Scientific miracles in the Qur’an

Scientific proofs that the Qur'an is the Divine word?!
Scientific proofs that the Qur'an is the Divine word?!

The Professor attended a conference run by the a group calling themselves the Association of Islamic Scientists, on Scientific Miracles in the Qur’an. Many of the talks concerned finding links between concepts of modern physics (models of the solar system, the big bang, etc) and biology (DNA, health and fitness, etc) and verses of the Qur’an. The point made again and again was that no ordinary 7th century document could allude so perfectly to these recent discoveries of science, and it must, therefore, be God given.

During a typical session on physics, a Turkish brother said the following:

“Today, the relativity of time is a proven scientific fact. This was revealed by Einstein’s theory of relativity during the early part of the 20th century. Until then, it was not known that time was relative, nor that it could change according to the circumstances. Yet, the renowned scientist Albert Einstein proved this fact by discovering the theory of relativity. He showed that time is dependent on mass and velocity.

“However, the Qur’an had already included information about time’s being relative! Some verses about the subject read:

… A day with your Lord is equivalent to a thousand years in the way you count. (Qur’an, 22:47)

He directs the whole affair from heaven to earth. Then it will again ascend to Him on a Day whose length is a thousand years by the way you measure. (Qur’an, 32:5)

The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years. (Qur’an, 70:4)

“The fact that the relativity of time is so definitely mentioned in the Qur’an, which began to be revealed in 610, is more evidence that it is a divine book.”

The Professor stood up and gave the following reply:

Speaking as a trained scientist, your naive discussion does not move me. Not so much for its inaccuracies (it certainly has them), but for taking what is, for me, basically a language game, a trinket, an empirical mode of interaction with the cosmos — and elevating that game to the level of the Divine Revelation.

Everyone at this meeting is playing with trinkets and finding them within the Holy Book. But recall you and your actions are mentioned therein:

Is then one brought up among trinkets, and unable to give a clear account in a dispute? (43:18)

My response to this link is almost the same as that of a plumber, who is told that someone has discovered a indisputable instructions within the Qur’an that inform us how to fix our bathroom sink.

I enjoy plumbing, and know that plumbing as a game, consisting of rules and tools and constraints, is very much from Allah, and, as an activity can become illuminated, if, through negotiating my way through unblocking a sink or ensuring water flows through the tap, I become self-aware of my Symbolic position as a subject-plumber, and understand that all signs defer to, and gain their significance and meaning via, the Face of Allah.

Increasingly, the ontology of Islam has found its basis in the belief that there is nothing in reality besides the activity of plumbing. There are Muslims out there, so enamoured with their bathrooms, their toilets and kitchenettes, the fact that plumbing has brought them this much comfort and — yes, does diagnose problems with perfect precision and accuracy — that these Muslims begin to believe that there is nothing to be said about the Cosmos other than — plumbing, its rules, and its tools — and that God himself (astagfirullah) is in fact, a sort of Head Plumber or perhaps a Local Planning Agency, with Jannah as head office.

This is innocuous mainly. But it is also a potentially dangerous view of the world (Hitler enters Poland ostensibly to mend the boiler).

I generally don’t like to get into this topic of Science and Islam, but because of the current position of the ummah, the topic continually rears its ugly head. I observe that many Muslims cling to a “faith” based on scientific proof rather than an actual personal contact with the Divine. I remember one progressive brother telling me that “people don’t convert or revert because of a unique personal experience” — they convert because of being convinced, effectively, of the social perfection of the shariah and the absolute empirical scientific basis of the Qur’an. He then mocked the Christians (and, I guess, the Sufis) for what he perceived was a “superstitious” notion that they could have a personal contact with the Divine.

