Part 1 - The Scientific Miracles of the Qur'an (2/3)
The Coming of the Universe into Existence
The origin of the universe is described in the Qur'an in the following verse:
"He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth." (The Qur'an, 6:101)
This information given in the Qur'an is in full agreement with the findings of contemporary science. The conclusion that astrophysics has reached today is that the entire universe, together with the dimensions of matter and time, came into existence as a result of a great explosion that occurred in no time. This event, known as "The Big Bang" proved that the universe was created from nothingness as the result of the explosion of a single point. Modern scientific circles are in agreement that the Big Bang is the only rational and provable explanation of the beginning of the universe and of how the universe came into being.
Before the Big Bang, there was no such thing as matter. From a condition of non-existence in which neither matter, nor energy, nor even time existed, and which can only be described metaphysically, matter, energy, and time were all created. This fact, only recently discovered by modern physics, was announced to us in the Qur'an 1,400 years ago.
The Expansion of the Universe
In the Qur'an, which was revealed 14 centuries ago at a time when the science of astronomy was still primitive, the expansion of the universe was described like this:
"And it is We who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it." (The Qur'an, 51:47)
The word "heaven", as stated in this verse, is used in various places in the Qur'an with the meaning of space and universe. Here again, the word is used with this meaning. In other words, in the Qur'an it is revealed that the universe "expands". And this is the very conclusion that science has reached today.
Until the dawn of the 20th century, the only view prevailing in the world of science was that "the universe has a constant nature and it has existed since infinite time". The research, observations, and calculations carried out by means of modern technology, however, have revealed that the universe in fact had a beginning, and that it constantly "expands".
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann and the Belgian cosmologist Georges Lemaitre theoretically calculated that the universe is in constant motion and that it is expanding.
This fact was proved also by observational data in 1929. While observing the sky with a telescope, Edwin Hubble, the American astronomer, discovered that the stars and galaxies were constantly moving away from each other. A universe where everything constantly moves away from everything else implied a constantly expanding universe. The observations carried out in the following years verified that the universe is constantly expanding. This fact was explained in the Qur'an when that was still unknown to anyone. This is because the Qur'an is the word of God, the Creator, and the Ruler of the entire universe.
The Splitting Asunder of "The Heavens and the Earth"
Another verse about the creation of the heavens is as follows:
"Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before We clove them asunder, and We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" (The Qur'an, 21:30)
The word ratq translated as "sewn to" means "mixed in each, blended" in Arabic dictionaries. It is used to refer to two different substances that make up a whole. The phrase "we unstitched" is the verb fataqa in Arabic and implies that something comes into being by tearing apart or destroying the structure of ratq. The sprouting of a seed from the soil is one of the actions to which this verb is applied.
Let us take a look at the verse again with this knowledge in mind. In the verse, sky and earth are at first subject to the status of ratq. They are separated (fataqa) with one coming out of the other. Intriguingly, when we remember the first moments of the Big Bang, we see that a single point included all the matter in the universe. In other words, everything, including "the heavens and earth" which were not created yet, were included in this point in a condition of ratq. This point exploded violently, causing its matter to fataqa and in the process created the structure of the whole universe.
When we compare the expressions in the verse with scientific findings, we see that they are in perfect agreement with each other. Interestingly enough, these findings were not arrived at until the 20th century.
While referring to the Sun and the Moon in the Qur'an, it is emphasized that each moves in a definite orbit.
"It is He Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They swim along, each in an orbit." (The Qur'an, 21:33)
It is mentioned in another verse, too, that the Sun is not static but moves in a definite orbit:
"And the sun runs to its resting place. That is the decree of the Almighty, the All-Knowing." (The Qur'an, 36:38)
These facts communicated in the Qur'an have been discovered by astronomical observations in our age. According to the calculations of experts on astronomy, the Sun is traveling at the enormous speed of 720,000 kilometers an hour in the direction of the star Vega in a particular orbit called the Solar Apex. This means that the sun travels roughly 17,280,000 kilometers a day. Along with the Sun, and all planets and satellites within the gravitational system of the Sun also travel the same distance. In addition, all the stars in the universe are in a similar planned motion.
