The 20th century saw a great many new discoveries regarding celestial phenomena in the universe. One of these entities, which has only recently been encountered, is the Black Hole. These are formed when a star which has consumed all its fuel collapses in on itself, eventually turning into a black hole with infinite density and zero volume and an immensely powerful magnetic field. We are unable to see black holes even with the most powerful telescope, because their gravitational pull is so strong that light is unable to escape from them. However, such a collapsed star can be perceived by means of the effect it has on the surrounding area. In Surat al-Waqi'a, Allah draws attention to this matter in this way, by swearing upon the position of stars:
And I swear by the stars' positions-and that is a mighty oath if you only knew. (Qur'an, 56:75-76)
The term "black hole" was first employed in 1969 by the American physicist John Wheeler. Previously, we imagined that we were able to see all the stars. However, it later emerged that there were stars in space whose light we were unable to perceive. Because, the light of these collapsed stars disappears. Light cannot escape from a black hole because it is such a high concentration of mass in a small space. The enormous gravitation captures even the fastest particles, i.e. the photons. For example, the final stage of a typical star, three times the mass of the Sun, ends after its burning out and its implosion as a black hole of only 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) in diameter! Black holes are "black," i.e. veiled from direct observation. They nevertheless reveal themselves indirectly, by the tremendous suction which their gravitational force exerts on other heavenly bodies. As well as depictions of the Day of Judgement, the verse below may also be pointing to this scientific discovery about black holes:
When the stars are extinguished. (Qur'an, 77:8)
Moreover, stars of great mass also cause warps to be perceived in space. Black holes, however, do not just cause warps in space but also tear holes in it. That is why these collapsed stars are known as black holes. This fact may be referred to in the verse about stars, and this is another important item of information demonstrating that the Qur'an is the word of Allah:
[I swear] by Heaven and the Tariq! And what will convey to you what the Tariq is? The Star Piercing [the darkness]! (Qur'an, 86:1-3)
PULSARS: PULSATING STARS
[I swear] by Heaven and the Tariq! And what will convey to you what the Tariq is? The Star Piercing [the darkness]! (Qur'an, 86:1-3)
The word "Tariq," name of the Sura 86, comes from the root "tarq," whose basic meaning is that of striking hard enough to produce a sound, or hitting. Bearing in mind the word's possible meaning as "beating," "striking hard," our attention may be being drawn in this sura to an important scientific fact. Before analysing this information, let us look at the other words employed in the verse to describe these stars. The term "al-taariqi" in the above verse means a star that pierces the night, that pierces the darkness, born at night, piercing and moving on, beating, striking, or sharp star. Furthermore, the term "wa" draws attention to the things being sworn on-the heaven and the Tariq.
Through research carried out by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, at Cambridge University in 1967, a regular radio signal was identified. Until that time, however, it was not known that that there was a heavenly body that could be the source of regular pulse or beating rather like that of the heart. In 1967, however, astronomers stated that, as matter grows denser in the core as it revolves around its own axis, the star's magnetic field also grows stronger, and thus gives rise to a magnetic field at its poles 1 trillion times stronger than that of Earth. They realised that a body revolving so fast and with such a powerful magnetic field emits rays consisting of very powerful radio waves in a conic form at every revolution. Shortly afterwards, it was also realised that the source of these signals is the rapid revolution of neutron stars. These newly discovered neutron stars are known as "pulsars." These stars, which turn into pulsars through supernova explosions, are of the greatest mass, and are the brightest and fastest moving bodies in the universe. Some pulsars revolve 600 times a second. 1
The word "pulsar" comes from the verb to pulse. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word means to pulsate, to beat. Encarta Dictionary defines it as to beat rhythmically, to move or throb with a strong regular rhythm. Again, according to the Encarta Dictionary, the word "pulsate," which comes from the same root, means to expand and contract with a strong regular beat.
Following that discovery, it was realised that the phenomenon described in the Qur'an as "tariq," beating, bore a great similarity to the neutron stars known as pulsars.
Neutron stars form as the nuclei of super giant stars collapse. The highly compressed and dense matter, in the form of a rapidly revolving sphere, entraps and squeezes most of the star's weight and magnetic field. The powerful magnetic field created by these rapidly revolving neutron stars has been shown to cause the emission of powerful radio waves observable on Earth.
