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Why Religion?

Discover Islam


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  • The Creator, Who is not bound by the human concept of time, informs us that, in a general sense, the fu­ture will be the age of knowledge and information, as well as an age of faith and belief:

Soon We shall show them Our signs in the outer world 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).

From the very early days of Islam, Sufis have interpreted this verse as a sign and assur­ance of the spiritual wisdom for which they strive. But if the verse is read in the context of scientific progress, a progress significantly initiated and advanced by Mus­lims, the mere fact of the verse will be seen to be a miracle.

Everything within the fold of human thinking and research affirms the Creator’s Oneness, as the true nature and interrelationship of microcosm and macrocosm come to be further disclosed and better under­stood. When we see hundreds of books on this point, we understand that what was Divinely re­vealed is near at hand. Even now we feel that we shall soon hear and even understand testimonies and praises to God through thousands of nature’s tongues:

The seven heavens and the Earth, and all things therein, declare His Glory. There is not a thing but celebrates His praise. And yet you do not understand how they declare His Glory. Truly He is Oft-Forbearing, Most Forgiving. (17:44)

We already understand something of this verse’s import. The smallest atoms as well as the larg­est nebulae speak to us, in the language of their be­ing, of their submission to the One God and so glorify Him. How­ever, those who can listen to and under­stand this universal praise are very few.

  • What the Qur’an reveals about the embryo’s formation and developmental phases in the uterus is striking. Consider the following:

O mankind! If you have a doubt about 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)

In another verse, this development is explained in greater detail, and the distinct phases are em­phasized more clearly:

Man We created 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, indi­vidual) creature. (23:12-4)

  • What the Qur’an says about milk and its production is as brilliant as the drink itself, and our understanding of it has brought us great benefits:

And verily in cattle (too) 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 narrates the process in remarkable detail: part-digestion and absorption of what is ingested as food, and then a second process and refinement in the glands. Milk is a wholesome and agreeable source of human nourishment, yet it is a se­cretion rejected by its owner as useless.

  • The Qur’an reveals that all things are created in pairs:

Glory be to God, who created in pairs all things, of what the earth produces, of themselves, and of which they have no knowledge (36:36).

Everything that exists has coun­terpart, whether opposite or complementary. The comple­men­tarity of human, animal, and certain plant genders has long been known. But what about the pairs of things of which we have no knowledge? This may refer to a whole range of entities, inanimate as well as animate. In the subtle forces and principles of nature within (and among) animate or inanimate entities, there are many kinds of pairs. All things, from atoms to clouds, as our modern instruments confirm, occur in twos.

  • The Qur’an recounts, in its own unique idiom, the first creation of the world and of its living inhabitants:

Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the 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).

This meaning of this verse is clear, and should not be obscured with different hypotheses as to whether the primary material in creation is an ether or a large cloud, a huge nebula or a mass of hot gas, or something else. The Qur’an states that every living thing was created of water. Whether the water itself was caused by gases and vapors rising from the ground, condensing, and then re­turning as rain to form seas and pre­pare a suitable environment for life, or by some other process, is relatively unimportant.

The verse explicitly pre­sents the universe as a single miracle of creation; each thing in it is an integral part of that miracle, and contains signs that prove its claim. Everything is interconnected, just like the leaves of a massive tree-they are all different, but resemble each other and are linked to a common root. The verse also emphasizes water’s vitality and significance, for it constitutes three-fourths of the body mass of most living creatures.

  • The sun has a special and significant place. The Qur’an reveals its most important aspects in four words, whose full meaning cannot be rendered easily:

And the sun runs its course (mustaqarr) determined for it. That is His de­cree, the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing (36:38).

In this context, mustaqarr may mean a determined orbit, a fixed place of rest or dwelling, a de­termined route in time. We are told that the sun runs a predetermined course to­ward a particular point. The solar system, as we now know, is heading toward the constellation Lyra at an al­most inconceivable speed: Every second we come ten miles closer (almost a million miles a day). Our attention is also drawn to the fact that when the sun finishes its appointed task, it will abide by a command and come to rest.


The sun moves (in its course) to a resting-place for it (36:38).

