The Demand of the Quran for a Direct Confrontation
The Noble Quran was revealed in the Arabic language, one of the richest languages in the world from the point of view of firmness of structure and abundance of vocabulary. It descended like a flash of lightning in the darkness of the Age of Ignorance, and in the manner in which it conveyed various types of subject matter in the most concise of sentences it had nothing in common with the conventional language of the Arabs. At the time that the Quran was revealed, the literary talent and eloquence of the Arabs was at its peak.
Works created by poets and orators commanded the attention and admiration of everyone, and literature constituted the only art cultivated by the Arab elite. The Quran, which constituted the documentary proof of the messengerhood of the Prophet of Islam and the raw materials of which its constituent letters and words was revealed over a period of twenty-three years in accordance with the particular needs that emerged over time. Thus it guided the Prophet and his companions step by step toward their exalted goals. The words and expressions of the Quran are harmonious and its words are set together pleasingly and with the utmost beauty, and in complete accord with the subtle meanings they express.
This unique combination of wording and meaning is a special feature of the Quran and another aspect of its miraculousness. With the revelation of the Quran, the Arabs made the acquaintance of a fresh and new form of speech which was neither prose nor poetry, but the melody of which was more beautiful and attractive than that of poetry and the discourse of which was more eloquent and effective than that of prose. Whoever heard it was drawn toward it and transformed by it. It was utterly different from all forms of human speech by virtue of the superiority of its concepts, the eloquence of its style and outward form, and its exposition of meanings in the most concise way.
The firm laws and clear logic of the Quran showed human beings the way to correct religion and living, and inspired them with the determination to create an epic unparalleled in history. The Quran destroyed utterly the superstitions that the oppressors and their helpers had elaborated throughout history. The Quran established a mode of thought leading to the truth, which is identified as thought that eschews all obstinacy, caprice and fanaticism. From the very first day that the Prophet began preaching his message of monotheism, he summoned people also to a realistic vision of the world.
When inviting them to faith, he addressed their wisdom and intelligence and called on them to use their eyes and their ears to perceive the truth. He unshackled them from custom and usage, from obstinately clinging to ancient heritages, and strove to convince them that they should not perversely insist on retaining the beliefs and loyalties that had been born of polytheism. Although these efforts earned him bitter harassment, he was not dismayed, and he did not give up before fulfilling the role that the Creator had given him in improving men's lives. Many of the polytheists did not permit themselves to listen to the Quran for they were well aware of its remarkable effect and afraid that its profound and astonishing influence might conquer their hearts as well, drawing them ineluctably towards it.
Ibn Hisham writes in his life of the Prophet: "So strong was the heartfelt desire of the people to hear the Quran that even some of the unbelievers of the Quraysh would stealthily go near the Prophet's house at night, remaining there until dawn, in order to listen throughout the night to the pleasing melody of the Quran as recited by the Messenger of God. This happened many times. When the revelation of the Quran began, the Most Noble Messenger clearly proclaimed the Quran to be the Word of God, and said it was impossible for any human being to duplicate it; if anyone disagreed, he ought to make an attempt to copy it, and should feel free to seek help from any source in doing so.
None was able to take up this challenge and produce even a short surah similar to the Quran. Still more remarkable is the fact that the utterances of the Prophet, whose tongue would recite the Quran, bore no resemblance whatsoever to the Quran. This is in itself a convincing proof that the Quran originated from a source other than the mind of the Prophet.
The Quran Modifies the Conditions of its Challenge
The Quran issued a challenge not only to the contemporaries of the Prophet but also to men in all ages. In order to demonstrate the incapacity and impotence of people to imitate it, it issued the following universal proclamation: "Were all of mankind to come together and wish to produce the like of the Quran, they would never succeed, however much they aided each other." (17:88)
It then modifies the challenge and reduces its scope by saying: "Do people imagine that this Quran is not from Us, and that you, Oh Prophet, are falsely attributing it to Us? Tell them that if they are speaking truly they should produce ten surahs resembling the Quran, and that they are free to call on the aid of anyone but God in so doing." (11:13)
Then, at a third stage, the scope of the challenge is reduced still further: the deniers are called on to produce only a single surah resembling the Quran: "Oh people, if you doubt the heavenly origin of this Book which We have sent down to Our servant, the Prophet, produce one surah like it." (2:23)
Since we know that some of the shorter surahs consist only of a few brief sentences, this final challenge constituted a definitive proof of the human being's inability to imitate the Quran. It is remarkable that the Prophet who thus challenged the Arabs to a kind of literary contest, despite all their literary resources, was someone who had never in the course of the forty years of his life participated in any of their literary competitions or acquired any superiority in eloquence over this own people.
Let us not forget that this challenge was issued to a people whose leaders were threatened by the devastating attacks of the Quran, their lives, their property, their ancient customs, their ancestors, their whole social position. If it had been at all possible for the Arabs to respond to the challenge of the Quran, they would have taken it up immediately, with the unstinting aid of the masters of eloquence that were by no means rare in that age. Thus they would have invalidated the proofs of the Quran and won an everlasting victory.
