Does the Qur'an Have any scientific Miracles?

10 Top-most Scientific Myths about the Qur'an

[Part-1]    [Part-2]

By Avijit Roy
e-mail: [email protected])
Founding Moderator, Mukto-mona

 

PART-1:

Richard Carrier’s recent essay “Predicting Modern Science: Epicurus vs. Mohammed” in Secular Web inspired me to reform this treatise.   Being the founding moderator of Mukto-mona (an internet congregation of secularists, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics and humanists of Bengali origin) for more than three years, I had to engage in argument by discussing with indefinite numbers of Bangladeshi apologists; multitudinous are from highly educated of Islamic origin (mentioned as “Islamic scholars” hereafter).  I have examined all the arguments (scientific-hermeneutic approach) the Islamic scholars commonly put forward in favor of the divine origin for the text of their holy scripture. I have also gone through many web-pages, books and videos that have been produced by both Bengali and non-Bengali Islamic sources proclaiming that some verses in their scriptures contain super-scientific facts. This essay is an attempt to examine critically and carefully some, if not all, of those “miraculous scientific facts”, and to point out some fallacies, myths and “clever reinterpretation” of the vague verses that appear in the debates with an intent to convince others about the pseudo-scientific claims. I have written previously a lot in some online newspapers, progressive web-sites and forums, both in Bengali and English, touching the issues (Richard Carrier also referred to one of my essays in his above-mentioned piece). Also I have found Jochen Katz' Answering-Islam site serves as a great resource for possible answers to such popular claims, nevertheless, they have not touched all the considerable topics, for e.g, Big Bang, the expansion of Universe to mention few.  Again, Answering-Islam team always responds the issues from a Christian perspective. Approaches to this polemic from a secular non-theist (atheist/agnostic/skeptic) perspective are somewhat slim on the net [12]. This is also one of my motivations to formulate this article especially for secular web (by mentioning my personal inclination towards secular philosophy, I am not disregarding the comprehensive wealth of material criticizing Islam and Qur’an in Answering-Islam though).

The fundamentalist Islamic scholars always claim that Qur’an miraculously predicted many invention of modern science and all of those Qur’anic predictions and myths are flawless.  Their plan of action lifted to a newer dimension serving euphoria to a great extent when they have found Dr. Maurice Bucaille, a French physician started talking in favor of their faith in his famous book "The Bible, The Qur’an and Science.” [4]. They suddenly started finding Big Bang theory, expansion of universe, atom, molecules, shooting stars, embryologic facts, cosmology, genetics and many other theories of modern science in Qur’an! Although, I found Bucaille's intentions of relating modern science with Islam are somewhat wishful, shady, ambiguous and doubtful; the dearth of "well-written" books by occidental non-Muslim scholars available in English necessitates the use this particular book to propagate various form of pro-Islamic apologia. The objective of this article is not to focus on the arguments of Dr. Bucaille in general, as two of my Mukto-Mona collogues have already done a splendid job in their respective articles [4, 13] by exposing some of the dishonest tricks taken by Dr. Bucaille. Also, there are some other books from Christian perspective available which categorically refuted Dr. Bucaille’s numerous pseudo-scientific claims [14]. The purpose of my article is mainly to show the flawed nature of Islamic apologists who use to link science with ambiguous religious verses and subsequently claim transcendental nature of holy verses on the discovery of many scientific truths. Before dwelling on it further, I wish to put here three of my important objections to such claims, in my later part of discussion I will refute the specific claims of those famous scientific myths.

Objection 1: If it was indeed the case those scriptures contain scientific facts and principles then we wouldn't need popular science books to explain scientific facts to common people. Instead the verses of the scriptures which are claimed to represent scientific facts and principles could be compiled and published as an "Introduction to Science". There is no doubt that if those vague verses are indeed compiled and edited (omitting God or prophets and other holy references) and then published as a science book, these books will not even be published, even if it is, no one will buy it. It is a sure failure, that's why it has never been attempted by the apologists. These verses cannot stand on their own merit as anything close to even a popular exposition of scientific facts and principles, let alone as accurate scientific statements.

