Does the Qur’an reveal that the moon has reflected light while the sun is a source of light?
Sura 71:15-16, states:
See ye not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another,
and made the moon a light (noor) in their midst,
and made the sun as a lamp (siraaj)?
The moon is called a light (Arabic: noor) and the sun a lamp (siraaj). Some Muslims claim that since the Qur’an uses different words speaking about the light of the sun and the light of the moon, it reveals that the sun is a source of light, while the moon only reflects light.
This claim is made on the two web sites listed at the end of this article, implied very strongly by Shabir Ally in his booklet Science in the Qur’an, and stated by Dr. Zakir Naik in his video Is the Qur’an God’s Word? To support this Dr. Naik quotes Sura Al-Furqan 25:61 which says,
Blessed is He Who made constellations in the skies,
And placed therein a lamp (siraaj)
And a moon which has reflected light.
(Yusuf Ali says, “a Moon giving light”)
Then Dr. Naik goes on to say, “The Arabic word for moon is ‘qamar’ and the light described there is ‘muneer’ which is borrowed light, or ‘noor’ which is a reflection of light.”
Not only is this claimed to be a statement in keeping with scientific insight, it is claimed to be scientifically miraculous since this was supposedly only discovered relatively recently.
It is correct that the moon does not emit its own light but only reflects the light of the sun. But this was known already at least a thousand years before Muhammad, for example to the ancient Greek astronomers, and can hardly be called miraculous knowledge.
For example when Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) discussed the shape of the earth. One of his arguments to prove the earth’s sphericity was the fact that during a lunar eclipse, as the moon enters or emerges from the earth’s shadow, the shape of the shadow seen on the moon is always round. Only a spherical object always produces a round shadow. If the earth were a disk, for example, there would be some occasions when the sunlight would be striking the disk edge on, and the shadow on the moon would be a line.
It is clear from this information that Aristotle understood that the light coming from the moon was reflected light.
Why would the Qur’an just use different nouns, calling the moon “a light” and the sun “a lamp”, to show this truth? If the author of the Qur’an wanted to convey this meaning, why does Allah not state it clearly? Why does it not say: “And the moon, its light is only a reflection from the light of the sun”? The words for “light” and “sun” are used many times in the Qur’an and there is an Arabic word for reflection (in`ikaas).
If we insist on scientific miracles, then we have the right to look for and expect scientific language and accuracy. So let us look at this in some more detail.
Do the Quranic words themselves support this claim?
The word “muneer” is used 6 times in the Qur’an. Four times, Suras 3:184; 22:8, 31:20, and 35:35 it is the phrase “kitab al-muneer” which Yusuf Ali translates as “a book of enlightenment” and Pickthall uses “the scripture giving light”. Clearly this indicates a book which is radiating the light of knowledge. We already looked at Sura 25:61 where “qamar al-muneer” is translated as “a moon giving light”. The sixth verse will be discussed below.
Thus we find that the Qur’an never says that the moon is not a light, and it never says that the moon reflects light. In fact, the Qur’an uses exactly the wrong language from a scientific point of view. It says in Suras 71:16 and 10:5 that Allah “made the moon a light” . However, in other verses the Qur’an says that Allah is a “noor”, a light. Look at Sura An-Noor 24:35, one of the most beautiful passages in the Qur’an. It reads:
Allah is the Light (noor) of the heavens and the earth.
The Parable of His Light (noor) is as if there were a Niche
and within it a Lamp (misbah): the Lamp (misbah) enclosed in Glass:
the glass as it were a brilliant star:
Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive,
neither of the east nor of the west,
whose oil is well-nigh luminous,
though fire scarce touched it: Light (noor) upon Light (noor)!
God does guide whom He will to His Light (noor):
God does set forth Parables for men: and God does know all things.
Concerning the word “siraaj”, in Suras 71:15-16 and 26:61 it is simply “lamp” referring to the sun. In Sura 78:13 “siraajan wahhajan” means “a dazzling lamp”, again indicating the sun.
If you continue to insist that “noor” (used for the moon) means borrowed or reflected light, in comparison to the word (siraaj = lamp) used for the sun, consider the following verses.
In Sura 24:35 we read that “Allah is the light (noor) of the heavens and the earth.” If “noor” means reflected light, what is the source of this light (siraaj) which Allah is only a reflection of?
Think about it. Why is Allah called “noor” and not “siraaj”? Who? What is the “siraaj”?
Well the Qur’an tells us who the “siraaj” is, but the answer will shock you. In Sura 33:45-46 we find:
O Prophet! Truly We have sent thee as a Witness,
a Bearer of Glad Tidings and a Warner
and as one who invites to Allah’s (Grace) by His leave
and as a lamp spreading light.
“And as a lamp spreading light” in Arabic is “wa siraajan muneeran”.
Linguistically, this is the end of the discussion. Here “siraaj” and the adjective “muneer” are used together for the same shining object. It is ridiculous to try to maintain that “muneer” implies reflection rather than its own brilliance.
And spiritually, if you insist that the Arabic words “noor” and “muneer” imply “reflected light, then based on the use of these words in the Qur’an, Muhammad is like the sun, and Allah is like the moon.
Do Muslims really want to say that Muhammad is the source of light, and Allah is only his reflection.
Why are these so called scientific claims made which no Muslim can support if he makes a serious study of his own Qur’an? It makes honest discussion very difficult.