Furthermore, as a matter of general principle, if one consistently follows and studies the style of a certain form of speech, he will ultimately be able to imitate it. But the Quran forms an exception to this rule: however much one tries to practice the use of the Quranic style, he will never be able to create something resembling the Quran. This reveals to us a significant truth: mere learning and study can never give us the capability to imitate the Quran. History has not a single instance to show in which this particular aspect of the miraculousness of the Quran has been negated; it cannot point to a single book comparable to the Quran.
Even among the speeches and sayings of the Prophet, nothing can be found which resembles the Quran from the point of view of style and eloquence. If the forces opposing Islam, with all of their skilled rhetoricians, had been able to create works capable of competing with the Quran, there would have been no need for them to endure losses and casualties by going to war, to suffer hardship and expend material resources. They could have won an easy victory by means of propaganda, a kind of cold war, and put paid to the rise of Islam within itself, its place of origin.
They called into play all their resources in an effort to meet the challenge of the Quran, but all their efforts came to naught. They were unable to point even to a single error or defect in the Quran and were obliged to admit that its words were situated on a higher plane than the thought and speech of the human being. The verses of the Quran penetrated the depths of human beings' hearts with such unprecedented swiftness that all people of sound mind and heroic disposition eagerly embraced its message.
By contrast, the devotees of ignorance and mental stagnation, people who assigned little value to wisdom and thought, and whose lives were spent in the swamp of neglect and lack of awareness, were the principal element in opposing Islam and urging others to do so. In order to conceal from people's view the miraculous nature of the Quran, they attributed the Quran to the workings of magic, seeking thus to explain the extraordinary attraction exerted by its verses and its unique influence.
Sometimes they would also subject the converts to Islam to harassment and a hail of contempt and ridicule, or through force and coercion they would attempt to prevent the people from thinking freely. Their whole method of struggle against Islam was, in fact, childish, and it betrayed their weakness and utter helplessness. For example, they instructed a group of people to go and make a noise, to whistle and clap their hands, while the Prophet was reciting the verses of the Quran, so that the people would not fall under the influence of its eloquence and power to attract.
The methods followed by the leaders of Quraysh and their insistence on preventing the message of the Quran from reaching the ears of the people showed that a deadly serious struggle between truth and falsehood was not indeed underway. The Quran itself unmasks the methods they followed and the negative role that they played: "The polytheists said: 'Do not listen to the verses of the Quran, and make a noise while they are being recited; perhaps you will thus triumph.'" (41:26)
But this attempt forcibly to sever the connection between people's minds and the Quran did not last long. As soon as the shackles of coercion and fear were loosened from the minds of people, even some of the leaders of the polytheists who were firmly attached to the rites and customs of the Age of Ignorance would conceal themselves behind the coverings of the Ka'bah not far from where the Prophet was sitting, in order to listen to him reciting the verses of the Quran in prayer.
This shows how deeply the image the Quran had traced of itself was able to penetrate deep into the souls of the people, so that the polytheists were ultimately unable to accomplish anything effective against the message of the Quran, although it represented a call to battle fatal to their interests. This impotence on the part of the enemies of Islam belongs to the dawn of Islam: the masters of eloquence were unable to imitate or compete with the Quran.
Now that we are in the fifteenth century since the Quran first laid down its challenge, a time when the progress of learning has opened up new horizons of thought in front of us, we can appreciate the Divine origin of the Quran and its infinite values by reference to other matters, quite apart from the unique and inimitable structure and eloquence of the Quran. We can perceive the Quran to be an everlasting miracle, because the position of revelation vis-a-vis its deniers remains firmly the same, and the challenge of the Quran still resounds to all of mankind: "If you doubt the heavenly origin of this book, produce one surah like it." (2:23)
Can the person of today take up the challenge of the Quran and produce a surah like it, thereby conquering the stronghold of Islam and invalidating the claims of its Prophet? Both in past and present times, there have been obstinate and impudent enemies of Islam among the experts on Arabic language and literature. If it had been possible for them to meet the challenge of the Quran, that eternal miracle of harmony and symmetry, and produce a single surah like it, they would certainly have devoted themselves fully to such a destructive undertaking.
Islam has proposed, then, a very simple challenge to those who oppose it. Why then do the deniers of prophethood choose roundabout ways, avoiding this direct method of confronting and defeating Islam? Is it not because the door is firmly closed on meeting the challenge posed by the Quran? Gibb, a certain Christian scholar, says: "Even if we attempt to reorder the words of the Quran, we will not be able to put them in a new and meaningful order; we must replace them exactly where they were before." Despite the passage of time, historical documents and evidence still provide such a clear picture of the Prophet of Islam and his characteristics that all historians are unanimous that the Prophet was an unlettered man who had never known books or teachers and never learned how to write.
The Quran itself addressed him as follows, proclaiming his characteristics to the members of Meccan society who were acquainted with all the stages of his life: "Before this, you did not read any book, nor did you write anything with your hands." (29:48) The Divine nature of the Prophet's message is thus demonstrated. Is it at all possible that someone should proclaim to the members of his own society, in utter contradiction of the truth, that he is unlettered and has never studied, without anyone voicing an objection?
The dark cultural environment of that day was, in any event, a stranger to scholars and teachers; nothing existed that the Prophet might have studied. Those people who knew how to read and write were few and far between and none of the historians records a single instance of the Prophet having read a single line or written a single word before the beginning of his prophetic mission. How remarkable it is that such a man who had never studied became the standard-bearer of a movement calling for science and free thought! With the beginning of his messengerhood and his entry on the stage of human history, mankind entered a new stage of progress.
