Quran and Modern Science

Taken from “The Origin of Man”, by Dr. Maurice Bucaille.

Dr. Maurice Bucaille is an eminent French surgeon, scientist, scholar and author of “THE BIBLE, THE QUR’AN AND SCIENCE” which contains the result of his research into the Judeo-Christian Revelation and the Qur’an. It is a unique contribution in the field of religion and science.

Quran-Modern-Science

Being an outstanding Scientist, he was selected to treat the mummy of Merneptah (Pharaoh) which he did. During his visit to Saudi Arabia he was shown the verses of the Holy Qur’an in which Allah says that the dead body of the Pharaoh will be preserved as a “Sign” for posterity. An impartial scientist like Dr. Bucaille, who (being also a Christian) was conversant with the Biblical version of Pharaoh’s story as being drowned in pursuit of Prophet Moses. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that unknown to the world till only of late, the Holy Qur’an made definite prediction about the preservation of the body of that same Pharaoh of Moses’ time. This led Dr. Bucaille to study the Holy Qur’an thoroughly after learning the Arabic language. The final conclusion of his comparative study of Qur’an and the Bible is that the statements about scientific phenomena in the Holy Qur’an are perfectly in conformity with the modern sciences whereas the Biblical narration’s on the same subjects are scientifically entirely unacceptable.

From The Origin Of Man

Quran-Man-Origin

As most people in the West have been brought up on misconceptions concerning Islam and the Qur’an; for a large part of my life, I myself was one such person. Let me cite one or two specific examples to indicate the kind of inaccurate ideas generally current.

 

 

TMISCONCEPTIONS

As I grew up, I was always taught that ‘Mahomet’ was the author of the Qur’an; I remember seeing French translations bearing this information. I was invariably told that the ‘author’ of the Qur’an simply compiled, in a slightly different form, stories of sacred history taken from the Bible; the ‘author’ was said to have added or removed certain passages, while setting forth the principles and rules of the religion he himself had founded. There are moreover Islamic scholars today in France whose duties include teaching and who express exactly these views, although perhaps in a more subtle form.

This description of the origins of the Qur’anic text, which is so out of touch with reality, might lead one immediately to assume that if there are scientific errors in the Bible, there must also be errors of this kind in the Qur’an! This is the natural conclusion to be drawn in such circumstances, but it is based on a misconception. We are well aware that at the time of Muhammad – the Qur’anic Revelation took place between 610 and 632 A.D – scientific obscurantism prevailed, both in the Orient as well as in the West.

In France, for example, this period corresponded roughly to the reign of King Dagobert, the last of the Mrovingians. This approach to what was supposedly the Qur’anic text may on first sight seem logical, but when one examines the text with an informed and impartial eye, it becomes clear that this approach is not at all in keeping with reality. We shall see in a moment the truth of this statement, which is obvious from the texts.

Whenever there is textual proof of the existence in the Qur’an of statements that are in agreement with modern knowledge, but which in the Bible are related in a manner that is scientifically unacceptable, the stock response is that, during the period separating the two Scriptures, Arab scientists made discoveries in various disciplines which enabled them to arrive at these supposed adaptations. This approach takes no account whatsoever of the history of the sciences. The latter indicates that the great period of Islamic civilisations, during which, as we know, science made considerable progress, came several centuries after the communication of the Qur’an to the communication of the Qur’an to man.

Furthermore, scientific history informs us that, as far as the subjects dealt with in this present book are concerned, no discoveries were made during, the period separating the Bible from the Qur’an.

When this aspect of the Qur’an is mentioned in the West, however, we are likely to hear it said that while this may indeed be so, nowhere is this fact referred to in the translations of the Qur’an which we possess today, or in the prefaces and commentaries that accompany them.

UNEXPECTED DISCOVERIES
It was not until I had learnt Arabic and read the Qur’an in the original that I realised the precise meaning of certain verses. Only then did I make certain discoveries that were astounding. With my basic ideas on the Qur’an – which to begin with were inaccurate, just as those of most people in the West – I certainly did not expect to find in the text the statements that I in fact uncovered. With each new discovery, I was beset with doubt lest I might be mistaken in my translation or perhaps have provided an interpretation rather than a true rendering of the Arabic text.

