Quran's Description Of Coal Formation

- Published in News paper Saudi Gazette Jeddah On 23-6-2008

IN my various articles published with the courtesy of Saudi Gazette, the Qur’an in seventh century referred to such scientific facts, which could only be understood after more than thousand years of its revelation. The modern science is unfolding the Qur’an’s claim,

“We will show them our signs in the universe and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that this (the Qur’an) is the truth.” (Qur’an 41:3)

The Qur’an said,

“And Who brought out the pasture. Then made it decomposed with water turning it into black swarthy stuff.” (Qur’an, 87:4-5)

I have given the literal translation of the aforesaid revelation. The English translators have used present tense but the Arabic version refers to an act done by the Creator in the past. The words used in the Arabic Text “Ja’alahu’ meaning made it, ‘Ghutha’a’ meaning decomposed with water, ‘Ahwa’ black swarthy stuff. (Arabic/English Lane’s Lexicon) Imam Razi in his ‘Tafsir Al-Kabir’ writes ‘Al-Ghuthaan Ahwa’ which turns from green to dry and then changes into blackening stuff. He also said, “Ahwa means which turns into blackness after it gets moisture.”

If we look into the details of the coal formation, we find that the Qur’anic revelation is positively referring to the pasture and its conversion into coal.

These details could be classified in the 19th and 20th centuries. I shall very briefly look into some of the encyclopedic facts to understand the very spirit of revelation.

Two eras of coal formation are known in the geological history. The older era extends from the lower carboniferous to the Permian (Paleozoic) period, i.e. from 225 to 345 million years ago.

The second era is known as Cretaceous (Mesozoic) period. It reached its peak during the Tertiary Period i.e. in between 25-75 million years past. This is known as the third great division of the geological record.

The Qur’an also refers to the act done in the past by the Creator. Past is past. We do not have any grammatical division of the past in the Qur’an like near past or remote past. The Qur’an tells us the decomposition of the plantation.

The geologists are of the opinion that when the ground water was sufficient to cover the surface of the soil, a certain amount of drift replenished the oxygen and the water didn’t get acidified. Decomposition of plant debris under these conditions occurred to a greater degree. Some believe that bacterial decomposition had been the controlling factor in the formation of various types of coal. Decomposition of the organic matter under the depth of the soil is considered the initial stage of coal formation.

It is also considered that the great pasture beds in swamps or in water-logged areas, or aquatic plants in lagoons sank gradually in earth causing sedimentation with plant debris into stagnant water. These deposits are called peat beds.

They gradually sank more and more deeply in the earth’s crust. When waterlogged peat is covered with impervious sediment, the pasture is slowly altered by chemical reactions. It is called metamorphosis.

The carbon contents of the fossil plants’ material increase gradually. This chemical change is called coal formation. Thus the Qur’an in a very comprehensive short text described the formation of the coal form the greenery of the pastures, which include all kinds of plantation.

“And Who brought out the pasture. Then made it decomposed with water turning into black swarthy stuff.” (Qur’an 87:4,5)

- By Ahmad Wahaj Al-Siddiqui Al-Taimi