The Amazing Quran
By: Dr. Gary Miller
(Edited by www.islamhouse.com)
One thing which surprises non-Muslims who are examining the book very closely is that the Quran does not appear to them to be what they expected. What they assume is that they have an old book which came fourteen centuries ago from the Arabian desert; and they expect that the book should look something like that - an old book from the desert. And then they find out that it does not resemble what they expected at all. Additionally, one of the first things that some people assume is that because it is an old book which comes from the desert, it should talk about the desert. Well the Quran does talk about the desert - some of its imagery describes the desert; but it also talks about the sea - what it’s like to be in a storm on the sea.
Some years ago, the story came to us in Toronto about a man who was in the merchant marine and made his living on the sea. A Muslim gave him a translation of the Quran to read. The merchant marine knew nothing about the history of Islam but was interested in reading the Quran. When he finished reading it, he brought it back to the Muslim and asked, “This Muhammad, was he a sailor?” He was impressed at how accurately the Quran describes a storm on a sea. When he was told, “No as a matter of fact, Muhammad lived in the desert,” that was enough for him. He embraced Islam on the spot.
He was so impressed with the Quran’s description because he had been in a storm on the sea, and he knew that whoever had written that description had also been in a storm on the sea. The description of
“…a wave, over it a wave, over it clouds” (Surah Nur, 24:40)
…was not what someone imagining a storm on a sea to be like would have written; rather, it was written by someone who knew what a storm on the sea was like. This is one example of how the Quran is not tied to certain place and time. Certainly, the scientific ideas expressed in it also do not seem to originate from the desert fourteen centuries ago.
The Smallest Thing
Many centuries before the onset of Muhammad’s prophethood, there was a well-known theory of atomism advanced by the Greek philosopher, Democritus. He and the people who came after him assumed that matter consists of tiny, indestructible, indivisible particles called atoms. The Arabs too, used to deal in the same concept; in fact, the Arabic word dharrah commonly referred to the smallest particle known to man. Now, modern science has discovered that this smallest unit of matter (i.e., the atom, which has all of the same properties as its element) can be split into its component parts. This is a new idea, a development of the last century; yet; interestingly enough, this information had already been documented in the Quran (Surah Saba’, 34:3) which states:
“He [i.e., Allah] is aware of an atom’s weight in the heavens and on the earth and even anything smaller than that...”
Undoubtedly, fourteen centuries ago that statement would have looked unusual, even to an Arab. For him, the dharrah was the smallest thing there was. Indeed, this is proof, that the Quran is not outdated.
Another example of what one might expect to find in an “old book” that touches upon the subject of health or medicine is outdated remedies or cures. Various historical sources state that the Prophet (r) gave some advice about health and hygiene, yet most of these pieces of advice are not contained in the Quran. At first glance, to the non-Muslims this appears to be a negligent omission. They cannot understand why Allah would not “include” such helpful information in the Quran. Some Muslims attempt to explain this absence with the following argument: “Although the Prophet’s advice was sound and applicable to the time in which he lived, Allah, in His infinite wisdom, knew that there would come later medical and scientific advances which would make the Prophet’s advice appear outdated. When later discoveries occurred, people might say that such information contradicted that which the Prophet (r) had given. Thus, since Allah would never allow any opportunity for the non-Muslims to claim that the Quran contradicts itself or the teachings of the Prophet (r), He only included in the Quran information and examples which could stand the test of time.” However, when one examines the true realities of the Quran in terms of its existence as a divine revelation, the entire matter is quickly brought into its proper perspective, and the error in such argumentation becomes clear and understandable.
It must be understood that the Quran is a divine revelation, and as such, all information in it is of divine origin. Allah revealed the Quran from Himself. It is the words of Allah, which existed before creation, and thus nothing can be added, subtracted or altered. In essence, the Quran existed and was complete before the creation of Prophet Muhammad (r), so it could not possibly contain any of the Prophet’s own words or advice. An inclusion of such information would clearly contradict the purpose for which the Quran exists, compromise its authority and render it inauthentic as a divine revelation.
