This is a transcript of a lecture delivered by Dr. Bucaille one night in 1987 at the premises of Chicago’s Institute of Islamic Information and Education. A specific date is missing from the recording.
I chose to keep the text as delivered albeit stricken, in part, by some stylistic shortcomings apparently caused by Bucaille’s somewhat limited knowledge of English.
Yet still, the piece is certainly revealing of Bucaille’s ideas on the subject.


Introducing the Lecturer

It is my great pleasure and honor to introduce to you Dr. Maurice Bucaille who is a prominent scientist. Dr. Maurice is a native of France who got interested in the study of Quran at some time in his life. He read the Quran in a French translation. When he later read the Quran in an English translation he noticed the inadequacies of the translations. As a result he learned Arabic at the age of fifty and he, being a scientist, took it upon himself to scrutinize the biblical narratives and the Quran under the light of modern science. He wrote his first book in French back in 1976 which was later translated and published in English in the late 70’s. The name of the book is The Bible, the Quran and Science. It is an excellent book. Then he came across the controversy of evolution and creation. He tackled that problem and wrote the book What is the Origin of Man. He has written a third book which is in the process of publication. That is Medicine and the Mummies of Pharaohs, in which he has brought out the identification of Pharaoh at the time of Moses (Mussa peace be upon him), when he was born, and the Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus.

Dr. Bucaille

Ladies and gentlemen, Assalaam-o-Alikum.

There is no human work prior to modern times that contains statements which equaled on the state of knowledge at the time they appeared that could be compared to the Quran. There is perhaps no better example of the close links between Islam and science than Prophet’s saying:

اطلبوا العلم ولو في الصين

“Seek knowledge even in China”

Which is an invitation to man to unleash his thirst for knowledge. More significant, if it is possible, is the Prophet’s famous saying

مداد العلماء أفضل من دماء الشهداء

“The scholar’s ink is more precious than the martyr’s blood.”

It comes as no surprise therefore that religion and science have always been considered as twin sisters in Islam. Today at a time when science has taken such great strides, they still continue to be associated and furthermore the scientific data is now used for better understanding of the Qur’anic text. What is more remarkable to see is that in a century, where for many, science has dealt blows to religious beliefs; it is precisely the discoveries of science that have highlighted the supernatural character of all aspects of the Quran. Generally speaking, science now seems, in spite of what people may say, highly conducive to the existence of God. Once we start to ask ourselves in an unbiased and unprejudiced way about the metaphysical lessons to be derived from today’s knowledge, for example the knowledge of the infinity, we indeed discover many reasons of thinking along these lines. When we think about the remarkable organization presiding over the birth and maintenance of life, it surely becomes that likelihood of it being the outcome of a chance get less and less as our knowledge expands in this field. To me it seems that scientific progress, in understanding the fantastic complexity of the human being, provides strong arrangements in the favor of opposite theory. In other words the existence of extreme methodical organization is presiding over the remarkable phenomena of life. In many parts of it, the Quran leads in simple terms to this kind of reflection. It contains more precise data which is directly related to the facts discovered by modern science. These are which attract the attention of today’s scientists.

For many centuries man was unable to understand them because he did not possess sufficient scientific means. It is only today that the understanding of the verses of the Quran, dealing with natural phenomena, has become comprehensive. Reading all the commentaries shows the inability to grasp the total meaning of such verses in spite of the knowledge the authors of these commentaries may have in their times. I shall go even so far to say that in this 20th century, which has all its compartmentalization of ever increasing knowledge, it is not easy for an average scientist to understand what is in the Quran about such subjects without having to recourse to specialized research. It means that in order to understand all such verses of the Quran, one is required to have absolutely an encyclopedic knowledge. By which I mean the one which encompasses many disciplines.

