In ancient times a well-known theory by the name of ‘Theory of Atomism’ was widely accepted. This theory was originally proposed by the Greeks, in particular by a scholar called Democritus, who lived about 23 centuries ago. Democritus and the people that came after him, assumed that the smallest unit of matter was the atom. The ancient Arabs used to believe the same.
The Arabic word zarrah most commonly meant an atom. In recent times modern science has discovered that it is possible to split even an atom. That the atom can be split further is a development of the 20th century. Fourteen centuries ago this concept would have appeared unusual even to an Arab. For him the zarrah was the limit beyond which one could not go.
The following Qur’anic verse however, refuses to acknowledge this limit: “The Unbelievers say, ‘Never to us will come The Hour’: say, ‘Nay! but most surely, by my Lord, it will come upon you by Him Who knows the unseen – from Whom is not hidden the least little atom in the Heavens or on earth: nor is there anything less than that, or greater, but is in the Record Perspicuous.’”[Al-Qur’an 34:3]
This verse also refers to the Omniscience of God, His knowledge of all things, hidden or apparent. It then goes further and says that God is aware of everything, including what is smaller or bigger than the atom. Thus the verse clearly shows that it is possible for something smaller than the atom to exist, a fact discovered only recently by modern science.