Consequently, there was no “home remedies” in the Quran which one could claim to be outdated; nor does it contain any man’s view about what is beneficial to health, what food is best to eat, or what will cure this or that disease. In fact, the Quran only mentions one item dealing with medical treatment, and it is not in dispute by anyone. It states that in honey there is healing. And certainly, I do not think that there is anyone who will argue with that!
Prophet Muhammad (r) and the Quran
If one assumes that the Quran is the product of a man’s mind, then one would expect it to reflect some of what was going on in the mind of the man who “composed” it. In fact, certain encyclopedias and various books claim that the Quran was the product of hallucinations that Muhammad underwent. If these claims are true - if it indeed originated from some psychological problems in Muhammad’s mind - then evidence of this would be apparent in the Quran. Is there such evidence? In order to determine whether or not there is, one must first identify what things would have been going on in his mind at that time and then search for these thoughts and reflections in the Quran.
It is common knowledge that Muhammad (r) had a very difficult life. All of his daughters died before him except one, and he had a wife of several years who was very dear and important to him, who not only proceeded him in death but died at a very critical period of his life. As a matter of fact, she must have been quite a woman because when the first revelation came to him, he ran home to her, afraid. Certainly, even today one would have a hard time trying to find an Arab who would tell you, “I was so afraid that I ran home to my wife.” They just aren’t that way. Yet Muhammad (r) felt comfortable enough with his wife to be able to do that. That’s how influential and strong woman she was. Although these examples are only a few of the subjects that would have been on Muhammad’s mind, they are sufficient in intensity to prove my point.
The Quran does not mention any of these things - not the death of his children, not the death of his beloved companion and wife, not his fear of the initial revelations, which he so beautifully shared with his wife - nothing; yet these topics must have hurt him, bothered him, and caused him pain and grief during periods of his life. Indeed, if the Quran was a product of his psychological reflections, then these subjects, as well as others, would be prevalent or at least mentioned throughout.
Scientific Approach to the Quran
A truly scientific approach to the Quran is possible because the Quran offers something that is not offered by other religious scriptures, in particular, and other religions, in general. It is what scientists demand. Today there are many people who have ideas and theories about how the universe works. These people are all over the place, but the scientific community does not even bother to listen to them. This is because within the last century the scientific community has demanded a test of falsification. They say, “If you have theory, do not bother us with it unless you bring with that theory a way for us to prove whether you are wrong or not.”
Such a test was exactly why the scientific community listened to Einstein towards the beginning of the century. He came with a new theory and said, “I believe the universe works like this; and here are three ways to prove whether I am wrong!” So the scientific community subjected his theory to the tests, and within six years it passed all three. Of course, this does not prove that he was great, but it proves that he deserved to be listened to because he said, “This is my idea; and if you want to try to prove me wrong, do this or try that.”
This is exactly what the Quran has - falsification tests. Some are old (in that they have already been proven true), and some still exist today. Basically it states, “If this book is not what it claims to be, then all you have to do is this or this or this to prove that it is false.” Of course, in 1400 years no one has been able to do “This or this or this,” and thus it is still considered true and authentic.
I suggest to you that the next time you get into dispute with someone about Islam and he claims that he has the truth and that you are in darkness, you leave all other arguments at first and make this suggestion. Ask him, “Is there any falsification test in your religion? Is there anything in your religion that would prove you are wrong if I could prove to you that it exists - anything?” Well, I can promise right now that people will not have anything - no test, no proof, nothing! This is because they do not carry around the idea that they should not only present what they believe but should also offer others a chance to prove they’re wrong. However, Islam does that.
