Universal Gravitation and the Gravity of Earth as Mentioned in the Holy Qur'an
By: Mahdi La'li
Today scientists describe gravitational forces that hold the celestial bodies apart from each other and prevent them from colliding with each other. However, this is what the Quran explicitly stated through these verses fourteen hundred years ago:
-Allah, it is who raised up the heavens without visible supports, then mounted the throne, and compelled the sun and the moon to be of service, each runneth unto an appointed term; He ordereth the course, He detaileth the revelations, that haply ye may be certain of the meeting with your lord. Chapter13: verse2
-He hath created the heavens without supports that you can see 1. Chapter31: verse10
In the verses mentioned above, the statements “without visible support” and “without support that you can see” should indeed attract our attention to this subject. In the following passage, we will clarify the scientific purport of these verses, which indicates the miraculous aspect of Holy Quran.
Having read the verses above and compared them with the new scientific discoveries, it really strikes a nerve in us. How did this knowledge come to Muhammed, a Bedouin illiterate man living in the peninsula of Arabia in the seventh century? How was this conveyed to the first readers of the Quran? God tells us in the Quran that He is the One Who raised the sky (Chapter55: verse7) and that he holds it back from falling on the earth (Chapter22: verse65). How exactly does God do this?
Our universe is governed by four forces or interactions; gravity, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak interaction. These interactions are brought about by a group of particles called gauge bosons, which are exchanged between the particles that make up matter. Physicists are attempting to show how the four forces may, in fact, be derived from a single fundamental force.
A gauge boson is a general term for the four types of particle that transmit force. The gauge bosons that are thought to transmit each force are gluons (strong nuclear force); weakons (weak nuclear force); gravitons (gravitational force); and photons (electromagnetic force).
The law of universal Gravitation states that every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle with a force directly proportional to the products of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Gravity is the force that both holds galaxies together and causes a pin to drop. The larger the masses of two objects and the closer they are together, the stronger the gravitational pull between them will be.
Many scientists think that gravity is carried by particles called gravitons, but these have yet to be found in any experiment. (See “Gravity of Earth”).
The electromagnetic force acts between all particles that have an electric charge, such as electrons.
Electromagnetic forces between the atoms and molecules of a solid object give the object its rigidity. The force is also responsible for the behavior of magnets and for producing light. The electromagnetic force is carried by particles called photons, which are also the particles from which light is made.
The Strong Nuclear Force
The strong nuclear force exists within the nuclear (core) of an atom. It holds together the atoms neutrons and the positive charged protons. Protons are constantly trying to push away from each other and would fly apart were it not for the strong force). The strong nuclear force, which holds them together, is carried by particles called gluons.
The Weak Interaction
The weak interaction causes a type of radioactive decay (break up of the nucleus of an atom) called beta decay. Radioactive atoms are unstable because their nuclei contain too many neutrons. In the case of beta decay, a neutron changes into protons, giving off an electron (In this case called a beta particle). The weak interaction is carried by W and Z particles 2.
Around fourteen hundred years ago, Holy Quran has explicitly announced the existence of invisible supports, which raise up the heavens.
In that time, no one was cognizant of these supports, but now we know a lot about them. It is obvious that these invisible supports refer to the gravitational and other invisible forces in the universe. These miraculous verses confirm that Holy Quran is a revelation from the wise, the almighty God!
Dr. Bucaille, the famous author of the book ‘The Bible, the Quran and Science’ comments in his book: “In the New American Bible, a picture is drawn to show how the authors of the Bible imagined the world to look like. In that picture, the sky "resembles an overturned bowl and supported by columns". (The New American Bible, St. Joseph's Medium Size Edition, pp. 4-5). The earth in that picture is flat, and supported by pillars. After describing the picture at length, the editors of that Bible conclude by calling that idea of the world a "pre-scientific concept of the universe."
At the time when the Quran was being revealed, anyone could have easily believed this description, which was previously presented in the Bible. It is only in modern times that people would know better. How did the author of the Quran avoid this mistake?
God says in the Quran that He created the heavens "without any pillars that you can see". Again, the Quran says: "God is the One Who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see". Dr. Maurice Bucaille comments: "These two verses refute the belief that the vault of the heavens was held up by pillars, the only things preventing the former from crushing the earth".
To be able to avoid that pre-scientific error, the author of the Quran must have been either a modern scientist, or God Himself3. We might feel compelled to admit the divinity of the Quran.
1. Holy Quran translated by Marmaduke Pickthall, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, Fifth Edition 1969.
2. Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Space and the Universe, by Dorling Kindersley Publishers Limited, London, 1990.