That the entire universe is full of paths and orbits such as this one, is written in the Qur'an as follows:
"By the sky full of paths and orbits." (The Qur'an, 51:7)
There are about 200 billion galaxies in the universe, consisting of nearly 200 billion stars in each. Most of these stars have planets, and most of those planets have satellites. All of these heavenly bodies move in very precisely computed orbits. For millions of years, each has been "swimming" along in its own orbit in perfect harmony and order with all the others. Moreover, many comets also move along in the orbits determined for them.
The orbits in the universe do not only belong to celestial bodies. The galaxies also travel at enormous speeds in computed, planned orbits. During these movements, none of these celestial bodies cuts across another's path, or collides with another.
Surely at the time the Qur'an was revealed, mankind did not possess today's telescopes or advanced observation technologies to observe millions of kilometres of space, nor the modern knowledge of physics or astronomy. Therefore, at that time, it was not possible to determine scientifically that space is "full of paths and orbits" as stated in the verse. However, this was openly declared to us in the Qur'an that was revealed at that time:–because the Qur'an is the word of God.
The Roundness of the Earth
"He has created the Heavens and the Earth for Truth. He wraps the night up in the day, and wraps the day up in the night." (The Qur'an, 39:5)
In the Qur'an, the words used for describing the universe are quite remarkable. The Arabic word that is translated as "to wrap" in the above verse is "takwir". In English, it means "to make one thing lap over another, folded up as a garment that is laid away". (For instance, in Arabic dictionaries this word is used for the action of wrapping one thing around another, in the way that a turban is put on.)
The information given in the verse about the day and the night wrapping each other up includes accurate information about the shape of the world. This can be true only if the earth is round. This means that in the Qur'an, which was revealed in the 7th century, the roundness of the world was hinted at.
It should be remembered, however, that the understanding of astronomy of the time perceived the world differently. It was then thought that the world was a flat plane and all scientific calculations and explanations were based on this belief. The verses of the Qur'an, however, include information that we have learned only in the past century. Since the Qur'an is God's word, the most correct words were used in it when it comes to describing the universe.
The Protected Roof
In the Qur'an, God calls our attention to a very interesting attribute of the sky:
"We made the sky a preserved and protected roof yet still they turn away from Our Signs.." (The Qur'an, 21:32)
This attribute of the sky has been proved by scientific research carried out in the 20th century.
The atmosphere surrounding the earth serves crucial functions for the continuity of life. While destroying many meteors big and small as they approach the earth, it prevents them from falling to earth and harming living things.
In addition, the atmosphere filters the light rays coming from space that are harmful to living things. Interestingly, the atmosphere lets only harmless and useful rays– visible light, near ultraviolet light, and radio waves pass through. All of this radiation is vital for life. Near ultraviolet rays, which are only partially let in by the atmosphere, are very important for the photosynthesis of plants and for the survival of all living beings. The majority of the intense ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun are filtered out by the ozone layer of the atmosphere and only a limited–and essential–part of the ultraviolet spectrum reaches the Earth.
The protective function of the atmosphere does not end here. The atmosphere also protects the earth from the freezing cold of the space, which is about minus 270o C.
It is not only the atmosphere that protects the Earth from harmful effects. In addition to the atmosphere, the Van Allen Belt, a layer caused by the magnetic field of the Earth, also serves as a shield against the harmful radiation that threatens our planet. This radiation, which is constantly emitted by the Sun and other stars, is deadly to living things. If the Van Allen belt did not exist, the massive outbursts of energy called solar flares that frequently occur in the Sun would destroy all life on Earth.
