Before answering the question, I'd like to emphasize the point made in G. Bach's comment. Ideally, a believer should believe in the Quran without any doubt and at the same time be able to objectively address any criticism of the book. The Quran itself contains many verses that ask the reader to use their intellect, so the belief has to be intellectual, not blind or based on illogical arguments.
Another issue I'd like to discuss is that one may wonder why some versus of the Quran are not clear or ambiguous or appear to be so. Why doesn't the Author just make all verses clear?
The Quran has the following design goals:
- It should provide guidance for people who are sincerely looking for guidance (Quran 2:2). So if you find a verse related to biology, the purpose of the verse is not to teach biology, but only to provide guidance for those looking for it. As for those reading it with malicious intentions, they should not find guidance in it and it should appear to them obscure or nonsensical (Quran 41:44 and 3:7). This objective implies that the book should contain no errors or inconsistencies, otherwise it may misguide most people irrespective of their intentions.
- It should be easy to memorize (Quran 54:17, which is repeated multiple times in the same surah). The Author of the Quran employs several writing techniques for this purpose. Notice how most verses of the Quran have a rhyme in Arabic. You may have already heard the advice that if you want to easily remember something, make it rhyme. Another technique is using familiar words, instead of using technical words or words that most people are not familiar with or words that are difficult to pronounce. This design goal also requires that the Quran not to be too big in size, yet it should be big enough to achieve the other design goals. Memorizing 200K words may take about twice the effort required to memorize 100K words. Every verse in the Quran has at least one purpose that is typically achieved using the sequence of words that is the easiest to memorize. Ease of memorization was particularly important for preservation at the time of the prophet. In addition, many people at that time were illiterate, so they have to memorize it in order to be able to refer to it and find guidance in it (Quran 62:2).
- Each surah in the Quran must have characteristics that make it impossible to produce something similar to it (Quran 2:23-24). For more information, refer to the sequence of talks starting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6VU9_TLmvk.
- It should be in the language of the prophet and his people so that it's easy for them to recite and find essential guidance in it (Quran 12:2, 19:97, 12:2, 41:3, and 20:113). This applies to earlier revelations as well (Quran 14:4). Some people claim that they would've believed had the Quran been in their native language (instead of Arabic). The Author refutes this argument in verse 41:44. The fact that it's in Arabic also refutes people who claim that the prophet has learned it from non-Arabs (Quran 16:103).
There are versus that can be understood from the first read while others may take a lot more effort to fully understand. Ease of understanding is not a primary design objective of the Quran. Some people interpret verse 54:17 to mean not only ease of remembrance but also ease of understanding. I strongly disagree with this interpretation. First, no part of the verse in Arabic directly implies ease of understanding. Second, consider the following magnificent verse (Quran 3:7):
It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are
verses [that are] precise - they are the foundation of the Book - and
others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from
truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking
discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]. And no one
knows its [true] interpretation except Allah. But those firm in
knowledge say, "We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord." And
no one will be reminded except those of understanding.
I've highlighted the most relevant part of the verse in bold. We can extract the following pieces of information from the verse:
- The Quran contains two types of verses: precise and imprecise. The precise verses are clear and can be interpreted in only one way. The imprecise verses are not clear and may be interpreted in very different ways. However, at least of one of these interpretations is the truth.
- The believers focus on the precise verses and it's in these verses they'll find most or all of the guidance that they may need. The people who are sincerely looking for guidance and have not become believers yet may find additional guidance in the imprecise verses. The nonbelievers with malicious intentions ignore the precise verses and focus on the imprecise verses because they can interpret them in a way that is convenient for them. However, they'll end up misguiding themselves even further than they already are. This is a deserved punishment for them for intentionally choosing to lie to themselves and others instead of accepting the the clear truth. If they are truly looking for guidance, they wouldn't dwell on the ambiguous verses or they'd choose the interpretations that provide guidance.
- Only the Author and no one else knows the exact meaning of all verses of the Quran.
So the verses that constitute the foundation of the religion are easy to understand, but the other verses are not, by design. For example, the scientific verses are not really part of the foundation of the religion; a person doesn't necessarily need scientific miracles to believe in the one true god and do good deeds, although it may be helpful for some. It should be clear now why some verses are ambiguous. It's a test for the nonbelievers and the weak believers and a potential source of guidance for everyone. Don't you see how the Author is The Most Wise and The Most Just?
Refuting WikiIslam's Arguments
WikiIslam has a long list of scientific errors in the Quran. (Why did they bother to make a whole wiki about errors in the Quran? Do they not understand that it's sufficient to find a single error or inconsistency in the Quran and the whole religion would collapse? Or are they not confident about their arguments?) My ultimate goal in this answer is to refute every single one of them. I'm planning to do this over a long period of time, depending on when I get free time. I'll let you, the reader, be the judge regarding who's making more sense and whose argument is more sound.
