We will show them Our Signs in the universe and also among their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that the Quran is the Truth. (Al Quran 41:53)
By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Muslim scholars coming from all denominations and sects now and over the centuries have highlighted that there are more than 700 verses in the Quran using the phenomena of nature as metaphors and inviting the believers to study them with a promise that such pursuit will yield rich dividends in all spheres of human interest.
Given such constant focus of the literal word of God, it is self evident to me that in our age of scientific advancement, the best way to understand the Divine message is through the lens of modern science.
Such study also has the potential of getting us beyond the myopic Muslim leaders with divisive, monopolistic and hateful agenda.
Albert Einstein, the man of the 20th century according to the Time magazine, once said, “All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.” (1)
So, if Islam be a true religion from All Knowing God, it should stand the test of science. In fact the same argument was advanced by St. Augustine of Hippo, in favor of Christianity, a few centuries before the dawn of Islam. Saint Augustine said, “Let the Bible be a book for you so that you may hear it; let the sphere of the world be also a book for you so that you may see it.” (2) In this saying he suggests a paradigm that word of God or scripture should be in accord with the act of God, our world or what we broadly label as nature.
Augustine of Hippo (/ɔːˈɡʌstɪn/, also US: /ˈɔːɡəstiːn/;Latin: Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis; 13 November 354 – 28 August 430), also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian and philosopher of Berber origin and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.
Saint Augustine became convinced of Christianity by finding evidence for it in another tradition, that of Paganism as described by the Platonists of Athens. Describing this, in his book Confessions, he provided a bridge from Paganism to Christianity.
Why does Augustine become convinced that Christianity is true? What does Augustine propose that Athens have to do with Jerusalem? What does Plato have to do with the Bible and more specifically with the Gospel of John? How can you examine the truth of one tradition of thought and reasoning in light of another parallel tradition? William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman answer these questions for us:
Augustine tells us that he read books ‘written by the Platonists’ … he parapharases these books, rather than quoting them directly. His parapharase is also a parapharase of one of the most important texts of the Christian Scripture, the beginning of the gospel according to John. The surprising and, to some extent, shocking claim that he makes is that these Platonists teach the same thing as the Gospel of John. Augustine’s claim is that even though these words may not have been exactly what was said in the text of these philosophers, they accurately represent the substance of what he saw in them. Thus, in these pagan philosophical texts, he finds a way of articulating Christian beliefs. (2)
His paradigm still lives on among the Christian apologists.
“We think that since God is the author both of his Word the Bible and of this universe, there must ultimately be harmony between correct interpretation of the biblical data and correct interpretation of scientific data.” Prof. John C Lennox, in Seven Days that divide the World.
Andrew Dickson White, the Founding President of the Cornell University, found in the 19th century that Augustine’s bridge was broken beyond repair. He authored a landmark treatise, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (3).
Perhaps we needed a new bridge to lead us to the eternal truths. Dr. Maurice Buccaile came to our rescue almost a century later, but now he was serving Islam and his scripture of choice was the Quran. Bucaille (1920 – 1998) was a French medical doctor and author, he was the senior surgeon in a French study on mummy of Pharaoh, he converted to Islam from Christianity, while serving in Egypt. In 1973, Bucaille was appointed family physician to King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. His patients included the members of the family of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
I was in the third year of my medical school, in King Edward Medical College, Lahore, Pakistan, when someone introduced me to the above book. It was in 1982 that my study of the Quran and science started and has continued since. Over the decades I have familiarized myself with the Bible and Christianity as well, by devouring every thing worth while available in YouTube and the Great Courses on these subjects.
Bucaille is primarily known for his book The Bible, The Qur’an and Science that he wrote following his study of the mummy of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II. The book contained multiple references to the Quran, which gave rise to speculations that Bucaille had converted to Islam; a fact that he never confirmed or denied.
The book gave rise to a movement called Bucailleism, which tries to relate modern science with religion, especially Islam. Since the publishing of The Bible, the Quran and Science, Bucaillists have promoted the idea that the Quran is of divine origin, arguing that it contains scientifically correct facts.
