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The Quran, Modern Science, and More

By F. Kamal

 

(Excerpt from book "Easily Understand Islam")

Today, one may be a highly educated citizen of a wealthy, modern society with the internet at one’s fingertips. However, in order to begin to understand the extraordinary content within in the Quran, one must transport one’s self back hundreds of years to a time (e.g., around 610-632 CE) and place where “science” barely existed. Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad’s birthplace was in one of the most backward places of the world at that time.

If you who have been fortunate enough to travel, perhaps you have even traveled to one of the rapidly disappearing places on our globe that has been relatively untouched by the modern world. If so, you might begin to have some sense of the world at an earlier time. Alternatively, perhaps you have studied the history of the world at a much earlier time. That, too, would help you to appreciate how different that time and world was. Changing your mindset to a different time and place can help you appreciate how extraordinarily it would be to find some of the Quranic material in such a place and time, especially since the Quran appears to emanate from an illiterate man. Much scientific information we take for granted these days, simply did not exist (or was incorrect) in earlier times and places. So readjust your mindset to a different time and place so that you can more fully appreciate the following…

EMBROYOLOGY

Context:

While today people have a good understanding of reproduction, this has not always been the case. For example, do you know that the theory of “spontaneous generation” held sway for a time? The idea was that things like maggots would “spontaneously” appear on meat. Of note, Pasteur conclusively demonstrated that the theory was false by running controlled experiments during the 19th century CE.

How about the theory of “preformationism?”1 The general idea was that, for example, a human was fully preformed as a “homunculus” i.e. a miniature human. Then this miniature human simply grew with time into an adult. The idea gained much strength under people like Nicolaas Hartsoeker in 1694 CE (before eventually being replaced by competing idea of epigenesis2’ due to Ritter von Baer’s discovery of the mammalian ovum (egg) in 1827 CE. and also due to the Hans Driesch experiments of the late 19th century CE.

Sure a lot of this stuff sounds absurd, but the point is that things that are obvious to us now may not necessarily always have been. It helps to understand that, in order to more fully appreciate this section.

Ok ,on to embryology. Here are some Quranic verses and their commentaries that deal with human embryology.

“Sulalah”

Insight #1:

Quranic verse:

Then He made [ man’s ] offspring out of the essence of a humble fluid. (See the Arabic word “Sulalah” below).Quran, 32:8

Commentary:

Interestingly, the Arabic word “sulalah” used in this verse has multiple meanings:

If one carefully examines sperm they do have an uncanny resemblance to tiny, long, swimming fish! Furthermore, the sperm are only one part (the essential part) of the male fluid (i.e. semen).

Semen has many parts, each of which serves different functions. For example, the spermatozoa (the sperm), fructose (energy for the sperm), prostaglandin (to suppress female immune response against the foreign sperm), mucus (to increase sperm mobility), and so on.

It’s a quite remarkable word selection!

“Nutfa amshaj”

Insight #2:

Quranic verse:

have created man out of a drop of sperm intermingled (See the Arabic words “nutfa amshaj” below) Quran 76:2

Commentary: The Arabic “nutfa” refersto a fluid drop, and the Arabic word “amshaj” refers to mingling.3 The implication is that the entity results from both the male and the female. As the mammalian egg was only discovered in 1827, this concept of mingling (of the male and female) was much ahead of its time.

“Alaqa”

Insight #3:

Quranic verse:

Then we transformed that drop (nutfa) into a clinging thing Quran 23:14 (See the Arabic words “nutfa” and “alaqa” below)

Wasn’t he a mere spewed drop of sperm, then a clinging thing … Quran 75:37-38

Commentary: The important Arabic word here is “alaqa” which has multiple meanings.

Alaqa can mean

Interestingly, the fertilized egg (i.e. zygote) divides, moves down the fallopian tubes, and attaches itself to the uterine wall, i.e., clinging to it. Furthermore, it does have an uncanny resemblance to a leech! It can also appear to have the look of clotted blood in it. All this is indeed fascinating.

When the entity attaches (i.e. blastocyst implanting) itself to the uterine wall, it can actually be thought to “grow roots” (i.e. chorionic villi) to draw nourishment from the mother.4 As such, it does have some similarities with the metaphor of planting seeds in the soil. In this sense, Quran 2:223, which uses the analogy of fertile fields, also seems appropriate and insightful.

