Science in the Bible and the Quran: Searching the Holy Texts for Evidence of Scientific Knowledge
“As all truth is from God, it necessarily follows that true science and true religion can never be at variance.”
– Horace Mann
In the modern age, the conflict between science and religion has received much attention. With the advancement of scientific knowledge, religion has come under increasing scrutiny and attack. At the same time, many scientists maintain some sort of religious belief, and many argue that science and religion are not at odds with each other. Nevertheless, the conflict has intensified and both religious people and so-called “skeptics” have passionately attacked each other’s points of view. Part of this battle has resulted in a closer look at the holy texts of the major religions, especially Christianity and Islam, for the presence (or absence) of statements that either agree with or contradict scientific principles. In this article, we will examine this issue by analyzing the Bible and the Quran to see if either one makes scientifically valid statements about such things as the Earth, the universe, animal and plant life etc., or if either contradicts scientific knowledge. Many books have been written on this subject, from both supporters and critics, as it is a very broad subject which is outside the scope of this article. Hence, this article will only provide a very basic analysis of both the Bible and the Quran and we will examine a very small sample from each book. The evidence that will be presented will establish our view that while both the Bible and the Quran contain some statements which are in line with scientific truths, the former also contains statements which contradict them. In other words, only the Quran is free of statements that contradict scientific truths.
The Bible and Science
We will begin our inquiry by looking at the Bible in the light of science. The analysis has been divided into sub-categories, namely, the Biblical stance on Creation, Earth and the universe (astronomy/cosmology), zoology and botany etc. A similar analysis will then be conducted with regard to the Quran.
Creation of the Universe and Earth –
One of the most controversial aspects of the Bible is the Genesis account of the creation of the universe and Earth, with many regarding it as a completely fictional account of the origin of all things. Others argue that the story does not necessarily have to be taken literally. However, it can be argued that some parts of the creation story, even when taken literally, are at least in rudimentary agreement with science. For example, it is stated in Genesis 1 that animals and plants were created before humans. This agrees with established scientific consensus, since it is acknowledged that humans are a relatively recent arrival on Earth. Animals and plants had existed for millions of years prior to the arrival of man (Homo sapiens), which appeared around 150,000 years ago. However, there are obvious conflicts between other aspects of the creation story and established scientific facts. Let us now examine these.
First, Genesis 1 states that the act of creation took 6 days. During this period, the heavens and the Earth were created and the latter was populated with plants and animals as well as the first humans (Adam and Eve). This conflicts with scientific data since it is firmly established that the formation of the universe and even the Earth took billions of years. For example, the scientific consensus is that the Earth:
“…began to take shape slightly over 4.5 billion years ago. Within 50 million years, its core had formed and, in turn, generated a magnetic field. However, it was not until the atmosphere and surface of the crust were relatively stable, about 3.8 billion years ago, that life had a good chance to evolve and thrive.”
Some Christians have objected to the claim that the Bible describes the creation of the world in six literal days. They refer to Psalm 90:4, which states that a day was not necessarily a literal 24-hour period:
“A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”
Yet even if a day was 1,000 years, it would still not agree with scientific facts since “six days” would be like “six thousand years”. The creation of the universe took billions of years. Moreover, other passages in the Bible clearly show that a day was really a 24-hour day. For example:
““Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
We can see very clearly that a regular day like the Sabbath is compared to the seventh day of Creation when God allegedly “rested” and that the six days wherein laboring was allowed are compared to the six days of Creation. If the seventh “day” was supposed to be thousands or even millions of years long, the comparison to the Sabbath of the Israelites would not be appropriate. Similarly, if the six “days” of Creation were supposed to be thousands or millions of years, the comparison to the six-day work week of the Israelites would not be appropriate.
Moving on, Genesis 1:6-8 states that water was placed on the Earth on the second day. However, scientific data shows that the formation of the oceans took much more time:
“Ocean formation probably began during the first 500 million years of Earth’s history, when the planet first cooled sufficiently to allow water molecules to condense, fall onto the surface, and persist as free-standing water bodies. Zircon mineral grains laid down by water have been dated to over 4 billion years old, indicating that some surface water existed at that time. […] Australian limestone formations known as stromatolites, which were formed by microscopic blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, indicate that fully saline oceans existed around 3.5 billion years ago.”
Hence, the Bible’s claim of ocean formation on the second day is impossible to defend.
Another problem with the Genesis account is the creation of the stars. Genesis 1 claims that the sun was created after the creation of the Earth. Yet, this contradicts established scientific data, which shows that:
“The Solar System began to form about 4.56 billion years ago, when an immense cloud of gas and dust, the solar nebula, started to collapse under gravity. As it collapsed, the cloud flattened into an ever-faster spinning disk, with a bulging center that heated and condensed to form the Sun. The orbiting debris formed the four inner rocky planets.”
It should be noted, however, that the moon was certainly formed after Earth, as Genesis accurately states. However, Genesis states that the sun and the moon were both formed at the same time, which contradicts the scientific evidence.
Moreover, both the sun and the moon are described as “lights” in Genesis:
“God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”
According to the Jewish commentator Rashi, these two “lights” were “created equal” except that the moon was made smaller:
“…the two great luminaries: They were created equal, but the moon was made smaller because it brought charges and said, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.” – [from Chullin 60b] Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this derash is based on the discrepancy of the two expressions, “the two great luminaries,” which intimates that the moon was a great luminary, and “the lesser luminary,” which intimates that the moon was smaller than the sun. To reconcile this difference, the Rabbis asserted that the moon was originally created equal to the sun, but, because of its complaint that the sun wielded the same power that it wielded, it was forced to relinquish that power.”
