The Miracle of the Qur’an
And why the miracles of men pale in contrast
It’s often asked why Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) did not perform miracles to prove his mission as Jesus did. Christians often take Jesus’ miracles as proof of his ministry being divinely inspired. Not just Christians, we too accept just as much as they that Jesus (Upon Whom Be Peace) performed miracles such as healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and life to the dead.
But let’s bear in mind, all this he was able to accomplish by the leave of God as our Holy Book, the Qur’an, says. Jesus was a very special messenger of God in this sense, which may be one reason why men came to hold him in such high awe, the ignorant among them believing that he had something divine about him. To work miracles, after all, is not something that an ordinary mortal can do. But remember Jesus was not the only miracle worker. According to the Bible there were other prophets who also performed miracles. True, Jesus healed the lepers and cured the blind and raised the dead, but so did Elisha when he healed Naaman the Leper (Kings 5:7-14), restored vision to the blind through prayer (Kings 6:17-20) and raised two children from the dead (Kings 17:22 & Kings 4:34).
In contrast, Prophet Muhammad was not a great miracle worker like Jesus. He could have worked miracles if God had willed him to and there were occasions he indeed did, but this was not the way to convince men that God had chosen him. This is why he strived as much as possible to live an ordinary human life. He was to be an exemplar for humanity and had to live his life accordingly, in a manner people could learn from his example given the limited powers they enjoy. Muhammad’s mission as a Prophet was not to be confined to a particular age. It was to be universal, embracing all peoples till the end of times. This is why we find Muhammad in a variety of roles; as a loving husband and a gentle father; as a simple soul who would not hesitate to help even a demented woman who dare order him about and as a humble human who could not be made out from his companions when a visitor from afar wished to see him, and that too at the height of his power; at the same time, he could be firm, meting out punishment as a Judge would, leading his men to battle as a General would and ruling his nation of believers as a King would. Such was Muhammad, the last of the Messengers, an example to both prince and pauper!
Beyond the Miracles of Men
This is not to say that our Prophet did not perform miracles, he did, but these are not well known nor widely publicized. Why, because the Prophet’s purpose is not to work miracles. It is to convey God’s Message. Even miracles are of no use to the hard-hearted. You only have to look at how the Jews treated Jesus despite his many miracles. Remember it was Jesus who said:
This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgement, the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the Judgement, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here
This is why in the Qur’an, we read of God addressing His prophet, inquiring what good would a miracle do to sway the hearts of those who spurned him even if “you were able to seek a tunnel in the ground or a ladder to the skies and bring them a Sign” (The Cattle: 35). The misguided would still persist in their unbelief:
If you could but see when they are made to stand before the Fire and will say, “Oh, would that we could be returned (to life on earth) and not deny the signs of our Lord and be among the believers.”.
But nay, God assures us:
Even if they were returned, they would return to that which they were forbidden; and indeed, they are liars
Miracles of the Prophet no Big Deal
So did the Prophet perform any miracles? Yes, he certainly did and there were a number of witnesses to it among his companions, sometimes numbering hundreds or even thousands. Going by these miracles alone, one might reasonably conclude that he, like Jesus, was a true messenger of God. Miracles, after all, strengthen the claims of a Prophet in the eyes of men. But God in His Wisdom did not produce miracles for Muhammad upon the whims and fancy of his detractors who used to say:
“We shall not believe in you until you cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth, or you have a garden of date-palms and grapes and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst, carrying abundant water or you cause the sky to fall in fragments as you say will happen against us or you bring God and the angels before us face to face”
(The Night Journey: 90-92)
God Himself tells us why He would not meet their expectations at their beck and call. He understood their fickle nature:
Now they swear by God with their most solemn oaths that if a miracle were shown to them, they would indeed believe in this. Say: ‘Miracles are in the power of God alone.’ ‘And for all you know, even if one should be shown to them, they would not believe so long as We keep their hearts and their eyes turned (away from the truth), even as they did not believe in it in the first instance: and (so) We shall leave them in their overweening arrogance, blindly stumbling to and fro
If God were to perform miracles, it would be in His own good time. That time came when in order to strengthen the believers and to meet the demands of the unbelievers among the Meccans He chose to perform a miracle before their eyes. That day came when a host of the unbelievers of Mecca including the diehard Abu Jahl went to the Prophet and said, “O Muhammad! If you are truthful in what you say, then split the moon for us into two pieces.” The Prophet invoked the Almighty to split the moon and He answered his prayer. (Saheeh Al-Bukhari). God split the moon in two separate halves and then re-joined them. The miracle finds mention in the Qur’an:
The Last Hour draws near, and the moon is split asunder! And if they see a sign (miracle), they turn away and say, ‘Passing magic!’- for they are bent on giving it the lie, being always wont to follow their own desires
Had the event never occurred, the Muslims would have doubted their new found faith and even left it while the unbelievers would have pounced on it to prove the Prophet a liar. Instead, the believers grew stronger in their faith and the only words the Pagan Meccans could come up with was ‘passing magic!’ The Jews of Jesus’ time reacted likewise. Remember what the Pharisees said when they heard that Jesus could drive out demons: “This man drives out demons only by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (Matthew 12:24). Even miracles cannot change a hardened heart and God knew this well.
