One thing which surprises non-Muslims who are examining the bookvery closely is that the Quran does not appear to them to be what theyexpected. What they assume is that they have an old book which camefourteen centuries ago from the Arabian desert; and they expect thatthe book should look something like that - an old book from the desert.And then they find out that it does not resemble what they expected atall. Additionally, one of the first things that some people assume is thatbecause it is an old book which comes from the desert, it should talkabout the desert. Well the Quran does talk about the desert - some of itsimagery describes the desert; but it also talks about the sea - what it’slike to be in a storm on the sea.
Some years ago, the story came to us in Toronto about a man who was inthe merchant marine and made his living on the sea. A Muslim gave hima translation of the Quran to read. The merchant marine knew nothingabout the history of Islam but was interested in reading the Quran.When he finished reading it, he brought it back to the Muslim and asked,“This Muhammad, was he a sailor?” He was impressed at how accuratelythe Quran describes a storm on a sea. When he was told, “No as a matterof fact, Muhammad lived in the desert,” that was enough for him. Heembraced Islam on the spot.
He was so impressed with the Quran’s description because he had beenin a storm on the sea, and he knew that whoever had written thatdescription had also been in a storm on the sea. The description of
“…a wave, over it a wave, over it clouds” (Surah Nur, 24:40)
…was not what someone imagining a storm on a sea to be like wouldhave written; rather, it was written by someone who knew what a stormon the sea was like. This is one example of how the Quran is not tied tocertain place and time. Certainly, the scientific ideas expressed in it alsodo not seem to originate from the desert fourteen centuries ago.
The Smallest Thing
Many centuries before the onset of Muhammad’s prophethood, therewas a well-known theory of atomism advanced by the Greekphilosopher, Democritus. He and the people who came after himassumed that matter consists of tiny, indestructible, indivisibleparticles called atoms. The Arabs too, used to deal in the same concept;in fact, the Arabic word “dharrah” commonly referred to the smallestparticle known to man. Now, modern science has discovered that thissmallest unit of matter (i.e., the atom, which has all of the sameproperties as its element) can be split into its component parts. This is anew idea, a development of the last century; yet; interestingly enough,this information had already been documented in the Quran (SurahSaba’, 34:3) which states:
“He [i.e., Allah] is aware of an atom’s weight in the heavens and onthe earth and even anything smaller than that...”
Undoubtedly, fourteen centuries ago that statement would have lookedunusual, even to an Arab. For him, the dharrah was the smallest thingexisting. Indeed, this is proof, that the Quran is not outdated.
Another example of what one might expect to find in an “old book” thattouches upon the subject of health or medicine is outdated remedies orcures. Various historical sources state that the Prophet (r) gave someadvice about health and hygiene, yet most of these pieces of advice arenot contained in the Quran. At first glance, to the non-Muslims thisappears to be a negligent omission. They cannot understand why Allahwould not “include” such helpful information in the Quran. SomeMuslims attempt to explain this absence with the following argument:“Although the Prophet’s advice was sound and applicable to the time inwhich he lived, Allah, in His infinite wisdom, knew that there wouldcome later medical and scientific advances which would make theProphet’s advice appear outdated. When later discoveries occurred,people might say that such information contradicted that which theProphet (r) had given. Thus, since Allah would never allow anyopportunity for the non-Muslims to claim that the Quran contradictsitself or the teachings of the Prophet (r), He only included in the Quraninformation and examples which could stand the test of time.”However, when one examines the true realities of the Quran in terms ofits existence as a divine revelation, the entire matter is quickly broughtinto its proper perspective, and the error in such argumentationbecomes clear and understandable.
It must be understood that the Quran is a divine revelation, and as such,all information in it is of divine origin. Allah revealed the Quran fromHimself. It is the words of Allah, which existed before creation, and thusnothing can be added, subtracted or altered. In essence, the Quranexisted and was complete before the creation of Prophet Muhammad (r),so it could not possibly contain any of the Prophet’s own words oradvice. An inclusion of such information would clearly contradict thepurpose for which the Quran exists, compromise its authority andrender it inauthentic as a divine revelation.
Consequently, there was no “home remedies” in the Quran which onecould claim to be outdated; nor does it contain any man’s view aboutwhat is beneficial to health, what food is best to eat, or what will curethis or that disease. In fact, the Quran only mentions one item dealingwith medical treatment, and it is not in dispute by anyone. It states thatin honey there is healing. And certainly, I do not think that there isanyone who will argue with that!
