Responses to "Islamic Information"

Science in the Quran

Chapter 1 : "From a Gaseous Mass to the Heavens and the Earth"

We are again confronted by the claim that the Quran accurately foretells modern scientific facts in an age where these facts were practically unknown. We again shall see that this claim crumbles under closer analysis.


The Qur'an was revealed in the seventh century. Many statements pertaining to physical phenomena are dispersed throughout the Qur'an. These are there in the Qur'an to draw the attention of people to the wonders of Allah's creation.

Any other seventh century book making statements about the physical universe would surely contain mistakes. Our knowledge of physical sciences in the twentieth century is far advanced beyond the imagination of people living the seventh century. What will come as a surprise to many people is that of all the numerous statements about scientific matters found in the Qur'an, not one of those have proved contrary to the established facts of science. On the other hand, many of those statements have already been verified by modern scientific studies, and we confidently expect that as various fields of knowledge advance, other Quranic statements will likewise prove true.

Let us look at some of the statements which science has already verified.

Concerning the creation of the heavens and the earth, the Qur'an says that prior to the creation, the Heaven was smoke. God then commanded it and the earth to come into being and they came willingly (see surah 41:11). How does that compare with modern scientific explanations? Let us hear a scientific explanation and then judge for ourselves.

The French scientist Dr. Maurice Bucaille in his book called The Bible, the Qur'an and Science explains:

"At the earliest time it can provide us with, modern science has every reason to maintain that the universe was formed from a gaseous mass principally composed of hydrogen and a certain amount of helium that was slowly rotating" (p.147).

Didn't the Qur'an say that the Heaven was smoke before its creation? Dr. Bucaille explains the connection between his description and that of the Qur'an as follows:

"Smoke is generally made up of a gaseous substratum, plus, in more or less stable suspension, fine particles that may belong to solid and even liquid states of matter at high or low temperature" (p. 143).

He therefore sees no contradiction of the Quranic use of the Arabic word dukhan (translated smoke) and a modern interpretation of that word as a gaseous mass with fine particles when speaking of the formation of the universe.

We notice here two remarkable features of the Qur'an. The first feature is that it expresses scientific truths that will be verified many centuries later. The second feature is that the Qur'an expresses those truths using terms and expressions that would avoid confusing its first readers in the seventh century. The seventh century reader of the Qur'an can easily relate to the image of smoke, and the twentieth century scientist can easily interpret the word as a gaseous mass.


Shabir and Bucaille can claim that the Quran is scientifically accurate, yet the fact is that upon closer examination it is not as impressive as Shabir would like. The Word of God states:

"The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him." Proverbs 18:17

It is time now to question Shabir's claims and see if what he has said is correct.

Dr. William Campbell in his excellent response to Bucaille's book, comments:

"These verses say that at some point in time the sky or heaven was made out of smoke. Smoke includes organic particles, therefore this is clearly false because at the time of a primordial gaseous state no organic matter would be found in it. Furthermore, nebulae which might have been supposed to be planetary forerunners, are much too dilute to be thought of as `suspending' anything. One has only very dilute gas molecules, a few per ml., and occasional grains of dust... Also, if it speaks of some early primordial gaseous state, the earth and sky should have been `smoke' together; but the passage says that there were firm mountains and nourishment on the earth while the heavens was still `smoke'. Clearly these verses have serious astronomical errors." (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; 1986], p. 24)

Campbell's point on the heavens being fashioned from smoke after the earth is interesting since this does not fit in with modern scientific views on the origin of the universe. Muslims, like Shabir, attempt to define the Arabic term thumma, "then", to mean "moreover". This would then imply that the heavens were not created after the earth had been fashioned but rather refers to a parallel event where the two days of the earth and heaven are identical.

The problem with this view is that it does not tell us what the term meant in seventh century Arabia. Words mean different things at different times. In order to know what thumma meant to Muhammad and his followers we must examine the Arabic literature of that time and see how the word was used. When this is done, we find that the Quran contains gross scientific errors.

According to Sahih Muslim, Chapter MCLV, The beginning of creation and the creation of Adam, Hadith No. 6707:

"Abu Huraira reported that Allah's Messenger (mpbuh) took hold of my hands and said: Allah the Exalted and Glorious, created the clay on Saturday and He created the mountains on Sunday and He created the trees on Monday and He created the things entailing labour on Tuesday and created light on Wednesday and He caused animals to spread on Thursday and created Adam (pbuh) after 'Asr on Friday; the last creation at the last hour of the hours of Friday, ie. Between afternoon and night."

