Saturday, November 24, 2012

Speed of light (32:5) miracle examined...half-heartedly.

Some Muslims (let's call them bucailleists) insist that verse 32:5 in the Qur'an, if properly interpreted, can be seen to refer to the speed of light, and thus prove beyond doubt that the Qur'an is divinely inspired.

Here is 32:5 (in the translation preferred by the bucailleists):
He regulates the affair from the heaven to the earth; then shall it ascend to Him in a day the measure of which is a thousand years of what you count.
another (Assad) translation runs like this:
He governs all that exists, from the celestial space to the earth; and in the end all shall ascend unto Him [for judgment] on a Day the length whereof will be [like] a thousand years of your reckoning 
"Whoa! Hang on!" I hear you say. "How on Earth do you manage to get the speed of light from that?!"
Now believe me - I understand your incredulity, but let's examine the claim in detail to see how and why so many apparently sensible and sane people have been convinced.
Their reasoning goes as follows: what you count refers to the movement of the moon since, the claim goes, the moon is what the people used to help them count time -what you count. Let's stop for a moment and consider our first, and to my mind, insurmountable objection.

First objection - the translation "a thousand years of what you count" cannot, in a thousand years of ours or anybody else's time, ever be made to mean the distance traveled by the  moon.

The Qur'an is supposed to be clear. If Allah had meant us to understand the distance covered by the moon by 32:5, there is no reason why he should not have said exactly that. It's hardly a difficult notion to grasp, after all. The people of the desert could have understood it. The verse is simply referring to Allah's immensity by comparing how a short period time to him is a long time to us.
Let's look at some other translations:
He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon. (Picktall)
He rules (all) affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end will (all affairs) go up to Him, on a Day, the space whereof will be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning.(Ali)
He manages and regulates (every) affair from the heavens to the earth; then it (affair) will go up to Him, in one Day, the space whereof is a thousand years of your reckoning (i.e. reckoning of our present world's time) (Khan)
He arranges [each] matter from the heaven to the earth; then it will ascend to Him in a Day, the extent of which is a thousand years of those which you count.(Saheeh International)
Él dispone en el cielo todo lo de la tierra. Luego, todo ascenderá a Él en un día equivalente en duración a mil años de los vuestros. (Julio Cortes) ("equivalent in duration to a thousand of your years")
And I could go on and on, but the point has been made. No other translator ever thought to suggest the line referred to anything other than time.
To stretch the meaning in such a way that the what of what you count refers not just to the moon but the distance traveled by the moon is patently ridiculous. But when has that ever stopped the desperate attempts of the miracle seekers? 

But what could possibly have put this notion into the heads of the miracle seekers in the first place? A slight but hardly accurate or earth shattering coincidence is what.

Second objection - a coincidence Jim - but not as we know it.  Somewhere in the vast reaches of space there are desperate people hopefully trawling through the 300 odd pages of the Qur'an in the hope of finding ...SCIENCE. And you don't get mush more "sciencey" than the speed of light. So when some sad geek came up with the notion that if one takes the distance traveled by the moon in a thousand years and worked out how quickly it would have to go to travel the same distance in a day and realised that one gets something approximating  to the speed of light... he saw a gold dust. Now I say approximating because in fact when one does the maths we find that rather than the figure being 299 792 458 m / s (the actual speed of light) we get 266 815 288 m/s a difference of a whopping 32 977 170 m/s (11%). Now even the most ardent miracle seeker would have to admit that should he have meant to show us a miracle by revealing the speed of light hidden in a verse in the Qur'an then Allah should have done the bloody maths a bit better. Which leads us to our third objection...

Third objection - skew the physics to fit the need. Now, of course the bucailleists were aware of this difference. Here's a quote from the most professional (if I can use such a word in this context) speed-of-light site: 
when we compare the nominal speed of light with 12000 Lunar Orbits / Earth Day inside the gravitational field of the sun (non-inertial frame) we get 11% difference
So they admit  to the difference: either the moon is "too slow" or the speed of light is "too fast" - by a margin of approximately 33 million m/s!
How then do they get around this seemingly insurmountable problem? The clue is in the word nominal- meaning in name only...not actual/real.  It's only the supposed speed, they say. To find the real speed of the moon or of light is a bit more tricky.
In fact a bit more tricky is an understatement since their explanation requires a knowledge of advanced physics, the Theory of General Relativity (notice how Muslims are happy to accept "theories" when it suits them but reject the "theory" of evolution as "just a theory"because it contradicts the Qur'an...), "ocean friction", and the difference between inertial and non-inertial frames of reference.

Now I was going to examine all of the above but to be honest I've sort of lost the will to carry on - and I've got side-tracked of late by (another) shocking mail from my convert friend who still thinks that 9-11 and 7-7 were not terrorist outrages carried out by Muslim extremists but rather were false flag operations by Mossad and US and UK services.

So that's what's coming next. Be warned...


  1. What have I been banging on about(?)! If you take the Assad version "length whereof will be [like] a thousand years of your reckoning"

    the word "like" clearly shows that he is giving an impression of "a really really really long time" and not relating a fact.

    "its a bit like"
    "its kind of like"

    Clearly giving an impression and not a fact - a manner of speech, a phrase, a way of communicating.

    Language and communication issues. Its always language and communication issues at the root of every problem known to mankind, I'm sure of it.

    1. It is not about which version you choose or the way you try to claim that your ideas are correct. Do not put forward the mistranslated "issue" here. Once I was like you supporting them with various tricks.

  2. @Jasmine,
    You're right, of course, but I wish, I wish Bucailleists thought like you!

  3. @Spinoza,
    I've heard such conspiracy theories too, and Bucailleists here in India, like the parasite Zakir Naik, go on and on about it and you have my Muslim friends drinking in every word of what he says. They talk about 'rational' Islam, but this blind acceptance of whatever trash these new eisegetes (not exegetes) talk reminds me of medieval priestcraft more than anything else. At least here in India no one thinks that the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai were by the US, UK, Mossad, or India's homegrown secret Services. BTW, Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving terrorist of 26/11, was hanged on Wednesday. In a country where justice is often derailed or a is a case of too little, too late, this news was met with cheers from the public, with people distributing sweets on the streets. Sure, there were the usual human rights activists banging on about hanging being inhuman, but hey, it wasn't their family members who died that day.

  4. This 'Miracle' is obviously not one, and that's why you will only find it on a few websites.

    Organizations like IERA would certainly not pick up this kind of 'miracles' in their program.

  5. This concept of god's time being different to human/earth time was nothing new during the time of Muhammad.

    In the Bible some 550 years earlier we have the verse:

    Bible 2 Peter 3:8 - ‘But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

    In Hindu Vedic time system which pre-dates the Qur'an by a couple thousand years we have:

    In this cyclic process of time, 1000 chaturyuga or mahayuga period is called a Kalpa, and period of time is equal to a daytime for the Brahma, the creator of the universe. A thousand and a thousand (i.e. two thousand) chaturyuga-s are said to be one day and night of Brahmā (the creator). (Source:

    The problem also occurs when Muhammad forgot what was revealed at one time and quotes a different figure in another at a another occasion.

    Quran 70:4 - The angels and the Spirit will ascend to Him during a Day the extent of which is fifty thousand years.

    Here we have Muhammad saying that the Day of the Lord is 50,000 human years. Obviously an over exaggeration of his earlier revelation.

    So this verse really has nothing to do with the speed of light. Simply it was a means of dumbfounding the masses about the glorious unperceivable nature of God that was previously found in many religious traditions.