“Mudgha”

Insight #4:

Quranic verse:

out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a chewed-like lump, partly formed and partly unformed (Quran 22: 5). (See the Arabic word “mudgha” below)

then out of that clinging thing (e.g., leech like alaqa), We formed a chewed up lump (i.e., mudgha) Quran 23:14

Commentary: The important Arabic word is “mudgha” which can be translated as “chewed-like lump.” This is, in fact, a rather good description! For example, the somites which will eventually become things like vertebrae ,do look like the teeth marks left on chewed gum. Interesting the succession of embryology stages is also correct. “Mudgha” does in fact follow the “alaqa” stage. Furthermore, the notion of “partly formed and partly unformed” also captures the essence of what exists at this point.

Important Note: Now, there is a critically important fact that has not yet been mentioned. Many of these things are very small. It should be noted that microscopes were only invented by Leeuwenhoek in the 1600s and the quality of the first ones was rather poor. As such, for example spermatozoa were only identified around 1677 CE and human sperm soon after circa 1701 CE. Forget any suggestion as to their general appearance, their very existence could only be firmly established around the seventeenth century CE.

“izam” (bones) and lahm (muscles and flesh)

Insight #5 & #6:

Quranic verses:

out of that chewed up lump (i.e. mudgha) We fashioned bones and clothed them in flesh Quran 23:14

Commentary: We now know from science that the next stages are in fact the development of bones as well as muscles and flesh! Not only is the Quranic insight remarkable, but also the order of the words. Only very recently, have we learnt (at the microscopic level) that the cartilage ossifies followed by the muscular cells coming together and wrapping around the bones. This order is exactly what the Quranic verses indicate. Amazing.

Hearing and Sight

Insight #8:

Quranic verse:

Verily, it is We who have created man out of a drop of sperm intermingled, so that We might try him [in his later life]: and therefore We made him a being endowed with hearing and sight. Quran 76:2

Commentary: Now one sees the development of hearing and sight. Again the Quran is prescient in its identification of these important markers at this stage. More surprising the Quranic order is correct. Science tells us that hearing development precedes sight development by about three to four weeks!

Eventually, the next stages proceed to produce something that can eventually survive outside the mother i.e., a baby!

Bonus Insight #9:

“He makes you in the wombs of your mothers in stages one after another in three veils of darkness.” Quran 39:6

Commentary: There are in fact three “veils.” Modern science finds the following:

Summary:

These are all very surprising (perhaps even astonishing) verses for something revealed almost 1400 years ago!

Note: Many surprising similarities between the Quran and modern embryology were actually noticed, and confirmed by distinguished, top western scientists with expertise in such fields as embryology/anatomy before being noticed by many Muslims–which actually is interesting in of itself. Furthermore, much of this knowledge has only been recently established.

ASTRONOMY

Context: How might someone in seventh-century CE Arabia have seen the sky? Beyond noting how magnificent the sky looked, he probably would not have noticed much else. Oh, maybe he would have had some knowledge of the North Star5 if he was a guide.

Let us consider some verses (on astronomy):

We built the sky above with Our (special) ability, and We’re expanding it. Quran 51:47

That seems to be a rather unusual statement. The word “expanding” is not a typical word choice in such a statement.

What does modern science say?

Interestingly, until very recently, even scientists thought the universe might be static (i.e., not expanding). This was so much the case, that Albert Einstein, one of the world’s most brilliant scientists, at one point even looked into modifying his equations to deal with the case of a static universe.6 So it was a great shock to the scientific world when Hubble established that the galaxies were actually speeding away from us suggesting that the universe was, in fact, expanding.

He reached this conclusion using something called the Doppler Effect. What exactly is the Doppler Effect? Well, consider standing at a train station. As the train approaches a person, the sound waves are squished, increasing the pitch. As the train moves away, the sound waves are elongated decreasing the pitch. The changing (sound) waves (i.e. pitch) results from the movement of the train relative to a person, and this forms the essence of the Doppler Effect. Using the Doppler Effect by observing light emanating from nearby galaxies, Hubble was able to conclude that galaxies were rapidly receding from us.7

Comments: In light of this rather recent development, the use of the word “expanding” seems quite prescient, accurate, and precise.

Let us examine another verse:

Don’t those who suppress (their awareness of the truth) see that the heavens and the earth were once fused together in a single piece, and then We split them apart? Quran 21:30

What does modern science say?