Muhammad believed that vegetation preceded the formation of light, i.e. the sun. We must emphasize that Sahih Muslim is considered the second most reliable source of hadith collections. Hence, to brush aside this hadith basically means that Shabir must denounce the entire collection of hadiths. This is something that he, as a Sunni Muslim, cannot do.

The following traditions are taken entirely from The History of al-Tabari, Volume 1- General Introduction and from the Creation to the Flood (trans. Franz Rosenthal, State University of New York Press, Albany 1989), pp. 187-193:

"We have stated before that time is but hours of night and day and that the hours are but traversal by the sun and the moon of the degrees of the sphere. Now then, this being so, there is (also) a sound tradition from the Messenger of God told us by Hannad b. al-Sari, who also said that he read all of the hadith (to Abu Bakr)- Abu Bakr b. `Ayyash- Abu Sa'd al-Baqqal- `Ikrimah- Ibn Abbas: The Jews came to the Prophet and asked him about the creation of the heavens and the earth. He said: God created the earth on Sunday and Monday. He created the mountains and the uses they possess on Tuesday. On Wednesday, He created trees, water, cities and the cultivated barren land. These are four (days). He continued (citing the Qur'an): `Say: Do you really not believe in the One Who created the earth in two days, and set up others like Him? That is the Lord of the worlds. He made it firmly anchored (mountains) above it and blessed it and decreed that it contain the amount of food it provides, (all) in four days, equally for those asking'- for those who ask. On Thursday, He created heaven. On Friday, He created the stars, the sun, the moon, and the angels, until three hours remained. In the first of these three hours He created the terms (of human life), who would live and who would die. In the second, He cast harm upon everything that is useful for mankind. And in the third, (He created) Adam and had him dwell in Paradise. He commanded Iblis to prostrate himself before Adam, and He drove Adam out of Paradise at the end of the hour. When the Jews asked: What then, Muhammad? He said: `Then He sat straight upon the Throne.' The Jews said: You are right, if you had finished, they said, with: Then He rested. Whereupon the Prophet got very angry, and it was revealed: `We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us. Thus be patient with what you say.'"

Ibn Abbas reports that Muhammad believed the earth and everything within it were created on the first four days whereas the heavens and the constellations were created afterwards on Thursday and Friday.

"According to al-Muthanna- al-Hajjaj- Hammad- `Ata' b. al-Sa'ib- `Ikrimah: The Jews asked the Prophet: What about Sunday? The Messenger of God replied: On it, God created the earth and spread it out. They asked about Monday, and he replied: On it, He created Adam. They asked about Tuesday, and he replied: On it, He created the mountains, water, and so on. They asked about Wednesday, and he replied: Food. They asked about Thursday, and he replied: He created the heavens. They asked about Friday, and he replied: God created night and day. Then, when they asked about Saturday and mentioned God's rest(ing on it), he exclaimed: God be praised! God then revealed: `We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and fatigue did not touch Us.'"

Al-Tabari then comments:

"The two reports transmitted by us from the Messenger of God have made it clear that the sun and the moon were created after God had created many things of His creation. That is because the hadith of Ibn Abbas on the authority of the Messenger of God indicates that God created the sun and the moon on Friday. If this is so, earth and heaven and what was in them, except the angels and Adam, had been created before God created the sun and the moon. All this (thus) existed while there was no light and no day, since night and day are but nouns designating hours known through the traversal by the sun and the moon of the course of the sphere. Now, if it is correct that the earth and the heaven and what was between them, except what we have mentioned, were in existence when there was no sun and no moon, the conclusion is that all existed when there was no night or day. The same (conclusion results from) the following hadith of Abu Hurayrah reported on the authority of the Messenger of God: God created light on Wednesday- meaning by `light' the sun, if God wills."

All these traditions attributed to Muhammad contain gross scientific errors. Unlike Christianity where the opinions of the early Jewish and Christian scholars are not binding on the interpretation of the Holy Bible, this is not the case with Islam. These Islamic traditions are not from fallible Muslims but stem from Muhammad whom Muslims believe is God's infallible Prophet. Hence, it is Muhammad, not Muslim scholars, who held to gross scientific errors.

Tabari continues:

The early Muslim scholars differed in this respect. Some of them say, as I was told by al-Muthanni b. Ibrahim- `Abdallah b. Salih- Abu Ma'shar- Sa'id b. Abi Sai'd- `Abdallah b. Salam: God began with the creation on Sunday. He created the earths on Sunday and Monday. He created food and the firmly anchored (mountains) on Tuesday and Wednesday. He created the heavens on Thursday and Friday, and He finished in the last hour of Friday, in which He created Adam in haste. That is the hour in which the Hour will come.