Another miracle the Prophet performed was in Medina when the people were struck with famine. A man stood up when he was delivering the weekly sermon on Friday, and said “O Messenger of God, our wealth has been destroyed and our children are starving. Pray to God for us” Muhammad raised his hands in prayer. The moment he lowered his hands after praying, clouds began to build like mountains and by the time he stepped down from the pulpit, rain was dripping from his beard. It rained the whole week till the following Friday and the same man stood up again, complaining this time “O Messenger of God, our buildings are destroyed, and our property is drowned, pray to God for us!”’. The Prophet raised his hands and prayed: “O God, (let it rain) around us, not on us”’. The congregation noticed the clouds withdrawing towards the direction he pointed, so that Medina was surrounded by clouds, but there were no clouds over it. (Saheeh Muslim).
His companions also tell us that on more than one occasion, the Prophet would bless food by either praying or touching it so all present could get their fill. This took place in times of food scarcities. One such incident took place during the Battle of the Trench. While digging the trench the Muslims ran out of food and were hungry. A companion of some means, Jaabir wanted to provide them with food, but he had only a small amount of barley and a small sheep. So he invited the Prophet along with few Companions, but the Prophet called out loudly: “O people! Jaabir has made food for you, so let us go!” He ordered Jaabir to wait for him before he prepared the food, and when he arrived there, he blessed the food. The Companions entered in groups until they all ate their fill. Jaabir would later recall: “By God! The fighters were one thousand on that day.” (Saheeh Al Bukhari).
On another occasion his companions were in dire need of water when he went to Mecca for pilgrimage. In the long journey through the desert, the companions had run out of all water, and only the Prophet was left with a vessel with which he performed ablution for prayers. He put his hand in the vessel and lo and behold, water began flowing from between his fingers. Over a thousand men drank of it and even made ablution (Saheeh Al- Bukhari). Reminds you of Jesus’ converting a few loaves and fishes into food for 5000 people, doesn’t it?
What all this proves is that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) did perform miracles, though these are not publicized the manner in which the followers of Moses or Jesus did. Muhammad’s mission, after all, had more to do than the mere performing of miracles for the eyes to feast on. True faith calls for more than that!
Miracles Exist Everywhere
The truth is that the miracles performed by Jesus or Muhammad are little compared to the Signs of God that exist everywhere in the universe, which is why the Qur’an draws man’s attention to these Signs which are all around us. They are there for all to see in every age from the dawn of time to this day, unlike the miracles of that great prophet, which were witnessed by only the men of that time. Ask yourself – isn’t the creation of man a miracle, or of the universe for that matter? Yes, everything around us is a miracle – the song of a bird, the light of a star, the birth of a child, the Signs of God through which He speaks to us. The fact is that the whole living world is a miracle and we see it not, the workings of the Divine Hand in all those things around us. As God says in the Qur’an:
The creation of the heavens and the earth is definitely a greater thing than the creation of mankind, however, most of mankind knows not
This is why we do not dwell so much on the miracles of our Prophet. Rather, we believe the Qur’an to be the greatest miracle he brought us. As our Prophet observed:
The miracles of the prophets (before me) were confined to their times. The miracle I have been given is the Qur’an, which is everlasting
The Qur’an as Living Miracle
Yes, the Qur’an is a living miracle unlike the ephemeral miracles Jesus performed, a miracle that can be witnessed by all people till the end of time. The choice of words in the Qur’an shows that no human could have composed such a work. That such a work was the creation of an unlettered man fourteen hundred years ago defies explanation, for even a modern day scholar or a team of scholars from all disciplines could not create such a work.
