Fifth Letter

Dear Abdallah,

Thank you for your prompt reply and the spirit in which you wrote. We seem to get very involved!

In your letter you bring to the fore arguments from the book "The Bible, the Qur’an and Science" by Maurice Bucaille. In it, you write, the divine origin of the Qur’an is amply evidenced.

To draw science into the picture is a new trend over the last few decades. Some Muslim scholars feel this to be an evidence for the divine origin of the Qur’an. The claim is that certain scientific knowledge, that must have been unknown at the time of Muhammad, is reflected in the Qur’an. In particular, current knowledge of embryology is said to clearly confirm what the Qur’an says about this topic. The geological formation of the universe, including the earth, is another topic. I have to admit, that being the case would be a strong evidence for the inspiration of the Qur‘an. But it is not the case.

Dr. Bucaille finds in the Qur’an a description of the origin of the universe, which, according to him, at first consisted of gas that caused the ‘Big Bang’, which in turn facilitated the formation of Galaxies, solar systems including our sun with its planets (p. 139). This rests on his rather fanciful interpretation of two texts in the Qur’an, where we read:

Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens were joined together, then We clove them asunder ... (Surah 21:30)


Then He turned to the sky and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth, come ye together ... (Surah 41:11)

Parallel passages of the Qur’an suggest something else. They mention columns, which keep the heavens from falling onto the earth:

He [Allah] withholds the sky from falling on the earth (Surah 22:65)

He [Allah] created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with you. (Surah 31:10)

Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see. (Surah 13:2)

These texts suggest convincingly that the Qur’an does not speak of the ‘Big Bang’, but rather tries to explain why the sky does not fall down to earth.

In the same context it is alleged that the balance of the Laws of Gravitation and Centrifugal Force within a solar system is described by these passages (p. 152ff). The gravitational force of the sun continually pulls the earth towards the center of the sun. That would, of course, eliminate its existence. To make matters slightly worse, the earth also pulls the sun towards it, too. But, while that force is causing the earth to accelerate towards the sun, the earth has an initial velocity that moves it perpendicular to the direction of that force. And so the gravitational force changes direction by slightly less than a degree per day. This keeps going until six months later, the earth is still being pulled towards the center of the sun, but this time in the opposite direction, (180 degrees different). So the earth is kept from flying into the sun, while it is also kept from flying away from the sun. I think it was Isaac Newton, who discovered these Laws in the 17th Century. Do we actually find these Natural Laws, directly or by implication, mentioned in the Qur’an in general or in these mentioned verses in particular? Certainly not in the suggested texts. And could Isaac Newton have formulated these Laws of Nature as he did, based on the knowledge of the above verses? I am sure we agree that with all good will, it would need a lot of fantasy to let these verses explain the function of our universe. But Dr. Bucaille did it and he went even further. He discovered in the Qur’an a prediction of the astronauts:

O ye assembly of Jinns and men! if it be ye can pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth pass ye! not without authority shall ye be able to pass! (Surah 55:33)

It is further assumed that when the Qur’an speaks of seven heavens (e.g. Surah 78:12), the number seven merely means plurality. From that he concludes that the Qur’an clearly states that there would be many heavens and earths in the universe, a fact that could only be verified in our time (p. 141). One can surely question the logic of such an argument.

In fairness, one will have to also acknowledge that the Qur’an held the then prevailing worldview, that the earth is a disc and not a sphere, as we know today:

Zul-qarnain [according to tradition Alexander the Great] ... when he reached the setting of the sun He found it set in a spring of murky water. (Surah 18:83-86)

Without trying to say more that the text wants to say, let us compare a verse from the Bible, which was written about 3500 years ago:

He [God] spreads out the north over empty space;
he suspends the earth over nothing.
(Job 26:7)

The most prominent argument for the alleged existence of then unknowable scientific data in the Qur’an, however, is gynecology, or more specific, embryology, the science of the conception and development of the human embryo in the uterus of its mother. Many an eloquent article is trying to interpret the Qur’an to mean something it does not say. In flowery language we are informed how medical doctors are stunned at the accuracy of the description of the reproductive system and its function. So let us have a look at these:

We [Allah] created you out of dust then out of sperm then out of a leech-like clot then out of a morsel of flesh partly formed and partly unformed in order that We may manifest (Our power) to you; and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term then do We bring you out as babes then. (Surah 22:5)

Man We [Allah] did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest firmly fixed;
Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature: so blessed be Allah the Best to create!
(Surah 23:12-14)

It is He [Allah] Who has created you from dust then from a sperm-drop then from a leech-like clot; then does He get you out (into the light) as a child. (Surah 40:67)

He [man] is created from a drop emitted
Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs:
(Surah 86:6-7)

He Who has made everything which He has created most Good... began the creation of man with (nothing more than) clay and made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised. (Surah 32:7-8)

He [Allah] makes you in the wombs of your mothers in stages one after another in three veils of darkness. (Surah 39:6)

Allah doth know what every female (womb) doth bear by how much the wombs fall short (of their time or number) or do exceed. Every single thing is before His sight in (due) proportion. (Surah 13:8)

It ought to be mentioned here that the above passages, excepting some duplications (Surah 16:5, 80:19-20, 75:38-40, 18:38), constitute all that the Qur’an says about this subject. We find no hint about the fertilization of the ovum by a sperm, but rather the assumption that the sperm is the seed that is planted into the womb to mature. To correct this omission Dr. Bucaille quotes from a Hadith:

He (the Holy Prophet) said: The reproductive substance of a man is white and that of a woman is yellow. When they have sexual intercourse and the male's substance prevails upon the female's substance, it is the male child that is created by Allah's Decree. When the substance of the female prevails upon the substance contributed by the male, a female child is formed by the Decree of Allah. The Jew said: What you have said is true; verily you are an Apostle. He then turned round and went away. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: He asked me about such and such things of which I had no knowledge until Allah gave it to me. (Sahih Muslim Hadith 614)

You, as I, may not find this all that enlightening either. Also the following Hadith would need a lot of interpretation to make sense to our 21st Century minds:

Allah's Apostle the true and truly inspired, narrated to us, "The creation of everyone of you starts with the process of collecting the material for his body within forty days and forty nights in the womb of his mother. Then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period (40 days) and then he becomes like a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then an angel is sent to him (by Allah) and the angel is allowed (ordered) to write four things: his livelihood, his (date of) death, his deeds, and whether he will be a wretched one or a blessed one (in the Hereafter) and then the soul is breathed into him." (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.546; see also 4.430)

It would need a book to go into any more detail in this discussion, but the little I could accommodate throws some light on the prevailing argument. In essence all the other arguments boil down to the same substance. What conclusion can we draw from all this? It is normal and understandable for people to reason on the basis of their worldview. We all live by the assumption that our worldview is right and true. But we must learn to question the validity of what everybody in our respective context thinks and acts on. That may well be a sobering and sometimes heartbreaking process.

If we want to live spiritually truthful and meaningful lives, we will have to say ‘good bye’ to popular opinion and seek the truth of God. Free of any glee or antagonism I have to confess that the search for a divine origin of a Book in the manner we observed right now, raises a lot more questions than it can hope to answer.

I am deeply sorry to be so negative in so may ways. You really ought to know my heart to understand my guiding motive. You will know that it is neither a love for polemics, nor a hidden glee. All I desire is our commitment to God, based on true information about him. May this letter add a little to that.

Yours sincerely,





For more information on this topic, see
The Qur'an and the Bible in the light of history and science
by Dr. William Campbell