3. The Bible, The Quran and Science (Le Bible, le Coran et la Science)," The Holy Scriptures Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge, by Dr. Maurice Bucaille, French Physician, Seghers, Paris, 1987, English version published by North American Trust Publication, 1978.
Gravity of Earth
Undoubtedly, everyone before Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) had felt the existence of a mysterious force inside the earth, which draws everything to itself. Apparently, no one had a clue before him about the generality of this law throughout the universe, among the heavens, planets, stars, giant galaxies and even between two small particles.
Absolutely, Newton in the 17th century was the first man who perceived this great law, by being inspired of dropping an apple. The discovery of this law was so important that some scientists have named the 17th century as "the century of Newton". He proved that every two bodies attract each other in direct ratio of masses and reversed ratio of squared distances" 1.
Does the Quran have anything to say about the existence of this phenomenon, i.e. the tendency of earth to draw everything to itself as the law of gravity? To find the answer, we should consider the following verse:
-Have We not made the earth to draw together to itself 2? Chapter77: verse25
We suppose that this astounding Quranic description of this phenomenon is so vivid for readers that there is seemingly no need for any particular scientific explanation. However, to obtain a background on the concept of gravity and its relation with the mentioned glorious verse, we offer you an overview of what Newton presented as the “laws of Mechanics”, which have been dominant till the present time, as the “principles of Mechanics”.
Gravitation is the mutual attraction of all masses in the universe. While its effect decreases in proportion to distance squared, it nonetheless applies, to some extent, regardless of the sizes of the masses or their distance apart.
The concepts associated with planetary motions developed by Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) describe the positions and motions of objects in our solar system. Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) later explained why Kepler's laws worked, by showing they depend on gravitation. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) posed an explanation of how gravitation works in his general theory of relativity.
In our solar system, planetary motions are orbits gravitationally bound to a star. Since orbits are ellipses, a review of ellipses follows 3.
Newton's Principles of Mechanics
Classical mechanics is governed by three basic principles, which were first formulated in the 17th and 18th centuries by Isaac Newton. He realized that the force that makes apples fall to the ground is the same force that makes the planets "fall" around the sun. Newton challenged to address the question of why planets move as they do. He established that a force of attraction toward the sun becomes weaker in proportion to the square of the distance from the sun.
The first law describes a fundamental property of matter, called inertia, as follows: Every body remains in a state of rest or in a state of uniform motion (constant speed in a straight line) unless it is compelled by impressed forces to change that state.
Under this law a moving body is at rest, as far as its own inertia is concerned, as long as its motion continues at the same speed and in the same direction. Therefore, particles (or even worlds) of matter will keep flying through empty space forever, without being driven by any force, until something compels them to change their motion.
Newton's second law describes the manner in which a force compels a change of motion, at a rate of change called acceleration stated as follows: Change of motion is proportional to the impressed force and takes place in the direction of the straight line in which that force is impressed.
This law is often stated in a different manner: the net force acting on a body is equal to the product of the body's mass times the resulting acceleration. It can be stated much more simply as a formula, using letters for force, mass, and acceleration: F=ma. The wording of the law, however, makes clear how an impressed force acts. It simply compels a change in the body's motion-its speed or direction-toward the direction in which the force is acting.
Newton's third law is stated as follows: “Action and reaction are equal and opposite”. This law is often expressed as "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." The law states a fact that can upset many calculations unless taken into account.
It explains, for example, the saying that a man cannot literally lift himself by his own bootstraps. As he pulls up on his bootstraps, the bootstraps pull down on him. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. A striking modern example of action and reaction is jet propulsion 4.
The word “Kefatan” in the verse is derived from the word “Kafata” which in Arabic means: “(It) drew something to itself”5, or “it held it back”6. As an adjective, “kefatan” describes the earth as having the feature of drawing everything toward itself. In the meantime, this word somehow implies the concept of the mutual attraction between the two things. This is why Shakir, the famous translator of the Quran, uses the word “together” in the translation to comment this concept.
All these implications about this phenomenon are all explicitly in accordance with scientific facts. However, 1000 years before Newton this verse had been revealed in the Quran:
-Have We not made the earth to draw together to itself?
This verse is indeed a wonderful miracle, which proves the divinity of Holy Quran as a revelation from God Almighty.
1. The Quran and the Last Prophet (in Persian language), by ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, Dar AL-Kotob Al-Islamiah, Qom, the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1996.
2. Holy Quran translated by M.H. Shakir, Ansarian publication, Qom, the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1993.
4. Contributed by Verne C. Cutler, Professor of Engineering Mechanics, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
5. Monjid Al-Tollab (An Arabic-Arabic Encyclopedia), by Fu’aad Afraum Al-Bostaani.
6. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, (Arabic-English) by Hans Wehr, McDonald and Evans Ltd., London.