Atoms & Sub-atomic Particles in the Qur'an

Dawahganda Argument

1. Original Argument

1) The Qur'an uses the word "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ)
2) "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ)" means "atom" (as per the modern Atomic theory)

Therefore, Qur'an contained knowledge of atoms (before anyone knew).

2. Updated Argument

1) Before the Quran, atoms were considered (by the Greeks) to be the smallest unit of matter
2) The Qur'an uses the word "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ)
3) "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ)" means "atom" (as per the modern Atomic theory)
4) The Qur'an mentions something smaller than atoms
5) Sub-atomic particles are smaller than atoms

Therefore, Qur'an contained knowledge of sub-atomic particles (before anyone knew).

Source for Argument

1. Harun Yahya – Sub-Atomic Particles


 لَا يَعْزُبُ عَنْهُ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا أَصْغَرُ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَا أَكْبَرُ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ

(Pickthall Translation)

34:3 - ... Not an atom's weight, or less than that or greater, escapeth Him in the heavens or in the earth, but it is in a clear Record


34:3 - la yaAAzubu AAanhumithqalu dharratin fee assamawatiwala fee al-ardi wala asgharu min thalika wala akbaru illa fee kitabin mubeen

For other translations, visit
For word-by-word analysis, visit

(ذَرَّةٍ) dharra is also mentioned in 4:40, 10:61, 34:22, 99:7-8


1. The meaning of "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) as "atom" is a modern definition
2. The argument commits the fallacy of equivocation & the Fallacy of Undistributed Middle
3. Anachronism: conflating modern Atomic theory with the Philosophy of Atomism
4. The updated dawahganda argument is based on a false premise
5. Translating Ancient words with Modern Terminology is not Unique to the Qur'an

1. The meaning of "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) as "atom" is a modern definition

           The primary objection to the dawahganda argument is that it is based on a mistranslation, or at the very least, an anachronistic translation. While the word "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) has acquired the meaning of "chemical atom" in the modern era,[i] no evidences have been provided to suggest that this word signified the meaning of "chemical atom" in the 7th century.

          Furthermore, Classical Arabic lexicons, such as Lisan al-Arab[ii] or Lane's lexicon[iii] do not provide such a meaning of "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) as signifying either the “philosophical atom” or the “chemical atom”. 

            The word "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) is mentioned 6 times in the Qur'an (4:40, 10:61, 34:3, 34:22, 99:7, 99:8). All 6 instances of the occurrence of "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) are used to convey the same or a very similar message. It is understood from the verses that the word "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) refers to a very minuscule object, the weight of which is insignificant. Such a word is used to convey, metaphorically, the triviality of a certain concept, deed or belief. This is immediately understood from all six verses.

4:40 - "...Allah does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom's ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra") weight..."
10:61 - "...not absent from your Lord is any [part] of an atom's ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra") weight..."
34:3 - "...Not absent from Him is an atom's ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra") weight..."
34:22 - "...They do not possess an atom's ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra") weight [of ability] ..."
99:7 - "So whoever does an atom's ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra") weight of good will see it,"
99:8 - "And whoever does an atom's ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra") weight of evil will see it,"

             The Qur'an's usage of the word "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) is wholly consistent with the understanding provided by Classical Arabic lexicons such as Lane's lexicon; which states the following3

           An important point to be noted here is the fact that none of the six verses are centered about the word (ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra". None of the verses expound on the meaning of this word. The significance of this matter is that the methodology behind the dawahganda argument boils down to translating this word using modern concepts and then claiming the modern concept was always conveyed by the text.

          Such reasoning is blatantly absurd. For an example, consider the word "proton" which originates in Greek and had the meaning "first". As such it is a common term that appears in the New Testament.[iv] The dawahganda argument above is the equivalent of a Christian evangelist who ignores the context and historical understanding of the word "proton" and claims that the Bible speaks of sub-atomic particles. Such an argument is fallacious.

            The word (ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra" has been translated as "atom" in modern times. This alone then forms the basis for dawahgandists to claim that the Qur'an foretold anything and everything about the atomic theory. Formally, such an argument commits the fallacy of equivocation & the fallacy of undistributed middle.

2. The argument commits the fallacy of equivocation & the Fallacy of Undistributed Middle

           The dawahganda argument takes the following form,

1) The Qur'an contains the word atom ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra")
2) The atomic theory contains the word atom.
Therefore, The Qur'an contains the atomic theory

            The equivocation fallacy is committed since the word (ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra" is equated to the modern atomic theory using a contrived translation of (ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra" as "atom" and without providing any reasons or evidences to establish that the two are equivalent. For instance, the word “atom” was in use by the ancient atomists of Greece to refer to smallest unit of matter. Their conception of the “atom” differs from the modern usage where atom signifies the fundamental unit of an element. Thus, the claim that the word “atom” refers to the modern conception can be suspected since the term could easily refer to the ancient conception of atomism which predates the Qur’an.

            The fallacy of undistributed middle is committed as even if it is the case that the word ((ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra" was meant to signify the word "atom", this in itself does not entail that "atom" is a reference to the atomic theory. For instance, as in the above case, the word “atom” could be a reference to the ancient philosophy of atomism rather than the modern atomic theory.

          Confounding this confusion is the relatively popular historical misconception that arose with the conflation of the modern Atomic theory with the philosophy of Atomism.