Modern science believes that everything was fused together into an extraordinarily dense, hot thing called the singularity. Then it was pulled apart. This theory is referred to as the “big bang.”

Just to be clear, the theory is that all matter, energy, and space was fused together in the singularity. So when it expanded, space itself expanded. The universe is not expanding into “empty space”, since there is essentially no space outside the universe. Instead space itself is expanding and expanding things in the process leading to the huge “gaps” between things. Think of a map. Zooming into the map makes two points that were close together appear far apart when one zooms in.

There are very strong reasons that scientists subscribe to this theory.

Here are some of them:

Comments: There appears to be an uncanny similarity between the Quranic verse and modern science.

The Earth

Context: How would a person view the earth at that time and place? Well the obvious thing is to “listen to your eyes” and your eyes are telling you the world is generally flat. This is because we are tiny in relation to the world. Thus, “earth flatness” is a good approximation at our scale. Yet …

Quranic verse:

He shaped the earth as an egg... Quran 79:30 (e.g. dahaha)

Surprised?

Now it should be noted that the Arabic word “dahaha” is used, and it has multiple meanings, one is of which refers to an egg or egg-like shape. Of course words and word roots are not mathematical formulae; rather, they are born of human experiences and the interactions of people with the world around them. As such, the word “egg “seems a perfect metaphor for suggesting the roundness of the earth. (Even the poles are flattened, unlike say a soccer ball!)

Modern Science: Of course it has been well established for a while that the world is round (actually squished a bit at the poles). There is, for example, a wonderful picture of earth rise – which is essentially a picture of earth from space showing the earth’s curvature. This, of course, is the advantage of perspective: if seen from a different scale, the earth’s curvature is obvious.

Commentary: Now to be sure, there were some people like Eratosthenes of Cyrene who felt that the world was round13 and who lived at the time of the Greeks. But it is highly unlikely an illiterate prophet in seventh-century CE Arabia was aware of, or ascribed to his work.14 There is a strong difference between possible and unlikely (in this case, extraordinarily unlikely), and it is important to note the likelihood of events. Taking that into account, it is an extraordinary word choice for a verse.

It is interesting to note that the Arabic word “dahaha” has various possible interpretations, one of which may have made the Quranic verse palatable to Prophet Muhammad’s contemporaries. In that regard, an alternative rendition of the verse might be “the earth: wide has He spread its expanse.” This alternative might have appealed to some who may have mocked him and/or deserted him for suggesting the earth was round. However, today the verse is also consistent with modern science when the earth is understood as being “egg-shaped.” This dual meaning of the word is even more amazing – making it an even bigger coincidence.

Moon and Sun

Context: A person of that time and place was likely to see lights from the sky as emanating from those points.

Quranic verses:

Blessed be the One Who placed constellations in the sky and Who placed therein a lamp and a lighted moon. Quran 25:61 (See the Arabic words “siraj” and “muneer” below.)

He it is who has made the sun a [source of] radiant light and the moon a light [reflected] Quran 10:5 (See the Arabic words “diya” and “nur” below.)

and has set up within them the moon as a light [reflected], and set up the sun as a [radiant] lamp? Quran 71:16 (See the Arabic words “diya” and “nur” below.)

Modern Science

We now know that light does not necessarily originate from the lighted sky points; sometimes it does, and other times it is reflected light. For example, we now know that the planets and the moon, due of their low initial masses, do not generate light in the way the sun does.

Specifically, one needs to have enough gravitational mass15 in order to power the nuclear fusion that produces the sun’s light. Our sun is primarily powered by hydrogen16 fusion. The moon did not have enough mass to become a star (like our sun), so its light does not emanate from itself but is rather a reflection of light from the sun.

Commentary:

There is a distinction made between the light from the sun and the light from the moon. The Arabic word “siraj” is like a “torch” and is used to describe the sun. The Arabic words “muneer” and “nur” are used with the moon and refers to borrowed or reflected light. Also the word “diya” is used to refer to a source of light, i.e., a light that subsists by itself. In contrast, the Arabic word “nur” is a light that subsists by some other thing i.e., it is reflected.17 There is a clear distinction in the way the light from the sun and the moon are being described, and both are described quite accurately. Fascinating!

Smoke

He also applied His design upon the sky, which was (filled with a kind of) smoke. He said to it and the earth, “You will come together willingly or unwillingly.” They responded, “We come willingly.” Quran 41:11 (See the Arabic word “dhukhan” below.)