A perfect example of how Islam provides man with a chance to verify it authenticity and “prove it wrong” occurs in the 4th chapter. And quiet honestly, I was very surprised when I first discovered this challenge. It states (Surah An-Nisa, 4:82):
“Do they not consider the Quran? Had it been from any other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”
This is a clear challenge to the non-Muslim. Basically, it invites him to find a mistake. As a matter of fact, the seriousness and difficulty of the challenge aside, the actual presentation of such a challenge in the first place is not even in human nature and is inconsistent with man’s personality. One doesn’t take an exam in school and after finishing the exam, write a note to the instructor at the end saying, “This exam is perfect. There are no mistakes in it. Find one if you can!” One just doesn’t do that. The teacher would not sleep until he found a mistake! And yet this is the way the Quran approaches people.
Ask Those Who Have Knowledge
Another interesting attitude that exists in the Quran repeatedly deals with its advice to the reader. The Quran informs the reader about different facts and then gives the advice: “If you want to know more about this or that, or if you doubt what is said, then you should ask those who have knowledge.” This too is a surprising attitude. It is not usual to have a book that comes from someone without training in geography, botany, biology, etc., who discusses these subjects and then advises the reader to ask men of knowledge if he doubts anything. Yet in every age there have been Muslims who have followed the advice of the Quran and made surprising discoveries. If one looks to the works of Muslim scientists of many centuries ago, one will find them full of quotations from the Quran. These works state that they did research in such a place, looking for something. And they affirm that the reason they looked in such and such a place was that the Quran pointed them in that direction.
For example, the Quran mentions man’s origin and then tells the reader, “Research it!” It gives the reader a hint where to look and then states that one should find out more about it. This is the kind of thing that Muslims today largely seem to overlook - but not always, as illustrated in the following example.
A few years ago, a group of men in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia collected all of the verses in the Quran which discuss embryology - the growth of the human being in the womb. They said, “Here is what the Quran says. Is it the truth?” In essence, they took the advice of the Quran: “Ask the men who know.” They chose, as it happened, a non-Muslim who is a professor of embryology at the University of Toronto. His name is Keith Moore, and he is the author of textbooks on embryology - a world expert on the subject. They invited him to Riyadh and said, “This is what the Quran says about your subject. Is it true? What can you tell us?”
While he was in Riyadh, they gave him all the help that he needed in translation and all of the cooperation for which he asked. And he was so surprised at what he found that he changed his textbooks. In fact, in the second edition of one of his books, called Before We Are Born... in the section about the history of embryology, he included some material that was not in the first edition because of what he found in the Quran was ahead of its time and that those who believe in the Quran know what other people do not know.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Keith Moore for a television presentation, and we talked a great deal about this - it was illustrated by slides and so on. He mentioned that some of the things that the Quran states about the growth of the human being were not known until thirty years ago. In fact, he said that one item in particular - the Quran’s description of the human being as a “leech-like clot” (‘alaqah) [Ghafir 40:67] - was new to him; but when he checked on it, he found that it was true, and so he added it to his book. He said, “I never thought of that before,” and he went to the zoology department and asked for a picture of a leech. When he found that it looked just like the human embryo, he decided to include both pictures in one of his textbooks.
Although the aforementioned example of man researching information contained in the Quran deals with a non-Muslim, it is still valid because he is one of those who is knowledgeable in the subject being researched. Had some layman claimed that what the Quran says about embryology is true, then one would not necessarily have to accept his word. However, because of the high position, respect, and esteem man gives scholars, one naturally assumes that if they research a subject and arrive at a conclusion based on that research, then the conclusion is valid.
Dr. Moore also wrote a book on clinical embryology, and when he presented this information in Toronto, it caused quite a stir throughout Canada. It was on the front pages of some of the newspapers across Canada, and some of the headlines were quite funny. For instance, one headline read: “SURPRISING THING FOUND IN ANCIENT PRAYER BOOK!” It seems obvious from this example that people do not clearly understand what it is all about. As a matter of fact, one newspaper reporter asked Professor Moore, “Don’t you think that maybe the Arabs might have known about these things - the description of the embryo, its appearance and how it changes and grows? Maybe they were not scientists, maybe they did some crude dissections on their own - carved up people and examined these things.” The professor immediately pointed out to him that he [i.e., the reporter] had missed a very important point - all of the slides of the embryo that had been shown and that had been projected in the film had come from pictures taken through a microscope. He said, “It does not matter if someone had tried to discover embryology fourteen centuries ago. They could not have seen it!”