Why, because it holds its own in every age and every place, capturing the minds of men and revealing things science is only now beginning to unravel. It appeals to one like no other scripture. Whether you be a scientist or salesman, it has that unique ability to appeal to every level of intellect. It has to, because as we Muslims hold, it is the Word of God. It has a unique, inimitable style of its own, so profound and yet so sublime, bearing as it were ‘the Signature of God’.
God Himself challenges men to compose its like:
If mankind and the jinn joined together to produce the like of the Qur’an, they could not produce its like, even if they helped one another
(The Night Journey:88)
Why, because He knows they cannot. The Qur’an can never be replicated; never has and never will be. God further promises us that not a jot of it shall be changed.
It is indeed a Glorious Book. No falsehood can come from before or behind it. It is sent down by One full of wisdom, worthy of all praise
Yes, because it is the final testament, the last episode of the religious knowledge divulged by God to man and so it will remain till the end of days. It is ‘The Mother of the Book’, the very essence of revelation; the fountainhead of God’s eternal and universal law whence all streams of knowledge flow through time and space to nourish our minds, purify our hearts and cleanse our souls.
It all happened when a forty year old Muhammad, retreated for his meditations in the cave of Hira. The archangel Gabriel descended and asked him to Read!. Bewildered he replied, “I do not know how to read.” The angel again asked him to read and he replied, “I do not know how to read‘ When the Angel repeated it for the third time, Muhammad realized that all he had to do was to repeat the words taught to him by Gabriel, a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds.
Read! In the Name of Your Lord, Who created, Created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, Who taught by the pen – Taught man that which he knew not
Unlike other scriptures the Qur’an is addressed to the whole of mankind and as such has universal appeal. It is the means by which God speaks to us, a letter addressed to man by God Himself as it were, for all time the earth and heavens last. God declares of it:
Verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds which the trustworthy spirit (Gabriel) has brought down upon your heart (O Muhammad)
The Universality of the Qur’an
The Quran’s universality is in fact testament to its Divine origin. Even a cursory glance of the Qur’an shows that it is in no way a Book of the Desert had it been the work of an Arabian who lived in a desert setting. Nay, not at all. The Qur’an speaks of so many things that transcend the bounds of the desert and its denizens. It speaks of seas and rains and hail and all manner of things that can appeal to people of every age and place. Had it been the work of our Arabian Prophet, it would give us some insights into the workings of his mind, like the trials and tribulations he underwent, his feelings for his loved ones, his fears and such things subjective to his life’s experience, but we find none of it.
Its Power & Beauty
The power and beauty of its language is haunting and addictive, especially when read in its original Arabic which no translation can really capture, and lingers on in one’s mind well after it has been heard. Its charming rhyme-rhythm captivates one like no other scripture so that even read in a serious tone. It is ordered sound, flowing smoothly like water and sweet as a song, easy on the tongue and pleasing to the ear, revealing a God who is Beautiful and loves beauty, who even beautified His Word, the Qur’an, with rhyme and rhythm so captivating to His Devotees.
The Qur’an is both verse and prose in one, impressing on man the need to be godly and keep away from evil, to prophesy and reveal amazing scientific facts that are only now being properly understood. And to think of it, all of it should come from a man who could neither read nor write, for Muhammad to whom it was revealed was an unlettered man without any scientific knowledge or poetic gifts. No literary masterpiece such as it had been produced before or since. To this day, it is the Arabic of the Qur’an that serves as the standard of the Arabic language throughout the Arab world uniting both Muslim and Christian Arab in speech.
True, the widely scattered people in the Arab world, do speak dialects of Arabic, but the standard used in formal speech and mass media and academia is the same, originating from the Arabic of the Qur’an spoken 1400 years ago, making it still very much a living language. Language evolves with time. For instance, the English spoken when Beowulf was written is vastly different from the English of Shakespeare or of today. Take the Lord’s Prayer from a Bible in English written a thousand years ago where we find the expression ‘Faeder ure on heofonum’. In today’s Bible it is ‘Our father in heaven’. Arabic, on the other hand, is the same today as it was over a thousand years ago, thanks to the Qur’an.
