Scientific Errors of the Qur’an
We will start by pointing out the Qur’an’s scientific, historical, and grammatical errors, namely those which deviate from the well-known rules of Arabic grammar. Muslims believe that the inimitability of the Qur’an is found in the eloquence and excellence of the Arabic language in which it is written; thus, it is impossible for them to imagine that the language of the Qur’an is full of errors. First, however, we will be content to allude to three scientific errors pertaining to the sun, earth and the two phenomenon of thunder and lighting.
In plain words, the Qur’an says that one of the righteous men of God’s servants saw the sun set in a certain place of the earth—in particular a well full of water and mud. There, this man found some people. Let us read what is recorded in the Qur’an (chapter "the Cave", verse 86),
"When he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring and found a people thereabout. We said: ‘O Dhul-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness"’ (Surah 18:86).
Lest I failed to understand what the Qur’an meant by these strange words, I referred to the famous students of the Qur’an as well as to the ancient scholars. I discovered that all of them concurred with this rendering and said that Muhammad’s friends inquired about the sunset and that he gave them that answer. All the scholars such as the Baydawi, Jalalan, and Zamakhshari confirm it. The Zamakhshari remarks in his book, "the Kash-shaf",
"Abu Dharr (one of Muhammad’s close companions) was with Muhammad during the sunset. Muhammad asked him: ‘Do you know, O Abu Dharr where this sets?’ He answered: ‘God and His apostle know better.’ Muhammad said: ‘It sets in a spring of slimy water"’ (3rd Edition, Volume 2 p. 743,1987).
In his book, "The Lights of Revelation" (p. 399), the Baydawi indicates,
"The sun sets in a slimy spring; that is, a well which contains mud. Some of the readers of the Qur’an read it, ‘...a hot spring’, thus the spring combines the two descriptions. It was said that Ibn ’Abbas found Mu’awiya reading it (as) hot. He told him, ‘It is muddy.’ Mu’awiya sent to Ka’b al-Ahbar and asked him, ‘Where does the sun set?’ He said in water and mud and there were some people. So he agreed with the statement of ibn al-’Abbas. And there was a man who composed a few verses of poetry about the setting of the sun in the slimy spring."
The Jalalan (p. 251) says that the setting of the sun is in a well which contains a murky mud. We found the same interpretation and text in the Tabari’s commentaries (p. 339) as well as in "Concise Interpretation of the Tabari" (p. 19 of part 2) in which he remarks that the well in which the sun sets "contains lime and murky mud".
These are the comments of the pillars of Islam and the intimate companions of Muhammad such as ibn Abbas and Aba Dharr. Also it is obvious from the Qur’an (chapter 36:38) that the sun ran then settled down. The verse says:
"And the sun runs on into a resting place."
On page 585, the Baydawi says,
"The sun runs in its course to a certain extent then it stops. It is similar to the passenger’s repose after he completes his journey" (refer also the book of al-Itqan by the Suyuti, p. 242).
This is the story of the setting of the sun in the well and its course as a passenger!
The Phenomena of Thunder and Lightning
It is common knowledge, as scientists teach, that thunder is a sound caused by the impact between electrical charges found in the clouds. Yet Muhammad, the prophet of Muslims, has a different opinion in this matter. He claims that the thunder and the lightning are two of God’s angels—exactly like Gabriel!
In the Qur’an there is a chapter under the title of "Thunder" in which it is recorded that the thunder praises God. We might think that it does not mean that literally because thunder is not a living being—although, spiritually speaking, all of nature glorifies God. The expounders of the Qur’an and its chief scholars, however, insist that Muhammad said that the thunder is an angel exactly like the angel Gabriel. In his commentary (p. 329), the Baydawi comments on verse 13 of chapter of the Thunder,
"Ibn ’Abbas asked the apostle of God about the thunder. He told him, ‘It is an angel who is in charge of the cloud, who (carries) with him swindles of fire by which he drives the clouds."’
In the commentary of the Jalalan (p. 206), we read about this verse:
"The thunder is an angel in charge of the clouds to drive them."
Not only ibn ’Abbas asked Muhammad about the essence of the thunder, but the Jews did too. In the book, "al-Itqan" by Suyuti (part 4, p. 230), we read the following dialogue:
"On the authority of Ibn ’Abbas, he said the Jews came to the prophet (peace be upon him) and said, ‘Tell us about the thunder. What is it?’ He told them:
‘It is one of God’s angels in charge of the clouds. He carries in his hand a swindle of fire by which he pricks the clouds to drive them to where God has ordered them.’ They said to him, ‘What is this sound that we hear?’ He said: ‘(It is) his voice (The angel’s voice)."’
