Ever since the dawn of human life on this planet, Man has always tried to understand Nature, his own place in the scheme of Creation and the purpose of Life itself. In this quest for Truth, spanning many centuries and diverse civilizations, organized religion has shaped human life and, to a large extent, has determined the course of history. While some religions have been based on written text, claimed by their followers to be divinely inspired, others have relied solely on human experience.
Al-Qur’an, the main source of the Islamic faith, is a book believed by its followers, the Muslims, to be completely of Divine origin. Muslims also believe that it contains guidance for all humankind. Since the message of the Qur’an is believed to be for all times, it should be relevant to every age. But does the Qur’an pass this test?
Here, I intend to give an objective analysis of the Muslim belief regarding the Divine origin of the Qur’an, particularly in the light of established scientific discoveries.
There was a time, in the history of world civilization, when ‘miracles’, or what were perceived to be miracles, took precedence over human reason and logic, Of course, the normal defination of ‘miracle’ is simply, anything that takes place out of the normal course of life and for which humankind has no explanation.
However, we must be careful before accepting something as a miracle. In 1993, ‘The Times of India’, Mumbai, reported that ‘a saint’ by the name ‘Baba Pilot’ claimed to have stayed continuously submerged under water in a tank for three consecutive days and nights. However, when reporters wanted to examine the bottom of the tank of water in which he claimed to have performed his ‘miraculous feat’, he refused to let them do so. He argued by asking as to how one could examine the womb of a mother that gives birth to a child. Obviously the ‘saint’ had something to conceal! His claim was a gimmick simply to gain publicity. Surely, no modern person with even the slightest inkling towards rational thinking would accept such a ‘miracle’. If such false miracles are the tests of divinity, then we would have to accept all world famous magicians known for their ingenious magical tricks and illusions, as genuine God-men!
A book, claiming to be of Divine origin, is in effect, claiming to be a miracle. Such a claim should be easily verifiable in any age, according to the standards of that age. Muslims believe, that the Qur’an is the last and final revelation of God, the miracle of miracles, revealed as a mercy to mankind. Let us therefore investigate the veracity of this belief.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE QUR’AN
Literature and poetry have been instruments of human expression and creativity, in all cultures. The world also witnessed an age when literature and poetry occupied pride of position, similar to that now enjoyed by science and technology.
Even non-Muslim scholars agree that the Qur’an is Arabic literature par excellence — that it is the best Arabic literature on the face of the earth. The Qur’an challenges mankind to produce the likes of it:
“And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot— and of a surety you cannot— then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones —which is prepared for those who reject Faith.” [Al-Qur’an] 2:23-24]1
The challenge of the Qur’an, is to produce a single Surah (chapter) like the Surahs it contains. The same challenge is repeated in the Qur’an several times. The challenge to produce a Surah, which, in beauty, eloquence, depth and meaning is at least somewhat similar to a Qur’anic Surah remains unmet to this day.
A modern rational man, however, would never accept a religious scripture which says, in the best possible poetic language, that the world is flat. This is because we live in an age, where human reason, logic and science are given primacy. Not many would accept the Qur’ans extraordinarily beautiful language, as proof of its Divine origin. Any scripture claiming to be a divine revelation must also be acceptable on the strength of its own reason and logic.
According to the famous physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein,
“Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
Let us therefore study the Qur’an, and analyze whether the Qur’an and Modern Science are compatible or incompatible.
The Qur’an is not a book of Science but a book of ‘Signs’, i.e. Aayaats. There are more than six thousand ‘Signs’ in the Qur’an of which more than a thousand deal with hard core Science.
We all know that many a limes Science takes a ‘U-turn’. Here I have considered only established scientific facts and not hypotheses and theories based on mere assumptions and not backed by proof.