Yunus Telliel examined Quranic "scientific miracles" — scientific discoveries that are predicted in literal translations of the Quran — in a talk in White Hall on Monday.
Telliel's ideas originated from a conversation he had with a stranger on a bus ride to Istanbul.
His talk was part two of a three-part series hosted by the Near Eastern Studies department in its search for a new assistant professor. Telliel is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, researching the "cultural shift that transformed, and continues to transform, Quran translation practices."
One of the predictions the Quran makes is the idea that the universe is constantly expanding and another is the prediction of the stages of fetal growth. Telliel said that both of these examples, among others, can be found in literal translations of the Quran.
Telliel argued that the fact that the Quran was revealed in Old Arabic was only a "contingent factor," a simple byproduct of the fact that it was delivered to Arabs. He did not attribute it to Arabic linguistic superiority — a shift from what some in the Muslim world believe. Telliel argued that the "miraculous" nature of the holy book was found in more than just its language, but in its "scientific miracles."
Although many conversations around the nature of the Quran do not delve deeply into the "scientific miracles," the concept is one that is gaining traction with Turkish youth, especially those in the lower and middle class, according to Telliel.
A prominent group in the movement is the Istanbul Quran Research Association, an institution that focuses on the examination of "scientific miracles" and a propagation of that information into mainstream media, through television shows, books and talks.
According to Telliel, the research has served as a "translation" for many young Muslims, who find that religious and scientific discourse are "complementary vehicles of one communication." That communication is Islamic spirituality.
In his research, Telliel said that he "did not meet anyone who said that it was invalid." Turkey is a Muslim-majority country that has seen debates between conservative Muslims and secularists divide the country.
Telliel noted that the IQRA, however, sought to avoid any "political responsibility." Its members can be seen on conservative news outlets, secularist platforms and on books. As a result, they interact with "about 85% of the political aisle," Telliel said.
Michene Fenza grad had limited previous knowledge about the topic. Despite this, he said the talk was "very interesting, and very different."