In the third verse of Surat at-Tariq the term "al-najmu al-thaaqibu," meaning piercing, moving on, or opening holes, indicates that Tariq is a bright star that pierces a hole in the darkness and moves on. The concept of the term "adraaka" in the expression "And what will convey to you what the Tariq is?" refers to comprehension. Pulsars, formed through the compression of stars several times the size of the Sun, are among those celestial bodies that are hard to comprehend. The question in the verse emphasizes how hard it is to comprehend this beating star. (Allah knows best.)
As discussed, the stars described as Tariq in the Qur'an bear a close similarity to the pulsars described in the 20th century, and may reveal to us another scientific miracle of the Qur'an.
THE STAR SIRIUS
When certain concepts mentioned in the Qur'an are studied in the light of 21st century scientific discoveries we find ourselves imparted with yet more miracles of the Qur'an. One of these is the star Sirius, mentioned in Surat an-Najm 49:
... it is He Who is the Lord of Sirius. (Qur'an, 53: 49)
The fact that the Arabic word "shi'raa," the equivalent of the star Sirius, appears only in Surat an-Najm, meaning only "star," 49 is particularly striking. Because, considering the irregularity in the movement of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, as their starting point, scientists discovered that it was actually a double star. Sirius is actually a set of two stars, known as Sirius A and Sirius B. The larger of these is Sirius A, which is also the closer to the Earth and the brightest star that can be seen with the naked eye.
Sirius B, however, cannot be seen without a telescope.
The Sirius double stars orbit in ellipses about one another. The orbital period of Sirius A & B about their common centre of gravity is 49.9 years. This scientific data is today accepted with one accord by the departments of astronomy at Harvard, Ottawa and Leicester Universities.2 This information is reported as follows in various sources:
Sirius, the brightest star, is actually a twin star... Its orbit lasts 49.9 years.3
As is known, the stars Sirius-A and Sirius-B orbit each other in a double bow every 49.9 years.4
The point requiring attention here is the double, bow-shaped orbit of the two stars around one another.
However, this scientific fact, the accuracy of which was only realised in the late 20th century, was miraculously indicated in the Qur'an 1,400 years ago. When verses 49 and 9 of Surat an-Najm are read together, this miracle becomes apparent:
It is He Who is the Lord of Sirius. (Qur'an, 53: 49)
He was two bow-lengths away or even closer. (Qur'an, 53:9)
The description in Surat an-Najm 9 may also describe how these two stars approach one another in their orbits. (Allah knows best.) This scientific fact, that nobody could have known at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, once again proves that the Qur'an is the word of Almighty Allah.
THE STRUCTURAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SUN, THE MOON AND THE STARS
We built seven firm layers above you. We installed a blazing lamp. (Qur'an, 78:12-13)
As we know, the only source of light in the Solar System is the Sun. With advances in technology, astronomers discovered that the Moon was not a source of light but that it merely reflects the light reaching it from the Sun. The expression "lamp" in the above verse is a translation of the Arabic word "siraaj," which most perfectly describes the Sun, the source of light and heat.
In the Qur'an Allah employs different words when referring to such celestial bodies as the Moon, the Sun and the stars. This is how the differences between the structures of the Sun and Moon are expressed in the Qur'an:
Don't you see how He created seven heavens in layers, and placed the Moon as a light in them and made the sun a blazing lamp? (Qur'an, 71:15-16)
In the above verse, the word "light" is used for the Moon ("noor" in Arabic) and the word "lamp" for the Sun ("siraaj" in Arabic.) The word used for the Moon refers to a light-reflecting, bright, motionless body. The word used for the Sun refers to a celestial body which is always burning, a constant source of heat and light.
On the other hand, the word "star" comes from the Arabic root "najama," meaning "appearing, emerging, visible." As in the verse below, stars are also referred to by the word "thaaqib," which is used for that which shines and pierces the darkness with light: self-consuming and burning:
It is the star that pierces through darkness! (Qur'an, 86:3)
We now know that the Moon does not emit its own light but reflects that reaching it from the Sun. We also know that the Sun and stars do emit their own light. These facts were revealed in the Qur'an in an age when mankind simply did not have the means to make scientific discoveries of their own accord. It was an age when peoples' knowledge of celestial bodies was severely restricted, to say the least. This further emphasises the miraculous nature of the book of Islam.
ORBITS AND THE ROTATING UNIVERSE
One of the most important reasons for the great equilibrium in the universe is the fact that celestial bodies follow specific paths. Stars, planets and satellites all rotate around their own axes and also rotate together with the system of which they are a part. The universe functions within a finely-tuned order, just like the wheels in a factory.
