If only Allah could explain it so clearly!
with thanks to scienceblogs.com
وَالسَّمَاء بَنَيْنَاهَا بِأَيْدٍ وَإِنَّا لَمُوسِعُونَ (
Waalssamaa banaynaha biaydin wainna lamoosiAAoona
The above ayat, it is claimed by miracle seekers, foreshadows the modern notion of the expanding universe.
I have given the Arabic and the transliteration because it is important to understand the claim in detail which rests upon the word لَمُوسِعُونَ or lamoosiAAoona.
You will note that Asad's 1980 translation renders the idea as "we are expanding it" and it is this translation, perhaps more than any other, that has led some Muslims to see a miraculous scientific knowledge in the Qur'an and helped them to foster the idea that thus Islam is superior to other faiths.
But is this translation justifiable? Is there anything in the original Arabic to suggest that God is STILL expanding or stretching out the heavens? Or does the verse simply and more prosaically tell us that He has stretched out the heavens for us - much like the various verses in the Bible which refer, suspiciously, to the very same thing.
For if we turn to Isiah we can read almost exactly the same idea.
Isaiah, chapter 42: 5:
‘This is what God the Lord says—he who created the heavens and STRETCHED THEM OUT, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life two those who walk in it’
So when we find Arabic dictionaries translating لَمُوسِعُونَ or lamoosiAAoona as "stretcher - noun", those without a desperate need to find miracles simply assume the most likely explanation for one of the most infamous verses in the Qur'an is that Muhammad was inspired by the Jewish scriptures.
Indeed, we might claim that rather than proving the miraculous nature of the Qur'an, 51:47 is yet more proof that the author of the Qur'an used Jewish and Christian myths and writings for the basis of his revelation.
PS It is interesting to note that some Islamic sites still refer to the Qur'an miraculously referring to the Big Crunch in the ayat:
"That Day We will fold up heaven like folding up the pages of a book. As We originated the first creation so We will regenerate it. It is a promise binding on Us. That is what We will do". (Qur'an, 21:104)
How do they explain that the Big Crunch has since been discredited, I wonder?