If you take the words of the Qur’an and compare it with the sayings of the Prophet, you will find that they are different in both language and style, so much so that they could easily be told apart. In fact the companions of the Prophet would immediately know the difference between a revelation and his own speech from its manner and style, not to mention the unusual spiritual state he went through in those moments such as perspiring very heavily even on a very cold day, so that his companions would not fail to notice the sweat that dropped from his forehead no sooner the inspiration was over. Gabriel, it is said, would come in the form of a man to the Prophet so that he could grasp what he said, though his companions could not see the angel in their midst.
The Prophet’s wife Ayisha tells us that when he was asked “O God’s Messenger, How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?” he replied, “Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says.” Ayisha adds: “Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the Sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over)”(Saheeh Al Bukhari).
Its Profoundly Moving Verses
The verses of the Qur’an are profoundly moving, especially when recited in its original Arabic. So much so that listeners feel enveloped and overwhelmed by the Divine Word in their very midst, like manna falling from heaven to enrich their souls. When the renowned Arab poet Labeed accepted Islam, he gave up writing poetry. When asked why he did so, he replied; “What? After the Quran?“
Other poets could no longer stomach posting their poems on the wall of the Kaaba as they did in Pre-Islamic days, especially after the daughter of the most illustrious Arab poet of the time, Imrul Qays, cried out after listening to a verse from the Qur’an: “This cannot be the word of a human being! If there is such a word in the world, my father’s poems must be taken down from the walls of the Ka’aba. Go and pull them down, and in their place post these verses!”.So profound were its verses that many embraced Islam just hearing it, as they felt it was only divine inspiration that could account for it. Others were left confused, as they did not know what to make of it.
After all, was it not a single verse from the Qur’an that changed the heart of Umar, who would later become one of the prophet’s closest companions and the second Caliph of Islam. It happened one day that Umar, thinking it was high time to do away with Muhammad once and for all, rushed through the streets of Mecca sword in hand to a little house at the foot of Mount Safa. On his way there a secret Muslim of his clan accosted him and told him why not go look at his own house. He rushed home and faintly heard the words of the scripture coming out of his window. “What was that balderdash?” he cried as he burst into the house and beat up his sister who had secretly embraced Islam and who in his absence had invited Khabbab the blacksmith to recite to her and her husband the most recent chapter of the holy scripture. He beat her up so ferociously that she bled, but now his glance fell on the manuscript poor Khabbab had dropped in his haste to flee his wrath. He picked it up and began to read the opening verses of Surah TaHa. “How fine and noble a speech is this?” he said in amazement and running through Mecca burst into the house where Muhammad was. The Prophet seized him by his cloak: “What has brought you, son of Khattab?” he asked, and Umar replied: “O Messenger of God, I have come to you to believe in God and His Messenger”. Such was the power of the Qur’an.
In fact the Qur’an is so structured that its verses leave an impression in one’s mind like no other book, stirring the soul with its hypnotic effect, and lingering and embedding itself into one’s innermost conscience, allowing it to be memorized so very easily. There are millions of people today who have memorized the entire Qur’an who can recite its over 6000 verses by heart word for word from beginning to end. This includes little children as young as seven.
Suppose a dictator were to assume control of the world, God Forbid, and order that all Qurans be destroyed, it could still be reconstructed from the minds of men who serve as the earthly protectors of the Holy Book , which is why they are called Haafiz ‘Protector’. Could the same be said of a single Christian?. Nay, there is none who has by-hearted the entire Gospel, the words taught by Jesus, which is far smaller than the Qur’an, nay, not even the Pope himself! Take the following verses in its original Arabic, where God speaks to man intimately in the singular first person or more profoundly in the Royal plural or more distantly as the God on High, each usage fitting its context:
Fala Uqsimu Bil Khunnasi
L’ Jawaaril Kunnasi
Wal Layla Iza As’asa
Was Subhi Iza Tanaffasa
(Verily I call to witness the heavenly bodies that recede
Go straight or hide, and the Night as it dissipates
And the Dawn as it breathes away the Darkness)
(The Folding Up:15-18)
Another beautiful nature passage runs:
Alam Naj’alil Arla Mihaadan
Wal Jibaala Awtaadan
Wa Khalaqnaakum Azwaajan
Wa Ja Alna Nawmakum Subaatan
Wa Ja Alna Layla Libaasan
Wa Ja Alna Nahara Ma’aashan
(Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse
And the mountains as pegs
And created you in pairs
And made your sleep for rest
And made the night as a covering
And the day as a means of subsistence?