For centuries the Christian apologists have called the Holy Quran a forgery of the Bible and I had some reasons to think that the Bible itself is a forgery, and in a recent book a New Testament scholar, Prof. Bart Ehrman, presents evidence and claims that half of the New Testament is a forgery. After reading Bucaille’s book I thought to myself, how could an alleged forgery of a forgery, the Holy Quran, get its facts straight in the court of science, as Maurice Bucaille presented? Over time I have come to admire the Holy Quran more and more!
In presenting the Islamic scriptures to the agnostics and atheists, now I also realize that as they mostly grew in Christian background, they learn about the vulnerabilities of the Bible and without genuinely studying the case for the Holy Quran, attribute those vulnerabilities and some more, to the Quran also.
Additionally, when interpreting a given verse of the Quran, they invariably accept the most cynical interpretation of the Holy Quran without trying to determine which interpretation is more probable. However, if they were to objectively and honestly study the Holy Quran they may relive the experience of the famous German philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
As often as we approach the Quran, it always proves repulsive anew; gradually, however, it attracts, it astonishes, and, in the end forces admiration.
The Holy Quran states:
The disbelievers say: This Quran is naught but a lie that Muhammad has fabricated, and other people have helped him with it. They have, thereby, perpetrated an injustice and an untruth. They also say: These are fables of the ancients which he has got someone to write down for him and they are recited to him morning and evening. Say to them: The Quran has been revealed by Him Who knows every secret that is in the heavens and the earth. Indeed, He is Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful. (Al Surah Al-Furqan 25:5-7)
Many Christian writers and clergy claim that the Holy Quran is borrowed from the Bible. Allah refutes this allegation in the words, “The Quran has been revealed by Him Who knows every secret that is in the heavens and the earth.”
The most effective proofs of this Quranic claim were to come after the scientific revolution. Dr. Maurice Bucaille’s book is indeed a landmark achievement in this regards. By showing that the Quran co-relates with modern science, whereas, the Bible often does not and is self contradictory, one can put to rest propaganda of the Christian apologists!
However, it needs to be understood that the Holy Quran is a book of ‘religion’ and not a ‘book of science’ and Bucaille’s book is a book of ‘metaphysics’ and not of science. Metaphysics is a term, which means literally ‘what comes after physics.’ So, it is a branch of philosophy that studies the ultimate structure and constitution of reality, correlating religion and science.
A certain amount of humility is in order to comprehend the distinction between religion, science and metaphysics.
In the words of Charles Darwin, as he quoted Francis Bacon from his book Advancement of learning in the later editions of On the Origin of Species, to establish the proper relationship between religion and natural science:
To conclude, therefore, let no man out of weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well-studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficiency in both.
If we read the book of Dr. Maurice Bucaille with this humility there is much room for learning for both the Muslim and the non-Muslim audience.
To order the book please go to Amazon.com, the Kindle version is available for $2.99.
He writes in the introduction to his book, The Bible, the Quran and Science:
Like Saint Augustine for the Bible, Islam has always assumed that the data contained in the Holy Scriptures were in agreement with scientific fact. A modern examination of the Islamic Revelation has not caused a change in this position. As we shall see later on, the Quran deals with many subjects of interest to science, far more in fact than the Bible. There is no comparison between the limited number of Biblical statements which lead to a confrontation with science, and the profusion of subjects mentioned in the Quran that are of a scientific nature. None of the latter can be contested from a scientific point of view. This is the basic fact that emerges from our study. We shall see at the end of this work that such is not the case for the Hadiths. These are collections of the Prophet’s sayings, set aside from the Quranic Revelation, certain of which are scientifically unacceptable. (4)
His book, in my estimation, is one of the best apologies for the holy Quran, from the last century (5).
If you want to listen to him speaking about the subject, here is a lecture: Dr. Maurice Bucaille’s Lecture on the Quran and Science.