All of the descriptions in the Quran of the appearance of the embryo are of the item when it is still too small to see with the eye; therefore, one needs a microscope to see it. Since such a device had only been around for little more than two hundred years, Dr. Moore taunted, “Maybe fourteen centuries ago someone secretly had a microscope and did this research, making no mistakes anywhere. Then he somehow taught Muhammad (r) and convinced him to put this information in his book. Then he destroyed his equipment and kept it a secret forever. Do you believe that? You really should not unless you bring some proof because it is such a ridiculous theory.” In fact, when he was asked, “How do you explain this information in the Quran?” Dr. Moore’s reply was, “It could only have been divinely revealed!”
One of Professor Moore’s colleagues, Marshall Johnson, deals extensively with geology at the University of Toronto. He became very interested in the fact that the Quran’s statements about embryology are accurate, and so he asked Muslims to collect everything contained in the Quran which deals with his specialty. Again people were very surprised at the findings. Since there are a vast number subjects discussed in the Quran, it would certainly require a large amount of time to exhaust each subject. It suffices for the purpose of this discussion to state that the Quran makes very clear and concise statements about various subjects while simultaneously advising the reader to verify the authenticity of these statements with research by scholars in those subjects. And as illustrated by the previous examples of embryology and geology, the Quran has clearly emerged authentic.
You Did Not Know This Before!
Undoubtedly, there is an attitude in the Quran which is not found anywhere else. It is interesting how when the Quran provides information, it often tells the reader, “You did not know this before.” Indeed, there is no scripture that exists which makes that claim. All of the other ancient writings and scriptures that people have do give a lot of information, but they always state where the information came from.
For example, when the Bible discusses ancient history, it states that this king lived here, this one fought in a certain battle, another one had so may sons, etc. Yet it always stipulates that if you want more information, then you should read the book of so and so because that is where the information came from. In contrast to this concept, the Quran provides the reader with information and states that this information is something new. Of course, there always exists the advice to research the information provided and verify its authenticity. It is interesting that such a concept was never challenged by non-Muslims fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, the Makkans who hated the Muslims, and time and time again they heard such revelations claiming to bring new information; yet, they never spoke up and said, “This is not new. We know where Muhammad got this information. We learned this at school.” They could never challenge its authenticity because it really was new!
Proof of Authenticity: An Approach
It must be stressed here that the Quran is accurate about many, many things, but accuracy does not necessarily mean that a book is a divine revelation. In fact, accuracy is only one of the criteria for divine revelations. For instance, the telephone book is accurate, but that does not mean that it is divinely revealed. The real problem lies in that one must establish some proof of the source the Quran’s information. The emphasis is in the other direction, in that the burden of proof is on the reader. One cannot simply deny the Quran’s authenticity without sufficient proof. If, indeed, one finds a mistake, then he has the right to disqualify it. This is exactly what the Quran encourages.
Once a man came up to me after a lecture I delivered in South Africa. He was very angry about what I had said, and so he claimed, “I am going to go home tonight and find a mistake in the Quran.” Of course, I said, “Congratulations. That is the most intelligent thing that you have said.” Certainly, this is the approach Muslims need to take with those who doubt the Quran’s authenticity, because the Quran itself offers the same challenge. And inevitably, after accepting it’s challenge and discovering that it is true, these people will come to believe it because they could not disqualify it. In essence, the Quran earns their respect because they themselves have had to verify its authenticity.
An essential fact that cannot be reiterated enough concerning the authenticity of the Quran is that one’s inability to explain a phenomenon himself does not require his acceptance of the phenomenon’s existence or another person’s explanation of it. Specifically, just because one cannot explain something does not mean that one has to accept someone else’s explanation. However, the person’s refusal of other explanations reverts the burden of proof back on himself to find a feasible answer. This general theory applies to numerous concepts in life, but fits most wonderfully with the Quranic challenge, for it creates a difficulty for one who says, “I do not believe it.” At the onset of refusal one immediately has an obligation to find an explanation himself if he feels others’ answers are inadequate.
