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There are often claims (such as those seen here) of scientific mistakes and inaccuracies in the Qur'an. While I agree that many errors in that list are silly and might just be misinterpretations, some of them are harder to explain; especially those that are astronomical and biological in nature (many of these mistakes are shared with the Bible). Since Islam considers the Qur'an to be ipsissima verba of Allah, this suggests that Allah has somehow made mistakes and since Islam (as well as other Abrahamic religions) considers Him to be omnipotent, this can be seen as a serious problem.

Where do Muslims stand on this matter? For example, it is well-known in Christian history that the Church outright opposed the Heliocentric model of our solar system up until 1757, despite the scientific evidence to support it. However, even this isn't as weighty as it would be for Islam since the Bible isn't generally considered the literal word of God.

So, my question is:

If any scientific claims appear incompatible with the Qur'an, are Muslims required to reject them? Or can they accept the idea that the Qur'an itself may have its shortcomings?

9

Whenever a person makes a scientific claim that contradicts the Quran, then only 2 things are possible:

  1. Either the Scientific information is incomplete, misleading, inaccurate.
  2. Or the Quran has been misunderstood by the person.

Yes, humanity is encouraged to question whether or not the Quran is the word of God. But for those of us who have already accepted this revelation to be the word of God, believe without doubt that the Quran does not have any mistakes. For if someone were to suggest that The Creator of all that is has made a mistake, has in fact reached the pinnacle of arrogance. It would be analogous to Satan's character who thought God had made a mistake when Adam was appointed.

...and he (Satan) said, "I am better than him: You created me from fire and him from clay." God said, "Get down from here! This is no place for your arrogance."

Quran; Surah 7: 12-13

One should also be very careful when accepting any absolute statements derived purely from science, because the very nature of scientific discoveries is never concrete, rather they are continuously changing. (If you disagree with this, you have not studied the history of science).

"In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable... "

-Karl Popper

We also live in a time, where many hasty scientific conclusions are being made from superficial tests that are in no way exhaustive. Some tests are specifically designed in order to protect corporate interests, such as the tobacco companies that manipulate science in their favor. Other tests are used to encourage the modern passions of people, like the ever-changing benefits & harms of alcohol as shown by this Google-search list of contradictory articles

As Muslims we should never reject science, but also we need to understand the limits of the scientific method and we should never be mislead by someone else's wrong conclusions.

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    You started off extremely well with the first sentence and beginning of the 2nd paragraph, but after that you slipped into bias too. +1 however for actually answering my question, unlike the other answers. – JohnPhteven Dec 17 '12 at 16:17
  • @Truth I would invite you over to Christianity.SE to check the truth of your claim that Christians have no history of open-mindedness. I'm pretty conservative - very conservative actually, but nobody has gotten away with calling me close-minded. – Affable Geek Dec 20 '12 at 7:52
  • re-edited response with references – Truth May 6 '13 at 23:24
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    Your two points in the beginning demonstrate exactly what the problem with the science-in-the-quran narrative is: those two points when applied to any text whatsoever will always leave the text in some state of "yeah this is true". If you take the Greek myths and "reason" about them with the approach "either what I think I know about reality is wrong, or I misunderstood the Greek myths", then you will also conclude that they are completely true - yet you don't, because that is ridiculous. Ironically, your quote of Popper even tells you that that approach is dishonest and biased. – G. Bach Nov 5 '16 at 9:04
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I read the page about the "scientific inconsistencies". I was shocked by the ignorance and arrogance of the material. Many texts were taken too literally. For example, we are made from clay - although no one has significant amount of clay in their body, we are after all made of matter, which is itself a mystery.

For example, regarding the motion of the sun and moon and so on, any one with basic physics knowledge should know that when physists talk about "motion", they mean relative change in space over time. Physists refrain from talking about absolute motion and absolute rest. In other words, sun moves around the earth and the earth moves around the sun, and sayings such as "the earth moves" are not well defined because one needs to specify relative to which frame is earth moving.

It is very arrogant for people to assert such things, when they don't even have high school level of understanding in certain sciences.

Science has advanced a lot, but it is far from knowing everything, in fact, far from knowing anything for certain at all! Because we can always keep asking questions deeper and deeper in the foundations, to a point some questions cannot be answered. Most sciences are empirical sciences (such as physics, chemistry, biology), where scientist come up with theory trying to explain nature, and if their theory is verified by experiment then they hold on to the theory, until new discoveries entail the development or overthrowing of the old theory. Modern mathematics is different, it only relies on some sets of axioms and uses nothing but logic. We show a statement is true by reducing the statement to the axioms using strict deduction logic and no more.