With the suddenness of a flash of lightening, he introduced his people to the world of learning and writing and laid the foundations of a movement that transformed the degenerate society of Arabia into the nucleus of a great world civilization. A few centuries later, that civilization could boast of the most splendid scientific accomplishments and the greatest scholars and researchers.
A consideration of these facts concerning the phenomenon of Islam, particularly as they are judged by non-Muslim scholars, helps us to understand better the profoundly miraculous nature of the Quran. The author of Muhammad, the Prophet Who Must Be Examined Anew, writes as follows: "Although he was unlettered, the very first verses that were revealed to him contain mention of the pen and of knowledge, of learning and teaching. There is no other religion that places such emphasis, in its very origin, on knowledge and learning. "If Muhammad had been a scholar, the revelation of the Quran in the cave of Hira would not have been surprising, for a scholar knows well the value of learning. But he was unlettered and had never studied with any teacher. I congratulate the Muslims that the acquisition of knowledge was so highly valued at the very inception of their religion."
Laura Vaccia Vaglieri, professor at the University of Naples, has the following to say: "The heavenly book of Islam is miraculous and inimitable. Its style is totally unprecedented in Arabic literature, and its peculiar impact on the spirit of the human being derives from its special and superior characteristics. How is it possible that such a book should be the work of Muhammad, an Arab who had never studied?
"We find in this book a treasury of knowledge beyond the capacity of the greatest philosophers and statesmen, and for this reason it is also impossible to regard the Quran as the work of an educated person." Smith writes in his book, Muhammad and Islam: "I boldly assert that one day the loftiest of human philosophers and the most veracious principles of Christianity will confess and bear witness that the Quran is the Word of God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
An unlettered and unlearned Prophet was chosen by God to bring the Quran to mankind, a book that has in the course of history produced thousands of other books and treatises, brought libraries into being and filled them with books, and placed before mankind laws and philosophies and educational, intellectual and ideological systems. "He arose in an environment where there was no trace of learning and civilization.
In the whole of Medina, there were only eleven people who knew how to read and write, and in all the branches of the Quraysh, in Mecca and its environs, not more than seventeen people were literate. "The teachings of the Quran, which mentions knowledge and the pen in its opening verses, brought about a tremendous transformation. Islam proclaimed study to be a religious duty, and made the black ink of the scribe and the scholar to be superior to the red blood of the martyr.
"Thanks to the teachings of the Quran and its emphasis on the cultivation of knowledge, countless scholars made their appearance and wrote innumerable books. Different scientific disciplines were derived from the Quran and spread across the world by Muslim thinkers. The world was illumined with the light of the Quran and the culture of Islam."
The Relationship of the Quran to Modern Science:
The Quran deserves to be evaluated from different points of view. One topic for examination is the artistic and verbal beauty of the Quran and its style which is neither poetry nor prose. It does not have the characteristics of poetry, which may be thought as giving free flight to the imagination and indulging in poetic exaggeration, and equally it does not exemplify conventional prose, for it is imbued with a distinctive rhythm and melody that are the means for it to exert a powerful and unique spiritual attraction on all who make its acquaintance.
Then the intellectual and scientific content of the Quran also calls for examination. It is true that it is not the aim of the Noble Quran to uncover and expound scientific phenomena, to set forth all the natural motions and events that occur within the system of being in accordance with a specific set of laws, or to explain the properties and mode of operation of nature. We should not expect the Quran to discuss, in an organized manner, the various branches of science and to analyze the topics connected with each of those branches, or to solve the various problems that are encountered in different fields of research.
The ability to experiment and to conduct scientific research has been made inherent in the human being's nature, and he can obtain the knowledge and the arts he needs in his life by means of thought and reflection. He makes valuable advances through his unceasing efforts to gain control over the forces of nature. Concerns such as these are alien to a book of moral edification.
The aim pursued by the Quran is the training of the human being as a being conscious of his duties; it reinforces and accelerates his spiritual ascension, together with all of his qualities, toward a state of true loftiness and the dignity of which the human being is worthy. The emergence of such a being requires a comprehensive reform of the human being, involving various changes such as the negation of false values and meaningless criteria deriving from the Age of Ignorance and the creation and fostering of a creative energetic spirit within him.
The Quran can thus be said to melt the spirits of human beings and pour them into a new mould, where they acquire a different, richer and more valuable form. Although this may be said to be the principal aim of the Quran, it summons the human being insistently, at the very same time, to reflect and to ponder, and to acquire a realistic view of the world; it guides him on to the path of thought, of teaching and learning. In the very first verses of the Quran to be revealed, we encounter praise and ennobling of the pen, of the acquisition of knowledge and of the study of nature as one of the principal sources of cognition; a profound awareness of nature may lead to the boundaries of the supranatural realm.
Through the inspiration given by the Quran and as a result of the scientific movement launched by Islam, a vital and active people blossomed into maturity, uniquely gifted with knowledge and virtue. The viewpoint of Islam on science represented a major development that prepared the way for subsequent developments. Iqbal, the well-known Indo-Muslim thinker, says: "The birth of Islam, as I hope to be able presently to prove to your satisfaction, is the birth of inductive intellect...The constant appeal to reason and experience in the Quran, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of human knowledge, are all different aspects of the same idea of finality.
