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Summary of 10.15 "The Quran and Modern Sciences III - Water Cycle"

We tried to share some of the information in the Quran on aspects pertaining to scientific discoveries which were discovered hundreds of years after the Quran was revealed.  This includes the interstellar galactic material, the meaning of the day (the Quran says a day could be like 50,000 so it does not necessarily mean the heavens and earth were created in 6 literal days made of 24 hours), we talked about the sequence of creation and how there is no conclusive evidence of one preceding the other.  There is a good possibility that there was inter-lapping in the development of the earth along with the development of other heavenly bodies.  We talked a little about the balance of all these elements in the universe and the divine order behind them and how the Quran specifies this.  There was a little bit of discussion about the expansion of the universe which is a relatively recent theory which has a hint in the Quran.  The reason why the Quran speaks about heavens while giving the number seven does not mean that it is necessarily numerical but that it is also numerous.  The las question dealt with the constant motion and movement of the heavenly bodies.  We quoted two passages in the Quran in which it says that the various heavenly bodies are actually swimming along in their orbit and the question there was how anyone during the 7th century raised in the environment that Prophet Muhammad was raised learn this unless it was coming from another source.  We said that the reasonable conclusion here was that this was actually divine revelation.


10.16   The Quran and Modern Sciences IV -The Universe

Host:  Is there a particular reason the concept of the bodies swimming along is used?

Jamal Badawi:

Sheikh Mitwali Sharawi made a very nice reflection in the terms used here and why one term was used rather than a similar term that would have given a different indication.  This kind of expression was puzzling to many commentators of the Quran and no body could imagine the heavenly bodies floating or swimming.  Dr. Bucaille  in The Bible, Quran and Science quotes a very famous commentator of the Quran, Al Tabarai, from the tenth century in the Christian Era.  While he explained passages like this in the Quran he said that it is our duty to keep silent when we do not know.  This shows that some things were unclear within the level of their understanding.  The interesting explanation of Sheikh Sharawi is that when one swims nothing is moving you but you are moving yourself so it is internally generated movement.  He says if one really thinks about the rotation of these heavenly bodies it is not that something is turning it but essentially it is something internal that is moving them.  The second reflection is that a good swimmer actually floats in smooth types of movements.  This is a beautiful analogy of what we know of the nature of the smooth rotation of the heavenly bodies which are quite different from the Quranic expression of motion as it relates to mountains which we will discuss when we deal with the earth.  The expressions that deal with the motion of the earth is different and for good reason.


Host:  Does the Quran mention the difference of the sun and the moon in their light giving characteristics?

Jamal Badawi

In the entire Quran there is not a single occasion where the sun is described as having noor which means a reflection of light but it always refers to the sun as siraj which means a source of light.  This is found in the Quran in (10:5) and (78:13).  Whenever the Quran speaks about the moon not once does it use the same term that it uses to describe the sun.  In other words nowhere in the Quran does it say that the moon is siraj which would indicate that it is a source of light.  The moon is always referred to as nooran or light or reflection but can not mean a source of that light.  Additional references include (25:61) and (71:16).  It is very interesting to note that when we compare the notion in the book of Genesis about the sun and the moon we find that both of them were described as a light, the sun was the major light and the moon as a lesser light.  The Quran unlike Genesis makes the very delicate distinction about the sun and the moon.  This means that the moon doesn’t generate light of its own but it is simply the reflection from the siraj which is a source of light, the sun.  Again the very basic question is how could Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the seventh century, unlettered, in uneducated environment in a world which didn’t have a notion about all of this and that there is light on the moon and no one could understand this reflection till hundreds of years later.  If people claim that he copied from other sources of scripture how come this information is not there?


Host:  Does this mean that if the Sun cools off like the sun did that life on earth would be distorted?

Jamal Badawi:

It could be a catastrophe.  I don’t want to say that this catastrophe is imminent but of course if God wanted it to happen it could happen without the following of the natural laws.  What is happening is the sun is in a constant process of transforming hydrogen atoms into helium.  When this transformation is completed it automatically means that the sun would cool off and finally its light will diminish and the density will increase and it would become just like other stars that died before it.  There is really no reason for alarm because this process will probably take another five and a half billion years.  There is something fascinating abut the destiny of the sun which is mentioned in the Quran.  It says in (36:38) “And the sun runs his course for a period determined for him: that is the decree of (Him), the Exalted in Might, the All-Knowing.”  The original Arabic word that talks about the destiney of the sun or the final resting place (literal translation) is the word mustakar.  Mustakar could mean a place or a time which the transformation spans.


Host:  What does the Quran say about the day and night cycle?

