Science-in-hindsight, is what the Koran should be called. Very vague ‘science’ at that. It is a book that you can find obscure verses and claim scientific understanding….. after the science has already discovered something. Like when people suggested Nostradamus predicted 9/11…. but were only able to make the connection after 9/11. The Koran is similar… wait until something is known, and then claim Islam knew it all along. This isn’t science, this is absurd opportunism.
I was first introduced to Islam’s claims on scientific advancement, and forethought, when listening to the Muslim speaker, Hamza Tzortzis try to point to the Koran’s description of mountains as proof that the Holy book is divine. He claimed that there is no way Mohammad could have known that mountains act as ‘pegs’ – as claimed in the Koran – at that time. This refers to the fact that mountains extend downwards into the upper mantle of the Earth. The moment he said it, the Muslim observers in the room were taken in, as if he’d just proven the existence of God. They were awed by his vision. Sadly, they were also woefully misinformed and manipulated (which is of course, the job of the religious preacher). The Koran in this instance, states:
“Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse, And the mountains as pegs?”
– Typically vague, but also wrong. Clearly Allah is asking a rhetorical question. If an answer were permitted, it would be an unequivocal ‘no’. Though Islam Guide.com thinks the answer is a definitive yes backed by modern science.
Modern earth sciences have proven that mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground and that these roots can reach several times their elevations above the surface of the ground. So the most suitable word to describe mountains on the basis of this information is the word ‘peg,’ since most of a properly set peg is hidden under the surface of the ground. The history of science tells us that the theory of mountains having deep roots was introduced only in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
– All of the above, simply isn’t true. A mountain is not stabilising anything, it holds nothing together. It is like a human in water, part is above the surface, part is below, but you wouldn’t refer to the part of the body below the surface as a peg. It simply floats. Likewise, a mountain simply floats on the mantle.
Islam-guide.com continues its plague of ignorance, with the conclusion:
Likewise, the modern theory of plate tectonics holds that mountains work as stabilizers for the earth.
I recall my science lessons at school, my geography lessons of which I retained information from, to the abandonment of all mathematical teaching, which I quickly learned to discard through pure hatred of the subject. I recall that Volcanoes do not extend as ‘pegs’. Contractional tectonics also form mountains – the Appalachians for example, are definitely not ‘pegs’. The Sierra Navada mountain range has mountains created by what is known as fault block mountains, which are formed when rocks slide through the slopes of the Earth’s crusts. None of which act at all as stabilizers. To claim so, would get a huge roar of laughter from the scientific community.
The reason that the Koran refers to mountains as “pegs” is for it’s next claim:
And He has set firm mountains in the earth so that it would not shake with you… (Quran, 16:15)
Now, islam-guide.com again tries to, rather embarrassingly, explain this quote, and link it to modern science:
Mountains also play an important role in stabilizing the crust of the earth.4 They hinder the shaking of the earth.
– Firstly, they don’t hinder the shaking of the Earth. In fact, mountains are formed by the shaking of the Earth. Secondly, that isn’t what the Koran says. It states quite unequivocally that mountains will ensure the World that the Earth will NOT shake with you, in any way. Well, tell that to the people of Japan. An Earthquake so strong, the island of Honshu was moved eight feet eastward. If Allah had intended for mountains to prevent the Earth from shaking, he failed, miserably.
Often, I have been told by the religious faithful that their Holy Book contains advance science that humanity, at the time of writing the Holy Book, could not possibly have known.
Followers of Islam, more so than Christianity or Judaism in this instance, claim their book is filled with advanced scientific knowledge. To the believer, it’s somewhat of an assurance that their scripture is anything but a book of delusions and vicious hatreds. To the unbeliever, its poor attempt to break the increasing truths offered by science.
Every claim of scientific advancement in the Koran, is either too ambiguous to take seriously, already knowledge widely accepted at the time, or just plain wrong. It is extraordinary for Islamic scholars to claim that their Holy Book holds any sort of scientific truth. A very quick critical analysis of the Koran, and of scientific knowledge already known, long before Mohammad’s time, proves that the Koran offers nothing new. It is beyond irrational to claim it does.
“Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day And He merges Day into Night?” [31:29]
– This, according to Way to Allah.com is, quite bizarrely, proof that the Koran held the knowledge of the Earth’s spherical shape:
Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes to day and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night.
– Well, why didn’t the Koran say that the Earth is spherical, if that’s what it meant? As opposed to a deeply ambiguous suggestion? Not only that, but it is wrong. The Earth spinning on its axis is what creates the illusion of day and night, not “Allah”. I cannot imagine a reputable astronomer or physicist would phrase the day turning into night, as a God merging the two together.