The meaning is that both the sun and moon provide light, but that the sun is a greater source of light. This can be seen even more clearly by the fact that the same Hebrew word is used to describe the sun and moon as “light”. The problem with this verse is that while the sun is definitely a “light” (in fact the only major source of light on Earth), the moon is not. Scientific research has shown that the moon actually reflects the light of the sun onto Earth but is not itself a direct source of light.
Having dealt with the creation of the universe and Earth, let us now consider the Genesis account of the creation of life on Earth. It is claimed in Genesis 1 that vegetation appeared on land on the third day. On the fifth day, marine life and birds appeared, while animal life appeared on land on the sixth day, shortly before the creation of man. This account contradicts scientific facts since the fossil record conclusively shows that plant life did not appear on land until the Ordovician period, becoming more common only in the Silurian. Meanwhile, marine invertebrates had existed as early as the Proterozoic eon, which lasted from 2.5 billion to 542 million years ago. An example of such an invertebrate was Spriggina, a segmented animal which existed in the Precambrian.
Another difficulty with this account is that birds were created before land animals, which would include reptiles and mammals. This directly contradicts the fossil record which shows that there were many different animals (such as dinosaurs) which preceded the arrival of birds. An example is Dilophosaurus, a 20-foot long theropod dinosaur from the early Jurassic period. Even as early as the Devonian period, arthropods like Pleophrynus, a spider-like arachnid, lived on land.
Next, let us consider the age of the Earth according to the Bible. Since the Bible provides a detailed genealogy starting from Adam, it becomes clear that from the first day of Creation to the present day, only about 6,000 years have gone by. In other words, according to the Bible, the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. Given the scientific evidence presented above, the Biblical claim is a clear error.
However, some Christians have argued that the age of the Earth cannot be determined from the genealogies and hence argue that the Biblical genealogies should not be taken literally. Instead, they argue that when the genealogy refers to “father” and “son”, it could also be referring to an “ancestor” and a “descendant” and hence, we cannot know how many years had lapsed from Adam to Abraham. While it is true that the Hebrew word “ab” can mean both a literal “father” and “ancestor”, and the word “ben” can mean both a literal “son” and “descendant”, this argument fails for some very simple reasons in the case of the genealogies.
First, if the Biblical figures mentioned in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are not necessarily “father” and “son”, then it means that the genealogies have gaps which can exceed thousands of generations (if we attempt to harmonize the Bible with science). If that is true, then these genealogies have no meaning and we have to question why they are even part of scripture. What would be the point of mentioning a genealogy which separates two people by hundreds or thousands of generations?
Second, the context of the genealogies indicates that nothing other than a literal father-son relationship is implied. As “Answers in Genesis” points out:
“…additional biographical information in Genesis 5 and 11 strongly supports the view that there are no gaps in these chapters. So we know for certain that the following are literal father/son relationships: Adam/Seth, Seth/Enosh, Lamech/Noah, Noah/Shem, Eber/Peleg, and Terah/Abram. Nothing in these chapters indicates that the “X begat Y” means something other than a literal father/son relationship.”
Put schematically, we can see that from Adam to Shem in the Genesis 5 genealogy, six of the eleven names mentioned are clearly linked in literal father-son relationships:
Thus, why would we assume that the other five names are also not linked by the same relationships? In fact, the New Testament helps us to lock in Kenan, Mahalel, Jared and Enoch in literal father-son relationships as well. According to Jude 1:14, Enoch was the “seventh from Adam”:
“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones…”
If Enoch was the “seventh from Adam”, it means he was Adam’s great-great-great-great-grandson, which makes Jared the great-great-great-grandson and so on. Therefore, ten of the eleven names are now linked, with only Methuselah left:
Adam (1)–Seth (2)–Enosh (3)–Kenan (4)–Mahalel (5)–Jared (6)–Enoch (7)-Methusaleh-Lamech–Noah–Shem
Keeping the “ancestor-descendant” argument in mind, there is nothing outside of Genesis 5 which clearly links Methuselah as Enoch’s literal son, even though he is mentioned in other genealogies as the son of Enoch (and that is all the context really allows). Nevertheless, it is clear that the other names are all part of literal father-son relationships and not “ancestor-descendant” relationships, and thus, Enoch and Methusaleh should be no different. Now let us look at the genealogy in Genesis 11.
The genealogy goes like this:
We already know that Eber/Peleg and Terah/Abraham have literal father-son relationships. That leaves six names unaccounted for. Yet, we can also add Shem and Arphaxad because it is clear that Shem was the father of Arphaxad and not his “ancestor”, as is clear from Genesis 11:10, which states that Shem “fathered” Arphaxad only two years after the flood:
“This is the account of Shem’s family line. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.”
Hence, six of the ten names are now linked:
But Shelah can certainly be added since it would not make sense to place a distant “ancestor” between Arphaxad and Eber. Indeed, why would we assume that Shelah was perhaps only a distant “ancestor” of Eber or that Reu was a distant “descendant” of Peleg? Similarly, why would we assume that the other three are also not linked? Clearly, there is no rhyme or reason to claiming that “ab” and “ben” had any other meaning other than as literal “father” and “son”, respectively. Indeed, out of the twenty names mentioned in Genesis 5 and 11, from Adam to Abraham, sixteen can be undoubtedly linked. Based on this undeniable proof, the only reasonable conclusion is that when we add the number of years together in these genealogies, we can calculate the age of the earth as being around 6,000 years.
In our discussion of the Creation account in Genesis, the creation of Earth played a prominent role. In this section, we will discuss some other statements in the Bible about Earth itself which cannot be reconciled with science.