Jamal Badawi:

In (7:54) “He draweth the night as a veil o'er the day, each seeking the other in rapid succession.”  In (6:37) “And a Sign for them is the Night: We withdraw therefrom the Day, and behold they are plunged in darkness.” In (31:29) “Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and he merges Day into Night.”  In (39:5) it says “He makes the Night overlap the Day, and the Day overlap the Night.”  The term used for overlapping, coiling or winding is what scientists call interpenetration.  That is to say the earth is turning around its own axis which means that half of the sphere of the earth makes one revolution around the earth in 24 hours while the other half remains in darkness.  In other words there is a hint that this coiling explains the existence of day and night simultaneously depending on the position of the earth in regards to the sun.  The original arabic is ukawir comes from the original Arabic word kora which means a ball.  This is again a very early mention of the shape of the earth being a sphere.  In a previous program we indicated that the Bible says that on the first day of creation the night and day were created.  Whereas with our present understanding the day and night are a phenomena that only emerged after the creation of the sun, whereas Genesis says that the firmaments were created after day and night.  A similar expression which shows that it was not just casual passage in the Quran in (36:40) it says “It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).”  All of these references clearly indicate the constant motion of the earth.  There is more evidence in the Quran about the rotation of the earth.


Host: Can you give us more information about the rotation of the earth?

Jamal Badawi:

There is one citation which many scholars including Bouqeth and Sharawi have made nice commentary on.  In (27:88) it says “Thou seest the mountains and thinkest them firmly fixed: but they shall pass away as the clouds pass away: (such is) the artistry of Allah, Who disposes of all things in perfect order: for he is well acquainted with all that ye do.”  The first question is what does the Quran mean?  Does it mean that while the mountains appear to be stationary in fact move?  Or is it a reference to the movement of the earth?  the point is that we think it is stationary but they actually move.  We know however that mountains do not move on their own and there is nothing that provides them with self generated motion which means that it is moving along with the rotation of the earth.  Another equally interesting commentary about the meticulous accuracy of the language used in the Quran when it deals with scientific aspects which is free from any myth that was predominant in the days of the Prophet or after him.  The Quran describes the motion of the mountains and makes analogy between them and the motion of the clouds.  In the previous program when we talked about the sun and the moon swimming along and this is different than the way the Quran describes the motion of the earth.  Why did the Quran say the mountains pass like clouds rather than pass like animals move.  The motion is not coming from the mountain as the cloud doesn’t move by its self.  The motion that we see in the cloud is caused by wind moving it.  So again do not move by themselves but are driven by another force which the rotation of the earth.  How could have this meticulous description been given 1400 years ago unless it had a non human source.


Host:  What does the Quran mean when it refers to the East andWest in regards to the East or West as a plural?

Jamal Badawi:

In some cases the Quran speaks about Allah being the lord of East and West in the singular which is the simple meaning that we can relate to and understand.  For example we find that in (2:116), (2:142) and (2:177).  In some cases it even describes the East and West in twos like God is the Lord of the two Easts and two Wests  There are also citations which refer to the East and West as plurals.  The difficulty arrises with respect to two and numerous.  Numerous is easy because if one watches the sunset and sunrise in different seasons one will notice that the sun doesn’t always rise and set in the same spot.  So with the change of seasons we do not have one East and one West but rather several points from which the sun rises and several from which the sun sets.  What about the expression Lord of the two Easts and the two Wests?  There have been some explanations of this.  Some people say that when it talks about two Easts and two Wests it is quite possible that this maybe a reference to sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset.  Other people explain it could refer to the basic changes between winter and summer which is in reference to the two points from which the sunrises in winter and summer and the two points of sunset.  There could be other explanations such as reversal of the axis of the earth.  Only Allah knows.  Some scientists speak about some of these possible situations in terms of the reversal of the poles.  This is an area that no one can give the final answer on that.  One East and one West is understandable, plural Easts and plural Wests are understandable but Two Easts and Wests we have a lack in interpreting.  The point is that neither of these expressions can be proven to be incorrect from the scientific standpoint.  This is what we understand so far.


Host:  Does the Quran have anything to say about the existence of other planets like our earth?

Jamal Badawi:

We notice that in the very first Surah in the Quran it says AlhamduliAllah Rabi Al Alamin which means praise be to Allah Lord of the worlds in plural.  It didn’t use the term universe but it uses the plural of alam which is worlds.  Some people in the past understood that as a reference to the world of humans and the world of spirits which could be a valid interoperation.  It also could be the world of humans, world of angels and other levels of existence.  However there are certain expressions in the Quran which are quite explicit in describing the heavens in plural as we expressed in the previous program.  Also, some describe the term earths which means that there could be other worlds similar to our own.  As far as the state of knowledge that we have, most times it is believed that it is highly unlikely that there are any other planet in our solar system which has an atmosphere which is conducive to life.  This has been proven when they went to the moon and found no water.  Our solar system is not the only one and if we go beyond the solar system to our galaxy we are talking about ten billion stars and scientists estimate that half are rotating in a very similar fashion as that of the sun.  We say that this seems to suggest that they are surrounded by planets.  The main problem is that these stars are so far away that it is not possible to make clear observations of them.  Scientists deducted from trajectory characteristics of the stars that there is a possibility that there could be other earths similar to ours.


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