Do the Bible and Quran contain Foreknowledge of Science?

The Bible has foreknowledge of science. The Quran does not have foreknowledge of science and also contains scientific errors.

Scientific truths in the Bible

No scientific truths in the Quran

Muslims have claimed that the Quran contains scientific truths but on closer examination, we find that they are not something out of the ordinary.

Water cycle

Surah 7:57  It is He Who sendeth the winds like heralds of glad tidings, going before His mercy: when they have carried the heavy-laden clouds, We drive them to a land that is dead, make rain to descend thereon, and produce every kind of harvest therewith: thus shall We raise up the dead: perchance ye may remember.

According to Muslims, this is a depiction of the water cycle which had not been known until the sixteenth century. But it is nothing that one cannot derive by simple observation. One knows that when the heavy clouds come, it would lead to rain and when there is rain the harvest can grow. But what about the more difficult process of water evaporating from the ground to form clouds? This is something that is not understandable by observation but is totally not mentioned in the Quran.

Compare this to the water cycle that is mentioned in the Bible. Job 36:27 "He draws up the drops of water, which distil as rain to the streams…One cannot tell by observation that the clouds that give rain are actually the result of evaporation of the earth’s water. Yet this is depicted in the Bible long before the Quran recorded it.

Currents in the sea

Surah 24:40 Or as darkness on a vast, abysmal sea. There covereth him a wave, above which is a wave, above which is a cloud. Layer upon layer of darkness. When he holdeth out his hand he scarce can see it. And he for whom Allah hath not appointed light, for him there is no light.

According to Muslims, this “wave above wave” is a depiction of the water currents.

But there is nothing in the verse that talks about water currents. The verse talks about a wave above another wave. The same word is used twice for “waves” and not different words for waves and current. It is not talking about water currents at all.

The “wave above wave” is just a poetic way of describing the believer’s dark position in reference to God - note “layers and layers of darkness”.

If one decides to interpret such poetic statements as depictions of water currents, then more credit has to be given to a revelation in the Bible that precede the Quranic verse by hundreds of years.

(Jonah 2:1-3)  From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. {2} He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. {3} You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.

Notice that in the Biblical account two separate words are used - currents and waves. While in the belly of the fish, and into the “deep” and “heart” of the sea, the currents are around him (water currents are below the water surface) and the waves are over him. If any scientific foreknowledge is intended, isn’t this verse a much better depiction of water currents than the Quranic verse?


Scientific errors in the Quran
Embryology in the Quran
Human beings created from a drop of fluid or semen

In a number of places we are informed that man is created from a drop of fluid (semen, seed or sperm):

16:4 He created man from a drop of fluid (Pickthall)

53:46 (he created) from a drop of seed when it is poured forth (Pickthall)

Is this foreknowledge of science? Surely the fact that procreation involves the emission of a drop of fluid has been well known from the earliest days of civilization. In Genesis 38:9 the Bible tells us that Onan "spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother". The verses which describe the origin of life as a drop of emitted fluid are therefore no more than a direct observation as to what is released during the act of sexual intercourse.

The fertilization process

"Now let man think from what he is created! He is created from a gushing fluid that issues from between the loins (sulb) and ribs (tara'ib)."

Dr. Bucaille, a french doctor, translated the above verse this way : Man was fashioned from a liquid poured out. It issued (as a result) of the conjunction of the sexual area of the man and the sexual area of the woman.'

According to him, the sexual area of the man is indicated in the text of the Qur'an by the word sulb (singular). The sexual areas of the woman are designated in the Qur'an by the word tara'ib (plural). Therefore there is foreknowledge of science of how fertilization is carried out, with the fusion of the sperm and egg.

When compared, however, with the traditional translations, it is clear that Dr. Bucaille's translation is vastly different.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Egyptian, 1946 with a preface from 1938 "He is created from a drop emitted---proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs."

Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, English, 1977 (translation probably 1940) "He is created from a gushing fluid that issued from between the loins and ribs."

Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Pakistani, 1971 "He is created from a fluid poured forth, which issues forth from between the loins and the breastbones."

Therefore we see that most classic translators render the word “sulb” as “back” and the word “taraib” as chest.

Dr Bucaille’s translation assumes the following :

a. That the word "sulb" can stand for the male sexual area. Though no examples of such a usage from the 1st century of Islam have been given.

b. That the phrase "(as a result) of the conjunction" can be found in the two Arabic words "min bain" which literally mean "from between".

c. That the word "tara'ib" can mean "the sexual areas of the woman".