Before elucidating other meanings and connotations, remember that earlier peoples’ sense-derived information led them to believe that the sun moved around a motionless Earth. Science and observation later showed that the Earth spins on its own axis and orbits the sun, which is relatively motionless. First, since people see the sun moving, the Qur’an mentions it as moving. Second, the Qur’an mentions the sun here to illustrate the magnificent order prevailing throughout the universe as a sign of God’s Might and Knowledge:

A sign for them is the night. We strip it of the day, and behold! they are in darkness. And the sun moves (in its course) to a resting-place for it. That is the measuring and ordaining of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. And for the moon We have appointed mansions till it returns like an old shriveled palm-leaf. It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. They float, each in an orbit. (36:37-40)

We understand from this context that the sun’s function is vital. The word mustaqarr (stability) applies to is course and the place in which stability is secured. So, the statement can mean that the sun has a central position in the universe’s order. Second, the preposition used here, li, has three meanings: for, to, and in. Therefore, the exact meaning of this statement is: The sun moves following a route or course to a fixed place determined for it for the purpose of its (system’s) stability.

Recently, solar astronomers have observed that the sun is not motionless; rather it quivers, shakes, and continually rings like a well-hit gong. (Bartusiac, M. (1994) ‘Sounds of the Sun’, American Scientist, January-February, pp.61-68) The resulting vibrations reveal vital information about its deep interior and hidden layers, information that affects calculations of the universe’s age. Also, knowing exactly how the sun spins internally is important in testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Like so many other significant findings in astronomy, this one was totally unexpected. Some astronomers have commented that it is as if the sun were a symphony orchestra, with all its instruments being played simultaneously. At times, all the vibrations combine to produce a net oscillation on the solar surface that is thousands of times stronger than any individual vibration.

Commenting on the Qur’anic verse: The sun moves to a resting-place for it, several decades before this totally unexpected discovery, Said Nursi wrote:

As the word “moves” points to a style, the phrase “in its course” demonstrates a reality. The sun, like a vessel built of gold, travels and floats in the ocean of the heavens comprising ether and defined as a stretched and tightened wave. Although it quivers and shakes in its course or orbit, since people see it running, the Qur’an uses the word “travel” or “float.” However, since the origin of the force of gravity is movement, the sun moves and quivers in its orbit. Through this vibration, which is the wheel of its figurative movement, its satellites are attracted to it and preserved from falling and scattering. When a tree quivers, its fruits fall. But when the sun quivers and shakes, its fruits-its satellites-do not fall.

Again, wisdom requires that the sun should move and travel on its mobile throne-its course or orbit-accompanied by its soldiers-its satellites. For the Divine Power has made everything moving, and condemns nothing to absolute rest or motionlessness. Divine Mercy allows nothing to be condemned to inertia, which is the cousin of death. So the sun is free; it can travel, provided it obeys the laws of God and does not disturb others’ freedom. So it may actually be travelling, as its travelling may also be figurative. However, what is important according to the Qur’an is the universal order, the wheel of which is the sun and its movement. Through the sun, the system’s stability and orderliness are ensured.

Such is the richness of the Qur’an, which explains many truths in so few words. Here, in only four words, many vague things were clarified at a time when people gener­ally believed that the sun made a daily circuit around the Earth.

  • Another inspiring and eloquent Qur’anic verse concerns the uni­verse’s spreading out or expansion in space. This concept is mentioned in only four words:

And the firmament: We constructed it with power and skill, and We are spreading it (51:47-8).

The verse reveals that the distance (space) be­tween celestial bodies is increasing, which means that the universe is ex­panding. In 1922, the astronomer Hubble claimed that all galaxies, ex­cept the five closest to Earth, are moving further away into space at a speed directly proportional to their distance from the Earth. According to him, a galaxy one million light years distant is moving away at a speed of 168 km/year, one two million light years distant at twice that speed, and so on. Le Maître, a Belgian mathematician and priest, later proposed and developed the theory that the universe is expanding. No matter how we try to express this reality, whether through Hubble’s coefficient or a future theory, the Revelation is unmistakably clear on the reality itself.

  • The Qur’an provides some indication of the in­visible operation of various laws as attraction and repulsion, rotation and revolution:

God is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see (13:2).

All celestial bodies, from individual satellites to entire solar systems, move in order, balance, and harmony. They are held and supported by invisible pillars, some of which are repulsion or centrifugal forces: He holds back the sky from falling on earth except by His leave (22:65).