(The Great News: 6-11)
Then take the description of the creation of man and of the jinn race before that:
Khalaqnaal insaana min salsaalin
min hamaain masnoonin
Wal ja’anna khalaqnaahu
min qablu min naarissamoom
(We Created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape;
And the Jinn race We Created before from the fire of a scorching wind)
(The Rocky Tract:26-27)
Or of the angels:
Jaa ilil mallaikati rusulan
Mathna wa thulatha wa ruba
Yazidu fil khalqi maa yashaa
(Who made the angels
Messengers with wings
Two or three or four
He adds to creation as He pleases)
(The Originator of Creation: 1)
Or of the manifold blessings we enjoy:
Alam naj’allahu aynayn
Wa lisanan wa shafatayn
(Have we not made for him a pair of eyes?
And a tongue and a pair of lips?
And shown him the two highways)
This is why translators of the Qur’an have confessed they can never do any real justice in translating the scripture, like John Naish who had this to say:
The Qur’an in its original Arabic dress has a seductive beauty and charm of its own, couched in concise and exalted style, its brief pregnant sentences, often rhymed, possess an expressive force and explosive energy which it is extremely difficult to convey by literal word for word translation
But one does not really need the Arabic to get an idea of the beauty or profundity of the Qur’an. Any language will do. Even the shortest of verses are full of wisdom and convey so much with so few words. Take for instance the passage where God tells Moses how he saved him by inspiring his mother to place him in a chest and send him down the river Nile, assuring him of His protection from the very cradle:
“I cast (the garment of) love over you from Me, in order that you may be reared under Mine Eye”
Or what it has to say after relating the story of David’s slaying of Goliath, a political reality we see to this day with one superpower being kept at bay by another, reflecting the balance of the world as it were, just as amoeba control bacteria, disease has its medicine and poison its antidote:
Had not God checked one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief. But God is full of bounty to all the worlds
Or when it describes the fragile form of falsehood which is ever so fickle and faulty, ready to fragment and flee at the slightest touch of truth:
And say: “Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.”
(The Night Journey:81)
Or when it compares Time with Space so that we imagine Night and Day to be places in the Domain of God, bringing to mind something like a chessboard of Black and White:
To Him belongs all that dwell in the Night and the Day, for He is the One who Hears and Knows all things
Or when it speaks of fiery hell in so terse a manner that we are jolted into deep reflection:
One Day We will ask Hell: “Are you filled to the full?” and it will say: “Are there any more?”
Or when it challenges those who question the resurrection, so that we do not doubt the prospect at all, given that the resurrected part we are told about differs from person to person:
Does man think that we cannot assemble his bones? Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers
(The Resurrection: 3-4)
A Book of Signs and a Book of Science
Although the Qur’an is not so much a book of science as a book of signs, there is nevertheless much science it contains all tallying with the latest findings and some of it is embedded in coded language, in the same manner it mentions both Adam and Jesus by name 25 times because both were created in a similar manner from the Breath of God.
The Qur’an shows the influence of a mathematical genius that had a scientific knowledge available only in our modern age many many centuries ago. For example take the word for sea bahr and the word for land bar occurring in the Qur’an. The word for sea is used 32 times and the word for land 13 times. Summing up these two numbers we get the number 45 and hence the percentage ratio of these two words which corresponds exactly to the ratio of the land and the sea on this earthly abode of ours. The word for sea in the total number of words (sea and land) gives a ratio of 71 %, which represents the surface area of seawater compared to the land on the Earth. Likewise the word land in the total number of words (sea and land) gives a ratio of 28 %, which represents the percentage surface of the land in the surface of our planet. We find such coded language in other passages of the Qur’an as well, such as for instance the word for day yawm which occurs 365 times, which is exactly the number of days in a year, the time the earth takes to complete a cycle around the sun. Now you may wonder how such scientific knowledge came to be coded in the Holy Book. The answer is simple – Divine inspiration!
Scientific Accuracy of the Qur’an
The Qur’an is accurate to the minutest detail. This goes well with its statement:
Do they not then consider the Qur’an with care ? Had it been from other than God, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy
In the Chapter of the Cave, the Qur’an talks of the Seven Sleepers (believed to be pious Christian youth fleeing Roman persecution) and states that they spent 300 years in the cave plus an additional nine years: “So they stayed in their Cave Three hundred years and add nine” (The Cave:25). One might wonder why this verse did not simply state the total number of years as 309. Today we know what the Qur’an was referring to was the difference between the Solar year of the Romans and the Lunar year of the Arabs. The lunar calendar of the Arabs is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, and in 300 years, the difference between the solar and lunar years would be exactly nine years, so that 300 years in the solar calendar would amount to 309 years in the lunar calendar.
