You write in one of your responses1:
In my opinion, the miracle of the Qur’an at such instances, is not in ‘exposing’ any unknown ‘scientific’ facts (as some Muslims like to believe), but in generally restricting itself to its making references to these natural phenomena in such words, which would not only serve their desired purpose, but also would not allow its addressees’ minds to wander away from its message.
I beg to disagree with this contention of yours. It seems like you are restricting the Holy book to a particular time and space. Conceded that it was primarily directed towards its first addressees, but this does not preclude the fact that later generations cannot be shown its miraculous nature through some scientific facts, which you consider drifting away. I feel that if the holy book mentions any such fact which is established and verified by people, it would only help in making them more confident about the veracity of the book rather than drifting their minds away. The fact that the Qur’an mentions Pharaoh’s mummy is a clear proof that it mentioned something not discovered and verified by its direct addressees. Just as its language was a miraculous proof, for its direct addressees, of its divine origins, its scientific facts are a miraculous proof, for its indirect addressees, of the same thing.
Your comments would be highly appreciated.
The complete footnote, which you have cited from reads as under:
It may be of interest to note that most of the statements in the Qur’an, which refer to one or the other phenomena of nature have generally been worded in such a way that they serve their respective purpose (within their respective contexts), without unduly uncovering any unknown ‘scientific’ facts. In my opinion, the miracle of the Qur’an at such instances, is not in ‘exposing’ any unknown ‘scientific’ facts (as some Muslims like to believe), but in generally restricting itself to its message and making references to these natural phenomena in such words, which would not only serve their desired purpose, but also would not allow its addressees’ minds to wander away from its message. It is obvious that had the Qur’an clearly mentioned any unknown and, at that time, undiscoverable facts of nature, it would clearly have driven the inquisitive mind away from the message of the Qur’an into discovering and, subsequently verifying or refuting, the Qur’anic statements. This would, in turn, have rendered the Qur’anic message completely ineffective. In view of this fact, the Qur’an has, generally, based its message either upon the (correctly) known facts of nature or upon clearly observable signs of nature.
I really do not see how my stated understanding would restrict the Holy Book to a particular time and place. In fact, on the contrary, with due respect for your opinion and apologies for saying so, I feel that by ascribing to the opinion that the Qur’an has mentioned and built its arguments on such facts, which could have been unknown and unverifiable for its first and prime addressees, you are restricting its message to a time when all the facts mentioned in the Qur’an become known and verifiable.
I would, however, like to add (to what I have already stated in my cited footnote) that any facts mentioned by the Qur’an are, indeed, worded in such a way that even though they fully serve their purpose for the first and the prime addressees of the Qur’an, without allowing their minds to wander off or prompting a debate on unrelated ‘scientific’ topics, yet they do not entail anything, which turns out to be incorrect, on the basis of any new scientific discoveries. Consider, for instance, the example of Solomon (pbuh) comprehending the conversation of ants. The Qur’an has worded the narration of the incident in such a way that its first and prime addressees could easily have thought that ants communicated through speech. The Qur’an did not even feel the need to clarify the mode of communication between ants, though it could easily have mentioned how they did. On the contrary, the Qur’an strictly restricted itself to what was intended to be communicated to its addressees, which is the great blessing of God upon Solomon (pbuh), in comprehending the communication between ants, in addition to other animals. In the modern times, however, when man discovered how ants communicate, we see that even though the first addressees of the Qur’an could so easily have thought that ants communicate through speech, yet nothing in the Qur’an was rendered incorrect by the advancement of human information regarding the mode of communication in ants. Even in narrating these facts to its prime addressees, the Qur’an avoided using any such words, which would restrict the mode of communication in ants to one based on speech2.
I do agree that if the Holy Book entailed any such information, which is verified by new discoveries, it would, indeed have made the believers more confident about the Divine source of the Book. Nevertheless, I fail to understand the utility of any such information for the prime addressees of the Qur’an.
Finally, the most important factor, which we must keep in mind is that the Qur’an has not presented uncovering any unknown scientific details as the evidence of its truth, which it should have, had that been the case.
The fact that the Qur’an mentions Pharaoh’s mummy is a clear proof that it mentioned something not discovered and verified by its direct addressees.
For my opinion regarding the referred verse of the Qur’an, I request you to see one of my other responses to a criticism on the Qur’an titled: ‘Pharaoh’s Repentance in the Face of Death‘. The point that it was not known to the first addressees of the Qur’an that Pharaoh’s body did not rot in water, is not correct. It is clearly mentioned in the Bible that after they died, the body of the Egyptians lay scattered on the shores. The classical commentators of the Qur’an have also construed the referred verse as one referring to the fact that after the drowning, the sea threw Pharaoh’s body out on the seashore for the Israelites to see. Furthermore, the point that the Pharaoh lying in the Egyptian museum is the Pharaoh of Exodus, is a highly debated one among the experts of the field. In fact, the experts do not even agree on who exactly was the Pharaoh of the Exodus, was it one of the Ramses, Amenhotep, Merneptah or someone else.
I do respect your opinion on the issue, but, unfortunately, do not, at present, agree with it. However, I assure you that my heart and mind shall remain absolute open for any and every truth that comes my way. I will have absolutely no hindrances in revising my opinion, if adequate bases of doing so, come my way.
May the Almighty guide us to the path of His liking.
April 30, 2001