"Inner experience is only one source of human knowledge. According to the Quran, there are two other sources of knowledge - Nature and History; and it is in tapping these sources of knowledge that the spirit of Islam is seen at its best." All forms of scientific endeavor are necessarily based on respect for the intellect and for the development of the human being and on freedom of thought from all kinds of fetters. The principal advances and developments in the natural sciences are all due to these premises.
The contemporary human being is heir to the knowledge and the researches of millions of thinkers and scholars who in their investigations discovered the foundations of the various sciences, and who gained access to some of the mysteries of being by means of their intellectual originality and creativity and their untiring efforts. In the age when the Quran was revealed - an age known as the Age of Ignorance - creative and innovative thought, marked by the comprehensive spirit of science, was non-existent, and no one was able to discern the mysteries of the vast, unknown universe.
When expounding the mysteries of creation, the Quran is clear and explicit whenever clarity and explicitness are desirable. In cases where the perception of complex truths was difficult for the people of that age, the Quran contents itself with making allusions, so that in the course of time as the intellects and knowledge of human beings developed and the mysteries of nature came more clearly to the fore, these matters would become more easily comprehensible. In expounding the contents of the Quran, Muslim scholars have continually put forward different views, as a result both of their own researches, investigations and reflections, and of the vast spiritual richness of the Quran. Given this spiritual richness, it is inconceivable that such a great and infinite source of truth could have been produced by the talent and intellectual genius of the human being.
If something takes place by way of natural causation, it should be possible for people living either at the time of its first occurrence or in a later age to produce something similar. But if a phenomenon takes place outside the natural course of things, so that natural laws and criteria are suspended, people will be unable at all times to attempt its replication. In the case of the Quran, we see that all conventional criteria and principles were violated; the entirety of the book represents a transcendence of all norms.
We have said that the Quran refers allusively to scientific truths, almost as secondary matters serving as a preliminary to the attainment of a greater and more glorious goal. We cannot, therefore, regard it as a technical work of specialization that discusses matters only from the viewpoint of science. The Quran refers to certain aspects of the life of the human being, the earth, the heavens and the plants, but it would be entirely wrong to imagine that it does so with the intention of elucidating the natural sciences or resolving dubious points connected with them.
The purpose of the Quran is rather to expound truths that are relevant to the spiritual life of the human being and the exaltation of his being and conducive to his attaining a life of true happiness. Furthermore, when expounding scientific truths which might be couched in a different terminology in every age, the Quran does not make use of technical terms.
For although scientific truths and the laws governing all phenomena enjoy stability and immutability, and although they have always existed and always will exist, it is possible that scientific terminology might change from one age to the next and appear in a totally different form from before. Discussions in the Quran concerning the world of creation relate to a series of truths and principles that are not situated in the sensory realm. The human being can grasp these matters only by recourse to particular scientific instruments.
Dr. Bucaille, the French scientist, writes as follows: "A crucial fact is that the Quran, while inviting us to cultivate science, itself contains many observations on natural phenomena and includes explanatory details which are seen to be in total agreement with modern scientific data. There is no equal to this in the Judeo-Christian Revelation. "These scientific considerations, which are very specific to the Quran, greatly surprised me at first. Up until then, I had not thought it possible for one to find so many statements in a text compiled more than thirteen centuries ago referring to extremely diverse subjects and all of them totally in keeping with modern scientific knowledge...A thorough linguistic knowledge is not in itself sufficient to understand these verses from the Quran.
What is needed along with this is a highly diversified knowledge of science. A study such as the present one embraces many disciplines and is in that sense encyclopedic. As the questions raised are discussed, the variety of scientific knowledge essential to the understanding of certain verses of the Quran will become clear. "The Quran does not aim at explaining certain laws governing the Universe, however; it has an absolutely basic religious objective. The descriptions of Divine Omnipotence are what principally incite the human being to reflect on the works of Creation. They are accompanied by references to facts accessible to human observation or to laws defined by God who presides over the organization of the universe both in the sciences of nature.
"One part of these assertions is easily understood, but the meaning of the other can only be grasped if one has the essential scientific knowledge it requires... "The hypothesis advanced by those who see Muhammad as the author of the Quran is quite untenable. How could a man, from being illiterate, become the most important author, in terms of literary merit, in the whole of Arabic literature? How could he then pronounce truths of a scientific nature that no other human being could possibly have developed at the time, and all this without once making the slightest error in his pronouncements on the subject?
"The ideas in this study are developed from a purely scientific point of view. They lead to the conclusion that it is inconceivable for a human being living in the seventh century AD to have made statements in the Quran on a great variety of subjects that do not belong to his period and for them to be in keeping with what was to be known only centuries later. For me, there can be no human explanation to the Quran." 
