Space in the Quran
Issue 80 May 2011
Amongst many other fascinating revelations, the Qur’an contains a number of verses related to space and our world, indicating physical properties of the universe that have only been discovered by scientists in recent years.
“Then He rose over towards the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: ‘Come both of you willingly or unwillingly.’ They both said: ‘We come willingly.’” (41:11)
“Are, then, they who are bent on denying the truth not aware that the heavens and the earth were [once] one single entity, which We then parted asunder? — and We made out of water every living thing? Will they not, then, believe?” (21:30)
The Big Bang is the most popular cosmological theory about the early development of the universe. The model states that the universe was in a hot and dense state that expanded rapidly. Then it began to cool and formed the state that we see today.
One verse in the Qur’an states that there was “smoke” before the heavens and the earth were created, and scientists believe that the universe was initially in a gaseous state, which led to the formation of stars and galaxies.
Another verse states, “the heavens and the earth were one single entity, which We then parted asunder”, which could give evidence to the Big Bang theory.
Age of Universe
“And [who knows that] We have indeed created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six aeons, and [that] no weariness could ever touch Us.” (50:38)
“Say: ‘Would you indeed deny Him who has created the earth in two aeons? And do you claim that there is any power that could rival Him, the Sustainer of all the worlds?’” (41:9)
One verse in the Qur’an states that God created the universe in six aeons, and another states that the Earth was created in two aeons, which means that the age of the Earth is a third of the age of the universe.
Scientsts have reported that the universe is 13.75 billion years old, on the basis of the measurement of background radiation. Similarly, the Earth is suggested to be 4.54 billion years old, through other similar studies. As a fraction, this translates into a third, which is the same proportion as that which the Qur’an states.
“And it is We who have built the universe with [Our creative] power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it.” (51:47)
When Einstein applied his general theory of relativity to the structure of the universe, he was bewildered to find it predicted the universe was either contracting or expanding. He refused to believe this, and amended his calculations to add a cosmological constant and ensure that it showed the universe was constant.
However, in 1929, he was forced to go back on this after Edwin Hubble showed him that distant galaxies were moving away from the Earth and the further away they were, the faster they were moving. Einstein called the cosmological constant “his greatest blunder.” This proves that the universe is indeed expanding in size.
“On that Day We shall roll up the skies as written scrolls are rolled up; [and] as We brought into being the first creation, so We shall bring it forth anew a promise which We have willed upon Ourselves: for, behold, We are able to do [all things]!” (21:104)
Once the Big Bang theory had been accepted by the majority of scientists, the ultimate fate of the universe became a valid cosmological question. The fate of the universe was also dependent on the physical properties of the universe, such as mass, energy, density and rate of expansion.
One possible theory is known as the ‘Big Crunch’. It states that the expansion of the universe will stop one day, reverse and begin to collapse on itself, ending up as a black hole. A verse in the Qur’an states, “We shall roll up the skies as written scrolls are rolled up”, which could be an indication of the Big Crunch.
“And [it is God that] has made the sun and the moon, both of them constant upon their courses, subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the night and the day subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you.” (14:33)
“And [they have a sign in] the sun: it runs in an orbit of its own [and] that is laid down by the will of the Almighty, the All-Knowing;” (36:38)
Since the dawn of time, it was believed that the Earth was flat and that the sun moved around it. After it was determined that this theory was wrong, and it was realised that the Earth orbits the sun, it was thought that the sun is stationary. This conclusion, however, is false, as it was discovered that our solar system orbits around the Milky Way galaxy. One orbit takes 226 million years, and the sun is moving at an astonishing speed of 782,000 km/hour.
The Moon—Phases & Lunar Year
“And the moon, for which We have determined phases [which it must traverse] till it becomes like an old date-stalk, dried-up and curved.” (36:39)
“They will ask thee about the new moons. Say: ‘They indicate the periods for [various doings of] mankind, including the pilgrimage.’” (2:189)
“He it is who has made the sun a [source of] radiant light and the moon a light [reflected], and has determined for it phases so that you might know how to compute the years and to measure [time].” (10:5)
The phases of the moon are the appearance of the illuminated portion of it seen from Earth.
It is also made clear that the phases of the moon are to be used to determine the new month.
Planets, stars & celestial bodies
“But nay! I call to witness the revolving stars, the planets that run their course and set.” (81:15–16)
“And it is He who has created the night and the day and the sun and the moon—all of them floating through space!” (21:33)
“Consider the heavens, ever-revolving.” (86:11)
“And He it is who has set up for you the stars so that you might be guided by them in the midst of the deep darkness of land and sea: clearly, indeed, have We spelled out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge!” (6:97)
These verses relate to the orbital movements of the planets, the arrangement of our solar system and the presence of stars in our universe.