The Big Bang in the Qur'an
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YUSUFALI: 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?
PICKTHAL: Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens
and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made
every living thing of water? Will they not then believe?
SHAKIR: Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the
earth were closed up, but We have opened them; and We have made of
water everything living, will they not then believe?
Our idea of the Universe changed dramatically during the 20th
century. Scientist such as Harlow Shapley and Henrietta Leavitt
added to our understanding but it was Edwin Hubble who discovered
that there were other galaxies composed of stars like ours. He
measured the distances to these galaxies and discovered that they
were moving away from us. In fact, the further way the galaxy the
fast it was moving. He explained these facts by saying that the
Universe was expanding
If the Universe was expanding then shouldn't there have been a
single point of origin? It is the current opinion of most scientist
that the Universe did originate out of a single point called a
singularity. If that is true, then the Universe should have been
much hotter than it is now. This has been confirmed by the microwave
back ground radiation.
The scientific explanation for these facts is called the Big Bang
Theory and it is the dominant theory for the origin of the Universe.
But did the Qur'an state this modern theory of the Big Bang 1400
Evolution is the modern theory for the origin of life on Earth.
It directly follows on from the Big Bang and explains how simple
organisms in the seas gradually, little by little, became the
complex life forms that we see today. The theory was first proposed
by Charles Darwin in the 19th century. But did the Qur'an state the
origin of life before scientist had formulated the theory of
From reading the above suras from the Qur'an it would appear that
in the deserts of Arabia in the 7th century the Big Bang theory and
the origin of life in water was given to the prophet of Islam to be
later confirmed by the non-believers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Or does it?
If it was true, it would be an extraordinary claim. So, in
evaluating it we must analyze it carefully by looking at all the
available evidence. Not only do we need to look at the Qur'an and
modern science but we also need to look at what was know by the
ancients at the time.
First, we will look at the life from water part and then the
origin of the Universe.
Life from Water
The belief that life came from water predates Islam. The ancient
Greeks believed that life came from water. For example, in
Metaphysics, Aristotle records that Thales (62? BCE - 546 BCE)
believed 'that it [the nature of things] is water' and Anaximander
(611 BCE - 547 BCE) stated that life came from the sea.
One interesting thing with the above passage from the Qur'an is
it clear contradiction to other passages in the Qur'an. For example:
YUSUFALI: Behold! thy Lord said to the angels: "I am about
to create man, from sounding clay from mud moulded into shape;
PICKTHAL: And (remember) when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo!
I am creating a mortal out of potter's clay of black mud altered,
SHAKIR: And when your Lord said to the angels: Surely I am going
to create a mortal of the essence of black mud fashioned in shape.
YUSUFALI: Behold! We said to the angels: "Bow down unto
Adam": They bowed down except Iblis: He said, "Shall I bow
down to one whom Thou didst create from clay?"
PICKTHAL: And when We said unto the angels: Fall down prostrate
before Adam and they fell prostrate all save Iblis, he said: Shall I
fall prostrate before that which Thou hast created of clay?
SHAKIR: And when We said to the angels: Make obeisance to Adam;
they made obeisance, but Iblis (did it not). He said: Shall I make
obeisance to him whom Thou hast created of dust?
YUSUFALI: Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I am about
to create man from clay:
PICKTHAL: When thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to
create a mortal out of mire,
SHAKIR: When your Lord said to the angels; Surely I am going to
create a mortal from dust:
Man made from clay not water? Or is man not a "living
Origin of the Universe
There are a number of different themes in primitive creation
mythologies. The idea that the Heavens and Earth was once a
"single block" that was "broken in two" was one
of them and was commonly know in the Middle East by the 7th century
(in answer to the Qur'an's rhetorical question; yes, the
non-believers did know). The Egyptians, for example, believed that
the god of the heavens and the Earth goddess were once one and that
another god "broke" them apart.
"According to an Egyptian legend, Geb [the earth god]
married his sister Nut, the sky goddess, without the permission of
the powerful Sun god Re. Re was so angry at Nut and Geb that he
forced their father Shu, the god of air, to separate them. That is
why the Earth is divided from the sky."
"According to the Sumerians, An was the sky god and
symbolized heaven. ... The wife of An was Ki, the Earth."
"... when the heavens had been separated from the earth,
when the earth had been delimited from the heavens ..."
[Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the nether world]
Of cause, being a mono-theistic religion, the Qur'an would not
mention the pagan gods and goddess. So, removing those names you are
left with the Heavens and the Earth being one and then separated; as
stated in the Qur'an.
Most of these "heavens and Earth as one" mythologies
involve a cosmic egg of some sort. The Qur'an does not mention the
egg but the imagery is the same, that is, the heavens were broken
away from the earth in the same way that a egg is broken in two. One
half forms the heavens above and the second half becomes the earth
But then again, was the Heavens and Earth one block? Or were they
first separate entities and then came together?
YUSUFALI: Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it
had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come ye
together, willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do
come (together), in willing obedience."
PICKTHAL: 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.
SHAKIR: Then He directed Himself to the heaven and it is a vapor,
so He said to it and to the earth: Come both, willingly or
unwillingly. They both said: We come willingly.
Is the Qur'an Correct?
In some sense it is unimportant if the Qur'an is the first or if
it is unique in presenting its knowledge of creation; it is more
important to ask "is it correct?". As far as the current
scientific theory on the evolution of life the Qur'an's (and that of
the ancient Greeks and Sumerians) statement of life coming from
water can be considered to be correct, but then the Qur'an
contradicts itself in other suras. As for the heaven and earth being
one block; no, the Qur'an is clearly in error. The earth was never
part of "one block" as the heavens. The earth is just one
planet, orbiting a star in this vast Universe and was formed a very
long time after the "heavens".
There is nothing special about the Qur'an mentioning that life
comes from water or that the heavens and earth were once one block.
They are both things that were believed before the advent of Islam.
In the first case, the Qur'an is correct but in the second its is