This paper is intended to respond to atheistic criticism as proposed by Richard Carrier, in a rather large piece that is in my personal opinion and understanding, replete with errors and misunderstandings with regards to basic cosmological concepts, the Islamic viewpoint, as well as history. I also address a few polemics that were put forward by Freethought Mecca. Their article contains the particular objections that I shall address Insha’Allah, along with a spurious argument for Isaiah and then a few links to some other polemical sites ; needless to say at least for now these few objections are the only ones that are relevant to this particular paper. So let us begin Insha’Allah ; Richard Carrier has argued as of late that not only does the Holy Quran fail to predict anything amazing with regards to cosmology ; he goes one step further and claims that the Holy Quran is in stark contradiction with modern day cosmology. So on Carrier’s view, to accept the Holy Quran as the Word of Allah Subhana Wa Ta’alaa is to fly in the face of mass amounts of evidence to the contrary.
To begin I have to say that I did not like the title of his paper “A Response to Muslim Fundamentalists”; I mean it in a sense I am a Muslim fundamentalist as I adhere strictly to the fundamentals of the Deen ; however that is not what Carrier was trying to say. Carrier is seeking to undermine the Islamic viewpoint before even presenting it ; fundamentalists as most perceive them at least from a popular media stand point, are those who refuse to accept any conclusions of the modern times and are those who alienate themselves from the modern world. In Carrier’s argument, anyone who does not agree that the Holy Qur’an is replete with errors is a dogmatic fundamentalist, complete with the usual bias associated with the term he gives off the impression that the Muslim viewpoint is not even serious. Hence the title of his paper has its own place of power in Carrier’s argument ; however I do not think it holds weight as I will demonstrate in this paper, Insha’Allah.
Carrier first of all fails to provide a serious basis for his overall criticism ; due to the fact that the site that he links us to as the “Muslim” source is in fact a site owned by a non-Muslim. To my knowledge the author of the link is a Quranite ; meaning he rejects certain Holy Ayaats in the Holy Quran which endow the Prophet(P) with authority through his prophetic Sunnah.
A Cosmological Argument ? Or A Poorly-Structured History Lesson ?
To begin, Carrier once again seeks to under mime the Muslim position with an opening barrage of verbal hollow tips (very hollow indeed), he starts off with “.….Things like this have proven hard to explain to fanatics who are more practiced at pious denials than in actual historical research.” The same man who attacked one of the most empirically valid realities ever to arise from the field of cosmology now accuses all Muslims and non-muslims alike who do not agree with his brief browsing of classical polemical sources on Islam, of practicing pious denials ; rich indeed. However let us push pass the poor verbal barbs if for nothing else ; for the sake of brevity, now the first fault that Carrier commits is he assumes that Islam arose from Judeo-Christian sources he writes “Jews and Christians were extensively Hellenized, and Islam sprung from these very same religious traditions…” First of all Islam did not “spring” from Judaism nor Christinity and the bulk of the claims put forward in order to try and demonstrate how this is even physically possible, let alone historically plausible, have been refuted in great detail.
“…in spite of traditions to the effect that the picture of Jesus was found on one of the pillars of Ka’aba, there is no good evidence of any seats of Christianity in the Hijaz or in the near neighborhood of Makkah or even of Madina.“
Richard Bell, The Origin of Islam in its Christian Environment, 1925 and reprinted in 1968, The Gunning Lectures Edinburgh University, London : Frank Cass and Company Limited, p. 42
Carrier seems to offer a response to himself by acknowledging that the Muslims began translating Greek texts among others, within a century after the prophetic mission of Muhammad(P). Hence Carrier’s argument could be, if I am understanding him, structured as such “Muslims had access to Greco-Roman sources in abundance ; after Islam’s initial spread.” Of course that argument provides no firepower in favor of his overall claims in the least bit ; the Arabs according to all serious historical sources were barbaric, illiterate, idolaters who preferred tribal warfare to education, and went as far as to bury their own female infants ; that is, before Islam.
