Aerodynamic Hints in Quran

“Or did they not see towards the birds above them, spreading and contracting (their wings)? No one holds them except the beneficent (Allah). He is certainly the Seer of everything.”(67:19)

أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الطَّيْرِ فَوْقَهُمْ صَافَّاتٍ وَيَقْبِضْنَ مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلَّا الرَّحْمَنُ إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ بَصِيرٌ

“Did you not see towards the birds compelled (to follow His Laws) in the space of the sky, no one holds them but Allah, there are certainly signs in that for a people who believe.” (16:79)

أَلَمْ يَرَوْاْ إِلَى الطَّيْرِ مُسَخَّرَاتٍ فِي جَوِّ السَّمَاء مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلاَّ اللّهُ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ

The above verses of the Quran invite mankind to reflect on the shape of and the forces acting on birds, which keep them in flight. This invitation to reflect on birds could be to inspire human beings to invent means of transport like aeroplanes. The history of aviation too provides us with a proof that birds had dominated the inspiration of man right from the start.

“Early attempts at aviation were often based on bird flight, where the flapping wings provides both the lift and the propulsive thrust.” (page 3 of Aircraft flight, written by Barnard & Phillpott)

The cross-section of birds’ and aeroplanes’ wings is called an aerofoil. The purpose of tail in both, in addition to stability, is to change the direction of flight. The legs of birds and wheels of aeroplanes are drawn in after take-off and while landing they act as shock-absorbers. Like aeroplanes some birds run for a distance and then take off, while others take off from the same spot more like a helicopter. The lift in both is generated due to their wings, the spreading and contraction mentioned in the above verse (67:19) may also refer to the contraction of legs during flight and their extension during landing.

The flight of birds and aeroplanes in space is influenced by the atmospheric pressure, gravity and the aerodynamic forces, namely, weight acting downwards, an upward lift, a forward thrust and drag in opposite direction. These forces in addition to the life and consciousness of the bird hold it in flight.

The difference between birds and aeroplanes are that birds have

  1. life as a force which is responsible for thrust, while aeroplanes have either propellers or jet engines and
  2. consciousness, which is responsible for maneuvering the flight, while aeroplanes have human consciousness in the form of a pilot or artificial intelligence in the form of computers.

Another hint is contained in the Quran regarding the invention of an aeroplane in the following verses:

وَآيَةٌ لَّهُمْ أَنَّا حَمَلْنَا ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ فِي الْفُلْكِ الْمَشْحُونِ~ وَخَلَقْنَا لَهُم مِّن مِّثْلِهِ مَا يَرْكَبُونَ

“And a sign for them is that We carried their progeny in a loaded ship. And We created for them (vessels) similar to it, on which they ride (or they will ride)” (36:41-42)

In the above verses, the term “yarkaboon” meaning “they ride” is a tense, which is used for both present and future, hence “yarkaboon” may also mean “they will ride”, which gives us a hint that such vessels like submarines and aeroplanes will be invented, which would carry human beings. The similarity between submarines & aeroplanes is that both are based on the principles of fluid dynamics. The differences being that of densities, viscosities, etc. of the two fluids, water and air.

The Quran has also hinted about aerial attacks through aeroplanes:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحَابِ الْفِيلِ~ أَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ فِي تَضْلِيلٍ~ وَأَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْرًا أَبَابِيلَ~ تَرْمِيهِم بِحِجَارَةٍ مِّن سِجِّيلٍ~ فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَّأْكُولٍ

“Did you not consider, how your Fosterer dealt with the owners of the Elephant? Did He not make their plot useless, and send on them flocks of flying creatures, who pelted them with stones of baked clay, so that He made them like eaten up straw (husk)?” (105:1-5)

Guiding human beings was the basic purpose of the revelation of the Quran:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِيَ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَى وَالْفُرْقَانِ

“(It was the) month of Ramazan during which the Quran was sent down for the guidance of human beings, and (it contains) clear explanation of the guidance and the distinctioin (between right and wrong)…” (2:185)

Through the above verse, as well as many others, the Quran claims to be a guide for mankind and through the verses quoted earlier it is proved that it has guided mankind even in the sophisticated fields of aerodynamics. It was our misfortune that we did not pay proper attention to such verses providing guidance in the feild of Science & Technology (as also in every other field). Had we taken the pains to understand the Quran as it deserves, we would have been world leaders in practically all fields.

This article was published in the May 98 issue of The Young Muslim Digest, Bangalor, India

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