CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE
‘The Big Bang’
The creation of the universe is explained by astrophysicists as a widely accepted phenomenon, popularly known as ‘The Big Bang’. It is supported by observational and experimental data gathered by astronomers and astrophysicists for decades. According to ‘The Big Bang’, the whole universe was initially one big mass (Primary Nebula). Then there was a ‘Big Bang’ (Secondary Separation) which resulted in the formation of Galaxies. These then divided to form stars, planets, the sun, the moon, etc. The origin of the universe was unique and the probability of it happening by ‘chance’ is nil.
The Qur’an contains the following verse regarding the origin of the universe: “Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?” [Al-Qu’ran 21:30]
The striking similarity between the Qur’anic verse and ‘The Big Bang’ is inescapable! How could a book, which first appeared in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago, contain this profound scientific truth? Muslims also send salutations upon all the previous divinely inspired Prophets on taking their names.
The origin of the universe is described in the Qur’an in the following verse:
“He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth” [Surat al-An’am: 101]
This information given in the Qur’an is in full agreement with the findings of contemporary science. The conclusion that astrophysics has reached today is that the entire universe, together with the dimensions of matter and time, came into existence as a result of a great explosion that occurred in no time. This event, known as “The Big Bang” proved that the universe was created from nothingness as the result of the explosion of a single point. Modern scientific circles are in agreement that the Big Bang is a rational and provable explanation of the beginning of the universe and of how the universe came into being.
Before the Big Bang, there was no such thing as matter. From a condition of non-existence in which neither matter, nor energy, nor even time existed, and which can only be described metaphysically, matter, energy, and time were all created. This fact, only recently discovered by modern physics, was announced to us in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago.
The sensitive sensors on board the COBE space satellite which was launched by NASA in 1992, captured evidentiary remnants of the Big Bang. This discovery served as evidence for the Big Bang, which is the scientific explanation of the fact that the universe was created from nothing.
Initial Gaseous Mass Before Creation of Galaxies
Scientists agree that before the galaxies in the universe were formed, celestial matter was initially in the form of gaseous matter. In short, huge gaseous matter or clouds were present before the formation of the galaxies. To describe initial celestial matter, the word ‘smoke’ is more appropriate than gas.
The following Qur’anic verse refers to this state of the universe by the word dukhaan which means smoke. “Moreover, He Comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: ‘Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly.’ They said: ‘We do come (together), in willing obedience.’” [Al-Qur’an 41:11]
Again, this fact is a corollary to the ‘Big Bang’ and was not known to anyone before the prophetehood of Muhammad (Peace be upon him)1. What then, could have been the source of this knowledge?
Shape of the Earth is Spherical
In early times, people believed that the earth was flat. For centuries, men were afraid to venture out too far, for fear of falling off the edge! Sir Francis Drake was the first person who proved that the earth is spherical when he sailed around it in 1597. Consider the following Qur’anic verse regarding the alternation of day and night: “Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day and He merges Day into Night?” [Al-Qur’an 31:29] Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes to day and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night.
The following verse also alludes to the spherical shape of the earth: “He created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): He makes the Night overlap the Day, and the Day overlap the Night.” [Al-Qur’an 39:5]
The Arabic word used here is Kawwara meaning ‘to overlap’ or ‘to coil’– the way a turban is wound around the head. The overlapping or coiling of the day and night can only take place if the earth is spherical. The earth is not exactly round like a ball, but geo-spherical, i.e. it is flattened at the poles.
The following verse contains a description of the earth’s shape: “And the earth, moreover, hath He made egg shaped.” [Al-Qur’an 79:30]
The Arabic word for egg here is dahaahaa1 which means an ostrich-egg. The shape of an ostrich-egg resembles the geo-spherical shape of the earth. Thus the Qur’an correctly describes the shape of the earth, though the prevalent notion when the Qur’an was revealed was that the earth was flat.
