By Hina Iqbal
January 18, 2012
Religion and science have in general been two most ardent enemies of each other for centuries. What religion believes in is rejected by science and what science proves is refuted by religion. In the Quran, we have a scripture that is not only mathematically coded, but also has numerous verses with scientific implications, far advanced than the time of its revelation. The astounding nature of these verses serve to reiterate that the Quran’s source is divine. No human could have known so many of these facts 1400 years ago.
Surah Al-Hadid, or Surah of the Iron, on several accounts highlights the importance of iron and the many benefits the miracle that Allah had sent down give. It states: “And We also sent down iron in which there lies great force and which has many uses for mankind” (Quran 57:25). The word anzala in Arabic translated as “sent down” in English can be representationally used to understand that iron has been sent down by Allah for the benefit of humanity. Yet, if we look at the literal definition of this word meaning, being physically sent down from the sky, we can see that this depicts a specific scientific revelation. In fact, the iron found on this planet is not produced on earth, but comes from giant stars in outer space. This fact not only applies to earth, but also to the entire solar system. Iron can only be created in stars that reach nearly a hundred million degrees Fahrenheit, so our sun is incapable of doing so. Once these stars have accumulated enough iron, they burst in what is called a “nova” or “supernova” and release their iron into the space where it is “sent down” to various moons and planets, including the earth. By considering this quote from the Quran, we can conclude that both metaphorical and literal definitions validly apply to the fact that iron has been sent down to humankind. It is amazing to think how in just one Surah, we are able to derive so much knowledge - not only religious, but also scientific.
Allah also describes in the Quran that iron has “many uses for mankind.” Almost 13 centuries later, Michael Denton, a renowned microbiologist, wrote a book, entitled Nature’s Destiny, in which he only confirmed what has already been aforesaid in the Quran. He states: “Without the iron atom, there would be no carbon-based life in the cosmos; no supernovae, no heating of the primitive earth, no atmosphere or hydrosphere. There would be no protective magnetic field, no Van Allen radiation belts, no ozone layer, no metal to make haemoglobin in the human blood, no metal to tame the reactivity of oxygen, and no oxidative metabolism. The intriguing and intimate relationship between the red colour of blood and the dying of some distant star not only indicates the relevance of metals to biology, but also the biocentricity of the cosmos.”
It is interesting to ponder that Allah has sent us so many meanings in just one aya, and that he has revealed to the believers materials of such great importance. Other than being a true revelation from Allah - the All-Knowing - there is no other reasonable explanation for such advanced scientific facts to have been understood by the people 1400 years ago.
Another miracle of iron in Islam has to do with one of the isotopes of iron known as ‘Iron 57’. This phenomenon begins with the Periodic Table of Elements. This table, which was first compiled by Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev in 1869, identifies and places known elements based on their molecular mass number and chemical behaviour. It begins with hydrogen - the lightest element in the world with an atomic mass of one - all the way to an element known as Seaborgium. Iron is the 26th element on this table for a very specific reason. The sum of the numerical values of the Arabic letters that make up the word “Hadid” happens to be 26. The Arabic letters that make the name of the entire Surah Al-Hadid have a mathematical value that sums up to 57. This is the number of the Surah in the Quran, and it happens to be the number of the isotope of iron known as ‘Iron 57’. The Iron Surah is also the 58th Surah from the end of the Quran, which is yet another isotope of iron known as ‘Iron 58’. When it is mentioned in the Quran that, “We also sent down iron in which there lies great force and which has many uses for mankind” (Quran 57:25), this aya marks the 26th occurrence of the word Allah from the beginning of this Surah that is ‘Iron 57’s’ atomic mass. That is why, it is the 26th element on the Periodic Table. It is apparent from the miracles that Allah has put before us: That this has not been done by chance, but it has been done to secure the beliefs for those who believe in Him and His power.
When the 1961 Nobel Prize winning laureate, Rudolf Ludwig Mössbauer, began his work towards the study of the absorption of gamma rays in matter, in particular; the study of nuclear resonance absorption, he directed his attention to ‘Iron 57’, as it had the strongest recoil free resonant absorption of all the elements. Nuclear resonance fluorescence (NRF) can also be described as the resonance in tuning forks. When a fork is hit upon a hard surface, it vibrates with a certain frequency. When a second fork is struck with the same force, it begins vibrating with the same frequency. The same process can be applied to fluorescence, which is chiefly a form of resonance involving visible light. It is said: “When light is shined on certain materials, the atoms that make up those materials may absorb electromagnetic energy and then re-emit it. The emitted energy has the same frequency as the original light as a result of the resonance within atoms of the material” (Rudolf Mössbauer’s Biography).
Scientists began questioning whether other forms of electromagnetic radiation could cause fluorescence just as light could. In 1929, Ralph W. Kuhn came to the conclusion that gamma rays are able to display resonance, but his theory was soon disproved due to the fact that they have considerably short wavelengths, so resonance would have involved changes in the atomic nucleus to make this work. For roughly two years afterwards, no new evidence had been discovered to find any other forms of radiation that could cause fluorescence. The main reason for this project to be delayed for so long was because of the problem involving atomic recoil. “Atomic recoil typically accompanies the emission of gamma radiation. Gamma rays are emitted by an atomic nucleus when changes take place among the protons and neutrons that make up the nucleus. When a gamma ray is ejected from the nucleus, it carries with it a large amount of energy resulting in a “kick” or recoil, not unlike the recoil experienced when firing a gun. Measurements of gamma ray energy and of nuclear properties become complicated by this recoil energy” (Rudolf Mössbauer’s Biography).
For years, scientists searched for ways to reduce the atomic recoil, so that proper measurements of the gamma ray’s energy could be recorded. At this point in time, Mössbauer stepped in with a solution, this being ‘Iron 57’. He used this isotope to “fix” a gamma emitter within a crystal lattice, so that it produced no recoil when it released a gamma ray. Because ‘Iron 57’ was found to have the strongest recoil free absorption, Mössbauer was successfully able to find a way to accurately record energy levels of gamma rays. Not only did he attain the Nobel Prize in 1961 for it, but also received a vast number of science awards, including the Guthrie Medal of London’s Institute of Physics, the Lomonosov Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Albert Einstein Medal, along with many others.
The Quran is a miracle of Allah, a cornerstone of a Muslim’s faith. It is a tool that can be used and has been used to lay the grounds for future mathematic, scientific, and religious research from the little gems of wisdom found in even its smallest ayas. A Muslim’s destiny lies in understanding and incorporating the Quran’s teachings in every aspect of his or her life, and analysing the hidden meanings Allah has set before us in depth. One could call these miracles just mere coincidences, yet if this is to be the case, it may as well be one of the most astonishing and unimaginable coincidences, ever to exist.
The writer is a student based in the USA.
Source: The Nation, Lahore