Sometimes, critics of Bucaille’s work argue that science is ever changing then how can you judge the word of God on that matrix. These critics forget what Einstein advised in so many words, “All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.” Human wisdom and criteria are ever changing and Word of God, has to be dynamic enough to stand the test of time.
I became one of the pioneer members of the Intelligent Design movement, in USA. For me, the search of truth has never been a divisive or sectarian pursuit. Perhaps there was only one other Muslim in the association at that time and majority of them were Christians.
In their discussion forum there was obviously talk about God the Creator and science and often the Bible was quoted. I once quoted the Quran and the comment was censored on some made up ground that it was in bad taste. I stopped being an active member.
For me the search of God the Creator is a common pursuit in the Abrahamic faiths and the holy Quran also frames the discussion in that fashion by quoting Abraham, in a verse, that has been memorized by almost every Muslim, as it is the prescribed intention of five time daily prayer or Salat: “For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” (Al Quran: 6:79)
Among my collection of articles, I have: A Slight Twist Makes David Attenborough a Great Teacher for God of the Abrahamic Faiths.
Over time I fully realized the scientific weaknesses of the Intelligent Design: Intelligent Design Movement: Where have they gone wrong?
Mirza Tahir Ahmad is not considered to be a hero by the majority of the Muslims in Pakistan, in their sectarian paradigms. But, the Muslim readers do not have to agree with a writer completely to benefit from him or her. Two of the previous authors in this article are Christians and Albert Einstein was a reformed Jew, on whose quote about science, I am basing my article.
My main suggestion to the open minded readers is to read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
To me reading the Quran in the light of modern science is not a sectarian pursuit, rather it can help us grow beyond the myopic paradigms to a universal Islam, which drives us to the best rationality, science and technology and modern understanding of human psychology, meditation, Zikr Ilahi and scientific nature of dreams and revelation: We Dream, Therefore God Is!, Neurobiology of Dreams and Revelation and True Nature of Divine Revelations.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad wrote a book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth in 1998 and felt that it was the greatest achievement of his well lived life.
The back cover of the book states:
Any divide between revelation and rationality, religion and logic has to be irrational. If religion and rationality cannot proceed hand in hand, there has to be something deeply wrong with either of the two.
Does revelation play any vital role in human affairs? Is not rationality sufficient to guide man in all the problems which confront him? Numerous questions such as these are examined with minute attention.
All major issues which intrigue the modern mind are attempted to be incorporated in this fascinatingly comprehensive statute.
Whatever the intellectual or educational background of the reader, this book is bound to offer him something of his interest.
It examines a very diverse and wide range of subjects including the concept of revelation in different religions, history of philosophy, cosmology, extraterrestrial life, the future of life on earth, natural selection and its role in evolution. It also elaborately discusses the advent of the Messiah, or other universal reformers, awaited by different religions. Likewise, many other topical issues which have been agitating the human mind since time immemorial are also incorporated.
The main emphasis is on the ability of the Quran to correctly discuss all important events of the past, present and future from the beginning of the universe to its ultimate end.
Aided by strong incontrovertible logic and scientific evidence, the Quran does not shy away from presenting itself to the merciless scrutiny of rationality.
It will be hard to find a reader whose queries are not satisfactorily answered. We hope that most readers will testify that this will always stand out as a book among books – perhaps the greatest literary achievement of this century.
Read the book online in PDF format:
The book was published in 1998 and the author passed away in 2003. The Quran is for eternity and the scientific process and accumulating knowledge continue.
My journey of understanding the Quran, obviously, started with the reading of the previous authors that I am celebrating here. In the famous words of Sir Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Lest readers find me guilty of arrogance and self deceit, I am talking here only in terms of understanding of the holy Quran in the light of modern science. I have also had the simple advantage of living in an age of Google search and easy access of each and every book in Amazon and elsewhere online.