Let us briefly examine a few examples of this kind of topic. One, the best-known theory concerning the emergence of the solar system is the hypothesis of Laplace, some of whose views were later refuted by certain scientists as a result of further research. Although there are other views concerning the factors that caused the emergence of the solar system, all scientific circles in the world today are agreed that the planets were originally composed of a mass of sodium gas: first the heavens and the earth were joined together as a single entity and then they separated from each other. Centuries ago, the Quran alluded to this scientific theory. It says, when describing the creation of the heavens: "Then God turned to the creation of the heavens (the planets), when they were but a smoky substance." (41:11)
"Do the unbelievers not see that the heavens and the earth were joined together before We separated them, and that We brought all living things into existence from water? Why do they still not believe in God?" (21:30) The well-known scientist Gamof says: "As we know, the sun came into being out of cumulative gases, and the sun then emitted a series of gases from itself that came into being after the separation from it of the planets. How did this burning mass of planetary matter come into being and what forces were involved in its origination?
Who assembled the materials needed for their construction? "These are questions which confront us with respect to the moon as well as every other planet in the solar system; they form the basis of all cosmological theories and are riddles that have preoccupied astronomers for centuries."
James, an English scientist, writes: "Millions of centuries ago, a planet was passing in the vicinity of the sun and created an awesome tidal effect, so that matter separated from the sun in the shape of a long cigarette. Then this matter was divided: the weightier portion of the cigarette became the great planets, and the lighter portions brought the lesser planets into being."
The words used by the Quran in the verse quoted above, attributing the origin of the heavens to smoke (=gas), indicates the profundity with which this Divine book treats matters. All scientists are of the opinion that sodium is a gas mixed with ferrous materials, and the word smoke/gas may be taken to include both gas and iron. The word 'smoke' is, then, the most scientific expression that might be employed in the context.
Thus the Quran unveils one of the great mysteries of nature: the separation of the planets from a huge object and then their separation from each other. Since at the time of the revelation of the Quran, the general level of knowledge and science was extremely low, does this not constitute a proof of the heavenly nature of the Quran? Does not the exposition of these matters by the Quran, in a manner conforming to quite recent discoveries made by astronomers, prove that the voice speaking in the Quran belongs to one who is acquainted with all the mysteries and truths of existence?
Dr. Bucaille makes the following open admission: "At the earliest time it can provide us with, modern science has every reason to maintain that the Universe was formed of a gaseous mass principally composed of hydrogen and a certain amount of helium that was slowly rotating. This nebula subsequently split up into multiple fragments with very large dimensions and masses, so large indeed, that specialists in astrophysics are able to estimate their mass from 1 to 100 billion times the present mass of the Sun (the latter represents a mass that is over 300,000 times that of the Earth). These figures give an idea of the large size of the fragments of primary gaseous mass that were to give birth to the galaxies. "It must be noted, however, that the formation of the heavenly bodies and the Earth, as explained in verses 9 to 12, surah 41....required two phases. If we take the Sun and its sub-product, the Earth as an example (the only one accessible to us), science informs us that their formation occurred by a process of condensation of the primary nebula and then their separation.
This is exactly what the Quran expresses very clearly when it refers to the processes that produced a fusion and subsequent separation starting from a celestial 'smoke'. Hence there is complete correspondence between the facts of the Quran and the facts of science. "Such statements in the Quran concerning the Creation, which appeared nearly fourteen centuries ago, obviously do not lend themselves to a human explanation."
Two, one of the most subtle problems in science concerns the expansion of the universe, its tendency constantly to extend its boundaries. This was something completely unknown to the human being until the last century. This mystery is, however, mentioned by the Quran in the following terms, which again bear witness to its remarkable profundity when discussing such matters: "We created the heavens with Our strength and power, and constantly expand them." (51:47)
This verse speaks in categorical terms of the expansion of the universe, its constellations and galaxies, although not more than a century has passed since the discovery of the expansion of the universe. The well-known scholar Baresht writes as follows: "Astronomers gradually became aware that certain regular motions were underway in the most distant galaxies that were barely visible to their telescopes. Those distant galaxies appear to be moving away both from the solar system and from each other. "The regular flight of these galaxies, the closest of which is five hundred light-years away from us, is completely different from the placid motion of attraction exerted by bodies close to us. Those distant motions may have an effect on the curvature of the universe. The universe is not, then, in a state of immobility and balance; it is more like a soap bubble or a bellows in its constant expansion."
Another scholar, John Pfeffer, writes as follows: "The universe is expanding. Wherever we look, we see the galaxies becoming more distant from each other; the distance between them is constantly growing. The most distant galaxies are becoming ever more removed from us, at the greatest conceivable speed. For example, while you have been reading this sentence, some of the galaxies will have become 250,000 miles farther removed from the earth.
"The parts of the universe are becoming farther removed from each other. It is as if a bullet had exploded in the air, the galaxies corresponding to the particles of the bullet as they hasten farther and farther apart. The theory of the big bang is based on precisely such a comparison. "According to this theory, there was a time when all the matter in the universe was gathered together into a single dense mass. It was a substance suspended in space, with a volume hundreds of times greater than the sun, and resembled a bomb ready to explode. Then, about ten billion years ago, the explosion took place with a blinding flash, and the huge ball of matter became scattered in space. Its components are still being scattered forth in every direction, in a process of unceasing expansion - gases, rays, galaxies."
