Responses to "Islamic Information"

Science in the Quran

Chapter 10 : Comparing Apples and Oranges

The sun and the moon are different from each other not only in terms of size, but also in terms of function. The sun generates light, but the moon does not. The moon merely reflects the light coming from the sun. Every high school student today knows this.

A man or woman in the seventh century, however, would not have known about this fine distinction between the sun and the moon. To such a person, the two would appear as a greater light and a lesser light.


Really? They wouldn't? We shall shortly demonstrate that this fact was already known during the time of Christ and is therefore nothing new.


Such a person would observe that the greater light lights up the day and the lesser light lights up the night. And this indeed is how the sun and the moon were described in previous books.

The Bible, describing the creation, says:

"God made two great lights the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night" (Genesis 1:16).

The author of the Qur'an however, was aware that this comparison between the sun and the moon is not adequate.


Actually the author of the Quran made several mistakes when discussing the sun and the moon as well as the constellations.


Therefore the Qur'an does not refer to them as being a greater and a lesser light.

The Qur'an says:

"God is the One who made the sun a shine and the moon a light" (Qur'an 10:5).

Commenting on this, Dr. Bucaille says:

"Whereas the Bible calls the sun and moon `lights', and merely adds to one the adjective `greater' and to the other `lesser', the Qur'an ascribes differences other than that of dimension to each respectively" (The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 156).


Bucaille and Shabir can choose to believe that the distinction made by the Quran in relation to the sun and moon is not limited solely to their dimensions, the fact remains that the verses are vague and do not conclusively prove the points that Shabir is trying to make. It doesn't take a scientist to realize that the sun's light is stronger and much brighter than the light reflected by the moon. So far, nothing in the Quran would make one conclude that the information contained within it is something that could only be from God.


Similarly, the Qur'an says:

"Blessed is the One Who placed the constellations in heaven and placed therein a lamp and a moon giving light" (Qur'an 25:61).

Here again, the difference between the sun and the moon is noted. The sun is called a lamp, and the moon is called an object giving light.

Again in the Qur'an God says that He "made the moon a light" and "made the sun a lamp" (Qur'an 71:15-16).


The issue of different words used for the light of the Sun and the Moon is discussed in detail in Moon Light is Reflected Light. Let us turn here to some other aspects. Shabir failed to mention the fact that the Quran also implies that heaven contains many more lamps than just the sun:

He Who created the seven heavens, one above the other ... And We have adorned the lowest heaven with lamps ... S. 67:3, 5

And He completed them seven heavens in two days and inspired in each heaven its command; and We adorned the lower heaven with lamps, and rendered it guarded... S. 41:12

We have indeed adorned the lower heaven with the beauty of the stars. S. 37:6

These passages leave Shabir with major scientific difficulties. The lamps that adorn the lowest heaven are identified as the stars. The problem is that stars do not just adorn the lowest heaven, but adorn all the galaxies that we know of. Hence, lamps can be seen throughout the billions of galaxies and are not just limited to one specific part of the heavens. This is a gross scientific error.

Furthermore, it would seem that the term "lamps" is not just limited to the starry host but includes everything that seems to give forth light, such as the sun being referred to elsewhere as a lamp. This seems to suggest that the term is inclusive and would also include the moon as one of those light-giving lamps since it too is a light in the midst of heaven according to the Quran.


Furthermore, God calls the sun a "blazing lamp" (Qur'an 78:12-13).

This term which is used for the sun is never used for the moon in the Qur'an.


If we assume that the term "lamps" includes all the heavenly objects which seemingly give forth light, then this affirms that the term is used for the moon as well. Furthermore, the description of the sun as a "blazing lamp" is not impressive at all and does not entail a revelation from God. Anyone looking at the sun on a clear day can tell that it resembles a blazing object, whereas the moon obviously does not.


In all of these verses, God expresses the notion that the sun and the moon are "not absolutely identical lights" (The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 156).

Dr. Bucaille draws his conclusions from what he found in the Qur'an about the sun and the moon:

"What is interesting to note here is the sober quality of the comparisons, and the absence in the text of the Qur'an of any elements of comparison that might have prevailed at the time and which in our day would appear as phantasmagorial" (The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 157).

In short, "There is nothing in the text of the Qur'an that contradicts what we know today about these two celestial bodies." (The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, p. 157).


Actually, to say that the sun and moon are not identical lights is a difficulty since we know that the moon has no light of its own. Rather, the moon reflects the light of the sun. This would affirm that their lights are identical since one object reflects the light of the other. If by identical one means that their lights do not resemble each other in that one light is blazing and the other is not, this still would not prove that the Quran is inspired. Anyone looking at the sun and moon can tell that the sunlight seems to be different and more intense than the light reflected by the moon.

