Meteors: Establish the truth of the Holy Quran

Hoba meteorite – the largest meteorite ever found

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times


CNN reported last week that in February of 2013 a meteor will pass within 14,000 miles of the earth.

They contrasted it with the distance of the moon from the earth, which is 238,900 miles.

They reassured that the inhabitants of the earth have nothing to fear from this encounter.  I hope they are right, but worrying minds or at least some in NASA or satellite industry may have a few sleepless nights.

Even if this does not raise any concerns of physical survival, it should raise questions of our spiritual salvation.  Why are we here? How do we handle our eventual mortality?  What do the scriptures say about these issues? What do the scriptures, more specifically the Bible and the Quran, say about our universe?  Do these holy books talk about meteorites?

The mention of meteors is ubiquitous in the present day Western society. A week does not pass when we do not hear in a scientific documentary that the dinosaurs became extinct by a meteor strike some 60 million years ago. But, such familiarity with the meteors was not always the case.

The Holy Quran mentions meteorites not once or twice, but more than a dozen times, by an expression, ‘that is between the heaven and the earth.’  Here is one example:

And We (Allah) created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between the two in play. If We had wished to find a pastime, We would surely have found it in what is with Us if at all We were to do such a thing. (Al Quran 21:17-18)

By mentioning meteorites in this way the Holy Quran demonstrates to the present day reader that it is not a word of a person, living in the deserts of Arabia, in the seventh century.

The above quoted verses show that in the creation of the universe there is a purpose and a detailed plan. The terms mentioned in these verses and in several other verses of the Holy Quran, ‘all that is between the two’ may imply meteors, comets and the interstellar gas. The Holy Quran is the only scripture, to my knowledge, which mentions ‘all that is between the two’ and no other scripture mentions this with any degree of precision.

The universe is the creation of God and the Quran is the literal word of God and hence there is harmony and equivalence between the two.

This article was originally published in USA Ahmadiyya Gazette.


Crater Lake in Oregon, USA


And We (Allah) created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between the two in play.  If We had wished to find a pastime, We would surely have found it in what is with Us if at all We were to do such a thing.  (Al Quran 21:17-18)

The earth orbits around the sun in a three dimensional shooting gallery and the surface of the moon is studded with numerous depressions that are the residue of the meteoric hits over the millennia.

The above quoted verses show that in the creation of the universe there is a purpose and a detailed plan.  The terms mentioned in these verses and in several other verses of the Holy Quran, ‘all that is between the two’ may imply meteors, comets and the interstellar gas.  The Holy Quran is the only scripture that mentions ‘all that is between the two’ and no other scripture mentions this.[1]  Other scriptures did not contain such detailed description of the universe as they were for a time that was before the scientific revolution.


We have not created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them but with an enduring purpose, and for an appointed term; but those who disbelieve turn away from that of which they have been warned.  (Al Quran 46:4)

In this verse the Holy Quran not only claims that there is a purpose in the creation of the earth and heavens (the celestial bodies) but also in what lies between them.  In addition to stars, the Galaxy contains interstellar gas and dust. Some of the gas is very cold, but some forms hot clouds, the gaseous nebulae, the chemical composition of which can be studied in some detail. The chemical composition of the gas seems to resemble that of young stars. This is in agreement with the theory that young stars are formed from the interstellar gas.

Paul Davies states, “Historically, the first hint that there may be molecules in space dates from the early 1920s, when an astronomer named H. L. Heger discovered some odd features, called ‘diffuse interstellar bands,’ in the spectra of stars. They were eventually put down to absorption by unknown molecules lying in space along the light path, but the idea didn’t catch on. Decades later, following the unexpected discovery of interstellar ammonia and water, the list of known molecules in space began to grow rapidly. Today, over one hundred chemicals have been identified, mostly using radio and infrared telescopes.”[2]