The Arabs remembered their entire bloodlines off by heart so as to avoid writing them down and they were indeed wise to do so as Carrier points out elsewhere :
- “…even a single page of blank papyrus cost the equivalent of thirty dollars-ink, and the labor to hand copy every word, cost many times more. We find that books could run to the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Consequently, only the rich had books, and only élite scholars had access to libraries, of which there were few.“
No Arabs had such resources ; in fact, as missionary Dr. William Campbell demonstrated the best naturalistic anti-Islamic argument for correct statements in the Holy Qur’an regarding modern embryology involves a doctor of the Prophet (P) who was taught in Persia !
He also is under the false assumption the Holy Quran was written after the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammad alayhis salatu wasalam
Carrier then imposes the fantastic premise that the Prophet (P) was well educated and literate. First of all I am not aware of a single historical source that supports his claim and he himself does not provide one ; Carrier is I think, confusing Arab history with romantic Greek history. A Noble Arab of the Prophet’s (P) time meant that he would be fashioned into a good wrestler, hunter and eventually a warrior. The very year the Prophet (P) was born tribal warfare nearly destroyed the Ka’abah ; furthermore the Holy Prophet (P) was an orphan who were not viewed highly in ancient Arab society. The Prophet (P) would later become a humble tradesman (hardly the high life that Carrier envisions for nobles) and in all reality almost all Arabs were illiterate and being a noble actually increased their chances of remaining illiterate as nobles were to be skilled warriors and violent protectors of their tribes honor ; not to be educated young men in large houses with maidservants and massive libraries. Even classical polemicists such as J.M Rodwell and Alan Jones admit that the Prophet (P) was indeed illiterate ; Carrier seems to have a habit of going against the grain without putting in the hard yards. He simply states something that is contrary to the facts and hopes we will buy it ; for example the claim that Christians and Jews populated Makkah we of course know that there was no real Christian influence in Makkah and that the Jews populated al Medina. To quote Dr. Nabîh Aqel :
“The big difference between Christianity and Judaism is that Christianity unlike Judaism didn’t have any bases in Hijaz, Christianity was an external source of enlightenment echoed in Hijaz either by missionary activities from Ethiopia, Syria and Iraq or from Alheerah’s Christian centers…“
Dr. Nabih Aqel, Tarîkh al-Arab al-Qadim, 1983 (Third Edition), Dâr al-Fikr, Beirut, p. 305
Carrier even goes so far as to state that the Prophet’s (P) family ruled Makkah. The fact is that there were various tribes in Makkah ; none of which were Sovereign rulers of the city not only are Carrier’s claims preposterous ; he hiself does not argue in favor of them. Apparently we are supposed to just accept his claims in the severe absence of evidence which in accordance with the old saying “actions speak louder than words”, I think, demonstrates that Carrier has no real empirical backing behind his claims.
Carrier also assumes that Islamic sources are all but buried in legends ; once again this shows just how little research was involved with his paper. The earliest Islamic sources have been dated back to the time of the Companions and show no traces of legendary interpolations and the fact of the matter is that the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith literature were both recorded to promptly to have accumulated legendary interpolations. The earliest manuscripts of the Holy Quran show that the scribes did not even space out Holy Ayaats (a true testimony to their literary mastery, the early Muslims simply memorized when a Holy Ayaah began and ended) and furthermore the early Muslims would have sooner died as opposed to sitting down in the face of scribal tampering. Even anti-Islamists agree that the Islamic sources are sound ; to quote “Dr.” Ali Sina, one of today’s staunchest critics of Islam and most infamous online Islamophobe :
- “The truth about Muhammad can only be found in the early books of history written inthe first three centuries of Islam.“
Carrier’s view of Arab history is thus idiosyncratic and bears no resemblence to reality.
Would You Like Some Cosmology With That History ?
Carrier finally looks posed to offer a detailed critique of the Holy Quran’s relation to cosmology ; however he predictably fails to address the Holy Quran’s outline of the universal creation. Carrier focused on the Quranite site from which he draws his conclusions on the Islamic view of cosmology, thus he writes
- “The idea that the universe began as some sort of gaseous vortex was ubiquitous throughout Persian and Greek ideology. That the Koran says the same thing is thus not at all surprising.”
