A rather popular pattern is to take some modern scientific fact and claim that an ancient holy text also describes this recently discovered knowledge, hence the ancient holy text must have been written by God / Allah or whatever god concept of choice is being promoted. Almost all beliefs do stuff like this, so it should come as no surprise to discover the big ones, both Christianity and also Islam do exactly this.
For example, I recently wrote about how John Lennox published an article in which he made various claims including this …
the Big Bang fits in exactly with the Christian narrative of creation
Ah yes, so would that be the bible narrative where god makes light, then makes the earth and grass, and a few days after that finally decides to make the sun, is he seriously asserting that this is a nice fit to our modern understanding?
Apparently yes, and he does so by looking at the bit that says, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”, and deems this poetical metaphor to be a perfect fit to the big bang.
The flaw of course is that when faced with vague metaphorical phrases, you can interpret them in whatever way you wish and so crowbar in almost any meaning at all. It might indeed help to re-enforce a belief, but this is purely a delusion and is more or less akin to looking up at the clouds and seeing whatever you wish to see.
So what about Islam, are there similar claims? Well yes, the title of this posting gives you the answer to that.
While in an on-line discussion, a Muslim made the usual “Modern science in the Qur’an claim”. In response, I suggested he pick the very best strongest most robust example he could possibly find and then present that. He quickly rattled out the rather classical big bang in the Qur’an claim that has become rather popular within the past couple of decades.
It usually plays out like this (what follows comes from Harun Yahya, a chap in Turkey who has made rather a lot of money by promoting these daft claims)
The expansion of the universe is one of the most important pieces of evidence that the universe was created out of nothing. Although this was not discovered by science until the 20th century, Allah has informed us of this reality in the Qur’an revealed 1,400 years ago:
- 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)
Another important aspect revealed in the Qur’an fourteen centuries before the modern discovery of the Big Bang and findings related to it is that when it was created, the universe occupied a very tiny volume:
- Do those who are disbelievers not see that the heavens and the earth were sewn together and then We unstitched them and that We made from water every living thing? So will they not have faith? (Surat al-Anbiya’: 30)
There is a very important choice of words in the original Arabic whose translation is given above. The word ratk translated as ‘sewn to’ means ‘mixed in each, blended’ in Arabic dictionaries. It is used to refer to two different substances that make up a whole. The phrase “we unstitched” is the verb fatk in Arabic and implies that something comes into being by tearing apart or destroying the structure of ratk. The sprouting of a seed from the soil is one of the actions to which this verb is applied.
Now, there are a couple of important litmus tests to apply when looking at such claims – basically context and accuracy. You can never assume that the quote provided is an accurate Qur’an quote, it is usually some gem that has been cherry-picked and then massaged so that the claim fits, so lets first check the accuracy of the alleged quotes along with the actual context.
Is the English translation of 51:47 accurate?
No, not not at all, here for comparison are three of the most highly regarded English translations generally available.
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.
Notice that the word “Universe” is not there, just “firmament” and “heaven”. Also notice how “vastness” was changed to be “expanding”. With all these changes you can clearly see that this is not just very very dishonest, but is more akin to being deliberate fraud.
The Quranic earth is wholly and consistently a flat earth with seven heavens around it, and that is wholly consistent with the prevailing creation myths that dominated in that region at that time, so the big bang claim is also very much at odds with that reality.
Read on from that verse in 51:47 and it does indeed verify that it is talking about the flat Earth and how it was spread out. It is very clearly describing the creation myth for the earth and its firmament and is not talking about the Universe at all.
OK, so what about the other quote, is it an honest translation of 21:30?
Once again, it is not. Here are the far better well-recognised translations along with a bit more context 21:30-32
Yusuf Ali: Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with them, and We have made therein broad highways (between mountains) for them to pass through: that they may receive Guidance. And We have made the heavens as a canopy well guarded: yet do they turn away from the Signs which these things (point to)!
Pickthal: Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? And We have placed in the earth firm hills lest it quake with them, and We have placed therein ravines as roads that haply they may find their way. And we have made the sky a roof withheld (from them). Yet they turn away from its portents.
Shakir: Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the earth were closed up, but We have opened them; and We have made of water everything living, will they not then believe? And We have made great mountains in the earth lest it might be convulsed with them, and We have made in it wide ways that they may follow a right direction. And We have made the heaven a guarded canopy and (yet) they turn aside from its signs.
Once again you can see that what we have here is an ancient creation myth that clearly describes the creation of the Earth and the heavens above it, and does not it any way describe the big bang as we understand it. Notice how in context the heaven above is just a canopy around the earth and so clearly we not only have a flat earth, but an earth that is the centre of everything.
Believers tend to cherry-pick bits out of ancients texts, massage the words, and then assert a claim that it describes modern science, but place such verses with a more honest translation back into their proper context and such claims quickly lose all credibility, so do not be fooled by such slight of hand tricks and word-play.
What is wholly consistent across all such claims is that none of them ever withstand any honest analysis, and while it might indeed give believers a warm fuzzy feeling of confidence, and perhaps fool a few, it causes most to simply roll their eyes when faced with such daft claims.