According to Musa b. Harun- `Amr b. Hammad- Asbat- al-Suddi- Abu Malik and Abu Salih- Ibn Abbas. Also (al-Suddi)- Murrah al-Hamdani- Ibn Mas'ud and some (other) companions of the Prophet: He-meaning our Lord- made seven earths in two days, Sunday and Monday. He made on them "firmly anchored (mountains), lest (the earth) shake you up." He created the mountains on the earth and the food to provide for its inhabitants and its trees and whatever is required for it, on two days, Tuesday and Wednesday. "Then he stretched out straight toward heaven, which was smoke," and made it into one heaven. Then he spilt (this one heaven) up into seven heavens on two days, Thursday and Friday.

According to Tamim b. al-Muntasir- Ishaq (b. Yusuf)- Sharik (b. `Abdallah al-Nakha'i)- Ghalib b. Ghalib- `Ata b. Abi Rabah- Ibn `Abbas: God created the earth on two days, Sunday and Monday.

Others said: God created the earth with the food it provides before heaven, without spreading it out. "Then He stretched out straight toward heaven and fashioned it into seven heavens. Thereafter, He spread out the earth.

Those who said this

According to `Ali b. Dawud- Abu Salih (`Abdallah b. Salih)- Mu'awiyah (b. Salih)- `Ali b. Abi Talhah- Ibn Abbas, commenting on God's word when He mentioned the creation of the earth before heaven and then mentioned heaven before earth: (It is explained by the fact that) He created the earth with the food it provides before heaven, without spreading it out. "Then He stretched out straight toward heaven and fashioned it into seven heavens." Thereafter, he spread out the earth. This is meant by God's word: "And it was the earth that He spread out thereafter."

According to Muhammad b. Sa'd- his father- his paternal uncle- his father- his father- Ibn `Abbas, commenting on: "And it was the earth that He spread out thereafter. He brought forth from it its water and its pasture, and the mountains He anchored firmly." It means that he created the heavens and the earth. When he had finished with heaven before creating food of the earth, He spread the food on it after creating heaven. And He firmly anchored the mountains. This is meant by "spreading it out." The food and the plants of the earth used to be good only on the night and the day. This is meant by God's word: "And it was the earth that He spread out thereafter." Have you not heard that He continues: "He brought forth from it its water and its pasture"?

Abu Ja'far (al-Tabari) says: Regarding this, the correct statement, in our opinion, is the one who said: God created the earth on Sunday. He created the heaven on Thursday, and He created the stars and the sun and the moon on Friday. (We consider it correct) because of the soundness of the report mentioned by us earlier on the authority of Ibn `Abbas from the Messenger of God. The tradition transmitted to us on the authority of Ibn `Abbas is not impossible. It says that God created the earth but did not spread it out. Then he created the heavens "and fashioned them (into seven heavens)," and thereafter "spread out" the earth. He then brought forth from it its water and its pasture, and the mountains He anchored firmly." Indeed, in my opinion this is the correct statement. That is because the meaning of "spreading out" is different from that of "creating." God says: "Are you more difficult to create than the heaven He constructed? He raised high its roof and fashioned it. He darkened its night and brought forth its morning. And it was the earth He spread out thereafter." (Ibid., pp. 213-216)

One might wonder what is meant by the Quranic statement that God has spread out the earth? Al-Tabari answers:

According to Muhammad b. Sahl b. `Askar- Isma'il b. `Abd al-Karim- `Abd al-Samad- Wahb, mentioning some of His majesty (as being describable as follows): The heavens and the earth and the oceans are in the haykal and the haykal is in the Footstool. God's feet are upon the Footstool. He carries the Footstool. It became like a sandal on His feet. When Wahb asked: What is the haykal? he replied: Something on the heavens' extremities that surrounds the earth and the oceans like the ropes that are used to fasten a tent. And when Wahb was asked how the earths are (constituted), he replied: They are seven earths that are FLAT and islands. Between each two earths, there is an ocean. All that is surrounded by the (surrounding) ocean, and the haykal is behind the ocean. (Ibid., p. 208)

Where did Wahb get the idea that there are seven earths? From the Quran of course:

It is Allâh Who has created seven heavens and of the earth the like thereof (i.e. seven). His Command descends between them (heavens and earth), that you may know that Allâh has power over all things, and that Allâh surrounds (comprehends) all things in (His) Knowledge. S. 65:12

