Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad writes in his book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth:
The Quran manifestly acknowledges the role of rationality for the attainment of truth without drawing any separating line between religious or secular truths. Truth is the religion of Islam, Islam is the religion of Truth. The truth requires no compulsion for the transmission of its message, the only instrument it needs is rationality. As such, Islam invokes human intellect to investigate the truth of the Quranic teachings with reference to the study of human nature, history and rationality. It arouses the human faculties of reasoning and deduction, not only for the pursuit of religious investigation, but also for the attainment of secular knowledge. Impressed by this outstanding emphasis by the Quran on the quest for knowledge, Professor Dr. Abdus Salam*, the renowned Nobel Laureate was invoked to study the impact of this enlightening attitude on the Muslim thought of the early period. In one of his articles on this subject, he observes: ‘According to Dr. Mohammed Aijazul Khatib of Damascus University, nothing could emphasize the importance of sciences more than the remark that ‘in contrast to 250 verses which are legislative, some 750 verses of the Holy Quran—almost one-eighth of it—exhort the believers to study Nature—to reflect, to make the best use of reason and to make the scientific enterprise an integral part of the community’s life’. The Holy Prophet of Islam—peace be upon him—said that it was the ‘bounden duty of every Muslim—man and woman—to acquire knowledge.'
So, the original credit of this observation about 750 verses of the Quran belongs to Dr. Mohammed Aijazul Khatib of Damascus University and Dr. Abdus Salam is only quoting him.
In this article I want to catalog all the verses of the Holy Quran that talk about the study of nature and inspire the mankind especially the believers to study the different phenomena of nature and to draw scientific, moral and even spiritual inferences from those. In other words talk about nature to inspire or draw metaphors from nature to teach different moral and spiritual lessons. I will also include any verses that have relevance to the study of archaeology. This article will also include all those verses that have any relevance to Deism.
What is Deism?
Deism (/ˈdiː.ɪzəm/ or /ˈdeɪ.ɪzəm/), derived from the Latin word “deus” meaning “god“, is a theological/philosophical position that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe.
The Quran agrees that our world and universe points to a Creator. The Quran of course stresses the revelation from All-Knowing God to his prophets, which is a detail, invariably denied by strict believers of Deism, despite their belief in an All Powerful, Creator God.
When European and American Deists denied revelation, they were denying the Bible with no or very little knowledge of the Quran.
Deism gained prominence among intellectuals during the Age of Enlightenment—especially in Britain, France, Germany and the United States—who, raised as Christians, believed in one God but became disenchanted with organized religion and notions such as the Trinity, Biblical inerrancy and the supernatural interpretation of events such as miracles. Included in those influenced by its ideas were leaders of the American and French Revolutions.
In this post, I will first create a narrative for the reader by quoting a score or two of the verses to build a story. After that I will create a catalog.
I will pursue this catalog under different Suras or chapters of the Holy Quran. There are 114 chapters of varying length; with a tendency of shorter chapters towards the end of the scripture.
There are two ways of counting the verses of each Sura. First system counts the very first verse of the Holy Quran, in every Sura, “In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.” The second system takes this common first verse for granted and ignores it in counting. In this article I will pursue the former system.
The crown verse of the Holy Quran describes an All Powerful God, to whom every thing that is in the earth or the heavens belongs:
Allah — there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the High, the Great. (Al Quran 2:256)
The very next verse gives the believers a lesson in religious freedom for everyone, leaving the jurisdiction of Judgement to the All Knowing and All Powerful God:
There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Al Quran 2:257)
Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthal, the first British Muslim, writes about these two verses:
The two verses are supplementary. Where there is that realization of the majesty and dominion of Allah, there is no compulsion in religion. Men choose their path–allegiance or opposition–and it is sufficient punishment for those who oppose that they draw further and further away from the light of truth.