In fact, in one particular Quranic verse which I have always seen mistranslated into English, Allah mentions a man who heard the truth explained to him. It states that he was derelict in his duty because after he heard the information, he left without checking the verity of what he had heard. In other words, one is guilty if he hears something and does not research it and check to see whether it is true. One is supposed to process all information and decide what is garbage to be thrown out and what is worthwhile information to be kept and benefited from immediately or even at a later date.
One cannot just let it rattle around in his head. It must be put in the proper categories and approached from that point of view. For example, if the information is still speculatory, then one must discern whether it’s closer to being true or false. But if all the facts have been presented, then one must decide absolutely between these two options. And even if one is not positive about the authenticity of the information, he is still required to process all the information and make the admission that he just does not know for sure. Although this last point appears to be futile, in actuality, it is beneficial to the arrival at a positive conclusion at a later time in that it forces the person to at least recognize research and review the facts.
This familiarity with the information will give the person “the edge” when future discoveries are made and additional information is presented. The important thing is that one deals with the facts and does not simply discard them out of empathy and disinterest.
Exhausting the Alternatives
The real certainty about the truthfulness of the Quran is evident in the confidence which is prevalent throughout it; and this confidence comes from a different approach - “Exhausting the alternatives.” In essence, the Quran states, “This book is a divine revelation; if you do not believe that, then what is it?” In other words, the reader is challenged to come up with some other explanation. Here is a book made of paper and ink. Where did it come from? It says it is a divine revelation; if it is not, then what is its source? The interesting fact is that no one has yet come up with an explanation that works. In fact, all alternatives have bee exhausted. As has been well established by non-Muslims, these alternatives basically are reduced to two mutually exclusive schools of thought, insisting on one or the other.
On one hand, there exists a large group of people who have researched the Quran for hundreds of years and who claim, “One thing we know for sure - that man, Muhammad (r), thought he was a prophet. He was crazy!” They are convinced that Muhammad (r) was fooled somehow. Then on the other hand, there is a group which alleges, “Because of this evidence, one thing we know for sure is that that man, Muhammad (r) was a liar!” Ironically, these two groups never seem to get together without contradicting.
In fact, many references to Islam usually claim both theories. They start out by stating that Muhammad (r) was crazy and then end by saying he was a liar. They never seem to realize that he could not have been both! For example, if one is deluded and really thinks that he is a prophet, then he does not sit up late at night planning, “How will I fool the people tomorrow so that they think I am a prophet?” He truly believes that he is a prophet, and he trusts that the answer will be given to him by revelation.
The Critic’s Trail
As a matter of fact, a great deal of the Quran came in answer to questions. Someone would ask Muhammad (r) a question, and the revelation would come with the answer to it. Certainly, if one is crazy and believes that an angel put words in his ear, then when someone asks him a question, he thinks that the angel will give him the answer. Because he is crazy, he really thinks that. He does not tell someone to wait a short while and then run to his friends and ask them, “Does anyone know the answer?” This type of behavior is characteristic of one who does not believe that he is a prophet. What the non-Muslims refuse to accept is that you cannot have it both ways. One can be deluded, or he can be a liar. He can br either one or neither one, but he certainly cannot be both! The emphasis is on the fact that they are unquestionably mutually exclusive personality traits.
The following scenario is a good example of the kind of circle that non-Muslims go around in constantly. If you ask one of them, “What is the origin of the Quran?” He tells you that it originated from the mind of a man who was crazy. Then you ask him, “If it came from his head, then where did he get the information contained in it? Certainly the Quran mentions many things with which the Arabs were not familiar.” So in order to explain the fact which you bring him, he changes his position and says, “Well, maybe he was not crazy. Maybe some foreigner brought him the information. So he lied and told people that he was a prophet.” At this point then you have to ask him, “If Muhammad was a liar, then where did he get his confidence? Why did he behave as though he really thought he was a prophet?” Finally backed into a corner, like a cat he quickly lashes out with the first response that comes to his mind. Forgetting that he has already exhausted that possibility, he claims, “Well, maybe he wasn’t a liar. He was probably crazy and really thought that he was a prophet.” And thus he begins the futile cycle again.