If we are going to take deeply ambiguous statements and claim they are proof of scientific advancement, with respect to the Earth’s shape, then we must be consistent:
[15:19] And the earth We have spread out like a carpet; set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.
– This seems to suggest that the Earth is flat, like a carpet, and that Mountains cannot in any way move.
Not only is the idea of a flat Earth scientifically wrong, it was even known to be wrong by the time the Koran was written. It offers no new insight, it simply offers an idea that was defunct around the 3rd Century BC. About 800 years before the Koran. Aristarchus of Samos suggested the Sun was the centre of the Universe, in the 3rd Century BC; this piece of wisdom was truly way ahead of its time. Aristarchus offers us a glimpse into scientific reality on a scale that, 800 years later, the Koran hadn’t even came close to, and Aristarchus certainly didn’t claim divine revelation for his predictions. Unsurprisingly, flat Earth predictions were borne out of Ancient Mesopotamia, and so it would seem that cosmological claims in the Koran can be viewed as earlier traditions coming out of Mesopotamia thousands of years prior to the Koran. Heavens, Firmament, great deep, pillars, the concept of the Earth being flat like a carpet, all this nonsense can also found in the Bible. Educated people knew the Earth was round, as envisaged by Ptolemy and before him, Aristotle, long before the Koran; which still seems to suggest that Earth is flat.
I’m not the only one who suggests that the Koran says the Earth is flat. Tafsir al-Jalalayn, a prominent exegeses of the Koran that still holds much importance, 600 years after it was written, states quite openly:
” … and his saying sutihat makes it obvious that the earth is flat, and this is certified by Ulama’ ash-shar’a (the shari’a theologians), not a globe as it is said by ahlul-hay’a (the laymen).”
Let’s for one second accept that the Koran states that the Earth is egg shaped (this translation, is rather new), is this new to the Koran? Well, no. Let’s note that before becoming a Prophet, Muhammad was a merchant. A trader. He had contact with different cultures, and would most definitely have come into contact with ideas especially those coming out of Greece. The Greeks knew the Earth was round in the 6th Century BC. Plato taught students that the Earth was a sphere. Aristotle’s incredible evidence based in astronomy was way ahead of its time, predating Islam by a millennium. Aristotle noted that the shadow of the Earth on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, is round. Eratosthenes even attempted to work out the Earth’s circumference, 700 years before Muhammad’s time. These great Greek scientific leaders, have seemingly had their brilliance hijacked by Islam, which claims their achievements as their own.
A simple observation of Greek history, finds that by the time that the Koran sprung up, Greek cosmology and culture had spread as far as Afghanistan and even India, having penetrated Arabia centuries previous.
Much like the Nostradamus obsessives, believers in the Koran cannot predict a new scientific discovery, until after the discovery is made. They then re-translate their Holy Book, and surprise! “We were right all along!” Fans of Nostradamus will only assign a prediction of his, after an event has taken place. It is weak reasoning, and it certainly proves absolutely nothing. If the Angel Gabriel genuinely did present Mohammad with scientific knowledge written in the Koran, then the Angel Gabriel was less knowledgable in the 7th Century, than Aristotle was, 1000 years earlier. I’m not sure that’s too good an advert for Heaven.
On the subject of taking the translation too far, and just inventing their own translation from the original, to suit objections, there is one doing the rounds that amuses me greatly. The claim is that the Koran actually accurately describes the Big Bang, here:
It is We Who have built the universe with (Our creative) power, and, verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it. (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 47)
– The problem here is, the experts claim that this isn’t actually what the original translation says. The translation, according to the the Centre for Muslim-Jewish engagement at the University of California, the verse actually reads:
Yusuf Ali: With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for it is We Who create the vastness of space.
Pickthal: We have built the heaven with might, and We it is Who make the vast extent (thereof).
Shakir: And the heaven, We raised it high with power, and most surely We are the makers of things ample.
– This is clearly vastly different from the more modern translation. The constant use of the phrases “heavens and Earth” echoes the same offering from the Bible and other ancient sources, which considered the universe to consist pretty much entirely of the Earth and heaven, so it is unsurprising that the Koran mentions them together, all the time. The Koran, again, proves to be a product of its time. If it is divine, it is horribly lazy of its creator. The Koran is pretty conclusive with its cosmology; the Earth is flat, there are seven heavens, and it is geocentric.
Another favourite of the Muslim community, is to quote the Koran’s claims on embryology:
And indeed We created man out of an extract of clay. (12) Thereafter We made him as a Nutfah in a safe lodging. (13) Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allâh, the Best of creators. (14)
– This is one of those instances where the Koran is not vague. It claims that man is made from a clot of congealed blood. Whilst being entirely wrong, the moulding together of a drop of blood, with embryology already existed, is not new to the Koran, and was quite obviously stolen by Muhammad, from the Babylonian Enuma Elish tablet. When you copy something from another source, and the other source is entirely wrong, thus making your claim entirely wrong, then it is clear your book is not divine.
