Islamic Heritage of South Asia

A Bridge of Iron Between Faith and Reason

By Dr. Abdullatif Aljibury, PhD

With continuing advances in science and technology, facts start to emerge that show how we are living in a meticulously designed universe, intricately formed, physically balanced and tuned to its finest detail.

As we carefully read the Quran, we continue to discover many statements that throw light on the finely balanced physical world that we are a part of.

It all started, as science tells us, billions of years ago, with a single event that gave rise to the physical world. We can only imagine the enormity of the events that followed, and be guided by ideas that suffuse our minds with owe and wonder.

As we read and contemplate the verses from the Quran regarding natural phenomena, we find that they are in total agreement with the physical reality that modern science has so far proved as being factual. The topic that is dealt with in this article is the element iron which is one of the elements in the periodic table. The majority of the elements are found naturally, but some are not. The element that we examine in our story in this paper is iron.

The Quran: 57:25 states: “Indeed We sent our Apostles with all evidence of truth and through them we bestowed revelation from on high and thus gave you a balance to weigh right and wrong so that man might behave with equity, And We have brought down, from on high, Iron, in which there is awesome power as well as a source of benefits for mankind.”

God has enabled mankind by revealing the truth to discriminate right from wrong,  which is after all the ultimate goal of His revelation to mankind.  The human is commanded to observe and maintain an equitable balance throughout the natural systems.  He is instructed to convert to his use the natural resources, one example of which is iron.

Iron, as God tells us in the above- mentioned verse, is not native to earth, but has been brought down, from on high, which is what modern -day science confirms.

Although most of the Iron on earth is found in the central core of our planet earth,it was actually brought down from outer space where it was formed. Thedynamics of the process reveals the mightiness of the Creator.

Shortly after the Big Event, there was only the element hydrogen and no otherelement, gas, liquid or solid, in existence. As super giant stars were being made there was a tremendous gravitational force, the elements started to form from hydrogen by the process of fusion.

The hydrogen atoms under such extreme conditions combine to form helium atoms with the evolution of tremendous amount of energy just as in the case of the hydrogen bomb. The reaction will continue until all of the hydrogen atoms are converted to helium atoms. Meanwhile the newly formed helium atoms will themselves fuse together and start their own fusion reaction combining among themselves to form a new product. Now, the product of the fusion reaction of two helium atoms is a carbon atom. This fusion process continues such that two atoms of carbon combine to give an atom of oxygen and so on as shown in the diagram above.

The process of fusion continues until all of the hydrogen is converted to Helium nd from helium to Carbon to oxygen to neon to magnesium to silicon and then all of the silicon atoms in the chain process are converted to iron. By then, all of the fuel, so to speak, is exhausted leaving us with only a mass of iron at the center of the star.  The supernova, under tremendous gravitational force, then explodes and the iron fragments are blasted out into space. Some of this iron found its way to earth millions of years ago.

A massive amount of the iron, being very heavy, found its way through to the core and settled in the center of the earth which is the center of gravity. Less heavier pieces of iron settled at various distances from the center of gravity and distributed in the iron mines and around the crust of the earth as we find them today.

What makes the topic of iron so fascinating is that it is mentioned in chapter 57 of the Holy Quran which opens up, as we shall see shortly, many venues to the role that iron plays in our lives and that of our planet earth.

It is interesting to point out that the name of chapter 57 in the Quran is “The Iron.” This is the only chapter in the Quran that is named after a chemical element. The chapter number 57 is the center chapter of the 114 total chapters of the Quran. This must reflect the fact that iron occupies the center core of our planet and plays a central role in the health maintenance of human beings as well as other biological systems, plants and animals occupying our planet earth.

Verse 57:25, states that iron, which was sent from on high, has awesome power and is, as well, a source of benefits to humankind.

With the ingenuity which God has endowed mankind, this awesome power has been further enhanced by modern research and technology. From weapons of war to airplane carriers to submarines to rockets to more advanced and highly sophisticated and powerful forms use the iron that has been sent from on high. For this reason, God earlier on in the same verse warns us that having been endowed with the command of such powerful industrial and strategic an element,  we need to stop and reflect (about its appropriate use).  

Human beings need to use this awesome power wisely and carefully. They should not feel autonomous and lose harmony with nature and upset the equilibrium of an orderly life. Being conscious and humble must be our guide to live in peace and harmony.  We must distinguish right from wrong and maintain the global balance with equity to be of benefit to all humankind.

In the same verse, it is stated that iron, besides being a source of awesome power, has also many benefits for mankind. The benefits are noticeable in our daily lives. This is made possible with man’s creativity and skill in tool making and other innovations. There is hardly any place where one cannot notice an instrument, a tool or a machine that is made of iron. As a matter of fact, the advent of industrial revolution was made possible only through the use of iron which led to the construction of the railways, automobiles, bridges, cargo ships and so on. The list of material advantages of iron is literally endless. One can hardly miss the advance in transportation, which was hinted at in the Quran 16:5-8, which was made possible because of the use of iron.

We cannot miss the direct necessity of iron to the human body.  Every human body carries about 4 grams of iron in the form of hemoglobin which is so essential to the maintenance of life and sustenance of healthy living. Iron is involved in some essential reactions involving enzymes and other compounds in the human body. We can hardly breath, so to speak, without the help of iron. Besides, and to support our continued healthy existence, iron is also essential for the survival and proper functioning of animals and plants and their supporting ecosystems. Animals need iron in their blood  to breath and carry on with their daily lives, just as do humans. Plants need iron in their system to synthesize chlorophyll, which is essential for the functioning and existence of plants and for the production of oxygen so essential for life on earth.

Without iron, every living matter, from human beings to animals to plants, would cease to function and grow. Iron is a bridge between science and faith

It is worship to fulfill God’s command and to seek knowledge that will ultimately lead to the truth. God has prescribed the means that are available to the human to reason, think and reflect in a quest to understand natural phenomenon and use it to the progress of society and the created world.

God Has given Signs or guide posts to the faithful to follow and reach the desired end. In our continuing effort to seek knowledge, and learn more and more about our universe and beyond, what better means are there than science to facilitate the quest for the truth?