Sunday, March 8, 2009

Scientific Flaws in the Quran:
Shooting Stars at Demons

Recently, I received an email from a Muslim friend who was adamant that there are no scientific errors in the Quran. I responded by saying that there is no plausible defense for the shooting star dilemma.


If this issue is new to you, allow me to explain. The Qur'an teaches that stars are fires set up in the sky to guard Heaven against demons. The demons want to hear what God is saying so they try to sneak up to heaven. If they are found, the guardians of heaven will hurl stars at them to chase them off.


In case you didn't catch it, there's a huge problem with this teaching: stars and shooting stars are not the same thing! Stars are giant balls of gas burning millions of miles away, and "shooting stars" are meteorites, or galactic debris that has entered the earth's atmosphere (i.e. much much much much smaller than stars!).


Truly, this is the book Muslims defend as scientifically miraculous! Don't believe that the Qur'an could actually say such horribly unscientific things? Look at the four passages below.


15:16-18

It is We Who have set out the zodiacal signs in the heavens, and made them fair-seeming to (all) beholders; And (moreover) We have guarded them from every evil spirit accursed: But any that gains a hearing by stealth, is pursued by a flaming fire, bright (to see).


37:6-10

We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars, (For beauty) and for guard against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits, (So) they should not strain their ears in the direction of the Exalted Assembly but be cast away from every side, Repulsed, for they are under a perpetual penalty, Except such as snatch away something by stealth, and they are pursued by a flaming fire, of piercing brightness.


67:5

And we have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.


72:8-9

(Demons are speaking)'And we pried into the secrets of heaven; but we found it filled with stern guards and flaming fires. 'We used, indeed, to sit there in (hidden) stations, to (steal) a hearing; but any who listen now will find a flaming fire watching him in ambush.


My Muslim friend denied that the Quran was speaking about shooting stars, and he adamantly defended the fact that regular stars fit the bill for these ayaat. He said: "I can't possibly understand why you would state that the verse refers to shooting stars, meteorites, asteroids, comets or whatever else, unless you were not aware of this fact regarding stars (i.e. that stars move)."


Well, there are two reasons.


First, the ayaat support this interpretation. Let's take a look at 67:5. It says: "we have made such (Lamps [stars]) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones" On face value, this seems to say that stars can be used missiles made to drive away satans (demons). This implies shooting stars.


Why would God want to shoot demons? Surah 15 ayaat 16-18 explains that the stars were made as adornment for the skies, but also as a guard against jinn; if a jinn were to somehow "gain a hearing by stealth" then it would be pursued by "a flaming fire." Again, at face value, it seems that these stars serve at least two purposes: for adornment and for launching at jinn, and the second happens because the jinn attempt to hear something. 


Well what are the jinn trying to hear? Surah 37 tells us they are trying to hear "the Exalted Assembly". In surah 72, we see the jinn admit that they were trying to listen to "the secrets of heaven", but when they attempted to listen, they found guards with fires (stars), and those fires are now hurled at them if they try to litsen (presumably by the guards).


So, just reading the Qur'an for what it's worth, it seems as if it's saying that God (or angels) hurls stars (the ones that adorn the night skies) at demons when they try to hear the secrets of heaven. This implies that the stars go from being stationary to being launched, as we would expect a missile to work. The only thing that resembles a launched star is a meteorite.


Second, Muhammad supports this interpretation. Sahih al-Muslim #5538 informs us:


As we were sitting during the night with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), a meteor shot gave a dazzling light.  Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said:  “What did you say in the pre-Islamic days when there was such a shot (of meteor)?”  They said:  “Allah and His Messenger know best (the actual position), but we, however, used to say that that very night a great man had been born and a great man had died,” whereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said:  “(These meteors) are shot neither at the death of anyone nor on the birth of anyone.  Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, issues Command when He decides to do a thing.  Then (the Angels) supporting the Throne sing His glory, then sing the dwellers of heaven who are near to them until this glory of God reaches them who are in the heaven of this world.  Then those who are near the supporters of the Throne ask these supporters of the Throne:  ‘What your Lord has said?’ And they accordingly inform them what He says.  Then the dwellers of heaven seek information from them until this information reaches the heaven of this world.  In this process of transmission (the jinn snatches) what he manages to overhear and he carries it to his friends. And when the Angels see the jinn they attack them with meteors.