We read in the Bible, in Genesis, that creation took place in six days, implying that a day here is the manner in which we commonly understand it, a 24-hour period as it refers to the evenings and mornings of these days. In the Qur’an too we find: Your Guardian-Lord is God, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days (The Heights:54). However, the word used to denote this period of creation is ayyam, the singular form of which yawm may denote a much longer period of time than a day as we know it as in the Qur’anic verse: He regulates all affairs from the heavens to the earth. In the end will (all affairs) ascend to Him in a day, the measure of which is a thousand years according to your reckoning (The Prostration:5). Another verse has it: To Him ascend the angels and the Spirit in a day the measure of which is fifty thousand years”. (The Ways of Ascent:4). These verses clearly suggest that these ‘days’ are not to be understood in the literal earthly sense we commonly understand them but rather as aeons.
All this makes perfect sense. Before the creation of the universe and the world there was no notion of “day” as a period of 24 hours. Therefore, the six yawms must be understood as six “periods” which is in perfect agreement with modern scientific data which indicate that the universe and our earth passed through several stages, from a nebulous gaseous state to colossal galaxies, with the earth too undergoing various stages of formation before reaching its present state with plant and animal life. It’s ridiculous to say that God created day and night before He created the sun as we read in Genesis.
Creation of Man
Another indication of the accuracy of the Qur’an is seen in the story of the creation of man.
It is He Who has created man from water (The Criterion:54) Man did We Create from a quintessence (of clay) (The Believers:12) We created man from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape (The Rocky Tract:26).
The Qur’an offers greater clues as to the origin of man than for example the Bible where it is stated: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
While we are told in the Qur’an that man was created from water, we are also told that clay went into his making. Strangely enough do you know the first two things that scientists look for when searching for evidence of life or past life on another planet. It is the presence of water and the presence of clay-like minerals called phyllosilicates. Recent research has shown that wet clay could have well served as the basis for the complex biochemicals that make life possible. A substance called clay hydrogel formed of clay and ocean water has been shown to absorb liquids like a sponge and act as the perfect place for chemicals to react with one another to form proteins, DNA and eventually living cells. The clay was found to provide the protective encasing needed for the biochemical concoctions that could have led to early life.
Another interesting fact related to the creation story given in the Qur’an is that the first humans lived in a higher state of bliss, in a paradise called Jannatul Adn – the Garden of Eden, and that their banishment to the earth as punishment involved a descent from this higher state to a lower earthly life to live and die and propagate their kind. It differs from the Biblical story that places Eden somewhere in Mesopotamia, near the head of the Persian Gulf where the Tigris and Euphrates join with two other streams, the Pishon and Gihon to form a single river (Genesis 2:8-14).
Such bliss, the Qur’an tells us ended when our first parents tasted of the forbidden tree and God banished them saying: “Get you down, with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood – for a time. Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die; but from it shall you be taken out (at last)” (The Heights:22-25).
This would suggest that although man was created from clay, he was not a terrestrial creature as such like the rest of creation and that earth was his later adopted home. This may explain why we find modern man, Homo Sapiens, suddenly emerging on earth without any antecedents. He soon subjugates the rest of nature and spreads his kind over the globe. His arrival on earth could not be very old, for even the parent forms of the languages he speaks today go back to about 5000 BC, no more. For instance, the Indo-European languages including tongues as diverse as English, Greek, Latin Persian, Hindi and Sinhala, all go back to a parent form known as Proto-Indo-European spoken in Southern Russia about 6000 years ago. The same holds true of the Semitic speeches like Arabic and Hebrew, whose parent, Proto-Semitic goes back to about the same time.
