Scientific miracles of the Qur'an: Geography
This is the continuation to an earlier post of the same title where we explored certain verses in the Qur'an which appears to have been validated by modern science. While that post focused on scientific miracles relating to the Universe and Creation, this post will explore further Signs in the Qur'an relating to the field of geography. 1. Mountains
The Qur'an draws attention to several important geological functions of mountains that were discovered only recently. It was earlier thought that mountains were merely protrusions on the surface of the Earth. It was then discovered that mountains had “roots” that extended beneath the surface of the earth that serves to fasten and secure the mountain to their positions, not unlike pegs, which prevents them from sliding over the earth’s crust, which strongly corroborates what was written in the Qur’an 1400 years ago, when such knowledge were impossible:
“And He has set up on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you…” (Qur’an 16:15)
“Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse. And the mountains as pegs” (Qur'an 78:6-7)
In what appears to be a verse contradictory to the above, the Qur’an also states that mountains do, in fact, move:
“You see the mountains and think them firmly fixed: but they shall pass away as the clouds pass away.” (Qur'an 27:88)
This is likely to refer to the process of continental drift. It was previously thought that landmasses on earth are fixed in their position on earth. In 1912, Alfred Wegener, a geophysicist and meteorologist theorized that all land masses used to be connected as a single large mass called Pangaea 500 million years ago. Through this movement of the earth’s crust, the landmasses of the earth are as they are today, and this continues to occur without us realizing it.
2. Climate change
Climate change is a very recent phenomenon. It has been observed to result in rather drastic changes on the earth, one of which is the loss of habitable land which was referred to in the Qur’an:
“See they not that We gradually reduce the land [in their control] from its outlying borders?” (Qur'an 13:41)
“See they not that We gradually reduce the land [in their control] from its outlying borders?” (Qur'an 21:44)
Global warming has led to the melting of glaciers and ice sheets and the thermal expansion caused by warming, which leads to the rise in water level across the world. As coastal areas come under water, the land surface or total amount of unsubmerged land is decreasing.
3. Rain & wind
Rain, in its many aspects, is commonly mentioned in the Qur’an. The Qur’an was surprisingly accurate and detailed in its descriptions of how rain is formed and how it is sent down in "due measure” (Qur’an 43:11). The Qur’an also accurately describe the formation of rain in three stages, from the evaporation and rising of water vapor to the atmosphere where it cools and condenses into clouds, and falls as precipitation, in this particular verse:
“It is Allah Who sends the Winds, and they raise the Clouds: then does He spread them in the sky as He wills, and break them into fragments, until you see rain-drops issue from the midst thereof: then when He has made them reach such of his servants as He wills behold, they do rejoice!” (Qur'an, 30:48)
Yet, despite the tremendous variance of rainfall in different parts of the world, the total amount of rainfall across the world has remained consistent at approximately 5.1 × 1014 m3. This “due measure” results in an equilibrium, that if disturbed, would result in major ecological imbalance that could have devastating effects on earth.
There is also a fascinating description of winds within the Qur’an which would have likely been confounding to earlier believers. In surah Al-Hijr, the winds were referred to as “the fecundating winds" (Qur'an 15:22). The meaning of fecundate is to impregnate. Surely, it was impossible for the wind to impregnate humans. As our understanding of the world around us improved, we began to realize what the verse may be alluding to.
It was often thought that winds merely blew clouds and caused rain to fall in a particular area. However, modern findings have demonstrated the "fecundating" role of the wind in seeding clouds in the formation of rain.
“Fecundating” winds could also refer to the role winds play in pollination. Earlier scientists made an interesting observation that flowers on plants varied greatly. Some had big, colorful, sweet-smelling flowers while others had small flowers that were duller in appearance. The former attracted plenty of pollinators but the latter were virtually unvisited.
Many wondered: so how did these flowers get pollinated and fertilized for propagation? Their continued existence is proof that they are being fertilized, but by what exactly? It was then discovered that these plants were being pollinated by the wind and as such, had depended on a different set of adaptations that that facilitated their pollination by wind; large anthers that hung outside the flower and large feathery stigmas that enabled them to trap suspended pollen grains in the air more effectively.
Another example of a scientific miracle mentioned in the Qur’an is the description of two seas “meeting together: between them is a barrier which they do not transgress” (Qur'an 55:19-20). The existence of such a sea where waters do not mix has been recently discovered in the estuary of Tigris and Euphrates. This is caused by the difference in the density of their waters due to differing salinity in the freshwater and seawater. As such, the bodies of water appear to be separated by a barrier that does not allow them to mix homogenously. Similarly, the same phenomenon was observed where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet but do not mix due to surface tension.
The Qur’an also alludes to the darkness of the sea in the following verse:
“Or [the Unbelievers' state] is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by [dark] clouds: depths of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hands, he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah gives not light, there is no light!” (Qur'an 24:40)
It was not until recently, when advancements in voyaging technology enabled the exploration of the deep seas, that this was proven. It was discovered that just a mere 800 m below the water surface, no visible light can be seen. This renders the sea in complete pitch-black darkness, and happens as a result of the absorption and scattering of the wavelengths of light as it penetrates the water.