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Speed of Light in the Qur'an?

By Ali Sina

2008/02/29

Muslims are hard at work trying to find miracles in the Qur'an and each day they "find" something new. They gloat about it and pump themselves, spread the glad tiding across the Internet, publish it in their newspapers, and challenge others to disprove that miracle, until someone shows their error and deflates them like a punctured balloon. This does not slow them. Since they are eager to find miracles, and since there is no end to human gullibility, especially when one WANTS to believe, they find a new miracle every day.     

The Claim

Today I received a request to clarify the claim that the Qur'an has disclosed the speed of light more than a thousand years before it was calculated by scientists. 

In an article published in Islamicity.com  Dr. Mansour Hassab-Elnaby claims the verse 32.5 reveals that light in one day travels a distance equal to 12,000 lunar orbits, and upon calculating that distance we find the exact speed of light.  

Here is verse 32:5 translated by Shakir: He regulates the affair from the heaven to the earth; then shall it ascend to Him in a day the measure of which is a thousand years of what you count..”

According to Dr. Hassab-Elnaby, "affairs" mentioned in this verse is "light."  So this verse reveals that light can travel in one day the distance that will take the Moon, 1000 years to span. 

It takes a Muslim's imagination to think this verse has anything to do with the speed of light. There is no mention of moon, light or even distance in this verse. However, let us agree with this assumed interpretation for now and see whether Dr. Hassab-Elnaby has his math right.    

1-  Wrong Calculation 

The average center-to-center distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,403 km. The orbit of the Moon is nearly circular. (That is why we see the Moon always with the same size) 

This means for the Moon to go a full circle around the Earth it must travel a distance of  2,415,273 km (Circumference of the lunar orbit = 2r π  =   2 x 384,403 x 3.14159)

To orbit the earth 12,000 times the Moon must travel 28,983,278,898 km (2.415,273 x 12,000). This is how much the moon travels in 1000 lunar years. 

Light travels at a constant speed of 299,792.458 km. per second  

There are 86,400 seconds  in one day (60x60x24)

In 24 hours, light travels a distance of 25,902,068,371 km (299,792.458 x 86,400).

These two numbers are not the same. They are not even close. There is a difference of  3,081,210,527 km (28,983,278,898 - 25,902,068,371) between the distance traveled by the Moon in 1000 lunar years and the distance traveled by light in one day.

This difference is over twenty times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. So clearly Dr. Hassab-Elnaby got it wrong. The two numbers do not match.

That is not all. There is a difference between lunar month (phases) and lunar orbit.  The Moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth every 27.3 days, (siderial month) while the periodic variations in the geometry of the Earth–Moon–Sun system are responsible for the lunar phases that repeat every 29.5 days (synodic month). There is a difference of 2.2 days between the lunar month and the lunar orbit.  (Wikipedia)  

In one lunar year the Moon revolves around the Earth  12.967 times (29.5 x 12 / 27.3) and not 12 times. So the distance that the Moon travels in 1000 lunar years is actually 32, 045,078,461 km (12,967 x 2,4715,273).

The difference between this distance and the distance traveled by light in one day is 6,143,010,090 km (32, 045,078,461 - 25,902,068,371).  It would take light, another 5 hours 41 minutes to travel this extra distance.  

Alternatively we can say that the Moon revolves around the Earth 10,724 times to cover the distance that the light travels in 24 hours.   (Distance traveled by light in one day 25,902,068,371 km / The orbit of the Moon  2,415,273 km). 

It takes only 827 lunar years  for the Moon to go this distance and not 1000 lunar years. (10,724 revolutions of the Moon around the Earth  x 27.3 days that takes for each revolution / 354 days that exist in each lunar year).

No matter how you look at it Dr. Hassab-Elnaby's calculations are wrong. The distance traveled by the Moon in 1000 years and the distance traveled by light in one day are NOT the same.  

We are  not even considering the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, which inevitably the Moon must also thread. Taking that into account Dr. Hassab-Elnabi's calculations are 36.6 times off. 


2 -  Wrong Translation 

Which part of this verse talks about light or its speed? Dr. Hassab-Elnany writes: "Thus we conclude that the cosmic affair, mentioned in the previous Quranic verse, is identical to LIGHT and all similar cosmic affairs travelling in vacuum with this maximum speed such as: all types of electro magnetic waves propagating between the heavens and the earth, the expected Gravitational waves spreading all over the universe, and all particles travelling in this cosmic greatest spead such as neutrinos."

What a load of nonsense! All Muhammad is saying in this verse is that a day of Allah is 1000 years long. This is his way of saying Allah is big, everything about him is big, and even his days are big.  Muhammad repeated the same thing in the verse 22.47 Verily a day in the sight of thy Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning. There is no mention of affairs going up and down, light, magnetic waves, particles and neutrinos in this verse.  