Objection 2: If Qur’an is a book of science, then what branch of science is this? Physics ? Chemistry ? Biology ? Social science? Library science? Political science? No answer.  [1]  Islamic scholars can only  give the answer in the line of technological/medical science relating blurry wordings of the book with practical examples of embryology, astronomy, Big-Bang etc. Moreover, if one considers Qur’an as a scientific book then, they should be able to show us at least one scientific principle that is disclosed in the Qur'an without using any mumbo jumbo words and hocus pocus boring tricks of difficulty with confusing translation of  the Qur'an. They should be able to tell us where in the Qur'an one can find the laws of gravitation, laws of planetary rotation, principle of atomic structure of matters, the periodic table of elements, theory of relativity, geological science and which chapter of Qur’an deals with the modern science of aerodynamics, genetics engineering and inter-planetary travel, and elucidation of genetic code etc [2]. We fail to ascertain any meaningful direction. Moreover, If a perfect book written by a perfect God having intention to reveal a scientific idea, it should not have been so vague and metaphoric, but accurate and scientific enough that it can be put in a physics /chemistry/biology textbook without the need of any change. Not a single verse in the Holy Books contain even one scientific term, like atom, electron, cloning, Theory of relativity, Uncertainty principle etc. A "perfect" book cannot be lacking in precision so much [3].  In fact, the term “Islamic Science” popularly quoted in Islamic web-sites and articles by the Islamic scholars is also flawed in nature, if we consider the basic definition of science, not scienticism per se. Pakistani Nobel laureate Physicist Dr. Abdus Salam, wrote in forwarding letter of Dr. Parvez Hoodboy’s book [16]:

“There is only one Universal Science; its problems and modalities are international and there is no such thing as Islamic Science just as there is no Hindu Science, nor Jewish Science, no Confucian Science, nor Christian Science".

This is the inherent beauty of science - the scientists can speak the same language irrespective to their races, religion or nations, and the language is science itself.  Nobel laureate Physicist Steven Weinberg also remarked in the same manner [17]:

"The experience of listening to a discussion of Quantum field theory or weak interactions in a seminar room in Tsukuba or Bombay gives me a powerful impression that the laws of physics have an existence of their own.”  

The concept of Islamic science is therefore faulty in light of science.

Objection 3:  If one insists that the verses of scriptures are literally word of Allah (God) who is omnipotent and omniscient then one is forced to conclude that Allah as a perfect being is even a worse science writer than humans and if Allah really wanted to communicate scientific facts and principles to his mortal creations, humans He failed miserably. Nobody discovered or understood those scientific facts and principles until humans discovered them on their own with no help from the verses. And as the words of a perfect being, the scientific accuracy of the verses should have been of such magnitude and objectivity that their could not be any scope of any dispute about them among humans and all would accept them like they do all the scientific principles discussed in science text books.

Now we will discuss and scrutinize critically the 10 top most (pseudo) scientific myths of Qur’an. I have decided to publish it in two parts.

 

1. Qur'an foretells about Big bang. 

[al-Anbiya' 21:30] Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, ....

 

Some Muslim interpreters tries to relate the above mentioned sura with Big-Bang. But does it really depicts any fact about Big-bang at all? Lets look the next verses to understand the Qur’anic image ...

21:30  Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? 

21:31  And We have placed in the earth firm hills lest it quake with them, and We have placed therein ravines as roads that haply they may find their way. 

21:32  And we have made the sky a roof withheld (from them). Yet they turn away from its portents.  

For further clarification let us also quote verse from Sura Al-Rad (13:2)  

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.