In the three great Monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, God is viewed as a supreme, transcendent being, beyond time, space and matter, and yet the foundation of all that meets our senses is described in terms of matter, space, and time. That is the Al Batin or the Hidden God of Monotheism. Furthermore, this God is not the god of deism, who created the world and then left it alone, or the god of pantheism, who is equated with all of existence. The Islamic and the Judeo-Christian God is a nanosecond-by-nanosecond participant in each event that takes place in every cubic nanometer of the universe. He has full knowledge of all things. God listens to every thought and participates in each action of His very special creation, a minute bit of organized matter called humanity that moves around on the surface of a tiny pebble in a vast universe. The Holy Quran declares: “Allah’s is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah are all affairs returned for the final judgment.” (Al Quran 57:5)
Whereas, the nineteenth century physics was about to frame God out of physical understanding of the universe, the twentieth and twenty first century physics has turned the tables in favor of Monotheism: Religion and Science: The Indispensable God-hypothesis.
While there are several articles written from the theist perspective for the agnostic or atheist audience, I also aim to invite the Christian brethren and sisters to the Muslim theology, banking on the latest science.
Evidence for evolution has been piling in the last few decades especially in the field of molecular biology and has been a topic of several articles in the Muslim Sunrise. Not to speak of our human family, all life forms on our planet earth, plants and animals, 350,000 species of flowers, bacteria and viruses and elephants and rhinoceroses have common ancestry.
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey is a 2002 book by Spencer Wells, an American geneticist and anthropologist, in which he uses techniques and theories of genetics and evolutionary biology to trace the geographical dispersal of early human migrations out of Africa. The book was made into a TV documentary in 2003.
An article in 2016, Biology of Our Human Family: Who are We Related To? examined the human origins: “It is believed, on the basis of genetic evidence that all human beings in existence now descend from one single man who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. The earliest groups of humans are believed to find their present-day descendants among the San people, a group that is now found in western southern Africa. The San are smaller than the Bantu. They have lighter skins, more tightly curled hair, and they share the epicanthal fold with the people of Central and South East Asia.” Biology of Our Human Family: Who are We Related To?
With the Biblical Adam being only 6000 years old, it can now be conclusively proved from molecular biology that he is not the father of all of humanity. In light of such evidence, I clearly demonstrated with scientific proofs in a 2008 article that Original Sin, a fundamental dogma of Christianity, does not hold water anymore.
It is not every day that one comes up with scientific reasoning against a religion followed by almost 2 billion people. In that sense, this 2008 article of the Muslim Sunrise, Evaluating Original Sin against scientific discoveries, has historic and landmark significance, in guiding the Abrahamic faiths to more pure Monotheism and enlightened theology. Review the article in the Religion and Science section of the Summer 2008 volume of the Muslim Sunrise, the longest serving Muslim publication of North America: Original Sin and Evolution.
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) September 28, 2014
— Zia H Shah (@ZiahShah1) October 24, 2015
Few of my articles present specifically commentary of the holy Quran in scientific paradigms not presented by prior commentators: The Story of Adam and A Progressive, Metaphorical Reading of the Quran, Commentary of Surah Fatihah for the 21st Century and All of David Attenborough’s Work as a Proof for the Hereafter according to the Holy Quran.
Now, I will list some of my articles on the theme of religion and science or Quran and science, many of which have been published in peer reviewed journals, but for the sake of promoting the Muslim Times, I am linking from our international blog:
Over time more and more Muslims will read the Quran in light of modern science. “Once the world of ideas has been transformed, reality cannot hold out for long,” George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
In conclusion, the theme of Religion and Science has not only been important since the time of Saint Augustine, but is catching greater momentum in our information and scientific age. By the Grace of Allah, the Muslim Times has the best collection of articles on the theme of religion and science. Additional reading: While Catholic Universities spend millions on their ‘Religion and Science’ version, the Muslim Times can take them on without any funding, single handedly.
- Quote taken from ‘The Ultimate Quotable Einstein’ from Princeton University Press. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/albert-einstein-quotes-inspiring-clever-funny-famous/
2. William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman. St. Augustine’s Confessions. The Teaching Company course guidebook, 2004. Page 40.
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) January 22, 2017