The Glorious Quran draws people's attention to the splendor inherent in the ordering of the universe and the complexity of its creation, and it reminds them that the signs of the Creator's workmanship are so numerous in the universe that if the human being reflects aright he will inevitably come to believe in the eternal power of God, the source of all being. Then he will bow humbly before His magnificence. We read in Surah al-Imran: "Certainly in the creation of the heavens and earth and in the alternation of night and day, there are clear signs for the intelligent, those who at all times make remembrance of God and constantly reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth and say: 'Oh Creator! You have not created this expanse of splendor and magnificence in vain; You are pure and transcendent, so preserve us through Your favor from the torment of the fire.' "(3:190-91)
The Relationship of the Quran to Modern Science:
Three, the Quran describes as follows the factor that keeps each of the heavenly bodies on its appointed course: "God it is Who raised up the heavenly bodies to invisible pillars and then took repose on the throne. He has subjected the sun and the moon to you, and each of them continues to rotate for a fixed time. Thus God regulates all the affairs of the universe and He explains in detail His signs, so that you may believe with certainty in the Day of Resurrection and the meeting with your Lord." (13:2)
We know that before the time of Newton, that great scientific personality, no one was aware of the force of gravity. Although Newton made many discoveries in different branches of science, he is world-famous above all for the discovery of gravity. His achievement has been described as follows: "Newton proved that the falling of objects to earth, the rotation of the moon and Venus, the motions of the planets, and other instances of attraction are all subject to a single law, the law of universal gravity."
One of the most difficult problems Newton encountered was how to prove that the gravitational force exerted by a globular body is the same as it would be if we were to regard the whole of the body as concentrated in its center. As long as this remained unproven, the theory of universal gravitation would represent a kind of inspiration, not based on precise calculations or mathematical proofs.
In the verse quoted above, the fixing of the heavenly bodies in space and their rotation in a fixed course are attributed to a factor designated as "invisible pillars." Are these unseen pillars, which prevent the planets from colliding with each other or falling, anything other than the mysterious and invisible force of universal gravity, a law to which the Creator of the universe has subjected all of the heavenly bodies? Four, in conveying this scientific truth, the Quran has used an expression that is comprehensible for the men of all ages. The Eighth Imam, upon whom be peace, spoke as follows to one of his companions concerning this Quranic expression: "Did God not say in the Quran, 'without a pillar that you may see'?"
The companion answered, 'Yes," whereupon the Imam added, "In that case there is a pillar but it cannot be seen." In the course of refuting the materialist view that the human being is destined to utter annihilation, the Quran describes the evolutionary movement of the universe saying, "Do the deniers not look at the heavens above them and see how We have placed them on a firm foundation, adorned them with the stars and made them immune to all flaws? Were We tired by their first creation (so that We might experience difficulty in creating them anew)? They (the unbelievers) are themselves clothed every instant in a new garment of creation."(50:6, 7, 15)
In other words, those who because of their shortsightedness and narrowness of vision imagined the world to be stagnant and stationary are in error, because they are themselves in a state of constant motion, together with the entire universe. The motion of the human being is connected to the general motion of the universe, and after death, too, his spiritual motion will continue, through the appearance of the Promised Day and the fulfillment of the Divine promise; his motion will never be cut short by death.
In expounding this precise scientific truth, the Quran does not restrict itself to the dry philosophical aspects of the matter. By entrusting the discussion of the matter to the Prophet, a person who had never studied, who had grown up in a spiritually dark environment with no philosophical tradition, the Quran simultaneously puts forward a truth that is of vital significance to the human being. That truth is the immortality of the spirit, the existence of resurrection and judgment, with all that that implies for the responsibilities of the human being while still alive. The Quran also refers to the internal motion of the earth when it says: "You look at the mountains and imagine them to be solid and stable. But they are engaged in inward motion and growth, just like the clouds. This inward motion if of God's creation and making: He has fashioned all things in a correct way, and He is well aware of your conduct and deeds."(16:90)
This verse calls attention to the inward dynamic motion of mountains. It says, in effect: Although you imagine the mountains to be solid and without inward movement and growth, this is not the case. The mountains that seem stagnant and stationary to you are inwardly growing and changing, just like the clouds the motion of which is visible to you. The firm structure and development of all things are ensured by that same motion, the law of motion which is of God's creation and making. It prevails over all the particles and phenomena of nature, and it ensures their order and stability.
The choice of this particular wording in the Quran goes back, no doubt, to the fact that mountains are a symbol of bulkiness and stability, and it enables the verse to lay particular stress on the ability of the Creator to do all things. Five, not more than three centuries have passed since Galileo presented to the world of science the theory of the motion of the earth, in a clear fashion and accompanied by adequate proof. In an age not too far removed from us, when geocentricity and the immobility of the earth were regarded as indubitable scientific principles, his theory met with a wave of furious opposition. By contrast, in the dark atmosphere of the Age of Ignorance, the Quran had already referred to certain aspects of the earth's motion and the mysterious qualities of mountains.
This was an exposition of complex scientific truths, taking place already in that age. Thus the Quran says: "Have We not made the earth as a cradle and the mountains like pegs?"(78:6-7) "God has placed mountains on the earth to prevent its uneven motion."(31:10) The Quran compares the earth to a cradle because a cradle is a place of rest that is engaged in motion. In another verse, a different comparison is offered: "I have created the earth for you like a tamed camel that with its gentle and smooth motion does not vex its rider."(67:15) The Quran referred to the motion of the earth at a time when the Ptolemaic theory of geocentricity and the immobility of the earth had been ruling for centuries over the minds of the learned. It was the heavenly book of Islam that refuted that fantastic view of the world, almost a thousand years before Galileo.