There was a recent debate held in London between a Christian Anglican and a Richard Dawkins style atheist about science and religion. The atheist had a whole host of the usual solid rationalist arguments against any claims that the holy books in any way preempt the findings of scientific method. But when the atheist confronted the Anglican regarding the existence of God, the Anglican said: “I believe in God because I’ve personally experienced Christ”. To which the atheist could not respond (except perhaps by asserting that the Anglican suffered some personal form of psychological delusion). Many Muslims today would not reply in such a way. They would be embarrassed to stake their faith on a personal experience of the Divine — particularly in public! Progressive Muslims simply don’t talk in that mode: their proofs must be social, scientific, for the group, not individual or personal.

Speak to any apostate about claims of scientific miracles of the Qur’an. Many have spent years convincing themselves of your progressive arguments — maintaining a rationalist vision of the world, with one blind spot left for God — acting as you do today, making da’wa to prove to others than the Qur’an contains all these scientific facts.  Eventually, if they are consistent with themselves, only apostasy is left (because in fact they were atheists all along). For such an apostate, after years of restriction to a plumber’s totalization of reality, it is eventually understood that plumbing can be done pretty well without a God at all.

These cases are ones of tragedy in the classical sense, because the essence of tragedy is missed timing, epitomized in the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. The entire ummah will pass through that Shakespearean trope again and again before it is saved. It is not through rejection of plumbing that the apostate could have found the Face of Allah, but neither is it through seeing the Qur’an as a manual for the trade of plumbing.

The True Muslim finds everything he/she needs through the realisation that jihad links all systems, and all systems are a masjid, and that plumbing, though a trinket, is a language game of sufficient complexity for this jihad to take place, with the result of his bathrooms, kitchens and toilets becoming illuminated. The Muslim will find this, not through rejecting work, nor elevating work to be a miracle of the Qur’an, but, rather, whistling while working:

(May the Seven be unified through activity by the Princess within the house! May Romeo and Juliet be transmogrified into a Disney happy ending.)

Another way of putting things. Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the universe”, because he wasn’t happy with the stochastic nature of Quantum Mechanics. Well, I say that God doesn’t play dice, but scientists do, necessarily: no one will deny the utility of Quantum Mechanics. Turn off your electricity, switch off your computer, stop using your mobile phone if you want to try. Similarly, wealthy tailors occasionally engage in the odd half bottle (or two) of Shiraz (never during Ramadan though). And so it is written:

They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit.’ (2:219)

We are audacious in our manifold sins of drunken metamodelling and stochastic speculation, and stand on the brink of ruin: but Allah is Merciful and Compassionate.

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14 thoughts on “Scientific miracles in the Qur’an

  1. I have come to the conclusion that all discussions about God/Cosmic force/”it”/the unity/whatever… are useless and we are like foolish children or drunken deadbeats who not only haven’t a clue but simply don’t possess either the ability to imagine or communicate even the tiniest speck of that “something” that totally eludes us.

    Yet in our blind ramblings there is a purpose and a meaning that needs to be fulfilled.

    Like Gandhi said – “Nothing you do matters, but it matters that you do it.”

    Peace & Love,

    Hassan

  2. Then we are quite close I think!

    My approach is to drunkenly stumble about trying to reassemble the broken pieces — hence this blog — because, as you say, there is a meaning to found through the rambling, if not in the state of blindness!

    Love and Light,

    Mu

  3. I’m reminded of two things:

    first of a time around 2years ago when walking down Brick Lane with a friend we happened to stop by some young Bengali brothers preaching the good word, one of the young lads not out of his teens decided to take the scientific route with my blonde haired blue eyed irish catholic friend, unfortunately for him she happened to be an evolutionary biologist and it was quite sad to see her rip his arguments to shred and then realise he didn’t understand a word of what she said nor the stuff he was coming out with himself.

    secondly this post reminded me of ‘Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert M Prsig, and his theories of ‘Quality’.

  4. I think you touch on a really important point here, Musa. People look for scientific validation of scripture because science, and not religion, has become the dominant belief system.

    One of the great ironies of this situation is that Islam was, initially, relatively undemanding in terms of belief. The six pillars of Imam are quite general and ecumenical – there is really nothing there that a Christian, for instance, could not subscribe to (unless they were really hung up on the idea of the Trinity). Or, for that matter, a Hindu or a Zoroastrian. Islam is a religion not of beliefs but of actions – the fundamental of which is the act of submission.

