We Muslims believe the Holy Qur’an is the literal speech of Allah Most High - Creator of Heaven and Earth. Although the Qur’an is not a book of science, we believe it is the absolute truth and is inerrant. Nevertheless, certain statements in the Qur’an are contested as being false from a modern scientific perspective. Essentially, our response to such claims is that either they have misconstrued the actual meaning of the Qur’anic content, for the actual meaning is different and therefore does not go against modern science, or the Qur’an does indeed say something that is at variance with modern scientific observations, but it is those observations which are flawed and not the Qur’an. In this entry, I shall give an example of this. Allah says:
أَفَلَمْ يَنظُرُوا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ فَوْقَهُمْ كَيْفَ بَنَيْنَاهَا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا وَمَا لَهَا مِن فُرُوجٍ
Do they not look at the heaven above them, how We structured it and adorned it, and (how) it has no flaws?
The word I would like to draw your attention to here is furuj (plural of farj) which is usually translated to mean rift, crack, gap, etc. However, the word also means flaw (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage, p.698). Admittedly, most translations and explanations of the verse understand furuj to mean rifts or gaps. An objection that may be made against the inerrancy of the Qur’an, therefore, is that it claims the heaven above us (outer space, the cosmos), has no rifts or rips in its fabric. Yet the existence of black holes, or the theorized existence of cosmic strings would render this Qur’anic statement patently false. Now by understanding the word furuj to mean flaw in general, without specifying the meaning of rift or gap, something that is linguistically sound, this particular objection would dissipate. However, it may also be argued that our scientific observations and modern understanding of black holes is itself hotly contested, and that using words like rift or gap in space time to describe their reality is not entirely accurate. Cosmologists and physicists themselves avoid such language and terms because they are imprecise and simplistic in describing phenomena like black holes. As for the Holy Qur’an, its purpose is to direct our attention to the intelligent and flawless design of the heaven above us.