Only after consultations with several specialists in linguistics and exegesis, both Muslim and non-Muslim, was I convinced that a new concept might be formed from such a study: the compatibility between the statements in the Qur’an and firmly established data of modern science with regard to subjects on which nobody at the time of Muhammad – not even the Prophet himself – could have had access to the knowledge we possess today. Since then, I have not found in the Qur’an any support given to the myths or superstitions present at the time the text was communicated to man. This is not the case for the Bible, whose authors expressed themselves in the language of their period.

In ‘La Bible le Coran et la Science’ (The Bible, the Qur’an and Science), which first appeared in the original French in 1976 and which subsequently appeared in English in 1978, I set forth the main points of these findings. On November 9, 1976, I gave a lecture to the Academia de Medecine (French academy of Medicine) in which I explored the statements of the origins of man contained in the Qur’an; the title of the lecture was ‘Donnees physiologiques et embryologiques de Coran'(Physiological and Embryological Data in the Qur’an). I emphasised the fact that these data – which I shall summarise below – formed part of a much wider study. The following are some of the points which arise from a reading of the Qur’an:

  • a concept of the creation of the world which, while different from the ideas contained in the Bible, is fully in keeping with today’s general theories on the formations of the universe;
  • statements that are in perfect agreement with today’s ideas concerning the movements and evolution of the heavenly bodies;
  • a prediction of the conquest of space;
  • notions concerning the water cycle in nature and the earth’s relief, which were not proven correct until many centuries later.

All of these data are bound to amaze anyone who approaches them in

an objective spirit. They add a much wider dimension to the problem studied in the present work. The basic point remains the same , however: we must surely be in the presence of facts which place a heavy strain on our natural propensity for explaining everything in materialistic terms, for the existence in the Qur’an of these scientific statements appears as a challenge to human explanations.

That does not mean to say, however, that the statements in the Qur’an – especially those concerning man – may all of them be examined in the light of the findings of modern science. The creation of man as described in both the Bible and the Qu’ran totally eludes scientific investigation of the event per se.

Similarly, when the New Testament or the Qur’an informs us that Jesus was not born of a father, in the biological sense of the term, we cannot counter this Scriptural statement by saying that there is no example in the human species of an individual having been formed without receiving the paternal chromosomes that make up one half of its genetic inheritance. Science does not explain miracles, for by definition miracles are inexplicable, thus, when we read in both the Qur’an and the Bible that man was moulded from the ground, we are in fact learning a fundamental religious principle: Man returns from where he came, for from the place he is buried, he will rise again on the judgment.

Side by side with the main religious aspect of such reflections on man, we find in the Qur’an statements on man that refer to strictly material facts. They are quite amazing when one approaches them for the first time. For example, the Qur’an describes the origins of life in general and devotes a great deal of space to the morphological transformation undergone by man, repeatedly emphasizing the fact that God fashioned him as He willed. We likewise discover statements on human reproduction that are expressed in precise terms that lend themselves to comparison with the secular knowledge we today possess on the subject.

INTEREST TO MEN OF SCIENCE
The many statements in the Qur’an that may thus be compared with modern knowledge are by no means easy to find. In preparing the study published in 1976, I was unable to draw on any previous works known in the West, for there were none. All I could refer to were a few works in Arabic dealing with themes treated in the Qur’an that were of interest to men of science – there was, however, no overall study. Over and above this, research of this kind requires scientific knowledge covering many different disciplines. It is not easy, however, for Islamologists to acquire such knowledge, for they possess a mainly literary background. Indeed, such questions hardly seem to occupy a place in their field of classic Islamology, at least as far as the West is concerned. Only a scientist, thoroughly acquainted with Arabic literature, can draw comparisons between the Qur’anic text – for which he must be able to read Arabic – and the data supplied by modern knowledge.

There is another reason why such statements are not immediately apparent: Verses bearing on a single theme are scattered throughout the Qur’an. The book is indeed a juxtaposition of reflections on a wide variety of subjects referred to one after the other and taken up again later on, often several times over. The data on a precise theme must therefore be collected from all over the Book and brought together under a single heading. This requires many hours’ work tracking down verses, in spite of the existence of thematic indexes provided by various translators, for such lists may perhaps be incomplete and indeed, in many cases, they often are.