Was Muhammad as prescient as Nostradamus?
After last week's analysis of scientific anecdotes mentioned in the Qur'an, I thought I would follow up with other findings that I also ran across. When I examined the scientific conclusions mentioned in the Qur'an, I found that the results were valid; however, in most cases, the scientific findings had been known in previous civilizations. So, it was not like this was new information revealed by divine proclamation. The proclaimed scientific knowledge was not unique.
One of the online sources I found was called "Miracles of Quran." According to this site, the Qur'an has numerous predictions that seemingly have come true. I include three of their stories for your review. Two stories are hard to judge if they happened as described, but they are unique.
The First Use of Paper Money?
The verse [18:19] in the Qur'an reads:
"Even so, We awakened them, so that they may ask one another. A speaker among them said, "How long have you stayed?" They said, "We have stayed a day, or part of a day." They said, "Your Lord knows best how long you have stayed." "Send one of you to the city, with this paper money of yours, and let him see which food is most suitable, and let him bring you some provision thereof. And let him be gentle and let no one become aware of you."
The writers of the article suggest that the mention of paper money precedes any known actual use of paper money. An online newspaper, The Guardian, mentions that the first recorded use of paper money was in China in the seventh century, although it does not give details. Another source, Wikipedia, suggests that the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) developed a form of promissory banknote in the 11th century.
Chapter 18 was written in Mecca, which puts it before 622 AD. If indeed the use of paper money started in China in the seventh century, it's possible, though improbable, that Muhammad would have known about it.
My copies of the Qur'an did not confirm this finding of the paper money. I possess two different versions of the Qur'an, one translated by Haleem and another translated by Khanam. In both versions, the words used are "silver coins."
But wait, the writers of the article add a note. They say that "Warak" in Arabic means paper. I checked on that, and it does. But it doesn't matter. WikiIslam says that the word used in the Qur'an is "wariq," which means "silver, whether coined or not." Supporting that finding are several hadiths that use the word "wariq." It is probable then that "wariq" was used in the Qur'an.
So, I would have to postulate that the Qur'an did not predict the first use of paper money.
The UnMissing Pharaoh
While this story does not lend itself to a prediction, it does describe an incident that defies explanation. Back when I was a kid, there was a movie called "The 10 Commandments" where the actor Charleston Heston played the part of Moses. The actor Yul Brynner played Ramses, the Pharaoh of Egypt. One of the movie's highlights is where God parts the Red Sea allowing the Hebrews to pass through to the Sinai. There is a question among Christian scholars as to whether Pharaoh drowned in the pursuit of the Hebrews. In the movie, Rameses pulled up on a small hill overlooking the sea and watched his troops follow the Hebrews between the parted waters. A description of the action can be found in the Bible, Exodus 14. Nothing in Chapter 14 says explicitly that the Pharaoh, himself, was killed or drowned.
In Exodus, Chapter 15, the Hebrews celebrate their salvation with joyous song. When the Hebrews sang the Song of Moses in the chapter following the Red Sea miracle, they revealed that Pharaoh indeed perished when God closed the waters of the Red Sea. Exodus 15:19 reads: "For the horse of Pharoah went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them."
Another song in Psalms 136:15 reads, "…but swept Pharoah and his army into the Red Sea." These two verses, Exodus 15:19 and Psalms 135:15, would indicate that Pharaoh was swept to a watery grave.
The Pharaoh wore body armor that would have sunk his corpse to the bottom of the sea. Back in Pharoah's day, soldiers did not wear body armor, but Kings and officials did. According to Wikipedia, very little armor was ever worn back in those days in Africa because of the climate. Hieroglyphics made during the Old Kingdom depict soldiers wearing only a belt and a small triangular loincloth. Sometimes broad leather bands covered part of the torso of charioteers, but generally, soldiers are displayed without body protection. The pharaohs were, not surprisingly, the exception. They often wore copper and iron-plated armor with semi-precious inlaid stones, which offered better protection against metal arrow tips. This metal armor with semi-precious stones would have weighted down the Pharoah's corpse to the bottom of the sea, and it would have been irretrievable.
Here is where the Qur'an comes into play. All the mummies of the Pharaohs in the New Kingdom are accounted for. There is no such thing as a missing Pharaoh from the time of Moses. So, if he drowned, his body armor should have sunk his corpse to the bottom of the sea, and his body should be missing today.
The Qur'an reiterates the story of the exodus of the Hebrews and acknowledges that the Pharaoh's body will be brought back for others to see. In the Qur'an [10:92], the verse reads, "Today We will preserve your body so that you become a sign for those after you."
In other words, the Qur'an acknowledges that Pharaoh's body should be at the bottom of the sea, but it is not. All the Pharaohs during the time of Moses are accounted for.
The Uninhabited City of Petra
This last story was a prediction that seemingly came true, but there is no way to confirm or deny it happened. I happened to visit this "city" a few years back. The homes are carved into vibrant red, white, pink, and sandstone cliff faces. Petra is believed to have been settled as early as 9,000 B.C., and it was possibly established in the 4th century B.C. as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. Petra was the trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a central regional trading hub.
The prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was "lost" to the Western world for hundreds of years. It is located amid rugged desert canyons and mountains in what is now the southwestern corner of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The city sat empty and in near ruin for centuries. Only in the early 1800s did a European traveler disguise himself in Bedouin costume and infiltrate the mysterious locale. The city is now a tourist attraction, having been featured in the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."
So, why was it abandoned? This verse is what the Qur'an [15:80-83] says: "The people of the Rock also rejected the messengers. We gave them our revelations, but they turned away from them. They used to carve homes in the mountains, feeling secure. But the shout struck them in the morning."
While archeologists researched the city, they found a stele with Allah's name engraved. During the pre-Islamic era, the Nabataeans worshipped Arab gods and goddesses and a few of their deified kings. Nabatean inscriptions in other locations in the Sinai and Petra display general references to Allah and other gods. The word "Allah" was found on a religious stele, which tells us that Allah's messengers were there bringing his message. The Nabateans were warned to worship only Allah, but they rejected the message according to the Qur'an. The angels killed them with a shout, and their homes were not damaged. Thus the inhabitants have disappeared, but the carved out homes are still there for visitors to see.
This picture I took in 2019 reflects what some of the carved out hillsides looks like now. The residents abandoned the city almost 2,000 years ago and nobody really knows why.