Dr. Hugh Ross has this to say on the importance of Van Allen Belts to our lives:
In fact, the Earth has the highest density of any of the planets in our Solar System. This large nickel-iron core is responsible for our large magnetic field. This magnetic field produces the Van-Allen radiation shield, which protects the Earth from radiation bombardment. If this shield were not present, life would not be possible on the Earth. The only other rocky planet to have any magnetic field is Mercury - but its field strength is 100 times less than the Earth's. Even Venus, our sister planet, has no magnetic field. The Van-Allen radiation shield is a design unique to the Earth.1
The energy transmitted in just one of these bursts detected in recent years was calculated to be equivalent to 100 billion atomic bombs similar to the one dropped on Hiroshima. Fifty-eight hours after the burst, it was observed that the magnetic needles of compasses displayed unusual movement and 250 kilometers above the earth's atmosphere, the temperature suddenly increased to 2,500o C.
In short, a perfect system is at work high above the Earth. It surrounds our world and protects it against external threats. Scientists only learned about it recently, yet centuries ago, God informed us in the Qur'an of the world's atmosphere functioning as a protective shield.
The Returning Sky
The verse 11 of Sura Tarik in the Qur'an, refers to the "returning" function of the sky.
"By Heaven with its cyclical systems." (The Qur'an, 86:11)
This word interpreted as "cyclical" in Qur'an translations also has meanings of "sending back" or "returning".
As known, the atmosphere surrounding the Earth consists of many layers. Each layer serves an important purpose for the benefit of life. Research has revealed that these layers have the function of turning the materials or rays they are exposed to back into space or back down to the Earth. Now let us examine with a few examples of this "recycling" function of the layers encircling the Earth.
The troposphere, 13 to 15 kilometers above the Earth, enables water vapor rising from the surface of the Earth to be condensed and turn back as rain.
The ozone layer, at an altitude of 25 kilometers, reflects harmful radiation and ultraviolet light coming from space and turns both back into space.
The ionosphere, reflects radio waves broadcast from the Earth back down to different parts of the world, just like a passive communications satellite, and thus makes wireless communication, radio, and television broadcasting possible over long distances.
The magnetosphere layer turns the harmful radioactive particles emitted by the Sun and other stars back into space before they reach the Earth.
The fact that this property of the atmosphere's layers, that was onlt demonstrated in the recent past was announced centuries ago in the Qur'an, once again demonstrates that the Qur'an is the word of God.
The Layers of the Atmosphere
One fact about the universe revealed in the verses of the Qur'an is that the sky is made up of seven layers.
"It is He Who created everything on the earth for you and then directed His attention up to heaven and arranged it into seven regular heavens. He has knowledge of all things." (The Qur'an, 2:29)
"Then He turned to heaven when it was smoke. In two days He determined them as seven heavens and revealed, in every heaven, its own mandate." (The Qur'an, 41:12)
The word "heavens", which appears in many verses in the Qur'an, is used to refer to the sky above the Earth, as well as the entire universe. Given this meaning of the word, it is seen that the Earth's sky, or the atmosphere, is made up of seven layers.
Indeed, today it is known that the world's atmosphere consists of different layers that lie on top of each other. Furthermore, it consists, just as is described in the Qur'an, of exactly seven layers. In a scientific source, the subject is described as follows:
Scientists have found that the atmosphere consists of several layers. The layers differ in such physical properties as pressure and the types of gasses. The layer of the atmosphere closest to Earth is called the TROPOSPHERE. It contains about 90% of the total mass of the atmosphere. The layer above the troposphere is called the STRATOSPHERE. The OZONE LAYER is the part of the stratosphere where absorption of ultraviolet rays occurs. The layer above the stratosphere is called the MESOSPHERE. The THERMOSPHERE lies above the mesosphere. The ionized gases form a layer within the thermosphere called the IONOSPHERE. The outermost part of Earth's atmosphere extends from about 480 km out to 960 km. This part is called the EXOSPHERE.2
If we count the number of layers cited in this source, we see that the atmosphere consists of exactly seven layers, just as stated in the verse.
Another important miracle on this subject is mentioned in the statement "(He) revealed, in every heaven, its own mandate.", in verse 12 of Sura Fussilet. In other words, in the verse, God states that He assigned each heaven its own duty. Truly, as seen in previous chapters, each one of these layers has vital duties for the benefit of human kind and all other living things on the Earth. Each layer has a particular function, ranging from forming rain to preventing harmful rays, from reflecting radio waves, to averting the harmful effects of meteors.
