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Qur'an and science

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Part of a series on the Qur'an Quran cover


Sura · Ayah

Qur'an reading

Tajwid · Hizb · Tarteel · Qur'anic guardian · Manzil · Qari' · Juz' · Rasm · Ruku' · Sujud ·



Origin and development

Meccan revelations · Medinan revelations


Persons related to verses · Justice · Asbab al-nuzul · Naskh · Biblical narratives · Tahrif · Bakkah · Muqatta'at · Esoteric interpretation

Qur'an and Sunnah

Literalism · Miracles · Science · Women

Views on the Qur'an

Shi'a · Criticism · Desecration · Surah of Wilaya and Nurayn · Tanazzulat · Qisas Al-Anbiya · Beit Al Qur'an

The relation between Qur'an and science is strongly affirmed in Islamic thought. Almost all sources, classical and modern, agree that the Qur’an encourages the acquisition of science and scientific knowledge.[1]

The contemporary Islamic discourse on the Qur’an and science abounds with assertions of the relationship between the two. This presumed relationship is construed in a variety of ways, the most common of which are the efforts to prove the divine nature of the Qur’an through modern science.[1]

The belief that Qur'an had prophesied scientific theories and discoveries - known as Ijaz al-Qur'an - has become a strong and widespread belief in the contemporary Islamic world. Alleged prophecies are often provided to show a connection between the Qur'an and miracles, and to support the belief of divine origin for the Qur'an.[1]

Science-related prophecies

According to Qur'an; natural phenomena comprises a large portion of the divine signs; nature itself praises God [24:41], and God proclaims that he will show humankind his signs on the furthest horizons we well as deep within themselves [41:53].[2]

"a time is fixed for every prophecy; you will come to know in time" [6:67].
Islamic scholar Zaghloul El-Naggar thinks that this verse refers to the scientific signs in the Qur'an that would be discovered by the world in modern time, centuries after the revelation. The scientific signs claimed to be in the Qur'an exist in different subjects, including creation, astronomy, the animal and vegetables kingdom, and human reproduction.[1] Some of those claimed prophecies are:

  • The Qur'an contains a number of verses pertaining to some biological specificities regarding human reproduction and development (see Embryology below). [3] According to Keith L. Moore (professor emeritus of anatomy at the University of Toronto, and son of a Protestant clergyman) the scientific meaning of certain surahs in the Qur'an has become clear only recently. Moore has concluded that God revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad, and has disseminated this view in many lectures, panel discussions and articles. [4]
  • The Qur'an referenced the heavens and earth as originally being an integrated mass before God split them "Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them" [21:30], which has been interpreted by some as being "nothing short of a condensed version of the Big bang theory".[1]
  • The Qur'an talked about cosmic orbital motion: "It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit" [36:40] at a period of time when the common belief was that earth was stationary.[5]

The most famous proponent of this argument is perhaps Maurice Bucaille, a French physician and author of the popular book The Bible, The Quran and Science. Maurice Bucaille asserts in his book that "he could not find a single error in the Qur'an", and that the Qur'an does "not contain a single statement which is assailable from a modern scientific point of view", which led him to believe that no human author in the seventh century could have written "facts" which "today are shown to be keeping with modern scientific knowledge".[1] Bucaille's opinion did not gain scientific consensus on the matter; critics believe that "Bucaille bends the meaning of the Arabic words to suit his own ideas."[6] and "Bucaille proposes new meanings for Qur'anic words to bring them into accord with modern scientific knowledge, without requiring any standard philological justification."[7] The translator of "The Bible, The Quran and Science" into Indonesian, Dr. Muhammad Rasjidi, former Professor for Islamic Studies at McGill University and former Indonesian Minister for Religious Affairs characterizes as "a half-baked mish-mash of pseudo-science and pseudo-exegesis".[8]

The search for Qur'anic references to and prophecies of modern scientific discoveries has become a "popular trend" in some Muslim societies[9]; as a manifestation of the popularity of the scientific miracles belief, the Muslim World League at Mecca formed a committee named Committee on the Scientific Miracles of the Qurʾān and the Sunna to investigate the relation between Qur'an and science, headed by Zaghloul El-Naggar.[1]

According to some recent studies of the relationship between science education and religion, one of the ways in which science education in strongly Islamic societies is impacted by religiosity is when "acceptable" scientific discoveries can be found to have been anticipated or "identified" by the Qur'an, with consequent implications for what is taught and not taught[10].

