordance with the understanding and practice of as-Salaf: This conforms with what Allah (T) said (what means): If anyone contends with the Messenger even after the Guidance has been plainly conveyed to him, and follows a path other than that of the believers, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen, and land him in Hell: What an evil abode! [An-Nisa 4:115]. And: So if they believe as you believe (the companions of the Messenger (S)), they are indeed on the right path. [Al-Baqarah 2:137].

2. Caution Muslims and exhort them to cleanse their lives of all forms of: shirk (polytheism), bid'ahs, and philosophy or other thoughts alien to the pure, essential tenets of Islam. This is a duty that Allah (T) enjoined upon us: Help you one another in righteousness and piety, but do not help one another in sinning and transgression. [Al-Maidah 5:2].

3. Cleanse the Sunnah of the weak and fabricated narrations. The problems referred to in this and the previous point have marred the clarity of Islam and have prevented the progress of Muslims. This puts on us the responsibility referred to by the Messenger (S): A trustworthy group from every generation will carry this knowledge, expelling from it the alterations made by those going beyond bounds, and the false claims of the liars, and the misinterpretations of the ignorant. [Authentic recorded by Ibn Adiyy and others]…

There following are is a number of misconceptions about the Salafi Da'wah:

1. Calling as-Salafiyyah a "movement" or "movements." It should be clear to all that the Salafi Da'wah is Islam, no more and no less. It is the True Islam with all its teachings and implications. Anyone who talks about it as an outsider might as well talk about Islam as an outsider! It is the teachings of the Qur'an and the authentic Sunnah in the light of practices and understanding of as-Salaf: A "movement" is meant to indicate something temporal or reactionary, whereas the Salafi Da'wah is the only true and constant and blessed Da wah of the prophets.

2. Thinking or claiming that the Salafs are followers of a fifth madth'hab which is attributed to Ibn Taymiyyah or Ibn Baz or al-Albani. This is a grave misconception. As stated above, the Salaf sources are the Qur an, the Sunnah, and the methodology of as-Salaf: If these scholars rely in their ijtihad on these sources then we take what they say, not because they said it, rather because Allah or His Messenger said it or called to it directly or indirectly through the known channels of ijtihad. The same applies to all scholars throughout the ages. We take from them all what conforms with the Qur'an and the Sunnah and we reject what does not. (Source)


As mentioned in the above quoted article, the view that the first three generations were the best Muslims is confirmed in the hadith collection:

Narrated Zahdam bin Mudrab:
I heard Imran bin Husain saying, "The Prophet said, 'The best people are those living in my generation, then those coming after them, and then those coming after (the second generation)." Imran said "I do not know whether the Prophet mentioned two or three generations after your present generation. The Prophet added, 'There will be some people after you, who will be dishonest and will not be trustworthy and will give witness (evidences) without being asked to give witness, and will vow but will not fulfill their vows, and fatness will appear among them." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 48, Number 819)

Narrated Zahdam bin Mudarrab:
'Imran bin Hussain said, "The Prophet said, 'The best of you (people) are my generation, and the second best will be those who will follow them, and then those who will follow the second generation." Imran added, "I do not remember whether he mentioned two or three (generations) after his generation. He added, 'Then will come some people who will make vows but will not fulfill them; and they will be dishonest and will not be trustworthy, and they will give their witness without being asked to give their witness, and fatness will appear among them.' " (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 78, Number 686)

Muslim Robert Squires quotes several sources in support of the preceding:

Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullaah) d. 769 C. E. (150 A. H.) said:

"Adhere to the athaar (narrations) and the tareeqah (way) of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) and beware of newly invented matters, for all of it is innovation."

[Reported by As-Suyootee in Sawn al-Mantaq wal-Kalaam, p. 32.]

Al-Awzaa'ee (rahimahullaah) said:

"Follow the footsteps of the Salaf . . ."

