Qur'an Predicted Black Holes And Pulsars

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This article analyzes the apologetic claim that the Qur'an predicted black holes and pulsars.

Claims[edit]

The following are two claims made by the Turkish apologist Harun Yahya, namely that the Qur'an predicted black holes and pulsars.

Black Holes[edit]

The 20th century saw a great many new discoveries regarding celestial phenomena in the universe. One of these entities, which has only recently been encountered, is the Black Hole. These are formed when a star which has consumed all its fuel collapses in on itself, eventually turning into a black hole with infinite density and zero volume and an immensely powerful magnetic field. We are unable to see black holes even with the most powerful telescope, because their gravitational pull is so strong that light is unable to escape from them. However, such a collapsed star can be perceived by means of the effect it has on the surrounding area. In Surat al-Waqi'a, Allah draws attention this matter in this way, by swearing upon the position of stars:

And I swear by the stars' positions-and that is a mighty oath if you only knew. (Qur'an, 56:75-76)

The term "black hole" was first employed in 1969 by the American physicist John Wheeler. Previously, we imagined that we were able to see all the stars. However, it later emerged that there were stars in space whose light we were unable to perceive. Because, the light of these collapsed stars disappears. Light cannot escape from a black hole because it is such a high concentration of mass in a small space. The enormous gravitation captures even the fastest particles, i.e. the photons. For example, the final stage of a typical star, three times the mass of the Sun, ends after its burning out and its implosion as a black hole of only 20 kilometres in diameter! Black holes are "black," i.e. veiled from direct observation. They nevertheless reveal themselves indirectly, by the tremendous suction which their gravitational force exerts on other heavenly bodies. As well as depictions of the Day of Judgement, the verse below may also be pointing to this scientific discovery about black holes:

When the stars are extinguished, (Qur'an, 77:8)

Moreover, stars of great mass also cause warps to be perceived in space. Black holes, however, do not just cause warps in space but also tear holes in it. That is why these collapsed stars are known as black holes. This fact may be referred to in the verse about stars, and this is another important item of information demonstrating that the Qur'an is the Word of Allah:

[I swear] by Heaven and the Tariq! And what will convey to you what the Tariq is? The Star Piercing [the darkness]! (Qur'an, 86:1-3)

Pulsars[edit]

[I swear] by Heaven and the Tariq! And what will convey to you what the Tariq is? The Star Piercing [the darkness]! (Qur'an, 86:1-3)

Pulsars are the remains of extinguished stars which emit very powerful, pulse-like radio waves and which revolve very rapidly around their own axes. It has been calculated that there are more than 500 pulsars in the Milky Way, of which our Earth is a part.

The word "Tariq," name of the Sura 86, comes from the root "tarq," whose basic meaning is that of striking hard enough to produce a sound, or hitting. Bearing in mind the word's possible meaning as "beating," "striking hard," our attention may be being drawn in this sura to an important scientific fact. Before analysing this information, let us look at the other words employed in the verse to describe these stars. The term "alttariqi" in the above verse means a star that pierces the night, that pierces the darkness, born at night, piercing and moving on, beating, striking, or sharp star. Furthermore, the term "waal" draws attention to the things being sworn on-the heaven and the Tariq.

Through research carried out by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, at Cambridge University in 1967, a regular radio signal was identified. Until that time, however, it was not known that that there was a heavenly body that could be the source of regular pulse or beating rather like that of the heart. In 1967, however, astronomers stated that, as matter grows denser in the core as it revolves around its own axis, the star's magnetic field also grows stronger, and thus gives rise to a magnetic field at its poles 1 trillion times stronger than that of Earth. They realised that a body revolving so fast and with such a powerful magnetic field emits rays consisting of very powerful radio waves in a conic form at every revolution. Shortly afterwards, it was also realised that the source of these signals is the rapid revolution of neutron stars. These newly discovered neutron stars are known as "pulsars." These stars, which turn into pulsars through supernova explosions, are of the greatest mass, and are the brightest and fastest moving bodies in the universe. Some pulsars revolve 600 times a second.50

The word "pulsar" comes from the verb to pulse. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word means to pulsate, to beat. Encarta Dictionary defines it as to beat rhythmically, to move or throb with a strong regular rhythm. Again, according to the Encarta Dictionary, the word "pulsate," which comes from the same root, means to expand and contract with a strong regular beat.

Following that discovery, it was realised that the phenomenon described in the Qur'an as "tariq," beating, bore a great similarity to the neutron stars known as pulsars.

Neutron stars form as the nuclei of super giant stars collapse. The highly compressed and dense matter, in the form of a rapidly revolving sphere, entraps and squeezes most of the star's weight and magnetic field. The powerful magnetic field created by these rapidly revolving neutron stars has been shown to cause the emission of powerful radio waves observable on Earth.

In the third verse of Surat at-Tariq the term "alnnajmu alththaqibu," meaning piercing, piercing and moving on, or opening holes, indicates that Tariq is a bright star that pierces a hole in the darkness and moves on. The concept of the term "adraka" in the expression "And what will convey to you what the Tariq is?" refers to comprehension. Pulsars, formed through the compression of stars several times the size of the Sun, are among those celestial bodies that are hard to comprehend. The question in the verse emphasizes how hard it is to comprehend this beating star. (Allah knows best.)