It looks like a very primitive image on the relationship between the heavens and earth. After Allah raise up the heavens on unseen pillars, and put down the earth, he put the mountains on the earth to not quake, like putting a heavy thing on a piece of paper to not fly?! Allah make the sky a roof withheld to not fall on people head?! How he do so? By putting the heavens on unseen pillars!! How could one pass these as twentieth century science? Still more strange is this part of verse 21:30:…the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then we parted them, …..’ If these few words are really the proof of ‘Big-Bang’, then one may legitimately ask;  where is the mention of the huge explosion? The word ‘Big-Bang’, itself, is very significant here. Where do we find the sign of that famous ‘Bang?’ [5]

Moreover, Big Bang in Physics refers to the explosion of SPACE-TIME SINGULARITY (not matter). Matter was not even created when Big Bang happened. Earth was formed billions of years after the Big Bang. The above verses are clearly referring to earth and sky being "joined" (which doesn't even have a common sense or scientific meaning) together and then being split apart (again no scientific or common sense meaning), forget about comparing it to Big Bang!

A scientifically and common sensually meaningless statement  like - "sky and earth being joined and subsequently separated"  cannot be suggested as hinting to the scientific facts of Big Bang! In fact, why the idea is put in such form in Qur’an can be easily guessed. Such kind of idea that the heavens and earth were once joined and then separated by the activity of Gods and Goddesses was actually quite common among pagans of the Middle East. Among the Egyptians for example, it was the involuntary separation of Geb (the earth god) from his wife and sister Nut (the sky goddess) that was responsible for the division of the earth from the sky. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh likewise describes the moment “when the heavens had been separated from the earth, when the earth had been delimited from the heavens” as a result of the separation of a sky God (An) from a earth Goddess (Ki). If you remove the pagan references, you have the same story as found in the Qur’an [10]. 

Again, from Quantum theory we know that moments after the explosion occurred, the four forces of nature; strong nuclear, weak nuclear, electromagnetic and gravity were combined as a single "super force" (Wald). Where are those indications in those verses of Qur’an? How can someone derive Hubble's Constant from those verses ? How can some one calculate red shift ? How can we measure  Doppler shifts? No answer.

If there is no answer of those scientific enquiries, how can one make himself convince  that those verses actually describing big bang, not the partition of an egg before making an omelet?

On a side note, I want to add, Nobel laureate Physicist Dr. Abdus Salam once warned us against people trying to explain Big Bang using verses from Qur'an [15], saying that the current version of Big Bang is the best known scientific explanation for the creation of the universe. What if a better scientific explanation than Big Bang is found tomorrow? Should the verses be changed to accommodate the new scientific view? Certainly it is not possible; thus it shows the inherent contradiction such attempt leads to. Religious revelations can never vindicate or falsify science. The truth or falsity of a scientific principle lies within science itself.

 

2. Qur'an foretells about Expanding Universe.

[ADH-DHARIYAT 51:48]  And the earth, We have made it a wide extent; how well have We then spread (it) out.

 

Islamic scholars try to relate the above mentioned ayat with expanding universe. But there is no mention of "universe" at all in this verse. This verse here is only talking about earth. "Spreading the earth out "does not correlate with  any expansion of universe by any means, rather it establishes century old incorrect Qur’anic flat earth theory [6]. 

Some Islamic scholars also use to quote the previous verse (51:47) of the same Soorat az-Zaariyaat to justify the identical claim. For example, one of these popular claims put forth by Harun Yaha, a renowned Islamic scholar of Muslim community wrote in his article “THE SIGNS OF THE QUR'AN”:

Another truth revealed in the Qur'an is the expansion of the universe that was discovered in the late 1920s. Hubble's discovery of the red shift in the spectrum of starlight is revealed in the Qur'an as:

It is We Who have built the universe with (Our creative) power, and, verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it. (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 47)

 

The first important point to ponder whether is the actual statements of the Qur’an have been honestly presented here. Mr. Yaha quotes the Qur’an as saying in 51:47 “It is We Who have built the universe with (Our creative) power, and, verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it”

The purpose of the above translation could have served well for Mr. Yaha and his gullible followers, but not the sceptics for obvious reasons. Let me quote the three most highly regarded English translations that generally available in the Net [18]. Their versions are:

051.047
YUSUFALI: With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for it is We Who create the vastness of pace.
PICKTHAL: We have built the heaven with might, and We it is Who make the vast extent (thereof).
SHAKIR: And the heaven, We raised it high with power, and most surely We are the makers of things ample.

