The Seal of the Prophets and His Message the relationship of the Quran to modern science : part 2

Friday, April 17, 2015
Three, the Quran describes as follows the factor that keeps each of the heavenly bodies on its appointed course: “God it is Who raised up the heavenly bodies to invisible pillars and then took repose on the throne. He has subjected the sun and the moon to you, and each of them continues to rotate for a fixed time. Thus God regulates all the affairs of the universe and He explains in detail His signs, so that you may believe with certainty in the Day of Resurrection and the meeting with your Lord.” (13:2). We know that before the time of Newton, that great scientific personality, no one was aware of the force of gravity, although Newton made many discoveries in different branches of science, he is world-famous above all for the discovery of gravity. His achievement has been described as follows: “Newton proved that the falling of objects to earth, the rotation of the moon and Venus, the motions of the planets, and other instances of attraction are all subject to a single law, the law of universal gravity.” One of the most difficult problems Newton encountered was how to prove that the gravitational force exerted by a globular body is the same as it would be if we were to regard the whole of the body as concentrated in its center. As long as this remained unproven, the theory of universal gravitation would represent a kind of inspiration, not based on precise calculations or mathematical proofs.

In the verse quoted above, the fixing of the heavenly bodies in space and their rotation in a fixed course are attributed to a factor designated as “invisible pillars.” Are these unseen pillars, which prevent the planets from colliding with each other or falling, anything other than the mysterious and invisible force of universal gravity, a law to which the Creator of the universe has subjected all of the heavenly bodies? Four, in conveying this scientific truth, the Quran has used an expression that is comprehensible for the men of all ages. The Eighth Imam, upon whom be peace, spoke as follows to one of his companions concerning this Quranic expression: “Did God not say in the Quran, ‘without a pillar you may see’? The companion answered, “Yes” whereupon the Imam added “In that case there is a pillar but it cannot be seen.” In the course of refuting the materialist view that the human being is destined to utter annihilation, the Quran describes the evolutionary movement of the universe saying, “Do the deniers not look at the heavens above them and see how we have placed them on a firm foundation, adorned them with the stars and made them immune to all flaws? Were we tired by their first creation (so that we might experience difficulty in creating them anew)? They (the unbelievers) are themselves clothed every instant in a new garment of creation.” (50:6, 7, 15)

In other words, those who because of their shortsightedness and narrowness of vision imagined the world to be stagnant and stationary are in error, because they are themselves in a state of constant motion, together with the entire universe. The motion of the human being is connected to the general motion of the universe, and after death too, his spiritual motion will continued, through the appearance of the Promised Day and the fulfillment of the Divine promise; his motion will never be cut short by death. In expounding this precise scientific truth, the Quran does not restrict itself to the dry philosophical aspects of the matter. By entrusting the discussion of the matter to the Prophet, a person who had never studied, who had grown up in spiritual dark environment with no philosophical tradition, the Quran simultaneously puts forward a truth that is of vital significance to the human being. That truth is the immortality of the spirit, the existence of resurrection and judgment, with all that implies for the responsibilities of the human being while still alive. The Quran also refers to the internal motion of the earth when it says: “You look at the mountains and imagine them to be solid and stable. But they are engaged in inward motion and growth, just like the clouds. This inward motion is of God’s creation and making. He has fashioned all things in a correct way, and He is well aware of your conduct and deeds.” (16:90)

This verse calls attention to the inward dynamic motion of mountains. It says, in effect: Although you imagine the mountains to be solid and without inward movement and growth, this is not the case. The mountains that seem stagnant and stationary to you are inwardly growing and changing, just like the clouds the motion of which is visible to you. The firm structure and development of all things are ensured by that same motion, the law of motion which is of God’s creation and making. It prevails over all the particles and phenomena of nature, and it ensures their order and stability. The choice of this particular wording in the Quran goes back, no doubt, to the fact that mountains are a symbol of bulkiness and stability, and it enables the verse to lay particular stress on the ability of the Creator to do all things. Five, not more than three centuries have passed since Galileo presented to the world of science the theory of the motion of the earth, in a clear fashion and accompanied by adequate proof. In an age not too far removed from us, when egocentricity and the immobility of the earth were regarded as indubitable scientific principles, his theory met with a wave of furious opposition. By contrast, in the dark atmosphere of the Age of Ignorance, the Quran had already referred to certain aspects of the earth’s motion and the mysterious qualities of mountains. This was an exposition of complex scientific truths, taking place already in that age.

Thus the Quran says: “Have We not made the earth as a cradle and the mountains like pegs?” (78:6-7) “God has placed mountains on the earth to prevent its uneven motion.” (31:10). The Quran compares the earth to a cradle because a cradle is a place of rest that is engaged in motion. In another verse, a different comparison is offered: “I have created the earth for you like a tamed camel that with its gentle and smooth motion does not vex its rider.” (67:15).The referred to the motion of the earth at a time when the Ptolemaic theory of egocentricity and the immobility of the earth had been ruling for centuries over the minds of the learned. It was the heavenly book of Islam that refuted that fantastic view of the world, almost a thousand years before Galileo. In one of the verses just quoted, the mountains have been subtly and delicately compared to pegs that hold the earth in place and prevent it from becoming scattered. This is because the crust of the earth is covered with a soft layer of soil and sand, and were the earth to be deprived of firm and heavy mountains, it would undoubtedly lose its stability because of the pull exerted by the moon. It would fall prey to convulsion and shaking, and destructive tides would overwhelm the globe and destroy it.

The mountains serve as highly resistant pegs that play an essential role in preserving the earth from dissolution and destruction. The slight trembling and convulsions that sometimes occur are not on a scale to deprive human life of all tranquility and stability. Furthermore, the massive bulk of great mountains is able to neutralize and control, to a considerable extent, the powerful waves of molten materials and buried gases that emanate from within the earth. Were the mountains not to rear up their heads over our globe, the surface of the earth would be in constant ferment because of the pressure of molten substances, and its whole nature would change.

To be continued

Author: Alhaji Ousman M. Jah