The problem is that the Holy Qur’an makes no such assertion. Carrier is going pound for pound with a phantom at this point in time. Now before going any further which will just in all reality draw us further away from the topic of cosmology due to Carrier’s inability to stay on topic ; I feel it is a worthwhile endeavor to outline the Holy Quran’s explanation of the universes existence.
The Holy Quran does not say that the universe came from gaseous material, Allah Subhan Wa Ta’alaa says : “He (Allah) is the Originator of the heavens and the earth…“
The important point in this Holy Ayaah is that the Arabic context refers to the universe and the earth as one. Ratq mens “mixed or blended” so ratq describes the initial first materials that formed the entire universe ; including the earth and states clearly that they were mixed or blended. In the very initial stages of the universe ; the heavens expanded and cooled. Particles of matter and anti-matter rose briefly for minute periods of time ; however the temperature would not sustain them for long. Then the electromagnetic and weak interaction were cleaved ; later the neutrinos would separate from the photons aswell. Now almost all of the anti-matter and matter was annihilated in this cleaving, except the minute amount that remained. Thus the first elements came about ; and all this came to pass in around three minutes after the creation of time itself. These elements just as Allah Subhan Wa Ta’ala stated would ultimately form the contents of our universe ; including the earth.
So the Holy Ayaah stated that the universe and the earth where once one unit of creation ; true to the Quranic context mixed or blended this demonsrates that the Holy Quran does not mean that the earth was as it is now ; rather the Holy Qur’an I think explains that the earth had a long creation process(evolution if you will), beginning at the initial point of the Creation of the universe ; second the Holy Quran acknowledges that the universe was cleft asunder ; and that this cleaving of the universe would permit the existence of the initial elements that would form our universe as we see it now and more explicitly : our earth.
Thus the Freethought Mecca camp lodges a complaint ; which in turn does a wonderful job of unveiling their ignorance of Arabic and placing it on display. While always pasting the Arabic text of a Holy Ayaah complete with a transliteration whenever quoting from the Holy Qur’an in their articles, fact is it is apparent that they do not speak Arabic nor encompass the complexity of the Holy Qur’an’s language within their research. If I understand the argument they presuppose that the Holy Quran was composed by an illiterate man for an ancient people thus the Qur’an seems to be outlining that the event described in Surah al-Anbiyaa : 30 must have been presumably observable by the ancients. Fact is just like oaths, this is one of the idiosyncrasies of Qur’anic Arabic. The Arabic expression that can be translated as “Do not the Unbelievers see…” is just a linguistic feature to draw the readers attention to a specific matter in order illustrate point ; in this case the readers attention is directed to to the fact that Allah Subhan Wa Ta’alaa clove the heavens and the earth asunder.
Freethought Mecca then claim that due to some creation myths that have been rendered to an infinitesimal extent ; in a similar fashion, the Holy Ayaah is thus nothing spectacular. The first problem is that the Holy Ayaah does not say “separated the heaven and earth”; fatq is an explicit reference to a “cleaving” or powerful striking of one unit of blended or mixed entities. So googling an erroneous translation does not help their case. Second if we overlook their initial blunder from the outset of their polemic and read the creation myths ; none of the them explain that the heavens and the earth were “mixed or blended”; on the contrary they assume that either there was a solid cosmic egg, or that the the heavens and the earth where two solid objects that somehow got intertwined. All of the myths contain legendary aspects from magical wind coiling like a massive serpent ; to physical beings breathing in space.
The Holy Quran contains none of the aforementioned flaws/errors rather, Allah Subhan Wa Ta’alaa explains that the heavens and the earth were once mixed or blended, we thus reach their next polemic. How can the earth exist at this point in time ? As I explained before, I think that the Holy Quran does not state that the earth was as it is in the present time frame, rather it had a long creation process which began at the initial instance of the universes Creation. The Arabic context quite simply rules out the solid earth/connected to the universe hypothesis ; so the Holy Quran describes I think an evolution of the earth from the very initial stages of the universes existence ; that is the only way the Holy Ayaah can in my opinion be interpreted due to the context of the word employed “ratq”. In fact Abdallah Yusuf Ali ; who did not have the same knowledge nor resources that I have available to me at the present time, still wrote in his commentary on the Holy Ayaah in question : The evolution of the ordered worlds as we see them is hinted at.” Anyone familiar with the present day data knows ; that the initial properties in the early universe are what makes up the contents of our universe today, hence we can look at the beginning of the universe as the earliest point of the earth’s existence as it over time evolved by the Will of Allah Subhan Wa Ta’alaa ; the earth itself was Created from initial cosmic gas. The same way if I show my favorite picture of my mother and I you could object and say I am no where to be seen and that she is holding a baby ; the objection is mute that was me in the initial stages of my life and I grew over time by the Grace of Allah Subhan Wa Ta’alaa.
