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IslamWeb lists Qur'an 10:61 as a miracle of the Qur'an (That matter is made up of sub-atomic particles (chapter 10, verse 61).). The verse is:

وَمَا تَكُونُ فِي شَأْنٍ وَمَا تَتْلُو مِنْهُ مِن قُرْآنٍ وَلَا تَعْمَلُونَ مِنْ عَمَلٍ إِلَّا كُنَّا عَلَيْكُمْ شُهُودًا إِذْ تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ وَمَا يَعْزُبُ عَن رَّبِّكَ مِن مِّثْقَالِ ذَرَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَا أَصْغَرَ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَا أَكْبَرَ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ

And, [O Muhammad], you are not [engaged] in any matter or recite any of the Qur'an and you [people] do not do any deed except that We are witness over you when you are involved in it. And not absent from your Lord is any [part] of an atom's weight within the earth or within the heaven or [anything] smaller than that or greater but that it is in a clear register.
Qur'an 10:61; other English translations are at Islam Awakened

The relevant Arabic words are (translations from Wiktionary):

  • مثقال (miṯqāl) = weight (physical object)
  • ذرة (ḏarra) = atom; tiny particle, speck, mote

Clearly the word ذرة in the Qur'an predates atomic theory, which began scientific development circa 1800. This leads me to my question:

Question: How did "an atom's weight" come to be mentioned in translations of the Qur'an?

Searching quran.com for ذرة reveals it is also mentioned in:

  • Qur'an 99:7-8, So whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it, And whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it.;
  • Qur'an 4:40, Allah does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom's weight;
  • Qur'an 34:3, Not absent from Him is an atom's weight within the heavens or within the earth or [what is] smaller than that or greater, except that it is in a clear register; and
  • Qur'an 34:22, They do not possess an atom's weight [of ability] in the heavens or on the earth.

Searching sunnah.com for ذرة reveals it is also mentioned in:

  • Sahih al-Bukhari, which describes Qur'an 99:7-8 being revealed, although this translation says weight of an atom (or a smallest ant);
  • Muwatta Malik, A'isha said, 'Are you amazed? How many atoms' weights do you see in this grape?' " (referring to Sura 99 ayat 7).

There's probably other sources I have not found.

Searching the Islam-critical site WikiIslam.com for atom did not yield anything relevant; they usually have pages for "debunking" claims of miracles in the Qur'an.

(Meta comment: I proposed this as a draft question (here), although I feel like I've mostly answered it in researching the topic. Thus, I'll post that as an answer below. Perhaps someone can give a better answer.)

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Below, I propose two non-miraculous possibilities; it might not be easy to discern which one is correct.

Other translations use the word "particle" instead of "atom" (see Islam Awakened), and surely during the time of the Prophet, people knew about particles, e.g., dust particles. So one possible explanation is that the word ذرة originally meant "particle", and was ascribed the modern meaning of the word "atom" during the development of atomic theory. (This is the simplest explanation.)

However, Wikipedia writes:

The idea that matter is made up of discrete units is a very old idea, appearing in many ancient cultures such as Greece and India. The word "atom" was coined by the ancient Greek philosophers Leucippus and his pupil Democritus.

So another possible explanation is that ذرة in the Qur'an indeed means "atom" in the sense we use use it today (a kind of indivisible particle). However I'm not aware of any evidence to suggest the Prophet (nor his companions) were aware of the notion of an atom in this sense, which suggests the first explanation is more likely.

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    The closest translation is "particle" (albeit that the actual Arabic word used is "atom"). This is how the companions understood the verse at the time of its revelation. – III-AK-III Apr 14 '18 at 1:44

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