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The Bible and Science:
The Quran and Science: Do They Agree?
By Paul Martin (M.A. Ministry).
Introduction: Issues in Islam.
The Quran is to Muslims the infallible word of God that they assert has been perfectly preserved on a tablet in heaven. They believe these words were given to Muhammad their prophet by the angel Gabriel. See Quran 10:15, 37; 56:77-79; 69:44-48; 85:21-22. It is unchangeable, inerrant, and many Muslims believe in the implementation of Islamic shariah law because of their view that it is God's unchangeable word.
The Quran teaches hand amputation for petty theft (Quran 5:38), that a man can own and have sex with slave girls (2:221; 4:3, 24-28; 23:5-6; 33:50-52; 70:30), allows child marriages (65:4-5, see N.J. Dawood's footnote in his translation), and calls for war to be made on Jews and Christians until they are either defeated or subjected to humiliating lowliness (9:29).
Since the Quran makes some very high claims to infallibility, then a single error would render the whole dogmatic position as fallacious. When the Quran is held up to the scrutiny of science it does not fare very well, because the Quran and science give two very descriptions of the earth. Much of the style of the Quran also, is not written like symbolic descriptions one would find in the Bible's Psalm or Job about the earth, but is supposedly God's clear revelations to Muhammad for his instruction about the world around him.
But what further complicates this issue is the claim by numerous Muslim apologists that the Quran is full of scientific miracles and insights long before they were discovered, which is proof that the Quran is God's word. Numerous people have converted to Islam after reading these misleading booklets and videos. Even some secular scientists (or so we are told) have been quoted by the Muslims on their amazement on the 'scientific accuracy' of the Quran.
The Quran has many miscellaneous scientific errors on a number of different issues.
Quran 2:261 tells us that every ear of corn has 100 grains. This has not been proven scientifically and is more than obviously false. It brings into question the scientific accuracy of the Quran and whether the Quran is really addressing scientific issues.
Quran 27:18, tells the story of a talking ant in the time of King Solomon. Ants do not communicates with words, but with scent and smell, etc. This is a scientific error, regarding nature.
Muslims, have responded to Christians by saying that the Bible is even more absurd where Daniel saw a vision of some talking horns on a beast. There is a difference, however. Daniel was looking at a symbolic, apocalyptic vision that is not meant to be taken literally. The Quran 27:18, however, is talking about an historical incident involving, Solomon, whom the Muslims believe was a real prophet in a real event.
These are not the only absurdities of talking in the teachings of Muhammad. In the Hadith (traditions of what Muhammad said and did), we find more. We are told that stones talked to Muhammad (Bukhari 1, p. vii), that food talked to Muhammad while he was eating it (Bukhari 4:779) and a tree cried because Muhammad would not preach near it (Bukhari 2:41; 4:783). After Muhammad comforted the tree, it stopped crying (ibid). For this to be true, stones, trees and food would have to have at least lungs, a respiratory system, vocal cords and a tongue. One has to wonder if you could be more absurd than this?
The Quran 5:6, says that if there is no water to clean oneself with, you should use sand as a substitute for water. Firstly this is very unhygienic, since sand is full of dust and is unclean. Even if the God of the Quran had not been addressing scientific issues, one would wonder why he would not know that sand is unhygienic and dangerous for one's health, thus warning them against it.
The Quran has many genetic myths about how humans are born, etc. The Quran 86:6-7 says that semen comes from between a man's backbone and ribs. We know today from biology studies that semen comes from the male genitalia, so once again, a very inaccurate statement coming from the Quran.
In the Hadith, Muhammad was given a revelation from the angel Gabriel as to why a child resembles the father sometimes, and other times the mother. The angel told him that it depends on which parent reaches their sexual climax first during conception (Bukhari 4:546). This has been disproved by genetics.
The Quran also tells us that the prophet Jesus was created from dust (3:59) in Mary's womb (19:20-23). Why she did not get tuberculosis with the dust in her body seems even more miraculous.
The Quran has other errors of nature, where 51:49, says of life in creation, "And of everything we have created pairs that ye may reflect" (see also 43:12; 50:7). So for all animals they are created in pairs. This is an obvious denial of the fact that numerous species produce asexually, not in pairs.
The Quran also contains scientific anachronisms of longevity. The Quran 18:25 tells the story of some men who slept in a cave for 309 years. Why they did not die very soon due to dehydration and lack of sunlight is not explained.
