Literary CornerThe Bible, the Qur’an and Science (3/3) [Archives:2005/848/Culture]
By: Abu Alkalmah Al-Tayyibah
“Say, Oh people of the Scriptures! Do elevate yourself to a unanimous statement between us and between you: That we should not worship save for Allah and that we do not allow other deities beside Him, nor should we assume each other lords in place of Allah. If they then turn away, then say, “Bear witness then that we are Moslems” (The Holy Qur'an III/64)
In this part of the review of the above book, we will see how the author looks at the Qur'an as a revelation, just like the Torah, the Old Testament and the New Testament (Gospels). However, what is amazing, is that the author qualifies his assessment of the Quran as profoundly far more elaborate and conforming to logical as well as scientific sense. He dismisses the attitude of the West towards Islam: “In the West moreover, when science and religion are discussed, people are quite willing to mention Judaism and Christianity among the religions referred to, but they hardly think about Islam”. Then Baucaille sets out to give an outline “of a religion that is so little known in the West”. He blames the attitude of Westerners to Islam as the “result of ignorance, and sometimes of systematic denigration. He attempts to correct the misconceptions that are in defiance of facts and not just related to opinions. For example, he wonders how a great scholar refers to the Qur'an as an “autobiography that God miraculously dictated to the Prophet” (Volume 6 of the Encyclopedia Universalis). He points out that this comes from a professor at Jesuit Faculty of Theology, in Leon, France. The Qur'an is nowhere near that description.
Then he highlights developments in the Vatican towards a more objective outlook on Islam and a rejection of some of the misconceptions and stereotypes on Moslems that have instilled themselves on the minds of misinformed Christians. Even the name of Allah is clarified as the exact same nomenclature as God, by asserting that Christian Arabs indeed call God Allah as well.
The author then delves into the attitude of Islam towards science, which was in contrast to the negative attitude that the Church exercised against the development of scientific theory as manifested by the injustice to Galileo, which only recently has been corrected. While pointing out the general positive attitude of Islam towards science over the ages, almost from its very beginning, the author states, “another crucial fact is that the Qur'an while inviting us to cultivate science, itself contains many observations on natural phenomena and includes explanatory details which are seen to be in total agreement with modern scientific data. There is no equal to this in the Judeo-Christian Revelation.”
In comparison with the other Scriptures, the author finds greater strength in the authenticity of the Qur'an, with the Quran having a “unique place” among the Revelations. While noting the later calendar of the Quran as an attribute to its greater authenticity, Maurice Baucaille e regards this as an “excuse” for the alterations made in the Judeo-Christian texts over the centuries. The process by which the Qur'an was able to maintain its authenticity over the ages is described briefly by the author, referring to a number of Moslem scholars and historians, as well as modern translators of the Quran to other languages.
Then, the author gets into the gist of his argument about the strength of the Qur'an in its conformity to scientific knowledge, with respect to the phenomena that were mentioned in the Bible as well as the Qur'an. The two important phenomenon that are worthy of analyses are the Creation and the Flood.
He points out that most Europeans suggest the strong similarity in the Biblical and Quranic renditions of, say the Creation. However the author states that the problem is more complex and deserves scrutiny. For example, he points out that the Bible sets out the whole period for the Creation as six days and the seventh day was the day the Lord rested. In the Qur'an, however, day or days can be defined to mean periods of time different from the 24-hour day – from sunrise to sunrise. There is even a strong hint in the Qur'an that days for Allah can be quite different from the “days of men” (1 day: 1,000 years of human reckoning; 1 day: 50,000 years). The author notes the six main points that the Quran highlights about the Creation:
1) the existence of six periods (days) in general.
2) The stages of the Creation of the Heavens and the Earth are not sequential but rather interlock.
3) The Universe was created out of an initially unique mass forming a block that subsequently split up.
4) The plurality of the Heavens and the Earths.
5) An intermediary creation exists between the Heavens and the Earth.
The author delves into the modern scientific observations that these points are not at all in dispute with, or which modern science has indeed proven or suggests are very likely to be sound renditions of the real metamorphoses of the Creation of the Universe.
Baucaille then goes into an elaborate discussion of how modern science has pictured the formation of the Universe and after that seeks to compare these modern postulations with the revelations of the Qur'an about the Creation of the Universe. The author makes this important statement: “the existence of such an enormous difference between the Biblical description and the data in the Quran concerning the Creation is worth underlining once again on account of the totally gratuitous accusations leveled against Mohammed since the beginnings of Islam to the effect that he copied the Biblical descriptions”. The author shuns all attempts that suggest that Mohammed took what he knew from Jewish rabbis or Christian monks or priests of his time.
By going to a detailed description of how modern science describes the universe and its behavior starting from the great fragmentary masses to the smallest satellites (moons), the author seeks to point out the remarkable lack of contradiction to what is found in the Qur'an regarding such phenomena. Even when looking at atmospheric interactions there is a remarkable simile to be seen in Quranic descriptions.
In discussing the Flood, the author points out that the Bible describes the Flood as a universal cataclysm, whereas the Qur'an seems to suggest that the catastrophe was a more local community event as those of Thamud, Aad, the Egyptians etc., who were subject to God's wrath for not following his Commandments or for rejecting his omnipotence over the universe.
After giving a brief discussion of the traditions of the Prophet (sayings and doings), the author could see areas where there could be a problem of authenticity (even Moslems dispute the propriety or accuracy of some traditions). But the authenticity of the Quran is indisputable. It is this authenticity, which gives the Quran a special place among the Scriptures and thus make the Qur'an worthy of recognition as bona-fide Revelation. This is already the attitude that the Catholic Church is leaning towards.
Perhaps, it is time that religious people all over the world, especially the followers of the Monotheistic faiths regard each other as the product of a religious culture that has been developing almost along the same course and thus much human misery could be averted and God's will may become closer to being established: peace, justice and the brotherhood of man.
1 The Torah and the Old Testament as combined by the author
2 The English version. The French version was first published in May 1976, with a Fourth Edition published in 1977. The book apparently aroused the interest of the Presidency of the Shari'ah Courts in Doha, Qatar, who contributed to the printing of the English translation.