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and the Quran
If one assumes that the Quran is the product of a man's
mind, then one would expect it to reflect some of what was going on in the mind of the man who "composed" it. In fact, certain encyclopedias and various books claim that
the Quran was the product of hallucinations that
Muhammad underwent. If these claims are true - if it indeed originated from some psychological problems in
Muhammad's mind - then evidence of this would be apparent in the Quran. Is there such evidence? In order to
determine whether or not there is, one must first identify what things would have been going on in his mind at that time and then search for these thoughts and reflections in
It is common knowledge that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had a very difficult life. All of his daughters died before him except one, and he had a wife of several years who was very dear and important to him, who not only preceded him in death but died at a very critical period of his life. As a matter of fact, she must have been quite a woman because when the first revelation came to him, he ran home to her, afraid. Certainly, even today one would have a hard time trying to find an Arab who would tell you, "I was so afraid that I ran home to my wife." They just aren't that way. Yet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) felt comfortable enough with his
wife to be able to do that. That's how influential and
strong woman she was. Although these examples are only a few of the subjects that would have been on
Muhammad's mind, they are sufficient in intensity to
prove my point.
The Quran does not mention any of these things - not the
death of his children, not the death of his beloved companion and wife, not his fear of the initial revelations, which he so beautifully shared with his wife - nothing; yet these topics must have hurt him, bothered him, and caused him pain and grief during periods of his life. Indeed, if the Quran was a product of his psychological reflections, then these subjects, as well as others, would be
prevalent or at least mentioned throughout
Scientific Approach to the Quran
A truly scientific approach to the Quran is possible
because the Quran offers something that is not offered byother religious scriptures, in particular, and other
religions, in general. It is what scientists demand. Today
there are many people who have ideas and theories about
how the universe works. These people are all over the place, but the scientific community does not even bother to listen to them. This is because within the last century the
scientific community has demanded a test of falsification.
They say, "If you have theory, do not bother us with it unless you bring with that theory a way for us to prove
whether you are wrong or not."
Such a test was exactly why the scientific community
listened to Einstein towards the beginning of the century. He came with a new theory and said, "I believe the universe works like this; and here are three ways to prove
whether I am wrong!" So the scientific community subjected his theory to the tests, and within six years it passed all three. Of course, this does not prove that he was great, but it proves that he deserved to be listened to
because he said, "This is my idea; and if you want to try to
prove me wrong, do this or try that."
This is exactly what the Quran has - falsification tests. Some
are old (in that they have already been proven true), and
some still exist today. Basically it states, "If this book is not
what it claims to be, then all you have to do is this or this or
this to prove that it is false." Of course, in years no
one has been able to do "This or this or this," and thus it is
still considered true and authentic
I suggest to you that the next time you get into dispute
with someone about Islam and he claims that he has the
truth and that you are in darkness, you leave all otherarguments at first and make this suggestion. Ask him, "Is
there any falsification test in your religion? Is there
anything in your religion that would prove you are wrong
if I could prove to you that it exists - anything?" Well, I can
promise right now that people will not have anything - no
test, no proof, nothing! This is because they do not carry
around the idea that they should not only present what
they believe but should also offer others a chance to prove
they're wrong. However, Islam does that.
A perfect example of how Islam provides man with a
chance to verify it authenticity and "prove it wrong" occurs in this chapter. And quiet honestly, I was very surprised when I first discovered this challenge. It states
(Surah An-Nisa, 4:82):
"Do they not consider the Quran? Had it been from
any other than Allah, they would surely have found
therein much discrepancy."
This is a clear challenge to the non-Muslim. Basically, it
invites him to find a mistake. As a matter of fact, theseriousness and difficulty of the challenge aside, the actual presentation of such a challenge in the first place is not
even in human nature and is inconsistent with man'spersonality. One doesn't take an exam in school and after
finishing the exam, write a note to the instructor at the endsaying, "This exam is perfect. There are no mistakes in it.
Find one if you can!" One just doesn't do that. The teacherwould not sleep until he found a mistake! And yet this is
the way the Quran approaches people.
Ask Those Who Have Knowledge
Another interesting attitude that exists in the Quran
repeatedly deals with its advice to the reader. The Quran informs the reader about different facts and then gives theadvice: "If you want to know more about this or that, or if
you doubt what is said, then you should ask those who
have knowledge." This too is a surprising attitude. It is notusual to have a book that comes from someone without training in geography, botany, biology, etc., who discusses these subjects and then advises the reader to ask men of
knowledge if he doubts anything. Yet in every age there have been Muslims who have followed the advice of the Quran and made surprising discoveries. If one looks to the
works ofMuslim scientistsof many centuries ago, one
will find them full of quotations from the Quran. These
works state that they did research in such a place, looking for something. And they affirm that the reason they looked in such and such a place was that the Quran
pointed them in that direction.
For example, the Quran mentions man's origin and then
tells the reader, "Research it!" It gives the reader a hint where to look and then states that one should find out
more about it. This is the kind of thing that Muslims today
largely seem to overlook - but not always, as illustrated in
the following example
A few years ago, a group of men in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
collected all of the verses in the Quran which discuss
embryology - the growth of the human being in the womb.