From this hadith in Sahih al-Muslim, we see that Muhammad agrees entirely with all the conclusions we drew from the Quranic ayaat, including that the stars in question are shooting stars.


What have we seen so far? We've seen:


1 - The ayaat, on face value, seem to say that the guardians of heaven hurl stars at demons. This equates stars with meteors.

2 - The hadith supports this interpretation.


Thus, the Quran is scientifically flawed, at least in regards to the issue of shooting stars. The hadith support this conclusion. This is incontrovertible and any argument against this conclusion twists the obvious interpretation and ignores Muhammad's own words.


* NOTE = After posting this, the Muslim friend with whom I was dialoguing took offense to my representation of his point of view. He says he was only commenting on 67:5, not all the verses, when made his conclusion. This note serves to clarify his position.

29 comments:

El-Cid said...

David,

Ibn Abbas confirms your reading of the Quran as well::

15:17-18
Tafsir Ibn Abbas: “And We have guarded it from every outcast devil) from every accursed devil who is chased away by the stars to prevent them, i.e. the satans, from listening to the angels, (Save him who stealeth the hearing, and them doth a clear flame pursue) they are pursued by a bright, burning star.”

37:9-10
Tafsir Ibn Abbas: “...they are driven away from heaven and from listening to the angels, (and theirs is a perpetual torment) by means of the stars; and it is also said that this means: in the Fire; (Save him who snatcheth a fragment) save him who snatches a little of the words of the angels, (and there pursueth him a piercing flame) and is chased by a bright star which burns him.”

67:5
Tafsir Ibn Abbas: “(And verily We have beatified the world's heaven) the first heaven (with lamps) with stars, (and We have made them) i.e. the stars (missiles for the devils) such that some of them become bewitched, some are killed while others are burnt, (and for them) for the devils (We have prepared) in the Hereafter (the doom of flame.

72:9
Tafsir Ibn Abbas: “(And we used to sit on places (high) therein) in heaven (to listen) before the advent of Muhammad (pbuh). (But he who listened now) after the advent of Muhammad (pbuh) (findeth a flame) a shining star (in wait for him) from the angels in order to prevent them from listening;”

[I find this last one the most unusual, as it suggests one of the sahaba thought this whole missile action did not happen before Muhammad. I wonder why Allah would start shooting missiles at jinn only after the “advent” of Muhammad?]

Hmmm. Let’s see...

1) The plain reading of the Quran seems to teach it.
2) Sahih Bukhari confirms it.
3) The Tafsir of Ibn Abbas explains it the same way.

...Case closed. Scientific error proven.

Nakdimon said...

Nabeel, don’t you know that these are things of the unseen?

The irony of this entire thing is, even if this is a matter of the unseen, how can you threaten an immaterial spirit with a material object? That is like claiming to choke a spirit until he passes out because the oxygen supply to his brain stops. NONSENSE!

Matthew said...

A historical error that is often ignored is, if I recall correctly, Abraham being delivered from the fire.

Nabeel Qureshi said...

Matthew--

I agree, that is certainly a great historical error. David has mentioned it in some of his talks.

If you notice, David and I often approach things differently. I often try to build a knock-down case from a single point (i.e. shooting stars are not stars, there is no way around this, and thus the Quran is scientifically flawed) whereas David usually takes a cumulative approach (lots of good arguments to make a grand impact).

Honestly I think his style has more impact. I might be switching approaches soon. Anyhow, for now I'll discuss issues one at a time on this blog until I get to large summaries (such as the series I started on the truth of the Quran).

Thanks for the feedback!
-Nabeel

Nabeel Qureshi said...

El-Cid--

Thanks for those references. I'll certainly keep them in mind.

I'm wondering if more people try to defend this argument by saying that the Quran does not refer to shooting stars in these verses, but just stars. If that is the case, it'd be good to have an explicit statement by Muhammad or the Quran which says that (though they all clearly imply it).

Semper Paratus said...

Nice post. With Osama gone, I do hope some well-mannered and respectful Muslims will come and help stimulate further discussion on it.

Stephanie said...

Nakdimon,

My thoughts exactly. At least in Christian doctrine, the material does not clash with the spiritual--that is to say, spiritual beings such as demons can't be defeated through physical warfare or what have you; that's nonsensical! It's like saying that people could actually find a way to kill God (if you can get past the "shooting stars").

