(Continued from page 432)Science and the Qur'an!
You write: Let's put aside your historical findings for now and look at the Qur'anic verses regarding science the universe and how only modern findings could reveal their truth…
TCE: it is impossible to ignore historical findings completely when examining the evidence that points to the Divine Origin of the Bible and the fabrication that is the Qur'an but we will examine your hopeful claims as an exercise in refutation:
"And it is We who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it." (Sura 51:47)
The translation above is inaccurate and a laboured attempt to make the Qur'an 'scientific'. Other translators of the last clause chose: "we are the ones who enrich it" (Pangloss 2003) or "we it is who made the vast extent" (Pickthall - not dated).
Notice that the following verse (Sura 51:48) reads: "And the earth We have laid out."
Careful reading finds Sura 51:47-48 to be a rough rendering of Isaiah 42:5: "Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it. . . .". Therefore, if you want to claim divine origin for these verses give credit to the True Word of God, the Bible, not the counterfeit Qur'an.
Note, also, that this strained expansion interpretation was not claimed until after the expansion of the universe was determined through scientific observations. If Allah meant the Qur'an to teach an expanding universe then this verse indicates that He was incompetent in communicating clearly.
"... He creates you stage by stage in your mothers' wombs in a threefold darkness. That is God, your Lord. Sovereignty is His. There is no god but Him. So what has made you deviate?" (Sura 39:6)
"(We) then formed the drop into a clot and formed the clot into a lump and formed the lump into bones and clothed the bones in flesh; and then brought him into being as another creature. Blessed be God, the Best of Creators!" (Sura 23:14)
The supposedly advanced embryology expressed in the Qur'an follows the Greek knowledge of embryology prevalent at the time. You forgot to mention that Sura 86:6-7 states that the fluid issues from between the loins and ribs (6 'He is created from a gushing fluid 7 That issued from between the loins and ribs') and not, as we know today, from the testicles. This reflects a mistaken view of Hippocrates, common in the 5th century, that semen comes from all the fluid of the body and passes through the kidneys on the way to the penis. Clearly this view was well-known in Muhammad's day, and shows how the Qur'an could contain such an erroneous statement.
Sura 23:12-14 says God created man from "wet earth, then placed him as (a drop of) sperm (nutfah) in a safe lodging; then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood (alaqa); then out of that clot We made a (foetus) lump (mudghah), then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature." This account would certainly not be supported by any reputable scientist today, but it directly follows the four stages described by the Greek physician Galen, writing around 150 A.D.! The accuracies and inaccuracies both reflect Greek ideas of the time. How did this knowledge get into the Qur'an? Many sources were used by Muhammad and one of his companions was the doctor Harith Ibn Kalada, who studied at the school of Jundishapur in Persia. Clearly he is a possible source of the teachings of Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen.Qur'an - the sun sets in a muddy spring!
The supposed 'miracle' lies in the question: Could any of this have been known to sixth-century Muslims at the time of Muhammad? As with the many other 'scientifically accurate' claims made for the Qur'an the fact that procreation involves the release of semen by the male during the act of sexual intercourse is hardly a miraculous observation. Most people would say divine inspiration was not required to inform us of this fact.
You forgot to mention that the Qur'an also describes humans as coming from earth (Sura 11:61), clay (Sura 15:26), mud (Sura 23:12), dust (Sura 30:20), water (Sura 25:54), and nothing (Sura 19:67) - so anyone seeking a passage to try and rationalize a particular view has no shortage of options.
"He has created both sexes, male and female from a drop of semen which has been ejected." (Sura 53:45-46)
Clearly, the writer of the Qur'an was not the first to observe that both male and female are created from one drop of semen. Even if the claim is that the verse is saying gender is determined by the sperm of the male parent (which is certainly not clearly stated here) we know that some ancient Egyptians held the belief that the gender of progeny is determined by the sperm of the male parent. But, of course, like so much ancient 'science,' if everybody gave their opinion there was a chance that one of them might eventually be proved right. Worryingly, for Muslims, the ancient Egyptian Ra-Hathor-Shu-Tefnut myth of gender determination and the contribution of the female parent in reproduction is very similar, if not identical, to that described in the Qur'an. Many ancient Egyptian beliefs concerning procreation pre-dated the Qur'an by about 2,900 years as evidenced in writings such as the pyramid text of Pharaoh Pepi I (2332-2283 BC).