The Quran is a religious book which has no scientific purpose and whenever man is invited to reflect upon the works of creation and numerous natural phenomena, the apparent intention is to stress the divine source of the book. In these reflections we find illustrations of data connected with firmly established scientific knowledge. These findings clearly appeared in modern times. One must take in account carefully the meanings of Quranic text while making its comparison to scientific knowledge. There is a tragic example of the common translation of verse 54 in chapter 7, The Heights (Al Araaf) about the creation of the universe:

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ…

Your lord is the One Who created the heavens and the Earth in six days…

Nevertheless we know that the Arabic word أَيَّامٍ, which is usually translated as days, appeared in the Quran as a very long period of time instead of a twenty-four-hour-day. Other examples are mentioned in my book; The Bible, the Quran and Science. What appears to be of fundamental importance to me is that, in contrast to the narration contained in the Bible, the Quran does not lay down a sequence for creation of the earth and the heavens.
The major notion to be derived from the Quran is a concomitance in the celestial and terrestrial realms with the fundamental details about an initial unique gaseous mass the elements of which were fused together but subsequently separated. These notions are described in a part of verse 11, chapter 41, The Lucidly Distinct (Fussilat)

ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى إِلَى السَّمَاء وَهِيَ دُخَانٌ…

Then God turned to heaven when it was a smoke…

Also in a part of verse 30, chapter 21, The Prophets (Al-Anbiya):

أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا…

Do the unbelievers not realize that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then We clove them asunder

This separation process resulted in the formation of multiple worlds. This notion has appeared a dozen times in the Quran like in the second verse of chapter 1, The Opening (Al Fatiha):

الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds.

All this is in prefect agreement with modern ideas on the existence of a primary nebula and the process of the secondary separation of elements which were in the initial unique mass. The separation resulted in formation of galaxies and then it divided into stars from which plants were to be born. All this is in perfect agreement to the modern notions concerning the history of the universe. Moreover, a reference is made in the Quran to an intermediary creation between the heavens and the earth. In a part of verse 59, chapter 25, The Criterion (Al Furqaan)

الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا…
We have created the heavens and the earth and what is between them.

This intermediary creation corresponds to the modern discovery of matter which is described as “prisons” outside organized astronomical systems. Can we imagine that a man, much more than a thousand years ago, would be in a position to write such reflections which are in total agreement to the general concepts, about the universe, formed centuries after his death?
This means that the Quran is the word of God.

In the Quran we find notions about the nature and movement of celestial formations for example, the Sun and the Moon, which may have been previously defined as “luminary rays” in the Bible. Both bodies have been distinguished in the Quran by using different terms like light (Noor) for the Moon and torch (Siraaj) for the sun. Presently we know that the Moon is an inert body which reflects light while the Sun is a celestial formation which is in a state of permanent combustion and is a source of heat and light. The word Star (Najam) in the Quran is accompanied with another adjective which indicates that it burns and consumes itself as it peers through the shadows of the night. The word used for this is (Thaqib). The word (Kawakeb) definitely means “planets” which are celestial formations that reflect light but do not produce it. Today we know that celestial organization is balanced by the position of the stars in defined orbits and interplay of gravitational forces related to the mass of the stars and speed of their movement. Each is with its own motion. Orbit and own motions are the foundation of this balance. They are precisely what the Quran describes in verse 33, chapter 21, The Prophets, (Al-Anbiya):

وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ
God is the One Who created the night, the day, the sun and the moon. And each one is traveling in an orbit with its motion.

These movements are expressed with the word (yasbahoon). The primitive meaning of the word (yasbahoon) carries the idea of movement which comes from any moving body. For example, the movement of legs of the runner or the action of the swimmer in water is described by the word (yasbah). The sequence of day and night is expressed in terms that are highly significant nowadays.
The Quran uses the verb (kawwara) in a part of verse 5, chapter 39, The Groups, (Az-Zumar) to describe the way the night ‘winds’ or ‘coils’ itself around the day and the day around the night:

…يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ…

He coils the night upon the day
and the day upon the night.

The original meaning of the verb (yokawwer) is to coil a turban around the head. This is a totally valid comparison; yet at the time the Quran was revealed, the astronomical data necessary to make this comparison were unknown.
The evolution of the heavens and the notions of a settled place for the Sun are also mentioned in the Quran. All these notions are in perfect agreement with the well established modern ideas. More than that, the Quran seems to have alluded to the expansion of the universe. The conquest of space is also mentioned in the Quran. This has been undertaken thanks to remarkable technological progress and has resulted in man’s journey to the Moon. This surely springs to mind when we read verse 33, chapter 55, The Compassionate (Ar-Rahmaan):

يَا مَعْشَرَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ إِنِ اسْتَطَعْتُمْ أَن تَنفُذُوا مِنْ أَقْطَارِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ فَانفُذُوا لَا تَنفُذُونَ إِلَّا بِسُلْطَانٍ {55/33}
O assembly of men and jinn
if you can penetrate the reigns of the heavens and earth,
then penetrate them
but you cannot do so except with a power.

