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Summary of 10.16 "The Quran and Modern Sciences IV -The Universe"

In the previous program we not only covered that the Quran mentioned that the heavenly bodies were in a constant rotation but it uses the term “swims along” which indicates that the motion emanates from these bodies.  The other aspect that was discussed was the question of the succession of the day and night and how the Quran says that Allah coils the day upon the night and coils the night upon the day.  This not only indicates that the earth is a sphere but it also indicates the constant motion or rotation of the earth.  It was also noted that the Quran makes an explicit reference to the rotation of the earth which was not known at the time of the Prophet.  The Quran mentions that the mountains move as the clouds move even though we think they may be stationary.  This again is an indication to the clouds which are moved by the wind, and that they do not have self emanating motions and that the mountains do not move themselves but move with the earth which is also rotating.

We also briefly discussed the expression of the sun and moon in the Quran and that they are not just mentioned as a major or lessor light.  The term siraj is used for the sun which means it is a source of light whereas the word used for the moon is light alone which could be a reflection of the light coming from the sun.  All of this information was not known to Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, so where did it come from?  The last question that was addressed was the notion that the Quran indicates that there may be other earths, whether there are other forms of life on them or not, and we indicated that in the first Surah in the Quran that it uses the word “worlds.”  In the Quran in (65:12) it says that God created several earths.  Whether that indicates that there is life on other planets is not addressed one way or the other.


10.17   The Quran and Modern Sciences V - Astronomy

Host:  Can you explain the Quranic position on the existence of life outside of earth?

Jamal Badawi:

Let us distinguish between scientific fact and theory.  Of course there is no facts that there is or is not life outside of earth.  What is generally excepted by scientists is that in our solar system there is no indication that there is life on other planets within this solar system.  When the moon was explored it was found that there could be no life on it.  However, our solar system is not the only system.  In our galaxy it is estimated that half of its stars (nearly 5 billion) rotate very slowly which indicates to scientists that there are other satellite planets which rotate around those stars the same way that the earth and moon rotate around the sun.  In the solar systems beyond ours we are not sure about because nobody has developed the capability to find out for sure if there are other earths similar to ours.  In any case the Quran seems to leave it open and simply says that there are other earths without saying that they are exactly like ours or not or if they have life on them or other planets is left completely open.  there is no definite statement one way or the other.


Host:  Is there any hint in the Quran about the role of water in sustaining life on earth?

Jamal Badawi:

Actually there are strong and clear references in the Quran about water.  It was only relatively recent that scientists discovered more and more the relevance of water in sustaining life.  One of the most fascinating passages in the Quran appears in Surah (21:30) where it says “We made from water every living thing.”  The Quranic term ma’ could mean sperm as we find in (77:24) where it refers to the fact that every living thing is a result of the process of fertilization.  The other meaning for ma’ is also water.  This shows that life is heavily dependent on water.  What scientists are telling us now is that approximately 70% of our weight is water.  So if someone weighs 70 kilograms 50 of which are water.  It is known in Biology that the protoplasm which is the main component of the human cell is actually composed of water.  We are told that one could live without food for up to 60 days but without water it is between 3-10 days.  In the 20th century this information does not seem to be striking but this is far from the ideas that existed during the time when these passages from the Quran where revealed in the 7th century.  The Quran even speaks beyond the importance of water, which is a general statement, but also speaks about the nature of the water cycle.  One may say that this evaporation is not important; yet if there was not a delicate balance in the water cycle and since the earth is over 5 billion years old if evaporation continued over these years over time this water would have evaporated and there would have been no more water.


Host:  What is meant by the term water cycle?

Jamal Badawi:

Basically scientists tell us that approximately 72% of the surface of the earth is covered with water.  This is an essential point because the sun is there, with its rays causing evaporation of this water and if there wasn’t a delicate balance in the water cycle and the earth is over 5 billion years old at one point of time all the water would have evaporated and there would have been no more water unless there is a cycle that returns this water to the earth.  This vapor that rises through the atmosphere, as a result of the sun rays, rises into the atmosphere then through a process of condensation we are told that clouds are formed.  At this point the role of the winds become essential.  Wind may either disperse the clouds without rain, it may fragment it and produce rain, or may combine the clouds with other clouds which then creates even greater condensation.  When rain falls it goes back into the oceans, rivers, lakes and is held on soil which is then absorbed by planes and some of it penetrates the earth which then emerges in the form of springs or through other channels back to the oceans.  Without this balance life on earth would not be sustained.


Host:  When was the water cycle discovered and what explanations were offered before this discovery?

Jamal Badawi:

This is an area where specialists especially in the area of hydrology and hydrogeology can give us some indication.  Some scientists were quoted by Bucaille  in his book The Bible, Quran and Science.  They say that the first clear formulation about the water cycle goes back to 1580 which is the later part of the 16th century which is mostly connected which is mostly connected to Bernard Palissy who indicated that rain water does in fact infiltrate the soil a matter which was confirmed more widely as late as the 17th century.  Before that there were all kinds of strange myths about the water cycle.  Plato for example believed that water returned back to the oceans through a great abyss.  That theory seemed to have supporters for as late as the 18th century near 1100 years after the Quran and the correction of these incorrect notions.  Some people used to believe that water in the oceans under the effects of winds are thrust towards the interior of the continents.  In the Middle Ages it was believed that spring water actually comes from underground lakes without the explanation of their source.  Some even believe that the water came to these underground lakes through holes which connects to the bottom of the oceans.  It is clear now that these common notions not only during the revelation of the Quran but for hundreds of years after the Quran are mistaken and there is no trace in the Quran to these notions.  On the contrary, we find that the Quran corrects these mistakes.