None among the above mentioned translators gives the slightest idea of an ongoing expansion of the universe. In fact, none of them refers to the “universe” at all, but to the heavens or firmament, in contrast to the Yaha immediately following which discusses the earth in the following verse (051.048) that I explained previously. Denish Giron also explained in one of his wonderfully written pieces that the verb from which the Arabic word (moosi'oon) is derived cannot mean ‘expand’ [19]. 

Also, according to Dr. Ali Sina the word used here is moosiAAoona which drives from word vaseun. [24] It means vast. It has nothing to do with expanding. When one says al rezwano vaseun  it refers, 'the garden is vast'. It does not mean that the garden is expanding. Any Arab standing in the clear nights of the desert could lookup at the sky and see that it was vast. Muhammad is stating the obvious. There is no scientific miracle or prophecy  in this.

The cause of the expansion of the universe is scientifically known from Modern High Energy Astrophysics, known as the theory of inflation. The theory is guided by Einstein's mathematical theory of general relativity about the physical universe.  These are all characterized, at any instant in cosmological history, by mathematically- infinite space-like surfaces (3-d space in other words). In this (open) model of the universe, everything is expanding in the same sense that the points on a balloon's surface move away from all other points as the balloon is inflated. General Relativity says that for infinite universes, the same kind of expansion occurs. Inflationary cosmology adds to this by saying that we live in a small pocket of some vaster space-time. This pocked emerged from a tiny patch in the primordial space-time and inflated to a vast size (I have written a series of articles in Bengali mentioning the facts of origin and expanding nature of Universe which is under publication in a book format).

From the above analysis it should be clear that nothing in those Qur'anic verses come any close to what an expansion of universe really means. Those who want to relate the verse with expansion of universe, do this just by their wishful interpretation or favourable twist.


3. Qur'an mentions that the universe originated from a 'gaseous material'.

 

[FUSSILAT 41:11] Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth: Come both of you, willingly or loth. They said: We come, obedient.

Muslim fundamentalists, by pointing out the above verse, claim that the Qur'an miraculously foretells that origin of universe began with the gaseous mater. They try to confuse the common people that it is the great and surest sign that the Qur'an is a book of God.  Richard Carrier has already refuted this claim in detail in his article, Cosmology and the Koran: A Response to Muslim Fundamentalists  Lets study some of his findings once again in this regard: 

First of all, the universe did not begin as a gas or any gaseous material. From current Big Bang theory we know, the universe began before any matter of any kind existed--it began as pure energy. It took several moments for any matter to form, and then it was a plasma, not a gas. Gases only came later, after the plasma cooled, and yet gasses were still not the only constituent--much of the mass-energy at even that point, as before, was comprised of electromagnetic radiation--light. The fact that the Qur’an fails to mention any of this or any other crucial scientific information is precisely why its claim to "scientific accuracy" is to be dismissed. It is making vague metaphysical statements, and that is not science [7]

Secondly, Even, for the shake of arguments, if we take "gaseous material" as plasma, then also the problem remains unsolved. The main problem is that the above-mentioned verse actually does not say about any  "gaseous material," which Islamic scholars are continuously claiming.  The Arabic word used in this verse  is dukhan, -  "smoke"  [7]. Trying to relate smoke with gaseous material is nothing but a hide and seek wordy games played by Islamic scholars. Moreover, Smoke is made of ash, predominantly carbon, and is produced from burning (oxidation), not plasma condensation. Smoke looks nothing like heated hydrogen or helium, does not share its elemental mass or other properties, and does not even possess many of the general properties of a gas. Thus, Allah chose the wrong word. He could have used "hot gases" or "hot gases expanding in a vacuum" or anything which is much closer to the truth.  If we critically examine this verse, it becomes very clear to us that this verse is far from being scientific to define initial condition of the universe, that verse is really hoax.


Thirdly, Let's check the chronological order of the above verse from Qur’an. 