The quote from the Koran also claims that the bones come first. Nutfah by the way, means sperm, in the best possible translation into English. To be precise, nutfatun amshaajin means a mixed drop of sperm. It doesn’t refer to the female ovum, in any such translation (and believe me, those who believe that the Koran contains scientific truth, like to say, when questioned about the vague, ambiguous, and wrong statements in the Koran, that it can be translated differently; they only tend to play this card when their first translation is quite obviously wrong).
The word used for blood clot, is alaqa. This word has been translated into ‘blood clot’ by Maulana Muhammad Ali, in 1951, Muhammad Zafrulla Khan in 1971, the Supreme Sunni and Shii Councils of the Republic of Lebanon in 1980, Hamidullah in 1981, and Indonesian Department of Religious Affairs in 1984. It’s pretty obvious that Alaqa is best translated to mean blood clot. The problem with this is, there is no stage in human development where the fetus is a clot of blood. It is just false science.
When it comes to the joining together of male sperm, and the female egg. Perhaps the Koran is unique and shows great forethought and revelation? Well, no. The Hanbali scholar Ibn Qayyim, in his book Kitab al-tibyan fi aqsam al-qur’an, gives us a statement from the lips of Mohammad himself:
He is created of both, the semen of the man and the semen of the woman. The man’s semen is thick and forms the bones and the tendons. The woman’s semen is fine and forms the flesh and blood.
– Quite obviously, this is wrong. The “great” Prophet, is entirely wrong.
Dr Basim Musallam Director of the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge says:
“Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen were as much a part of Middle Eastern Arabic culture as anything else in it…… “The stages of development which the Qur’an and Hadith established for believers agreed perfectly with Galen’s scientific account….There is no doubt that medieval thought appreciated this agreement between the Qur’an and Galen, for Arabic science employed the same Qur’anic terms to describe the Galenic stages”
– Turns out, the Koran merely states something that was known centuries earlier, alongside completely wrong ‘science’. All the Koran does here, is spend a long time catching up to scientific thought at the time.
Does the reference to sperm mean that the Koran has stumbled upon a great revelation; that sperm is partly responsible for life? Well, again……. no. Not even slightly. Aristotle had pointed to Anaxagorus, a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, around 450bc, who stated that sperm came only from the male, and that the female simply provided a place of nurture. So, the “safe lodging” which Muslims say refers to the womb, was known as that, 1000 years before the Koran.
Secondly, it is important to note that bones are not created first, and slowly fleshed out. Bones and muscle tissue are created simultaneously. For a far more eloquent explanation, whilst at the same time dismissing the Islamic claim on embryology of Hamza Tzortzis, I would strongly advise watching this video, as Hamza attempts to explain embryology and the Koran’s claims on embryological truth, to……. a leading embryologist. The result is predictable; Tortzis and whomever he is with are proven wrong, and so they resort to changing the interpretation of the text, to suit the objection. Weak, weak, weak.
Needless to say, the Koran is wrong. There is never a stage in the development of a fetus, in which bones exist alone, much like there being no stage in fetus development when the fetus is a clot of blood. It would appear that we can find more information from Wikipedia on the development of a fetus, than we can from the all knowing master of the Universe. Wikipedia > Allah?
And do we really believe that we needed a 7th century divine commentary to tell humanity that sperm creates human life? The Koran, simply stole this idea from the ancient Greeks, without giving them any credit for it.
J. Needham, an author who specialised in Embryology, in his book “A History of Embryology” states the importance of Ancient Greek, Indian and Egyptian Embryology, says that the Koran’s Embryological claims were simply:
“a seventh-century echo of Aristotle and the Ayer-veda”
– It appears more and more so, that the Koran is simply a collection of religious dogma attempting to claim the forethought of secular science as espoused by great minds like Aristotle, as its own. It is similar to when a girl in my Politics seminar tried to claim that Christianity invented Democracy. Religion trying to latch onto human advancement, and claim it as its own, should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
To summerise, the Earth is not flat, mountains do not hold the Earth down preventing it from shaking, and humans do not start out as bone, slowly fleshed out over time. A God who presents so many vague statements is bad enough, but an omniscient being presenting his creation with what seems to be drunkenly erratic commentaries on certain aspects of the World and humanity which turn out to be entirely false on the most basic of examination, is a God that not only should not be taken seriously, but should never have any sort of political power over the workings of society, and should be challenged by every free thinking human being, at every possible opportunity. That is how humanity advances beyond primitive dogma.
There is absolutely no scientific credibility laying in the pages of the Koran.