By M.I. Liaqath Ali
Islam is a scientifically inclined religion, perhaps the sole one ! In its scripture Qur'an, God repeatedly appeals to people to travel the earth and observe. Why, He wants them to journey into the outer space too! He encourages them to look into Nature and examine the life forms and their activities. He commands them to contemplate upon these matters. That is not all. Qur'an contains in itself a large number of facts of any array of branches of science. Most of them were discovered in the last two centuries only, whereas they were existing in the Qur'an since it was revealed some fourteen centuries ago. That goes to prove that the Scripture of Islam is of Divine origin. Its author is Allah Himself, His Messenger Muhammad (Pbuh) being its publisher !
We present here a few of such scientific facts in Qur'an hitherto recognised by Science. None could say how much more are still latent in it, waiting to be identified in the coming centuries. But as and when major discoveries are made they are sure to be found recorded in Qur'an! Let our Iman (Belief) in Qur'an be made keener by learning about them.
Cosmology is the science of origin, formation and structure of Universe. It has as its bases the findings of astronomy, space sciences, quantum physics, theory of relativity and so on. The essential conclusions of modern cosmology are, as pointed out at the outset, found in Qur'an. More, Qur'an even mentions certain other things which could not be envisages by modern Cosmology!
The Big Bang Theory
What does cosmology inform us about the birth (origin) of the universe? It come into being all on a sudden 150,000 million years ago. Before this discovery it was believed that it 'always' existed - or its birth was never suspected or given a thought to. How was it created? It was not originated with all the stars, planets and satellites present now. It made its presence all on a sudden from nowhere (!) with unimaginably high density and temperature, of the size of a pin tip. It contained all the matter and energy of today's universe!
Then the point entity blew itself off in what is now termed Big Bang. It expanded with a speed, unimaginable again, even thousands and thousands of times that of life! The expansion is still going on, though at a comparatively much diminished speed. This is the essence of the widely accepted modern theory on creation of universe.
Says God in Qur'an : "We have built the heaven with mighty force and We have most certainly expanded it." (Chapter 51 : Verse 47).
"He raised its (the heaven's) height and brought order to it." (79:28). What we may call height looking from earth is in fact any dimensional expanse from a general point. So here also God means that he expands the sky's limits.
At the moment of beginning of expansion
* gravitational force came into being !
* space was born ! And most notably
* time came into existence !
Einstein's Relativity Theory deduces that the time is dependent upon succession of events and was originated as a result of commencement of expansion of the Primeval Point. But our mind can conceive erroneously, only as space being present first before anything came into it. Likewise, it is at a loss to imagine : "What before time started?' In fact it is wrong to express 'before time started' at all ! Even though it is impossible to make one understand such a stage by explanation, its feasibility or possible meaning will be indicate later (Insha Allah).
In the next moment of the Big bang all the fundamental forces involved in the structure of matter came into being such as the 'strong', 'weak' and electromagnetic forces. The most basic building blocks of matter, namely the "exotic" particles, and from them, quarks were created. Quarks joined together giving rise to fundamental particles of atoms such as electrons, protons and neutrons. All this happened in several sub-stages but took only a second to complete!
By the hundredth second nucleus of helium was constituted and it took 100,000 years for a few nuclei such as those of hydrogen to form. 300,000 years elapsed before electrons got attached to nuclei so as to form atoms of these few elements.
The embryonic universe was still expanding fast but the familiar stars and planets were yet along way to form. The matter created was a vast body of dense smoke - a cloud of dust. It was dark, impermeable to light. By the end of this period it became more transparent and become bright with light through. Qur'an informs "
"Then turned He to the heaven when it was (merely) smoke..." (41:11).
Changes took place in the single massive expanse of smoke. The dust particles coalesced and started separating into many individual bodies. Each in turn condensed due to gravitation and started rotating. They became far more denser, heating up in the process : This went on till millions of stars emerged shining and each cloud became a galaxy. Our such is such a star in our Milk Way Galaxy. The remnant portions of clouds around some of the stars also condensed into relatively cold bodies that we call planets, much less massive than the stars. They started rotating around the stars nearby. They are the sisters of the respective stars rather than their daughters. Some planets acquired satellites by the same process. Our moon is the earth's satellite.
Let us look at what Qur'an has to say : "....the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them,...." (21:30)
"Then turned He unto the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth : Come both of you, willingly or lath. They said : We came, obedient." (41:41)
It has already taken 1000 million years to reach this state. The universe was almost recognisable as today's. The universe continued to develop with more galaxies. Life started to appear and evolve. This goes on till date - 15,000 million years since beginning of time. A sketchy account of evolutionary stages is indicated in Qur'an, though not in identical terms of science.
"He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in truth. In that day when He said : Be ! It is !" (6:73)
In the Chapters Al-Imran and Mo'min (verses 47 & 68 respectively) God mentions that on His saying "Be!" To whatever God wants to create it comes into being. In chapter Baqara, Verse 117 He points out that He likewise created heavens and earth with originality, that is, without any pre-existing model! Let us see a few more details of this aspect later.