The same incident—the question of the Jews and Muhammad’s answer are mentioned by most scholars. Refer, for instance, to al-Sahih al-Musnad Min Asbab Nuzul al-Ayat (stories related to the verses of Qur’an, p. 11) and al-Kash-shaf by the Imam al-Kamakhshari (part 2, pp. 518, 519). He reiterates the same story and the same words of Muhammad. Thus, the incident is in vogue among all Muslim scholars, and the story and the dialogue between Muhammad and the Jews is well-known.
We have mentioned what the Baydawi, Jalalan, Zamakhshari, Suyuti, and ibn ’Abbas have said. We do not know (among the ancient scholars) any who are more famous than these. Concerning lighting, Muhammad affirms that it is an angel like the thunder and like Gabriel and Michael. On page 230 of the above references, Suyuti alludes to it. Also on page 68 of part 4 of the "Itqan", the Suyuti records for us the names of the angels, which are: "Gabriel, Michael, Harut, Marut, the Thunder and the Lightning (He said) that the lightning has four faces."
The Suyuti listed all these under the sub-title, "The names of God’s Angels". He also indicated that Muhammad said that the lightning is the tail end of an angel whose name is Rafael (refer to part 4, p. 230 of the Itqan).
Several thousand years ago, the Holy Bible clearly recorded that the earth is round and that it is hung on nothing.
"It is He who sits above the circle of the earth" (Isa. 40:22).
"He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing" (Job 26:7).
Yet, the Qur’an challenges these established scientific facts. In many places, it alludes to the fact that the earth is flat and its mountains are like poles which create a balance so that the Earth does not tilt. Let us consider what the Qur’an says about the Earth:
In chapter 88:17,20, it is recorded,
"Will they not regard the camels how they are created...and the Earth how it is spread?"
In page 509, the Jalalan says,
"In his phrase, ‘how it is spread’, he denotes that the earth is flat. All the scholars of Islamic law agree upon this. It is not round as the physicists claim."
The Qur’anic teaching is obvious from the comment of Jalalan that "the earth is flat and not round as the scientists claim". What made Jalal al-Din say so is that the Qur’an hints in many chapters that the earth is flat(refer to 19:6, 79:30, 18:7, and 21:30). Also the Qur’an indicates that:
"We have placed in the earth firm hills lest it quake so as not to sway and hurt people" (21:31).
Scholars who agree upon the meaning of this verse believe as the Jalalan states (pp. 270-271),
"God has founded firm mountains on earth lest it shake people."
On page 429, al-Baydawi says,
"God has made firm mountains on earth lest it sway people and quake. He also made heaven as a ceiling and kept it from falling down!"
The Zamakhshari agrees with the above authors and reiterates the same words (refer to Zamakhshari part 3, p. 114).
In the Qur’an (chapter 50:7), we find another verse which carries the same meaning,
"And the earth have we spread out, and have flung firm hills therein" (Surah Qaf: 7).
This is accompanied by the same comment by the above Muslim scholars (refer to Jalalan, p. 437; Baydawi, p. 686, Tabari, p. 589, and Zamakhshari, part 4, p. 381). All of them assure us that "if it were not for these unshakable mountains, the earth would slip away."
Zamakhshari, the Baydawi and the Jalalan say: "God has built heaven without pillars but He placed unshakable mountains on Earth lest it tilts with people." Concerning chapter 50:7, the Suyuti says that scholars indicate that "Qaf is a mountain which encompasses the entire earth" (refer to Itqan, part 3, p. 29). Qaf is an Arabic L like K.
These are the comments of the ancient Muslim scholars word for word. Even some Saudi scholars wrote a book a few years ago to disprove the spherical aspect of the earth and they claimed that it is a myth, agreed with the above mentioned scholars, and said we must believe the Qur’an and reject the spherical aspect of the earth.
It is also well-known that the Qur’an proclaims that there are seven earths—not just one (refer to the commentary of the Jalalan, p. 476, al-Baydawi, p. 745 as they interpret chapter 61:12, Surah Divorce: 1 2).
It is very clear that the sun does not traverse the heaven and set down in a murky, muddy well, or slimy water, or a place which contains both of them as the Baydawi, Zamakhshari, and the Qur’an remark.
Nor is the earth flat and the mountains the pillars and the towerings which prevent the earth from moving as the Qur’an and the scholars said. Nor is there a mountain which encompasses the whole earth—nor are there seven earths.
Neither is the lightning an angel whose name is Rafael, nor is the thunder an angel. It never happened that the angel Gabriel inspired Muhammad to write a complete chapter about his friend the angel thunder! The thunder and lightning are natural phenomena and not God’s angels like Michael and Gabriel as the prophet of Islam claims.