Modern Science:

Interestingly, cosmic dust is actually better described as smoke than dust. Comic dust is the raw material used for the creation of stars, galaxies, and planets. Over time, for example, over many thousands of years, slight irregularities in distribution and density result in pockets of clumps forming and being pulled together by gravity. Over time, these clumps can become larger and form the different entities.

Psychology?

There are also interesting arguments made by some sources which are very subtle and easy to miss, but perhaps remarkable in retrospect.

Context:

Abu Lahab was one of the uncles of the Prophet. He was also one of the biggest haters of Islam and of Prophet Muhammad. The nature of his attacks against his nephew made him stand out. For example,

Quranic verses:

While Islam has had many who hated it, Abu Lahab was mentioned directly by name in the Quran.

Here are the verses.

The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish.

What will his wealth avail him, and all that he has gained?

He will be plunged in flaming fire,

together with his wife,

that carrier of evil tales,

On her neck a rope of palm fiber cast.

Quran 111:1-51819

Commentary:

A very interesting observation has been made regarding these Quranic verses. One obvious point, is that the prophecy of Abu Lahab’s diminishment soon came true. Meccan power took a very unexpected reversal at the Battle of Badr with a surprising (perhaps astonishing) defeat of the Meccan Quraysh at the hands of the rag tail band of the Prophet’s followers. This happened during Abu Lahab’s lifetime, and he died in Mecca shortly after those events.

Far more interesting though is a much more subtle point. Here one of greatest opponents of Islam was given a “gift wrapped” opportunity to decisively strike a tremendous blow to something he hated with a vengeance, i.e., his nephew (the Prophet) and the religion of Islam. This gift was given by the Prophet himself in these very verses. These verses suggested that Abu Lahab would be plunged into the flames of Hell.

Therefore, all Abu Lahab apparently had to do to crush the thing he hated so much was to convert to Islam and become a good Muslim. It would have precipitated a crisis. Yet, he never did.

However let us shift from Abu Lahab’s perspective to something much more interesting. How did the verses mentioned above know with absolute certainty that they would be true? It is extraordinary, if you think about it deeply.

Historical

Context: Prediction of historical events. The battle of the world’s superpowers (of the time): Persia and the Romans.

Quranic verses:

The Romans have been defeated in the lowest place but they will be victorious [over their Persian enemies] in spite of this defeat in a few years. Quran 30:2-4

Commentary:

These verses predicted that the defeated Romans would experience an amazing reversal of fortune and would prevail over the victorious Persians.

Did the prediction come true? Yes. However, it was not just any old prediction. It was a highly improbable prediction.

What makes the prediction more meaningful is that the Persians had the Romans “on the ropes.” In 613 CE, the Romans lost Damascus to the Persians. In about 614/615 CE Palestine and Jerusalem fell, followed by Egypt around 618/619 CE. Given the perilous state of the Romans, it seemed almost ridiculous to predict a Roman victory over the Persians.20

Yet not only is that prediction in the Quran, but it may be that an even more difficult second prediction was also made. The reversal is apparently predicted to occur within a specific time frame – a few years – upping the ante even more dramatically. The Arabic words used are “bid’i sineen” which typically means a few or anywhere from three to nine (or ten).

Is this interpretation correct? If so, when did this prediction come true? It is unclear to which Persian defeat the Quran refers, but the prediction did come true. Most likely, the prediction came true perhaps about seven years after the verse’s revelation21.

Apparently before the prohibition on gambling the Prophet’s friend Abu Bakr had a bet with Ubayy ibn Khalaf (a Quraysh leader) that the Quranic events would come to pass. Ubayy however had stipulated that the average of three to nine years (i.e. six years) should be the term of the bet. After six years, Abu Bakr lost the bet. However, the next year (i.e. seventh year), the prediction came true. The Muslims then advised Abu Bakr that he should have bet on the range of three to nine years instead of the six year mark.2223

Historical II: Of Egyptian Kings and Pharaohs

Quranic verses:

Relating to the story of Joseph:

The king (of Egypt called to his nobles) and said, “I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows being eaten by seven skinny ones, and seven green shafts of grain and others withered. My nobles! Tell me what my vision means if you can explain the meaning of visions.” Quran 12:43

Relating to the story of Moses:

Then after them We sent Moses and Aaron with Our signs to Pharaoh and his nobles, but (the Egyptians) were an arrogant and wicked people. Quran 10:75

Commentary:

There is a remarkable difference in the choice of words between the two stories. “King” is used referring to the Egyptian ruler in the story of Joseph, and “Pharaoh” is the word used for the Egyptian ruler in the story relating to Moses.

