Shaykh Jamir Meah on Science and the Qur’an
Shaykh Jamir Meah recently answered a host of questions on seeming contradictions between science and the Qur’an. It is so good it needed to be featured here.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa baraktuh.
I have had a lot of questions about some claimed scientific mistakes in the Qur’an that I haven’t had any answers too (or any good answers to). I would like for you to have patience with me, since I have a lot of questions that have been bothering me.
1. In the verse, يخرج من بين الصلب والترائب (
Sura al-Tariq 86:7
) I haven’t seen a good explanation that doesn’t feel forced or تكلف that explains the verse, which is against what is seen.
2. The hadith of the “tail bone” (عجب الذنب), I want references from credible scientific sources that this bone doesn’t go away and it is where the human is created or any explanation as to how is this hadith can be interpreted.
3. The verse of وحلائل ابنائكم الذين من اصلابكم (
Sura al-Nisa 4:23
) and واذ اخذ ربك من بني آدم من ظهورهم ذريتهم. (
Sura al-A‘raf 7:172
) I want an explanation for how can this reconcile with what is known. How is it that children are from the back?
4. It is known (and correct me if I am wrong) that circumcision for young ladies is permissible and some say it is good. This leads to a weird contradiction, since the Qur’an and Sunna never asks us to do anything that harms us, but there is a whole movement trying to stop it for young ladies, since it harmful.
5. I also wanted to ask about cousin marriages, and how is it permissible as scientifically it is may be more harmful?
6. There is a sahih hadith that says a woman has a role in the gender of the child, which is مَاءُ الرَّجُلِ أَبْيَضُ، وَمَاءُ الْمَرْأَةِ أَصْفَرُ ، فَإِذَا اجْتَمَعَا ، فَعَلَا مَنِيُّ الرَّجُلِ مَنِيَّ الْمَرْأَةِ ، أَذْكَرَا بِإِذْنِ اللهِ ، وَإِذَا عَلَا مَنِيُّ الْمَرْأَةِ مَنِيَّ الرَّجُلِ ، آنَثَا بِإِذْنِ اللهِ . ً(Muslim) What is the correct interpretation for this hadith?
7. Last thing is the verse, ومن كل شيء خلقنا زوجين. (
Sura al-Dhariya 51:49
) What is the correct interpretation for this ayat?
May Allah help you and help me, and may you help me to reach clarity and strong faith.
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
Thank you for your questions. I have answered them in order below.
Questions 1-3: Qur’an and Science
I am unable to provide scientific proofs to your questions as I am not a scientist. However, please note the following points in regards this set of questions:
A. There is a lot of literature out there which discuss scientific facts found in the Quran. While it is true that the Quran does indeed contain scientific miracles and will I’m sure continue to shed light on numerous facts about our universe, much of the information written on this subject is unfortunately often poorly researched.
Therefore, Muslims who do not have both a solid understanding of the Qur’an; it’s language and exegesis, alongside a firm understanding of the relevant branches of modern sciences, should avoid too much discussion on these aspects of the Qur’an. The most important matters in the Qur’an that man needs to know and hold onto have been made clear, while other verses are not so clear to the laymen, and should not be delved into by the unqualified, for Allah Most High tells us in regards some verses, “What does Allah mean by such a parable? Through this He leaves many to stray, and guides many.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:26)
B. The Qur’an is not a scientific book, it is the Divine Speech of God, which contains guidance for man to fulfill his earthly needs and attain to eternal salvation, and a warning of what awaits those who transgress. Unless for general interest or scholarly specialization, one should focus on these aspects of the Qur’an and attaching ones’ heart to Allah and his Messenger, as ultimately, this is what matters and the point of the guidance.
C. The Qur’an has an endless depth of meaning. This is one of the Miracles of the Qur’an. Because it is the eternal Speech of God, it indicates to some of the eternal knowledge of God, which is limitless. No one will ever fully encompass its full meanings, but new meanings become apparent over time, and occur to people of varying abilities and insight. However, it’s meanings never change, and its inward meanings do not contradict its outward implications.
D. When the Qur’an mentions facts about the created universe, it is often implicit and indicative to these facts, and not usually explicit or apparent immediately.
E. The universe is still mainly undiscovered territory. What science knows now maybe different tomorrow. It is a tool for discovering facts, not the fact itself, therefore it is subject to change as new facts become undisclosed. It cannot be relied upon as the standard to measure the absolute truth. The first thing we learnt from even our basic science texts at school is that in science, “no theory is accepted as absolute truth.”
F. Despite science and modern medicine making immense advancements in the understanding of human anatomy and physiology, it is by no means complete knowledge. Moreover, in regards the human being as a whole, such as psychologically and spiritually, and how this connects to the physical, modern science’s understanding of these are deeply inadequate and relies on various assumptions and theories. The interconnection between the somatic and non-somatic levels of the human being are only now being explored and new ways in how we view and study the human body are being discovered.
