Quran and Science

The Quran should not be viewed as a science textbook. That would make about as much sense as looking to Campbell’s Biology for spiritual guidance. Yet the Quran has verses that provide deep insight into the natural world.

 

The Quran says in Surah Al-Hijr, “Even if We opened unto them a gate to Heaven and they were to continue ascending therein, they would say: our sight is confused as in drunkenness. Nay we are people bewitched.” (Quran 15:14-15).

 

We now know from astronauts that when one is above the Earth’s atmosphere, the sky no longer appears blue, but looks black. It is the atmosphere that makes the sky look its familiar blue color. Imagine how difficult it would have been to know this fourteen hundred years ago.

 

In Surah An-Nahl, “The Bee”, it says, “And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in (men’s) habitations….. there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for mankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.” (Translation of Quran 16:68-69)

 

An article from BBC News from 2004 describes a number of different healing properties of honey. Among them are:

 

-ability to kill a wide variety of pathogens – bacteria (even antibiotic-resistant strains), fungi, and protozoa

-power to heal ulcers and sores

action as an anti-inflammatory agent

-treatment of wounds associated with cancer

 

In Surah Ghashiyah, “Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made?” (88:17). So what is so special about the camel?

 

“Camels can live without food and water for 8 days under temperatures of 50° C (122F). During this period, it looses 22% of its body weight. However, it can survive even if it looses (sic) 40% of the water in its body, whilst loosing (sic) just 12% would cause a man’s death. Another reason of its endurance against thirst is a mechanism which enables the camel to increase its internal temperature up to 41° C (106F). Thanks to this, the animal keeps the water loss at the minimum level in the extreme hot climates of the desert. Camels can also decrease their internal body temperature down to 30° C (86 F) in the cold nights of the desert.” (http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/quran/0013.htm)

 

According to Wikipedia, “Their mouth is very sturdy, able to chew thorny desert plants. Long eyelashes and ear hairs, together with sealable nostrils, form a barrier against sand.” Even their blood cells are shaped differently from other mammals, oval rather than circular, to improve flow during dehydration and to prevent bursting when drinking large volumes of water. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel)

 

Certainly, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had a great deal of experience with camels. Yet could he have known the internal body temperature of camels at night? Could he have been able to see the blood cells of camels?

 

The Quran also says that man was created from a fluid that comes from men and women. “IS MAN, then, not aware that it is We who create him out of a [mere] drop of fluid (nutfahtin) – whereupon, lo! he shows himself endowed with the power to think and to argue,” (36:77). But the Hadith of the Prophet add more detail. When he was asked about creation of children by one of Jews, he said : ” O, Jew , it is created from both ; from a man nutfah and from a woman nutfah ” ( This hadith was narrated in Musnad Ahmad, volume 1, page 465)

 

Now one might think, “So what?” Everybody knows that babies come from sperm and eggs. It’s obvious. But it hasn’t always been so clear. “Although we now take it for granted that sperm and egg must fuse to produce a new being, the road to this discovery was as long and winding as the oviduct itself. This is hardly unexpected given the microscopic size of sex cells and the temporal separation of insemination, fertilization and birth.” The same article later describes a debate between Spermists, who maintained that humans came from sperm alone, and Ovists, who maintained that humans came from eggs alone. The article concludes by saying that the debate was settled in 1875, when Oscar Hertwig conclusively showed that in sea urchins, the sperm fused with the egg. 1875! It took until 1875 for scientists to discover what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) knew in the seventh century.

 

Another objection you might have is that this term “nutfah” is vague, imprecise and unscientific. It basically means, a drop of fluid, comparable to a drop of water or a small pearl. But what about the scientific terms for the same thing that we use in English? When you look closely at the etymology of the terms we use in English, you realize how poor they are. If you use dictionary.com, you find that “sperm” comes from a Greek root meaning, “seed,” as in the seed of a plant. The word “ovum” comes from a Latin word for “egg” like the egg of a chicken. It can refer to either the unfertilized cell that comes from the mother alone or the fertilized cell that results from the union of the female and male cells. You might think that the term “zygote” is better, but etymologically that refers to a “yoke” as in a piece of wood that connects two oxen. If scientists wanted to be truly exact, it would make more sense to use the term “nutfah” than zygote.

 

Please let me know if you found this article informative and helpful. If you liked it, I can write more like this one.

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  1. #1 by iQbaL on February 12, 2009 - 9:16 am

    I loved your article and I would like to recommend you write a series of articles like this. It is indeed very informative and immensely helpful. Thank you.

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