In one of the verses just quoted, the mountains have been subtly and delicately compared to pegs that hold the earth in place and prevent it from becoming scattered. This is because the crust of the earth is covered with a soft layer of soil and sand, and were the earth to be deprived of firm and heavy mountains, it would undoubtedly lose its stability because of the pull exerted by the moon. It would fall prey to convulsion and shaking, and destructive tides would overwhelm the globe and destroy it. The mountains serve as highly resistant pegs that play an essential role in preserving the earth from dissolution and destruction. The slight tremblings and convulsions that sometimes occur are not on a scale to deprive human life of all tranquillity and stability.
Furthermore, the massive bulk of great mountains is able to neutralize and control, to a considerable extent, the powerful waves of molten materials and buried gases that emanate from within the earth. Were the mountains not to rear up their heads over our globe, the surface of the earth would be in constant ferment because of the pressure of molten substances, and its whole nature would change. Therefore, bearing in mind that mountains are like pegs implanted in the earth, we realize that our tranquil and undisturbed existence on the globe is ensured precisely by the mountains. The Quran similarly alludes to the earth being globular in shape, in the following verse: "I swear by the Lord of the easts and the wests."(70:40) It is obvious that a multiplicity of easts and wests? points at which the sun rises and sets.
Every point of the globe is, at some moment, the east for a certain group of people, and the west for another group of people. Do truths such as these not serve to make us better acquainted with the profound truths this heavenly book contains? Six, the Quran describes the factors which give rise to milk in animals in a way that is entirely compatible with the data of modern science. This is what God's book has to say: "There is in truth for you a lesson in your animals and flocks. We give you to drink a pure milk derived from that which is contained in their bodies, from the merging of what is held in their intestines with blood. The drinking of that is then made easy for those who drink it."(16:16)
Dr. Bucaille writes in his book: "From a scientific point of view, physiological notions must be called upon to grasp the meaning of this verse. The substances that ensure the general nutrition of the body come from chemical transformations which occur along the length of the digestive tract. These substances come from the contents of the intestine. On arrival in the intestine at the appropriate stage of chemical transformation, they pass through its wall and towards the systemic circulation. This passage is effected in two ways: either directly, by what are called the 'lymphatic vessels', or indirectly, by the portal circulation. This conducts them first to the liver, where they undergo alterations, and from here they then emerge to join the systemic circulation. In this way everything passes through the bloodstream.
The constituents of the milk are secreted by the mammary glands. These are nourished, as it were, by the product of food digestion brought to them via the bloodstream. Blood therefore plays the role of collector and conductor of what has been extracted from food, and it brings nutrition to the mammary glands, the producers of milk, as it does to any other organ. "Here the initial process which sets everything else in motion is the bringing together of the contents of the intestine and blood at the level of the intestinal wall itself. This very precise concept is the result of the discoveries made in the chemistry and physiology of the digestive system. It was totally unknown at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and has been understood only in recent times.
The discovery of the circulation of the blood, was made by Harvey roughly ten centuries after the Quranic Revelation. "I consider that the existence in the Quran of the verse referring to these concepts can have no human explanation on account of the period in which they were formulated." Seven, it is only recently that researchers have come aware of insemination in plants and learned that every living being comes into existence as the result of the merging of a male and female cell. Before the invention of the microscope, which gave man access to the world of atoms and enabled him to study microscopic beings, no one was aware of the action and reaction among male and female cells, certainly not in the Age of Ignorance, and indeed not until the codification of classical botany.
The numerous experiments and investigations by scientists in this field have proven that reproduction is impossible without insemination, except in certain plants where reproduction takes place by way of the division of cells. The first person to analyze this scientific fact in a clear and straightforward fashion was the well-known Swedish scientist, Charles Leine (1707-1787). Scientific information shows that reproduction among plants generally takes place through insemination with microscopic particles, and the agents of insemination are insects, flies, bees and so forth, together with the most effective and widespread agent of all - the wind, which lifts up nearly weightless particles and scatters them in the air.
In verses that are totally free of ambiguity, the Noble Quran sets forth clearly the principle of gender in the vegetable world, together with the existence of male and female cells in plants, something which was completely unknown until quite recently. It says, with the utmost eloquence: "Do they not look at the earth, where We have created the plants in pairs ?"(42:7) "We sent down water from the heavens, and made to grow thereby pairs of different species of plants."(20:51) "Pure and transcendent is the God Who created all contingent things in pairs - plants, human beings, and other forms of creation unknown to you."(36:36) After setting forth the principle of two genders in the human being, the animals and the plant world, the Quran enlarges the scope of the principle to the degree of embracing all parts of existence.
It is a general rule and law to which nothing that can be called existent forms an exception. The Quran says: "We have created all things their pair, in order that you may remember God. "(51:49) Given the profound knowledge at the human being's disposal in the present age, he has come to realize that all substances in the world can be reduced, in the final analysis, to their smallest structural unit, the atom. This infinitely small unit itself comprises a duality: that of positive and negative electricity. Although these two forces are identical with respect to their existential nature, one of them carries a positive electrical load and the other, a negative one. It is this opposition, that attracts them to each other.