Furthermore, the statement that the Quran contains no contradictions to what we know today about constellations is not true. We have already seen that the Quran assumes that stars are found only in the lowest heaven, as opposed to being found throughout the entire universe. The Quran also asserts that the moon is located in the midst of the seven heavens which is a gross error:

Do you not see how God has created the seven heavens one above the other, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a lamp? S. 71:15-16

The only problem with this statement is that the average distance from the earth to the moon is 384,400 km, while Proxima Centauri, the closest star to us outside of the solar system, is already about 4.3 light years = 40,682,300,000,000 km (40 trillion kilometers) away, or expressed differently, we need to multiply the distance of the moon by more than 100 million to reach even the nearest of all the stars. Hence, to say that the moon is in the midst of the seven heavens implies that the moon is actually farther away from the earth than the stars since the latter are only found in the lowest heaven. This is a major scientific error!

Other mistakes include the following:

It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit. S. 36:40 M.M Pickthall

Yusuf Ali translates this verse as follows:

It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).

By the sun and his brightness, And the moon when she followeth him ... S. 91:1-2

These verses give the impression that both the sun and the moon travel on an identical orbit where the sun never catches up to the moon. The fact is that the moon and sun are not traveling together since the moon orbits around the earth, not the sun. It is the earth that travels around the sun. Furthermore, while there are plenty of verses speaking about the orbit of the sun and moon, there is not one single passage in the Quran that mentions that the earth is also traveling in an orbit. In fact, the Quran gives the impression that the earth is not traveling, but rather it is the center, and the sun, moon and stars travel around it:

And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They float, each in an orbit. S. 21:33

And maketh the sun and the moon, constant in their courses, to be of service unto you, and hath made of service unto you the night and the day. S. 14:33

Allah it is Who raised up the heavens without visible supports, then mounted the Throne, and compelled the sun and the moon to be of service, each runneth unto an appointed term; He ordereth the course; He detaileth the revelations, that haply ye may be certain of the meeting with your Lord. S. 13:2

He hath created the heavens and the earth with truth. He maketh night to succeed day, and He maketh day to succeed night, and He constraineth the sun and the moon to give service, each running on for an appointed term. Is not He the Mighty, the Forgiver? S. 39:5

This would have been a perfect opportunity for God to have included the earth as traveling in a course seeing that the orbit of the sun and moon are mentioned here. Yet, the impression given is that the earth, unlike the sun and moon, is not traveling. This point is solidified by the following verse:

Is not He (best) Who made the earth a fixed abode, and placed rivers in the folds thereof, and placed firm hills therein, and hath set a barrier between the two seas? Is there any God beside Allah? Nay, but most of them know not! S. 27:61 Pickthall

Pickthall's translation gives the impression that the earth is in a fixed position, and hence is stationary. The Quran also teaches that the earth is prevented from shaking by hills and mountains that act as firm anchors or pegs:

And He hath cast into the earth firm hills that it quake not with you, and streams and roads that ye may find a way. S. 16:15

And the earth have We spread out, and placed therein firm hills, and caused each seemly thing to grow therein. S. 15:19

And We have placed in the earth firm hills lest it quake with them, and We have placed therein ravines as roads that haply they may find their way. S. 21:37

He hath created the heavens without supports that ye can see, and hath cast into the earth firm hills, so that it quake not with you; and He hath dispersed therein all kinds of beasts. And We send down water from the sky and We cause (plants) of every goodly kind to grow therein. S. 31:10

The problem with these statements is that hills and mountains are an indication of the earth's instability, not its stability. Hills and mountains form when the earth's plates either divide or collide with each other, causing earthquakes. In fact, another type of earthquake is caused by volcanic eruptions. Hence, if anything the fact that we have hills and mountains proves the exact opposite of what the Quran claims.

Allah it is who hath created seven heavens, and of the earth the like thereof. The commandment cometh down among them slowly, that ye may know that Allah is Able to do all things, and that Allah surroundeth all things in knowledge. S. 65:12

It should be obvious to anyone that we do not have seven earths in our galaxy. If by seven earths one means planets this is still wrong since we have nine planets all together.

He it is Who appointed the sun a splendour and the moon a light, and measured for her stages, that ye might know the number of the years, and the reckoning. Allah created not (all) that save in truth. He detaileth the revelations for people who have knowledge. S. 10:5

And for the moon We have appointed mansions till she returns like an old shrivelled palm-leaf. It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. They all float, each in an orbit. S. 36:39-40

Al-Baidawi comments on this verse:

"And the moon-we determined" means its course is determined by stations. These stations are [twenty-seven]. They are as follows: Saratan ["Cancer"], Batin ["the Ventricle"], Thurayya ["the Pleiades"], al-Dabarran, al-Mihqama, al-Hata'a, Dhira' ["the Arm"], al-Natra, Taraf ["the End"], Jaiha ["the Countenance"], Zabra ["the Lion's Shoulder], Sarfa ["the Lion's Heart], `Uwa' ["the Lion's Thigh], al-Samalik, al-Zayana, Iklil ["the Wreath"], Qalb ["the Heart"], Shauka ["the Thorn"], al-Ta'a'im, Balda ["the Town"], Sa'd al-Dhabih [`Sa'd of the Sacrifices'], Sa'd Bala' Sa'd al-Su'ud, Sa'd al-Ahbiya, Fargh al-Dilw al-Muqaddam ["the advanced Aquarius"], Fargh al-Dilw al-Mu'akhkhar ["the delayed Aquarius"], and Risha ["the Whale's Belly"]. Every night the moon rests at a station, never exceeding it, and never late to it. When it is at its last station, which precedes the meeting, it tapers and turns into a crescent, "till it runs like an aged palm-bough" or an old palm frond, or a year-old palm frond. "It behoves not the sun" means it does not fit the sun "to overtake the moon" in speed. "Neither does the night outstrip the day" means it does not run before it and leave it lagging behind. "Each" refers to the suns and the moons. "Swimming in a sky" they glide easily in it. `Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi, Is the Qur'an Infallible? [Light of Life, PO Box 13, A-9503, Villach Austria], pp. 30-31)

Instead of appealing to respectable Muslim exegetes like Baidawi, Shabir is forced to cite Bucaille as his authority. The reason becomes obvious, since to cite authorities such as Baidawi would leave Shabir with major scientific problems. For example, Baidawi understands the Quranic statement that the moon is appointed mansions to mean that the moon travels throughout the galaxy, traversing the different constellations such as Pleiades. This is a gross error! In order to avoid these errors, Shabir appeals to Bucaille who is not considered an authority on Islam.

Finally, the fact that the moon has no light of its own but merely reflects the light of the sun was known during the life of Christ and was therefore nothing new to the Jews of Muhammad's day. This is due primarily to the fact that the Jewish philosopher, Philo, writing during the time of Christ in his From Questions on Genesis (92), clearly knew that the moon had no light of its own but reflected the light that emanated from the sun:

"Why it is said that the days of man shall be a hundred and twenty years? (Genesis 6:4).

"God appears here to fix the limit of human life by this number, indicating by it the manifold prerogative of honour; for in the first place this number proceeds from the units, according to combination, from the number fifteen; but the principle of the number fifteen is that of a more transparent appearance, since it is on the fifteenth day that the moon is rendered full of light, borrowing its light of the sun at the approach of evening, and restoring it to him again in the morning; so that during the night of the full moon the darkness is scarcely visible, but it is all light." (Quoted as found in Glenn Miller's article.)

The following excerpt is taken from Abraham Cohen's Everyman's Talmud:

The other legend tells that Abraham had to be hidden away soon after his birth because astrologers had warned King Nimrod that a child was about to born who would overthrow his kingdom, and advised that he be killed while still a babe. The child lived with a nurse in a cave for three years. The story continues: ‘When he left the cave, his heart kept reflecting upon the creation of the Universe, and he determined to worship all the luminaries until he discovered which of them was God. He saw the moon whose light illumined the darkness of night from one end of the world to the other and noticed the vast retinue stars. "This is God," he exclaimed, and worshipped it throughout the night. In the morning when he beheld the dawn of the sun, and the moon darkened and its power waned, he exclaimed: "The light of the moon MUST BE DERIVED FROM THE LIGHT OF THE SUN, and the Universe only exists through the sun's rays." So he worshiped the sun throughout the day. In the evening, the sun sank below the horizon, its power waned, and the moon rappeared with the stars and the planets. He thereupon exclaimed: "Surely these all have a Master and God!"’ (Ibid., [Schocken Books New York], p. 2; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Cohen has a note to this story:

This passage is quoted from the Midrash Hagadol, ed. Schechter, 1. 189 f. This is a late collection of Midrashic material, but this story, although not found in the Talmud or standard Midrashim, occurs in the Apocalypse of Abraham, which belongs to the middle of the first century of the present era, and so falls within the Talmudic period. (Ibid., n. 2; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, the Jews knew that the moon was reflected light even before Muhammad was born. Interestingly, both Philo's statement and the Apocryphal story are more scientific than the Quran since the latter nowhere even alludes to the fact that the moon has no light of its own. Certainly it is not explicitly stated.

In fact, there even are biblical passages which suggest that the moon is reflecting the sun's light:

"‘And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land,’ declares the Lord GOD." Ezekiel 32:7-8

"Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’" Matthew 24:29

These passages suggest that the sun's darkening is somehow linked to the moon not giving light. One can, therefore, argue that the bible writers were aware that the moon derived its light, or reflected it, from the sun, which accounts for why the the darkening of the sun leads to the moon not giving any light. If anything, the language of these passages are more compatible with modern science then the Quran's statements regarding moonlight.

In summary, there is nothing miraculous in the Quran since most of its statements are vague and it does not make the scientific statements Muslims claim, nor does it contain anything new.

Sam Shamoun

See also: Qur'an and Science: Moon Light is Reflected Light

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