From verse 41:9 we find that that the earth is made "in two days," and this is the first two days in the list. After the creation of earth, Allah  describes the next two days of creation, completing the first "four days equal," in which mountains and plants are made in verse 41:10. Thus, we find a gradual order of the Qur'anic creation ie. Allah first created the earth and then filled the earth with mountains and plants (It is quite understandable that mountains and plants could not be made before the earth was made, thus 41:10 follows 41:9 in a quite reasonable order).  But then we see that verse 41:11 establishes an undeniable context in which the universe exists as smoke at the same time that the earth already exists, since God "rose over towards the heaven when it was smoke" and spoke to it and to the earth, therefore no Muslim can rationally deny that this verse clearly says the earth existed at the same time as the smoke which is totally irrational and absurd.

Thus the verse mentioned above which is claimed to be a "perfect analogy" describing the initial condition of the universe is nothing but a clever deception. 

 

4. Qur'an reveals Embryological facts !

 

[AL-MUMENOON 23: 12-14] Verily We created man from a product of wet earth; Then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodging; Then fashioned We the drop a clot, then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators!

Some Islamic scholars find the embryological facts in above verse. But if we check the verse from a rational point of view, it appears to us with a different meaning. Let's check the above verse critically. First line is totally wrong. Man is not a product of any wet earth. Moreover, Qur’an ambiguously asserts many common sensually meaningless statements about such an elementary matter in other verses. For examples sometimes it tells that we are created from earth (11:61), sometimes it claims from dry clay (15:26,28,33, 17:61, 32:7), sometimes "from nothing" (19:67), sometimes  "NOT from nothing" (52:35), sometimes from wet earth (23:12), or from mire (38:71), sometimes from water (25:54, 21:30, 24:45), sometimes from dust ( 3:59, 30:20, 35:11) or even sometimes from dead (30:19, 39:6). So which one is true? Those contradictory ambiguous statements actually do not reveal any scientific facts regarding either how we created or what exactly we are made of.

Before analyzing rest of the portion of the above verse, I would like to cite an useful information to the readers.  In 1982 Keith Moore, an anatomy professor at the University of Toronto, produced a textbook titled "The Developing Human, 3rd edition". Relating embryological facts with Qur’anic verse wishfully in Muslim community mainly started thereafter. In his book Moore states astonishment at the way embryonic development is depicted in the Qur'an. Moore took Yusuf Ali's translation of the verse under discussion which directly uses the word “sperm” [8]:

023.013
YUSUFALI: Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed;
PICKTHAL: Then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodging;
SHAKIR: Then We made him a small seed in a firm resting-place,

023.014
YUSUFALI: Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!
PICKTHAL: Then fashioned We the drop a clot, then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators!
SHAKIR:
Then We made the seed a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators.

Many people may amaze by the mention of sperm in this verse. But close observation reveals that there is nothing supernatural in it. Since the beginning of time man has been quite aware of the "seed" that is released from the penis during sexual intercourse. The old Hindu scriptures or Bible, which are much older than the Qur'an, also have such indication. Aristotle clearly described about formation of a child inside the womb early 1,000 years before the Qur'an was written. No body claimed any miracles for it. In fact Aristotle correctly described the function of the umbilical cord, something not mentioned in the Qur'an, showing that earlier philosophers were aware of such things mentioned by Muhammad and more [8]. 

Actually the Qur'an contains erroneous ancient theories developed by Roman and Greek philosophers  about  human development . Let us consider the following verse referring to sperm:

He is created from a drop emitted- Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs: (sura At-Tariq   86:6-7)

Clearly this verse is incorrect, and clearly it has origins in earlier theories. First of all, for sperm to originate between the back and the ribs would mean that it comes from the kidneys! Greek physician Hippocrates theorized this wrong idea long before Muhammad that sperm passed through the kidneys into the penis. For centuries this was an accepted (and incorrect) belief of the origins of sperm. Aristotle though correctly described the function of the umbilical cord,  also amusingly believed that sperm testicles functioned as weights to keep the seminal passages open during sexual intercourse [20]. One can easily find similar erroneous concepts in the Qur'an too.  

Let us focus on another scenario by considering the following sura from Qur’an:

O mankind! if ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then lo! We have created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot, then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clear for you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your full strength. And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life, so that, after knowledge, he knoweth naught. And thou (Muhammad) seest the earth barren, but when We send down water thereon, it doth thrill and swell and put forth every lovely kind (of growth) (Sura Al-Hajj 022.005).

