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Chapter VIII

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Gravitation, The Quran And The Muslim Scientists

The classical Greek philosopher considered the motion of the celestial bodies and of objects on earth basically unrelated, as the celestial bodies were seem to follow perpetually repeating, non-descending trajectories in the sky.

Aristotle visional such bodies as possessing 'natural' motion that did not require external causes, while massive earthly objects possessed a natural tendency to move towards the earth's centre. Aristotle viewed that the body moving at constant speed required constant force acting on it and this force could be applied by contact only. These views impeded the understanding of the principles of motion and hence retarded the development of a theory of universal gravitation.

After the advent of the Quran, the Muslim scholars made wonderful achievements. George Sarton in his monumental 'History of Science' divided his story of the highest achievements in science into ages, each lasting 50 years and associated them with one central figure; thus 450 to 400 B.C. is the age of Plato, followed by those of Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes and so on.

From 750 C.E. i.e. after the advent of the Quran, there is unbroken succession of the ages of the Muslim scientists, Jabir, Khawrizmi, Razi, Masudi, Afa, Biruni, Omar Khayyam, and Avecenna etc.,etc. Till 13th century the Muslim achievements continued in the field of mathematics, chemistry, geography, physics, astronomy and medicine.

Muhammad bin Musa Kharizmi is renouned for founding Algebra Muhammad bin Jabir Al Battani is famous for logarithm and its application in astronomy. Al Battani made the astronomical almanac known as the 'Book of Correct Astronomical Almanac. (KITAB AL ZEEJ AL SABI). He measured the time of the orbital motion of the earth around the sun as 365 days 5 hours and 24 seconds. It is two minutes 24 seconds less than the 19th century measurements. He made very important observations on the moon and the sun eclipses and on parallax. During the rein of Caliph Mamoun many observations were build. Musa bin Shakir and his sons and Khawrizmi measured the circumference, latitude and longitude of the earth etc.

Al Hasan bin Al Haitham (ALHAZEN, 965-1039) made experimental (25) contributions in options and enunciated that a ray of light, in passing through a medium, takes the path which is easier and quicker i.e. it travels in straight lines. In this, he was anticipating Fermat's principle of least time by many centuries. He understood the law of inertia, later to become Newton's first law of motion, and he described the process of reflection in mechanical terms by considering the moment of particles of light as they pass through the separation of two media, in accordance with the rectangle of forces, and approach later rediscovered and elaborated by Newton.

Biruni (973-1048) said that the change of day and night is not caused by the sun, but the earth's rotation on its axis and the planets go around the sun. This was said 500 hundred years before Copernicus. He pointed to the power of the gravitation between the celestial bodies, and put forth argument about the earth being spherical, its rotation on its axis and its orbiting around the sun. He produced a new formula for working out the circumference of the earth. It is known as Al Biruni's rule. He also used the cylindrical astrolabe not only to observe the planets and stars but he also used it in measuring the distance of celestial bodies from the earth, their altitudes and the movement of the planets.

Al Khazini (12th century) worked out the theory of universal gravity directed towards the center of the earth; he put forth the assumption that the air has weight.

Qutubuddin Al Shirazi (1236-1311) and his pupil Kamaluddin gave the first explanation of rainbow. He started that the speed of light is in inverse ratio to the optical, rather than the material density of medium and that hyperbolical lenses avoid spherical aberration.

George Sarton mentioning the Muslim achievement says, "Avicenna (Ibn Sina 950-1037) regarded light as an emission by the luminous sources of particles traveling at finite peed, and motion."

Baghdad and the Muslim ruled Spain were the seats of learning when Europe was in its dark ages. The Muslim scientist's works and notions were carried to Europe as the European students studied there. The Muslim rules India attained the master progress in architecture and woven cloth. The Taj Mahal is counted among the eighth wonder of the world.

It is irony of fate that Baghdad was ruined by Tartar attacks. The Muslim rule of Spain and Portugal was overthrown and the East India Company of United Kingdom captured India. Thus, the treasures of the Muslim scientific knowledge were either ruined or overtaken by Europe.

After the history recorded the great devastation of Abbasids, the Ottomans took over, but the Muslim could never revive the scientific progress that was destroyed by Tartars, or Genghis and his grandson Halaque khan.

However, it would not be out of way to point out that it had been the policy of the British and European rulers to belittle the Muslim works so they never mentioned the Muslim scientists in the courses of study where they had their imperialistic or colonial rules. We could hear Aristotle etc. and then Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton and Einstein in the field of gravitation etc. etc.

Galileo is known to prove the earth's power of gravitation and that it produced constant downward acceleration independent of the bulk or composition of the bodies. He also realized that bodies uninfluenced by forces would continue indefinitely to move and that force was necessary to change motion.

Newton's law of gravity was known in 1687. He assumed the presence of an attractive force between all massive celestial bodies; this force does not require bodily contact but acts at a distance. He said that the force of attraction between any two material particles in the universe is proportional to their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

Later Einstein in his theory of relativity stated a functional relationship between matter, space, and time. His prediction regarding the dependence of length, time and mass on the relative velocity with reference of some standard of reference came out correct, particularly at the time of solar eclipse in May 1919.