Moon-Light is Reflected Light
It was believed by earlier civilizations that the moon emanates its own light. Science now tells us that the light of the moon is reflected light. However this fact was mentioned in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago in the following verse: “Blessed is He Who made Constellations in the skies, and placed therein a Lamp and a Moon giving light.” [Al-Qur’an 25:61]
The Arabic word for the sun in the Qur’an, is shams. It is also referred to as siraaj which means a ‘torch’ or as wahhaaj meaning ‘a blazing lamp’ or as diya which means ‘shining glory’. All three descriptions are appropriate to the sun, since it generates intense heat and light by its internal combustion. The Arabic word for the moon is qamar and it is described in the Qur’an as muneer which is a body that gives noor i.e. reflected light. Again, the Qur’anic description matches perfectly with the true nature of the moon which does not give off light by itself and is an inactive body that reflects the light of the sun. Not once in the Qur’an, is the moon mentioned as siraaj, wahhaaj or diya nor the sun as noor or muneer. This implies that the Qur’an recognizes the difference between the nature of sunlight and moonlight.
The following verses relate to the nature of light from the sun and the moon: “It is He who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light (of beauty).” [Al-Qur’an 10:5]
“See ye not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, “And made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a (Glorious) Lamp?” [Al-Qur’an 71:15-16]
The Glorious Qur’an and modern science, are thus in perfect agreement about the differences in the nature of sunlight and moonlight.
The Sun Rotates
For a long time European philosophers and scientists believed that the earth stood still in the centre of the universe and every other body including the sun moved around it. In the West, this geocentric concept of the universe was prevalent right from the time of Ptolemy in the second century B.C. In 1512, Nicholas Copernicus put forward his Heliocentric Theory of Planetary Motion, which asserted that the sun is motionless at the centre of the solar system with the planets revolving around it. In 1609, the German scientist Yohannus Keppler published the ‘Astronomia Nova’. In this he concluded that not only do the planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun, they also rotate upon their axes at irregular speeds. With this knowledge it became possible for European scientists to explain correctly many of the mechanisms of the solar system, including the sequence of night and day. After these discoveries, it was thought that the Sun was stationary and did not rotate about its axis like the Earth. I remember having studied this fallacy from Geography books during my school days.
Consider the following Qur’anic verse: “It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: All (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course.” [Al-Qur’an 21:33]
The Arabic word used in the above verse is yasbahoon . This word is derived from the word sabaha. It carries with it the idea of motion that comes from any moving body. If you use this word for a person on the ground, it would not mean that he is rolling but would imply that he is walking or running. If you use this word for a person in water, it would not mean that he is floating but would imply that he is swimming. Similarly, if you use the word yasbah for a celestial body such as the sun, it would not only mean that it is flying through space but would also mean that it is rotating as it goes through space. Most school textbooks have now incorporated the fact that the sun rotates about its axis. The rotation of the sun about its own axis can be proved with the help of an equipment that projects the image of the sun on the top of a table, so that one can examine the image of the sun without being blinded. It is noticed that the sun has spots which complete a circular motion once every 25 days i.e. the sun takes approximately 25 days to rotate round its axis. The sun travels through space at roughly 240 km per second, and takes about 200 million years to complete one revolution around the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy.
“It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each (just) swims along in (its own) orbit (according to Law).” [Al-Qur’an 36:40]
This verse mentions an essential fact discovered only recently by modern astronomy, i.e. the existence of the individual orbits of the Sun and the Moon, and their journey through space with their own motion. The ‘fixed place’ towards which the sun travels, carrying with it the solar system, has been located preirsely by modern astronomy. It has been given a name, the Solar Apex. The solar system is indeed moving in space towards a point situated in the constellation of Hercules (alpha Lyrae) whose exact location is now firmly established. The moon rotates around its axis in the same duration that it takes to revolve around the earth. It takes approximately 29½ days to complete one rotation. One cannot help but be amazed at the scientific accuracy of the Qur’anic verses. Should we not ponder over the question: “What is the source of knowledge contained in the Qur’an?”
One of the most important reasons for the great equilibrium in the universe is the fact that celestial bodies follow specific paths. Stars, planets and satellites all rotate around their own axes and also rotate together with the system of which they are a part, and the universe functions within a finely-tuned order, just like the wheels in a factory.
There are about 200 billion galaxies in the universe, consisting of nearly 200 billion stars in each. Most of these stars have planets, and most of those planets have satellites. All of these heavenly bodies move in very precisely computed orbits. For millions of years, each has been “swimming” along in its own orbit in perfect harmony and order with all the others. Moreover, many comets also move along in the orbits determined for them.