One of these functions, for example, is stated in a scientific source as follows:
Earth's atmosphere has 7 layers. The lowest layer is called troposphere. Rain, snow and wind only take place in the troposphere.3
It is a great miracle that these facts, which could not possibly be discovered without the technology of the 20th century, were explicitly stated by the Qur'an 1,400 years ago.
The Function of Mountains
The Qur'an draws attention to a very important geological function of mountains.
"We placed firmly embedded mountains on the earth, so it would not move under them…" (The Qur'an, 21:31)
As we have noticed, it is stated in the verse that mountains have the function of preventing shocks in the Earth.
This fact was not known by anyone at the time the Qur'an was revealed. It was in fact brought to light only recently as a result of the findings of modern geology.
According to these findings, mountains emerge as a result of the movements and collisions of massive plates forming the Earth's crust. When two plates collide, the stronger one slides under the other, the one on the top bends and forms heights and mountains. The layer beneath proceeds under the ground and makes a deep extension downward. That means that mountains have a portion stretching downwards, as large as their visible parts on the Earth.
In a scientific text, the structure of mountains is described as follows:
Where continents are thicker, as in mountain ranges, the crust sinks deeper into the mantle.4
In a verse, this role of the mountains is pointed out by a comparison with "pegs":
"Have We not made the earth as a bed and the mountains its pegs?" (The Qur'an, 78:6-7)
Mountains, in other words, clench the plates in the Earth's crust together by extending above and beneath the Earth's surface at the conjunction points of these plates. In this way, they fix the Earth's crust, and prevent it from drifting over the magma stratum or among its plates. Briefly, we may liken mountains to nails that keep pieces of wood together.
This fixing function of the mountains is described in scientific literature by the term "isostasy". Isostasy means the following:
Isostasy: general equilibrium in the Earth's crust maintained by a yielding flow of rock material beneath the surface under gravitational stress.5
This vital role of mountains, that was discovered by modern geology and seismic research, was revealed in the Qur'an centuries ago as an example of the supreme wisdom in God's creation.
"We placed firmly embedded mountains on the earth, so it would not move under them..." (The Qur'an, 21:31)
The Movement of Mountains
In one verse, we are informed that mountains are not motionless as they seem, but are in constant motion.
"You will see the mountains you reckoned to be solid going past like clouds." (The Qur'an, 27:88)
This motion of the mountains is caused by the movement of the Earth's crust that they are located on. The Earth's crust 'floats' over the mantle layer, which is denser. It was at the beginning of the 20th century when, for the first time in history, a German scientist by the name of Alfred Wegener proposed that the continents of the earth had been attached together when it first formed, but then drifted in different directions, and thus separated as they moved away from each other.
Geologists understood that that Wegener was right only in the 1980s, 50 years after his death. As Wegener pointed out in an article published in 1915, the land masses on the earth were joined together about 500 million years ago. As Wegener pointed out in a 1915 article, the land masses of the earth were joined together some 500 million years ago, and this large mass, called Pangaea, was located in the South Pole.
Approximately 180 million years ago, Pangaea divided into two parts, which drifted in different directions. One of these giant continents was Gondwana, which included Africa, Australia, Antarctica and India. The second one was Laurasia, which included Europe, North America and Asia, except for India. Over the next 150 million years following this separation, Gondwana and Laurasia divided into smaller parts.
These continents that emerged after the split of Pangaea have been constantly moving on the Earth's surface at several centimetres per year, in the meantime changing the sea and land ratios of the Earth.