By clinging to their way, holding on to their beliefs and understanding the Deen (religion) as they did, worshipping Allaah in His Oneness, upon the authentic Sunnah of the Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) in the manner of the Companions one is guaranteed success in this life and security from the Fire in the next life. When questioned by his Companions about those who will be saved from the Fire, the Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) replied:

"They are those who are upon what I and my companions are upon."

[Reported by at-Tirmidhee from Amr ibn al-Aas - classified as Hasan.]

All the great scholars from the earliest to the later times have advised clinging to the way and methodology (manhaj) of the Salaf and adherence to it as it is the only means of deliverance. Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) says:

"There is no blame on the one who manifests/proclaims the way (madhdhab) of the Salaf, who attaches himself to it and refers to it. Rather, it is obligatory to accept that from him by unanimous agreement (Ittifaaq), because the way (madhdhab) of the Salaf is nothing but the Truth (Haqq)."

[From Majmoo al-Fataawaa, 4:149.]

Additionally, the Message of Allah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) said:

"Adhere to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, bite onto it with your molar teeth and beware of newly invented matters, for verily every innovation (bid'ah) is a going astray."

[Reported by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and by Abu Dawood in his Sunan, by at-Tirmidhee in his Sunan, and by Ibn Majah in his Sunan. It is an authentic hadeeth.] (Source; this page was downloaded some time ago, but is temporarily unavailable)

The foregoing show that NA must check his exegesis of the Quran by consulting the Quran, the Sunnah of Muhammad as well as the understanding of the first three generations of Muslims. In fact, NA is completely dependent on the hadith, Sira etc. to demonstrate the alleged scientific accuracy of one of his propositions since the Quran fails to provide the necessary data to make his claim work.

It shall be one of our main objectives in our rebuttal to examine whether he has done so or chosen to stray from the "authentic" interpretation of the Salaf.

Renowned Muslim scholar Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips stresses just how important the Sunnah is for Sunni Muslims in general, which applies to NA as well. While discussing the issue of demon possession, Philips comments on the sources Muslims must appeal to for a proper understanding of the Quran:

From the aforementioned arguments, it may be concluded that those who deny the possibility of diabolical possession rely on only two sources- Qur'anic texts and logic- while those who affirm it rely on three - Qur'anic texts, texts from the Sunnah and logic. According to the correct methodology of Qur'anic interpretation outlined by Ibn Katheer in the introduction of his exegesis of the Qur'aan, the interpretations of the Sunnah are essential for determining the correct understanding of the Qur'anic text. Ibn Katheer wrote,

If it is asked what is the best method of interpretation, the reply is that the most correct method is that of [interpretation of] the Qur'aan by the Qur'aan. This is because what has been generalized in one place has been specified in another. If an explicit explanation is not found in another verse, then the answers are found in the Sunnah, for it explains and clarifies the Qur'aan. In fact, Imaam Muhammad ibn Idrees ash-Shaafi'ee said, "Whatever the Messenger of Allaah ruled was based upon what he understood from the Qur'aan...

Due to this fact, the Messenger of Allaah stated,

'I have been given the Qur'aan and something similar to it along with it.'

He meant the Sunnah, because the Sunnah was revealed to him as the Qur'aan was revealed, except that it was not recited as the Qur'aan was recited. (Philips, The Exorcist Tradition in Islaam [Dar Al Fatah; Sharjah U.A.E., 1997], pp. 87-88; bold emphasis ours)

Internet Muslim Apologist MENJ likewise states:

If you ask what is the best method of tafsr, the answer is that the best way is TO EXPLAIN THE QUR'AN THROUGH THE QUR'AN. For, what the Qur'n alludes to at one place IS EXPLAINED AT THE OTHER, and what it says in brief on one occasion IS ELABORATED UPON AT THE OTHER. But if this does not help you, you should turn to the Sunnah, because the Sunnah EXPLAINS AND ELUCIDATES the Qur'n. Imam Abu `Abd Allh Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shf` has said: "All that the Prophet, peace be upon him, has said is what he has derived from the Qur'n." Allh has said ...