The Quran 37:143-144 also talks of how the prophet Jonah was swallowed by the fish, this god in the Quran says, "Had it not been that he repented and glorified Allah, he would certainly have remained inside the fish till the day of resurrection." We know from scientific, biological studies, that the fish (had it not vomited him up) would have digested Jonah, which would have seen him dead and defecated out of the fish. As for the fish, long before the day of resurrection it would have been well and truly dead and rotted away.
In the Hadith, Muhammad explains the cause of fever and the reason for high body temperatures - they come from the fire of hell (Bukhari 4:483, 486). From today's medical studies, we know the real cause of fevers.
The most common cause of fevers is viral infections like influenza, as seen in a cold or sore throat. Most other fevers (in temperate climates) are from bacteria, which affect the respiratory system, bowels, urinary tract and intestines. Fevers in tropical climates are caused by protozoa (parasites larger than bacteria).
The earth is spread out like a carpet.
The Quran 20:53, talks of God who has, "...made the earth for you like a carpet spread out..." (see also 71:19). This could hardly be a clearer way of describing the earth as flat. The Quran repeatedly refers to how the earth is "wide" or "spread out" (Quran 13:3; 15:19; 18:7; 19:6; 21:30; 35:40; 41:10; 43:10; 50:7; 51:48; 55:10; 78:6; 79:30; 88:20), which is not the language used to describe a round sphere.
Heavy mountains hold the earth in place.
Just as one might use some bricks to hold the corners of a sheet on the ground in place on a windy day, so we are told of the role that mountains play in keeping the earth stable. The Quran 21:31, "And we have set on earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake..."
So far we are the told that the earth is spread out like a carpet with heavy mountains to hold it in place.
But further evidence opens up that the Quran is indeed talking about a flat earth. Quran 18:47 says, "On that day we shall remove the mountains, and thou wilt see the earth as a level stretch..." (see also 20:104-107). In other words 18:47 & 20:107 are saying that once the mountains are removed, we will see to the end of the world, which is flat.
The sky could fall on our heads!
This god also reassures us in the Quran 22:65, that "He witholds the sky from falling on the earth except by his leave: for Allah is most kind and most merciful to man." The Quran is saying that the sky is a hard opaque object that could fall and injure/kill us. This is certainly how it appeared to ancient people, but not what we know from scientific evidence. Perhaps this god knew that the earth's atmosphere was just thin air and a mixture of gasses. But this would make him into a deceiving god, making an empty threat and telling blatant lies!
The Quran 19:90 also says that in regard to blasphemies against Islam, the skies are about to burst. The Quran 34:9 this god says of the pagans, "If we wished, we could cause the earth to swallow them up, or cause a piece of the sky to fall upon them" (see also 52:44). The concept of a hard sky is also seen in the way it is described as a canopy (Quran 2:22; 21:32; 40:64; 79:28), that will one day be ripped apart (Quran 55:37; 69:16; 73:18; 78:19; 82:1).
The Quran 70:8 tells us that one day the sky will be like molten brass. And one day the sky will be rolled up (21:104; 39:67).
Then the Quran unlocks to us a mystery about how the heavens and earth were made. In a rhetorical challenge to the pagans who rejected Islam, this god says, "Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder?"
So far we are told that the earth is flat, the sky is hard and these two hard, opaque objects were once joined together, but this god pulled them apart, which explains the distance between the earth and sky. This is similar to the creation myths of the Australian Aborigines and New Zealand Maoris.
The sun moves around the earth.
The Quran talks of the earth in terms as if it were stationary, with the sun and stars moving around the earth (Quran 2:258; 21:33; 36:40; 52:49; 53:1). "It is he who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon: all (celestial bodies) swim along, each in it's rounded course" (21:33). We know today that the sun is far bigger than the earth, and is drawing the round earth in it's orbit.
Where does the sun set?
Even more conclusive evidence arrives that the Quran teaches a flat earth, because the sun is very small (a lot smaller than the earth), and it rises and sets on our flat earth!
The Quran 18:83-98 tells the story of a pious Muslim, Zulqarnain (whom many Muslim commentators think is Alexander the Great). One day while traveling along, we find that, "Until, when, he reached the setting of the sun, he found it to set in a spring of murky water" (18:86). So Zulqarnain found the sun sets in a spring of murky water. This is saying that the earth is flat and the sun is very small.
This is an error of astronomical proportions. Shall I belabor the obvious? The sun is far bigger than the earth and if it were any closer we would all burn up. Many Muslims interpret this to mean that he merely looked at the sun from the angle of it setting past a pond of murky water, but this is not what the text says.
