The Scientific Facts
One of the more popular aspects of the i'jaaz (the miraculous nature) of the Qur'aan in these times concerns its comments on aspects of science that the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his people could not have known about. There are a number of books written about this topic, perhaps the most popular being Maurice Bucaille's The Bible, Qur'an, and Science1 It should be remembered however, that the Qur'aan is not meant to be a book primarily devoted to a discussion of 'science', but rather a book that is meant for the guidance of mankind. As such, any references to subjects of a scientific nature are typically brief and not very descriptive. The i'jaaz, however appears in the fact that even in these limited descriptions, the Qur'aan conforms exactly to modern science, and imparts knowledge that was unknown during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him). These descriptions are free from retroactive ideas that plagued humanity from the earliest of times, such as the concept that the Earth is stationary, and all the other planets and stars rotate around it.
There are numerous examples of such verses, such as the description of the formation of human life. The sperm of man is referred to as a 'mixture of liquids' (76:2), since the sperm is composed of various secretions from the testicles, the seminal vesicles, the prostate and other glands. From the literally millions of sperms produced and ejaculated, only one sperm is actually used in the fertilization process - a very small quantity. This is referred to in a number of verses by the word 'nutfah' (75:37) which signifies a small quantity of mixed fluid. the sperm then hoins the female egg and forms the zygote. This occurs in the mother's womb, a 'safe lodging' (23:13). (see Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6 - Web Ed.). ...
During the delivery process, the passage of the baby from the mother's womb to the outside world occurs through the birth canal. Typically, this canal is extremely narrow and tight. However, shortly before the birth, certain changes occur, including the release of certain hormones, the contractions of the uterus, and the breakage of the 'bag of water' surrounding the baby, all of which contribute to making the canal loose. This is referred to in 80:20, "then We made the passage (though the birth canal) easy."
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the beauty of the above verses is to see pictures of the human embryo as it goes through the various stages of development...(see Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6 - Web Ed)
The vivid yet simple descriptions given in these verses (i.e. 22:5) were unknown to the people of the Prophet's time, demonstrating the i'jaaz of the Qur'aan in Science.
Other facts that are given in the Qur'aan include the description of the formation of milk (16:66), the notion of orbits for the planets (21:33 and 36:40), and the description of the water cycle (15:22, 35:9 and more). Every verse that discusses nature and the creation falls into this category. In many verses, Allah Himself commands mankind to ponder over the creation, and mentions these as an indication of His Existence and Power. (3:190-191)
One final note on the concept of science as an i'jaaz of the Qur'aan: There can never be a real contradictions between the Qur'aan and the Laws of Allah concerning the creation (i.e. actual science). The Qur'aan is the Book of Allah, and since it is from Allah "there is no doubt in it" (2:1)
Likewise, the laws that govern the creation are also from Allah. What is studied as 'science', on the other hand, is the attempt by man to understand the creation and laws of Allah. Therefore it is possible fro a scientific assumption to be incorrect, and this is clearly demonstrated by historically scientific 'facts' as the Earth being flat, or the orbiting of the Sun around the Earth. These concepts were believed to in so strongly by the 'scientists' of their time that, on occasion, those who opposed them were harassed and even killed. Yet, later scientists discovered the inaccuracy of these concepts.
Therefore, when there is a conflict between the meaning of a clear, explicit verse (meaning qat'ee ad-dalaalah) of the Qur'aan and 'modern' science. a Muslim must take the verse of the Qur'aan - without hesitation - over any scientific 'fact'. A rejection of such a verse, or even the apparent meaning of such a verse, would be tantamount to a rejection of Allah's knowledge. For example, the theory of evolution is, for the most part, agreed upon by the majority of non-Muslim scholars. Whether there is strong proof to back up the theory or not is irrelevant - the Qur'aan is clear that Allah created Adam from His own Hands, and "From him He created his mate, and from these two He spread forth many men and women" (4:1)
Therefore a Muslim can never believe in the theory that men are descendants of apes, no matter what "proof" might seem to exist.2 Neither is it allowed, as some Muslim rationalists have done, to try to interpret clear Qur'aanic texts to suit modern theories. Following the above example, to try to interpret the story of the creation of Adam and Eve as actually having been the creation of some Neanderthal neo-human species is almost as blasphemous as rejecting the verse in the first place!
It is possible, however, for there to be an apparent conflict between a verse and a scientific fact, when no such conflict exists. This occurs when some scholars take one of the possible linguistic meanings of a vers, such that this meaning conforms with the verse, but is not the only meaning that may be derived from it (basically, the verse is dhannee ad-dalaalah). For example some scholars have understood certain verses of the Qur'aan (e.g., "And it is He who has spread out the Earth" (13:3), and (15:9)) to indicate that the Earth is flat, since the phrase 'madd' occurs, which means 'to spread out'. However, this verse is not explicit in stating taht the Earth is flat, and to conclude this from the above verse requires a degree of interpretation. Since there exists clear proof that the Earth is not flat, this interpretation must be rejected. The meaning of the verse, therefore, is that Allah has created this Earth as a very vast place for mankind, and not that the Earth is flat (This principle may also apply to the verse 'baynas sulbi wat taraaib" in soorah At-Taariq referring to semen and interpreted as "coming forth from between the backbone and the ribs or breastbone" - Web Ed).
Also, it is essential that scientific facts are not read in where they do not exist. Unfortunately, this has become an all too common trend among 'modernistic' Muslims who have specialised in science, but are not very familiar with the interpretation of the Qur'aan.3 Once again, the Qur'aan "...is a book of guidance...and not a book of science, nor a mine of cryptic notes on scientific facts."4
For example, many people interpret the following verse as a prediction of space travel by man:
O assembly of Men and Jinns! If you have opower to pass through the zones of the Heavens and Earth - then pass! But you will never be able to pass them except with authority (from Allah) (55:33)
However, a look at the next verse, and the authentic tafseers of Ibn Katheer and At-Tabaree, will show that this verse is in reference to the jinns listening to the whispers of the angels in the Heaven (or to the Resurrection of the creation on the Day of Judgment), and not to inter-galactic travel!
In conclusion, although the scientific aspect of the Qur'aan is one of the aspects of it's i'jaaz, it must be put in its proper place, and a proper methodology needs to be followed in order to extract examples of such verses. It does more harm than good when certain verses int he Qur'aan are 'bent over backwards,' so as to say, to seek to prove that they contain certain implied scientific facts. One only needs to read works in which this methodology was followed to see how ludicrous the conclusions are. (For example, Muhammad Rasheed Ridaa (d. 1935), one of the founders of the 'Modernist' movement, claimed that the 'Jinns' that the Qur'aan was referring to actually alluded to the discovery of disease-arraying microbes!) When such facts are clear and explicit from the verse, they should be mentioned (such as the examples quoted above - and in this book, inshaa-allah), but when they go against the intent and meaning of the verse, they should be abandoned.
Edited excerpt from "An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan" by Abu Amaar Yasir Qhadhi