14. The Qur’an and Science
To get an understanding of the science in the Qur’an we refer the reader to the excellent book The Bible, The Qur’an, and Science by Dr. Maurice Bucaille, a respected French surgeon who conducted an investigation into this subject. Space permits us to quote only a few passages from his book and present a brief outline of the subjects covered in the book. However, this book is a must for anyone interested in a serious study of the topic of revealed scripture and modern science.
In discussing science with respect to the scriptures one must be careful to distinguish between scientific data of definitely established facts and explanatory theories which may be discarded with the march of scientific progress. What Dr. Bucaille discusses are incontrovertible facts which are firmly established. Thus, even if science as yet provides incomplete data as far as the full picture is concern, the general facts are sufficiently well-established to be referred to without fear of future contradiction. For example, it is well known that the Earth revolves round the Sun, and the Moon around the Earth. Our understanding of this fact is most unlikely to change dramatically. What may happen in future is that the orbit may be defined more clearly, or some other subtleties become more clearly defined.
Let us now quote a few passages from his book:
The Qur’an follows on from the two Revelations that preceded it and is not only free from contradictions in its narrations, the sign of various human manipulations to be found in the Gospels, but provides a quality all of its own for those who examine it objectively and in the light of science i.e. its complete agreement with modern scientific data. What is more, statements are to be found in it that are connected with science: yet it is unthinkable that a man of Muhammad’s time could have been the author of them. Modern scientific knowledge therefore allows us to understand certain verses of the Qur’an which, until now, it has been impossible to interpret.1
It is easy to see therefore how for centuries commentators of the Qur’an (including those writing at the height of Islamic culture) have inevitably made errors of interpretation in the case of certain verses whose exact meaning could not possibly have been grasped. It was not until much later, at a period not far from our own, that it was possible to translate and interpret them correctly. This implies that a thorough linguistic knowledge is not in itself sufficient to understand these verses from the Qur’an. What is needed along with this is a highly diversified knowledge of science. A study such as the present one embraces many disciplines and is encyclopedic. As the questions raised are discussed, the variety of scientific knowledge essential to the understanding of certain verses of the Qur’an will become clear.
The Qur’an is not, however, a book that has the object of explaining certain laws governing the universe; it has an absolutely religious objective. The descriptions of Divine Omnipotence are what principally incite man to reflect on the works of creation. They are accompanied by references to facts accessible to human observation or to laws defined by God who presides over the organization of the universe both in the sciences of nature and as regards man. One part of these assertions is easily understood, but the meaning of the other can only be grasped if one has the essential scientific knowledge it requires. This means that in former times, man could only distinguish an apparent meaning which led him to draw the wrong conclusions on account of the inadequacy of his knowledge at the time in question.2
Given below are some of the scientific topics which are covered in the Qur’an the details of which are to be found in pages 139 to 220 of Dr. Bucaille’s book. His book also compares the Biblical narrations of the Flood and the Exodus with the narration given in the Qur’an, with particular reference to those differences that make one description scientifically acceptable in the present day, and the other unacceptable.
- The creation of the Heavens and the Earth
- The Earth
- The Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms
- Human Reproduction
To conclude: A conflict between science and religion is not found in the Qur’an; however, for a truly clear understanding of the scientific concepts used in the Qur’an, we need both scientific and linguistic knowledge.
- The Bible The Qur’an and Science, by Dr. Maurice Bucaille. Publisher Seghers, 6 Place Saint-Sulpice 75006 Paris. p. 268.
- Ibid,. p. 129, 130.