First, one of the most recognized stories in the Bible is that of Noah, the ark and the flood. It is well-known that Genesis mentions a global and catastrophic flood which wiped out all living things except for a few people on the ark and the animals that had been brought on board. Since we can reasonably date the flood to around 2100-2300 BC, it should be easy to find evidence of this event in the geological record and we should also have a veritable treasure-trove of the remains of animals which perished in the flood. Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the fossil record of a relatively recent mass extinction on the likes of that caused by the Biblical flood. Indeed, the flood was so destructive that only a few animals of each species were spared. Yet even the largest mass extinctions acknowledged by scientists did not approach the destructiveness of the flood. One such event was the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. According to established scientific facts, the late Permian period:
“…saw the extinction of 96 percent of marine species, 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrate species, and 83 percent of insect genera.”
Surely, if there had been a mass die-off only 4,300 years ago, there would be clear evidence for it.
Another conflict between the Bible’s description of Earth and established scientific principles is in its shape. It was a common belief in ancient times that the Earth was actually flat and evidence for a flat Earth can be seen in a few places in the Bible. Of course, we now know that it is in fact round. It should be noted, however, that the Bible does not literally say “the Earth is flat”. Rather, it alludes to it. For example, Isaiah 11:12 states:
“He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”
The New International Version uses the phrase “four quarters of the earth” though the more correct translation is “four corners of the earth” which strongly alludes to a flat shape. After all, a round object does not have “corners”. Since there are four corners, the allusion is to a flat shape like a square or rectangle.
It may be argued that the “four corners of the earth” are just metaphorical, though there is no evidence to suggest that. But then what about Matthew 4:8, which claims:
“Again, the devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.”
This is perhaps the clearest example of a flat Earth in the Bible, for if the devil had to take Jesus to a “very high mountain” in order to show him “all the kingdoms of the world”, it implies the author’s belief that the Earth was flat. Why else did Satan take Jesus to the mountain? The text also suggests that these “kingdoms” were clearly visible.
We saw previously how the Bible provided an erroneous account of the beginning of animal life. In this section, we will discuss specific examples of zoological errors, regarding certain Biblical descriptions and observations about animals.
Our first example is Genesis 1:30, which claims that all animals were given green plants for food. In other words, all animals were originally herbivores. Yet this claim is scientifically inaccurate as certain animals cannot survive on plants. Instead, they need to eat other animals to thrive. These animals are known as “obligate carnivores”, as an article in the “National Geographic” explains:
“Some carnivores, called obligate carnivores, depend only on meat for survival. Their bodies cannot digest plants properly. Plants do not provide enough nutrients for obligate carnivores. All cats, from small house cats to huge tigers, are obligate carnivores.”
It would also be absurd to claim that an animal like Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the most fearsome carnivores in the history of life on Earth, was originally an herbivore. Thus, the Biblical claim that all animals were originally herbivores is erroneous.
Our second example is James 3:7, which states:
“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
While this is obviously a parable, it clearly utilizes a faulty argument since never have all “kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures” been “tamed” by mankind. As Jason Long observes:
“Like the earlier writers, [the author of] James probably never ventured too far outside of Mesopotamia. If he had taken the time to make this journey, he would have eventually realized that there were other animals to be discovered, let alone tamed. James’ premature proclamation hardly seems consistent with what I would consider a divinely inspired statement.”
It is simply incorrect for the author of “James” to have claimed that mankind has tamed all animals or was in the process of doing so. Even those animals which have been tamed are related to animals which have not been tamed. For example, house cats have been domesticated by humans. However, there are some species of cats, such as lions and tigers, which have not been tamed. In fact, scientists recently captured video footage of a rare species of wild cats that lives in Borneo. This species, known as the Bornean marbled cat, is endangered and is rarely seen by humans. It would be inaccurate to claim that this animal has been tamed by mankind.
The author of “James” even included “sea creatures” in his impressive list of “tamed” animals, but as Long observed, there were plenty of animals yet to be discovered. Hence, how could they have been tamed? As an example, we can consider the sheer abundance of sea life. Incredibly, in 2012, scientists announced the discovery of 1.5 million new species in the world’s oceans! Since these new and wonderful animals have just been discovered, how can anyone claim that they have been “tamed”?
Another strange zoological claim made in the Bible concerns an animal known as the “leviathan”. Among the fantastical descriptions about this unknown animal are the following:
“Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth.”
Even though these descriptions appear to be symbolical, it is obvious that they do not describe any known animal, whether extinct or alive. No evidence for it has even been catalogued. Moreover, the “leviathan” apparently breathed fire, and no animal in existence, living or dead, could breathe fire. The only animals that clearly resemble the “leviathan” are dragons, which of course, are nothing but myths.
A third example of a false zoological statement can be found in Leviticus 11:6:
“The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you.”
The phrase “chews the cud” refers to the phenomenon of rumination among certain animals. Rumination is defined as:
“…a complex digestion characterized by a stomach having three or four parts. […] After some time the partially digested food (cud) is assembled into pellets in the reticulum ready for regurgitation. The regurgitated cud is chewed thoroughly before passing to the omasum and abomasum where normal digestion occurs.”
The problem with Leviticus 11:6 is that rabbits are not ruminants, since they do not “chew the cud”. In fact, rabbits are more accurately referred to as “monogastric herbivores”. Furthermore, according to Cheeke and Dierenfeld:
“Very small (e.g. rabbits) and very large (e.g. elephants) herbivores are mainly non-ruminant herbivores.”
Some Christians have attempted to explain this error by referring to the phenomenon of “caecotrophy” in rabbits. For example, the website “Answers in Genesis” makes the following claim:
“They engage in an activity called cecotrophy. Rabbits normally produce two kinds of feces, the more common hard feces as well as softer fecal pellets called cecotropes. Cecotropes are small pellets of partially digested food that are passed through the animal but are then reingested. As part of the normal digestive process, some partially digested food is concentrated in the cecum where it undergoes a degree of fermentation to form these cecotropes. They are then covered in mucin and passed through the anus. The rabbit ingests the cecotropes, which serve as a very important source of nutrition for the animal.”