The orbits in the universe do not only belong to some celestial bodies. The Solar System and even other galaxies also exhibit considerable motion around other centers. Every year the Earth, and the Solar System with it, move some 500 million km from where they were the previous year. It has been calculated that even the slightest deviation from celestial bodies’ paths could have drastic consequences which might spell the end of the entire system. For example, the consequences of the earth’s deviating from its course by a mere 3 mm have been described in one source as follows:
That the entire universe is full of paths and orbits such as this one, is written in the Qur’an as follows:
Another characteristic of heavenly bodies is that they also rotate around their own axes. This may be one of the implications of the verse “[I swear] by Heaven with its cyclical systems.” [Surat at-Tariq 86: 11]
While rotating around the sun, the earth follows such an orbit that, every 18 miles, it only deviates 2.8 millimeters from a direct course. The orbit followed by the earth never changes, because even a deviation of 3 millimeters would cause catastrophic disasters: if the deviation were 2.5 mm instead of 2.8 mm, then the orbit would be very large, and all of us would freeze. If the deviation were 3.1 mm, we would be scorched to death.
[Source: General Science, Carolyn Sheets, Robert Gardner, Samuel F. Howe; Allyn and Bacon Inc. Newton, Massachusetts, pp. 319-322]
Surely at the time the Qur’an was revealed, mankind did not possess today’s telescopes or advanced observation technologies to observe millions of kilometers of space, nor the modern knowledge of physics or astronomy. Therefore, at that time, it was not possible to determine scientifically that space is “full of paths and orbits” as stated in the verse. (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 7) However, this was openly declared to us in the Qur’an that was revealed at that time-because the Qur’an is the word of God.
The Sun will Extinguish
The light of the sun is due to a chemical process on its surface that has been taking place continuously for the past five billion years. It will come to an end at some point of time in the future, when the sun will be totally extinguished, leading to extinction of all life on earth. Regarding the impermanence of the sun’s existence, the Qur’an says: “And the Sun runs its course for a period determined for it; that is the decree of (Him) the exalted in Might, the All-Knowing.” [Al-Qur’an 36:38]
The Arabic word used here is mustaqarr, which means a place or time that is determined. Thus the Qur’an says that the sun runs towards a determined place, and will do so only up to a pre-determined period of time – meaning that it will end or extinguish
Space outside organized astronomical systems was earlier assumed to be a vacuum. Astrophysicists later discovered the presence of bridges of matter in this interstellar space. These bridges of matter are called plasma, and consist of completely ionized gas containing equal number of free electrons and positive ions. Plasma is sometimes called the fourth state of matter (besides the three known states viz. solid, liquid and gas).
The Qur’an refers to the presence of this interstellar material in the following verse: “He Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between.” [Al-Qur’an 25:59]
It would be ridiculous for anyone to even suggest that the presence of interstellar galactic material was known 1400 years ago!
The Expanding Universe
In 1925, American astronomer Edwin Hubble, provided observational evidence that all galaxies are moving away from one another, which implies that the universe is expanding. The expansion of the universe is now an established scientific fact.
This is what the Qur’an says regarding the nature of the universe: “With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: For it is We Who create the vastness of Space.” [Surah Ad-dhariyat 51:47]
The Arabic word musioon is correctly translated as ‘expanding it’, and it refers to the creation of the expanding vastness of the universe. One of the greatest astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, in his book, ‘A Brief History of Time’, says, “The discovery that the universe is expanding was one of the great intellectual revolutions of the 20th century.” The Qur’an mentioned the expansion of the universe, before man even learnt to build a telescope! Some may say that the presence of astronomical facts in the Qur’an is not surprising since the Arabs were advanced in the field of astronomy. They are correct in acknowledging the advancement of the Arabs in the field of astronomy. However they fail to realize that the Qur’an was revealed centuries before the Arabs excelled in astronomy. Moreover many of the scientific facts mentioned above, such as the origin of the universe with a Big Bang, were not known to the Arabs even at the peak of their scientific advancement. The scientific facts mentioned in the Qur’an are therefore not due to the Arabs’ advancement in astronomy. Indeed, the reverse is true: they advanced in astronomy, because astronomy occupies a place in the Qur’an.