As has already been mentioned, there is much information contained in the Quran whose source cannot be attributed to anyone other than Allah. For example, who told Muhammad (r) about the wall of Dhul-Qarnayn - a place hundreds of miles to the north? Who told him about embryology? When people assemble facts such as these, if they are not willing to attribute their existence to a divine source, they automatically resort to the assumption someone brought Muhammad (r) the information and that he used it to fool the people.
However, this theory can easily be disproved with one simple question: “If Muhammad (r) was a liar, where did he get his confidence? Why did he tell some people out right to their face what others could never say?” Such confidence depends completely upon being convinced that one has a true divine revelation.
A Revelation - Abu Lahab
Prophet Muhammad (r) had an uncle by the name of Abu Lahab. This man hated Islam to such an extent that he used to follow the Prophet around in order to discredit him. If Abu Lahab saw the Prophet (r) speaking to a stranger, he would wait until they parted and the would go to the stranger and ask him, “What did he tell you? Did he say, ‘Black’? Well, it’s white. Did he say ‘morning’? Well, it’s night.” He faithfully said the exact opposite of whatever he heard Muhammad (r) and the Muslims say. However, about ten years before Abu Lahab died, a little chapter in the Quran (Surah al-Lahab, 111) was revealed about him. It distinctly stated that he would go to the fire (i.e., Hell). In other words, it affirmed that he would never become a Muslim and would therefore be condemned forever. For ten years all Abu Lahab had to do was say, “I heard that it has been revealed to Muhammad that I will never change - that I will never become a Muslim and will enter the Hellfire. Well, I want to become Muslim now. How do you like that? What do you think of your divine revelation now?” But he never did that. And yet, that is exactly the kind of behavior one would have expected from him since he always sought to contradict Islam.
In essence, Muhammad (r) said, “You hate me and you want to finish me? Here, say these words, and I am finished. Come on, say them!” But Abu Lahab never said them. Ten years! And in all that time he never accepted Islam or even became sympathetic to the Islamic cause.
How could Muhammad (r) possibly have known for sure that Abu Lahab would fulfil the Quranic revelation if he (i.e., Muhammad) was not truly the messenger of Allah? How could he possibly have been so confident as to give someone 10 years to discredit his claim of prophethood? The only answer is that he was Allah’s messenger; for in order to put forth such a risky challenge, one has to be entirely convinced that he has a divine revelation.
Another example of the confidence which Muhammad (r) had in his own prophethood and consequently in the divine protection of himself and his message is when he left Makkah and hid in a cave with Abu Bakr (t) during their emigration to Madinah. The two clearly saw people coming to kill them, and Abu Bakr was afraid. Certainly, if Muhammad (r) was a liar, a forger and one who was trying to fool the people into believing that he was a prophet, one would have expected him to say in such a circumstance to his friend, “Hey, Abu Bakr, see if you can find a back way out of this cave.” Or “Squat down in that corner over there and keep quiet.” Yet, in fact, what he said to Abu Bakr clearly illustrated his confidence. He told him, “Relax! Allah is with us, and Allah will save us!” Now, if one knows that he is fooling the people, where does one get this kind of attitude? In fact, such a frame of mind is not characteristic of a liar or a forger at all.
So, as has been previously mentioned, the non-Muslims go around and around in a circle, searching for a way out - some way to explain the findings in the Quran without attributing them to their proper source. On one hand, they tell you on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, “The man was a liar,” and on the other hand, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday they tell you, “He was crazy.” What they refuse to accept is that one cannot have it both ways; yet they need both theories, both excuses to explain the information in the Quran.