What Does The Qur’an Say About Science?
The Qur’an was revealed to make us aware of the Creator, affirm that He is known through His creation, direct us to belief and worship, and order individual and social life so that we attain happiness in both worlds. Today, many Muslims pursue science to obtain a better understanding of Him and His creation. Keeping this in mind, consider the following Qur’anic allusions to scientific facts:
Soon We shall show them Our signs on the furthest horizons, and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is truth. Is it not enough that your Lord witnesses all things? (41:53)
Our thinking and research affirms the Creator’s Oneness, as the true nature and interrelationship of microcosm and macrocosm are further disclosed and better understood. Scientists seem to be very close to proving this Divine truth. Even now we feel that soon we shall hear and understand creation’s testimonies and praises to God, as mentioned in 17:44.
O humanity, if you doubt the Resurrection, (consider) that We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like cloth, then out of a lump of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (what We will) to you… (22:5)
We created man from a quintessence (of clay). Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed. Then we made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood. Then of that clot We made a lump (embryo); then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh. Then We developed out of it a new (distinct, indi-vidual) creature. (23:12–14)
He makes you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness … (39:6)
These three veils of darkness are the parametrium, miometrium, and the endometrium, three tissues enveloping three water-, heat-, and light-proof membranes (the amnion, corion, and the womb’s wall).
In cattle will you find an instructive sign. From what is from their bodies, between excretions and blood, We produce, for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it (16:66)
The Qur’an details this process: food’s partial digestion and absorption, followed by a second process and refinement in the glands. Milk is wholesome and agreeable for people, yet is rejected by the cow’s body and bloodstream as useless.
Glory be to God, who created in pairs all things, of what the soil produces, and of themselves, and of what they know not. (36:36)
We know that people, animals, and certain plants have counterparts. But what about the pairs in all things … and of what they know not? This may refer to a whole range of inanimate and animate entities, subtle forces, and principles of nature. Science confirms that everything occurs in pairs.
Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and Earth were joined together (as a single mass) before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (21:30)
Every living thing was created of water. What is important here is that the universe is a single miracle of creation, not how life came about. Everything in it is an integral part of that miracle, bears signs that prove it, and is interconnected. The verse emphasizes water’s vitality and significance.
The sun runs its course (mustaqarr) determined for it. That is His de-cree, the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing. (36:38)
In fact, mustaqarr here may mean a determined orbit in space or time, a fixed place of rest or dwelling. Thus the sun has a specific orbit, moves to-ward a particular point, and will rest when its task is finished. Such words were spoken at a time when people thought the sun orbited Earth.
The firmament: We constructed it with power and skill, and We are expanding it. (51:47–48)
This verse reveals that the distance between celestial bodies is increasing, for the universe is ex-panding. In 1922, the astronomer Hubble claimed that all galaxies, ex-cept the five closest to Earth, are moving further into space at a speed directly proportional to their distance from Earth. Le Maître, a Belgian mathematician and priest, later proposed and developed the theory that the universe is expanding.
God raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see… (13:2)
All celestial bodies move in order, balance, and harmony. They are held and supported in this order by invisible pillars, known to science as the balance of centripetal and centrifugal forces: He holds back the sky from falling on earth except by His leave… (22:65)
By the moon’s fullness, you shall travel from stage to stage (84:18–19)
Some earlier commentators thought that this described one’s spiritual ascent or a process of change. Later Qur’anic interpreters thought that it could not be taken literally. But given the context, this really means travelling to the moon, whether literally or figuratively.
Do they not see how We gradually shrink the land from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will be victors? (21:44)
The reference to shrinking could reflect Earth’s being compressed at the poles, rather than to such earlier theories as the erosion of mountains by wind and rain, of the sea-shores by the sea, or of the desert’s encroach-ment of cultivated lands. The Qur’an’s depiction of Earth as egg-shaped (79:30-32) is also borne out by science.
We have made the night and the day as two signs; the sign of the night We have obscured, while the sign of the day We have made to enlighten you… (17:12)
According to Ibn ‘Abbas, the sign of the night refers to the moon, and the sign of the day to the sun. Therefore, from the words the sign of the night We have obscured, we understand that God removed the moon’s ability to emit light, thereby causing it to darken or become obscured. While the verse thus accurately re-counts the moon’s past, it points to the future destiny of other heavenly bodies.
The Qur’an, although it contains many more such allusions, must not be considered a science textbook. Its only purpose is to guide us to right belief and right action. We must ensure that it, and not our arrogance, insolence, and vainglory, directs our pursuit of knowledge.
When modern science agrees with the Qur’an
Science is the “language” that most people speak and understand today. Thus Muslims should be well-versed in it to refute the claims of materialists and atheists. The Qur’an encourages us to pursue such knowledge, provided that we seek only to earn God’s good pleasure and ensure understanding among the people.
Moreover, how can the eternal and unchanging Qur’an be “proven” by science, which is subject to change? Science only serves to awaken sleeping or confused minds. It cannot establish the truths of faith in our conscience, for faith comes only by Divine guidance. Our faith, not our knowledge, makes us believers. Objective and subjective evidence must eventually be dropped, so that we can make spiritual progress by following our heart and conscience within the Qur’an’s light and guidance.
By M. Fethullah Gulen