This power comes from the Almighty. The use of word power (Sultan) is an invitation to recognize God’s blessing on man.
Let us now come back to Earth and among many verses let us quote the verses of the Quran concerning the mountains. Modern geology has told us about the phenomena of folding which form the mountain ranges. The stability of mountains is linked with phenomena since the folds provide foundation for the reliefs that constituted the mountains. In verses 6 and 7 of chapter The Great Tiding, (An-Naba) we read:

أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًا {78/6} وَالْجِبَالَ أَوْتَادًا {78/7}
Have we not made the Earth an expanse
and the mountains stakes(?)

These “stakes” (أَوْتَادً), which are put into the ground like those used to anchor the tents, are deep foundations of geological folds. The same harmony with modern scientific knowledge is noticed in the case of numerous reflections in the Quran concerning the water cycle on Earth. This is a topic which is very well known today and the verses of the Quran referring to it seem to express ideas which are now totally self evident. But if we consider the ideas prevalent at the time of the revelation fourteen centuries ago, were a mere mixture of philosophical reasoning and superstitions than facts. But now those, who study and observe these ideas and similar other topics as well, admit that any wrong notion on such ancient ideas never appeared in the Quran. Let us quote a part of verse 21, chapter 39, The Groups, (Az-Zumar):

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاء مَاء فَسَلَكَهُ يَنَابِيعَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ثُمَّ يُخْرِجُ بِهِ زَرْعًا مُّخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهُ…

Haven’t you seen that God sends down water from the sky
and leads it through the ground
and then He causes crops of different colors to grow.

We must compare one of the aspect of water cycle, to which this verse alludes and other details about it in the Quran, with the other ideas prevailing long ago. The first coherent description of water cycle dated back to 16th century with Bernard Palissy. Prior to this people talk theory whereby the water of ocean under the effective winds was thrust to the interior of the continents. They then returned to the oceans via the great abyss, which, since Plato’s time was called the Tartarus. In the 17th century, great thinkers such as Descartes still believed in this myth. Even in the 19th century there was talk of a theory according to which water was condensed in cool mountain caverns and formed underground lakes that fed springs. Today, we know that it is the infiltration of rain water into the ground that is responsible for this. If one compares the facts of modern hydrology with the data found in numerous verses of the Quran on this subject, one cannot fail to notice the remarkable degree of agreement between the two.

More than anything else I was impressed by the statements in the Quran relating the human beings, the animal and vegetable kingdoms especially with the origin of man and reproduction. It is a blessing of our time that scientific progress has made the context of many verses of the Quran comprehensive to us. The ancient commentators presented them according to their apparent meanings, which of course was very important since it invoked divine Omni power, but they could not give a review of their real meanings due to the lack of scientific knowledge which is necessary to understand these verses of the Quran. Even today numerous translations and commentaries, made by men with only a literary background, give a mistaken view of the verses real meanings. Only a scientist can give their explanation. The biological expressions given in the Quran are highly significant. Such is the case with verse 30, chapter 21 The Prophets (Al-Anbiya):

أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاء كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ أَفَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ {21/30}
Do the unbelievers not realize that the heavens and the earth
were joined together,
then We clove them asunder
and We made every living thing out of water.
Will they still not believe (?)

It is the affirmation of modern idea that the origin of life is aquatic.
Progress in botany at the time of Muhammad was not advanced enough in any country for scientists to know that plants have both male and female parts. Nevertheless, we may read the following in a part of verse 53, chapter 20, Taha:

…وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاء مَاء فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ أَزْوَاجًا مِّن نَّبَاتٍ شَتَّى {20/53}
God is the One who sent down rain from the sky
and with it brought forth a variety of plants in pairs.