    Unfortunately, however, belief has become more important, and defining. for contemporary humanity than action. I am sure this is because we live in our heads: we have become considerably more cerebral than our ancestors. And we have also come to use belief as the principal way of asserting our identity (it’s not so much a case of ‘I think, therefore I am’ as ‘I believe, therefore I am’ – or, indeed, ‘What I believe, I am’).

    Back in the ‘sixties psychiatrist William Sargeant (who had been one of the first to analyse techniques of ‘brainwashing’ used by the Chinese in the Korean War) claimed that, given a couple of weeks, he could convert an atheist into a believer, or get a fervent supporter of one religion to convert to another). Whether or not his claims were overstated, he understood something important about the nature of beliefs. Which was that actually the beliefs themselves were largely irrelevant: what was important was to look at the emotions that held them in place.

    Much, I suspect, of the phenomenon of recent conversion to Islam has been fuelled by a reaction to anti-Islamic rhetoric in Western societies (especially the US) since 9/11. And this is precisely its weakness: that when the perceived ‘threat’ diminishes, the emotion dies down, and people begin to realise that their ideological commitment in fact just increases their alienation from the modern world, it will wane. (The Sufis were warning of such an explosion – and collapse – of ‘Islamism’ as far back as the 1920s).

    Such religion is – to mix religious idioms shamelessly – ‘built on sand’. It might seem to be an impressive edifice, but its foundations are unsecured (and these foundations are beliefs, which are by their nature insubstantial and mutable).

    For religion to be ‘built on rock’, it needs to be constructed from actions. Nobody who daily submits themselves to an unseen force much greater than themselves is likely to be worried much if their belief-system is challenged. How much belief do you need to assert ‘Not my will, but Thy Will be done’? One doesn’t even need to put a shape or name to the ‘Thou’ involved: only to recognise the poverty and incapacity of the ‘me’ (something that should be all too familiar to all of us). That ‘Thou’ could be Nature, the Cosmos, Love, Energy, Being… a thousand names, what does it matter? “Call Allah or ar-Rahman, to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names…”

  5. Thanks James and Mash for both your comments. Of course, I (or my dog) appear to have contradicted myself in my new piece where I am finding set theory within the Angelic ha ha! But that piece has a self-destruct button at the end of it, so hopefully I am okay.

    James — do you have a reference to these early Sufi warnings against Islamism? It might potentially be useful for something else I am doing …

    Love and Light,

    Mu

  6. What idiotic self indulgent tripe.

    Just because you’ve heard of Wittgenstein, you think it’s acceptable to reduce a reasoned approach to God to one of mere semantics? You’re missing Wiggy’s point: language games provide a framework for various kinds of reason – they are not to be confused as reason themselves, and nor do they preclude reason.

    So neither science nor plumbing, preclude any kind of reasoned understanding of God. Science maybe more socially accepted as an exploration of reality, but it’s just a set of operations like any other, in exactly the same class as plumbing. Or breathing. Or thinking. Or feeling. Or loving.

    Or praying.

    Direct experience of the Divine doesn’t have to be personal in the sense of ’emotional’ – it can be experienced in degrees, through rationality, or en masse in the crowds of the Hajj, or the marketplace bazaar.

    Your language games and analogies are no match for direct experience and interpretation of reality which goes on within each person.

    Kindest Regards

    Jawad

    1. Salaam Jawad,

      Hey, no need to be so aggressive, remember you are speaking within a masjid here — a little softer please 🙂

      But I’m a bit confused: did you read this piece, or merely look at the picture? I certainly agree with you on one thing: the point being made by this piece is exactly that science is, as you say, an (open) set of operations in exactly the same class as plumbing. And therefore, any attempt to “prove” Islam through science is to reduce the religious to the level of plumbing.

      That, in fact, is the only point being made by this particular piece.

