Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Legend has it that a young Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when he was hit on the head by a falling piece of fruit, a 17th-century “aha moment” that prompted him to suddenly come up with his law of gravity.
But, did it happen really like this?
According to the History channel:
There’s no evidence to suggest the fruit actually landed on his head, but Newton’s observation caused him to ponder why apples always fall straight to the ground (rather than sideways or upward) and helped inspired him to eventually develop his law of universal gravitation. In 1687, Newton first published this principle, which states that every body in the universe is attracted to every other body with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them, in his landmark work the “Principia,” which also features his three laws of motion.
The history channel states further:
In 1726, Newton shared the apple anecdote with William Stukeley, who included it in a biography, “Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life,” published in 1752. According to Stukeley, “After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden, & drank thea under the shade of some apple trees… he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind…. occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood.”
In the seventh century Arabia, where very few people could read and write, the All-Knowing God revealed in the holy Quran:
Allah is He who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne and constrained the sun and the moon to serve you; each planet pursues its orbital course during a specific time. He regulates it all and expounds the Signs, that you may have firm belief in the meeting with your Lord in the hereafter. (Al Quran 13:2/3)
It was a beautiful and subtle way to refer to gravity holding the heavenly bodies in space without any visible pillars and the sun and the moon and all the planets being in motion in their orbits. There is also a profound mention of different time duration of different orbits, in this verse.
When we think that such verses were revealed, in the heat of the constant armed struggle with the polytheists, as they continued to persecute the innocent Muslims, it is a strong pointer to the All Knowing God being the source of the Quran. Because it is mentioning several profound scientific facts, which the first audience of the Quran in Arabia, did not know and even did not care to know. A human author would not have brought up the subject in a time of little inquisitiveness about the heavenly bodies in a scientific sense.
The verse was actually most befitting for our information age and not the illiterate audience of the seventh century Arabia.
In the last part of this verse, Allah uses the first creation as an argument for the second creation or the hereafter. We also find a similar theme in more than a dozen other places in the holy Quran. Suggested reading: Surah Qaf: The First Creation as the Foremost Proof for Afterlife.
In the Quran, God has used the physical phenomena and the beauty, elegance and complexity of the universe as a proof for His being the Creator God. In this verse God is using similar line of reasoning for gravity.
This line of reasoning about Monotheism and accountability can build bridges between followers of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica as it talks about gravity:
Gravity, also called gravitation, in mechanics, the universal force of attraction acting between all matter. It is by far the weakest known force in nature and thus plays no role in determining the internal properties of everyday matter. On the other hand, through its long reach and universal action, it controls the trajectories of bodies in the solar system and elsewhere in the universe and the structures and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the whole cosmos.
Unlike some of the present day scientists, Isaac Newton saw a Creator in the complexity and beauty of the laws of nature including gravity.
Newton’s view has been considered to be close to deism and several biographers and scholars labeled him as a deist who is strongly influenced by Christianity. However, he differed from strict adherents of deism in that he invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits. He warned against using the law of gravity to view the universe as a mere machine, like a great clock. He said:
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. […] This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” παντοκρατωρ [pantokratōr], or “Universal Ruler”. […] The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, [and] absolutely perfect.
Science has of course changed over the centuries since Newton, but the metaphysics has remained the similar. The believers see the hand of God in the beauty and complexity of nature and the genius required to discover the laws of nature and even to understand complex theories of Albert Einstein and mathematics underpinning these, explaining phenomena like gravity; but those who are driven by their atheistic ideology refuse to do so.
1. Principia, Book III; cited in; Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from his writings, p. 42, ed. H.S. Thayer, Hafner Library of Classics, NY, 1953.
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) January 22, 2017