And last of all searching out similar explanations does not imply plagiarism, indeed is this not the way of the atheist ? Speaking out of both sides of their mouths I mean for the existence of God its all about empirical evidence ; when it comes to criticizing religion its all about feasible fanciful heresy. Take any random statement from lets say ; the Hawking-Hartle paper on the wave function of the universe, ensure that the statement is in quotation marks put the statement in a google search engine and watch how many hits you get. It does not imply plagiarism nor does it under mime their conclusion ; to be perfectly sure this is the last resort of the atheistic argument so when rational empirical explanations fail, cut and chopped theorizing prevails. Fact of the matter is the Holy Quran is exempt from the errors of the creation myths and worse still for the atheist ; I think the Quran is correct on the matter. And my interpretation is in accordance with the context of the Holy Ayaah, to the point that he earlier comment ors who did not have the present day data formed similar conclusions.
Now ; we then reach the gaseous point of the universe and the other instances of Creation Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala says : “He placed firmly embedded mountains on it, towering over it, and blessed it and measured out its nourishment in it, laid out for those who seek it, all in four days. Then He turned to heaven when it was smoke and said to it and to the earth, “Come willingly or unwillingly.” They both said, “We come willingly.“
- 1. Creation of the universe from nothing. (Surah al An’aam, Holy Ayaah 101)
2. The heavens and the earth were mixed or blended in the initial conditions of the universe. This is after the universes initial instant of creation (Surah al-Anbiyaa, Holy Ayaah 30)
3. “Fatq” the cleaving asunder of the electromagnetic and weak interaction ; which then annihilated all of the anti-matter as well as most of the matter, except a small remnant thus the first elements came about. (Ibid.)
4. The universe remains nothing but vapor i.e gaseous elements as the earth is created. (Surah Fussilat, Holy Ayaats 9 – 12)
5. Stars are beautified and the rest of the cosmos continue to change by the Will of Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala. (Surah al Imran, Holy Ayaah 109)
Nadir Ahmed drew attention to point five on radio with Carrier
He then asks why Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala did not name the components of the initial gaseous make up. This is where I must stress that the Holy Qur’an is not a science book ; the Holy Qur’an is not meant for university grade cosmology on the contrary, the Holy Qur’an is for all of mankind not a select few educated individuals. Allah Subhan Wa Ta’alaa says : “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember : but will any take heed?“
Thus I partially agree with Carrier’s last point in his initial opening of bullet point objections, he writes “The very passage in question is neatly quoted out of context…”; however the other four objections raised, have I think been cleared up as has the remainder of his last point. So far it is clear that Carrier is ignorant to the Arabic context of certain Holy Ayaats and has no real grasp on the Quranic account of the universes Creation.
To sum up, whether blatantly or indirectly Carrier’s entire paper is thus far based upon clear cut ignorance to the Islamic viewpoint. Of course he is not finished as of yet ; Carrier wishes to desperately drive one point home, adorned with various little shots at Islam in between. He wishes to demonstrate the Holy Quran’s presumably most vivid contradiction to cosmology. But naturally the point proves to be Carrier’s most astounding blunder in the entire essay.
He starts off by trying to make it seem as though Muslims have to “reinterpret” the word “day”; once again displaying his supreme ignorance to the language of the Revelation, yaum just means “period” and not a literal 24-hour cycle as Carrier tries to ground within the reader’s mind. Thus the Holy Quran is exempt from the Biblical error ; he continues on and thus makes our case for us and reveals the largest error this poor misinformed man has espoused thus far in this particular paper. He writes
“But then we see that verse 41:11 establishes an undeniable context in which the universe exists as smoke at the same time that the earth already exists…”
Very meticulous reading indeed, Carrier. Two thumbs up, hombre. However he then states
“since here the “gaseous state” co-exists with a fully-formed Earth. That is scientifically impossible..”