One might also ask why is there so much confusion amongst the companions of Muhammad and others over whether the earth was spread after the heavens or whether earth's nourishment wasn't created until the earth was fashioned first with the heavens after it? This is primarily due to the fact that the Quran gives contradictory accounts on what was actually created first:

Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Do you verily disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two Days and you set up rivals (in worship) with Him? That is the Lord of the 'Alamîn (mankind, jinns and all that exists). He placed therein (i.e. the earth) firm mountains from above it, and He blessed it, and measured therein its sustenance (for its dwellers) in four Days equal (i.e. all these four 'days' were equal in the length of time), for all those who ask (about its creation). Then He Istawâ (rose over) towards the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: "Come both of you willingly or unwillingly." They both said: "We come, willingly." Then He completed and finished from their creation (as) seven heavens in two Days and He made in each heaven its affair. And We adorned the nearest (lowest) heaven with lamps (stars) to be an adornment as well as to guard (from the devils by using them as missiles against the devils). Such is the Decree of Him the All-Mighty, the All-Knower. S. 41:9-12

According to this Surah the earth and its nourishment as well as its mountains were all fashioned before the earth. This is contradicted by the following verse:

"Are you more difficult to create, or is the heaven that He constructed? He raised its height, and He has equally ordered it, Its night He covers with darkness, and its forenoon He brings out (with light). And after that He spread the earth; And brought forth therefrom its water and its pasture; And the mountains He has fixed firmly; (To be) a provision and benefit for you and your cattle." S. 79:27-34

This passage states that the earth, its nourishment and the mountains were only created after heaven had already been constructed!

Tabari also comments on those who would try to define words such as thumma or ba'da, terms which mean "then" and "thereafter" respectively, to be referring to actions that are parallel with each other:

Someone might say: You realize that a number of interpreters have considered God's word: "And it was the earth that He spread out thereafter, to mean: "He spread out simultaneously" (attributing to the preposition ba'da "after" the meaning of ma'a "together [simultaneous] with"). Now, what is your evidence for the soundness of your statement that we have here the meaning of "after", the opposite of "before"? The reply would be: The meaning of "after" generally known in Arabic speech, as we have said, is that of the opposite of "before," and not simultaneous with." Now, word meanings considered applicable are those that are preponderant and generally known among speakers (of a language), and no others are. (Ibid., p. 216)

We see that the Quran contains gross scientific errors that do not fit in with modern scientific views. What about the Genesis account? Does the statement in Genesis 1:2 about the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters conflict with science? Let us see what the experts have to say. Dr. Robert C. Newman (B.S. summa cum laude in Physics [Duke University, 1963], Ph.D. in Theoretical Astrophysics [Cornell University, 1967]), comments on Gen. 1:2 and the mention of water:

"Likewise mayim, though nearly always translated 'waters,' is also used for other fluids and for the frozen and vapor states of water. Scientifically, we now know that water is found in extraterrestrial gas clouds such as that which formed the earth." (John Warwick Montgomery, ed., Evidence For Faith [World Publishing, 1986], p. 105)

Dr. Neuman along with Mr. Herman J. Eckelman, Jr., (former associate with the center for radiophysics and space research at Cornell University, Master of divinity from the Theological Seminary) from their book, Genesis and The Origin Of The Earth, pp. 71-72, go on to say:

"Likewise the word mayim, which is nearly, always translated `water' or `waters', has a broader meaning than one might at first suppose. It is occasionally used for other fluids (or at least a mixture involving more than water) (for example; urine, 2 Kings 18:27; semen, Is 48:1). Also it is used in reference to the solid and vapor states of H2O (ice - Job 37:10; 38:30; vapor or droplets - 2 Sam. 22:5; Job 26:8; 36:27-28; Jer 51:16).

"The exact meaning of mayim in Gen. 1:2 is therefore uncertain, but a large body of ice or water, a mass of ice crystals or droplets, a large cloud of water vapor, or even some other fluid altogether, would be within range of the usage of the word throughout Scripture. All of these would have a surface, over which the Spirit of God might `move' or `hover'. In agreement with the scientific model proposed, a dark nebula would be expected to contain some water vapor... An alternative possibly is that mayim is intended to intimate something of the chemical rather than the physical, composition of the cloud. Water consists of hydrogen and oxygen, and the cloud consists principally of hydrogen, helium, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Mayim is one of the few Hebrew words could communicate such information." (Dr. Campbell, The Qur'an and the Bible in light of History and Science, p. 23)

In summary, we find that the Quran and Muhammad's views on the origin of the universe are incompatible with science, whereas the Holy Bible can be interpreted in light of modern scientific fact with little, if any, problems.

Sam Shamoun

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