The verse mentions three primary stages of embryonic development: (1) a “seed,” “drop” or “semen” phase (in Arabic, “nutfah”), (2) followed by a “clot” or “leach-like clot” phase (in Arabic, “Alaqah”), (3) followed finally by a “morsel of flesh” or “chewed lump” phase (in Arabic, “Mudghah”).  Some other additional suras can also be cited that deal with this subject, and none seems to disagree with this basic scenario. Again the hadiths, particularly that of Bukhari and Muslim give some relevant information. For e.g, following hadith tells us about developmental timing of an embryo.

Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 54, Number 430:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin Mus'ud:

“Allah's Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, "(The matter of the Creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period.”

Also, Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6395:

Abu Tufail reported:

I visited Abu Sariha Hudhaifa b. Usaid al-Ghifari who said: I listened with these two ears of mine Allahs Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The semen stays in the womb for forty nights, then the angel, gives it a shape. Zubair said: I think that he said: One who fashions that and decides whether he would be male or female. Then he (the angel) says: Would his limbs be full or imperfect? And then the Lord makes them full and perfect or otherwise as He desires. Then he says: My Lord, what about his livelihood, and his death and what about his disposition? And then the Lord decides about his misfortune and fortune.


These same details are also given in Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 549. Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 77, Number 593, Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 546 etc. The key information gained from all these above mentioned hadiths are that the three phases (nutfah, alaqah and madghah) takes 40 days each, for a total period of  40 + 40 + 40 = 120 days from conception to the point at which the embryo becomes a fetus. After that the blood clot was turned to bone and then God "clothed the bones with flesh" (Qur’an 23:13-14). And finally the gender of the child is assigned by an angel.

The whole idea is completely erroneous in many ways. First of all, the human embryo becomes a fetus around week 9, i.e, roughly half the time “Islamic embryology” suggests.  Again, there are no developmental milestones which can be mapped to the thrice forty day period, even though they are suggested in several authoritative hadiths with full support from Qur’an.  Also, from medical science we know in human development process living tissue forms first, and then bones grow at a later time, and it continues to gain strength for many years after birth. But by expressing "blood clot was turned to bone" Qur’an in fact reveals its one of many scientific inaccuracies.

Finally, if we check the above cited verses of Qur’an carefully, we will find nowhere in Qur’an it mentions about human egg; instead Qur’an refers to the “drop of seed” solely. This is because most primitive peoples including Arabs thought that the whole child was in the "seed" of the man. The woman was considered simply as the oven or incubator that fully contained in the father’s seed. They could not figure out its existence as no one could find the eggs of the woman at that time. It is a historical fact that prior to the medical community comprehending that women actually have eggs and men have sperm that must be combined to produce a child, it was widely believed that the whole child was contained in the man's seed. This was also Catholic Church doctrine for hundreds of years. Not "spilling one's seed on the ground" is an admonition against masturbation because it was believed that one's children would be eliminated.  The majority of Islamic scholars consider it haram (prohibited) too for having direct support from hadith [21]. It can be pointed out from Islamic culture that the Shah of Iran divorced her wife Soraya (Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari) because of no children. In rural areas of Bangladesh, in similar fashion, many women gets divorced each year because they are wrongly blamed for not being capable of producing male child.  

 

5. Qur'an reveals Earth is round !

This is far from truth. There is no sura in Qur’an that can claim for accuracy to reveal that earth is round. Let's find some of those wonderful cosmological facts from Qur’an. In many places of "miaculous" Qur’an it alludes to the fact that earth is flat and mountains are like poles, which create a balance so that earth does not tilt. In chapter 88:17,20 it is recorded....

"Will they not regard the camels how they are created...... and earth how it spread?"

Even many Muslim scholars confess that In this phrase 'how it spread', he denotes that earth is flat. All the scholars of Islam agree upon this. It is not round as the physicists claim.