In Sura Hashr, Allah claims in several ways that He is the Creator and the Fashioner of our universe and that He is All Knowing and describes many of the other attributes of the Transcendent God, of the Abrahamic faiths, who is beyond time, space and matter:
He is Allah, and there is no God besides Him, the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Gracious, the Merciful. He is Allah, and there is no God besides Him, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah far above that which they associate with Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al Quran 59:23-25)
Allah uses the commonly observed phenomenon of gravity, but, rather not fully understood, even after Newton and Einstein, as a metaphor to teach a spiritual lesson about accountability and hereafter, as He argues from the tangible to intangible and from physical to spiritual. Allah says:
Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord. (Al Quran 13:3)
The Holy Quran not only inspires us to study what we now call physics but also astronomy, biology, linguistics, meteorology, to name some of the branches of study of nature:
And to Him belongs all praise in the heavens and the earth — and glorify Him in the afternoon and when you enter upon the time of the decline of the sun. He brings forth the living from the dead, and He brings forth the dead from the living; and He gives life to the earth after its death. And in like manner shall you be brought forth. And one of His Signs is this, that He created you from dust; then, behold, you are men who move about on the face of the earth. And one of His Signs is this, that He has created wives for you from among yourselves that you may find peace of mind in them, and He has put love and tenderness between you. In that surely are Signs for a people who reflect. And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours. In that surely are Signs for those who possess knowledge. And among His Signs is your sleep by night and day, and your seeking of His bounty. In that surely are Signs for a people who hear. And one of His Signs is this, that He shows you the lightning as a source of fear and hope, and He sends down water from the sky, and quickens therewith the earth after its death. In that surely are Signs for a people who understand. (Al Quran 30:19-25)
The Holy Quran inspires the believers in no uncertain terms to study nature and says that the wisest among them not only study nature but draw broader moral and spiritual inferences from their study:
In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding; those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain; nay, Holy art Thou; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire. “Our Lord, whomsoever Thou causest to enter the Fire, him hast Thou surely disgraced. And the wrongdoers shall have no helpers.” (Al Quran 3:191-193)
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of night and day, and in the ships which sail in the sea with that which profits men, and in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and quickens therewith the earth after its death and scatters therein all kinds of beasts, and in the change of the winds, and the clouds pressed into service between the heaven and the earth — are indeed Signs for the people who understand. (Al Quran 2:165)
In case a casual reader misses the point of the above few verses, due to the subtlety of the language, Allah links all his creations as the main reason for man’s gratitude and submission in a very powerful manner:
We have created you. Why, then, do you not accept the truth? What think ye of the sperm-drop that you emit? Is it you who have created it or are We the Creator? We have ordained death for all of you; and We cannot be prevented From bringing in your place others like you, and from developing you into a form which at present you know not. And you have certainly known the first creation. Why, then, do you not reflect? Do you see what you sow? Is it you who grow it or are We the Grower? If We so pleased, We could reduce it all to broken pieces, then you would keep lamenting: ‘We are ruined! ‘Nay, we are deprived of everything.’ Do you see the water which you drink? Is it you who send it down from the clouds, or are We the Sender? If We so pleased, We could make it bitter. Why, then, are you not grateful? Do you see the fire which you kindle? Is it you who produce the tree for it, or are We the Producer? We have made it a reminder and a benefit for the wayfarers. So glorify the name of thy Lord, the Great. (Al Quran 56:58-75)
There are two main arguments about the hereafter or second creation in the Holy Quran. First is the argument from authority that every prophet of God is teaching the same concept of accountability and the second is that the first creation of God or our present universe serves as an argument for the second creation. This argument is repeated in the Holy Quran at least a dozen times with different metaphors, styles and emphasis and is examined by me in a separate article and the comment section of that post: Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story!’
The total number of verses in the Holy Quran are 6348, if we count the first verse of every Sura, which is common in 113 out of the 114 Suras. This common first verse is: “In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.” I did this counting by making a precise spread sheet in the program Excel, made by Microsoft and used the individual Sura’s count from the English translation by Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan.
Let us see how many verses I can catalog here under the criteria of direct or indirect relevance to nature and its study.
Reading all these verses together in one place certainly gives one much better and holistic understanding of Religion and Science from the Islamic perspective. It certainly did that for me. Incidentally, the Muslim Times has the most extensive and the best collection of articles on the theme of Religion and Science.