The length of the day is determined by how fast a planet revolves around its axis and it has nothing to do with the size of its inhabitants.  All we can understand from this verse is that the creator of the world lives in a very slow revolving planet.

Just to show the absurdity and the confusion in the Qur'an let us see the verse 70:4:

The angels and the spirit ascend unto him in a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years.”  

This verse has a similar content of the verse 32:5,  but here it says that the length of the day of God is 50,000 years.  This is a clear contradiction. Is a day of God 1000 years or is it 50,000 years?  Does it mean that it takes 50,000 years for angels and spirits to reach God? That is awfully slow. Then how could Angel Gabriel take Muhammad to heaven and back in one night? The Qur'an is replete with contradictions and absurdities. Muhammad had found a gullible audience who gobbled everything he told them uncritically. He never thought one day his words will be scrutinized by people smarter than his benighted followers and his lies will be exposed. 


3  -  Wrong Parameters 

I am not done yet! There is still more problem with this claim. The speed of light is constant while the rotation of the Earth, thanks to losing its kinetic energy, is slowing down. Therefore, the days of the Earth are becoming longer. Also the Moon is getting  away from the Earth and its orbit is widening. To orbit the Earth, the Moon has to travel a little more each time.  This means that the length of the lunar months are increasing. How can one measure something that is constant with things that are variable?  

Scientists believe that when the Earth was young, it span ten times faster around its axes than it is spinning today. Since the speed of light has remained the same all along, 4.5 billion years ago, in one day light traveled one tenth of the distance that it travels today. 

There are nearly 4.5 million thousand years since the Moon is orbiting the Earth. As the Moon distances from the Earth it is slowing down. Since each millennium the orbit of the Moon and the Length of the day change, in which one of these 4.5 million millennia the Moon traveled the same distance that the light travels in one day? The claim is wrong, but even if true, only one time out of 4.5 million times the two numbers could match.  Then again even a broken watch is right twice every day.  

The very notion of measuring the speed of light with the orbit of the Moon or the length of the day is a fallacy, that is because the yardstick is constantly changing.  Such an error only reveals the lack of understanding of Dr. Hassab-Elnaby of the basic principles of science.  

 

4 - Wrong Interpretation 

The verse talks about the “affairs of God” being sent to Earth and then ascending to Him in one day, the length of which is 1000 years. How on Earth this educated slave of Allah has determined that "affairs" means light?  The word used in Arabic is Amr.  It means commandment, order, cause, and affair. This is an allusion to God’s religion and not to light.  Amrullah means the Cause of God. A more accurate translation of this verse is, God sends his Cause to Earth, which will return to Him, i.e. it will be revoked in one day, the length of which is equal to 1000 years. 

This is how Sheikh Ahmad Ahsai  (1753 -1826), founder of Shiite Sheikhieh school and his disciple Seyyed Kazim-i-Rashti  (1792- 1843) interpreted this verse. They claimed Islam does no longer meet the needs of the time and since it does not allow reform, it must be abrogated.  However, since no one can abrogate the word of God but God himself, this task rests on the shoulders of the awaited Mahdi, the Promised One of the Shiites.  Ahsai and Rashti said the end of Islam and the appearance of Mahdi has already been foretold in the Hadith and the Qur'an, and verse 32:5  gives the exact date. 

According to these eminent scholars, Amrullah, the cause of God, was completed when the last intermediary between God and Mankind, Imam Hassan Askari died.  Hassan Askari died in the lunar year 260 Hijra.  Ahsai believed that since, according to the verse 32:5, one thousand years after the communication between God and mankind is interrupted the cause of God (Islam) would be revoked يَعْرُجُ إِلَيْهِ ,  Mahdi should manifest himself in the year 1260 Hijra (1844 EC) 

   

The room where The Báb declared his mission on May 23, 1844 in his house in Shiraz. Exactly 1000 lunar years after the death of the last Shiite imam

Seyyed Kazem Rashti died one year before the expected year. He, was so sure that Mahdi would manifest himself in the coming year that he did not appoint any successor. He dissolved the Sheikhieh school ordering his disciples to scatter around Persia to find him. It was in this heightened atmosphere of expectation that the 26 year old Seyyed Ali Mohammad, native of Shiraz, claimed to be the Bab, the Gate to divine understanding, the Promised One. Thanks to his sincerity and Christ like innocence he attracted most of the students of Seyyed Kazem and in a short time the Babi movement became so popular that it took the country by storm. The amazing success of the Babis in converting the Iranians was seen as a threat by the clergy who instigated the young and inexperienced king, Nasereddin Shah to execute the Bab.  They started a brutal campaign of persecution of Babis and subsequently Bahais that has lasted till this day.  