Host:  What does the Quran have to say with respect to mistakes about the water cycle?

Jamal Badawi:

In the Quran in (39:21) “Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth?  Then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colors.”  There is no trace of underground lakes which did not originate from rain.  This notion is corrected as it is rain water which infiltrates the soil.  In the Quran in (23:18-19) “And We send down water from the sky according to (due) measure, and We cause it to soak in the soil; and We certainly are able to drain it off (with ease).”  This shows again that the rain causes the water to penetrate the earth.  Another reference is in (15:22) “And We send the fecundating winds, then cause the rain to descend from the sky, therewith providing you with water (in abundance), though ye are not the guardians of its stores.”  This could be a reference to the f act that we can not prevent it from evaporating and cycling through.


Host:  Does the Quran make any reference to the role of the clouds?

Jamal Badawi:

An interesting passage in the Quran (24:43) “Seest thou not that Allah makes the clouds move gently, then joins them together, then makes them into a heap? - then wilt thou see rain issue forth from their midst. And He sends down from the sky mountain masses (of clouds) wherein is hail: He strikes therewith whom He pleases and He turns it away from whom He pleases, the vivid flash of His lightning well-nigh blinds the sight.”  First it talks about wind moving clouds gently, second the term usji or u’alif which is when the clouds are joined together which we mentioned the process of greater condensation.  Another very interesting term that is used is mountain in reference to the clouds.  When one flies and looks out of the window it is amazing how once can see that the clouds are shaped like mountains.  Some may say that anyone can see that but no one could see that in the seventh century.

This passage also talks about electricity in the air which was not known scientifically till recently.  Another Aya which is even more amazing in (15:22) “And We send the fecundating winds, then cause the rain to descend from the sky, therewith providing you with water (in abundance), though ye are not the guardians of its stores.”  Notice the term fecundate or fertilize!  This could have two meanings.  The word lawaqih in Arabic which is translated to fecundate could be a reference to the wind and its role in moving the pollen which causes the fertilization of plants.  The other clear meaning of it talks about the winds and rain and the obvious reference is to the role of wind impregnate the clouds and cause rain?  What sense does the word fertilize cause rain as there are no female and male clouds?  Clouds are not always rain carrying clouds and it is only when the wind joins the clouds together that it creates more condensation which then causes rain.  It is almost like pollination.  This is definitely something that was not known at the time the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad.  Addition references are found in the Quran are found in (7:57), (25:5), (25:48-49) and (30:48).


Host:  Is artificial rain a change in the natural process?

Jamal Badawi:

It is not really a change in the natural process as Bucaille indicates in his book as the experts, meteorologists, indicate that it is unlikely that the human can actually cause rain to fall from clouds which do not have the suitable characteristics as rain clouds.  In other words one can not just produce rain from any cloud.  One can not hasten the precipitation process unless the natural conditions are present.  If it were true that artificial rain is a technique one could use to produce rain one could avoid droughts.  We find that droughts exist in the most advanced countries.


Host:  Why doesn’t salt and fresh water mix?

Jamal Badawi:

If they had mixed life on earth could have been destroyed because we would not have any fresh water as people in the past did not have the desalination plants which allows us to obtain fresh water from salt water.  Modern science discovered that salty seawater and fresh river water do not mix immediately.  This has been seen in the Tigris, Euphrates and any other river that has a large outflow of water like the Mississippi River.  Scientists say that the Gulf Stream, wider than any known river at 32 miles wide, is a warm stream which begins at the equator and moves north into the Gulf of Mexico then travels along the coast into NewFoundland and then it moves East across the atlantic where it becomes much wider, then it continues till it reaches the coast of several European countries like Norway, France and England then it spreads out and disappears into the ocean.  The amazing thing is that during this lengthy trip the Gulf stream remains distinct from the rest of the oceans water and doesn’t mix with it.  This is amazing not only because it remains distinct from the rest of the ocean as we see from the color variation but there is a difference of 20 degrees between the temperature of the Gulf stream and the ocean.

If one is on board a ship on the edge of the ocean and the stream one could take water from one from the side of the Gulf Stream and it would be 20 degrees warmer and the other side one would get water which is 20 degrees colder.  This is really an amazing point.  There are two crucial references found in (25:53) and (55:19-20).  Both references basically say that Allah created the seas with fresh water and salty water and let them touch each-other but even then there is a barrier which doesn’t let them transfer.  This is a fascinating reference made in the Quran made to this recently discovered phenomena that even though there is mixing between fresh and salt water it is not complete or else life on earth would not have been sustained.  The question again is how could Prophet Muhammad have known about these things that have not been discovered till recently and for hundreds of years after the Quran.


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