Now I present a list of all the verses organized by the Suras, in their numerical order. You could, however, choose to start reading from Sura Rehman or chapter number 55, which tabulates and catalogs different creations and blessings of the Gracious God and keeps asking us the rhetorical question, “Which, then, of the favors of your Lord will you twain deny?” (Al Quran 55:14)
The translation quoted here is from English translation by Maulvi Sher Ali (ra), with occasional slight modifications made be me.
Sura Fatiha – Chapter 1 (2 verses)
[1:2] All praise belongs to Allah, Lord and Sustainer of all the worlds,
[1:3] The Gracious (who has created every thing and provided without human endeavor), the Merciful (who influences our world, when He influences it in response to our prayers that He grants).
Sura Baqara – Chapter 2 (20 verses)
[2:18] Their case is like the case of a person who kindled a fire, and when it lighted up all around him, Allah took away their light and left them in thick darkness; they see not.
[2:20] Or it is like a heavy rain from the clouds, wherein is thick darkness and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers into their ears because of the thunderclaps for fear of death, and Allah encompasses the disbelievers.
[2:21] The lightning might well-nigh snatch away their sight; whenever it shines upon them, they walk therein; and when it becomes dark to them, they stand still. And if Allah willed, He could take away their hearing and their sight; surely, Allah has the power to do all that He wills.
[2:22] O ye men, worship your Lord Who created you and those who were before you, that you may become righteous.
[2:23] Who made the earth a bed for you, and the heaven a roof, and caused water to come down from the clouds and therewith brought forth fruits for your sustenance. Set not up, therefore, equals to Allah, while you know.
[2:27] Allah disdains not to give an illustration as small as a gnat or even smaller. Those who believe know that it is the truth from their Lord, while those who disbelieve say: ‘What does Allah mean by such an illustration?’ Many does He adjudge by it to be erring and many by it does He guide, and none does He adjudge thereby to be erring except the disobedient.
[2:30] He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth; then He turned towards the heavens, and He perfected them as seven heavens; and He knows all things.
[2:108] Dost thou not know that the kingdom of the heavens and the earth belongs to Allah alone? And there is no protector or helper for you besides Allah.
[2:116] To Allah belong the East and the West; so withersoever you turn, there will be the face of Allah. Surely, Allah is Bountiful, All- Knowing.
[2:117] And they say, ‘Allah has taken to Himself a son.’ Holy is He! Nay, everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. To Him are all obedient.
[2:118] He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a thing, He does only say to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.
[2:143] The foolish among the people will say: ‘What has turned them away from their Qiblah which they followed?’ Say: ‘To Allah belong the East and the West. He guides whom He pleases to the right path.’
[2:165] Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of night and day, and in the ships which sail in the sea with that which profits men, and in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and quickens therewith the earth after its death and scatters therein all kinds of beasts, and in the change of the winds, and the clouds pressed into service between the heaven and the earth — are indeed Signs for the people who understand.
[2:220] They ask thee concerning wine and the game of hazard. Say: ‘In both there is great sin and also some advantages for men; but their sin is greater than their advantage.’ And they ask thee what they should spend. Say: ‘What you can spare.’ Thus does Allah make His commandments clear to you that you may reflect.
[2:223] And they ask thee concerning menstruation. Say: ‘Being intimate with them during menstruation is a harmful thing, and go not in unto them until they are clean. But when they have cleansed themselves, go in unto them as Allah has commanded you. Allah loves those who turn to Him and loves those who keep themselves clean.’
[2:256] Allah — there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the High, the Great.
[2:257] There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
[2:262] The similitude of those who spend their wealth for the cause of Allah is like the similitude of a grain of corn which grows seven ears, in each ear a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies it further for whomsoever He pleases; and Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing.
[2:267] Does any of you desire that there should be for him a garden of palm trees and vines with streams flowing beneath it, and with all kinds of fruit for him therein — while old age has stricken him and he has weak offspring — and that a fiery whirlwind should smite it and it be all burnt? Thus does Allah make His Signs clear to you that you may ponder.
[2:285] To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth; and whether you disclose what is in your minds or keep it hidden, Allah will call you to account for it; then will He forgive whomsoever He pleases and punish whomsoever He pleases; and Allah has the power to do all that He wills.