Discovered as a result of the geological research carried out at the beginning of the 20th century, this movement of the Earth's crust is explained by scientists as follows:
The crust and the uppermost part of the mantle, with a thickness of about 100 kms., are divided into segments called plates. There are six major plates, and several small ones. According to the theory called plate tectonics, these plates move about on Earth, carrying continents and ocean floor with them. Continental motion has been measured at from 1-5 cm per year. As the plates continue to move about, this will produce a slow change in Earth's geography. Each year, for instance, the Atlantic Ocean becomes slightly wider.6
There is a very important point to be stated here: God has referred to the motion of mountains as a drifting action in the verse. Today, modern scientists also use the term "Continental Drift" for this motion. 7
Unquestionably, it is one of the miracles of the Qur'an that this scientific fact, which has recently been discovered by science, was announced in the Qur'an.
The Miracle in the Iron
Iron is one of the elements highlighted in the Qur'an. In Sura Hadid, meaning Iron, we are informed:
"…And We sent down iron in which there lies great force and which has many uses for mankind...." (The Qur'an, 57:25)
The word "sent down," particularly used for iron in the verse, could be thought of having a metaphorical meaning to explain that iron has been given to benefit people. But when we take into consideration the literal meaning of the word, which is, "being physically sent down from the sky", we realize that this verse implies a very significant scientific miracle.
This is because modern astronomical findings have disclosed that the iron found in our world has come from the giant stars in outer space.
The heavy metals in the universe are produced in the nuclei of big stars. Our solar system, however, does not possess a suitable structure for producing iron on its own. Iron can only be produced in much bigger stars than the Sun, where the temperature reaches a few hundred million degrees. When the amount of iron exceeds a certain level in a star, the star can no longer accommodate it, and eventually it explodes in what is called a "nova" or a "supernova". As a result of this explosion, meteors containing iron are scattered around the universe, and they move through the void until attracted by the gravitational force of a celestial body.
All this shows that iron did not form on the Earth, but was carried from exploding stars in space via meteors, and was "sent down to earth", in exactly the same way as stated in the verse: It is clear that this fact could not have been scientifically known in the 7th century, when the Qur'an was revealed.
The Pairs in Creation
"Glory be to Him Who created all the pairs: from what the earth produces and from themselves and from things unknown to them." (The Qur'an, 36:36)
Although the concept of ''pair'' or "couple" commonly stands for male and female, the statement of ''from things unknown to them'' has wider implications. Today, one of the implications of the verse has been revealed. The British scientist Paul Dirac, who proposed that matter is created in pairs, was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1933. This discovery, called ''parité'', maintains that matter is paired with its opposite: anti-matter. Anti-matter carries the opposite properties to matter. For instance, as opposed to matter, the electron of anti-matter is positively charged and its protons are negatively charged. This fact is stated in a scientific source in this way:
"...every particle has its antiparticle of opposite charge… …and the uncertainty relation tells us that pair creation and pair annihilation happen in the vacuum at all times, in all places."8
The Relativity of Time
Today, the relativity of time is a proven scientific fact. This was revealed by Einstein's theory of relativity at the early years of the 20th century. Until then, people did not know that time was a relative concept, and that it could change according to the environment. Yet, the great scientist Albert Einstein openly proved this fact with the theory of relativity. He showed that time is dependent on mass and velocity. In the history of humanity, no one had expressed this fact clearly before.
With one exception though; the Qur'an included information about time's being relative! Some verses about the subject read:
"They ask you to hasten the punishment. God will not break His promise. A day with your Lord is equivalent to a thousand years in the way you count." (The Qur'an, 22:47)
"He directs the whole affair from heaven to earth. Then it will again ascend to Him on a Day whose length is a thousand years by the way you measure." (The Qur'an, 32:5)
"The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years." (The Qur'an, 70:4)
In some verses, it is indicated that people perceive time differently and that sometimes people can perceive a very short period of time as a very lengthy one. The following conversation of people held during their judgement in the Hereafter is a good example of this:
"He will say, 'How many years did you tarry on the earth?' They will say, 'We tarried there for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!' He will say, 'You only tarried there for a little while if you did but know!" (The Qur'an, 23:112-114)
The fact that the relativity of time is so clearly mentioned in the Qur'an, which started to be revealed in 610, is another evidence that it is a holy book.