Many of the interstellar molecules are organic. Commonest is carbon monoxide, but acetylene, formaldehyde, and alcohol are also plentiful. More complex organics have also been detected. It is now clear that not only are the basic life encouraging elements abundant throughout the universe, so are many of the organic molecules actually used by life. With billions of years available for cosmic chemistry to generate these substances, there has been plenty of time for them to build up in the giant molecular clouds from which stars and planetary systems emerge.  Talking about the role of these clouds in the beginning of life on our planet, Paul Davies, an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, currently a professor at Arizona State University, writes in the Fifth Miracle:

Astronomers who study the chemistry of interstellar gas clouds are convinced that dust particles play an important role. Chemicals attach to their solid surfaces and react in complicated ways. It isn’t hard to spot dust in space. Glance at the night sky near the constellation of Cygnus and you will notice great black blotches in the Milky Way. These dark areas are created by large clouds of dust that block out the starlight from beyond. The culprits are very tiny grains-typically a thousandth of a millimeter across, but extending down to molecular size. Their composition is the product of many physical and chemical influences-ultraviolet radiation, stellar winds, shock waves, cosmic radiation. They include silicates, ices, and carbonaceous material such as graphite, as well as many organics. Interstellar clouds can be many light-years across, so the total mass of dust in them is enormous; tiny they may be, but interstellar grains could be the unwitting chemists that spawned life.[3]

The Holy Quran not only subtly mentioned the interstellar gases but also suggested that they along with the stars and the earth have an enduring purpose.  In the verse 46:4, by also mentioning, “and for an appointed term,” the All Knowing God has also hinted at the eventual destruction of all these.  This should direct our attention to our limited time span on the planet and our eventual accountability.


The mention of meteors is ubiquitous in the present day Western society.  A week does not pass when we do not hear in a scientific documentary that the dinosaurs became extinct by a meteor strike some 60 million years ago.  But, such familiarity with the meteors was not always the case.

The fact that these are implied in a scripture from the seventh century not once but several times, this circumstance alone is sufficient to give the scripture an urgent claim on our attention!   Unlike the Holy Quran, when we read Genesis in Bible it gives one an impression that it is written by someone who does not have the inside scoop, on the creation and working of the universe.  The contrary is true for the Holy Quran.  This limitation of the picture painted by the Genesis has been the root cause of the conflict between Church and science for the last five centuries.  The list of scientist at odds with Genesis is endless.  First there was Kepler then Galileo followed by James Hutton, Charles Lyell and Darwin.  The list is endless! We do not find any such conflict between the Holy Quran and science.  In contrast, to the popular Christian experience of conflict between science and religion, the Holy Quran creates an epiphany moment for the Muslims by mentioning what is in between earth and the heavenly bodies no less than ten times.  The term used is ‘whatsoever is between earth and heaven’ and it could imply meteors, meteor showers, comets and interstellar masses.  This is indeed so much in resonance with what we know about our universe now, compared to the Aristotelian view prevalent prior to Kepler.

The knowledge available at the time of the Prophet Muhammadsaw would have been what Aristotle had to say about the universe.  Aristotle believed in an earth centered universe and believed that it was eternal.  Even after the intellectual revolutions of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, Aristotelian concepts remained embedded in Western thinking.  Encyclopedia Britannica has the following to say about the Christendom’s views about the universe, as borrowed from Aristotle:

Aristotle’s vision of the cosmos also owes much to Plato’s dialogue Timaeus. As in that work, the Earth is at the centre of the universe, and around it the Moon, the Sun, and the other planets revolve in a succession of concentric crystalline spheres. The heavenly bodies are not compounds of the four terrestrial elements but are made up of a superior fifth element, or “quintessence.” In addition, the heavenly bodies have souls, or supernatural intellects, which guide them in their travels through the cosmos.[4]

The space in Aristotle’s vision is empty and devoid of anything.  This was later considered to be filled with ether until we knew better.