      Assuming you have read my piece, and you are still not happy with it — that that would mean that you are either 1) not happy with my dismissal of the Turkish brother’s proof that Relativity is predicted by the Qur’an (or my dismissal of all such attempts to find scientific miracles within the Revelation) or 2) you are also possibly dismissive of the Turkish brother’s proof, but you are not happy with the way in which I have dismissed him.

      Of course reason is not precluded by Wittgenstein. But the reduction of the Divine Word to a plumbing instruction manual is my problem here. The Revelation encompasses all games, if you will: it is not, itself, a game.

      Regarding personal Divine experiences … if someone (like a Harun Yahya type) says “I know the Qur’an is the word of God because it predicts the biology of childbirth and the big bang and black holes”, I suppose I will (very begrudgingly) admit they have some kind of Divine experience. Or some progressive type who says, “I know Islam is perfect because it leads us to complete peace at all levels, within our daily life, our family life, all the way up to the level of a perfect political state.” I guess I can’t deny that they are experiencing God through their love of personal psychology, sociology and politics. I presume your comment is in defense of such types?

      But consider, for example, the personal experience of Jibreel … or an Uwaisi experience of praying behind the Prophet himself. Surely such experiences are greater in level and meaning than finding God in politics, sociology or (the target of this piece) scientism?

      Love and Light,

      The Tailor

      1. I’m aggressive old chap, just direct.

        “Surely such experiences are greater in level and meaning than finding God in politics, sociology or (the target of this piece) scientism?”

        God reveals Himself as He wills, not as we would prefer. I doubt you would have missed that while reading the Quran.

        So no, you’re wrong.

        1. lol. and we all make mistakes.

          I meant to say : I’m NOT aggressive old chap, just direct.

          I guess maybe I should work on being more gentle.

          And proof reading before posting!

          🙂

          Kindest Regards

          Jawad

        2. Thanks for your good humoured reply.

          I certainly agree that God reveals Himself as He wills, not as we would prefer.

          But I was under the impression that a large number of Muslims would prefer that He only reveals Himself through science, politics and sociology and would personally deny the possibility of, say, Uwaisi style relationships at all (even though God might potentially reveal throughout all systems, including, say, the visionary).

          Irrespective of what people prefer, however, do you not agree that some experiences as greater or lesser? Or are they all equal?

          Perhaps you would also be able to answer the following question, because things are still not clear for me: are you either 1) not happy with my dismissal of the Turkish brother’s proof that Relativity is predicted by the Qur’an (or my dismissal of all such attempts to find scientific miracles within the Revelation) or 2) you are also possibly dismissive of the Turkish brother’s proof, but you are not happy with the way in which I have dismissed him.

          You can see the other claims the brother (and his buddies) are making (in context) here:
          http://www.miraclesofthequran.com/scientific_index.html

          I am currently reading you as defending their scientism as a revelation of God as God has willed — even though (you gather rightly) I personally do not prefer it (though I do acknowledge that this is beyond my control. God allows all kinds of things that I personally don’t like, astagfirullah).

          You seem more intelligent than this Turkish brother, so I am curious that you would be eager to defend him — perhaps there is something of his theory of relativity in the Qur’an that I missed — and maybe you can explain its value more clearly than he did.

          On the other hand, maybe you aren’t defending his theories, but are simply saying that he is personally experiencing the revelation of God in a Sufi kind of sense: that in some ways, the scientism trend in modern Islam is a kind of divine madness — that in seeing ghosts of religion in science, these brothers are in fact drunk on a wine of God-consciousness.

          Just as a man might experience a portion of Divine Love through his family — maybe these brothers love Einstein so much that, through Einstein, they can come closer to the Qur’an and, ultimately to God.

          In this way, they establish the idols of genetics, physics, post-Marxism, post-colonialism etc, and begin to worship these things as what can be said meaningfully about Al-Haq — a space of idolatry yes, but one of empirical certainty too — but then, through the expository dhikr of the Turkish brother, the Deedats and the Ramadans, these idols are kind of “transcended” — not obliterated, but transmuted into aspects of Al-Haq — and God is experienced within their microfabric.