This last word occurs exactly one time in the Qur'an and you cannot establish a meaning with one usage. The dictionaries of Wehr, Abdel-Nour, and Kasimirski mention (a)the chest, (b)the upper part of the chest between the breasts and the clavicles, and (c)the ribs, and Abdel-Nour includes (d)the euphemistic extension to the breasts. It can also include the neck up to the chin and speak poetically of the area for a woman's necklace.

Muslim response

Note that 'sulb' is *singular*. In the dictionary by Wehr you cite below, you will see that its meaning of backbone is *only* when we take the *plural* word of sulb (aslaab). In its singular form, it means hardening. Before we get to 'taraa'ib': In all three tafseers, 'sulb' is given to belong to the man. The 'hardening' therefore refers to the sexual organ of the male. The 'taraaib' is also given in the tafseers to belong to the woman. Several people commented on its meaning according to Ibn Katheer. Ibn Abbas (ra) declared it to be the area of the woman where she places a necklace (i.e. breasts). Ad-Dahhak said that it encompassed the woman's eyes, breasts, and legs. You will find much the same in Steingass's dictionary. To the Arab, this verse can easily be understood to metaphorically (and actually in some sense, very directly) refer to the human being's erogenous zones.

That the phrase ``(as a result) of the conjunction'' can be found +=in the two Arabic words ``min bain'' which literally mean ``from between''. No problem here. The liquid is ejected from the interaction of the male and female (the latter having multiple erogenous zones). 'min bain' works here.

Embryological development in the Qur'an

Sura 22:5 says "We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then from a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed ... and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babes."

Sura 23:13-14 repeats this idea by saying God "placed him as (a drop of) sperm (nutfah) in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood (alaqa); then out of that clot We made a (foetus) lump (mugdah), then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature."

We have to ask what the precise meaning of these words is in order to know whether the verses contain important scientific statements that have only recently been discovered. It is difficult to understand what alaqa means. Many different suggestions have been made: clot (Pickthall, Maulana Muhammed Ali, Muhammed Zafrulla Khan, Hamidullah), small lump of blood (Kasimirski), leech-like clot (Yusuf Ali).

First of all, it is doubtful whether this word is to be translated this way at all. Many classic translators of the Quran translated this word as “blood clot”. Therefore the foreknowledge of science is predicated on the basis that you have to translate “alaqa” in a totally new way not known to the classic translators of the Quran.

To establish a definition for alaqa we might take a look at the Qamus al-Muheet, one of the most important Arabic dictionaries ever compiled, by Muhammed Ibn-Yaqub al-Firuzabadi (AD 1329-1415). He says that alaqa has the same meaning as a clot of blood. In 96:2 the word alaq is used, which is both a collective plural and a verbal noun. The latter form conveys the sense of man being created from clinging material or possibly clay, which is consistent with the creation of Adam in the Bible from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and some of the other Qur'anic verses listed above. However, the translators of the Qur'an have all translated alaq as "clot" as opposed to "clinging" in 96:2 because the use of the singular alaqa elsewhere forces them to use "clot" here too, despite the attraction for the meaning "clinging" or leech-like which is perhaps more scientifically accurate.

Secondly, whether the early embryo looks like a leech is highly subjective and debatable. In side view the developing umbilicus (genetically part of the embryo) is almost as big as the "leech-shaped" part into which a human is formed and the developing placenta (which also consists of tissue that is genetically from the embryo) is much larger than the embryo.

The final stage of human development which the Qur'an describes is the creation of bones, and the clothing of bones with flesh. However, according to modern embryologists, bones and flesh begin to develop simultaneously, rather than bones first, then flesh. This is contrary to what the Quran states.

Sura 39:6 says that God made us in stages in threefold darkness. Muslims claim that this is foreknowledge of science as the Quran knows that there were three membranes surrounding the foetus, one to carry nutrients to it, another to absorb its urine, and the third to absorb other waste products. However, this is very subjective. 

The settling of the embryo in the womb

Sura 22:5 says "We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then from a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed ... and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babes."

In the early 1980s, Professor Keith Moore, formerly an anatomist at the University of Toronto, claimed in his embryology textbook, that the Qur'an "states that the resulting organism settles in the womb like a seed, 6 days after its beginning". This really would be amazing if it was true. But the Qur'an says nothing of the sort.