At any moment, the heavens could fall upon the Earth. That the All-Mighty does not allow this to happen is yet another instance of the universal obedience to His Word; modern science explains this as a balance of cen­tripetal and centrifugal forces. What is of far greater impor­tance, however, is that we turn our minds to that obedience and to the Divine Mercy that holds the universe in its reliable motion, rather than deciding to follow Newton’s or Einstein’s theories about the mechanical and mathematical terms of that obedience.

  • Previously, some Qur’anic commen­ta­tors thought a reference to traveling to the moon, once considered a very remote possibility, could be found in:

By the moon’s fullness! You shall surely travel from stage to stage (84:18-9).

Earlier commentators took this as a figurative reference to our spiri­tual life, which they considered an ascent from one stage to the next, and from one heaven to another. Others interpreted it as referring to change in general, from one state to another. Over time, later interpreters gave ambiguous meanings, because the literal meaning did not agree with their beliefs about traveling such distances. But in fact, the more appropriate sense of the words following the oath “By the moon!,” given the verse’s im­mediate context, is that of really traveling to the moon, whether literally or figuratively.

  • The Qur’anic description of the Earth’s geographical shape and change in that shape are particu­larly inter­esting:

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 relate to the now-known fact that the Earth is compressed at the poles, rather than to the erosion of mountains by wind and rain, of coastal areas by the sea, or of the gradual desertification of agricultural land.

  • At a time when people generally believed that the Earth was flat and stationary, the Qur’an explicitly and implicitly revealed that it is round. More unexpectedly still, it also says that its precise shape is more like an ostrich egg than a sphere:

After that He shaped the earth like an egg, whence He caused to spring forth the water thereof, and the pasture thereof (79:30-2).

The verb daha’ means “to shape like an egg,” and its derived noun da’hia is still used to mean “an egg.” As this scientific fact may have appeared incorrect to scientists living before the advent of modern science, some inter­preters misunderstood the word’s meaning. They understood it as “stretched out,” perhaps fearing that its literal meaning might be difficult to understand and thus mislead people. Modern scientific instruments re­cently established that the Earth is shaped more like an egg than a per­fect sphere, and that there is a slight flattening around the poles as well as a slight curving around the equator.

  • A barrier between two ‘seas’:

He has let forth the two seas, that meet together. Between them a barrier, they do not overpass (55.19-20).

The French scientist Jacques Cousteau has discovered that the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean differ in terms of their chemical and biological constitution. He conducted various undersea investigations at the straits of Gibraltar in order to explain this phenomenon, concluding that unexpected fresh water springs issue from the southern and northern coasts of Gibraltar. These water spouts gush towards each other at an angle of 45°, forming a reciprocal dam like the teeth of a comb. Due to this fact, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean cannot intermingle. Subsequent to this assessment, Cousteau was amazed upon being shown the Qur’anic verse, He has let forth the two seas, that meet together. Between them a barrier, they do not overpass (55.19-20). These verses further invite our attention to the plankton composition of the seas, and to the flora and fish distributions that change with variations in temperature.

  • As a last example, consider what the Qur’an says about the sun and the moon:

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 sign of the night We have obscured,” we understand that the moon once emitted light just as the sun does, and that for some reason God took its light from it, causing it to darken or become obscured. While the verse accurately re­counts the moon’s past, it also points to the future destiny of other heavenly bodies.

Many other verses are re­lated to what we now call scientific facts. Their existence indicates that our quest for knowledge is a portion of Divine Mercy graciously bestowed by our Creator. Indeed, Divine Mercy is one of the Qur’an’s names for itself. All the truth and knowl­edge that it contains is beyond our ability to recount or even to hold in our mind.

We must remember, however, that while the Qur’an alludes to many scientific truths, it is not a textbook of science or scientific explanations. Rather it is, and has always been understood by believers to be, the book of guidance that teaches us the way to right belief and right action so that we may be worthy of Divine Mercy and Forgiveness. It is the responsibility of Muslims to ensure that the pursuit of scien­tific and other kinds of knowledge is conducted in the light of the Qur’an, which so encourages and supports it. We must do this so that the resulting knowledge will not engender arrogance and self-pride, for such feelings lead to mental desolation and human degradation, not to mention the degradation of the Earth, our temporary home and Divinely given trust.


Recommended Reading:
Why then have Muslims not developed sciences and discovered such Qur’anic truths, and why are they under the dominion of the West?

Last Updated on October 26, 2000

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