The nature of empirical sciences says that what you think is true today might not be thought to be true tomorrow! Newtonian motion theory was overthrown/improved by Einsteinian, but who knows what next. And by this nature empirical sciences will never assert that one day they have found absolute truth.

Mathematicians, on the other hand, know from the beginning that there is no chance. First we base everything on axioms, which we don't prove, just believe. That's why we don't even know whether we know anything at all, because we build everything from something that we don't know. Secondly, it's proven that there are many axioms whose truth or failure is independent of many other, that is whether we assume those is just our choice, it does not affect the consistency of our model.

All in all, mathematicians have realized this long ago, and have been trying to tell the scientists that they don't know anything either, but they are too arrogant to listen.

Intelligence is a great gift from Allah, and we shall be humble with this marvelous gift. Not until we truly appreciate this gift (through the odious pursuit of truth), can we be truly grateful to Allah.

EDIT
I like your curiosity. I don't suggest you to blind-mindedly trust what the "scientists" say, neither do I suggest you to blind-mindedly reject what the "scientists" say. You ask a very good question, should you reject these? But how do you truly reject or accept these, when you don't understand them? It is better to learn the things and experience it yourself before you form an opinion on it. I wish one day you are able to see these things and realize from the bottom of your heart that Allah knows all, it is better than taking it as a dogma (which is still better than non-belief in Allah of course).

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4

This example may be your answer:

Let's go back in the history and see what scientists said about the following Aya:

والشمس تجري لمستقر لها ۚ ذلك تقدير العزيز العليم

And the sun runs [on course] toward its stopping point. That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing.

[36:38]

First Point: When this Aya came, people thought that that the sun runs around the earth.

Second Point: After many years, the Italian Galileo Galilei said the sun does not move and the earth runs around the sun. After a short time, most scientists accepted Galilei's idea. And many people said this is Quran’s mistake.

Third Point: Nowadays, most scientists say that the sun is also running. The sun is moving in the universe. Now, people don't call this Aya a mistake, This Aya is right.

Fourth Point: ...


Okay, as you saw, the science grows and a lot of theories are subject to change. We can't be sure about our theories. We may be at the second point.

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2

Ishaq Kindy was an Arab philosopher at the time of Imam Askari --peace be upon him, he wrote a book under the title of Paradoxes in Quran. Once one of his students came to Imam Askari --peace be upon him-- and Imam complained why there is no one among the students of Ishaq kindy who would answer back his tutor's propositions. The student answered "because he is our tutor and we cannot oppose his statements". Imam asked then if they can induce a meaning instead to their tutor? The student answered "yes"! So Imam taught the student to first get close to his tutor by being kind and respectful, then in a good opportunity to ask him a question, that if it is possible that someone says something and the hearer understand something else? Imam told the student that his tutor will answer: "yes it is possible", then he can further continue asking about Quran if it is possible that God has intended meanings different than those the tutor has understood? And that as Ishaq was a smart man he would get the point. This was done and Ishaq understood his fault and finally he burned his book in fire. See here for references.

I took a glance over the page you have linked in your question, some of them were more than obvious to be wrong and fallacy but some needs thinking more deeply and there is always a probability that none of us in Islam.SE and even many scholars at the time cannot answer a question, but of course that's no proof for the question having no answer! I only grab your attention to the very fact that the Experimental Sciences --including physics, chemistry, biology and most others-- cannot prove any theory to be right but only those things that they have proved based on thought experiments, which are very few in numbers and negligible in overall. That is because of the very logical statement that a theory cannot be proved even though infinitely many examples are found to approve the idea, but the idea can be rejected simply through one singe contradiction. Also note that the uncertainty principle --which is not correct from the Islamic point of view in general but only about the sensation based experiments-- prevents the scientists from confirming that a discovered contradicting example is indeed a contradiction! Thus, the contradiction will be certainly confirmed only if it is intellectual, again like in thought experiments.

Therefore, as a general answer to a general question we do believe that there is no mistake in Quran as it is a book revealed by the only God, the one who has created you and your parents from whom you have started to learn, the one who has created all those scientists who have raised such issues as the mistakes of God (funny but sad), the one who has created the science itself that if scientists are scientists for their discovering the fact about stars and galaxies and wild life and physics of body and fluid and electromagnetism Allah is the one who has created all those facts, if the scientists are trying to dead to travel to Mars Allah has created Mars billions of years before and has maintained it till now and after. To Muslims that's only funny for a 2 years old ignorant child to write a lecture about the mistakes in lectures of Einstein, and indeed the difference between Allah and His creatures is infinitely more than the difference between Einstein and such a kiddy. I hope you will see the point I am putting forward and understand that I am not going to be offensive. The creatures of Allah understand something that Allah has missed? That's impossible, even the scientists' thought is created by Allah:

لا إِلـٰهَ إِلّا هُوَ الحَىُّ القَيّومُ ۚ لا تَأخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلا نَومٌ ۚ لَهُ ما فِى السَّمـٰوٰتِ وَما فِى الأَرضِ ۗ مَن ذَا الَّذى يَشفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلّا بِإِذنِهِ ۚ يَعلَمُ ما بَينَ أَيديهِم وَما خَلفَهُم ۖ وَلا يُحيطونَ بِشَىءٍ مِن عِلمِهِ إِلّا بِما شاءَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُرسِيُّهُ السَّمـٰوٰتِ وَالأَرضَ ۖ وَلا يَـٔودُهُ حِفظُهُما ۚ وَهُوَ العَلِىُّ العَظيمُ

Allah - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great. [2:255]

That scientists find apparent mistakes in Quran is because Quran needs describer, and this need is introduced in [3:7], since Allah has intended to make some points ambiguous for all but only those who refer to those firmly grounded in knowledge, and the followers of these describers are the only ones who are to be guided. Also note that the holy prophet --peace be upon him and his family-- remarked I leave two precious things for you behind me, the book of Allah and my household, whoever that follow them will never stray, until they come back to me at the pond. Also note that Quran is a book for guidance but some believe in it and will be guided and some deny it and will be strayed:

... وَلَيَزيدَنَّ كَثيرًا مِنهُم ما أُنزِلَ إِلَيكَ مِن رَبِّكَ طُغيـٰنًا وَكُفرًا ...

... And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. ... [5:68]

this doesn't include all the scientists but only those who try to find mistakes in Quran. People are more than welcome to ask about anything that they don't understand from Quran, things that seems odd to them and cannot understand how can it be that it's not wrong, but that Quran is right is something obvious to every Muslim and this is not proved through science to be rejected through science.


At the end, let me answer only one question in that list, the one discussing Adam --peace be upon him-- being created from clay:

The scientific hypothesis postulates that clay merely 'match-makes' RNA and membrane vesicles - and therefore does not form a building block. This is contrary to the Islamic faith which postulates that human beings were created from clay, implying clay was a building block.

We created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape; Qur'an 15:26

To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: "Be," and it is. Qur'an 2:117

Indeed let me add that not only Adam --peace be upon him-- was created from clay but also you and me are still beings created from clay. According to the today science our physical body is refreshing itself every few years, we wash out the dead cells from our skins at bathroom and new cells come to live day by the day. Almost all the cells in our bodies die and new ones replace the older ones, you don't agree? Where such new cells come from? Isn't it right to conclude from what we eat and drink? If yes, then what do we eat? Vegetables and fruits and similar to those beside meat of the animals which eat again from vegetables and fruits, and etc. . Don't you see all these foods are originated from the clay? Isn't water a best solvent that can carry quite many minerals with it? Don't we eat clay in many different deformed forms for our body to refresh itself? If someone dies doesn't his body again change to clay? Isn't our body made of clay that scientists ever raise a question about it being or not being made of clay? Also note that all the limbs of a complete man forms in the womb of his mother, where he is created from what his mother eats and drinks and again you can study how clay with different percentages of minerals are used in a period of nearly nine months for a complete body to form.

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    Saying physics is experimental is wrong, there is such a thing as theoretical physics, and such a thing as experimental physics. Also, you're forgetting mathematics is a powerful tool, and that a mathematical proof always holds. Your remark on the Uncertainty Principle is not very clear to me, I don't get what you mean, uncertainty principle is confirmed theoretically as well as experimentally. Also, no insult, but the clay argument is bogus; look up Mitosis and Meiosis. Clay holds mineral that feeds plants.. and you're saying that means we are made out of clay? That's a non sequitur. – JohnPhteven Dec 16 '12 at 23:37
  • However, the first part of the second sentence of the third paragraph is what I was looking for; Qur'an is seen as more authorative than science. – JohnPhteven Dec 16 '12 at 23:39
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    -1: This post is very difficult to read, and I don't think the Adam/Clay arguments help it at all. – goldPseudo Dec 17 '12 at 16:02
  • I don't understand the clay scientific hypothesis against the Quran. Is it suggesting that humans are not composed of clay, or is it suggesting that they are composed of clay? – Truth May 6 '13 at 23:23
  • @Truth, that scientific idea means not being composed of clay, at least not clay alone, as it says clay can make no building block ..., and we disagree. – owari May 8 '13 at 1:10
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Introduction

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.

Astronomy

Geocentricism

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...

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