This suggests that humanity on earth could not have been here for more than 10,000 -15,000 years ago. Interestingly in both these speech families, the Semitic and Indo-European, the word for man or the first man derives from a root meaning ‘clay’ or ‘earth’. Thus in Semitic Adam originally meant ‘earthly being’ while in Proto-Indo-European ghumon, which gave rise to the Latin homo, also meant the same thing, from the root ghom meaning ‘earth’ or ‘soil’ or ‘clay’. That’s not all even primitive tribes believed so. The Dogon of Mali say the Supreme Being Amma created people out of clay. The Ewe of Togo say God fashioned people out of clay and mud and the Efe of Zaire say God formed the first man out of loam which he kneaded into shape, covered it in skin and filled it with blood. In India the Birhor tribe had an old legend that the Creator God Singbonga created humans out of mud. All this accords with the story that man was created of clay or mud or loam.
More interesting is the fact that the very physiology of man suggests that he emerged from another realm, perhaps one with a lower gravity which may explain why he suffers from ailments like back pains in this earthly existence of his. Although humans are supposed to be the most highly developed species on the planet, they have been found to be remarkably unsuited and ill-equipped for the earth’s environment when compared to other terrestrial creatures. Gravity takes its toll on man more than any other creature, weighing him down as it were, and as he gets older burdening him with back pain and sagging face. If indeed as scientists say man evolved on this planet, how is it that they have such ridiculously high rates of disease or women have such trouble giving birth. The birth pains they experience no other creature on earth goes through. Science certainly cannot explain this phenomenon and one might as well look to the Bible where we read God telling Eve:
In pain shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee
All this suggests that humans did not evolve on earth, but were abruptly placed here by a higher force, confirming the Qur’anic account of their descent to earth.
The Qur’an also affirms the idea of a common origin for mankind:
O Mankind! Reverence your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), created of like nature his mate (Eve), and from them twain scattered countless men and women
Although in this day and age we know that all humans are descended from a common stock as they all can mate and interbreed successfully, this was not acknowledged as such in ancient times. Indeed even as late as the nineteenth century there were racist European scholars who contended that Negroes would have evolved from a different stock than the white European. Today, however scientists tell us that all humans, be they from Africa, Asia or Europe, indeed derive from a common ancestor or rather ancestress. This is because all the genetic evidence points to the fact that Mitochondrial DNA passed down the centuries from mother to daughter (men are carriers, but don’t pass it on) ultimately has its origins in a single woman whom they called the “mitochondrial Eve. All humans carry the same mtDNA as they are all copies of the same original that belonged to that single woman.
Likewise, all men in the world today carry the same Y-Chromosome inherited from the same single source, from an individual male ancestor. Every Y- Chromosome existing today is a copy of that same original. How is it that one man bequeathed his Y chromosome to all mankind and one woman her mitochondria to all womankind unless we suppose that they were indeed Adam and Eve?
The Great Flood
Then take the story of the great flood of Noah’s time. In Genesis we read that in the Great Flood “All creatures that stirred on earth perished. Birds, cattle, wild animals, and all that swarmed on the earth, as well as all mankind. Everything on dry land with the faintest breath of life in its nostrils died out and Noah only remained, and those that were with him in the ark” (Genesis 7: 22-23). Likewise in the Qur’an we read that once Noah had constructed the ark Behold! There came Our Command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth! We said: Embark therein, of each kind two, male and female, and your family (Hood:40). Then the word went forth “O Earth! Swallow up your water, and O Sky! Withhold (your rain)! The water abated and ark rested on Mount Joodi (Hood:44).
Archaeological evidence suggests that throughout the millennia down to the present day there have always existed flourishing civilizations in several parts of the globe from Egypt to India and that they never suffered a break in the period described in the Bible as to wipe out all humanity save those with Noah in the ark. A global flood would have left ruins all over the world at that particular period in time, but there are none.
However the archaeological evidence tallies well with the statement of the Qur’an that suggests that it were only the people of Noah who were destroyed in the Great Flood. And the nation of Noah, when they denied the Messengers We drowned them, and We made them as a sign for mankind (The Criterion:37) showing again that the Qur’an is more a credible source than the Bible. In contrast to the Bible, the narration contained in the Qur’an deals with a cataclysm that is limited to Noah’s people. Noah’s flood was no global event, but likely emerged from the region of Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates. It would have arisen when a rain storm spoken of in the scripture raised the water level of the rivers to such an extent that two rivers combined to form a massive flood, breaking its banks and devastating everything in its path. The legend of a global cataclysm would have arisen from the survivors who had made it to a boat or similar vessel who would have seen nothing but water up to the horizon due to the curvature of the Earth, making it look like the entire world had been submerged by the waters.