Today we know that fruit comes from plants that have sexual characteristics even when they come from unfertilized flowers, like bananas. In a part of verse 3, chapter 13, Thunder (Ar-Ra‘d) we read the following:

…وَمِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ جَعَلَ فِيهَا زَوْجَيْنِ اثْنَيْنِ…
…and of all fruit (God) placed (on earth)
two elements of a pair…

In the field of physiology, there is one verse which appears extremely significant to me. To understand this verse, it must first be known that chemical reactions occur inside the intestines releasing substances (nutrients) extracted from food into the blood stream. Blood stream then transports the nutrients to all the organs of the body, among which are the milk-producing mammary glands. This is precisely what is said in verse 66, chapter 16, The Bees, (An-Nahl):

وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً نُّسْقِيكُم مِّمَّا فِي بُطُونِهِ مِن بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ لَّبَنًا خَالِصًا سَآئِغًا لِلشَّارِبِينَ {16/66}
Verily in cattle there is a lesson for you.
We give you a drink from their insides,
coming from a conjunction between the digested contents
(of the intestines ) and the blood,
milk pure and pleasant for those who drink it.

The constituents of milk are secreted by the mammary glands which are nourished by the product of food digestion brought to them by the bloodstream. The initial event which sets the whole process in motion is the conjunction of the contents of the intestine and blood at the level of the intestinal wall itself.
The Quran considerably enriches man with data about himself as we shall see. But its teachings have been clearly understood in modern times. As a medical doctor, I was naturally attracted to natural sciences and physiology. I must confirm that when I read the Qur’an in its original language for the first time, these data about man was among those which impressed me most. That’s why as soon as I finished my study of Arabic; I delivered a lecture in the French Academy of Medicine with a special reference to the verses about the human reproduction in the Quran. In order to carry out a valid comparison it must be remembered that a lot of superstitions and myths were present in old times about this topic. Still we don’t find any reference to such myth or superstition in the Quran. Let us now isolate, from all these verses, precise ideas concerning the complexity of male fertilizing liquid – the semen, and the fact that an infinitely small quantity of it is required to ensure fertilization. This can also be expressed by the word; quintessence, if I have correctly translated the Arabic word (Sulalah) as extraction of elements from something else. The implementation of egg inside the female genetic organ is perfectly described in many verses by the word (Alaq) (عَلَقٍ). In the second verse revealed to the Prophet the word appears. Verse 2, chapter 96, The Clinging Thing, (Alaq) reads as follows:

خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ

God created man from something which clings.


I do not think there is any reasonable translation of the word (Alaq) other than to use it in the primitive meaning. It is a mistake to speak of a ‘blood clot’ here. It is a derivative meaning which is not appropriate in this context

The evolution of the embryo inside the maternal uterus is only briefly described, but the description is accurate, because the simple words referring to it correspond exactly to fundamental stages in its growth. This is what we read in a part of verse 14, chapter 23, The Believers, (Al-Mu’minoon):

ثُمَّ خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظَامًا فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْمًا…

We fashioned the sperm drop into something which clings
into a chewed lump of flesh
and We fashioned the chewed flesh into bones
and We clothed the bones with intact flesh.

The term ‘chewed flesh’ (mudghah) corresponds exactly to the appearance of the embryo at a certain stage in its development. It is known that the bones develop inside this mass and that they are then covered with muscle. This is the meaning of the term ‘intact flesh’ (lahm).We know today that the embryo passes through a stage where some parts are in proportion and others out of proportion with what is later to become the newly born human. This is the obvious meaning of a part of verse 5, chapter 22, The Pilgrimage, (Al Hajj) which reads as follows:

…ثُمَّ مِنْ عَلَقَةٍ ثُمَّ مِن مُّضْغَةٍ مُّخَلَّقَةٍ وَغَيْرِ مُخَلَّقَةٍ…

We fashioned you from something which clings,
then into a lump of flesh in proportion and out of proportion.

In verse 9, chapter 32, The Prostration, (Al Sajda) there is a reference to the senses and internal organs of the body:

… وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ…

God appointed for you senses of hearing, sight and hearts.

All these illustrations are in complete harmony with what was to be discovered centuries after the death of Prophet Muhammad. It is inconceivable that many statements in the Quran, which are connected with science, could be a work of a man. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to not only regard the Quran as an expression of divine revelation but also to be awarded very special place on account of guarantee of authenticity it provides and the reflections contained in it.

When we study the Qur’an even today it appears as a challenge to the human knowledge.