There are some other suras excerpted from Qur’an for the discerning readers to prove that Qur’an clearly supports the erroneous "flat earth" theory [5, 9]:

And the earth have We spread out, and placed therein firm hills, and caused each seemly thing to grow therein…(Sura Al-Hijr 15:19) 

Who hath appointed the earth as a bed and hath threaded roads for you therein and hath sent down water from the sky and thereby We have brought forth divers kinds of vegetation,…(Sura Ta Ha 20:53)  

Who made the earth a resting-place for you, and placed roads for you therein, that haply ye may find your way;…(Sura Az-Zukhruf 43:10) 

And the earth have We spread out, and have flung firm hills therein, and have caused of every lovely kind to grow thereon, …(Sura Qaf 50:7) 

And Allah hath made the earth a wide expanse for you…(Sura Nooh 71:19)

Now let's check two prominent suras from Qur’an. In one sura Qur'an says that one of the righteous men of God's servants saw the Sun setting in a certain place of the Earth-in particular a well full of water and mud. There, this man found some people. Let us read what is recorded in the Qur'an (chapter "the Cave", verse 86):

Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhu'l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness (Sura Al-Kahf 018.086).

Again in another verse of the same sura it is said -

Till, when he reached the rising-place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom (Sura Al-Kahf 018.090).

Any reader, who has some common sense and preliminary knowledge of science, knows that sun does not need to have any "rising" or "setting" place, because, sun neither rise, nor does it set.  It is the diurnal motion of the earth which makes appear in every place of earth for sun's rising and setting. But it seems that omniscient Allah does not know the simple scientific truth. Allah thought that sun needs a definite rising and setting place and one does need to go to the end of the world to find it rising/setting. This gives an idea the people of Muhammad’s time believed that the Earth is flat and the sun moves in the sky rising from one place and setting in another.

The proof of flat earth is implicit in the instruction for Muslim prayer times. Aroj Ali Matubbar, the peasant-philosopher of Bengal has further elaborated on this idea of flat earth in his book ‘The Quest for Truth’ [22]. Let us take this opportunity to examine his elaboration.  Allah clearly assumes that universality of time and has no concept of "Local Time". It is found that in almost all religions there are certain fixed hours for certain prayers. But it is not understood why the Lord of the universe should withhold His acceptance if a person says his/her prayers before or after the fixed hours? Islam enjoins saying one’s prayers five times a day at particular hours and there are certain hours when prayers are forbidden.

The diurnal motion of the earth causes difference in the local time of the countries situated in different longitudes as a result of which there is a prayer time at every moment of the day and night in some places or other. Yet it is forbidden to say one’s prayers at sunrise, at 12 noon and at sunset. What is its significance? The sun rises at different hours at different places – earlier in eastern countries and later in the western countries. So when prayers are forbidden here it is not forbidden elsewhere at that particular moment. For instance, when the sun rises in New York, it is yet to rise in Los Angels and it had already risen in London a few hours ago. Thus, when prayers are forbidden at New York, it is not forbidden in L.A. or London. In that case, is there any sense in forbidding prayers at particular hours?

The same question applies to prescribed hours for prayers. Since every moment is a prayer time in some place or other what is the point in fixing certain hours for certain prayers?

There was a time when the Earth was supposed to be flat and stationary which would make the hour of clock at any given moment identical in all the countries or places of the world with no variation in local time. Probably this notion led to the prescribed prayer–schedule. But now it has been proved that the earth is a moving sphere. Let us now discuss the problems arising out of the erroneous notion.

Suppose after saying his afternoon prayer “Zohar” at half past one, a man started for Holly Mecca in Saudi Arabia by plane from Bangladesh flying at a speed of 3000 miles per hour. On reaching there he found that it was yet to be noon. Will he have to say the “Zohar” prayer once again when the appointed time for it comes?

If a plane flies west at a speed 1041.67 miles per hour, the sun will appear to be at rest as if it stood motionless at one place and the passengers will have no idea of the time of day – morning, noon or evening – by looking at the sun. In this circumstance, how will the passengers take care of their prayers and fasting?

