The Qur’an is mostly concerned with making statements about God and its followers and detractors, and does not comment frequently on matters that can be directly or indirectly approached scientifically. As the Qur’an was written several hundred years after the Bible, it is of course makes far fewer blunders. But nonetheless, despite the fact that humanity had developed its knowledge of astronomy, the Qur’an makes many of the exact same errors that Christianity makes: especially with regards to the Earth being centralized at the center of the cosmos.
If the Qur’an is the infallible Word of God, then it stands to reason that it would not contain factual errors of science. By “factual errors” we mean errors that can be physically examined. We are not talking about contradictions between scientific theories and the Qur’an. We are talking about hard evidence that can be checked out.
But first, there is a question we must answer: “is it legitimate to judge the Qur’an?” Many Muslims believe in the Qur’an as a blind leap of faith. They really do not care if it is filled with mistakes and contradictions. As far as they are concerned, they were born Muslim and they will die Muslim. The more closed minded they are, the more fanatical they become in their religion. When ignorance unites with arrogance, fanaticism is born.
Thankfully, there are millions of Muslims today who have received a university education and understand that an unexamined faith is a worthless faith. They are open minded to scientific facts and evidence. They want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The Setting of the Sun
One of the questions which puzzled the ancient Arabs was, “Where did the sun go when night time came?” The Qur’an gave them Allah’s answer.
Till, when he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a people thereabout. We said: O Dhu’l-Qarneyn! Either punish or show them kindness. Qur’an 18:86
Till, when he reached the rising-place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom. Qur’an 18:90
We agree with Muslim scholars that Zul-qarnain refers to Alexander the Great (see Yusuf Ali’s appendix on this subject in his translation of the Qur’an). According to this surah, Alexander the Great traveled west until he found out what happened to the sun. It went down into and under the murky waters of a pond. When it was completely covered by the water, darkness fell upon the earth.
To the early Muslims, this surah gave the divine answer as to why darkness fell when the sun set in the West. They assumed that the sun, like the moon, was the size perceived by the human eye, about the size of a basketball. Darkness came when with a mighty hissing roar it went down under the dark waters of a pond. They boldly and proudly proclaimed that this marvelous answer proved that the Qur’an was indeed the Word of God.
Today, modern Muslims are quite embarrassed by this passage and try to ignore it or to quickly dismiss it as poetry. But the passage is not part of a poem. Thus it cannot be dismissed as figurative language or poetic license. In the context, it is part of a historical narrative which relates several historical incidences in the life of Alexander the Great.
Earth Created before Stars
The author of the Qur’an is also unaware that the elements in the Earth’s crust and core were first formed in stars by nucleosynthesis. When those stars exploded as supernovas, they expelled the elements that were used in future solar systems such as our own. Yet the Qur’an describes the Earth being formed before the stars. All rocky and gaseous planets in the universe were formed in a similar manner to the Earth and the Qur’an singling out the Earth only further highlights the author’s ignorance of the history of the formation of celestial objects.
Verse 41:12 says that lamps (or more specifically, stars in the similar verse Qur’an 37:6) were placed in the lowest of the seven heavens. But before there were seven heavens, while heaven was just smoke, the Earth already existed according to verse 11, and the Earth’s creation in the preceeding days is described in verses 9-10 already discussed in the previous section.
Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth: Come both of you, willingly or loth. They said: We come, obedient. Then He ordained them seven heavens in two Days and inspired in each heaven its mandate; and We decked the nether heaven with lamps, and rendered it inviolable. That is the measuring of the Mighty, the Knower. Qur’an 41:11-12
The verse below further confirms that heaven was only made into seven heavens when the Earth already existed according to the Qur’an.
He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth. Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens. And He is knower of all things.
Some websites attempt to reconcile the Qur’anic description with modern science by denying that the word ‘Then’ in the verses above indicate sequence, and instead claim that it means ‘moreover’. They claim this despite the fact that these words (thumma in 41:11 and 2:29, and fa in 41:12 – all translated as ‘Then’) generally are used to indicate sequence. In other contexts thumma was sometimes used to mean ‘moreover’, which is generally clear from those contexts, but the passages quoted above describe a process – the creation of the heavens and Earth, and it would be ludicrous to use these words when describing such a process if they were not indicating sequence.
Moon was Split in Two
The Qur’an and Hadith claim that the moon was miraculously split into two pieces and then, presumably, put back together again. There is absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever that the moon has ever been split into two. Since the moon is visible to half the planet at any given time, we should expect to see numerous accounts from different parts of the world attesting to this event if it actually happened. The Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Chinese and Indians had avid astronomers who should have seen this event and recorded it in their histories. The absence of historical record from other civilizations, contemporary to Muhammad, is a strong indication that this event never happened.
The hour drew nigh and the moon did rend asunder. Qur’an 54:1-3
Narrated Anas: “That the Meccan people requested Allah’s Apostle to show them a miracle, and so he showed them the splitting of the moon.” Sahih Bukhari 4:56:831
Sky can Fall Down on People
The Qur’an author thought that the sky/heaven is like a ceiling held up by Allah that can fall to earth or fragments break off and fall on someone. This is obviously impossible as the earth’s atmosphere is simply made of gas and outer space is not a solid object
And if they were to see a fragment of the heaven falling, they would say: A heap of clouds. Qur’an 52:44
See they not what is before them and behind them, of the sky and the earth? If We wished, We could cause the earth to swallow them up, or cause a piece of the sky to fall upon them. Verily in this is a Sign for every devotee that turns to Allah (in repentance). Qur’an 34:9
Hast thou not seen how Allah hath made all that is in the earth subservient unto you? And the ship runneth upon the sea by His command, and He holdeth back the heaven from falling on the earth unless by His leave. Lo! Allah is, for mankind, Full of Pity, Merciful. Qur’an 34:9