3. Anachronism: conflating modern Atomic theory with the Philosophy of Atomism

          The Physicist Robert Purrington notes the following regarding the conflation of Atomic theory with that of Atomism;

"It is important to distinguish atomism as a philosophical position (that is, as an a priori hypothesis about the underlying structure of matter) from what we might call chemical atomism, which around 1800 first gave the atomic theory an empirical foundation."[v]

          The difference between the two views is of fundamental importance. Ancient atomism had no empirical basis unlike the modern atomic theory. Ancient atomism is result of a simple hypothetical/metaphysical thought. The thought was centered on the question of whether matter was divisible definitely or indefinitely. Atomists proposed that if one were to repeatedly divide matter, one would eventually reach a fundamental indivisible unit, the “atom”. This metaphysical thought had no empirical basis in ancient times. As Dr. Purrington notes;

“...the ultimate structure of matter - specifically, whether it is continuous (and therefore essentially a fluid or an elastic solid) or whether it is made up of elementary discrete structures. This well-known problem has a long history, originating, as far as we know, with the Greek atomists of the fifth century B.C. ... Until at least the seventeenth century, the discrete structure of matter was strictly a hypothesis unsupported by any empirical evidence”[vi]

          As such, the ancient atomists would consider the “atom” as defined in modern science a misnomer since “atom” specifically meant “uncuttable” or “indivisible” unit; yet the “chemical atoms” as used in Modern science are composed of sub-atomic particles which are themselves made of further elementary particles. As the revered physicist, Erwin Schrödinger notes;

“The purely qualitative character of ancient atomism and to the fact that its basic idea, embodied in the word 'atom (uncuttable or indivisible), has made this very name a misnomer.”[vii]

4. The updated dawahganda argument is based on a false premise

            Recently, several dawahganda sites have altered the original argument. Rather than claiming that the Qur’an foretold the existence of “atoms”, they now claim that the Qur’an foretold the existence of “sub-atomic” particles. The future step, perhaps, is to claim that the Qur’an foretold the existence of the Higgs Boson. The reason for the alteration from the original argument can be reasonably suspected to be that the dawahgandists have had to acknowledge the ancient Greek root of the conception of “atom” which predates the Islamic sacred text.

          Predictably, the updated argument suffers from all the fallacies & misconceptions found in the evaluation of the original claim. Additionally, the newer argument is also based on a false premise and a weak inference.

          The 1st premise, which states that the ancient atomists believed that the atom was the smallest, indivisible, unit of matter, is a true statement when viewed in isolation from the rest of the argument. However, the argument as a whole has committed the fallacy of equivocation as it tries to suggest that the ancient atomists believed that the modern “chemical atom” is the smallest, indivisible, unit of matter. This is patently false.

          The ancient atomists neither had knowledge of nor spoke of the modern scientific conception of “atom”. For elaboration, refer above to objections 2 & 3.

          The 3rd premise, that "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ)" meant "atom" (as per the modern Atomic theory) is also false as demonstrated in objections 1,2 & 3 above.

          Since, the 3rd premise is false, the 4th premise is also false. The 4th premise attempts to infer “sub-atomic” particles from verse 34:3 where the Qur’an mentions something “smaller than ["dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ)]”. Since, it has been demonstrated that there are no good reasons to think "dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ) signifies the modern conception of an “atom”, it consequently follows that there are no reasons to think “smaller than ["dharra" (ذَرَّةٍ)]” is a reference to sub-atomic particles, quarks, photons, higgs bosons or any further elementary particles. Thus, the conclusion of the updated argument is false.

5. Translating Ancient words with Modern Terminology is not Unique to the Qur'an

          Additionally, this is not a uniquely Quranic phenomenon where ancient words are translated using modern scientific terms. For example, an English translation of the Bhagawad Gita contains the following passage (Verse 8:9);
"One should remember man's spirit as the guide, the primordial poet, smaller than an atom ..."[viii]
          Thus the dawahgandists would also have to acknowledge that if their argument was sound then the Bhagawad Gita also foretells the existence of atoms and sub-atomic particles.


            The dawahganda argument claimed that the Qur’an foretold the existence of either “atoms” or “sub-atomic particles”. The argument, however, was based on a contrived anachronistic translation founded on the historical misconception about the philosophy of atomism which was conflated with the modern atomic theory. Thus this miracle claim is false and debunked.

[i]. Hans Wehr. A Dictionary of Modern Arabic. Edited by J Milton Cowan. 4th Edition. Spoke Language Services, Inc., 1994, page 356

[ii]. (ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra" Lisan-al-Arab. Searchable online atذرر

[iii]. (ذَرَّةٍ) "dharra" Edward William Lane. An Arabic-English Lexicon. Librairie Du Liban 1968 Vol 3 page 957.

[v]. Purrington, Robert D. Physics in the Nineteenth Century. Rutgers University Press, 1997. page 113

[vi]. Ibid., 

[vii].  Schrödinger, Erwin. Nature and the Greeks' and 'Science and Humanism. Cambridge University Press, 1996 page 75

[viii].  The Bhagawad-Gita. Chapter 8. Verse 9. Trans. by Barbara Stoler Miller. Bantam Books, 1986. Page 78

Reddit Discussion

Dawahganda: Atoms & Sub-atomic Particles in the Qur'an

Additional Links

Articles & Blogs

1. Jochan Katz Does the Qur'an Speak about Atoms?
2. Masud Masihiyyen's Sub-Atomic Particles Mentioned in the Qur'an? How splitting atoms leads to degrading the Qur'an

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