Christian Aristotelian cosmos: The earth-centered universe

The Holy Quran appears to be way ahead of Aristotle not on one but several counts, just in the field of cosmology.  For details see the books Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth and the Bible, the Quran and science.[5][6]


In this day and age one does not have to be an astronomer to experience the presence of meteors.  Some two hundred kilometers west of the town of Port Augusta in South Australia, lies a large dried-up lake. Approximately circular in shape, Lake Acraman stretches thirty kilometers from side to side. Though it resembles many other salt basins in that part of Australia, Acraman is no ordinary lake bed. About 580 million years ago, a giant meteor plunged from the sky and blasted an enormous hole in what is now the Eyre Peninsula. The original measured at least ninety kilometers across and several kilometers deep. Today’s Lake Acraman is all that remains of this monstrous scar, a mute witness to an ancient cataclysm of impressive proportions.

In the words of Paul Davies, quoting from his book, the Fifth Miracle:

The collision that created Lake Acraman was by no means an isolated event.  … It turns out, though, that cosmic impacts have not just altered the path of evolution; they also played a crucial role in the origin of life. Until recently, scientists appealed mainly to chemistry and geology in their attempts to explain biogenesis. Earth was treated as an isolated system. But over the last decade the crucial importance of the astronomical dimension of life has sunk in. To understand how life began, it seems we must look to the stars for answers.[7]

Those who cannot travel to Australia to see Lake Acraman could see a more recent addition to the North American continent in Arizona not too far from the Grand Canyon, named Meteor Crater or Barringer Crater.  The meteors and comets also had an important role in bringing water to the planet earth so that it could bear life.


The Barringer Crater

It now seems likely that massive collisions have caused several major annihilation events over geological time. The most famous mass extinction occurred sixty-five million years ago (relatively recently in geological terms), when the dinosaurs suddenly died out, along with a large number of other species. Evi­dence that a huge cosmic impact was responsible comes from the discovery of a worldwide layer of the rare element iridium, deposited in clay strata laid down at that time. This iridium was almost cer­tainly delivered by the impactor. Dramatic confirmation of the the­ory came in 1990, with the discovery of a gigantic crater of the right age buried under limestone in Mexico. It measures at least 180 kilo­meters across, and was probably made by an object about 20 kilome­ters in diameter.

In the words of Paul Davies, “The origin of life on Earth-and perhaps other plan­ets too-may well have depended on their volatile-rich material; the death of the dinosaurs served to clear the way for the ascent of mammals and, eventually, mankind. It seems we owe our very exis­tence to a chance astronomical catastrophe. Whether mankind will ­someday go the way of the dinosaurs remains to be seen.”[8]

Carl Sagan describes the introduction of life on the planet and possibly its extinction in one line, “Comets gave it and comets taketh it away.”  The Holy Quran would use the term ‘all that is between the two,’ to describe comets.  It says:

We (Allah) have created the heavens and the earth and all that is between the two in accordance with the requirements of truth and wisdom, and the appointed hour is sure to come; so forbear generously.  Indeed, thy Lord is the Great Creator, the All Knowing.  (Al Quran 15:86-87)


[1] Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad during the Tarjmatul Quran class in Urdu about these verses.  The audio is available on

[2] Paul Davies.  The Fifth Miracle.  A touchstone book published by Simon and Schuster, 2000.  Page 147.

[3] Paul Davies.  The Fifth Miracle.  A touchstone book published by Simon and Schuster, 2000.  Page 148.

[4] “Aristotle.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 24 Nov. 2008 <>.



[7] Paul Davies.  The Fifth Miracle.  A touchstone book published by Simon and Schuster, 2000.  Page 144.

[8] Paul Davies.  The Fifth Miracle.  A touchstone book published by Simon and Schuster, 2000.  Page 158.