The argument is that even though rabbits are not like other ruminants, they can still be considered to be a type of ruminant. In fact, the website states that the Bible was using a different classification system and it would not be fair to expect it to use modern systems:
“Simply stated, it is not reasonable to accuse a 3500-year-old document of error because it does not adhere to a modern man-made classification system.”
But there are a few problems with this line of reasoning. First, if the phenomenon of caecotrophy was considered by the Bible to be a subclass of rumination, then we should expect the Bible to be consistent in this regard. However, we find the exact opposite. If the phenomenon of caecotrophy in rabbits was the reason that the Bible included them among animals that “chew the cud”, then rats should also be included in this list, since they also perform caecotrophy. According to Gordon Dryden:
“Several small hindgut fermenting herbivores (e.g. rabbits and hares, rats and mice, voles and the ring-tailed possum) harvest the nutrients produced by hindgut microbial metabolism through ‘caecotrophy’ or ‘coprophagy’…”
Yet, the Bible separates rats from those that “chew the cud”:
“‘Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon.’”
So clearly, the claim that the Bible was using some other “classification” system is patently false. The author simply did not know that rabbits do not chew the cud. It is possible that he had observed rabbits eating caecotrophs and assumed that they were regurgitating their food when in reality, there was no regurgitation involved.
Another reason why caecotrophy cannot be considered a type of rumination is that while ruminants actually thoroughly “chew the cud”, animals such as rabbits do not chew the caecotrophs, but instead swallow them whole. Furthermore, Mayer and Donnelly note that caecotrophs need to be swallowed whole in order to provide a protective mucous covering. Hence, the Biblical classification of rabbits as ruminants is scientifically unacceptable.
As a final example of inaccurate Biblical zoology, let us examine the following:
“May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.”
Regarding the meaning of the word “melts”, Rashi stated:
“…it continuously melts. תֶּמֶס is a noun, the “mem” being the fundamental radical and the “tav” a defective radical, like the “tav” of (Lev. 20:12)…””
We can see that, according to the author of this psalm, snails/slugs “melt” as they move. To an ancient Hebrew, that would certainly have been a logical observation to make. The reality, however, is that snails and slugs secrete mucus to help facilitate movement and adhesion. In fact, it also helps to protect the animal from sharp surfaces. Hence, snail slime is actually a remarkable adaptation and has nothing to do with “melting”.
Of course, Christian apologists have tried to deny that this is a scientific error. The apologetic website “Tektonics” has claimed the following:
“The Hebrew word here is temec, and this is the only place where it appears in the Bible. The main meaning here is liquefaction, with a root in a word referring to dissolution. All agree that slugs and snails leave a trail behind as they move — this is not something that is hard to observe or unknown. And of course, it is obvious that this liquid comes from their own bodies — and presumably, especially in a hot, desert climate like Palestine’s, a snail that doesn’t find a source of moisture to replenish itself is going to eventually shrivel away: hence the comparison to the “untimely birth of a woman.”
For this objection to work, it would have to be assumed that temec means “dissolve” in the sense that snow, for example, melts — but there is no point of comparison, and no reason why this word cannot refer to the dehydration process we describe.”
Not only is this argument regarding the meaning of the Hebrew word completely false, but so is the zoological argument regarding the purpose of the so-called “liquid”. The author of this apologetic article is completely ignorant about what the “liquid” is. It has nothing to do with “dehydration”, as shown above. It is a natural adaptation in snails and slugs which aids in movement and sticking to vertical surfaces, as well as for protection. In fact, slime also helps to protect snails and slugs from dehydration and is not the result of it.
In this final section of our analysis, we will discuss some examples of Biblical errors regarding botany.
First, let us consider Genesis 1:29-30, which states:
“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.”
The problem with this verse is that there are many seed-bearing plants which are toxic and will cause death if ingested. An example is the castor bean plant. It contains the poisonous substance ricin, which according to Coopman et al.:
“…is considered as one of the most toxic natural poisons.”
So, how could God have given humans and animals all seed-bearing plants for food if many of them would have been toxic?
Another example of a botanic error can be found in Mark 4:30-32:
“Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.””
The claim that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds is contradicted by the evidence. According to W.P. Armstrong of Palomar College, the smallest seeds on Earth are actually orchid seeds:
“Without any doubt, the orchids have the record for smallest seeds. The seeds of some species are no larger than fungal spores and occur in a loose cellular sheath.”
In fact, mustard seeds are not even the second smallest seeds. Poppy seeds and Wolffia seeds are also smaller.
As we have seen in the above examination, there are irreconcilable scientific errors in the Bible. While some Biblical statements can be reconciled with science, such as the Genesis account that plants and animals were created before mankind or that the moon was created after the Earth, most other statements concerning events like the Creation or on subjects like zoology and botany are in stark contrast to established scientific truths. Let us now look at the Quran to see if it is in total agreement with science or if, like the Bible, it contradicts it all too often.
The Quran and Science
As with our examination of the Bible, we will look at the Quran and its statements on Creation, Earth, the universe and zoology/botany as separate categories.
Creation of the Universe and Earth –
When analyzing the Quran for information about Creation, it will be noticed that it does not provide a chronological account like the Bible. Hence, we find no information about the order of the creation of Earth, the sun or the moon or even the creation of animals and plants. Rather, the Quran simply states that Allah (Gloried and Exalted be He) created these things, as in the following verses:
“It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course.”
“And Allah has created every animal from water: of them there are some that creep on their bellies; some that walk on two legs; and some that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills for verily Allah has power over all things.”
“It is He Who has created man from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power (over all things).”