"It is He Who created everything on the earth for you and then directed His attention up to heaven and arranged it into seven regular heavens. He has knowledge of all things." (Sura 2:29)
Does the Qur'an state that the sky is made up of seven layers? What is the truth about 'seven regular heavens'? The pre-Copernican concept of the universe was geocentric, i.e. they thought that the Earth was flat and was located at the centre of the universe and the Sun and the Moon along with Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury that made the seven known objects of the heaven were deities. These were the only objects people could observe with their naked eyes moving in the sky while the stars appeared to be fix. Since they believed that these planets or "gods" each had its own sphere and these planets did not orbit the Sun but revolved around the flat Earth in a fixed order, both ancient Egyptians and Greeks concocted myths about these 'heavens' and 'gods'. Do these Qur'anic verses do more to reflect these pagan 'gods' and give strong indication that Robert Morey's 'Moon god' theory is correct rather than prove any divine origin for the Qur'an?
Note that seven layers of heaven are also found in Judaism in the Midrash:
"When Adam sinned, the Shechinah departed to the First Heaven. The sin of Kayin forced it to the Second Heaven; the Generation of Enosh to the Third; the generation of the Flood to the Fourth; The generation of the Dispersion to the Fifth; Sodomites, to the Sixth; Egypt of Avraham's day, to the Seventh ... (Bereishis Rabbah 19:7)"
So Muhammad did not invent the concept of the seven layers of Heaven but repeated it without understanding the pagan origin of this idea. Striving to prove the 'scientific' nature of the Qur'an also leaves Muslims trying to explain verses that indicate they must believe that stars are lamps that are affixed to the ceiling of the lower layer of the Heaven for hurling at devils (shaitans) (Sura 67:5)!:
And we have adorned the lower heaven with lamps; and set them to pelt the devils with; and we have prepared for them the torment of the blaze!
Some Islamic sites try to give mystical significance to the verse and talk vaguely about: 'heavens (universes) there are seven others, of which we - with all our scientific developments - do not know anything about' ( www.understanding-islam.com ) and 'It is difficult to explain precisely what is meant by the 'seven heavens'... What might be broadly inferred from this statement is that either Allah has divided the universe beyond earth into seven distinct spheres, or that this earth is located in that part of the universe which consists of seven different spheres' ( www.pakistanlink.com )
If the scholars of Islam fail to explain the meaning of the 'seven heavens' of the Qur'an and strain to give esoteric significance to it we must also leave them to imagine an explanation of the seven layers of the Earth that the prophet of Islam dreamt up:
"Allah is He Who created seven Firmaments and of the earth a similar number…" (Sura 65:12)
He even seems to be talking about the 'layers' popularised by Dante in his 'Inferno'as some hadith refer to in like manner:
Narrated Said bin Zaid: Allah's Apostle said. "Whoever usurps the land of somebody unjustly. his neck will be encircled with it down the seven earths (on the Day of Resurrection). " (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 43, Number 632)
"Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before We clove them asunder, and We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" (Sura 21:30)
Muslims clearly hope this verse can show that the Qur'an makes serious 'scientific' statements - perhaps about the 'Big Bang theory' - yet 1400 years before a modern man postulated it. Once again we need to look at what was known by the ancients at the time. The belief that life came from water pre-dates Islam - the ancient Greeks believed that life came from water. Aristotle records that Thales of Miletus (640 BCE - 546 BCE) believed 'that it [the nature of things] is water' and Anaximander of Miletus (611 BCE - 547 BCE) stated that 'life came from the sea' - so this idea did not originate in the Qur'an.
The idea that the Heavens and Earth were once a "single block" that was "broken in two" was another pre-Qur'anic view commonly held in the Middle East before the 7th century. The Egyptians, for example, believed that the god of the heavens and the Earth goddess were once one and that another god "broke" them apart. The Sumerians held a similar view: "... when the heavens had been separated from the earth, when the earth had been de-limited from the heavens ..." (Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the nether world)
Despite the claims to being a 'mono-theistic religion,' the embracing of ideas associated with pagan gods and goddesses points again to the Qur'an and it's author being products of a polytheistic background - such as the 'Moon god' followers! Seventh century Arabia was not in complete isolation from the outside world and communicated, traded, and was influenced by the neighbouring cultures. Thus they came to believe in the widely accepted contemporary mythologies concerning creation.