How is this discrepancy explained? Historians note the term “Pharaoh” only started during the “New Kingdom” around the 1550 BCE period.

So when did Joseph and Moses live?

A quick analysis24 puts Joseph before the “New Kingdom” 25 at around 1914 BCE. So the correct term during this time period would in fact be “king.” Moses is put at around 1446 BCE, Therefore, the correct term during this time period would be “Pharaoh.”

Conclusion: Is this mere coincidence or is it a remarkable and uncanny attention to detail in the choice of words?

Geology:

Quranic verses:

The Romans have been defeated in the lowest place but they will be victorious [over their Persian enemies] in spite of this defeat in a few years. Quran 30:2-4

Commentary:

Due to the amazing richness of the Arabic language there are multiple possible translations of verse 30:3. This verse has been variously translated as “closest” or as “lowest” land. Would “lowest place” make any sense?

It turns out the lowest dry land in the world, a fact only recently established is actually the area around the Dead Sea! Guess who fought in that area? It was the Romans and the Persians! And the Romans lost those areas to the Persians, and the Romans had been defeated in the lowest place, a geological fact was not known at the time of Prophet Muhammad.

As such, the word selection for the verse may be extraordinarily prescient!

Interesting curiosities:

Biology

Bees:

Quranic verses:

And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills on trees and in (men’s) habitations,

Then (He inspired it) to eat of all the produce (of the earth) and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord

There issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors wherein is healing for men.: Verily in this is a sign for those who give thought. Quran 16:68-69 (See the Arabic words “kuli” and “fa’asleky” below)

Commentary (first part):

“Thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells” is rather interesting. Does the building of bees exhibit any unusual or noteworthy properties? Actually it does. Interesting … Let’s see.

What are bees trying to do? Bees are trying to build storage compartments efficiently (i.e. with minimum wastage.) As such, let’s consider the following:

If one is given an area to partition off into storage compartments (e.g. for honey) what might be the best way to proceed? For reasons of high productivity, training and maintenance it might seem preferable to reuse the same partition shape, and simply repeat it throughout the structure. Bees are very efficient after all.

But what shape would be best? Well the basic shapes are triangles, squares and circles. Okay, how about a circle? Well, have you ever tried to pack a bunch of soccer balls in a box? There is a lot of empty space between the balls. One would have to use a lot of expensive “glue” to stabilize the spheres together if there was no exterior box. Plus there would be a lot of inaccessible unused storage space (i.e. where the glue was). As can be seen, perhaps circles are not such a great idea

Triangles, squares and hexagons seem to allow us to pack together items very tightly without wasted, expensive gaps. Yet which of these shapes works best? We could guess “it would be hexagons”, and call it a conjecture. Well in 1999, the “honeycomb conjecture”26 (in rather fancy mathematical notation) was finally mathematically proven by Thomas C. Hales and the matter was laid to rest. Hexagons win! Thus, the honeycomb is indeed a brilliant piece of efficient engineering. It is so much so that the honeycomb structure can be considered an architectural wonder of sorts.

Commentary (second part):

“And find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord”

Is there anything interesting in the way bees find “spacious paths?” Yes, it’s called the bee “waggle dance.” It is a sophisticated way to communicate the rough direction, distance, and quality of a food source that the bees may have discovered. For example the following dance parameters correlate to the food source: 1) the angle of the dance is aligned to direction, 2) the dance duration to distance, and 3) the number of bees and their enthusiasm for a particular destination may indicate food quality.

Bees observing the waggle dance may choose to use this imparted information in their search for food.

This transfer of information was first decoded and described by Nobel laureate Karl von Frisch in 1927 CE.

Bees – gender

Context: What do most people think of when they think of bees? The top two words are probably “honey” and “stingers.” Due to the historical association between men and war, most would probably assume that the bees that they met that were out foraging for nectar (and that could sting them) them were male.

Modern Science:

Typically, the bees that participate in pollen/nectar gathering, nursing, and hive construction are female. Also, it is the female bees that have the stingers. Male bees are called drones. Their primary function is reproduction. Most bees you see are usually female.