G. In regards the hadith, “There is nothing of the human body that does not decay except one bone; the little bone at the end of the coccyx of which the human body will be recreated on the Day of Resurrection.” (Bukhari) It actually doesn’t matter whether this bone decomposes or not, as the hadith does not explicitly state that the whole bone does not decompose, nor delineate what is meant by “tail bone.”
Therefore, it is valid to state that what the hadith could be referring to is that even the tiniest part of the tail bone does not decompose, as a part is necessarily a part of the whole, so one may use the whole to describe the part. Thus, even if the smallest part of the tail bone is left intact, perhaps even extending to the molecular or atomic level, then this suffices to make the statement true, as is supported by the hadith, when asked about the tailbone, he, peace and blessings be upon him, replied, “[It is] like a grain of mustard.’ (Ahmad)
Furthermore, there is a difference of opinion on how humans will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement. One opinion is that we will be assembled and resurrected from all our scattered remains. Another opinion holds that when the trumpet blows all our parts and remnants will be utterly annihilated and taken out of existence, except whatever remains of the “tail bone” (even if nanoscopic), and then we will be created again, almost ex-nihilo, similar to how we were created the first time. (Sharh al-Kharida al-Bahiyya)
H. Know that Allah Most High is the Creator of all things, and this includes natural laws and normative relationships of cause and effect. If He so willed, He could turn these laws and relations on their heads or create entirely different laws. Therefore, when Allah Most High informs us that He bought forth the children of Adam from their “backs” it is irrelevant whether this coincides with the ordinary manner that we observe the reproduction system to work or different to it, as Allah Most High has power over all things and may do as He pleases. Secondly, most reliable translators translate the words “min dhuhurim” “from their backs” as “from their loins,” in which case, there is no contradiction between these words and what is normally observed in this life.
Question 4: Female Circumcision
Female circumcision is mentioned in various narrations, such as when the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a woman who circumcised females, “Do not go to the extreme in cutting; that is better for the woman.” (Abu Dawud) The Mujtahid Imams differed on its rulings; some holding it obligatory, others recommended, and others still, considered it good etiquette.
I specifically quoted the hadith above, because it contains a warning; “Do not go to extremes” and this is the important point. Proper female circumcision consists of removing a tiny flake or shaving of skin from the hood of the clitoris, nothing more. This is what is described in our fiqh books. Advanced hospitals in the UAE perform this very well.
It does not in any way consist of excess skin or flesh being removed, harm to the woman, mutilation of any kind, or anything else that interferes with or diminishes the functioning of the genital area.
The whole point of correct female circumcision is increased hygiene and sexual pleasure for the woman. This is obviously not achieved by the malpractice we have just mentioned, but rather the opposite occurs.
Unfortunately, in many cultural practices of female circumcision this is what happens, and in this we wholeheartedly agree with those who speak out about such practices, while at the same time, we uphold the correct and Shari‘a-defined female circumcision we have outlined above. This is certainly an area which needs serious addressing and educating.
Question 5: Cousin Marriages
There is nothing wrong with cousins marrying one another, and the possibilities of any defect occurring is not significant unless the cousins in question are from generations of cousin marriages or they have genetic defects themselves. Cousin-marriage is permitted in Islam, Judaism, and has been within Christianity at various periods of time, or still is depending on the Christian denomination.
What has been observed by medical scientists as a significant concern is the repeated marrying of first cousins, generation after generation, due to the increased chances of sharing recessive traits. In these cases, the Shari‘a ruling would also be that it is not recommended to do so.
Question 6: Gender
The gender of the child can depend on many factors, among them the manner of fluid exchange during intercourse, which is what is mentioned in the hadith, “Man’s discharge is thick and white and the discharge of woman is thin and yellow, so the resemblance comes from the one whose water prevails or dominate.” (Muslim)
Imam al-Nawawi mentions that the scholars have explained prevailing or dominant to mean here either the one who emits first, or the one whose discharge is more plentiful and stronger in relation to whose desire was stronger. (Sharh Muslim)
Question 7: Duality in Creation
The verse, “And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect,” (Sura al-Dhariya 51:49) means that creation has been created in two types or two kinds, such as the land and sea, night and day, the sun and moon, sweetness and bitterness, earth and sky, light and dark, male and female. Pairs are either opposites or similar.
These pairings point to one Creator, to His Power and Ability and that the one who is able to create them is able to recreate them at will and bring them together again, and that one may reflect that pairs and plurality belong to all things possible (mumkinat) while a necessary being (al-wajib bi dhat), namely God, does not accept plurality or division (Most of these arguments require further logical explanation). (al-Baydawi, al-Qurtubi, al-Wahidi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir)
A Word of Advice
Lastly, I would suggest you focus more on studying the broader aspects of religion, particularly aqida and tafsir. This will help you in your understanding. Unless one is firmly grounded in both their religious knowledge and the secular sciences, entering into discussions or answering other people’s questions on such topics such as science and religion (and many more subjects) can often do harm and turn people away, even if one’s intentions are good.
I pray the above provides sufficient guidance and clarification.