When Allah says "Be!" It does not mean they materialize instantly. For, the Creator of Time has set up time stages for such creations. We find in Qur'an: "Allah it is Who hath created seven heavens, and of the earth the like thereof. The commandment cometh down among them (slowly)..." (65:12). 'Among them' indicated the commandment will still be in progress even after their creation commenced; progress of commandant and progress of creation will be concurrent at least for some time. This times taken for some of the creations after His decree "Be!" Are as follows:
"Allah it is Who created the heavens and earth, and that which between them, in six Days..." (32:4), out of which - "Then He ordained them seven heavens in two Days..." (41:12), and - "...Him Who created the earth in two Days..." (41:9).
Order out of Disorder
The Arabic for day viz. yawm also signifies stage of time, however short or long. So the universe developed in unequal time stages and by no way in tranquillity or at steady pace. Colossal presences of matter collided with one another resulting in implosions and explosions of unimaginable magnitudes. The emerging universe was subjected to huge doses of gravitation, heat, radiation, magnetic storms, electric hurricanes. Out of and because of this constant churning and pyrotechnics were born galaxies of stars, planets and whatever exist in between we have now. So, From Chaos Came Cosmos. Chaos means disorder and confusion. Cosmos means both orderliness as well as universe. Declares Qur'an :
"(After building the heaven) He raised the height thereof and brought order in it" (79:28).
The Discoverers Prophesied
That Qur'an contains for fourteen long centuries the cosmological facts discovered in modern times is not the only miracle. Yet another exists in Qur'an:
It is the Muslims who excelled in sciences like astronomy, mathematics and chemistry once. But they failed to take notice of cosmology, among certain others, that Qur'an made them to study. They could not understand details of cosmology Qur'an contained but simply accepted them dogmatically. Eventually their peak period passed and it was not for them to come up with discoveries in cosmology.
Who then were the discoverers (and still are )? We find the names of Hubble, Holy, Le Maitre, Guth, Chandrasekhar, Hawking, Penrose,.... and so on in the annals of cosmology. Their common factor is that they are all non-Muslims.
No heartburn about that since Allah had allocated the honour of cosmological discoveries to them non-Muslims! He has subtly prophesied this in Qur'an ! He indicates this in many places! And this allocation might well have some vital purpose. We see in the Qur'an. "Have not the unbelievers been aware that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then we parted them.. ? Will they not then believe. (in Islam. Qur'an, Prophet (Pbuh), and Allah, know that their recent knowledge tallies with Qur'anic)?" (21:30).
Likewise God directs Prophet (Pbuh) in verses 41:9-12 (quoted partially earlier) to ask unbelievers and idolaters about their rejection of belief in Allah, despite their awareness of the facts that He created heavens and earth in two days each; and that He made them come forth obediently; (whereas they will find all their discoveries to be already on record in Qur'an for more than a millennium !).
It is amazing to note that Muslims are not the ones to be addressed these questions. For they are not to be the discoverers of the process of cosmic evolution.
We can expect that unbelievers of the present day will ultimately come to study and marvel at Qur'an, just as Muslims do, and so believe in it as the Word of God and accept Islam as a result, God willing. It is therefore the duty of Muslims to publicise scientific contents of Qur'an to the masses of the world.
Creations for Whose Sake?
Before we move on to other aspects of Creation of Universe, let us find out for whom it was created. Sure enough, Allah has already provided the answer. Notes Qur'an: "He it is who hath placed you (man) as (His) viceroys of earth.." (6.166).
To this end He has qualified man. "Verily we have honoured children of Adam.. We have preferred them above many of those (our creations) with marked preference." (17:70).
So, everything in the universe exists in such a way as to be of service to him - to be of some use or other, some known but most unrecognised as yet.
"And (Allah) maketh the sun and the moon.. to be of service unto you and hath made of serve unto you the night and the day." (14:33).
Is it the sun and moon alone? Not at all!
"And He hath constrained the night and the day and the sun and he moon to be of service unto you, and the stars are made subservient (unto you) by His command. Lo! Herein indeed are portents for people who have sense." (16:12)
In short, "See ye not how Allah hath made serviceable unto you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth?" (31:20).
Even though Allah appoint man His viceroy it can hardly be said that every individual can take control of the universe or its members. God has selected only a few of them for the purpose who are qualified to be their guiding leaders.
"He it is who hath placed you as (His) viceroys of the earth and (yet) hath (He) exalted (only) some of you in rank above others... " (7:166).
Insha Allah, in the coming Issues let us examine the raw material of the cosmos, its structure and the preparations God made for His viceroy.
(The author is Director of Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Productivity, Chennai. He will be glad to share his views on Qur'an and Science, Muhammadology, Comparative Religion, etc. through English/ Tamil lectures. Phone: 044-6254904, E-Mail: [email protected])
Fig.1 : Big Bang - All matter now in the Universe appeared 1500,00 million years ago as a tiny dot and exploded with tremendous force.
Fig.2 : The stages of rapid expansion after the
Fig.3 : Vast smoke clouds condensed into galaxies of stars.
Fig.4 : A portion of remaining pieces of smoke in the galaxy condensed into cool planets circling around stars.
Fig.5 : In the same way some planets got satellites (moons) orbiting them.