Modern Muslims try too hard to find 'scientific' support for their beliefs from Sura, seeking support from verses that seem to give hope to their claims but then forgetting the verses that state things that are a potential embarrassment and unprovable, such as the following Sura which claims that the moon was split into two halves:
(Sura 54:1): The hour drew nigh and the moon was rent in twain.
or would somehow return to 'mansions' before miraculously shrivelling:
(Sura 36:39): And for the moon We have appointed mansions till she return like an old shrivelled palm-leaf. 40 It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit.
If Muslims accept that metaphorical language can be used in 'scripture' they should be careful when seeking approval from the 'scientific community' for their beliefs for, experience shows, few will accept both in a single passage let alone accept miraculous over-turning of 'scientific laws' by acts of God!
After examining all the words that are used to describe the earth in the Qur'an skeptics might also ask why the Qur'an unremittingly chooses words that mean 'flat.' If 'Allah' had wanted to describe the earth as a globe there are words that could have been chosen to say that but, clearly, they were not chosen because this is not what the writer of the Qur'an believed!
Illiteracy of Muhammad?
Perhaps, in your eagerness to find evidence to support your (perhaps limited) faith in the work, you haven't considered that the Qur'an also teaches that the sun sets in a muddy spring. Some have tried to argue that the Qur'an is here using everyday speech, ordinary language, or phenomenological language and that, from the vantage point of the person who is viewing the sun from the earth, the sun does actually appear to be rising and setting. They argue that, even today with all our 'advanced' scientific knowledge, we still refer to 'sunrise' and 'sunset'. However, the main claim for the Qur'an is that it was written in the perfect language of 'heaven' and is 100% truth because nothing of man corrupted it. This makes it impossible to explain away the many historical, factual, scientific and grammatical errors by using this kind of excuse!
Sura 18:86 and 90 have been translated as follows:
'Until when he reached the place where the sun set, he found it going down into a black sea, and found by it a people. We said: O Zulqarnain! either give them a chastisement or do them a benefit… Until when he reached the land of the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people to whom We had given no shelter from It.' (Shakir)
'Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: "O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority,) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness"… Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had provided no covering protection against the sun.' (Yusuf Ali)
Whether it reads 'muddy spring', 'black sea' or - as some claim - 'warm spring' no explanation can alter the problems raised by the text. Note that the claim that the Qur'an cannot be translated into other languages, but must be understood in its original Arabic language (replete with bad grammar), cannot deal with the fact that different translators clearly understand the meaning somewhat differently in their minds and this is what they have written down! Since they clearly understand the passage in different ways (and therefore all the millions of other readers must also do the same and can only be squeezed into a kind of doctrinal strait-jacket by the respective interpreters of their respective group!) it is clear that the Qur'an cannot live up to the claims made for it by Muslims.
The text does not say that the sun appeared to be setting in a 'black sea' etc., but that the Zul-Qarnain found the place where the sun actually sets and rises. Further, Ibn Ishaq, in his Sirat Rasulullah, recorded a poem composed by Tubba which reads:
Dhu'l-Qarnayn before me was a Muslim
Conquered kings thronged his court,
East and west he ruled, yet he sought
Knowledge true from a learned sage.
He saw where the sun sinks from view
In a pool of mud and fetid slime.
Before him Bilqis my father's sister
Rule them until the hoopoe came to her.
(Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, Karachi, tenth impression 1995, p. 12; red emphasis added)
This poem is further evidence that Muhammad either took over a legendary story known to the Arabs before the Qur'an was assembled, or it was fabricated by Muslims after Muhammad claimed to be the prophet. Neither answer supports the claims for Qur'anic authenticity in any way.
Note the vehemence with which Islamic commentators deny that the Qur'an literally teaches that the sun sets in a spring/sea, as they seek to blame anyone (even the 'People of the Book') for these problems in the Qur'anic text. There is also a problem with appealing to the opinions of such men, e.g. Ibn Kathir and al-Qurtubi, who both claimed that the earth was placed on the back of a huge whale, with mountains being used to keep the earth stable upon the whale's back! Compare the ancient Hindu myth of a turtle and elephants supporting the earth!