Excuse me ? Come again, Mr. Carrier ? Do you seriously believe your statement ? For lack of better words allow me to quote Professor John F. Hawley and Katherine A. Holcomb :
“All stars are huge balls of gas, mostly hydrogen held together by gravity.“
Professor John F. Hawley and Katherine A. Holcomb, Foundations of Modern Cosmology, Oxford University Press 2006 ; p. 126
Keeping in mind that gravity is merely a force and is in fact the weakest of the four fundamental forces and it is carried by a purely hypothetical massless boson “the graviton”, which has not yet been detected. Now the gas that makes up a star is held together by two competing forces, keeping in mind that dukhan can be translated as vapor as discussed before ; which is in turn merely a substance in a gaseous state. Stars can thus be counted in the universal stage that is described in Surah Fussilat, Holy Ayaah 12, as stars are merely gas held together by their hydrostatic equilibrium, keeping in mind that the majority of the galaxy is still filled with clouds of gas. Carrier then tries to form a polemic based upon the erroneous idea that the stas were yet to be Created ; I already covered this and Nadir Ahmed made it clear on the radio that Carrier was propounding a straw-man claim.
Carrier then — much like Freethought Mecca — resorts to claims of “cultural borrowing” indeed these tactics are tautological, it is clear that the Holy Quran did not borrow from the Biblical events or else the Quran would contain the same gross errors. Carrier himself states in his paper “Greek philosophers guessed a lot of scientific details correctly – they anticipated atoms, other solar systems, evolution, the laws of thermodynamics, the rain cycle, you name it. That doesn’t make them supernaturally prescient…” I agree so when Darwin proposed the theory of evolution I suppose he was plagiarizing/borrowing from the Greeks ? Carrier needs to re-asses his criticism, the ancients did indeed guess various details so if the Holy Quran mentions a correct phenomena that was perhaps encompassed in older myths ; that is not grounds to accuse the Author of the Holy Qur’an of “cultural borrowing”. Carrier’s strongest point was the seven heavens argument whih I think he refutes himself, Carrier wrote “…“the seven heavens” are traditionally delineated by the seven “planets,” i.e. the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn…” And yet the Holy Quran never says a word about seven planets and clearly distinguishes the sun and the moon from the category of planets ; hence Carrier’s claim is an ad hoc assertion ; he needs to show how the Author of the Holy Quran plagiarized. Then he needs to explain as to why the Author decided against including the erroneous “seven planets” myth and then if Carrier cannot demonstrate any of the above he would need to prove that there are no Seven Heavens.
In the Arabic context, it seems to denote seven separate universes ; if the self-reproducing chaotic inflation model is correct then this is very plausible. Inflation ensures that the universes initial conditions would be smooth, flat and homogeneous regardless of how it came about (it does not, however, solve as to why inflation took place nor why it was so well-calculated). The problem proposed early on, was the fact that from the classical proposals it didnt seem that the universes inflation field would be constant everywhere within the universe. So Andrei Linde proposed that certain portions of the universe are caused to inflate by quantum fluctuations to a high degree while others to a much lower degree. In this scenario child universes form from certain regions of the overall mother universe ; and the child universes are connected to the mother universe by wormholes however the wormhole that connects them also permanently separates the children. In some of these child universes inflation may not eventake place, and of course they may be governed by a completely unknown set of physical laws.
The Holy Qur’an could be correct in Hugh Everett’s many worlds interpretation too, even if the ekpyrotic model or Smith’s black hole theory is correct ! The fact remains that there could be seven separate heavens as the Holy Quran states. Thus ironically the Qur’anic claim is real science, it can be falsified or confirmed via observational evidence ; considering the accuracy of the Holy Qur’an I think we have every reason to place our faith in it as opposed to atheism. As Carrier stated :
- “It is they who are being irrational and unreasonable if they deny the obvious.”
Indeed, Mr. Carrier, and you, sir have been most irrational, Good Day scholar.
And only Allah knows best !