Commentary:

The Arabic words “kuli” and “fa’asleky” suggests female gender for the bee in the verse cited. The feminine form of “their bodies” is used, indicating, for example, that the female bees make honey.27 This is interesting and counter-intuitive for someone from seventh-century CE Arabia, but it is surprisingly correct.

Atmosphere

Context: This next verse might be difficult to appreciate–given how well educated most people are nowadays. (Most of us have seen space suits, for example.) However it can be better appreciated by attempting to transport oneself back into a time where “science” was considerably more primitive, and some its ideas somewhat absurd.

He tightens his chest until it’s so constricted that he feels as if he’s climbing high up into the sky Quran 6:125

Commentary:

Most of us know the importance of oxygen in space but this common knowledge is relatively recent. Did you know, for example, that oxygen itself was only named very recently? Antoine Lavoisier named it in 1777 (CE). Perhaps some in the past may have felt rising into the sky would instead be a wonderful experience that would generally make you feel great and healthy? Thus, the word selection is not obvious.

Bonus Section (Interesting curiosities):

Biology

Gender

Background: How many women have been “blamed” throughout human history for the lack of a male heir or son? How many men have used it as an excuse to divorce, or even abandon their wives? Yet, the truth shows otherwise. In fact, if any “blame” was merited, it perhaps should have rested with the men.

Quran verse:

(God is the One Who) who creates the two kinds–the male and the female–from an ejected drop of sperm, Quran 53:45-46

The close positional placement of the words is a little unusual in this context possibly suggesting that sperm (e.g. men) could play a role in determining the gender of offspring.

Modern science:

With the discovery of the Y chromosome, we now know that it is the fathers’ sperm that generally determines the gender of the child. This general system was worked out in 1905 CE by Nettie Stevens and Edmund Wilson independently of each other.

Paleontology

They say: “What! When we are reduced to bones and dust should we really be raised up (to be) a new creation?”

Say: “[You will be raised from the dead even though] you be stones or iron

or any [other] substance which, to your minds, appears yet further removed [from life]!” 58 And [if] thereupon they ask, “Who is it that will bring us back [to life]?”–say thou: “He Who has brought you into being in the first instance.” Quran 17:49-51

Stone or iron are not the first words to associate with death which is perhaps a little confusing... That is unless it is referring to fossils. This is one possible interpretation.

The idea is that is this perhaps suggests an even more unlikely scenario to restoring the dead to life than even from bones. However, can living matter leave iron and stone?

Fossils don’t typically happen since they normally require a specific set of conditions. But dead organisms can be replaced by stone (i.e. calcite or silica) fossils or iron fossils (i.e. pyritization). Interesting.

Concluding Thoughts

While one or two insights may be a coincidence or perhaps even inconclusive or erroneous, increasing numbers may point to a divine origin. It does seem quite unusual that there is so much resonance between possible interpretations and science. Further, such clever word substitution would not have been noticed at the time – nor was it pointed out by the Prophet (e.g. he did not benefit from these observations–since much of this information was not known or understood unti,l much later).

Still further, researching the life of the Prophet and the times and place in which he lived makes it even more obvious how unlikely that he, as an illiterate man in a backward time and place, could have conceived of such adroit word selection. For example, he had numerous enemies, and the early Muslims were very heavily persecuted (some badly tortured). Many people around Muhammad opposed him and were continuously seeking ways to discredit him. The Prophet was relentlessly under a microscope and any external sources of (for example, “scientific”) information (if it even existed) would have been almost immediately discovered, would have been widely broadcast, and would have quickly ruined him. Additionally, even before he became a prophet he was widely known for his honesty – so much so that one of his nicknames was “as-Sadiq” (the truthful) and another was “al-Amin” (the honest). 28

Finally, it should be noted that it is not only a question of careful word selection. The Quran is also beautifully recited in Arabic and has remarkable acoustic cadences and rhythms. Thus, it is not only a matter of selecting a word(s) for their logical meaning(s) but the word must also flow beautifully in Arabic, making the task even more remarkable.

For example, try writing some deep logical statements. Then try to rewrite the same thing while infusing it with rhythm and a poetic style. While it is hard to do it even once, it is much harder to do it on a repeated basis.