They said, "Here is what the Quran says. Is it the truth?"
In essence, they took the advice of the Quran: "Ask the
men who know." They chose, as it happened, a non-
Muslim who is a professor of embryology at the Universityof Toronto. His name is Keith Moore, and he is the author of textbooks on embryology - a world expert on the subject. They invited him to Riyadh and said, "This is what the Quran says about your subject. Is it true? What
can you tell us?"
While he was in Riyadh, they gave him all the help that he
needed in translation and all of the cooperation for which
he asked. And he was so surprised at what he found that
he changed his textbooks. In fact, in the second edition of
one of his books, called Before We Are Born... in the section
about the history of embryology, he included some
material that was not in the first edition because of what hefound in the Quran was ahead of its time and that those
who believe in the Quran know what other people do not
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Keith Moore for a
television presentation, and we talked a great deal about
this - it was illustrated by slides and so on. He mentioned
that some of the things that the Quran states about the growth of the human being were not known until thirty
years ago. In fact, he said that one item in particular - the
Quran's description of the human being as a"leech-like
clot"('alaqah) [Ghafir : ] - was new to him; but when
he checked on it, he found that it was true, and so he
added it to his book. He said, "I never thought of that
before," and he went to the zoology department and asked
for a picture of a leech. When he found that it looked just like the human embryo, he decided to include both
pictures in one of his textbooks.
Although the aforementioned example of man researching
information contained in the Quran deals with a non-
Muslim, it is still valid because he is one of those who areknowledgeable in the subject being researched. Had some layman claimed that what the Quran says about embryology is true, then one would not necessarily have to accept his word. However, because of the high position, respect, and esteem man gives scholars, one naturally assumes that if they research a subject and arrive at a conclusion based on that research, then the conclusion is valid.
Dr. Moore also wrote a book on clinical embryology, and
when he presented this information in Toronto, it caused quite a stir throughout Canada. It was on the front pages
of some of the newspapers across Canada, and some of theheadlines were quite funny. For instance, one headline
read: "SURPRISING THING FOUND IN ANCIENT PRAYER BOOK!" It seems obvious from this example that
people do not clearly understand what it is all about. As amatter of fact, one newspaper reporter asked Professor Moore, "Don't you think that maybe the Arabs might have known about these things - the description of the embryo, its appearance and how it changes and grows? Maybe they were not scientists; maybe they did some crude dissections on their own - carved up people and examined these things." The professor immediately pointed out to him that he [i.e., the reporter] had missed a
very important point - all of the slides of the embryo that
had been shown and that had been projected in the film
had come from pictures taken through a microscope. He
said, "It does not matter if someone had tried to discoverembryology fourteen centuries ago. They could not have seen it!"
All of the descriptions in the Quran of the appearance of
the embryo are of the item when it is still too small to see
with the eye; therefore, one needs a microscope to see it.
Since such a device had only been around for little more than two hundred years, Dr. Moore taunted, "Maybe fourteen centuries ago someone secretly had a microscope and did this research, making no mistakes anywhere. Then he somehow taught Muhammad (SAW)and convinced him to put this information in his book. Then he destroyed his equipment and kept it a secret forever. Do you believe that? You really should not unless you bring some proof because it is such a ridiculous theory." In fact, when he was asked, "How do you explain this information in the
Quran?" Dr. Moore's reply was, "It could only have been divinely revealed!"
One of Professor Moore's colleagues, Marshall Johnson,
deals extensively with geology at the University of Toronto.
He became very interested in the fact that the Quran's
statements about embryology are accurate, and so he
asked Muslims to collect everything contained in the
Quran which deals with his specialty. Again people were
very surprised at the findings. Since there are a vast
number subjects discussed in the Quran, it would certainlyrequire a large amount of time to exhaust each subject. It
suffices for the purpose of this discussion to state that the
Quran makes very clear and concise statements about various subjects while simultaneously advising the reader
to verify the authenticity of these statements with research
by scholars in those subjects. And as illustrated by theprevious examples of embryology and geology, the Quran
has clearly emerged authentic
You Did Not Know This Before!
Undoubtedly, there is an attitude in the Quran which is
not found anywhere else. It is interesting how when the Quran provides information, it often tells the reader, "You did not know this before." Indeed, there is no scripture
that exists which makes that claim. All of the other ancient
writings and scriptures that people have do give a lot ofinformation, but they always state where the information
For example, when the Bible discusses ancient history, it
states that this king lived here, this one fought in a certainbattle, another one had so may sons, etc. Yet it always
stipulates that if you want more information, then you should read the book of so and so because that is where
the information came from. In contrast to this concept, the
Quran provides the reader with information and states
that this information is something new. Of course, therealways exists the advice to research the information provided and verify its authenticity. It is interesting that such a concept was never challenged by non-Muslims fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, the Makkans who hated the Muslims, and time and time again they heard such
revelations claiming to bring new information; yet, they never spoke up and said, "This is not new. We know where Muhammad got this information. We learned this
at school." They could never challenge its authenticity
because it really was new!