I am not an apologist for Babism. I do not believe in Islam and do not think the Qur'an contains any prophecy.  Anyone can interpret the Qur'an in anyway he pleases. I do not believe the Bab was a messenger of God.  According to this author, that young man suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy, the evidence of that is in his prolific, verbose, and incoherent writings.  He certainly believed in his cause and refused to recant in order to save his life. In all fairness, one can see that Ahsai and Rashti  have given a much more logical interpretation to the Quranic verse 32:5 than Dr. Hassab-Elnaby, with his ludicrous claim that the verse reveals the speed of light.  

 

5  -  Stolen Miracle 

The funny thing is that the verse 32:5 is plagiarized from the Bible. Here are the original Biblical verses:  

For a thousand years in your sight  are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Psalm 90:4

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.2 Peter 3:8

When the Psalmist says a thousand years for God is like a watch in the night, he means God is timeless. In those days people used sundials to measure the time. It only worked in sunshine. This is a beautiful poetic way to say time does not exist for God. This thousand years should be taken allegorically and not literally.  

Peter understood that. He said with Lord not only a thousand years is like one day, also one day is like a thousand years. What that humble fisherman was saying is that Time is irrelevant for God. Compare that with the pathetic attempt of Muslim doctors and scholars who take this allegory literally and try to find scientific equations in it.  Taken poetically, this example is beautiful; taken literally, it is asinine. 

Assuming there is a miracle in this allegory, shouldn't the credit go to  the Bible?  Isn't it interesting that neither the Jews nor the Christians make the claim that these verses reveal scientific information, but Muslims make that claim even though the verse is stolen from the Bible? What this tells us about the state of the mind of Muslims? Doesn't this show they are insecure and desperate to validate their illogical faith by clinging to any straw? 

 

6  - Does the Qur'an distinguish synodic and siderial months? 

Dr. Mansour Hassab-Elnaby claims, "Quranic verse (10:5) discriminates between the synodic period for knowing the number of years and the real sidereal period for reckoning in scientific calculations."  Here is the verse in question: 

It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light [wrong. Moon is not a source of light], and measured out stages for her; that ye might know the number of years and the count. 10:5

This verse in no way discriminates between synodic and siderial months. Dr. Hassab-Elnaby is engaging in wishful thinking. 

 

7  -  The Islamic Divine Comedy 

In their quest to find miracles in  the Qur'an, Muslims unwittingly make, not only Islam, but the entire Divine system look like a joke. Our good doctor says, "The verse begins with a reference to a certain "cosmic affair" which GOD creates and commands. This affair travels, permanently through the whole universe between the heavens and the Earth, so speedily that it crosses in ONE DAY a maximum distance in space equivalent to that which the moon passes during ONE THOUSAND LUNAR YEAR (i.e. during 12000 Sidereal months)."

This erudite Muslim is wrong again. Arabs count the synodic months that are 29.5 days and not the siderial months that are 27.3 days. The Qur'an is clear that these thousand years are "of what you count." Only synodic months can be observed and counted. Siderial months are not observable and as the doctor himself rightly points out they are "for reckoning in scientific calculations."  As I showed in section 1, in 1000 lunar years the Moon orbits the Earth 12,967 times and not 12,000 times. Dr. Hassab-Elnaby makes many deliberate errors to doctor his miracle.  

"Affairs traveling permanently through the whole universe at speed of light?"  Is he talking about UFOs?  Now, when it comes to the Universe, the speed of light is not really that fast. It is a very slow way for God to run his affairs. These "cosmic affairs" traveling at the speed of light take one full day to reach the Earth.  If you are in peril, forget about asking Allah for help. By the time he sends you his succor, a day is passed and that is often too late. 

Consider yourself lucky because Allah is only one light day away from the Earth (I thought Muhammad said he is closer to us than our jugular vein). He lives just around the corner of our solar system. Think of other poor creatures that live hundreds or thousands light years away, or those who live in galaxies that are millions or billions light years away from God.  How can God run his affairs in those galaxies when the communication is so slow? For all intent and purposes, as far as those far away galaxies are concerned God does not exist.   Just as their light hardly reach us, and when it does it is after millions of years the "affairs of Allah" can hardly reach them. In his zeal to ascribe miracles to the prosaic book of Muhammad, Dr. Hassab-Elnaby throws out of the window the concept of omnipresence of God altogether. The maker of the Universe, according to this Muhammadan, depends on the speed of light to manage his affairs. 

It is pathetic that in this day of science and enlightenment, over a billion otherwise normal people, many of whom doctors and educated, should still follow an ignoramus of the seventh century and waste their  time trying to find meaning and even miracles in his asinine balderdash. This should tell you everything you need to know about Muslim intelligentsia. The fact that Islamicity.com, arguably the most prestigious Islamic site has published this gobbledygook proves the intellectual bankruptcy of the ummah

Islam is a joke. It is an irony that so many smart people have reduced themselves into jokers and laughing stocks for mankind. The more Muslims try to make Islam look logical and scientific the more ridiculous THEY look.  

 

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