However, the Quran, like the Bible, does state that the heavens and the Earth were created in six days. The only difference is that unlike the Bible, these six days did not necessarily represent literal 24-hour days. The evidence for this can be seen from the fact that though the Bible describes each day as consisting of “morning” and “evening”, the Quran does not. In addition, the Quran itself refers to a “day” as spanning different lengths of time, as the following verses show:
“He rules (all) affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end will (all affairs) go up to Him, on a Day, the space whereof will be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning.”
“The angels and the spirit ascend unto him in a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years.”
It was for this reason that Islamic scholars could not agree on the exact length of each “day” of creation. Furthermore, as Bucaille notes (emphasis in the original):
“The fact that the word ‘yaum’ could mean a period of time that was quite different from the period that we mean by the word ‘day’ struck very early commentators who, of course, did not have the knowledge we possess today concerning the length of the stages in the formation of the universe. In the Sixteen century A.D. for example, Abu al-Su’ud, who could not have had any idea of the day as defined astronomically in terms of the Earth’s rotation, thought that for the Creation a division must be considered that was not into days as we usually understand the word, but into ‘events’ (in Arabic nauba).”
In addition, Muhammad Asad observed:
“…it is to be noted that in ancient Arabic usage the term yawm does not always denote the twenty-four hours of the earthly “day”, but is also applied to any period of time, however long or short. In the cosmic sense in which it is used here and elsewhere in the Qur’an, the plural ayyam is best rendered as “aeons” [eons].”
Finally, Abu A’la Maududi explained in his commentary to Surah 7:54 that the actual time represented by the “six days” is known only to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He):
“Here the word “day” has been used in the sense of period. This word has been used in the same sense in XXII:47: “The fact is that with your Lord a day is equal to one thousand years as you reckon”, and also in LXX: 4: “Angels and Gabriel ascend to Him in a day which is equal to fifty thousand years”. Allah alone Knows its real significance.”
Moving on, we noted above that the sun and moon are considered to be “lights” in the Bible, similar to each other except in their size. In other words, both are considered as sources of light, a statement which is contradicted by established science. So, what does the Quran say on this matter? In terms of their relationship to “light”, the Quran mentions the sun and the moon in three places. Let us study these verses separately:
“It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory [ضِيَاءً – diyaan] and the moon to be a light (of beauty) [نُورًا – nuran], and measured out stages for her; that ye might know the number of years and the count (of time). Nowise did Allah create this but in truth and righteousness. (Thus) doth He explain His Signs in detail, for those who understand.”
As we can see, unlike the Bible, the “light” associated with the sun and the moon is described differently. Even though both words can mean “light”, as Ibn Kathir explains in his commentary, they refer to different types of light:
“Allah tells us about the signs He created that are indicative of His complete power and great might. He made the rays that come forth from the bright sun as the source of light, and made the beams that come forth from the moon as light. He made them of two different natures so they would not be confused with one another.”
It should be noticed how Ibn Kathir’s commentary on this verse is the exact opposite of Rashi’ commentary of Genesis 1:16. Whereas Rashi commented that the sun and the moon are both the same (except for their size differences), Ibn Kathir commented that the two are actually different, using the Quran’s own words as proof.
In addition, according to Muhammad Asad:
“The nouns diya’ and nur are often interchangeable, inasmuch as both denote “light”; but many philologists are of the opinion that the term diya’ (or daw’) has a more intensive connotation, and is used to describe “a light which subsists by itself, as that of the sun and fire” – that is, a source of light – while nur signifies “a light that subsists by some other thing” (Lane V, 1809,on the authority of Taj al-‘Arus ): in other words, light due to an extraneous source or – as in the case of the moon – reflected light.”
The difference is also expounded in the following verse where both the sun and the moon are mentioned again:
“And made the moon a light [نُورًا – nuran] in their midst, and made the sun as a (Glorious) Lamp [سِرَاجًا – sirajan]?”
Once again, the description of the moon is different from that of the sun.
Finally, another verse states:
“Blessed is He Who made constellations in the skies, and placed therein a Lamp [سِرَاجًا – sirajan] and a Moon giving light [مُّنِيرًا – muniran];”
From these verses, it is clear that the sun is a source of light whereas the moon gives off light from the sun.
Let us now examine some Quranic verses pertaining to the Earth itself. We saw previously that the Bible states that approximately 4,300 years ago, a cataclysmic flood devastated the entire planet, killing all living things except for a few humans and a pair of every animal that had taken refuge on the ark. We noted that had this flood actually occurred, there would be evidence of the widespread devastation to life on Earth, in the same way evidence exists for mass extinctions in the fossil record. Of course, no such evidence exists. So what does the Quran say on the nature of the flood? Since we have dealt with this issue in a previous article, we will not discuss it here in great detail but will instead just mention some of the main points.
The Quran does relate the story of Nuh (peace be upon him) and it does mention a flood. However, from the descriptions and contexts mentioned in the story, there is no indication that the flood was global. In fact, the story of the flood is only mentioned in the context of Nuh’s own people. Hence, the concept of a global flood is difficult to sustain from the Quranic evidence and thus, unlike the Bible, the Quran does not contradict scientific facts.
Moving on, we saw previously that the Bible describes the Earth as being flat instead of round. But what does the Quran have to say, if anything, about the shape of the Earth? As it turns out, it makes various statements about the Earth, some of which suggest the shape of the Earth.
Some Muslims have interpreted Surah An-Naziat, 79:30 as referring to the spherical shape of the Earth:
“And the earth, moreover, hath He extended (to a wide expanse) [دَحَاهَا – dahaha];”
However, it needs to be pointed out that the Arabic word “dahaha” has been generally translated as “extended” or “spread out”, so it does not appear to be referring to any shape. Ibn Kathir explains that the meaning of this verse is that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) brought out what was in the Earth such as “water and pasture”. In other words, the verse is not expounding on the shape of the Earth and none of the early scholars of Islam interpreted it that way.