          If this is your point, it is a very important one for me personally. In fact, I will reread the Turkish website (and watch Tariq Ramadan and Ahmed Deedat) with it in mind next time I pass by that northern way.

  7. Musa, I’m separated from most of my books at the moment. And, in particular, one of the clearest expressions of this intimation of a great expansion, and subsequent collapse, of ‘skin-deep’ Islam (by a Naqshbandi Sheikh in Istanbul in the early 1930s) is in a book that I leant to a friend a few weeks back.

    Of course, the earliest – and most theologically compelling – expression of this is in the hadith: “Behold, people have entered God’s religion in hosts. And in time they will leave it in hosts” (Ibn Hanbal, on the authority of Jabir ibn Abd Allah).

    For a long time, I’ve thought that the growth of ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ parallels the end-game of revolutionary socialism. Like the Baader-Meinhof and Red Brigades before them, the terrorists are mostly drawn from the young, disaffected middle classes. And like them, again, their heroes are superannuated greybeards (Karl Marx being, perhaps, being the archetypal greybeard 😉 Again, another similarity is that these fragmented, angry, violent expressions of the seventies – which had really lost any kind of anchoring in socialist principles, and become pure ‘identity politics’ – were taken extremely seriously by Western governments. But by the end of the eighties they had simply evaporated. The people had subscribed to them so ardently had grown up, and laughed embarassingly about youthful follies. And by 1992, you couldn’t find a revolutionary socialist – of any kind – for love nor money.

    I’m going to make a prediction that, by 2030, we will no longer see anyone wearing a hijab – it will have become as quaint and obsolete as a bowler hat. And that nobody, across the world, will still be educated in a madrasa.

  8. james,

    Madrassas have taken a lot of abuse over the centuries.

    Im pretty certain they will withstand the next twenty years of mediocrity and erm climate change

    Anyway, good luck to the angsty mourgoisie, may they advance the human race and raise the ethical standards.

  9. >Madrassas have taken a lot of abuse over the centuries.

    The thing is, if we go back to the early days of Islam, we can see how progressive this view of education was – and what it delivered then. Literacy has a central place in this: ‘Recite! Recite! Recite’. As, indeed, does cultural exchange: the hajj brings Muslims together from as far a the Maghreb and China, Central Asia and Central Africa. A common understanding of the language of revelation lets them come to understand each other’s otherwise very different lives and backgrounds. All of this when most Northern Europeans were illiterate, and ignorant of a world beyond the fringes of their village.

    But that was then. Islam froze into conservatism more than five centuries ago (for which I would lay charge at Ibn Taymiyya and his obsessive fear of ‘Bida’h’, which has been taken up by the Salafi/Wahhabis). And, stripped of the horizon widening impulse that Sufism used to provide, and of contemporary Western insight into learning and development, the Islamic model of education is simply a crude and superannuated conditioning system.

    Why would anyone choose such a thing for their children? There are better ways even of learning by rote (than being beaten by a grumpy Mulla). The answer has to be because of identity politics, and the desire to make some kind of statement against degenerate Western values.

    There is, of course, a fear here in the West that the huge expansion of Wahhabite (or, for that matter, Deobandi) Madrasa education, particularly in South Asia, is going to produce a generation of fanatics. Personally, though, I don’t believe this. In the scheme of things, fanaticism is a difficult thing to sustain (as the Iranian experience has shown): it requires keeping people at a near constant level of heightened emotion. And this, in its turn, produces a kind of ‘shell shock’: an emotional fatigue syndrome.

    My suspicion is that this Madrasa education will backfire: it will produce a generation of angry young men who feel cheated by Islam of a decent modern education (and the opportunities that brings with it). And who will see that Saudi wealth, which was so abundantly poured into their indoctrination, suddenly dries up when it comes to providing for their real needs, opportunites and hopes. As is happening now in Iran, it seems likely we will see a whole generation gradually turning against the venality and hypocricy of the greybeards, and a growing resentment against the value system they hold.

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