The word “heaven”, as stated in this verse, is used in various places in the Qur’an with the meaning of space and universe. Here again, the word is used with this meaning. In other words, in the Qur’an it is revealed that the universe “expands”. And this is the very conclusion that science has reached today.
Until the dawn of the 20th century, the only view prevailing in the world of science was that “the universe has a constant nature and it has existed since infinite time”. The research, observations, and calculations carried out by means of modern technology, however, have revealed that the universe in fact had a beginning, and that it constantly expands.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann and the Belgian cosmologist Georges Lemaître theoretically calculated that the universe is in constant motion and that it is expanding.
This fact was proved also by observational data in 1929. While observing the sky with a telescope, Edwin Hubble, the American astronomer, discovered that the stars and galaxies were constantly moving away from each other. A universe where everything constantly moves away from everything else implied a constantly expanding universe. The observations carried out in the following years verified that the universe is constantly expanding. This fact was explained in the Qur’an when that was still unknown to anyone. This is because the Qur’an is the word of God, the Creator, and the Ruler of the entire universe.
The Protected Roof
In the Qur’an, God calls our attention to a very interesting attribute of the sky:
“We made the sky a preserved and protected roof yet still they turn away from Our Signs..” [Surat al-Anbiya 21: 32]
This attribute of the sky has been proved by scientific research carried out in the 20th century.
The atmosphere surrounding the earth serves crucial functions for the continuity of life. While destroying many meteors big and small as they approach the earth, it prevents them from falling to earth and harming living things.
In addition, the atmosphere filters the light rays coming from space that are harmful to living things. Strikingly, the atmosphere lets only harmless and useful rays- visible light, near ultraviolet light, and radio waves pass through. All of this radiation is vital for life. Near ultraviolet rays, which are only partially let in by the atmosphere, are very important for the photosynthesis of plants and for the survival of all living beings. The majority of the intense ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun are filtered out by the ozone layer of the atmosphere and only a limited-and essential-part of the ultraviolet spectrum reaches the Earth.
The protective function of the atmosphere does not end here. The atmosphere also protects the earth from the freezing cold of the space, which is about minus 270 degrees Centigrade.
As illustrated here, the celestial bodies wandering in space could pose a serious threat to the Earth. Yet, God, He Who creates most perfectly, has made the atmosphere a protective roof.
It is not only the atmosphere that protects the Earth from harmful effects. In addition to the atmosphere, the Van Allen Belt, a layer caused by the magnetic field of the Earth, also serves as a shield against the harmful radiation that threatens our planet. This radiation, which is constantly emitted by the Sun and other stars, is deadly to living things. If the Van Allen belt did not exist, the massive outbursts of energy called solar flares that frequently occur in the Sun would destroy all life on Earth.
Dr. Hugh Ross has this to say on the importance of Van Allen Belts to our lives:
In fact, the Earth has the highest density of any of the planets in our Solar System. This large nickel-iron core is responsible for our large magnetic field. This magnetic field produces the Van-Allen radiation shield, which protects the Earth from radiation bombardment. If this shield were not present, life would not be possible on the Earth. The only other rocky planet to have any magnetic field is Mercury-but its field strength is 100 times less than the Earth’s. Even Venus, our sister planet, has no magnetic field. The Van-Allen radiation shield is a design unique to the Earth.
[Source: “The Incredible Design of the Earth and our Solar System,” http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designss.html]
The Van Allen Belt, a layer caused by the magnetic field of the Earth, also serves as a shield against the harmful radiation that threatens our planet.
The energy transmitted in just one of these bursts detected in recent years was calculated to be equivalent to 100 billion atomic bombs similar to the one dropped on Hiroshima. Fifty-eight hours after the burst, it was observed that the magnetic needles of compasses displayed unusual movement and 250 kilometers above the earth’s atmosphere, the temperature suddenly increased to 2,500 degrees Celsius.
In short, a perfect system is at work high above the Earth. It surrounds our world and protects it against external threats. Scientists only learned about it recently, yet centuries ago, God informed us in the Qur’an of the world’s atmosphere functioning as a protective shield.