Why Zulqarnain did not go blind or suffer serious eye damage is not explained, because he still enough eyesight to travel to the other end of the world. He traveled, "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" (18:90). In other words he found the sun rising on a scorched people, because they were nearer to the sun than anyone else! This is a clear denial of the round earth, where for every morning for everyone on the whole earth, the sun's rays are closer at midday than the morning!
In the Hadith, Muhammad asked some people, ""Do you know where this sun goes?" I said, "Allah and his Apostle know best." He said, It goes and asks permission to prostrate, and it is allowed, and one day it, as if being ordered to return whence it came, then it will rise from the west."" (Bukhari 9:520). He is erroneously describing the 'rising' and 'setting' of the sun as supernatural phenomena. Not only that, he tells us that the sun actually asks this god for permission to rise and set! Furthermore, in this context, Muhammad was not reciting poetry, but was giving the Muslims clear instruction on how the sun rises and sets.
This concept is further supported by the Quran telling us, "And the sun runs into a resting place..." (Quran 36:38). We know today from science and astronomy that it is the earth that spins, not the sun.
Pray facing Mecca.
The flat-earth concept is seen in the fact that Muslims have to pray five times a day facing Mecca. To pray with you back to Mecca, would be sacrilegious. They are not allowed to even go to the toilet facing Mecca, either (Bukhari 1:146-151). From a flat-earth viewpoint, this makes sense. But we know today, being on a spherical globe, that if you pray facing Mecca, you have your back to Mecca at the same time (and vice-versa).
As if we have not come across enough absurdities already, the Quran and Hadith teach some monumental errors of science that any Muslim would be hard-pressed to defend. These scientific errors make a mountain out of a molehill.
In the Hadith, Muhammad referred to the growth of a baby horse: "...as anyone of you brings up a baby horse, till it becomes like a mountain" (Bukhari 9:525B). Muhammad is talking plain nonsense and may have been hallucinating.
We are also told that when Muhammad saw the mountain of Uhud, he said, "This is the mountain that loves and is loved by us" (Bukhari 9:433). Muhammad taught that mountains have feelings, emotions and personality. We know today that they are dead, senseless rock and mineral formations pushed up through continental drift and shaped often by volcanoes.
The Quran tells us that once the hills praised his god (Quran 38:18), and that the mountains were afraid (33:72). It talks of the mountains as if they were hollow and will one day collapse in Quran 19:90; 56:5; Bukhari 9:75.
The Quran also has some very shady myths about clouds. The Quran 30:24, says that this god breaks the clouds into fragments so that rain can fall. We know from science and meteorology that clouds are actually water droplets formed through evaporation and not hard objects. In 41:11, the clouds also talked to this god and said, "We do come together, in willing obedience."
From astronomical studies, we know more about the universe than ever before. There are billions of stars in countless galaxies, of which more are being discovered all the time. The closest start is 4.5 light years away and the furtherest stars and galaxies are countless billions of light years away. Some these stars are very small (such as the white dwarf which is roughly the size of the earth), while others are massively larger than the sun.
If these big stars were closer to earth, they would drag probably our whole solar system into their orbit, and the heat would destroy life on earth. Our very survival depends on these stars keeping their distance.
Let us examine, then, what the Quran tells us about the stars and where they are in distance from the earth. We are told that above the earth there are seven heavens/firmaments, each above the other (Quran 2:29; 37:6-7; 67:3; 71:15). But we are then told that the sun and the stars are inside the lowest heaven (37:6-7; 67:5; 78:12-13)!
The Quran is telling us that the stars are very small, and they are inside the sky, or at least the equivalent distance that the sun is from the earth. The lowest heaven means the closest part to the earth.
Nevertheless, the Quran's reference to seven heavens has been hailed by numerous Muslims as a great scientific insight. Harun Yahya, a popular Muslim apologist well known for his creationist, anti-evolution booklets and assertions that the Quran has scientific miracles, looks at this. In his Miracles of the Quran, he claims that the Quran is giving us insightful scientific instruction on what scientists only discovered in the 20th century: that the earth's atmosphere has seven layers (i.e., the stratosphere, ionosphere, exosphere, etc). However, Yahya completely ignores that the Quran also says, to be consistent with such a claim, that stars we see are to be found in the lowest levels of our atmosphere!
But we find even more errors regarding stars that ought to be of interest to astronomers. We read that this god has, "...set out constellations in the heavens... And moreover we have guarded them from every accursed Satan. But any that gains a hearing by stealth, is pursued by a fiery comet..." (Quran 15:16-19; see also 37:6-7; 67:5). The Quran is telling us that stars and comets chase after evil spirits. It seems strange in any case, that these evil spirits (that Islam teaches are there to cause man mischief) are also millions of light years away, letting themselves be chased by enormous stars and comets, when they could be perfectly safe on earth.