As discussed, the stars described as Tariq in the Qur'an bear a close similarity to the pulsars described in the 20th century, and may reveal to us another scientific miracle of the Qur'an.

Analysis[edit]

Black Holes[edit]

The 20th century saw a great many new discoveries regarding celestial phenomena in the universe. One of these entities, which has only recently been encountered, is the Black Hole. These are formed when a star which has consumed all its fuel collapses in on itself, eventually turning into a black hole with infinite density and zero volume and an immensely powerful magnetic field. We are unable to see black holes even with the most powerful telescope, because their gravitational pull is so strong that light is unable to escape from them. However, such a collapsed star can be perceived by means of the effect it has on the surrounding area. In Surat al-Waqi'a, Allah draws attention this matter in this way, by swearing upon the position of stars:

And I swear by the stars' positions-and that is a mighty oath if you only knew. (Qur'an, 56:75-76)

This verse does not say anything about a collapsed star. Only the position of the stars. It is the conjecture of the apologist that the verse refers to collapsed stars. In fact, some translations allude to shooting or falling stars, i.e. meteors.

Yusuf Ali: Furthermore I call to witness the setting of the Stars,-

Pickthal: Nay, I swear by the places of the stars -

Shakir: But nay! I swear by the falling of stars;

Khalifa: I swear by the positions of the stars.

Sher Ali: Nay, I cite as proof the shooting of the stars -

"Progressive Muslims": I swear by the positions of the stars.

Therefore, the apologist has not proven his case.

The term "black hole" was first employed in 1969 by the American physicist John Wheeler. Previously, we imagined that we were able to see all the stars. However, it later emerged that there were stars in space whose light we were unable to perceive. Because, the light of these collapsed stars disappears. Light cannot escape from a black hole because it is such a high concentration of mass in a small space. The enormous gravitation captures even the fastest particles, i.e. the photons. For example, the final stage of a typical star, three times the mass of the Sun, ends after its burning out and its implosion as a black hole of only 20 kilometres in diameter! Black holes are "black," i.e. veiled from direct observation. They nevertheless reveal themselves indirectly, by the tremendous suction which their gravitational force exerts on other heavenly bodies. As well as depictions of the Day of Judgement, the verse below may also be pointing to this scientific discovery about black holes:

When the stars are extinguished, (Qur'an, 77:8)

This surah does not speak about black holes at all, but about the Day of Decision (aka Day of Judgment). Therefore, it cannot possibly refer to black holes which were formed and continue to be formed long before this specific day.

1. I swear by the emissary winds, sent one after another (for men's benefit),

2. By the raging hurricanes,

3. Which scatter clouds to their destined places,

4. Then separate them one from another,

5. Then I swear by the angels who bring down the revelation,

6. To clear or to warn.

7. Most surely what you are threatened with must come to pass.

8. So when the stars are made to lose their light,

9. And when the heaven is rent asunder,

10. And when the mountains are carried away as dust,

11. And when the apostles are gathered at their appointed time.

12. To what day is the doom fixed?

13. To the day of decision.
Moreover, stars of great mass also cause warps to be perceived in space. Black holes, however, do not just cause warps in space but also tear holes in it. That is why these collapsed stars are known as black holes. This fact may be referred to in the verse about stars, and this is another important item of information demonstrating that the Qur'an is the Word of Allah:

[I swear] by Heaven and the Tariq! And what will convey to you what the Tariq is? The Star Piercing [the darkness]! (Qur'an, 86:1-3)

The verse actually refers to Tariq, a specific star. Some say it is the morning star (Pickthal and Sher Ali). Firstly, a star that pierces the darkness (or has piercing brightness) cannot be a black hole.

Secondly, if the reference by Pickthal and Sher Ali is correct, the Tariq or morning star is Venus, a planet and not a star.[1]

Even some Muslims believe that the Tariq could be Saturn or the Pleiades.

There are many different ideas said about the kind of 'star' mentioned in this verse. Some of them, from the point of its distance and highness, say that it may be 'Pleiades'. Some others, from the point of its brightness, say that it is 'Saturn', or 'Venus', or 'a meteor'. Some ideas say that it can be any star which glitters in the sky. But, taking note that the modifier 'piercing' mentioned in the verse for the star, shows that the star is not any star, but it is a forceful bright star whose light passes through the darkness of night and penetrates to men's eyes.

Some narrations denote that the 'star' is 'Saturn' which is one of the planets of the solar system and is very bright.

This very idea is also understood from a narration of Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.h.) when he was asked by an astronomer regarding what Allah meant by /thaqib/ in that verse and he answered: "It is 'Saturn' which appears in the seventh sky. But its light passes the skies and reaches the first sty. That is why Allah has called it 'the star of piercing brightness '."
Sura Tariq 86:l-10
An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Quran, Translated by Mr. Saiyed Abbas Sadr - 'ameli

Therefore, Harun Yahya's claim that the Qur'an speaks about black holes, cannot be supported by either the reading of the entire surah, or by the scientific facts about black holes.