But I'm not well-versed in the Quran, the accepted hadiths, etc. so I don't know the official belief on that (the spiritual and material being separate entities). Just from some of the verses given it almost seems like heaven is spoken of as a physical place (especially when you take into account the multiple virgins that are promised to jihadists). So I'm not completely clear on that issue.

Matthew said...

What I think is most interesting here is how many time this is repeated. You listed 4 references. And as El-Cid has shown, it's also in the hadith, more than once.

If I'm not mistaken, "Jesus never died" is only once in the Quran and not in the hadith.

"Stars are missiles" seems to be much more important.

El-Cid said...

Sorry....Nabeel, not David. My bad.

Taylor said...

According to Zwemer, the jinn are incorporations of paganism into Islam: "the substratum of paganism remained and was incorporated into Islam by his [Muhammad] revelations on jinn. Wellhausen has shown how belief in Jinn was universal in Arabia before Islam."

http://www.answering-islam.org/Books/Zwemer/Animism/chap7.htm

Taylor said...

[Zwemer continued] [Note the last sentence especially]
Before Islam as now certain places were considered as inhabited by the jinn. Higar (the city of the dead from the days of Thamud), graveyards and outhouses are their special resort. When entering such places a formula must be uttered to drive them away. Jinn are specially busy at night and when the morning-star appears they vanish. Wherever the soil is disturbed by digging of wells or building there is danger of disturbing the jinn as well. Whenever Mohammed changed his camp he was accustomed to have the Takbir cried in order to drive them away. The whirlwind is also an evidence of the presence of jinn. When the cock crows or the donkey brays it is because they are aware of the presence of jinn (Bokhari 2:182). They also dwell in animals and, as Wellhausen rightly says, "The zoology of Islam is demonology." The wolf, the hyena, the raven, the hudhud, the owl are special favorites in this conception. A specially close connection exists between the serpent and the jinn; in every snake there is a spirit either good or evil. Examples of the Prophet's belief in this superstition are given by Wellhausen.

In the old Arabian religion the jinn were nymphs and satyrs of the desert. They were in constant connection with wild animals and often appeared in brute forms. Robertson Smith, in his "Religion of the Semites," shows us the relations that were supposed to exist between these spirits of the wild and the gods. He says: "In fact the earth may be said to be parceled out between demons and wild beasts on the one hand, and gods and men on the other. To the former belong the untrodden wilderness with all its unknown perils, the wastes and jungles that lie outside the familiar tracks and pasture grounds of the tribe, and which only the boldest men venture upon without terror; to the latter belong the regions that man knows and habitually frequents, and within which he has established relations, not only with his human neighbors, but with the supernatural beings that have their haunts side by side with him. And as man gradually encroaches on the wilderness and drives back the wild beasts before him, so the gods in like manner drive out the demons; and spots that were once feared, as the habitation of mysterious and presumably malignant powers, lose their terrors and either become common ground or are transformed into the seats of friendly deities. From this point of view, the recognition of certain spots as haunts of the gods is the religious expression of the gradual subjugation of nature by man." To the Arabs of Mohammed's day this teaching formed the background of their supernatural world. The heathen of Mecca considered the jinn as the sons and daughters of Allah. When Islam came this relation was denied, but the existence of the jinn and their character remained unchanged.

Semper Paratus said...

Okay, so I searched various sources on scientific miracles in the Qur'an, and it turns out that stars being fired off at demons/jinn doesn't make anyone's list. Mountains as pegs that hold the earth in place - check; the water cycle - check; the splitting assunder of the heavens and the earth - check; stars shot off like bottle rockets at beings made from fire - nothing...not even a peep.

Since this idea is found in the Qur'an, then Muslims have to defend it as accurate, but the fact that it isn't something THEY bring up to prove the Qur'an says a great deal. In other words, it doesn't appear to be a very miraculous scientific insight, even in their own eyes. In fact, it would seem to be more of an embarassment that they only talk about if it is first brought up by others, rather than actually being one of Allah's "signs" that they can proudly point to as such.

Fernando said...

Waite a minute: ain't the new missile Iran tested a few daies ago called "Falling Star"?

And ain't it designed to blocke the presence of USA's (Satann) spy planes?

I think we habe to admite the qur'an was right... don't we?

LordVersifier said...

