Many Muslims claim that God revealed scientific facts in the Quran long before modern science discovered them. Here are the main ones.
Number one. The Quran describes the fertilization process and embryonic growth before it was known about. This is false. The writings of Aristotle, Hippocrates, Galen and others describe these things long before the Quran and the Quran is simply drawing on knowledge that was prevalent at the time. In fact, it appears to repeat not only the accuracies of Greek ideas but their inaccuracies also. The Quran says “We created man from a drop of mingled fluid…” (Surah 76:2) This sounds very much like the germinal fluid that Hippocrates spoke of when writing about male and female reproductive fluids. The Quran also says “(Man) is created from a drop emitted, proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.” (Surah 86:6-7) This description reflects the view of Hippocrates, common in the 5th century, that semen comes from all the fluid of the body and passes through the kidneys on the way to the penis. We now know that it comes from the testicles. It is also worth noting that the Quran always mentions the semen but nowhere does it mention the female egg or the actual process of fertilization, which one would expect to be in any basic description, if it was known about by the author. The Quran also says “Then we made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood, then of that clot we made a lump, then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh…” (Surah 23:14). This account follows the four stages described by Galen, writing around 500 years before Muhammad, and includes his belief that bones were formed before the flesh. (Not true, bones and flesh come from one tissue at the same time.)
Number 2. The Quran describes iron as being sent down from the heavens before it was known that meteors containing iron fell to the earth from outer space. “And we sent down iron in which there lies great force and which has many uses for mankind” (Surah 57:25). This claim is false. It was common knowledge that meteors containing iron fell to earth from space. The ancient Egyptian word for “iron” was “metal of heaven” and the Babylonians had a similar word. In fact cultures as far flung as Tibet and the Aborigines of Australia were all aware that meteors fell to earth containing iron. Actually, all elements on earth came from outer space. By singling out iron, the Quran only appears to reveal its ignorance of this fact.
Number three. The Quran describes the moon’s light as reflected light long before it was known. “And he made the moon as a light (Arabic “noor”) in their midst and made the sun as a lamp.” (Surah 71:16) “And he placed therein a lamp and a moon giving light.” (Surah 25:61). The claim is that the words “noor” and “muneer” in these two verses mean “reflected light”. This is quite simply wrong. “noor” means light and is used many times to refer to God himself and so obviously cannot mean reflected light. “muneeraa” means “to shed light”. For example, Surah 33:46 says “a lamp spreading light (Arabic “muneeraa”)” and makes this very clear when it says about the sun spreading light. But even if we were to accept the meaning they give, it was already known that the moon’s light was reflected light. 1000 years before Muhammad, Aristotle described a lunar eclipse that makes this very clear.
Number four. The Quran mentions that salt water and fresh water don’t mix before this was known. “It is he who has let free the two bodies of flowing water – one palatable and sweet, and the other salt and bitter – yet he has made a barrier between them, a partition that it is forbidden to pass.” (Surah 25:53) There are other meanings that could be applied to this. If we accept the meaning given, it was already known about anyway. 1000 years before Muhammad, Aristotle wrote “The drinkable, sweet water, then, is light, and is all of it drawn up. The salt water is heavy and remains behind.” (Aristotle, Meteorology, Book 2, Chapter 2)
Number five. The Quran reveals the Big Bang before it was known about. “Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were one piece before we clove them asunder, and we made every living thing of water? Will they then not believe?” (Surah 21:30). If this is supposed to be a description of the Big Bang, then it is a terrible one. The Big Bang is not about a lump blowing up. Matter did not exist to be “cloven asunder” and there was certainly no splitting of Earth from heaven. The earth formed nine billion years after the Big Bang in some tiny outpost of a vast universe. One can hardly think of a more inaccurate description of the Big Bang than this verse. It does however follow very precisely creation mythologies that were believed in at the time of Muhammad. According to the Sumerians, “the heavens had been separated from the earth” (Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the nether world) and the idea that the heavens and the earth were one single block that was broken into two was common in ancient Egypt. (The separation of Geb, the earth god, from Nut, the sky goddess.)
Number six. The Quran reveals that everything comes from water before this was known. This uses the verse that I have just quoted and once again it is false. It was already known about. Aristotle records that “Thales believed that it (the nature of things) is water” and Anaximander stated that “life came from the sea”.
Number seven. The Quran revealed the planets move in orbits before this was known. “It is he who created the night and day, and the sun and the moon all swim along, each in its rounded course.” (Surah 21:33). This verse clearly reflects the view current in Muhammad’s day that the sun, moon and planets all move around the earth. There is absolutely nothing in this verse that suggests anything else.
Number eight. The Quran reveals an expanding universe before this was known. “We have built the heaven with might, and we it is who make the vast extent thereof.” (Surah 51:47). Firstly, this verse is not talking about the universe; it is talking about the sky. Secondly, it makes no sense to suggest it means God is expanding the universe after the verse has just said God has built (past tense) the sky and since the universe was already expanding nine billion years before the sky was formed.
Number nine. The Quran reveals the gaseous state of the universe pre-big bang before this was known. “Then he turned to the heaven when it was smoke.” (Surah 41:11). Firstly, gas and smoke are not the same thing. Gas is a state of matter, smoke is a collection of solids, liquids and gases that are emitted when a material combusts. Secondly, if one looks at the verses before and after this verse, one can see very clearly that it cannot have anything to do with the gaseous state of the universe. It says God created the earth, then he created the hills on the earth, and then it says he turned to the heavens when they were smoke.
Number 10. The Quran mentioned the seven layers of the atmosphere before this was known. “It is he who created everything on earth for you and then he directed his attention to the heaven and arranged it into seven heavens. He has knowledge of all things.” (Surah 2:29) First of all, modern science usually specifies five layers, not seven.
But more importantly, the Quran is clearly not talking about the atmosphere but about the heavens where the moon, sun, planets and stars are because it also says “We have adorned the lower heaven with the beauty of the stars.” (Surah 37:6) and also “he made the moon a light in in their midst and made the sun as a lamp.” (Surah 71:15-16). One hardly needs to point out that the stars, sun and moon are nowhere near the Earth’s atmosphere. The Quran is clearly talking about the pre-Copernican view of the universe that regarded the earth as its center with the seven heavens containing the sun, moon, planets and stars around it.
These are some of the main claims of scientific miracles in the Quran but there are others. In fact, Muslims are discovering new ones all the time. It’s not hard to do. Just open the Quran, pick a word or sentence and see if you can apply it to something in modern science. Don’t worry if it’s already been discovered or if the words don’t fit. We don’t have to let minor details such as facts and truth get in our way.