Pharaoh and his Times
Whereas in the Bible, the rulers of Egypt of both Joseph’s and Moses’ period are called Pharaoh, in the Qur’an, we find Joseph referring to the Egyptian ruler as King and not as Pharaoh whereas we read of Moses certainly dealing with one. History tells us that the ruling dynasty of Egypt in the days of Joseph, around the eighteenth or seventeenth century BC, were the Hyksos, a Semitic people quite distinct from the native Egyptians who were called by the Egyptians Hekau Chasut meaning ‘Foreign Overlords’ and who adopted this title themselves. Interestingly the later native Egyptian rulers, like the one of Moses’ time, around the 13th century BC certainly called themselves Pharaoh, which accords well with the Qur’an’s treatment of the royal titles.
We also read in the Qur’an Pharaoh commanding one of his people to build him an edifice, much like the tower of Babel, from which he could ascend to see the unseen god above the heavens spoken of by Moses:
“O Haman! Build me a lofty palace, that I may attain the ways and means – the ways and means of (reaching) the heavens, and that I may mount up to the God of Moses”
Now, the Bible nowhere speaks of a Haman, except in the Book of Esher which places him much later in time, not in Egypt but in Persia as a Minister in the Court of Ahasuerus, though nowhere in Persian history is such a person mentioned. This led some western scholars to mock the Qur’an, claiming that the Prophet had lifted the Biblical passage and inserted it in the Qur’an in a different context. That is, until recently, when it was discovered that there indeed was a man going by the name of Haman in the New Kingdom of Egypt. And guess his profession – The chief of the workers of the stone quarries. What’s more the determinate joined to his name indicates the intimate relationship he enjoyed with the Pharaoh. This accords well with both the function of Haman as a builder and as a confidante of Pharaoh as suggested in the Qur’an. How, we may ask could the Prophet have been privy to such information since by that time the knowledge of reading hieroglyphs had been long lost, only to be known again with the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone by Jean Francois Champollion in 1822.
We also find the Qur’an expanding on the Biblical stories as for instance in the story of Moses where it states:
And we brought the Children of Israel across the sea. Then Pharaoh with his hosts pursued them in rebellion and hostility until, when the fact of his drowning overtook him, he said: “I believe there is no god except the one in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of those who surrender to him”. God said: “What- now, after you have rebelled and caused corruption ? This day we shall save you in your body so that you may be a sign for those who come after you. But truly, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs
The Qur’an’s reference to the saving of the Pharaoh’s body is remarkable as it refers to the ancient Egyptian practice of mummifying their deceased monarchs which had probably been forgotten by the time of the Prophet. The Pharaoh of Moses’ time was very likely Merneptah, successor to Ramses II whose mummified body was discovered only in 1898 in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. A medical examination of the mummy has, shown that the body could not have stayed in the water for long as it does not show signs of deterioration due to prolonged submersion. Here again we see agreement between the Qur’anic narrative and modern scientific knowledge.
The Greatest Miracle
So in verity it is the greatest miracle Muhammad brought us; all the others which he performed pale in comparison with it. For fourteen centuries the Qur’an has stood the test of time. Not a single word or letter has been added, removed or altered in any was since it was first revealed so unlike other scriptures such as the Torah and Gospel which have been corrupted over time. And it will continue this way for God Himself has promised:
Indeed, it is We who sent down the Message, and indeed We will be its Guardian ((The Rocky Tract:9)
Little wonder then that Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832), the greatest European intellectual who ever lived, had so much esteem for the Qur’an. Evidence gleaned from his writings suggest that he was in fact a Muslim. At the age of 70 he wrote that he intended “to celebrate respectfully that night when the Prophet was given the Koran completely from above” “ He also declared in his renowned work Divan:
“Whether the Koran is of eternity?
I don’t question that!
That it is the book of books
I believe out of the Muslim’s duty.”
That it was indeed a miracle was even acknowledged by western scholars who have delved deeply into its meaning, like the Italian Orientalist Laura Vaglieri who wrote in Apologia dell Islamismo: “It was neither by means of violence of arms nor through the pressures of obtrusive missionaries that caused the great and rapid diffusion of Islam, but above all, through the fact that this book presented by the Muslims to the vanquished, with the liberty to accept or reject it, was the Book of God, the Word of Truth, the greatest miracle Muhammad could show to those in doubt. The strength of this message was its crystal clear simplicity and marvelous easiness, for Islam reached out to the soul of the people without having recourse to long explanations”.