This is why the Prophet(P) said: "Know that I have been given the Qur'n and something like it"[1], namely the Sunnah. In fact, the Sunnah, too has been given to him through wahy as the Qur'n, except that it has not been recited to him as the Qur'n. Imam al-Shfi` and other scholars have advanced a number of arguments in support of this point; but this is not the place to quote them.[2]

In order to understand the Qur'n, you should first look to the Qur'n itself. If that does not help, then turn to the Sunnah ...

When you do not get any help from the Qur'n or the Sunnah, turn to the words of the companions. For they know the Qur'n better: they have witnessed its revelation, and passed through the situations in which it was revealed: and know it and understand it FULLY. This is particularly true of the scholars and leaders such as the Four Righteous Caliphs and `Abdullh ibn Mas`d ...

Another great scholar IS ‘ABDULLAH IBN ‘ABBAS(R), the nephew of the Prophet(P) and the commentator of the Qur'n. He attained that stature in virtue of the Prophet’s prayer: "O Allh! Give him knowledge of Islam and teach him the meaning of the Qur'n."[5] ... (Source)

In light of the foregoing, we proceed to break down the methodology that Sunni Muslims in general, and Salafi Muslims in particular, are to apply in correctly interpreting the Quran:

  1. The Quran was written in Arabic, with the hadith stating that it was written in the Quraish dialect, so that the Arabs of Muhammad’s time would understand the message.
  2. This means that one must see how the Arabs of Muhammad’s time, specifically the first Muslims, understood the specific Arabic words and verses in question.
  3. There are several ways one can do this. One way is to look to other parts of the Quran for further clarification of a specific passage.
  4. If the Quran doesn’t provide further details to clarify a specific passage, then one must turn to the Sunnah of Muhammad.
  5. If there is nothing in the Sunnah of Muhammad that clarifies the issue, then one must turn to Muhammad’s Companions since they knew the Quran better.
  6. For the Salafis, this would include looking into the views of the first three generations of Muslims since they were the best examples.
  7. The only way to know what their views were is to consult the Sira and Hadith literature, with specific emphasis placed on the sound narrations.
  8. This also includes consulting Muslim commentators such as Ibn Kathir.

Another point we need to make is that some scholars indicate that Sunnah and Hadith are interchangeable terms, since Muhammad’s Sunnah is found primarily in the Hadith literature.

Hadith and Sunnah. In the context of Hadith literature these two terms are considered to be synonymous. There is, however, a slight difference in them. The word Sunnah means a trodden path, a precedent, a practice and a custom. In technical sense, it is a model behavior of the Prophet (may peace be upon him). It represents his doings and practices.

Hadith originally means a news, a tale, a story, a talk or report. Technically, it denotes the report of the words, deeds, and approval or disapproval of the Prophet (may peace be upon him).

Some scholars have differentiated them in another manner. According to them, Sunnah is a norm, a rule of law, a principle and a pattern, whereas Hadith is a vehicle through which this norm or law, i.e. the Sunnah, is conveyed. Sunnah is thus a behavioral concept, while Hadith is the narration of the behavior. Both are interlinked and sometimes identical. (Sunan Abu Dawud English Translation with Explanatory Notes, by Prof. Ahmad Hasan [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters; Lahore, Pakistan, 1984], Volume I, p. xi; underlined emphasis ours)

Christian Apologist John Gilchrist writes:

One often comes across the terms Hadith and Sunnah in the context of the record and example of Muhammad's teachings, conduct and behaviour. At face value one can distinguish between the two and say that the Hadith are the written records, transmitted by a chain of authorities, of the sayings and actions of Muhammad, whereas the Sunnah is the actual form of behaviour or code of conduct of the prophet which has become the prescribed norm for the universal Muslim community.