There are more than 100 billion galaxies in the visible universe and each small galaxy contains approximately a billion stars. Furthermore, each big galaxy contains more than a trillion.5 Many of these stars have planets and many of those planets have satellites. All these celestial bodies follow the most finely calculated paths and orbits. For millions of years, each one has been moving in its own path in flawless harmony with all the others. In addition to these, there are also a great many comets moving along in their own pre-determined paths.
In addition, the paths in the universe are not restricted to a few celestial bodies. The Solar System and even other galaxies also exhibit considerable motion around other centres. Every year, Earth, and the Solar System with it, move some 500 million km (310 million miles) from where they were the previous year. It has been calculated that even the slightest deviation from celestial bodies' paths could have drastic consequences which might spell the end of the entire system. For example, the consequences of the Earth's deviating from its course by a mere 3 mm have been described in one source as follows:
While rotating around the sun, the earth follows such an orbit that, every 18 miles, it only deviates 2.8 millimetres from a direct course. The orbit followed by the earth never changes, because even a deviation of 3 millimetres would cause catastrophic disasters: If the deviation were 2.5 mm instead of 2.8 mm, then the orbit would be very large, and all of us would freeze. If the deviation were 3.1 mm, we would be scorched to death.6
Another characteristic of heavenly bodies is that they also rotate around their own axes. The verse which reads "[I swear] by Heaven with its cyclical systems," (Qur'an, 86:11) indicates this truth. Naturally, at the time when the Qur'an was revealed, people had no telescopes with which to study bodies millions of kilometres away in space, advanced observation technology or our modern knowledge of physics and astronomy. It was therefore impossible to establish that space had "its oscillating orbits," (Qur'an, 51:7) as described in the verse. The Qur'an however, revealed at that time, provided clear information concerning that fact. This is proof that this book is indeed Allah's word.
THE SUN'S TRAJECTORY
It is stressed in the Qur'an that the Sun and Moon follow specific trajectories:
It is He Who created night and day and the Sun and Moon, each one swimming in a sphere. (Qur'an, 21:33)
The word "swim" in the above verse is expressed in Arabic by the word "sabaha" and is used to describe the movement of the Sun in space. The word means that the Sun does not move randomly through space but that it rotates around its axis and follows a course as it does so. The fact that the Sun is not fixed in position but rather follows a specific trajectory is also stated in another verse:
And the Sun runs to its resting place. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing. (Qur'an, 36:38)
These facts set out in the Qur'an were only discovered by means of astronomical advances in our own time. According to astronomers' calculations, the Sun moves along a path known as the Solar Apex in the path of the star Vega at an incredible speed of 720,000 kmph (447,000 mph). In rough terms, this shows that the Sun traverses some 17.28 million km (10.74 million miles) a day. As well as the Sun itself, all the planets and satellites within its gravitational field also travel the same distance.
THE MOON'S ORBIT
And We have decreed set phases for the Moon, until it ends up looking like an old date branch. It is not for the Sun to overtake the Moon nor for the night to outstrip the day; each one is swimming in a sphere. (Qur'an, 36:39-40)
The Moon does not follow a regular orbit like the satellites of other planets. As it orbits the Earth, it sometimes moves behind it and sometimes in front. As it also moves with the Earth around the Sun, it actually follows a constant pattern resembling the letter "S" in space.
This route, traced by the Moon in space, is described in the Qur'an as resembling an old date branch and does indeed resemble the twisted form of the date tree branch. Indeed, the word "urjoon" employed in the Qur'an refers to a thin and twisted date branch and is used to describe that part left after the fruit has been picked. The way that this branch is described as "old" is also most appropriate since old date branches are thinner and more twisted.
There is no doubt that it was impossible for anyone to have any knowledge about the orbit of the Moon 1,400 years ago. The way that this pattern, identified by modern technology and accumulated knowledge, was revealed in the Book is yet another scientific miracle of the Qur'an.
1- "First Double Pulsar Found," January 9, 2004; www.atnf.csiro.au/news/press/double_pulsar/
2- Leicester edu dept of Physics & astronomy; www.star.le.ac.uk/astrosoc/whatsup/stars.html; University of Ottowa; www.site.uottawa.ca:4321/astronomy/index.html#Sirius; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/~hrs/ay45/Fall2002/ChapterIVPart2.pdf
3- "Exposes Astronomiques, La troisième loi de KEPLER;" http://www.astrosurf.com/eratosthene/HTML/exposetheoastro.htm
5- World Book Encyclopedia, 2003; contributor: Kenneth Brecher, Ph.D., Professor of Astronomy and Physics, Boston University.
6- Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology Journal), July 1983.