However, the observations of the Muslim scientists of 10th and 11th century in all their scientific fields in general and particularly in astronomy were almost accurate and served as a torch light to the future progress. The Holy Quran was the guiding force to the Muslim scientists as this Great Book: "Is an unassailable Scripture,"

Falsehood cannot come to it. It is send down by one full of wisdom, worthy of all Praise. (41/41-42)

Now we shall see in the Quran as to how the celestial bodies are keeping to their places: God is He Who raised the heavens without (such) columns that ye can see, then took the throne of authority and subjected the sun and the moon (in their orbits). All running to an appointed term. He rules all affairs. He explaineth the signs that ye may be certain of the meeting with your Lord. (13/2)

And God said:

He created the heavens without (such) columns that ye can see, and cast onto the earth mountain, lest it should shake with you. (31/10)

And God said:

Do they not observe the sky above them. How We have made it, And beautified it and there are no flaws in it? (50/6)

The Holy Quran invited the attention of the reader in the above verses to the creation and rising of the sky and its adoration with planets and stars, stating that one cannot find any drawback in this creation. Here particularly three things have been mentioned. a) Creation and raising of the heavens on invisible columns, b) subjection of the sun and the moon (in their orbits) to an appointed time, and c) setting of the mountains on the earth lest it should shake. I shall take these points one by one.

The clause 'ye can see' is the translation of the Arabic word 'Taraunaha'. 'Ye can see' refers to the columns that you can see but they are invisible. That is to say the existence of the columns can be supposed between the sun, moon, and the sky. Here the Quran mentions all the three creations i.e. planets (as the earth and moon are planets), the stars (as the sun is a star in our galaxy) and the sky. The question arises, why o we require columns?

We require them to keep a thing in its place. The Quran has already described the movement of the stars and planets (see Stars and Planets), and their subjection into their orbits. Therefore, these columns are moving with the movement of the planets or stars to keep them into their orbits, and all this continuum is not infinity but exists for an appointed term as told by the Quran.

Imam Al Razi (Rhazes) in his commentary of the Holy Quran explaining the clause 'That ye can see' writes, "That it attributes to the columns and means without visible column i.e. there are columns for the skies but we do not see it."

He further says that we are guided (to the fact) that these (celestial) bodies exists in space by the power of Allah and then their columns are the power of Allah. The conclusion is that the sky is raised without (such) columns that ye can see, it of course has the columns but these columns are the power of Allah. He preserved, contrived, and sustained them in high space. They do not see this contrivance and they do not know the method by which they are held."

The beauty in Imam Razis exegesis is that, he has given the literal meaning of the Arabic text wrote that the columns are there but the people do not see this contrivance and they do not know the method by which they are held. Certainly, the people of this time did not know the method by which the celestial bodies are retained in their places, which Allah has contrived for the universe.

These verses might have made the Muslims scientists of the 11th century to mention the law of inertia and gravitation between the celestial bodies, but they could not develop it as was done by Newton and Einstein in 17th and 20th century respectively.

The second point regarding the running of the sun and the moon to an appointed time has already been discussed. (See Stars and Planets). Here in these verses the subjection of the sun and the moon means the subjection of our solar system in keeping to its appointed orbits. The invisible column of gravitation are doing this.

In another verse of the Quran, mentioning the running of the sun in its appointed place and the moon taking its mansions said:

It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night over strip the day.They float each in an orbit. (36/ 40)

Mentioning of the sun cannot overtake the moon and neither the night can over strip the day means that the sun, moon and the earth (as the night and the day occur on the planet earth) shall keep floating in their orbits, because of the beams of gravitation between the celestial bodies.

God said:The sun and the moon have one mathematical law. (55/ 5)

He is the cleaver of the day break, and He hath appointed the night for rest, and the sun and the moon have one mathematical law. This is the divine decree of the Omniscient. (6/ 96)

The daybreak is caused when the earth faces the sun while rotating on its axis, the sun and the moon have one mathematical law. This Quranic assertion of the 7th century has already been proved by Newton in 17th century. This mathematical law may be the law of gravitation, which has made them to keep in their orbits at one hand, and given them motion on their axis and orbits on the other.

In the verse, in question God described the casting of mountains on the earth lest it should shake. This is stated along with the creation of heavens with invisible columns. There is a perfect coordination between the two facts; the invisible columns of gravitation along with mountains maintain the equilibrium of the earth, (see The Quran and the Earth Sciences), so that it may not shake while running in its orbit.

Similarly, the Quran talked about the possibility of its deviating from its course (35/41). The power of gravitation of other heavenly bodies may also make it to shake or deviate from its orbit or axis. (See, 'The News of Ruination of the Earth and the Galaxies in the Quran')

However, in 7th century no body on earth can dream of traversing of the earth what to talk of its deviation from its course. These Quranic facts might have looked so odd, but the 20th century found them to be true. It is a recorded encyclopedic fact that in reality, the attraction of other planets cause the whole orbit to rotate around the sun and to undergo slow changes in shape and size. These changes are only perceptible to refined observation carried on very many years, they are more over periodic that is the orbit fluctuates in shape and size but can never depart far from its present form.

How wonderful the Quranic facts as to earth sciences are being attested by the modern science. The Quran talked of the invisible columns and also said that 'ye can see', and that we did see in our vision when Newton found his law of gravitation. The Quran stated the possibility of deviation of the earth from its track, the modern science proved it. This is the doubtless prove of the Uniqueness of the Creator, of His Book the Quran, and of His Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaho alaihi wasallem), and that he blessed humanity with the perfect order of Islam containing all the modern knowledge.

26) His famous book is 'Al Manazir'. It deals with light, its kinds, transparent, transcend, and opaque, the laws of reflection and the refraction of light etc.