The non-Muslim's answer to this important question usually sounds like this:
Qur'an was authored by a human being; it is not a literal revelation from God.
It is a book created by human intelligence, like any other book. It was, as a
matter of historical fact, written by Muhammad, in the seventh century
If this is your view, rest assured that you have plenty of company!
You should also know, though, that this point of view is not without its difficulties. To believe it, you must also believe that Muhammad, peace be upon him:
- Knew that the Earth and heavenly bodies were once a single point, and were separated violently (21:30)
Now, if you don't believe that this man had access to special knowledge that made possible an extraordinary prefiguring of the modern Big Bang theory -- a theory entirely unknown to the Arabs of the seventh century -- you must conclude that 21:30 of the Qur'an is merely an intriguing coincidence, a matter of getting something right by chance.
Perhaps this passage is simply an intriguing coincidence. If it is, however, it is not the only one.
This man, the supposed "author" of the Qur'an, would also have to have:
- Known about
the relativity of time (22:47; 23:112-114; 32:45; 70:4), a subject similarly
unknown to Arab tribes of this period.
Either he possessed some extraordinary source of knowledge allowing discussion of this subject thirteen and a half centuries before Einstein ... or we are looking at another intriguing coincidence.
Which is it?
non-Muslims will instinctively answer along these lines: "Even if it means
granting the text of the Qur'an a second striking coincidental feature, the
likeliest explanation is that both passages are merely examples of
Consider that the same author would also have to have known that:
The universe is continuously expanding (51:47).
Matter is created in pairs (36:36). (By the way, this discovery earned the scientist Paul Dirac the Nobel Prize in 1933.)
Life is water-based, as modern biological science has established (21:30).
Iron is not native to the Earth, coming instead from an extraterrestrial source (57:25).
The planet Earth travels in an orbit (27:88; 21:33).
The sun, too, moves in an orbit (37:38), as indeed modern astronomy proves that it does.
The Earth's atmosphere acts like a protective shield for living creatures (21:32).
The stages of human development in the womb unfold in a specific, describable sequence (23:14) that has been confirmed by modern experts in human embryology.
The roots of mountains extend deep into the earth and serve the function of preventing shocks (21:31).
The Earth's rain cycle functions in ways that that were mysteries to scientists until the twentieth century (30:48).
That bordering seas meet but do not mingle with one another (55:19-20), as modern oceanographic science has confirmed.
Oceans have complex subsurface wave patterns (24:40).
In communities of honeybees, only the females are workers (16:68-69. The Arabic verb forms can connect only to female beings).
In addition, this human author would have had to have:
Known to use the singular of the word YAWM (day) precisely 365 times in the text of the Qur'an, despite the fact that he lived in a culture that followed a lunar, not a solar calendar.
Known, seven years ahead of time, that the humiliated Byzantine Army of his day would rejuvenate itself and secure a major victory, which in fact it eventually did against the Persians (30:1-4).
Known, two years before he did so, that he would enter Mecca in triumph (48:27).
Known that the body of the Pharoah who had opposed Moses would be preserved for future generations (10:91-92) -- it is today on display in the Royal Mummies Chamber of the Egyptian Museum. Either that or this passage, too, must be regarded as an intriguing coincidence.
Known to refer (12:54) to the Egyptian head of state of Joseph's, peace be upon him, era as king (aziz-malik) and not as Pharoah, the word that appears erroneously in the book of Genesis.
Known that the fabled Arabian lost city of Iram (89:6-8) whose historical existence was confirmed by archaeologists only in 1990, was a historical reality.
Known that the ancient flood that had beset the southern Arabian people of Saba from their dam system (34:15-17), similarly confirmed by modern archeology, was a historical reality -- either that or this passage, too, must be regarded as an intriguing coincidence.
Known the name of Haman (28:38), a historical figure close to the Pharoah of the era of Moses, peace be upon him ... despite the problems that a) the name Haman does not appear in the Torah's version of the story, and b) the ability to translate the hieroglyphic language system of the Egyptians had been utterly lost for centuries at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, and indeed would remain lost until the year 1799. After the discovery in that year of the Rosetta Stone, scholars were able to unlock the mystery of the hieroglyphs and, eventually, to confirm that there was indeed a Haman, unmentioned in the Hebrew scriptures, who was close to this Pharoah in this period, and who was involved in construction, just as the Qur'an says.