Surah al-Anbiya' (The Prophets ) 21 : 30
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and the earth
a joined entity
then We parted them
and We made
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
The ‘Big Bang Theory’ -
The enormously vast universe has been the object of curiosity since time immemorial. Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, believed that the Universe had always existed and would continue to do so eternally. This was also the mainstream view in scientific circles at the beginning of the 20th century, aptly known as the ‘steady state theory’. An eternal state of the universe meant that there was no inherent need for a Creator – for what does not have a beginning does not necessitate a need for a cause. However, advancements in science would shatter this view and fundamentally prove that the Universe had a beginning.
In 1922, physicist Alexander Friedmann, produced computations showing that the structure of the universe was not static and that even a tiny impulse might be sufficient to cause the whole structure to expand or contract according to Einstein’s ‘Theory of General Relativity’. George Lemaitre was the first to recognise the implications of what Friedmann concluded. Lemaitre formulated that the universe had begun in a cataclysmic explosion of a small, primeval atom. He also proposed that the amount of cosmic radiation are the leftover remnants of the initial “explosion.”
The theoretical musings of these two scientists did not attract much attention and probably would have gone ignored except for new observational evidence that rocked the scientific world in 1929. That year, American astronomer Edwin Hubble, made one of the most important discoveries in the history of astronomy. He discovered that galaxies were moving away from us at speeds directly relative to their distance from us and from each other. A universe where everything constantly moves away from everything else implied a constantly expanding universe. Stephen Hawking writes, ‘The expansion of the universe was one of the most important intellectual discoveries of the 20th century, or of any century.’ Since the universe is constantly expanding, were we to rewind a film [of its history], then necessarily we would find the entire universe was in a joint state, referred to by some as the ‘Primordial Atom’. Many scientists and philosophers resisted the idea of a beginning to the universe because of the many questions that it raised – primarily what or who caused it. However, with Penzias and Wilson’s discovery of microwave radiation emanating from all directions, possessing the same physical characteristics - namely petrified light which came from a huge explosion during the first seconds after the birth of the universe – left little doubt about the fact that the universe had a beginning.
For fourteen hundred years, since the revelation of the Qur’ān, sceptics had trouble understanding the verse, ‘...the heavens and the earth were a joined entity and We separated them...’ [21:30]. However, with the assistance of scientific advancements, we can now understand these verses in a new light which help us piece together the cosmological puzzle. The miraculous nature of the Qur’ān lies in the knowledge it contains. Its verification of scientific facts shows that its message is as applicable to the scientist in his laboratory today as it was to the Bedouin in the desert.
Origin of Life in Water
The origin of life is now such a basic scientific fact that it is accepted without hesitation. This could lessen one’s appreciation for these verses. Yet it must be borne in mind that the Arabian peninsula is a desert land without a single lake or river, these verses describe something unimaginable to those at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
The verse is categorical and states a universal reality – that the source of all ‘life’ and everything ‘living’ is water. Water is the main element of all living organisms. It has been proved that the percentage of water in a human body is 71% in an adult and 93% in an embryo that is a few months old. All vital actions and processes like nutrition, excretion, growth and reproduction cannot be undertaken without water: photosynthesis, the exchange of solutions between cells due to the capillarity of aquatic solutions as they pass through the cell wall [osmosis] and the building of new cells and tissues that help growth and reproduction. The absence of water equates ‘death’ of every living organism.
Scientists, having studied millions of life forms that live in innumerable ecosystems globally, conclude that for any ‘living’ organism to exist, water must be present. Even astronomers, investigating the existence of life forms on other planets, seek the presence of water when considering the possibility of life on that planet.
The Qur’ān may refer to some universal facts, like the one stated here: “The heaven and the earth were once one single entity, which We then parted asunder.” We accept this as an absolute certainty simply because it is stated in the Qur’ān. We certainly do not know how the heavens and the earth were parted, or ripped one from the other. We accept astronomical theories which are not in conflict with this general fact mentioned in the Qur’ān. What we will not do however is take up the Qur’ānic text and try to fit it to any astronomical theory. We do not seek an endorsement of the Qur’ān through human theories, because the Qur’ān states only what is certain. The most we can say is that the astronomical theory accepted today is not in conflict with the general import of this Qur’ānic statement revealed many generations prior to it.
The next sentence of the verse states “We have made out of water every living thing.” This short sentence states a great and crucial fact. Indeed, scientists shower praise on Darwin for having identified that water was the first environment where life began.
It is indeed a fact that should capture all our attentions. That it is mentioned in the Qur’ān neither fills us with wonder nor increases our belief in the truth of the Qur’ān. Our belief in the absolute truth of everything it states is based on our unshakeable belief that it is God’s revelation, not on its being confirmed by scientific discoveries or theories. The most that can be said here is that on this particular point, Darwin’s evolutionary theory is not in conflict with what the Qur’ān states.
For fourteen centuries, the Qur’ān has drawn the attention of unbelievers to the great marvels God has placed in the universe, wondering how they could deny what they see everywhere: “Will they not, then, believe?” How could they persist in their disbelief when everything around them in this universe inevitably leads to faith in God, the Creator, the Wise who conducts all affairs?
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
* The word ‘ratq’ translated as ‘sewn to’ means ‘mixed in each, blended’ in Arabic. It is used to refer to two different substances that make up a whole. The phrase ‘fataqa’ is ‘unstitched’ and implies that something comes into being by tearing apart or destroying the structure of things that are sewn to one another. In the verse, heaven and earth are at first subject to the status of ‘ratq.’ They are separated [fataqa] with one coming out of the other. Intriguingly, when we think about the first moments of the ‘Big Bang’ we see that the entire matter of the universe collected at one single point. In other words, everything including ‘the heavens and earth’ which were not created yet were in an interwoven and inseparable condition. Then, this point exploded violently, causing its matter to disunite.
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
According to Ibn Attiyah and Qurtubi there is consensus on this Surah being a Makki Surah -
"Both the subject matter and the style of the Surah indicate that it was sent down in the third stage of the life of the Prophet at Makkah" [Ref: Mawdudi]