Scientific Miracles in the Qur’aan?


Question:

There are many people who do da’wah by showing scientific miracles in the Qur’aan. However, I have seen that they can easily be dismissed because some words are stretched to the limits of reason to accommodate these so called miracles. Many non-Muslims say that this is a sign that Islam struggles with science and that Muslims are desperate for converts so we use deceit.

Answer:

I do agree that this is a problem that is negatively affecting the sincere work of da’wah. To begin with, there is a serious warning by the Prophet (salallahu ‘alayhi wa salam) about reading into the Qur’aan, the meanings or views that they want to see, and not necessarily what the text says. This is called eisegesis:

Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) warned: “He who interprets The Quran without knowledge let him prepare his place in Hell-fire.” (Tirmizhi) Another hadith qualifies the term “without knowledge”. Also narrated by Imam Tirmizhi, it states: “He who interprets The Quran with his own opinion and is correct, has indeed erred.” This hadith makes two telling points: one, that personal or self-opinionated interpretation of Quran is regarded as interpretation without knowledge.

Islam therefore prohibits such self-interpretation, and considers it a sinful action. We should therefore refer to the experts, the scholars of the interpretation of the Qur’aan, the mufassireen. There are many tafaseer (plural of tafseer/ commentary) of the Qur’aan by reliable scholars, namely Tafseer Ibn Kathir and Maar’iful Qur’aan. I am not saying that these commentaries of the Qur’aan by the scholars is perfect in their attribution of scientific miracles to some ayaat of the Qur’aan, as some scholars have interpreted according to the science of their respective times. What I am saying, is that the lay man is unfamiliar with the limits of tafseer and the science of tafseer, therefore it is safer to leave interpretation of the Qur’aan to those who know the limits.

However, we must take into consideration that the Qur’aan does contain scientific miracles. By this, I mean that it conveys accurate information about the physical world in which we exist. There is a point of great importance that must be emphasized, the language of science and the human terms applied to the physical world may not ever match the wording of the Qur’aan. Let’s take a general example:

And We made the sky a protected ceiling, but they, from its signs, are turning away. – Qur’aan 21:32.

If the creator did reveal this as a message to us about natural phenomena, then what can we expect Him to say? The terms used must convey the most general meaning as is possible so that we can identify the terms used with natural phenomena. So the Qur’aan in 21:32 says the sky is a protected ceiling. Someone might argue and say that this verse is false because there is no ceiling or roof covering the earth and the sky is not a physical tangible object. Yet, if we look at the verse more carefully, it states that the sky is some sort of a protection, like a ceiling or roof. Is there such a thing covering the world in what we consider to be the sky? Yes, the ozone layer. This layer protects us from the sun’s harmful rays and preserves life on earth. Due to our atmosphere, meteorites of certain sizes disintegrate while passing through it.

Obviously, the Qur’aan does not use the term “ozone layer”, even if it did and it mentioned those exact terms; at the time of its revelation, that term would be meaningless to those people and for all we know, humans could’ve called what we refer to the ozone layer another name, perhaps the rubber ducky layer. The wisdom of God is beautiful, we can see that He uses terms that are common and general, but with which we can identify and make sense of. To understand how difficult it is to describe something to people who are wholly unfamiliar or ignorant of it, try describing a cellphone to 1st century CE Romans. What would you say? Terms like Wi-Fi, cellular reception, Amoled screen, RAM, etc, are unknown and would be gibberish to them. If you told them you could use something smaller than the size of your palm that uses invisible waves to allow your voice and face to be heard and seen to someone from China or Russia, they would think you are crazy.

Therefore it is a baseless and silly notion that some people expect the Qur’aan to use specific terms that perhaps only English speaking 21st century people can. We must examine the full spectrum of meanings that a word can be used for, even if such a use is rare. By we, I mean the scholars capable of interpreting the Qur’aan. I do not believe, that applying the rare meaning of a word to a term in the Qur’aan is desperation or dishonesty, if the word historically has been used in such a way, to reflect a particular meaning then that is not deceit. It’s the opposite, it’s applying a meaning which was once actually used. As Muslims, we need to understand that the Qur’aan will mention facts about the natural phenomena of the physical world in which we exist. Our expectations of scientific miracles needs to be delimited (determining the limits of interpretation). While there are many other examples of scientific related information in the Qur’aan, we should not abuse such information by overstating or inflating the information it expresses to us. Take into consideration, the website of Harun Yahya that lists miracles far beyond what the Qur’aan is stating. He is misusing verses and when he does this, Muslims like you and I are labeled as uneducated about science or tampering with the meaning of the verses or as being deceitful.

In conclusion, we accept two things, (1) There are people who falsely interpret verses of the Qur’aan to reflect scientific data, (2) There is accurate information about science in the Qur’aan. There may be verses which are ambiguous in their relation to our current scientific data, but that does not mean the verse is wrong or false, it can simply reflect that either humans are understanding it wrongly, or that scientists will eventually reach the same view, of which the Qur’aan is expressing. It is our duty as Muslims to remind the brothers and sisters who interpret scientific information and attempt to relate it to verses of the Qur’aan, that they should be qualified in that field of science themselves and they must know and have the authority to interpret the Qur’aan. Not everyone has these qualifications, and it is with that said, I want to remind the Muslims doing da’wah that they need to interact with the relevant scholars before jumping to conclusions.

and Allaah knows best.

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