While discussing about the possibility of the Quran being the word of God with an atheist, I drew his attention to the fact emphasized quite convincingly, among others, by Maurice Bucaille1 that the Book alludes, on many occasions, to the natural phenomena which have now, thanks to the tremendous advancement in scientific knowledge, been much more deeply explored than ever before. `If the Quranic description of these subjects is consistent with what has now been discovered in a period when none of these was anywhere near from being discovered, then there can be no explanation acceptable for what the Quran says except that its origins are divine', I emphasized.
The atheist was quick to dismiss my point by informing me that there have been other people as well, like Nostradamus, who have had the vision of the future and, therefore, there was hardly anything special in what I was presenting as a proof for the divinity of a book. The objection apparently seemed valid.
On deeper reflection on the contents of "The Centuries2", however, one finds how unacceptable the comparison between the two books is. While the Quran is a Book of guidance thoroughly clear in its description, "The Centuries" seems to have been carefully authored to render the prophecies it makes as vague and general in application as could be to widen the scope of its applicability.
We believe the Quran to be a miracle from God Almighty not just because its contents do not contain any statement contradicting any of the established realities; we confidently claim it to be His final Message because it qualifies in all respects to justify that claim: Its inimitable language, the remarkable history of its protection from human tampering, and
the thoroughly convincing arguments it presents to support its claim are some of the more important reasons why the Quran has to be accepted to be true to its claim---the very word of God.
In fact, one has only to read it in an unbiased manner to appreciate that it has been written by someone who is also the Creator of the human soul as well, for one notices complete affinity between the Message and one's innerself. The fact that its contents haven't made even a slight error in mentioning any of the natural phenomena is only an additional confirmation of that claim.
An example each from the book of Nostradamus and the Quran would help understand the difference in the nature of the two books.
Let us first of all take an example from the work of Nostradamus: one of the translation of his prophecies from the original work in French, which has been acclaimed to be amazing by its commentators, reads like this:
"Rain, famine and war will not cease in Persia; too great a trust will betray the monarch. Those [actions] started in France will end there, a secret sign for one to be sparing."
This is what Erika Cheetham, a translator and interpretor of Nostradamus's work has to say about this prophecy:
"This is an amazing quatrain by any standards. Politicians could not have conceived of it in 1978, let alone 1568 [when the work was written]. The monarch, the Shah of Persia, now Iran will lose his grip on his kingdom partly through rain, famine and war. But as Nostradamus states the war was started in France, in Paris, in fact, where Ayatollah Khomeine remained plotting his downfall.The secret sign for one to be sparing is difficult to interpret but certainly the Ayatollah's regime is extremely spartan in its concept."
It can be seen from the translation and explanation of one of the most remarkable prophecies of one of the most distinguished non-prophet predictors that it has been so carefully generalized that no one can be sure what has really been prophecized. The commentator, who is an avid admirer of the author, has to admit while explaining the above-quoted quatrain, which he himself has picked to be one of the most `amazing', that a part of the prophecy is `difficult to interpret'.
The basic purpose of the Quran is to guide mankind by informing them correctly about what their Creator---God Almighty---is and what He wants them to do. While informing about what He is, the Qur'an, on one occasion mentions:
"Indeed, the knowledge of the hour is with God alone and it is He who sends down rain, and He knows what is in the wombs and no one knows what it is that he will earn on the morrow nor does anyone know in what land he is to die. Indeed with God is full knowledge and He is thoroughly acquainted." (31:34)
The verse hasn't deviated from the real purpose of the Holy Message ie. guidance. While informing us about our Creator, however, the verse has alluded to a subject which can be brought under more rigorous scrutiny today given the level of knowledge that has grown on the subject. If we read the verse a little carefully, we cannot escape from observing that the verse is describing Allah Almighty's knowledge about four things and His ability to send down rainfall. Of the pieces of information mentioned in the verse, three are those which, it has been categorically mentioned, no one knows except God Almighty. It is quite significant that for the fourth---what is in the wombs---it has not claimed that it is an area of knowledge He has reserved exclusively for Himself alone.
Maintenance of this careful distinction between the two categories of information may have been a mystery for those who belonged to the earlier periods; not so much though for those living in the present one when, thanks to the developments in the field of science, undeniable information about what resides in the wombs is no more an impossibility. What other explanation can be given to this act of extreme care in the choice of words save that it is an act of One Who knew what is to happen centuries later?
The above two examples show the glaring difference between what is an act of a man who somehow had some vague, though not always accurate, glimpses of the future and what is the word of God which does not commit an error even in details on a topic which is not the real subject-matter of the Book.