Reacting to Dr. Zakir Naik’s Science and Quran, Episode 2


27 Oct 2017

Astronomy, Miracles / I'jaz

Mohammed Hijab

Abu Safiyya Muhammad Osman

In this second episode in a series “responding” to Zakir Naik’s material on scientific miracles in the Qurʾān, Mohammed Hijab and Abu Safiyya Mohammed Osman continue their examination of cosmology-related constructions.  This episode addresses the “solar apex” (Qurʾān 36.38) and its relationship to the “throne” (arsh) of God; multiple variations of geocentricity versus heliocentricity; the shape of the Earth (flat or “egg shaped”); the Sun spinning on its own axis (Q 36.40).

As with the first episode, Stop Spamming has made a response to this video, which is evaluated on the Portal here.

The context is difficult to summarize because organization is not clear. They move back and forth between the movement of the Sun (within the universe and around its own axis) and the conceptualization of the Earth, and the relationships between these two movements and the rest of the universe, and humanity itself.  At times the speakers seem to conflate movement through space with rotation around an axis.  The discussion moves between clips from Zakir Naik, for which the critique is generally quite muted, and clips from two videos by The Masked Arab, who they present as “the detractor of Islam”.  The Masked Arab, an ex-Muslim from Iraq, is generally quite thorough in his discussions, and as a highly educated, life-long speaker of Arabic generally provides both English and Arabic originals for his videos.

Rather than examining any of the Qurʾānic material for moral teachings or their original context, they spend all their time trying to show that the interpretation they desire to read out of the Qurʾān is at least possible.  The speakers do not identify their sources, and generally do not provide verse references for their Qurʾānic material.

This discussion, like the first episode, has problems with understanding its audience.  Because the speakers assume that one must accept the absolute truth of the Qurʾān as a first step, it is unclear of what value any of this discussion could be for anyone who is not already a Muslim.  They suggest that science is being applied to the Qurʾān as a test of truth, but this is not, in the mind of most scientists, how scientific results should be used.  As in the previous episode, it is unclear what “truth” or “fact” mean here.

Qurʾānic verses referenced:

36.40, 36.38 [they sometimes confuse these two], 91.1-6, 36.4
31.29, 39.5, 79.30 (in clip from Zakir Naik)
22.65 (heaven falling on Earth)

The clips of Zakir Naik’s material are from his 2008 lecture, “The Qur’an and Modern Science:  Compatible or Incompatible”, in Chennai, India.

The clips from the Masked Arab’s vlogs are from “Scientific miracles in the Quran? Analysis of Zakir Naik’s claims” (2014) and “Islam & the whale that carries the Earth on its back” (2016).  The evaluation of the first is on the Portal here.

Regions included:



Islam:  The speakers do not always cite the correct verses in the instances they do give verse references.  In their desire to present themselves as critical of Naik, the speakers construct Naik as suggesting his is the only explanation for the Qurʾān.  Although Naik does not offer other explanations, he also does not indicate his is the only possible interpretation.

Calling the Qurʾān a book of “signs”, the English translation of “ayat” (also the word for “verses”) is also not “amazing” as they characterize it.  Scholars have been making this statement in English since at least the mid 20th century.

The speakers never discuss how any of the collections of tafsīr relate to one another, something that The Masked Arab, who the speakers generally call “the detractor of Islam”, does quite well.

Science:  The discussion of whether the Qurʾānic narratives match the discussion of the “solar apex” is moot, as most of the presentation of the concept of the solar apex by Naik itself is not consistent with understandings of movement in and of the universe.  There is a discussion of whether Islam or Christianity is “easier” for a scientist to accept, which makes broad assumptions about how thoroughly individuals apply religion to other realms of their lives.  It is almost comical that the speakers suggest a scientist could not accept Christianity because biblical narratives present an Earth with pillars, while Islam is constructed as easier to accept with a throne of God held up by pillars.  None of the use of science here as a program for attempting to convince people of Islam’s truth is consistent with how contemporary scientists would use it.

Leibnitz and Newton, 17th century European scientists, were not arguing about physics, but calculus.  Nothing in their discussions would speak to a contemporary conception of the structure of the universe in any case.

History:  Thomas Kuhn’s book is not “polemics”, as Hijab calls it here.  The assertion that within the tafsīr themselves there is a rejection of the nūn/whale narrative is untrue.  Abu Safiyya characterizes “the whole of Islamic history and heritage of the scholars” as supporting a spherical Earth.  While there have been Middle Eastern scientists who have well understood the Earth’s shape for centuries, as, it should be noted, The Masked Arab himself points out, there have also been theological constructions of a geocentric flat Earth even by 21st century Muslim theologians.  Premodern scholars did not necessarily feel any pressure to force these two understandings to fit together, as the speakers here are trying to.