The Thunder and the Moon

Examples of "Islamic Science" Fiction

Sam Shamoun

Is the Thunder an Angel?

The Quran says that thunder glorifies Allah:

And Ar-Ra'd (thunder) glorifies and praises Him, and so do the angels because of His Awe, He sends the thunderbolts, and therewith He strikes whom He wills, yet they (disbelievers) dispute about Allah. And He is Mighty in strength and Severe in punishment. S. 13:13 Hilali Khan

Normally, one would assume that this simply a poetic way of describing how creation glorifies God by doing the very thing it was designed to do. In other words, one can argue that the author is personifying thunder in order to highlight how it serves God by accomplishing the purpose for which it was created.

When we turn to the Muslim sources, however, it is rather apparent that the author of the Quran believed that the thunder wasn’t simply an impersonal force, but an angel. The Tafsir of Ibn Abbas says in reference to this text:

(The thunder hymneth His praise) by His command; it is an angel; it is also said: it is the voice of the sky (and (so do) the angels) and also the angels hymn His praise (for awe of Him) the angels have awe towards Allah. (He launcheth the thunder bolts) i.e. fire (and smiteth with them whom He will) He destroys by means of fire whoever He will, referring here to Zayd Ibn Qays whom Allah destroyed by fire, along with his friend ‘Amir Ibn al-Tufayl who was killed as a result of being stabbed in his waist (while they dispute (in doubt) concerning Allah) while they dispute with Muhammad (pbuh) concerning the Religion of Allah, (and He is mighty in wrath) His chastisement is severe. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The renowned commentators, the two Jalals, wrote:

And the thunder - this is an angel, who is in charge of the clouds, driving them, [while he] constantly, proclaims His praise, that is, he says, 'Glory be to God through His praise' (subhana'Llah wa-bi-hamdihi), and so too the angels, proclaim His praise, in awe of Him, that is, of God. He unleashes the thunderbolts - these are a fire which issues forth from the clouds - and smites with them whom He will, such that it burns [that person]: this was revealed regarding a man to whom the Prophet (s) had sent someone to invite [to Islam] and who said, 'Who is the Messenger of God? And what is God? Is He [made] of gold, or of silver, or of copper?', whereupon a thunderbolt came down on him and blew off the top of his head; yet they, that is, the disbelievers, dispute, argue with the Prophet (s), about God, though He is great in might, in power, or in [the severity of His] retribution. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The Quran translators Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan add that:

(2) (V.13:13) Ar-Ra'd: It is said that he is the angel in charge of clouds and he drives them as ordered by Allah, and he glorifies His Praises. (Tafsir Al-Qurtubi) (Hilali-Khan, Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur'an: With Comments from Tafsir At-Tabari, Tafsir Al-Qurtubi and Tafsir Ibn Kathir and Ahadith from Sahih Al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and other Ahadith Books [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Lahore, Houston, New York, First Edition: January 1, 2000], Part 3. From Surah 10 to 15, p. 258)

The late Christian writer and apologist ‘Abdallah ‘Abd al-Fadi quotes another renowned commentator named al-Baidawi and from hadith compiler al-Tirmidhi:

Al Baidawi said, "Ibn ‘Abbas reported that the Prophet was asked about the thunder. He answered, ‘It is an angel entrusted with the clouds. He has entwined shreds of fire with which he drives the clouds and the angels, in awe of God.’ Another opinion says that the pronoun him refers to the thunder itself."

Al-Tirmidhi brought out, quoting Ibn ‘Abbas, that "the Jews came to Muhammad and said, ‘Tell us about the thunder. What is it?’ He said, ‘One of the angels who is entrusted with the clouds. He has entwined shreds of fire with which he drives the clouds wherever God wills.’ They asked, ‘What is this sound, then, which is heard?’ He said, ‘It is his rebuke to the clouds, that they should stop where they have been commanded.’ They said, ‘You have spoken the truth!’" (Abd al-Fadi, Is the Qur’an Infallible? [Light of Life, P.O. Box 13, A-9503 Villach, Austria], p. 27)

The problem with the above claims is that thunder "is the sound of the shockwave caused when lightning instantly heats the air around it to up to 30 000 C (54 000 F). That super-heated air expands rapidly, then contracts as it cools. The rapid expansion/contraction generates sound waves, making the sound that is called ‘thunder.’" (Source: Wikipedia) In particular, thunder is merely a side effect of lightning, not an independent agent.

Moreover, no physicist or meteorologist would support the claim that thunder is driving the clouds. It is the wind that does so, and wind is caused by temperature and pressure differences (see Wikipedia). Thunder can neither make a cloud move in any significant way nor can it stop one.

Moon Travel?

According to the Quran the moon is traveling on a certain set course throughout space:

And the moon, We have measured for it mansions (to traverse) till it returns like the old dried curved date stalk. It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law). S. 36:39-40 Hilali-Khan

The two Jalals say that:

And the moon - (read wa'l-qamaru, in the nominative, or wa'l-qamara, in the accusative; and it may be in the accusative because of a following verb that governs it) We have determined it, with respect to its course, [to run] in phases - twenty eight phases in twenty eight nights of every month; it becomes concealed for two nights when the month has thirty days, and for one night when it has twenty nine days - until it returns, during its final phase seeming to the [human] eye, like an aged palm-bough, in other words, like the stalk with a date cluster when it ages, becoming delicate, arched and yellowish. (Source)

Abd al-Fadi quotes al-Baidawi’s comments:

"And the moon-we determined" means its course is determined by stations. These stations are [twenty-seven]. They are as follows: Saratan [‘Cancer’], Batin [‘the Ventricle"], Thurayya [‘the Pleiades’], al-Dabaran, al-Mihqama, al-Hata'a, Dhira' [‘the Arm’], al-Natra, Taraf [‘the End’], Jaiha [‘the Countenance’], Zabra [‘the Lion’s Shoulder’], Sarfa [‘the Lion's Heart’], `Uwa' [‘the Lion's Thigh’], al-Samalik, al-Zayana, Iklil [‘the Wreath’], Qalb [‘the Heart’], Shauka [‘the Thorn’], al-Ta'a'im, Balda [‘the Town’], Sa'd al-Dhabih [‘Sa’d of the Sacrifices’], Sa'd Bala', Sa'd al-Su'ud, Sa'd al-Ahbiya, Fargh al-Dilw al-Muqaddam [‘the advanced Aquarius’], Fargh al-Dilw al-Mu'akhkhar [‘the delayed Aquarius’], and Risha [‘the Whale's Belly’]. Every night the moon rests at a station, never exceeding it, and never late to it. When it is at its last station, which precedes the meeting, it tapers and turns into a crescent, "till it runs like an aged palm-bough" or an old palm frond, or a year-old palm frond. "It behoves not the sun" means it does not fit the sun "to overtake the moon" in speed. "Neither does the night outstrip the day" means it does not run before it and leave it lagging behind. "Each" refers to the suns and the moons. "Swimming in a sky" means they glide easily in it. (Abd al-Fadi, pp. 30-31; bold emphasis ours)

Today we know that, contrary to what the Quran teaches, the moon is not traversing all throughout space but simply revolves around the earth in approximately 29.5 days. Moreover, the moon does not rest at any station but it travels around the earth in one continuous motion.

The foregoing scientific blunders are just some additional evidence that the Quran is not God’s Word.

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