shall show them Our Signs on the horizons (universe) and within
themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth.
Doth not thy Lord suffice, since He is Witness over all things?
" (Quran 41:53)
AUTHENTICITY OF QUR'AN
Before getting to the essence of the subject, there is a very important point
which must be considered: the authenticity of the Qur'anic text.
It is known that the text of the Qur'an was both recited from memory, during the
time it was revealed, by the Prophet and the believers who surrounded him, and
written down by designated scribes among his followers. This process lasted for
roughly twenty-three years during which many unofficial copies were made. An
official copy was made within one year after the Prophet's death at the
instruction of Caliph Abu Bakr.
Here we must note a highly important point. The present text of the Qur'an
benefited in its original preparation from the advantage of having its
authenticity cross-checked by the text recited from memory as well as the
unofficial written texts. The memorized text was of paramount importance at a
time when not everyone could read and write, but everybody could memorize.
Moreover, the need for a written record was included in the text of the Qur'an
itself. The first five verses of chapter al-‘Alaq, which happen to constitute
the first revelation made to the Prophet (S), express this quite clearly:
"Read: In the name of your Lord who created. Who created man from a clinging
entity. Read! Your Lord is the most Noble, Who taught by the pen. Who taught man
what he did not know." Qur'an, 96:1-5
These are surely words in "praise of the pen as a means of human knowledge", to
use Professor Hamidullah's expression.
Then came the Caliphate of ‘Uthman (which lasted from the twelfth to the
twenty-fourth year following Muhammad's death). Within the first two years of
Caliph ‘Uthman's rule, seven official copies were reproduced from the official
text and distributed throughout a large area of the world which had already come
under Islamic rule. All unofficial copies existing at that time were destroyed
and all future copies were made from the official seven copies.
In my book, The Bible, the Qur'an and Science, I have quoted passages from the
Qur'an which came from the period prior to the Hijrah (the Prophet's emigration
from Makkah to Madeenah in the year 622) and which allude to the writing of the
Qur'an before the Prophet's departure from Makkah.
There were, moreover, many witnesses to the immediate transcription of the
Professor Jacques Berque has told me of the great importance he attaches to it
in comparison with the long gap separating the writing down of the
Judeo-Christian revelation from the facts and events which it relates. Let us
not forget that today we also have a number of manuscripts of the first written
versions of the Qur'an which were from a time period very close to the time of
I shall also mention another fact of great importance. We shall examine
statements in the Qur'an which today appear to merely record scientific truth,
but of which men in former times were only able to grasp the apparent meaning.
In some cases, these statements were totally incomprehensible. It is impossible
to imagine that, if there were any alterations to the texts, these obscure
passages scattered throughout the text of the Qur'an, were all able to escape
human manipulation. The slightest alteration to the text would have
automatically destroyed the remarkable coherence which is characteristic to
them. Change in any text would have prevented us from establishing their total
conformity with modern knowledge. The presence of these statements spread
throughout the Qur'an looks (to the impartial observer ) like an obvious
hallmark of its authenticity.
The Qur'an is a revelation made known to humans in the course of twenty-three
years. It spanned two periods of almost equal length on either side of the
Hijrah. In view of this, it was natural for reflections having a scientific
aspect to be scattered throughout the Book. In a study, such as the one we have
made, we had to regroup the verses according to subject matter, collecting them
chapter by chapter.
How should they be classified? I could not find any indications in the Qur'an
suggesting any particular classification, so I decided present them according to
my own personal one.
It would seem to me, that the first subject to deal with is Creation. Here it is
possible to compare the verses referring to this topic with the general ideas
prevalent today on the formation of the Universe. Next, I divided up verses
under the following general headings: Astronomy, the Earth, the Animal and
Vegetable Kingdoms, Humans, and Human Reproduction in particular. Furthermore, I
thought it useful to make a comparison between Qur'anic and Biblical narrations
on the same topics from the point of view of modern knowledge. This has been
done in the cases of Creation, the Flood and the Exodus. The reason that these
topics were chosen is that knowledge acquired today can be used in the
interpretation of the texts.