The Quran tells us about the prophet Abraham. Like Jews and Christians, they believe he was an historical character. Muslims assert that the Quran is the most accurate historical record of all prophets. After telling us that Abraham survived the flood that was in Noah's time (Quran 37:79-83), we read that, "Then did he cast a glance at the Stars, and he said, "I am indeed sick at heart." So they turned away from him and departed" (37:88-90). Because Abraham felt sick, the stars all fled from his presence.
Is the moon made of green cheese?
The Quran says that moon was cut in half (54:1). The Hadith confirms this fairytale, by repeatedly telling us that Muhammad cut the moon in half (Bukhari 4:830-832; 5:208-211; 6:387-390). How Muhammad actually did this, we are not told. Why no one else in the world saw it we are not told. How he managed to cut through hundreds of miles of solid rock we are not told. How it put it together again, we are not told. Personally, I find it easier to believe that a cow jumped over the moon.
Are their Scientific insights in the Quran?
Harun Yahya confidently shows numerous alleged scientific insights, which annulled by the fact that other parts of the Quran contradict him, or he is going beyond what the Quranic text is actually saying. He quotes the Quran 27:88, which says that just as clouds pass away, so will mountains. Yahya then asserts that the Quran is teaching continental drift and mountains being pushed upwards - but this is not what the text is saying.
He quotes the Quran 75:4, where this god says in regard to the resurrection, "Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers." He then thinks that the Quran is giving insight into what was discovered centuries later - that we all have unique fingerprints, with no two alike. But is this really what the text is actually saying?
Can you stomach this?
In a debate against Christianity, Islamic apologist, Ahmed Deedat asserted that Muslims were the most hygienic people on earth. Perhaps they are today, but their founder was not, and should be considered neither a role model nor an example of being hygienic.
Muhammad said that camel's urine should be drank as medicine for those who are feeling sick (Bukhari 1:234). He sometimes spat on his clothes (1:242). He let people catch his own spit and then rub it on their faces and skin (3:891). To someone else, he ejected a mouthful of water on them (1:188). After washing himself, Muhammad would give his dirty water to his followers to drink and smear themselves with (1:187-188).
The Quran gives a challenge to those who would refute it: "Do they not ponder on the Quran? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy" (4:82).
As regarding science, as well as history, we find therein much discrepancy. Both contradictions within the Quran, as well as scientific errors bring into question that really wrote it. What could not necessarily be refuted in Muhammad's time has been refuted in our age of science and advanced knowledge.
Further online reading:
- http://www.bible.ca/islam/islam-myths-embryology.htm Refutes the myth of scientific insights regarding embryology in the Quran.
- http://answering-islam.org.uk/Quran/Contra Gives a list of errors, internal contradictions as well as scientific errors in the Quran.
- http://answering-islam.org.uk/BehindVeil/btv6.html Reveals that even in modern times, numerous Muslims have defended the flat-earth theory, based on what the Quran says.
- http://thriceholy.net/ A Trinity defense site, with a thorough section on Islam doing a critical study of the Quran and its textual errors.
- http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/denis_giron/islamsci.html Denis Giron, an atheist, takes a hard critical look at scientific errors in Islam.
- http://atheism.about.com/cs/islamandthekora/ A critical, scholarly examination of the Quranic text.
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Meaning of the Illustrious Qur'an. New Dehli, India: Kitabbhavan, 2000.
- Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih Al-Bukhari (nine volumes). Islamic University, Medina Al-Munawarra. Dar AHYA Us-Sunnah, Al-Nabawiya.
- Harun Yahya, Miracles of the Quran, video production. Birmingham, UK: IPC, Islamic Vision.
- William Campbell, The Quran and the Bible in light of history and science, 2nd edition. Upper Darby: Middle East Resources, 2002.
There are several translations of the Quran, most of whom are by Muslims with a certain degree of trying to translate embarrassing passages to cover over errors. For example Yusuf Ali's translation (which I have been using for the article) frequently adds words in brackets, which are not found in the text. Where the Quran recommends that men should "beat them" [their wives], Yusuf Ali translates "beat them (lightly)" which is not in the text, etc.
The best translation that is the most open-minded is N.J. Dawood's The Koran, published by Penguin Classics. He has helpful footnotes that explain problems with the Quran (aka Koran), and avoids the deceptive bias found in most other translations.