However, other verses do suggest the roundness of the Earth. For example, Surah Az-Zumar, 39:5 states:
“He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He makes the Night overlap [يُكَوِّرُ – yukawwiru] the Day, and the Day overlap the Night: He has subjected the sun and the moon (to His law): Each one follows a course for a time appointed. Is not He the Exalted in Power – He Who forgives again and again?”
As Dr. Laurence Brown observes regarding the meaning of the word “yukawwiru”:
“…the Qur’anic verse of 39:5 describes the alternation between day and night by the verb kaw-wa-ra, which means to wind or coil, like wrapping a turban around the head (or, as per the example in Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon, ‘He wound the thing in a round form’). From this we understand the Qur’an to describe not only the rounded orbits of the planets and the moon, but the spherical shape of the Earth itself.”
Another verse which suggests a spherical Earth is Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:33:
“It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course.”
Based on this verse, many early Islamic scholars believed that the Earth was round. As Hassan Abou-El-Enin observes:
“Muslim scholars since the seventh century referred to the spherical shape of the planet Earth. Al-Qazuiny and Shamus Al-Din Al-Demashqi noted that the occurrence of the lunar and solar eclipses is due to the spherical shape of all planets in the solar system. Ibn Hazm, Ibn [Taymiyah], and Al-Razy, referred to the spherical shape of the Earth. Al-Alousey, in his Book “Rouh al-Maani” assured that the Earth is a sphere.”
Indeed, Ibn Taymiyah (d. 1328) stated, quoting Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:33:
“[That] celestial bodies are round (istidaaratul-aflaak) – as it is the statement of astronomers and mathematicians (ahlul-hay’ah wal-hisab) – it is [likewise] the statement of the scholars of the Muslims; as Abul-Hasan ibn al-Manaadi, Abu Muhammad ibn Hazm, Abul-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi and others have quoted: that the Muslim scholars are in agreement [that all celestial bodies are round]. Indeed Allah – taala – has said: And He (i.e., Allah) it is Who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon. They float, each in a falak. Ibn Abbas says: A falaka like that of a spinning wheel.”
Furthermore, Ibn Hazm (d. 1064) was quoted to have said:
“The proofs of the Qur’an and Sunnah indicate that it [Earth] is round.”
Finally, Abu Ya’la (d. 1066) mentioned that there was unanimous consensus (ijma) among Islamic scholars that the Earth was round.
Another Quranic statement which is in agreement with established scientific facts is found in Surah An-Nahl, 16:15:
“And He has set up on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and rivers and roads; that ye may guide yourselves;”
Also, Surah An-Naba, 78:7 states:
“Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse, and the mountains as pegs?”
According to Ibn Kathir, the meaning of the latter verse is:
“He made [mountains] as pegs for the earth to hold it in place, make it stable and firm. This is so that it may be suitable for dwelling and not quake with those who are in it.”
In other words, mountains serve to stabilize the Earth’s surface. This is in agreement with geological facts. According to geologist Dr. Z. R. El-Naggar:
“The role of mountains as stabilizers for the Earth’s crust can be clearly seen in their very deep roots, and can be justified by the fact that the motions of the lithospheric plates only come to halt when a continent collides with another, producing a collisional type mountain, which is believed to be the last phase in mountain-building. Without mountains, the movement of lithospheric plates would have been much faster and their collision more drastic.”
Hence, the Quran’s description is accurate.
As a final example of the Quran’s statements about the Earth, we should consider the following:
“He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together: Between them is a Barrier [بَرْزَخٌ – barzakun] which they do not transgress [يَبْغِيَانِ – yabghiyani]…”
The Quranic commentators are in agreement that this verse is referring to freshwater and saltwater. According to the verse, when freshwater and saltwater meet, there is some sort of “barrier” which keeps them from “transgressing”. In other words, they don’t mix as we would normally expect two bodies of water to mix freely. The word used for “barrier” is “barzakun”, which Edward Lane defined as:
“A thing that intervenes between any two things: or a bar, an obstruction, or a thing that makes a separation, between two things.”
So, a “barzakh” is anything that separates two things. We will come back to this shortly.
The word used for “transgress” is “yabghiyani”, which is derived from the root “b-g-y” or “bā ghayn yā”. Lane defined this as:
“The acting wrongfully, injuriously, or unjustly…or the exceeding the due bounds, or just limits, in any way.”
Hence, the verse states that when freshwater and saltwater meet, they are kept separate and unable to intermingle. How could this be so? The answer lies in the differences in density between freshwater and saltwater. According to John E. Mylroie of Mississippi State University (emphasis in the original):
“Freshwater is slightly less dense than seawater, because of extra salt dissolved in seawater. […] The difference in density is only one part in 40, but it is sufficient that when freshwater flows toward the ocean inside an aquifer, it floats on top of the seawater that has invaded the aquifer from the ocean. The boundary between the freshwater and salt water is called the halocline (“halo” meaning salt, “cline” meaning boundary) if it is a sharp boundary. If the boundary is broad, containing water of brackish salinity, it is called a mixing zone.”
As we can see, the difference in density, though very small, is enough that when freshwater meets saltwater, it literally “floats on top” of the saltwater, as if separated by a “boundary”. This phenomenon is known as a halocline. So, the Quran’s description of freshwater and saltwater having a “barrier” in between is supported by a natural phenomenon. This “barrier” is formed due to a difference in density.