Looks like hatred to Islam have gone to absolute stupidity. "We have beatified the world's heaven) the first heaven (with lamps) with stars, (and We have made them)" Don't you guys get it that as long as we see stars we are still in the first heaven? There are seven layers of the sky or 7 heavens. And as we all know now stars indeed move much faster than we can imagine. They explode for no reason at all. Many scientists brought many theories to explain it all, none conclusive. The point is the Quran is absolutely right and the bigger point here at this moment is the blogger is a mindless atheist who had gone insane in his hatred to Islam. Islam don't teach hate in that way I don't see any difference between the evil Binladen and his Wahhabi clans and the writer of this blog. Do this, first learn science very well, then get a copy of the Quran and read it with an open mind. You will know Allah is the one God and all that is told in the Quran is the truth in which we all live.

to believe or not to believe said...

its nice to know people like to understand that which they don't know. As stated in the Quran. That persons should try to prove it wrong if they can. Now it first seems we all may not know the science properly as i believe most of the science proves the existence of god and all that there is around. One thing is people will interpret but when have u known an interpretation to be 100% exact word for word. Next some of the things pointed out by the Quran 14 centuries ago have only been found out afterwards, and thats with the use of powerful machinary and telescopes, and when knowledge was known by famous scientists. The persons who don't believe are doing exactly what the pagans used to do, that is to deny what is right in front of thier faces. But not to worry it is not all ur faults, ones judgment to seeing, reflecting, understanding and realising gas been clouded with the asap thats going on. I suggest just sit and think 10 mins a day to get yourselves away from the humdrum of life. We do not know yet the dimensions around. As simply some animals can see differently from a human eye. Everything around us follows rules. As stated in the Quran. Rules meaning goes law. Such as the night turning to day laws of gravity the temperature law for the body. Anything that is follows a way just to be; that means they follow a rule, a law : god. However having said that there is one group that don't follow the set law, or rules in order to live harmoniously with all that is around and that group is us humans. That is what is called freedom of choice or will. Because believe it or not our bodies follow the laws that why they work. The only thing that may choose not to is us. There must be alot we don't know yet that is why we still have sciencetists. So do we know how the universe works. Do we know about black holes. One more thing everything we do, say and think is written down. Hmmmm how. Just a thought but as i learn't in physics energy cannot be made or destroyed. Everything we do is energy speaking , moving and thinking(electrical) so if energy cannot be destroyed it will always be there somewhere in some form. Hence can be recorded. In a matter of speaking. And coming back to the initial topic. Even this can not be seen easily until we use utensils to able us to. Ok . Now think can we really flaw something we can't totally comprehend yet.

to believe or not to believe said...

religion or the way of living a life in a good, decent and harmonious way with everything else, has been around us from the first persons on this planet. I.e since adam and eve. Understanding of the way to worship and how to treat all that is around has been brought to us messenger after messenger. Also to each nation world wide. That is also why the knowledge of worshipping god is going to be known to all. The point that jins being known in pagan times or across the world under different descriptions and titles does not make it less believable. Its just that due to documented messages were not preserved in its innate form hence via a chinese whisper type of way changes have been made. In all persons religon. Except of course for the one that was said to be perfected and protected due to what gas happened previously. People may not want to believe in such enormalities such as god jins etc. Because i understand it is huge stuff. And due to the material side of this world, it has clouded our judgement. As it did to the many before us. This world is miraculous. Being able to prove them scientifically or otherwise does change that fact. We all have a reason a target in life while we live. Similar to when we were at school or work we need to do it the correct way the right way and get the maximum reward or marks. We did not get made for jest. Each person has a role and part of it is to work out the truth and them to stick to it. Clear race creed colour and background and all u wil have is the simple human growing in the same way. I know its hard to realise changes have to be made. They are difficult, but there isn't much to change. Lol even our chromosomes have a rule of attachment. Anyway just needed to get things out there. Because life is too short for indifferences. Can people really say we alkl don't belong under the same umbrella. Don't let terms language continent country or colour put a stop to equality and the right to be called a family. Because thats how people supposed to be in islam. Nobody would be alone or hungry or done wrong to if we all followed the same rules.

afthab000 said...

My friend Who posted dis, kindly understand tht "shooting stars" was a term used earlier by humans thinking it would be stars.. Only later on it was discovered that it was meteors. So stars being used as a protection of heaven cant be implied as "shooting stars". It is an error conclusion used to criticise quran

Abbas N Chagani said...