In fact, Harun Yahya contradicts himself because he used the same Qur'anic verse to 'prove' Tariq is a pulsar, as opposed to a black hole.

Pulsars[edit]

Here are some of Harun Yahya's errors concerning pulsars:

1. Pulsars are hard to comprehend.

Their structure is as well understood as many other celestial bodies.

2. Pulsars are the brightest bodies in the universe.

Pulsars are weak optical emitters. Only a few pulsars can be seen with an optical telescope, and only one pulsar is bright enough to be seen reasonably well. In fact, it was not until 1967 that pulsars were discovered on radio emissions, not optically.[2]

It is not pulsars but quasars that are the brightest objects in the universe.[3][4]

Pulsars are also not the strongest radio emitters. The infrared star NML Cygni sat 1612 megahertz is the strongest radio emission line yet detected. Other strong radio emitters include radio galaxies such as Cygnus-A, quasars and gas clouds.

3. Pulsars are the fastest moving bodies in the universe.

Not proven. There appears some confusion between neutron stars and pulsars. Whilst it is true that all pulsars are neutron stars, not all neutron stars are pulsars. The fastest moving stars are neutron stars, such as RX J185635-3754, Barnard’s star or SGR1900+14.[5][6]

4. The term "alttariqi" means a star that pierces the night, that pierces the darkness, born at night, piercing and moving on, beating, striking, or sharp star.

The apologist gave the definition of the root “tarq” as beat or strike hard. Nowhere is there the implication of ‘moving on’. So, we are left with only a star that pierces. But does this mean that the Tariq is a pulsar? This tafsir defines tariq as way, not a pulsar.

The term / tariq / is derived from / tarq / 'to pound'. And / tariq / means 'way' because the path is pounded by the feet of pedestrians. The term /matraqah/ 'a sledge hammer' is used for pounding iron and materials like this. And since the doors are closed at night when people arrive they have to pound on them to gain permission to enter, then, that which comes at night is called /tariq/ 'the night-visitant'.
Sura Tariq 86:l-10
An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Quran, Translated by Mr. Saiyed Abbas Sadr - 'ameli

Here is another definition giving the meaning, ‘night visitor’ from the root of ‘knock’ing of the door.

This surah derives its name from the prominence within it of the word tariq, meaning ‘nightvisitor’. Like the other Makkan surahs it deals with matters of faith. And just as Surah al-Buruj concluded with a warning to those who belie the religion, so this surah opens on a similar theme.
. . .
An oath by the sky and by the visitor by night. ‘Nightcomer’ is given for al-tariq, from taraqa, meaning to knock, on account of how at night visitors would knock on the door, whereas during the day it was the habit to leave doors open, and the visitor would simply call out and seek permission to enter. Here what is meant is the star that appears at night, as the following ayat make clear.

Muhammad Asad reads Taraqa to mean beat something or knock at something.

Some commentators assume that what is described here as at-tariq ("that which comes in the night") is the morning-star, because it appears towards the end of the night; others - like Zamakhshari or Raghib - understand by it "the star" in its generic sense. Now if we analyze the origin of this noun, we find that it is derived from the verb taraqa, which primarily means "he beat [something]" or "knocked [at something]"; hence, taraqa 'l-bab, "he knocked at the door". Tropically, the noun signifies "anything [or "anyone"] that comes in the night", because a person who comes to a house by night is expected to knock at the door (Taj al-Arus). In the Qur'anic mode of expression, at-tariq is evidently a metaphor for the heavenly solace which sometimes comes to a human being lost in the deepest darkness of affliction and distress; or for the sudden, intuitive enlightenment which disperses the darkness of uncertainty; or, finally, for divine revelation, which knocks, as it were, at the doors of man's heart.. and thus fulfils the functions of both solace and enlightenment. (For my rendering of the adjurative wa as "Consider", see surah 74, first half of note 23.)

Does beat, strike, knock, pound, pierce mean pulse? It seems a stretch to suggest that it does. Hence the contention that the definition of Tariq of beat, pierce, strike, knock, and pound does not suggest the pulsing characteristics of a pulsar.

In terms of piercing the darkness, it would appear pulsars are neither the brightest, nor the strongest radio emitters in the Universe.

Regardless, it would appear that at Tariq refers to a singular star, not a collective of pulsars. If it is a single pulsar, which one is it? The Qur'an does not say, leaving the logical conclusion, due to its singular noun, that it refers to something the 7th Century Arabs knew about.

Conclusion[edit]

The analysis has shown (1) the claim that the Qur'an predicted the modern understanding of Black Holes is not backed by the scientific evidence (2) the claim that the Qur'an predicted the modern understanding of pulsars is conjectural and not supported by the scientific evidence.

It has also shown Harun Yahya’s self-contradiction as he used the same Qur'anic verse to ‘prove’ both the black hole and the pulsar. Since a black hole cannot possibly also be a pulsar, it appears that Harun Yahya has refuted himself.

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See Also[edit]

References[edit]