It is only in the equatorial region of the earth that at certain times of the year the days and nights are of equal or nearly equal duration. But the further north and south we travel from this region, the longer are the days or nights depending on the season of the year. In some countries near the arctic region days become so long in summer that soon after dusk the sun rises again with no night between evening and dawn. How will one say one’s Esha prayer there?

In the arctic region about six months of continuous daytime is followed by a night lasting for six months. Since we get only one day and one night there it may be possible to say one’s prayers five times a year but how can one fast there for thirty days from dawn to dusk?  This is proof enough that Allah was not knowledgeable about the reality of the Earth, and probably considered the Earth as flat.

After Maurice Bucaille's "Bible Qur’an and Science" appeared in the market in 1976, it had created literally a sensation especially among educated community in Bangladesh. A new trend has been observed to relate modern science with vague verses of the holy books. It would however not be irrelevant to point out at this moment from the news media and rationalist/humanist web-sites how some western $cientists (yes, some are exposed as $cientists, not scientists) are bribed, duped into endorsing so called "Qur’anic" Science :

In Bangladesh, I have seen exactly similar efforts from some Muslim intellectuals who have already started writing so called "super scientific" books following the leading trend showed by Dr. Bucaille and Dr. Moore. The most prominent fundamentalist organization named Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh have undertaken some "wonderful" projects and philanthropic tasks of unfolding the scientific treasures hidden in Qur’an! Such efforts are warm-heartedly being patronized by Bangladesh government [11]. Hundreds of popular pseudo-scientific books have already been written to influence the common people of Bangladesh, even some fundamentalist organization, inspired by the mission,  are threatening the secular professors demanding to change the University syllabus to make the education system compatible with Islamic Science [23]. I would like to touch on some other prominent scientific myths in the second part.   

  Read Part-2 of the article

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References :

[1] Fatemolla, Qura’anic Debate - 1, Mukto-Mona

[2] Abul Kasem, Reinventing and Redefining Islam, Mukto-Mona

[3] Aparthib, Myths & Fallacies of Religious Apologetics, Mukto-Mona

[4] Abul Kasem, How Western Scientists Discovered $cience in Qur’an, Mukto-mona

[5] Avijit Roy, Super-Scientific Religious Scriptures!, Mukto-mona

[6] Dr. Ali Sina, Genesis According to Muhammad, FFI

[7] Richard Carrier, Cosmology and the Koran: A Response to Muslim Fundamentalists, Secular Web

[8] Denis Giron, Islamic Science: Does Islamic literature contain scientific miracles?, Secular Web

[9] Abul Kasem,  Allah's Flat earth and His Cosmos, Mukto-Mona

[10] THHuxley, Islam and the “Big Bang”: A Refutation, Mukto-Mona

[11] Jahed Ahmed, A Pseudo-scientist gets 25 million Taka from PM Khaleda!, Mukto-Mona

[12] Dr. Abdul-Kalaam Pangloss, The Qur'an and the Big Bang, freethoughtmecca

[13] Syed Kamran Mirza, Religion, Science, and Maurice Bucaille, Mukto-Mona

[14] William F. Campbell: The Qur’an and the Bible in the light of history & Science, Second Edition, Middle East Resources, 2002 ISBN, 1-881085-03-01

[15] Aparthib Zaman, Mixing Science with Religion, Mukto-Mona

[16] Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science, Zed Books Ltd., 1991 ISBN 1-85649-025-4.

[17] Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature, p-47-48.

[18] Qur’an translations are cited from the website: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/

[19]  Denis Giron, Expansion of the Universe in the Bible and the Qur'an Comparing Isaiah to Soorat az-Zaariyaat

[20] Syed Kamran Mirza, Ambiguity of Human Embryology: Science in Quran # (1), Mukto-Mona

[21]Hadith translations are cited from the website:  http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/

[22] "MohaGuru" Aroj Ali Matubbar - a truly home-grown philosopher of Bangladesh: http://mohaguru.humanists.net

[23] Professor Ajoy Roy, Three DU Teachers threatened, Mukto-mona 

[24] Dr. Ali Sina, http://www.faithfreedom.org/debates/rezwan.htm, FFI 

 

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