Note: While this chapter is an interesting exercise (since science so completely permeates our lives nowadays) in attempting to interpret Quranic verses more fully in the light of modern scientific thought, it does not form the core of a Muslims belief system. While Muslims acknowledge that the Quran may contain scientific and other miracles it is not the primary source of a Muslim’s belief. Due to the nature of scientific inquiry, scientific theories can and do undergo oscillating paradigm shifts. Important models are discarded, theories are refined, and new ideas are born. Thus, even this chapter might have to be periodically rewritten, even as a core set of methodologies might remain intact. Eventually, Muslims would expect improved data and deeper scientific understanding and Quranic interpretations to align themselves.

1 This idea goes as far back as the Greeks (perhaps Hippocrates).

2 Another idea going back to the Greeks.

3 The semen is the male fluid and contains the sperm, while the female follicular fluid contains the ovum, i.e., egg. Hence,the sperm and the egg are in an intermingled drop. (Note: drop refers to something tiny–one only needs a tiny drop to create a human being.)

4 Interestingly, a leech draws blood from a host.

5 The constellations change position depending on time and date periodically over the day and year.

6 George Gamow apparently suggested that Einstein later believed it might be the worst blunder of his career (although this is probably untrue and more hearsay then established fact.) It is also possible that dark energy needs some expansive force, but that does not change the nature of Einstein’s initial motivations to change his equations.

7 Observing emission lines that were red shifted.

8 Gamma rays

9 The universe because transparent, e.g. allowed photons to escape, when when electrons and atomic nuclei first become bound. (Recombination epoch).

10 The gamma rays of the early universe have been red shifted to the microwave portion of the EM spectrum

11 Currently scientists can run the clock back to the Planck epoch (e.g. seconds), between that and the singularity the science is not currently well understood–scientists are trying to develop theories to better understand that period. Interesting tidbit: Scientists have, among other things, also used particle accelerators to better simulate certain early conditions to better understand the early universe.

12 This depends on things like the Hubble constant, which is an estimated amount and can be further refined, but gives a reasonable estimate.

13 In fact he conducted a wonderful experiment primarily using geometry and some ingenuity to calculate the circumference of the world and got a value that was actually quite a good estimate.

14 Arabs learnt a great deal about the Greeks but it was much later in their history. Long after, prophet Muhammad’s death, Muslims did contribute to earth circumference measurements like during , Caliph al-Ma’mun’s time (830 CE) and particularly by Abu Rayhan al-Biruni(973-1048 CE)

15 As well as some quantum tunneling.

16 The proton-proton chain reaction. Spectroscopy also helps determine the chemical composition of distant bodies in the sky.

17 See Muhammad Asad translation footnote.

18 Ibn Ishaq records that upon hearing about these verses, Abu Lahab’s wife sought the Prophet while carrying a stone pestle in her hand. Upon meeting the Prophet’s friend Abu Bakr, she was so angry that she threatened to smash the Prophet’s mouth for the “poetry” he had recited.

19 Muhammad Asad says in his translation, that this is a very early Meccan chapter, revealed soon after the Prophet spoke to people from the As-Safa hillock.

20 When these verses came out, apparent the Quraysh (who felt a stronger affinity to the pagan Persians) used it as an opportunity to mock the Muslims (who were closer to the monotheistic Romans). The Quraysh felt the idea was ludicrous.

21 Whenever that was.

22 Tafsir Ibn Kathir.

23 An alternative version suggests that the bet was amended to ten years and the resulting camels Abu Bakr won were donated to charity

24 One possible way to do this is to use a combination of secular and Biblical sources. Historians put Solomon’s temple at 966 BCE. Using the Bible, subtract 480 to get to the exodus (I Kings 6:1) i.e. 1446 BCE. This gets one an estimate for the time of Moses. Therefore, the correct word during this time period would be “Pharaoh.”

Subtract 430 for the Israelites years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40), resulting in 1876 BCE and account for Joseph (Genesis) to get estimate around 1914 BCE for Joseph. So the correct term during this time period would be “king.” (Incidentally, Genesis apparently gets this wrong, using the term “Pharaoh” during Joseph’s time.)

25 There is also the Hyksos theory that also puts Joseph before the New Kingdom.

26 Honeycomb conjecture: The best division of a space into equal areas while minimizing the total perimeter is a hexagonal grid (e.g. a honeycomb pattern). Marcus Varro (36 BCE) was possibly the first person to record this conjecture.

27 See Emerick footnote.

28 Two possible ways to learn about Prophet Muhammad’s life are 1) Moustapha Akkad’s movie “The Message” and 2) Martin Ling’s biography of him.