Ever think for just one second maybe science is wrong. It as after all a subject matter of theory that changes every day. In your haste to defame a book which cannot be defamed you show nothing but arrogance, hence allowing us to see your true ignorance. Thanks for that buddy, hope you enjoyed making a fool out of yourself.

mobashir said...

Brotha who eva posted dis fail to understand that even the shooting stars (meteorites) were actually a part of the star which after some time got destroyed & so it was actually a star which now has become a 'shooting star' so the thing I the glorious Quran isn't wrong but ur thinking is wrong
So brother never challenge the Quran & moreover many things even science hasn't been able to find out for ex. - what's exactly inside the black hole many theories have been given but no proof & moreover I would also like to say that many non muslims even have misinterpreted the Quran for ex- the ch. Naazi aat v.30 "wal arza ba-da zaalika dahaaha" which means "& the earth moreover ,hath he made egg-shaped" a common man thinks that the earth is egg shaped that's ridiculous but actually the word DAHAAHA doesn't refer to any normal egg but the egg of an ostrich which is actually geo spherical in shape so the point u have quoted so far is just ur misconception. So to all my muslim as well as christian brothers don't quote about the wrong things or the things misinterpreted & even if any religious scripture has an error one should try to avoid them & treat each human being as his/her brethren

eesha ali said...

Okay, so your saying that the shooting stars at demons part in the Quran is wrong according to science right?
But does science say that Angels and Demons exist?
Does science believe that there is an afterworld(Heaven and Hell)?
I think that if you are not a Muslim you will not understand what is written in the Quran and you should not hurry to defame it. Let`s say that people were saying that your religious book (If you have one) has errors in it. How would that make you feel?

Tarike Patel said...

My fellow friends believer's. And none believer's forget this baseless hair splitting argument. Look at your self first and see weather your a star or false being. None of you have the knowledge nor uthority to talk about this sort things. Look at the ways in which you leave and deal with life on a day today bases. And remember the truth shall be seen when you will be in your grave. .Fear god for the wrong you done and hope for his infinite mercy

Fathima victory said...

Dear friends,
what does it mean if we see two stars are falling from the sky together?

Boodhun Riad said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOoKv2OMpOw

here is your proof to your stupid arguments.

Stop distorting the truth with foolish arguments. Recite"There is no one worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.

That will be better for you

Riad

Cosmo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Race said...

Boodhun Riad said:
"Stop distorting the truth with foolish arguments."

Riad, you mean like those used by Muslim aologists and scholars when speaking of the Jewish and Christian scriptures?

Good day

Unknown said...

When it comes to the matters of unseen rational thinking is irrelevant. First of all your argument is based on the translation not the original arabic text itself. The arabic language is very precise. If you knew arabic you would see that words used for "lamps" masobih, and it includes in itself all the heavenly bodies like stars, planets, the moon,the sun and of course "shooting stars",for which the word "shihab" is used which is translated as shooting star or burning flame, as for the stationary stars the word " najm" is used, which is not present in any of these verses. Hence the verses do not say that it is the stationary stars that are used to be thrown at devils but "shihab thaqib" the piercing burning flame or the shooting star is used. ,but again can we talk about the matters of unseen in the same categories that science use? For science devils and angels do not exist in the first place ,hence it is funny how you are trying to use the scientific reasoning here)))

hamidious said...

Greetings,
As a Muslim, I have to admit that I find this verse a bit preplexing.

However, Muslims generally believe that Qur'an is true and if anything is hard to understand A) we'll learn it's meaning in the future or b) That eventually it will be proven. So lol, that's why you can't win an argument against Muslims. If you bring about about any doubt they'll respond by attacking your belief system (All are easier to attack than Quran)

Hence, I follow the logic that I simply don't understand the verses because I didn't really read them and research them and it isn't helpful to dwell on them.

johny man said...

osama abdullah says these are gamma ray bursts from pulsar stars.

Rati said...

Religious people will defend their scripture even if it contradicts the fact. Look the description about heaven in Koran, it is very shallow and physical (rivers of milk, virgins, etc)..any intelligent person will not be attracted to it, because it is only suitable for people who live in the dessert (always lack of water). But all religious people will defend everything written in the book, how absurd it is.