It should be added that this does not mean that if the halocline is disturbed in any way, the freshwater and saltwater will still not mix. The difference in density keeps the two layers separate as long as there is no forceful disturbance, as would happen if a diver swam through the halocline. This would create a mixing effect which would cause a blurred visual effect. But, this would only occur if the waters were disturbed. Under normal circumstances, when the waters are free-flowing, they will remain separate. The Arabic word used to describe the two “bodies of water” is “bahrayni”, derived from the root “bā ḥā rā”, which, as Lane explains, can be defined as:
“…a spacious place comprising a large quantity of water…whether salt or sweet…[or]…any river of which the water does not cease to flow…”
However, even when not flowing but left undisturbed, freshwater and saltwater will remain separate due to the difference in density. Given this evidence, we can see that the Quran accurately describes a natural phenomenon and is thus in complete agreement with scientific fact.
Nevertheless, it is also possible that the Quran is not describing a halocline but was simply reminding mankind of Allah’s blessings (or favors), one of which was to provide drinking water. Asad states in his commentary on Surah 25:53 that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He):
“…has caused them – as if by an invisible barrier – to remain distinct in kind despite their continuous meeting and mingling in the oceans: an indirect reminder of God’s planning creativeness inherent in the cyclic transformation of water – its evaporation from the salty seas, followed by a formation of clouds, their condensation into rain and snow which feed springs and rivers, and – its return to the seas.”
Whatever the correct interpretation is (Allah knows best), in either case, the Quran is in agreement with science.
The Quran does not have much to say with regard to animals and plants but a few statements are found throughout the text, none of which contradict science. For example, the Quran states that every animal, and indeed all life, is created from water:
“Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?”
“And Allah has created every animal from water: of them there are some that creep on their bellies; some that walk on two legs; and some that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills for verily Allah has power over all things.”
The fact that life could not exist without water is a firmly established scientific truth. Hence, the Quran is in agreement with science.
As we have seen in this examination, the Quran makes many statements about the universe, Earth and natural phenomena which are in complete agreement with scientific principles. Unlike the Bible, which agrees with science on some minor issues but also contradicts science on other issues, the Quran does not contain any contradictions with science.
And Allah knows best!
 According to a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center, at least 51% of scientists in the United States believe in either God or some other higher power (http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/)
 It should be pointed out that neither the Bible nor the Quran are science books. We are not making the claim that either book can replace scientific inquiry, as they are meant to be spiritual guides, not science textbooks. Indeed, Islamic principles teach the importance of seeking knowledge, both of the world and of religion. Rather, we are arguing that since the followers of each book claim that it is the word of God, then it stands to reason that neither book can contain any information that is contrary to scientific truths. For example, it is firmly established that the Earth is round, not flat. If either the Bible or the Quran promotes the “flat-Earth” theory, then it contradicts a basic truth and thus cannot be the word of God.
 We will consider this view further below.
 Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual History of Life on Earth, Edited by Angeles Gavira Guerrero and Peter Frances (New York: DK Publishing, 2012), p. 445.
 For more detailed discussions on these and other errors, the reader is advised to see the following:
Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Qur’an and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge (New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 2003), pp. 40-47.
Dennis McKinsey, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), pp. 223-226.
 It is clear from the text that the “6 days” are literal 24-hour periods and do not represent long time periods spanning millions or billions of years. As McKinsey observes:
“…the constant reference to evening and morning in Genesis shows that a twenty-four-hour period is under discussion” (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, op. cit., p. 227).
 Prehistoric Life, op. cit., p. 16.
 We will discuss a similar issue with regard to the Quran. As will be shown, however, the Quran’s description of a “day” does not suffer from the Biblical shortcomings.
 Exodus 20:8-11 (New International Version).
 Prehistoric Life, op. cit., p. 18.
 Genesis 1:14-19 describes the creation of the stars, which is clearly after the Earth had already been created. This was the 4th day.
 Prehistoric Life, op. cit., p. 14. The “four inner rocky planets” are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 Genesis 1:16.
Also, according to Stephen D. Renn, the Hebrew word “ma’or”:
“…refers to physical light from sun and moon in Gen. 1:14, 15, 16; Psalm 74:16; Ezek. 32:8” (Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on Hebrew and Greek Texts (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005), p. 598).
We should point out, however, that in other places in the Bible, it is possible to show that the moon reflected the sun’s light, depending on one’s interpretation. For example, Ezekiel 32:7 states:
“…I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light.”
This verse states that when the sun is “covered with a cloud”, the moon “will not give its light”. This seems to confirm that the moon reflects the sun’s light, which would be correct. Of course, it could also be interpreted to mean that there is no relationship between the sun and the moon and that the moon gives off its own light, which of course would be incorrect. Whatever this verse actually means, we should not immediately point to Ezekiel 32:7 and declare that it is erroneous. But, Genesis is a different matter.
 Genesis 1:11-13.
 Genesis 1:20-25.
 Prehistoric Life, op. cit., pp. 98-99. The Ordovician period lasted from 4.8 to 4.4 million years ago while the Silurian period lasted from 4.4 to 4.16 million years ago (Ibid., p. 45.).
 Ibid., pp. 60-63.
 Ibid., p. 44.
 Ibid., p. 63.
 Ibid., p. 258.
 Ibid., p. 161. The Devonian period lasted from 4.16 to 3.59 million years ago (Ibid., p. 45).
 See Genesis 5 and 11.
 Renn, op. cit., p. 368.
 Ibid., pp. 915-916.
 1 Chronicles 1:3; Luke 3:37.
 Genesis 6-9.
 Prehistoric Life, op. cit., p. 33.
 Renn, op. cit., p. 212.
 It could, of course, have “quarters” which explains why the translators of the NIV used this word. It would eliminate the suggestion that the Earth is flat.
 The NIV adds the word “kinds” to the translation, but the original Greek does not allow for that. The word used is “pas” which means “all” or “every”:
“It occurs over one thousand times, denoting ‘all’, ‘each’, ‘every’ in relation to people and all sorts of non-personal phenomena” (Renn, op. cit., p. 25).
 Jason Long, Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians (Lincoln: iUniverse, Inc., 2005), p. 42.