Moslem tradition is, however, a term which in Arabic is expressed not by one but by two words, hadith and sunna. The former denotes a communication or a tale, in our case the oral or scribal translation of the sayings or actions mentioned; the latter means "use" and "tradition", in our case the exemplar way in which Mohammed used to act and to speak. So hadith is the external, sunna the internal side of tradition; hadith is the form, sunna the matter. (Wensinck, "The Importance of Tradition for the Study of Islam", The Muslim World, Vol. 11, p. 239).

Another writer sums it up very succinctly: "Tradition, as a matter of record, is called Hadith; as a matter of obligation it is called Sunnah" (Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, p. 98). In the early days of Islam, however, there was a far greater distinction between the two. During the reigns of the four immediate successors of Muhammad known as the "rightly-guided caliphs" Islam spread rapidly. For a long time there were no prescribed laws for the whole Muslim community and where a general code of legal maxims took root, these became the Sunnah, the "example" or, more properly, the norm for the community. In those days there was no need for the laws of Islam to be based directly on any prescribed, recorded practice of Muhammad.

The terms sunna and hadith must be kept distinct from one another ... The difference which has to be kept in mind is this: hadith means, as has been shown, an oral communication derived from the Prophet, whereas sunna, in the usage prevailing in the old Muslim community, refers to a religious or legal point, without regard to whether or not there exists an oral tradition for it. (Goldziher, Muslim Studies, Vol. 2, p. 24).

It was only during the days of the great Muslim jurist ash-Shafi'i, and as a result of his influence and leadership in this field, that the Hadith became the standard of all Muslim jurisprudence and the only true Sunnah, therefore, was the Sunnah of the Prophet as it was recorded in the transmitted traditions. Shafi'i decreed that no legal precept was binding unless it was founded on a tradition. If there was no tradition, the correct maxim was to be determined by the process of analogy (qiyas) with other traditions which contained material relative to or comparative with the matter at hand.

For Shafi'i, the sunna is established only by traditions going back to the Prophet, not by practice or consensus (Tr. III, 148, p. 249). Apart from a few traces of the old idea of sunna in his earlier writings, Shafi'i recognizes the 'sunna of the Prophet' only in so far as it is expressed in traditions going back to him. This is the idea of sunna which we find in the classical theory of Muhammadan law, and Shafi'i must be considered as its originator there. (Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, p. 77).

As Schacht goes on to point out, while the terms Sunnah and Hadith are not really synonymous, Shafi'i's practice of making the Sunnah dependent exclusively on the traditions led him, and with him the Muslim world to this day, "to identify both terms more or less completely" (Schacht, op. cit., p. 77). (Source; underlined emphasis ours)

In other words, the hadith has become virtually synonymous with the Sunnah of Muhammad since the former is the main source of information on what the latter is.

In the following sections we will seek to show that this methodology demonstrates that none of the examples cited by Muslims such as NA prove their claim that the author of the Quran held accurate scientific views. As we shall see the scientific statements of the Quran are in gross error.

If NA is to be consistent and honest with his position then he must adopt the very methodology defined by Salafis. Otherwise, he only demonstrates that it is Science, not the Quran, which is the criterion he uses to judge and (mis)interpret the Quran. As we shall see in Part 2, this is precisely what NA has done, imposing Science upon the Quran and forcing it to agree with scientific facts.


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Note:

[1] Not everyone agrees that the Quran, in its present form, is a seventh century text. There are many scholars and lay apologists who feel that the Quran evolved over time, some say over a 150-year period, and is more a by-product of Islamic expansionism. For further information on some of the arguments and reasons that have led many to this conclusion, we recommend the following articles and books:

Yehuda D. Nevo, Judith Koren, Crossroads to Islam: The Origins of the Arab Religion and the Arab State (Islamic Studies [Amherst, N.Y.]), Prometheus Books; ISBN: 1591020832 (June 2003).

The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, by Ibn Warraq (editor and translator), Prometheus Books; ISBN: 1573927872 (March 2000).

http://www.geocities.com/freethoughtmecca/quranmulti.html

http://www.geocities.com/freethoughtmecca/menj.html

http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/debate/debate.htm

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/99jan/koran.htm


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