Literature and poetry have been instruments of human expression and creativity, in all cultures. The world also witnessed an age when literature and poetry occupied pride of position, similar to that now enjoyed by science and technology. Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, agree that Al-Qur’an is Arabic literature par excellence – that it is the best Arabic literature on the face of the earth. The Qur’an challenges mankind in the following verses:
“And if ye are in doubt As to what We have revealed From time to time to Our Servant, then produce a Surah Like thereunto; And call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, If your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot –And of a sure, you cannot. hen fear the Fire Whose fuel is Men and Stones – Which is prepared for those Who reject Faith.” [Al-Qur’an 2:23-24]
The same notation is followed throughout the book. References and translation of the Qur’an are from the translation of the Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, new revised edition, 1989, published by Amana Corporation, Maryland, USA. The challenge of the Qur’an is to produce a single Surah (chapter) like the Surahs it contains. The same challenge is repeated in the Qur’an several times. The challenge to produce a Surah, which, in beauty, eloquence, depth, and meaning is at least somewhat similar to a Qur’anic Surah remains unmet to this day. A modern rational man, however, would never accept a religious scripture, which says, in the best possible poetic language, that the world is flat. This is because we live in an age, where human reason, logic, and science are given primacy. Not many would accept the Qur’an’s extraordinarily beautiful language, as proof of its Divine origin. Any scripture (1 Al-Qur’an 2:23-24 indicates Surah or Chapter No. 2 and Ayaat or Verses 23 and 24.) claiming to be a divine revelation must also be acceptable on the strength of its own reason and logic. According to the famous physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” Let us, therefore, study the Qur’an, and analyze whether The Qur’an and Modern Science are compatible or incompatible? The Qur’an is not a book of science but a book of ‘signs’. There are more than six thousand ‘signs’ in the Qur’an of which more than a thousand deal with science.
CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE: ‘THE BIG BANG’
The creation of the universe is explained by astrophysicists in a widely accepted phenomenon, popularly known as the ‘Big Bang’. It is supported by observational and experimental data gathered by astronomers and astrophysicists for decades. According to the ‘Big Bang’, the whole universe was initially one big mass (Primary Nebula). Then there was a ‘Big Bang’ (Secondary Separation) which resulted in the formation of Galaxies. These are then are divided to form stars, planets, the sun, the moon, etc. The origin of the universe was unique and the probability of it occurring by ‘chance’ is zero. The Qur’an contains the following verse, regarding the origin of the universe:
“Do not the Unbelievers see That the heavens and the earth Were joined together (as one Unit of Creation) before We clove them asunder?” [Al-Qur’an 21-30]
The striking congruence between the Qur’anic verse and the ‘Big Bang’ is inescapable! How could a book, which first appeared in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago, contains this profound scientific truth?
THERE WAS AN INITIAL GASEOUS MASS BEFORE THE CREATION OF GALAXIES
Scientists say that before the galaxies in the universe were formed, the celestial matter was initially in the form of gaseous matter. In short, huge gaseous matter or clouds were present before the formation of the galaxies. To describe initial celestial matter, the word ‘smoke’ is more appropriate than gas. The following Qur’anic verse refers to this state of the universe by the word Dhukhan which means smoke.
“Moreover, He Comprehended In His design the sky, And it had been (as) smoke: He said to it And to the earth: ‘Come ye together, Willingly or unwillingly.’ They said: ‘We do come (Together), in willing obedience.’” [Al-Qur’an 41:11]
Again, this fact is a corollary to the ‘Big Bang’ and was not known to the Arabs during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). What then, could have been the source of this knowledge?
THE SPHERICAL SHAPE OF THE EARTH
In early times, people believed that the earth is flat. For centuries, men were afraid to venture out too far, lest they should fall off the edge. Sir Francis Drake was the first person who proved that the earth is spherical when he sailed around it in 1597. Consider the following Quranic verse regarding the alternation of day and night: “Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day And He merges Day into Night?” [Al-Qur’an 31:29]
Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes today and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night. The following verse also alludes to the spherical shape of the earth: “He created the heavens And the earth In true (proportions): He makes the Night Overlap the Day, and the Day Overlap the Night.” [Al-Qur’an 39:5]
The Arabic word used here is Kawwara meaning ‘to overlap’ or ‘to coil’– the way a turban is wound around the head. The overlapping or coiling of the day and night can only take place if the earth is spherical. The earth is not exactly round like a ball, but geo-spherical i.e. it is flattened at the poles. The following verse contains a description of the earth’s shape: “And the earth, moreover, Hath He made egg-shaped.” [Al-Qur’an 79:30]
The Arabic word for egg here is dahaha, which means an ostrich egg. The shape of an ostrich egg resembles the geo-spherical shape of the earth. Thus, the Qur’an correctly describes the shape of the earth, though the prevalent notion when the Qur’an was revealed was that the earth is flat.