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The Relationship between the Qur’an and Modern Science

Modern scientific theory today finds itself quite close to the Qur’an. There are at least two reasons behind this observation. The first is the lack of inconsistencies between the Qur’an and observable natural phenomena. Science has not been able to produce theories or experiments that fundamentally contradict the Qur’an. Had our science done so, either our understanding of the Qur’an or of the world would have been to blame: the Qur’an itself is true for all times. The second reason for the remarkable harmony between the Qur’an and science is the presence in the Qur’an itself of very clear and positive encouragement to contemplate and investigate the world around us. As the verses quoted above indicate, Allah has not forbidden man to question, and in fact, it seems He wants us to do so.
However, the Qur’an goes beyond simply encouraging all human beings to be aware of the natural world. It also contains widely dispersed references on a variety of subjects which are not only scientifically accurate, but in some cases, quite advanced relative to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H&H.P). For the Muslim who reads and understands these references, they serve to strengthen his or her faith of course. For the non-Muslim who questions the authenticity or authorship of the Qur’an, these references provide some interesting answers. One possible reason for these Qur’anic verses which describe the natural world can be found in the following verse:
[41:53] soon will we show them Our Signs in the (farthest) horizons, and within themselves, until it becomes manifest to them that it is the Truth…
The historical event which this verse alludes to is the conquest of Makkah. However, almost every verse in the Qur’an carries a historical and a universal meaning, and therefore one possible interpretation of this verse is that it refers to the gradual discovery of greater and greater natural “evidence” of the Creator’s involvement in our world. Two of the most important and most fascinating goals of modern science are to peer farther and farther out to the edge of the universe, and to look deeper and deeper into the structure of the human body. It is in these two areas that we find the “signature” of Allah’s creative power at its strongest.

“The Qur’an, Knowledge, & Science”
The Description of Knowledge in the Qur’an and by the Prophet (P.B.U.H&H.P)

There are plenty of references to knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge in the Qur’an. The general feeling they leave the reader with is that the possessor of knowledge or wisdom has been given a very powerful gift, and that the pursuit of knowledge is something which should be done actively by everyone. Here are a few verses on the subject:
[96:1-5] Read! In the name of your Lord who created – Created the human from something which clings. Read! And your Lord is Most Bountiful – He who taught (the use of) the Pen, Taught the human that which he knew not.
These five verses make up the first passage revealed from the Qur’an to mankind through the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H&H.P). It is interesting that of all the things which Allah chose to begin His revelation with is related to the actions of reading and writing, especially the latter. The ability to write and store information is described by Professor Carl Sagan in his book COSMOS: “Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic.” [Davies, Paul. The Cosmic Blueprint. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1988] [2:269] He [Allah] grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and he to whom wisdom is granted indeed receives a benefit overflowing. But none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.
[20:114] High above all is Allah, the King, and the Truth. Do not be in haste with the Qur’an before its revelation to you is completed, but say, “O my Sustainer! Increase my knowledge.”
[3:190-191] Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day – there are indeed signs for men of understanding; Men who remember Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the creation of the heavens and the earth (with the thought) “Our Lord! Not for nothing have you created (all) this. Glory to You! Give us salvation from the suffering of the Fire.”
These verses are a clear demonstration that ‘science’ and ‘religion’ were NOT meant to be fundamentally incompatible with each other by Allah. In fact, verses [3:190-191] strongly imply that “contemplating” the world around us is an integral part of faith.
[29:20] Say: Travel through the earth and see how Allah originated creation; so will Allah produce the second creation (of the Afterlife): for Allah has power over all things.

There are also references in the Qur’an describing the value (in the sight of Allah) of a knowledgeable person as opposed to an ignorant person. They are not equal:
[39:9] …Say: Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endued with understanding that remember (Allah’s Message).
[58:11] …Allah will raise up to (suitable) ranks (and degrees) those of you who believe and who have been granted knowledge.
The first source of Islam is the Qur’an – and we have seen some verses above on the subject of knowledge. The second source is the life of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H&H.P).

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