8 replies

  1. As Salaamu Alaikum,

    I believe that it is a mistake to take the Quran and try to read modern scientific interpretations into it. The verse mentioned here is sufficiently vague that it supports both modern and classical interpretations. Indeed classical commentators simply read their own interpretations of the universe into the ayah. The point of this ayah is not to “prove” this or that scientific fact, but to stress the purposefulness of creation. Under the Aristotelian system, the universe was thought of as consisting of concentric spheres. The four elements, earth, air, fire, and water, were thought of as naturally tending towards their particular spheres. The earthly sphere was at the center of the universe. This was covered by the water sphere, which was in turn covered by the sphere of air and this by the sphere of fire. Above these four spheres which corresponded to the four elements was the celestial sphere, which contained heavenly bodies, such as the stars. In this conception, the Earth is at the center of the universe, and above it is the celestial sphere. Between these are the water, air and fire spheres. In the context of the ayah, the heavens and the Earth would correspond to the Earthly and celestial spheres. All that is in between would correspond to the water, air, and fire spheres. Contrary to what is stated in the article, this ayah would have been perfectly understandable to an Aristotelian thinker. Indeed, Aristotle’s ideas were widely held in the Muslim world, and then transferred from there to Europe, until Copernicus overturned them by stating that the planets were made out of the same kinds of materials as the Earth. What is interesting about the ayah is not so much that it can be thought of as conforming to modern views, but that it is adaptable to more than one cosmology, but still points to the greatness of Allah in each case.


  2. Jazakallah for sharing your ideas.

    The modern science may be new to humans but to All Knowing God it is old news. So, when God talks, all truths, including past, present and future are the context of His speech.

    Humans cannot but help living in the contemporary world and understanding the word of Omniscient God in the current state of their mind and present state of human knowledge.

    There is certainly a possibility that science may evolve, but, a lot of it is likely to be static. The literal word of God, which has been historically preserved, when properly understood, is always in harmony with act of God, or science, when it is properly discovered!

  3. This and my above comment are in reply to the objection raised by Khadija above.

    Science is only a human tradition, even though very effective. Sometimes agnostics and atheists like to elevate it to the level of God, which is simply silly. The celebrated genius, Albert Einstein once said, “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”

    All religions are also human traditions. It is in relating different traditions with each other that we can prove or appreciate truth.

    Here let me link another of my posts to further elaborate my point. It is titled: Saint Augustine did build a bridge from Christian tradition to Islam!

  4. It is a matter of belief. We Muslims believe that:

    Quran is the word of God. Science is the work of God. There cannot be any difference between the word of God and the work of God. God would not do against whatever He says.

    In Urdu, I will put it as follows:

    Quran Khuda kaa kalaam hay. Science Khuda kaa kaam hay. Khuda kay kaam aur uskay kalaam main faraq nahin ho sakta.

    Science is trying to discover new things daily. Men have formulated laws of nature. Those laws had been in existence since time immemorial. Mankind had not known them. Those are being discovered. So unknown (Ghaib) things are being known now. The unknown is being translated into the realm of known things (i.e. Ghaib is turning into haazar everyday.)

    The Quran has mentioned many other excellent scientific things, such as, it says “We created every living thing from water.” It says “We created everything in pairs.” Also says that Sun has inherent light and calls that light as “Dhia”. The other form of light, it calls that as “Noor”, meaning granted light which is not inherent. That light is gentle cold light, in transit, spreading everywhere. That light illuminates other objects. The Quran says that “Moon is illuminated” meaning that is has not got inherent light. It is illuminated by light coming from elsewhere.”

    In the end, I may mention something about Kalaam and kalimah. That will help to understand many verses of the Quran.
    kalaam is not any idle talk. it is a meaningful speech. Quran is kalaam Allah. It is a meaningful speech from Allah. Even though it is written in the form of a book and it is called a “Kitaab=book”, it in the form of speech. The style is that of a speech.

    Kalimah means a meaningful word or sentence, Such as, “There is no God except Allah (and) Muhammad is a messenger of Allah.”
    Kalimah or kalaam are not meaningless words or meaningless speech. Others types of words, we may call idle or common talk.
    Doctor Zia sahib has very well given some indication for the readers to turn to Quran to learn something about Cosmos from the meaningful words of the Creator of the Universe.
    Such catastrophic events as striking large meteors have occurred in the past and may happen anytime again. We should not be heedless of the signs of God, the Creator.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s