Attraction toward the opposite pole is inherent in both of them, and once the mutual attraction is exerted, a third entity comes into being - a force which is neutral in its electrical load. It is very remarkable that the pairing of all things should have been mentioned in the Quran, which was, after all, revealed in an environment dominated by ignorance. The attraction that exists between two bodies each bearing a different kind of electric load makes entirely appropriate the use of the word "pair." for it is entirely similar to the attraction between the two opposite genders. "Pair" was an extremely effective way of describing this scientific reality, given the limited thoughts of men at the time and even later, for it is not until recently that clear and definite information about the physical nature of this matter became available.
So if we generalize the phenomenon of the pair to include the inner structure of atoms, we may conclude that the material structure of the world is indeed based on pairing, and that nothing in the material universe is exempt from the operation of this comprehensive principle. Paul Ruybruck, an English scholar, says: "Each particle of matter is confronted by an opposing particle, as was proven in 1955. Using an atom breaker, physicists were able to discover counter-protons, counter-neutrons and counter-matters. They became convinced that the structure of the world of counter matter corresponds exactly to that of the world of matter, and that the two always accompany each other."
As Max Planck, another twentieth century scientist, puts it: "Every material body is compounded of electrons and protons." One of the findings of the natural and chemical sciences, proved by laboratory experiments, is that the roots of plants increase the volume of the earth. When water penetrates into bubbles inside the earth, the air that has accumulated there is driven further inside the earth, so that the depths of the earth begin to seethe in agitation. When rainfall penetrates the depths of the earth, the roots of plants begin to move and advance through the soil. It is obvious that numerous smaller and more delicate roots branch forth from the original roots, moving out in every direction. For example, the capillary roots of maize, each one square centimeter thick, may reach a total of 4200.
Scientists are of the opinion that roots derive 95% of their needs from the air and only 5% from the soil. Hence the amount of space occupied in the earth by roots is considerably expanded in its volume, so that the earth as a whole swells and becomes more capacious as a result of the growth of roots within it. Let us look now at verse 5 of Surah Hajj in the Noble Quran:
"Look at the earth: first it is dry and devoid of vegetation, then We send rain down upon it, and it begins to stir and to swell and all kinds of beautiful plants start growing in it." This forms another example of the agreement of the Quran with modern science. Eight, the Quran also mentions the role and operation of another factor in the bringing of things to fruition, the wind. "We have sent the winds as a means of insemination and impregnation, and then sent down rain from the heavens." (15:22)
In this verse, the Quran unveils another great mystery of creation, the fundamental role played by the wind in the fertilization of clouds. Using complex instruments and electrical means, civilized man has made great progress in recent years resulting in the establishment of the discipline known as meteorology. Specialists in this discipline point out the following: "It must be recognized that the obtaining of two conditions - the existence of steam in the air and its distillation to the point of saturating the air - is not enough to cause the formation of clouds and the occurrence of rainfall. A third condition is also necessary, which we may call fertilization."
Science confirms that winds is also a contributory factor in the fertilization of plants. In the appearance of natural phenomena, a kind of friction and delay always exists. For example, if water is pure and stationary, it is possible that its temperature be reduced to below zero without its solidifying and that it not begin to boil until its temperature is much higher than 100 degrees. Also, steam may not begin to distill even though it has reached a point of saturation, and once it has distilled, its globules may be so minute that they do not fall, remaining instead suspended in the air so that no rainfall occurs. It is necessary for the wind to provide invisible particles of salt, picked up from the surface of the oceans, that then form nuclei of attraction and inflation. More importantly, the moisture in the air has to accumulate around the crystallized snowflakes that have formed at higher altitudes and are then scattered by the wind.
Finally, the minute initial drops of rain merge with each other as a result of the collision and intermingling of the winds until they gradually grow in size and fall through cloud masses as a result of their relatively great weight. As a result of their friction with features of the earth and with bodies suspended in the air, cloud masses acquire opposing electrical forces. The release of this electricity is accompanied by intense friction of the particles in the air and the formation of nitrogen.
This process contributes considerably to the merging and growing of raindrops and the occurrence of rainfall. In short, the formation and strengthening of clouds, and the occurrence of rainfall and snow, cannot take place without a form of fertilization, accomplished through the intervention of an outside factor. Artificial rainfall likewise depends on artificial fertilization, carried out in the following way: an airplane scatters "water dust" (pulverized and crystallized ice) in air that has the potentiality of cloud formation but is in a state of delayed equilibrium. Discussing the rich treasury of knowledge contained in the Quran, Dr. Bucaille writes:
"Whereas monumental errors are to be found in the Bible, I could not find a single error in the Quran. I had to stop and ask myself: if a man was the author of the Quran, how could he have written facts in the seventh century AD that today are shown to be in keeping with modern scientific knowledge? There was absolutely no doubt about it: the text of the Quran we have today is most definitely a text of the period, if I may be allowed to put it in these terms (in the next chapter of the present section of the book I shall be dealing with this problem). What human explanation can there be for this observation?
In my opinion there is no explanation; there is no special reason why an inhabitant of the Arabian Peninsula should, at a time when King Dagobert was reigning in France (629-639 AD), have had scientific knowledge on certain subjects that was ten centuries ahead of our own."