The Weight of Clouds

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"The Weight of Clouds" is a document by Harun Yahya that purports to show that the Qur'an contains scientific foreknowledge when it "predicted" that clouds have weight.

The following is a side-by-side rebuttal.


"The Weight of Clouds", Harun Yahya[1] RationalWiki:

"The weight of clouds can reach quite astonishing proportions. For example, a cumulonimbus cloud, commonly known as the thunder cloud, can contain up to 300,000 tons of water. The fact that a mass of 300,000 tons of water can remain aloft is truly amazing. Like any good advertiser, Yahya shows something "cool" before his sales pitch. Happily, this time Yahya is almost correct: clouds have mass (but have only negligible weight), and he's off by about 299,450 tons.[2][3]

Attention is drawn to the weight of clouds in other verses of the Qur'an:

It is He Who sends out the winds, bringing advance news of His mercy, so that when they have lifted up the heavy clouds, We dispatch them to a dead land and send down water to it, by means of which We bring forth all kinds of fruit... (Qur'an, 7:57)

It is He Who shows you the lightning, striking fear and bringing hope; it is He Who heaps up the heavy clouds. (Qur'an, 13:12)

At the time when the Qur'an was revealed, of course, it was quite impossible to have any information about the weight of clouds. This information, revealed in the Qur'an, but discovered only recently, is yet another proof that the Qur'an is the Word of Allah."

Full text of Qur'an 7:57 (Pickthall):

And He it is Who sendeth the winds as tidings heralding His mercy, till, when they bear a cloud heavy (with rain), We lead it to a dead land, and then cause water to descend thereon and thereby bring forth fruits of every kind. Thus bring We forth the dead. Haply ye may remember.

Again, realizing that clouds have mass is nowhere near impossible. It's not incredibly hard for anyone, even in the 600s, to notice that "storms are windy", that "dark clouds bring rain", or that "plants need water to live".

Full text of Qur'an 13:12 (Pickthall):

He it is Who showeth you the lightning, a fear and a hope, and raiseth the heavy clouds.

In most translations of this verse, Allah apparently likes to torment travellers with lightning, which is lovely. Apparently the Qur'an chalked lightning up to Allahdidit, missing a great lesson on electricity. Oh well.

The fact that clouds do have weight isn't quite "foreknowledge". It's not hard to go from "clouds have water" and "water has weight" to "clouds have weight". Scientific foreknowledge is supposed to be something unknowable at the time. Perhaps this logic would have been discovered sooner if people hadn't attributed weather to the gods for so long.

We can also find this logic in the early islamic interpretations of the verse.

Tafsir Al-Jalalayn:

He it is Who shows you the lightning inspiring fear in travellers of thunderbolts and hope for those who are at home of rain; and He produces He creates the clouds that are heavy with rain..

Tafsir İbn Kathir:

(And it is He Who brings up the clouds, heavy.) meaning, He originates the clouds that are heavy and close to the ground because of being laden with rain. Mujahid said that this part of the Ayah is about clouds that are heavy with rain.


Summary of claim: The Qur'an accurately states that clouds have weight, which would have been unknowable to contemporary science.
Does this statement meet all criteria necessary for Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge?

  1. Is it correct? Yes. Clouds have weight.
  2. Is it in the Qur'an? Yes. No. The Qur'an does not specify how much weight clouds have, why they have them, that non-storm clouds have weight, or why they can stay aloft although they are heavy.
  3. Is it unambiguous? No. The Qur'an does not specify how much weight clouds have.
  4. Was it outside of contemporary knowledge? No. The idea that clouds have water, that water has weight, and that clouds therefore have weight, was certainly within 7th century logic.
  5. Was it outside of contemporary technology? No. While determining the weight of a cloud requires modern science (and which the Qur'an doesn't do), determining that clouds have weight is very possible, via knowledge that they contain water and that water has weight.

Thus, this statement is not an example of Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge.

See also[edit]