The Qur'an mentions a few times that the sun and the moon travel in an
orbit (falak - a rounded course), but does not mention once that the
Earth does too. This is consistent with an Earth-centered (geocentric)
view of the cosmos that places a motionless Earth at the center of the
universe and all "heavenly bodies" travel around the Earth.
Why does it have to mention that the Earth also travels in an orbit? Since it doesn't say anything about the movement of the Earth, that makes it neither consistent nor inconsistent with the geocentric view of the cosmos. The deduction being made here that it's consistent with geocentrism is logically invalid.
In fact, since geocentrism was the prevailing understanding of the universe prior of the 16th century, a human author writing about the orbits of the sun and moon in the 7th century would probably mention that the the Earth is stationary or that the sun revolves around the Earth. The fact that it doesn't suggests that the Author probably knows that geocentrism is wrong.
Some try to explain away the above Qur'anic description of the sun
moving in an orbit as a reference to our sun orbiting the black hole
at the center of the milky way galaxy every 225 million years. This is
an Ad hoc hypothesis, of no relevance to human time scales, and
nothing from the text implies that the sun is orbiting anything other
than the Earth.
I agree that verse 21:33 doesn't provide any information on the orbits of the sun and moon other than they are distinct. This is an error in the interpretation, not the verse. Also, this is not an Ad hoc hypothesis because the verse cannot be falsified anyway.
The Arabic word translated "follow" is primarily defined as to follow,
go or walk behind, follow in way of immitation, of action etc. and was
often used for animals like camels following behind each other. Yet
the Moon does not actually follow behind the sun's movement, nor does
it provide its own light like the sun. The verse is most suggestive of
a worldview in which the moon and sun traverse the same or similar
paths after one another, which is what a 7th century person might
believe from observing the sky. A less suspicious choice of word would
have been better for a supposedly perfect book if it merely meant the
sun and moon appear one after the other.
Sure, if verse 91:2 was taken by itself, it appears to be ambiguous and can be interpreted in two ways:
- The moon moves behind the sun on the same orbit or path.
- The moon follows the sun in appearance.
This is not a problem since one could always choose the second interpretation. In fact, if I were living back in the 7th century, I don't think the first interpretation would even cross my mind. The verse is clearly referring to the typical observation that the sun and moon come into appearance one after the other. Moreover, verse 21:33 effectively rules out the first interpretation. Anyhow, one does not have to be a genius to correctly understand these verses.
Also, the verse and its context in no way suggest that the moon has its own light like the sun. On the contrary, the following two verses clearly state it's the sun that causes day and night, which implies that the sun is the source of light, not the moon.
Here the Qur'an quotes a few lines from a debate between Abraham and a
disbelieving King, where Abraham replies that Allah 'brings the sun'
(yatee biashshamsi يَأْتِى بِٱلشَّمْسِ) from the east. The arabic verb
and preposition indicates that the sun actually moves.
I don't understand what the criticism is here, that the verse implies that the sun moves but in reality it doesn't? First, the sun does move and orbits the center of the galaxy. Second, the verse is not really about whether the sun moves or not. It tells how Abraham demonstrated to his people that Allah is much more powerful than them.
Setting and Rising Place of the Sun
In these verses, the author propagates a popular legend from the 7th
century of a man named Dhu'l-Qarnayn who visits the places where the
sun sets and rises; here he finds the sun going down into a muddy
spring and later rising on a tribe with no coverings.
I'm not sure what's being implied by the phrase "popular legend." There are theories about who Dhu al-Qarnayn is, but we don't really know.
Centuries after Muhammad lived, people with better astronomical
knowledge than him had to invent creative interpretations of these
verses to say that Dhu'l-Qrnayn only traveled until he reached "the
west" or to a spot "at the time" when the sun set and not the "place"
where the sun set. Unfortunately, these alternative interpretations
are severely undermined by the context and Arabic words used in these
verses, which instead point to physical locations where the sun did
its setting and rising.
Whatever the shape of the Earth is, there is no physical place on Earth where the sun sets or rises. It's obvious that the phrases "setting-place of the sun" and "rising-place of the sun" are metaphors for going west and east, respectively. They're actually beautiful metaphors. If you show these verses to any person who has not seen them before and ask for their meaning, they'll probably tell you that they are metaphors. But sure, if anyone wants to take the literal interpretation of these phrases, then by all means.
Meteors are Stars Shot at Devils
To be continued...