Proof of Authenticity: An Approach
It must be stressed here that the Quran is accurate about
many things, but accuracy does not necessarily mean that a book is a divine revelation. In fact, accuracy is only one of the criteria for divine revelations. For instance,
the telephone book is accurate, but that does not mean that
it is divinely revealed. The real problem lies in that one must establish some proof of the source the Quran's information. The emphasis is in the other direction, in that the burden of proof is on the reader. One cannot simply deny the Quran's authenticity without sufficient proof. If, indeed, one finds a mistake, then he has the right to
disqualify it. This is exactly what the Quran encourages.
Once a man came up to me after a lecture I delivered in
South Africa. He was very angry about what I had said, and so he claimed, "I am going to go home tonight and find a mistake in the Quran." Of course, I said, "Congratulations. That is the most intelligent thing that you have said." Certainly, this is the approach Muslims need to take with those who doubt the Quran's authenticity, because the Quran itself offers the same challenge. And inevitably, after accepting its challenge and discovering that it is true, these people will come to believe it because they could not disqualify it. In essence, the Quran earns their respect because they themselves
have had to verify its authenticity.
An essential fact that cannot be reiterated enough
concerning the authenticity of the Quran is that one's
inability to explain a phenomenon himself does not require his acceptance of the phenomenon's existence or another person's explanation of it. Specifically, just
because one cannot explain something does not mean thatone has to accept someone else's explanation. However, the person's refusal of other explanations reverts the
burden of proof back on himself to find a feasible answer. This general theory applies to numerous concepts in life, but fits most wonderfully with the Quranic challenge, for it creates a difficulty for one who says, "I do not believe it." At the onset of refusal one immediately has an obligation to find an explanation himself if he feels others' answers are inadequate.
In fact, in one particular Quranic verse which I have
always seen mistranslated into English, Allah mentions a man who heard the truth explained to him. It states that he was derelict in his duty because after he heard the information, he left without checking the verity of what he had heard. In other words, one is guilty if he hears something and does not research it and check to see whether it is true. One is supposed to process all
information and decide what is garbage to be thrown out and what is worthwhile information to be kept and
benefited from immediately or even at a later date.
One cannot just let it rattle around in his head. It must be
put in the proper categories and approached from that point of view. For example, if the information is still speculatory, then one must discern whether it's closer to being true or false. But if all the facts have been presented, then one must decide absolutely between these two options. And even if one is not positive about the authenticity of the information, he is still required to process all the information and make the admission that
he just does not know for sure. Although this last point
appears to be futile, in actuality, it is beneficial to the arrival at a positive conclusion at a later time in that it forces the person to at least recognize research and review the facts.
This familiarity with the information will give the person
"the edge" when future discoveries are made and additional information is presented. The important thing is that one deals with the facts and does not simply discard
them out of empathy and disinterest.
Exhausting the Alternatives
The real certainty about the truthfulness of the Quran is
evident in the confidence which is prevalent throughout it;
and this confidence comes from a different approach -"Exhausting the alternatives." In essence, the Quran states,
"This book is a divine revelation; if you do not believe that,
then what is it?" In other words, the reader is challenged
to come up with some other explanation. Here is a book made of paper and ink. Where did it come from? It says it is a divine revelation; if it is not, then what is its source? The interesting fact is that no one has yet come up with an explanation that works. In fact, all alternatives have bee exhausted. As has been well established by non-Muslims,
these alternatives basically are reduced to two mutually
exclusive schools of thought, insisting on one or the other.
On one hand, there exists a large group of people who
have researched the Quran for hundreds of years and who claim, "One thing we know for sure - that man, Muhammad (SAW), thought he was a prophet. He was crazy!" They are convinced that Muhammad (SAW)was fooled somehow. Then on the other hand, there is a group which alleges, "Because of this evidence, one thing we know for sure is that that man, Muhammad (SAW)was a liar!" Ironically, these two groups never seem to get together without contradicting.
In fact, many references to Islam usually claim both
theories. They start out by stating that Muhammad ( ) was crazy and then end by saying he was a liar. They never seem to realize that he could not have been both! For
example, if one is deluded and really thinks that he is a
prophet, then he does not sit up late at night planning, "How will I fool the people tomorrow so that they think I am a prophet?" He truly believes that he is a prophet, and he trusts that the answer will be given to him by revelation.
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