Scientific exegesis of the Qur'an

Scientific exegesis of the Qur'an is the assumption that all sorts of findings of the modern natural sciences have been anticipated in the Qur'an and that many unambiguous references to them can be discovered in its verses. Many Islamic authors, classical and modern, believe that all the sciences were contained in the Qur'an. [11][12] The practise of tafsir 'ilmi, or scientific exegesis, which was "almost forgotten, has been revived in modern times; the classical attempt to incorporate all streams of human knowledge into the Qur'an has been updated with a special focus on the natural sciences[12].

This method of scientific interpretation did not find general approval among Muslim authors.[11] Many classical Muslim commentators and scientists, notably al-Biruni, assigned to the Qur'an a separate and autonomous realm of its own and held that the Qur'an "does not interfere in the business of science nor does it infringe on the realm of science."[1] These medieval scholars argued for the possibility of multiple scientific explanation of the natural phenomena, and refused to subordinate the Qur'an to an ever-changing science.[1]

Author Rotraud Wielandt summarizes the arguments of the modern Muslim commentators such as Mahmud Shaltut and Sayyid Qutb who reject a scientific method of interpretation of the Qur'an as follows:[11]

  1. It is lexicographically untenable, since it falsely attributes modern meanings to the quranic vocabulary.
  2. It neglects the contexts of words or phrases within the quranic text, and also the occasions of revelation where these are transmitted.
  3. It ignores the fact that, for the Quran to be comprehensible for its first audience, the words of the Qurʾān had to conform to the language and the intellectual horizon of the ancient Arabs at the Prophet's time — an argument already used by the Andalusian Mālikite scholar al-Shāṭibī (d. 790/1388) against the scientific exegesis of his time.
  4. It does not take notice of the fact that scientific knowledge and scientific theories are always incomplete and provisory by their very nature; therefore, the derivation of scientific knowledge and scientific theories in qurʾānic verses is actually tantamount to limiting the validity of these verses to the time for which the results of the science in question are accepted.
  5. Most importantly, it fails to comprehend that the Qur'an is not a scientific book, but a religious one designed to guide human beings by imparting to them a creed and a set of moral values.

In defense of their efforts the exegetes use two verses in the Qur'an: one that states "and We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things"[16:89] and another which says "We have neglected nothing in the Book"[6:38]. The classical objection to these verses being used as a basis for intensive tafsir 'ilmi is that the "Book" mentioned in these verses is not the Qur'an itself, but a "well-preserved tablet" in heaven, of which the earthly Qur'an is a reflection[12].


The Qur'an is insistent that Allah is the sole creator of all things; the universe and humans. Qur'an does not assert that God created the universe at some definable point in the past. As opposed to deism or to certain readings of Newtonian physics, God continues to sustain the creation during every moment of its existence [2:255]. And in fact the Qur’an is deeply impressed with the ongoing order of nature and summons all humankind to share in its admiration and to learn from it:

Your Guardian-Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and is firmly established on the throne (of authority): He draweth the night as a veil o'er the day, each seeking the other in rapid succession: He created the sun, the moon, and the stars, (all) governed by laws under His command. Is it not His to create and to govern? Blessed be Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds! [7:54].
God’s purpose in the creation of the universe was focused on humanity. This is manifest, for example, in the fact that the universe is admirably designed to provide for human needs and wants [2:22][10:67]. The Qur’an offers its own version of cosmic anthropic principle. [13]

Universal creation

Qur'an contains many verses describing the universe creation; God created heavens and earth in six days [7:54], the heavens and earth were completed in two days [41:9], and in four days God furnished the creation of the earth with mountains, rivers and fruit-gardens [41:10]. Heavens and earth formed from an integrated disk-shaped mass which had to be split [21:30], the seven heavens were created from smoke [41:11], forming layers, one above the other [67:3].

God and angels inhabit the seventh heaven . The lowest heaven is adorned with lights [41:12], the sun and the moon (which follow a regular path) [71:16][14:33], the stars [37:6] and the constellations of the zodiac [15:16]. [14]

Human creation

According to Qur'an, Adam is the first human being and the father of humankind. First Adam was created from clay, God himself formed the material of which Adam is made and breathed his spirit into him, and then Eve was created from Adam, the Qur'an does not report when she was created [15]. Subsequently all humankind was created from clay. Today, some modern Muslim commentators have decided that, since the Qur’an makes no mention of the evolution of one species to another kind of species, the Darwinian theory of evolution is contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an. An apt verse that summarizes the process of human creation is: [16]

"From the (earth) did We create you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you out once again" [20:55]

However, on multiple occasions, the Quran states that life and living creatures originated from water. (21:30, and 24:45) Furthermore, it also states on multiple occasions that mankind was "created", then "fashioned." [17] This has been interpreted as a hint toward evolution, in that after creation of life, modifications can occur through natural selection. Verse 95:4 states: "We created Man in the finest state." An alternative translation has been "We created man according to the best organizational plan." [18] Verses that have previously been interpreted as pertaining to human embryological development have also been open to interpretation in regards to evolution. Verse 71:14 states: (God)"has created you stage by stage." The Quran also mentions the wrath of God being at work when one community of people is punished for its sins through annihilation, and replaced with another community. [19] The text is thus open to interpretation.