 Ironically, elsewhere the Bible notes that some animals cannot be tamed by mankind, although these “animals” are clearly mythical. In Job 40, a beast known as the “behemoth” is described. Besides providing fantastical descriptions about this animal, Job 40:19 states:
“It ranks first among the works of God, yet its Maker can approach it with the sword.”
In his commentary on this verse, the medieval Jewish scholar Rashi explained that:
“The Holy One, blessed be He, Himself will slaughter him.” (http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16442#showrashi=true)
Since only God can kill the “behemoth”, it means that mankind is not capable of subduing it or killing it. Yet James 3:7 claims that all animals are being tamed or have been tamed by mankind. It is a clear contradiction.
It should also be pointed out that there is no evidence in the text to suggest that the “behemoth” is a supernatural creature, but rather a flesh and blood animal. Job 40:15 states that it “…feeds on grass like an ox.”
 Job 41.
 Job 41:18-21.
 Michael Allaby, A Dictionary of Zoology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 470.
 James I. McNitt, Steven D. Lukefahr, Peter R. Cheeke and Nephi M. Patton, Rabbit Production, 9th Edition (Oxfordshire: CABI, 2013), p. 79.
The term “monogastric” is derived from “mono”, which means “one”, and “gastric”, which mean “stomach”. This means that a monogastric herbivore has a single-chambered stomach. Ruminants, on the other hand, have a three- or four-chambered stomach.
 Peter R. Cheeke and Ellen Sue Dierenfeld, Comparative Animal Nutrition and Metabolism, 1st Edition (Oxfordshire: CABI, 2010), p. 38.
 Gordon McL. Dryden, Animal Nutrition Science (Oxfordshire: CABI, 2008), p. 88.
 Leviticus 11:29.
 T. Gidenne, F. Lebas and L. Fortun-Lamothe, “Feeding Behaviour of Rabbits”, in Nutrition of the Rabbit, 2nd Edition, Edited by Carlos Blas and Julia Wiseman (Oxfordshire: CABI, 2010), p. 233.
 Joerg Mayer and Thomas M. Donnelly, Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Birds and Exotic Pets (St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders, 2013), p. 389.
 Psalm 58:8.
 Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:33 (Yusuf Ali Translation).
 Surah An-Nur, 24:45.
 Surah Al-Furqan, 25:54.
 Surah Al-Araf, 7:54; Surah Hud, 11:7; Surah Qaf, 50:38.
 The 13th-century exegete Ibn Kathir wrote in his commentary to Surah 7:54 that some scholars considered each day to be literal 24-hour days while others believed that each day represented 1,000 years. However, when we combine Surah 7:54 with Surah 70:4, the latter of which describes the Day of Judgment as being 50,000 years long, we simply cannot determine the exact time period represented by the “six days”, as we will see.
 Surah As-Sajda, 32:5.
 Surah Al-Maarij, 70:4.
 Bucaille, op. cit., p. 141.
 “The Message of the Quran”, p. 735. Asad’s translation and commentary of the Quran is available online from the following:
 Surah Yunus, 10:5.
 For the meaning of “diyaan”, see John Penrice, “A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran”, p. 89.
For the meaning of “nurah”, see p. 125.
This book is available online.
 “The Message of the Quran”, p. 277.
 Surah Nuh, 71:16.
 Surah Al-Furqan, 25:61.
 See the aforementioned article “The Biblical and Quranic Stories of Noah and the Flood: A Comparative Analysis” for a more detailed discussion on this issue.
 Nevertheless, some Islamic scholars interpreted the verse as actually meaning that the Earth was flat! For example, the Tafsir Al-Jalalayn states:
“He made it flat, for it had been created before the heaven, but without having been spread out;” (http://altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=79&tAyahNo=30&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2)
This is however just one interpretation and is not at all authoritative.
 Laurence B. Brown, God’ed?: The Case for Islam as the Completion of Revelation (Booksurge, 2008), p. 110, Kindle Edition.
 Hassan S. Abou-El-Enin, Scientific Miracles of the Qur’an With Signs of Allah in the Heavens and on the Earth (Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., 2009), p. 195.
 Z. R. El-Naggar, The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Qur’an (Cairo: Al-Falah Foundation For Translation, Publication and Distribution, 2003), p. 60.
 Surah Al-Rahman, 55:19-20. See also Surah Al-Furqan, 25:53.
 “Arabic-English Lexicon”, p. 231.
 John E. Mylroie, “Coastal Caves”, in The Encyclopedia of Caves, 2nd Edition, Edited by William B. White and David C. Culver (Waltham: Elsevier Inc., 2012), p. 157.
 “Arabic-English Lexicon”, p. 156.
 Maududi provided an amazing example of this natural phenomenon. In his commentary on Surah Al-Furqan, 25:53, he stated:
“This phenomenon has been perceived in many places in the sea and on the land that sweet water and bitter water has existed side by side. Turkish Admiral Syedi Ali Ra’is, in his book Mir ‘at-al-Mamalik, written in the 16th century, has mentioned a place in the Persian Gulf, where springs of sweet waver [sic] exist under the bitter waters of the sea, where he could get drinking water for his fleet. The American Oil Company at first obtained water from the same springs in the Persian Gulf, before they dug up wells near Dhahran for supply of drinking water. Near Bahrain also there exist springs of sweet water at the sea bed from which people have been taking water until quite recently. Besides this apparent meaning which gives a rational proof of Allah’s being the One and the only Lord of the universe, the verse contains a subtle suggestion as well: When Allah wills, He can raise up a righteous community from among a large wicked society just as He can cause springs of palatable and sweet water to gush out from under the salty waters of the sea” (http://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/25/index.html#sdfootnote68sym).
 “The Message of the Quran”, p. 518.
 Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:30.
 Surah An-Nur, 24:45.