The Returning Sky
The 11th verse of Surat at-Tariq in the Qur’an, refers to the “returning” function of the sky:
By Heaven with its cyclical systems. [Surat at-Tariq 86: 11]
This word interpreted as “cyclical” in Qur’an translations also has meanings of “sending back” or “returning“.
As known, the atmosphere surrounding the Earth consists of many layers. Each layer serves an important purpose for the benefit of life. Research has revealed that these layers have the function of turning the materials or rays they are exposed to back into space or back down to the Earth. Now let us examine with a few examples of this “recycling” function of the layers encircling the Earth.
The Ionosphere layer reflects radio waves broadcast from a certain centre back down to the Earth, thus enabling broadcasts to be received from long distances.
The Ozonosphere turns harmful cosmic rays like ultraviolet back to space, hence preventing them from reaching the Earth and harming life.
The troposphere layer enables water vapour rising from the surface of the Earth to be condensed and turn back down to the Earth as rain.
The troposphere, 13 to 15 kilometers above the Earth, enables water vapor rising from the surface of the Earth to be condensed and turn back as rain.
The ozone layer, which lies in the Stratosphere at an altitude of 25 kilometers, reflects harmful radiation and ultraviolet light coming from space and turns both back into space.
The ionosphere reflects radio waves broadcast from the Earth back down to different parts of the world, just like a passive communications satellite, and thus makes wireless communication, radio, and television broadcasting possible over long distances.
The magnetosphere layer turns the harmful radioactive particles emitted by the Sun and other stars back into space before they reach the Earth.
The fact that this property of the atmosphere’s layers, that was only demonstrated in the recent past was announced centuries ago in the Qur’an, once again demonstrates that the Qur’an is the word of God.
The Layers of the Atmosphere
One fact about the universe revealed in the verses of the Qur’an is that the sky is made up of seven layers:
“It is He Who created everything on the earth for you and then directed His attention up to heaven and arranged it into seven regular heavens. He has knowledge of all things” [Surat al-Baqara 2: 29]
“Then He turned to heaven when it was smoke. In two days He determined them as seven heavens and revealed, in every heaven, its own mandate” [Surah Fussilat 41:12]
The word “heavens”, which appears in many verses in the Qur’an, is used to refer to the sky above the Earth, as well as the entire universe. Given this meaning of the word, it is seen that the Earth’s sky, or the atmosphere, is made up of seven layers.
Indeed, today it is known that the world’s atmosphere consists of different layers that lie on top of each other.55 The definitions made based on the criteria of chemical contents or air temperature have determined the atmosphere of the earth as seven layers.56 According to the “Limited Fine Mesh Model (LFMII)”, a model of atmosphere used to estimate weather conditions for 48 hours, the atmosphere again consists of 7 layers. According to the modern geological definitions the seven layers of the atmosphere are as follows:
Another important miracle on this subject is mentioned in the statement “(He) revealed, in every heaven, its own mandate” in the 12th verse of Surah Fussilat. In other words, in the verse, God states that He assigned each heaven its own duty. Truly, as seen in the previous section, each one of these layers has vital duties for the benefit of human kind and all other living things on the Earth. Each layer has a particular function, ranging from forming rain to preventing harmful rays, from reflecting radio waves, to averting the harmful effects of meteors.
The verses below inform us about the appearance of the seven layers of the atmosphere.
Today, it is an established fact that the atmosphere is made up of different layers lying on top of one another. Just as it is described in the Qur’an, the atmosphere is made up of exactly seven layers.
“Do you not see how He created seven heavens in layers?” [Surah Nuh 71: 15]
“He Who created the seven heavens in layers…” [Surat al-Mulk 67: 3]
The Arabic word tibaqan in these verses, translated into English as “layer” means “layer, the appropriate cover or covering for something,” and thus stresses how the top layer is well suited to the lower. The word is also used in the plural here, giving the meaning of “layers.” The sky, described in the verse as being in layers, is without doubt the most perfect expression of the atmosphere.
It is a great miracle that these facts, which could not possibly be discovered without the technology of the 20th century, were explicitly stated by the Qur’an 1,400 years ago.
Allah knows the best
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