In Qur’an [23:12–15] reference is made to fetal development and growth, explanations of these verses express the view that "sperm" and "safe lodging" refer to sperm within the female uterus.

Prior to fertilization, sperm bind to the zona pellucida or outer covering of the ovum. Following such lines of interpretation, clot could be a reference to this, i.e. to sperm clinging to the ovum. However, clot is also interpreted by some exegetes as blood clot and taken to refer to "something that clings" to the uterus. For those modern commentators who then extrapolate this interpretation scientifically, the blood clot could be taken to represent the fertilized ovum or early embryo implanting itself in the endometrium or uterine lining. Some modern interpreters combine these verses with [39:6], seeing in the reference to the “three veils of darkness” a reflection of the three anatomical layers that protect the fetus — the abdominal wall, the uterus wall and amniotic sac. [3][16]

It is widely recognized that the Qur'an and hadith contain a number of verses pertaining to human reproduction and development. In his book A History of Embryology, Professor Joseph Needham describes some of the embryological passages in the Qur'an, verses [Qur'an 23:14]. For the past 100 years this verse has been translated to describe the second stage of the embryo being a "clot of blood", but it has been argued that the word "alaqa", prior to one hundred years ago, and during the prophet Muhammad's lifetime, the definition of this word "alaqa" and the context in which it was used was "that which clings". Dr. Keith L. Moore, who is most known for his textbooks on the subjects of anatomy and human embryology, had to say of the Qur'an and Muhammad, "It is clear to me that these statements (of the Qur'an about human development) must have come to Muhammad from God, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God", then he was asked does this mean you believe that the Qur'an is the word of God? He replied "I found no difficulty in accepting this as a seventh century echo of Aristotle and Ayurveda."[20] According to Dr. Moore, professor emeritus of Anatomy at the University of Toronto, the scientific meaning of certain surahs in the Quran has become clear only recently.[21] An example cited by him is verse [Qur'an 39:6].

However when asked in a 2002 if he would be willing to be interviewed about Qur'anic scientific miracles, Moore declined saying, “it’s been 10 or 11 years since I was involved in the Quran.” [4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Ahmad Dallal, Science and the Qur'an, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  2. Ian Richard Netton, Nature as Signs, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  3. 3.0 3.1 E.H. Waugh , Blood and Blood Clot, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  4. 4.0 4.1 Strange Bedfellows: Western Scholars Play Key Role in Touting `Science' of the Quran by Daniel Golden, Wall Street Journal, Jan 23, 2002. pg. A.1
  5. Science and Islam in Conflict Discover magazine 06.21.2007
  6. Negus, Michael Robert (2005). Islam and Science. God, humanity, and the cosmos, Edition: 2, illustrated, revised, by Christopher Southgate, John Hedley Brooke, Celia Deane-Drummond. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 332.,+humanity,+and+the+cosmos&lr=&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0. 
  7. Wood, Kurt A. (June 1993). "The Scientific Exegesis of The Qur'an: A Case Study in Relating Science and Scripture". PSCF (American Scientific Affiliation) 45: 90-95. 
  8. Roff, William R. (1987). Islam and the political economy of meaning: comparative studies of Muslim discourse. Routledge. p. 279. 
  9. "Muslim call to adopt Mecca time". BBC. 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  10. Gilbert, John (2004). The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Science Education. Routledge. pp. 4. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Wielandt, Rotraud. "Exegesis of the Qurʾān: Early Modern and Contemporary ." Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Jansen, J. J. G. (1974). The Interpretation of the Koran in Modern Egypt. Brill Archive. pp. 35. 
  13. Daniel Carl Peterson, Creation, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  14. Angelika Neuwirth , Cosmology, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  15. Cornelia Schöck, Adam and Eve, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  16. 16.0 16.1 Abul Fadi Mohsin Ebrahim, Biology as the Creation and Stages of Life, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  17. Quran 7:11, 15:28-29, 38:72, 82:7-8
  18. Bucaille, "What is the Origin of Man?" Seghers, Pais. 1983)
  19. Quran 76:28, 6:133
  20. Joseph Needham, A History of Embryology. Abelard-Schuman.
  21. Moore, Keith L. (January 1986). "A scientist's interpretation of references to embryology in the Qur'an". Journal of the Islamic Medical Association, 18: 15–16. 

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