Ibn Kathir, commenting on Sura 36:38 on the authority of Muhammad, also believed that the sun literally travels through the seven heavens until it reaches the throne of Allah where it prostrates itself (shades of the 'Sun god' bowing to the 'Moon god'!) and then returns back on its course. Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Dharr said, 'I was with the Prophet in the Masjid at sunset, and he said':
(O Abu Dharr! Do you know where the sun sets?) I said, 'Allah and His Messenger know best.' He said ... 'It goes and prostrates itself beneath the Throne, and that is what Allah says: And the sun runs on its fixed course for a term. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing.' (Tafsir Ibn Kathir Abridged, Volume 8 Surat Al-Ahzab, Verse 51 to the end of Surat Ad-Dukhan, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; September 2000, first edition, pp. 196-197)
If we combine the statements of the Qur'an along with the narrations of Muhammad reported by Ibn Kathir regarding the course of the sun, we must believe that the sun travels on a course which includes setting in a muddy spring/black sea as well prostrating itself before Allah above the seven heavens. Again, the evidence makes the 'Moon god theory' of Robert Morey seem even more applicable.
Origins of the Qur'an?
You write: These are just a few glorious words of specifics that nobody could possibly know at the time. Are these just fabrications but [sic] a desert dweller?
TCE: we have shown that, far from the intimated interpretations of the Qur'an you listed being unknown 'at the time,' they were actually well known and are easily proven from the contemporary historical records of Muhammad's time. 'Fabrications' of a mere 'desert dweller' - hardly? Muhammad was many distasteful things, but we have never suggested that he was entirely ignorant or even unintelligent. Even the claims that he was an illiterate prophet fail to hold up to examination, for some hadith record that he asked for pen and paper to record his will and, when he made a treaty with the Meccans and they refused to concede that he was an apostle of Allah, he struck out that phrase on the treaty and wrote: 'Muhammad, son of Abdullah'. And could he really have succeeded in business without being literate?
Many other sources have been determined for the origins of the Qur'an (e.g. The Sources of Islam, A Persian Treatise by Rev. W. St Clair-Tisdall, M.A., T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1901, 102 pages - translated and abridged by Sir William Muir) where the Preface states, accurately:
'Now if it be shown that much of this grand book can be traced to human sources existing daily around the Prophet, then Islam falls to the ground. And this is what the Author proves with marvellous power and erudition'.
As briefly shown above, the 'scientific' accuracy of the Qur'an is clearly unremarkable and any 'accurate' science in it can be explained by simple observation of nature, deductions already made by Muhammad's contemporaries or predecessors, or by selective interpretation of Sura. We should remember that accuracy on individual points does not indicate overall accuracy for, just about every thesis that is wrong overall still has some accurate points in it.
We wonder if Muslims would also accept that, if occasional scientific accuracy were to prove overall accuracy of Sura the same conclusion must be granted to the Bible and works from all other religions making claims to scientific accuracy?
Relying on wishful thinking, or appealing to the 'science' supposedly found in the Qur'an by the art of 're-interpretation after the fact,' is to ignore the clear evidence showing that it merely reflects the prevailing knowledge of seventh century Arabia! We read Muhammad's perception of the universe repeatedly in Sura which Muslim scholars accepted as the truth for centuries. It was not until the last century that Muslim scholars realised that science was asking questions that the Qur'an could not answer. Trying to hide the obvious conclusions by relying on the unfamiliar and often ambiguous language of the Qur'an, or twisting the language to come up with supposedly plausible meanings, also fails because it cannot hide the fact that Muhammad's records were also kept through the ahadith which confirms the mythology described in the Qur'an.
Finally, we find that the verses in the Qur'an that are claimed as scientific miracles to deceive millions of Muslims into believing in the Qur'an already have an equivalent passage in the Bible which was written many years earlier, making it clear that Muhammad tried to copy these details, but failed. This is apart from the many stories in the Qur'an with serious historical and archaeological errors. Conversely, careful study of the hundreds of detailed and unique verses concerning prophecies fulfilled to the letter in the Bible proves that God is the only one that holds the key to future events and only the Bible has the key, not the Qur'an which also lacks the most important elements of "salvation and redemption" and severely insults the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Continued on page 434)