Seas and Oceans in the Qurʾān and Sunnah
8 May 2011
Miracles / Ijaz, Geography
Zaghloul R. M. El-Naggar (An-Najjar)
In this episode of “Islam and Science” hosted by Zaghloul An-Najjar (El Naggar) and presented on Peace TV, the host presents two verses of the Qurʾān, from the forty he suggests talk about seas and oceans, verses 24:39-40. The verses compare the darkness at the depth of the ocean to the darkness of those to whom God does not provide light.
El Naggar suggests that knowledge of this darkness at depth in the ocean is “one of the greatest scientific discoveries of our time” (5:45), suggesting that this was only “disclosed to man in the last decades of the twentieth century.” (8:20) He suggests that because the Qurʾān was revealed “to an unlettered prophet in an unlettered society” (8:09), none of this could have been known, and therefore proving the Qurʾān has a divine source, a form of iʿjāz.
He includes in his discussion subsurface currents, which he suggests were only discovered in 1950.
His discussion of the increasing darkness in water includes details about what wavelengths of light penetrate to what depths.
Toward the end of the video, he states that “ocean scientists has always claimed that life is impossible at the greatest depths of the seas and oceans” (19:23) He goes on to discuss how fish and other life forms are able to survive because they have got “their own personal source of light”.
El Naggar closes by suggesting that the “scientific notions” in the Qurʾān may be used “as a source of daʿwa, inviting people to Islam in an era of science and technology.” (22:43)
The date of the original broadcast of the episode is not known. The show is presented with El Naggar sitting at a desk on a brightly colored soundstage, without a studio audience.
The material on Islam is within the bounds of what Muslims have historically understood as acceptable.
Science: It is unlikely that light’s poor penetration of water was unknown to premodern peoples. Diving was done all around the Mediterranean Sea and the waters off the Arabian peninsula for centuries before the time of Muḥammad. Ancient free divers could reach depths of 30 meters; only 20% of sunlight reaches 10 meters, so they would have been able to readily extrapolate increasing darkness at greater depth. Christians often note that Psalms 8:8 mention “paths of the sea”, meaning currents. El Naggar’s suggestion that “no one could have dreamt of knowing” about the currents ignores the fact that Benjamin Franklin studied currents in the Atlantic, and Matthew F. Maury studied them in the mid-19th century as well. Not all the creatures living at depth in the ocean carry their own light.
History: El Naggar inaccurately dates the “discoveries” of currents and darkness at ocean depths to the 20th century. El Naggar’s suggestion that “no one could have dreamt of knowing” about the currents ignores the fact that Benjamin Franklin (d. 1790) studied currents in the Atlantic, and Matthew F. Maury (d. 1873) studied them in the mid-19th century as well. Not all the creatures living at depth in the ocean carry their own light.
About Zaghloul R. M. El-Naggar (An-Najjar)
Born in 1933 in Egypt, Zaghloul El-Naggar received a PhD in geology in 1963 from the University of Wales in the UK. The majority of his scholarship has focused on i’jāz, the idea that scientific facts may be found in the Qurʾān, proving its miraculous nature. A collection of his videos can be found on the Discovering Islam website.
He was considered a threat by earlier Egyptian governments; he now is the head of the Committee of Scientific Notions in the Qurʾān, Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Cairo.
El-Naggar believes that scientific interpretation may only be done with material that may be experienced, unlike references to the soul, jinn, etc, which should be approached with faith alone. However, he also suggests that the Qurʾān may “orient scientists in attaining new ‘cosmic truths’.” (Bigliardi, 103)
“Zaghloul El-Naggar” Wikipedia. Accessed 19 April 2015.
Bigliardi, S. (2014). Islam and the Quest for Modern Science: Conversations with Adnan Oktar, Mehdi Golshani, Mohammed Basil Altaie, Zaghloul El-Naggar, Bruno Guiderdoni and Nidhal Guessoum. Istanbul, Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul.
“Dr. Zaghloul Najjar.” Discovering Islam. Discovering Islam, n.d. Web. Accessed 18 June 2015.