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السبت، 27 أبريل، 2013


السبت, أبريل 27, 2013

By: Dr. / Zaghloul El-Naggar

The cosmos is collectively referred to in the Glorious Qur’an under the term “heavens and earth”, or simply “heavens” and sometimes in the singular form “heaven, firmament or sky”. Such reference is made in (310) Qur’anic verses (190 in the plural and 120 in the singular form) to describe certain characteristics of the universe, successive stages in its creation, its final destruction and annihilation, as well as its recreation. These cosmic verses intervene the main message of this divine revelation, as a vivid testimony for the unlimited might, knowledge and wisdom of the Creator (S.W.T). They are not meant to be pieces of scientific information per se, as science is left for man to gain over a long span of time through careful observation and/or experimentation, followed by rational conclusion. Nevertheless, the Qur’an, being the word of the Creator (S.W.T.) , and the cosmos, being His creation, such cosmic Qur‘anic verses must convey the absolute truth about areas that cannot possibly be placed under the direct observation of man, such as the creation, annihilation and recreation of the universe. Consequently, early speculations about the origin of the universe in pre-Islamic civilizations, had glimpses of some facts borrowed from the successive divine revelations, but highly mixed with mythological assumptions and illusionary visions. An example for this mixture of truth and fallacies in polytheistic civilizations is the ancient Egyptians concept about the creation of the earth. This concept is symbolized in their legacy by drawing “Chou” (the mythological God of air), son of A’amoun Ra’a (the Fictitious God of the Sun) in a position where he is separating his sister “Nutt” (symbolic for the heaven) from his brother “Kepp” (who stands for the earth). Indeed, the concept of separating the earth from the rest of the universe is a divinely revealed fact, which was completely distorted in the ancient Egyptian mythology under the influence of deviation from monotheism to polytheism. Similarly, in the ancient Indian civilization a cosmic nucleus (or Golden Egg) which symbolizes the origin of the universe was believed to have emerged from water. However, the Noble Qur’an forcefully invites man to observe the universe rationally with discernment, and analyze the data collected from such observation critically, with meticulous assessment. It is only through such scientific questioning of the universe that man can discover the laws of creation, and applies them correctly for the proper fulfillment of his vicegerency on earth. This can be achieved by the successful development of man, his faculties and knowledge, and of life in general, as well as by the rational reflection on the Supremacy of The Creator, and hence, the willful submission to His glory peacefully and lovingly in worshipping and obedience. The discovery of the perfect concordance between the Qur’anic descriptions of the universe and its established facts can be a very convincing proof for the divine nature of the Qur’an and the authentic Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). Not only this, but the Qur’an can be a guiding light in the area of cosmogonic interpretations, because this is an area that can never fall directly under the human observation, despite the abundant traces for the successive stages of creation which are still preserved in outer space. Out of the 310 Qur’anic verses where the cosmos is mentioned, at least 166 carry evident cosmological and cosmogonic implications. Only 3 of such verses are discussed here as follows:

A- The Expanding nature of the Universe as indicated in the Glorious Qur’an: The Qur’an reads “With power did We construct the heaven. Verily, We are Able to extend the vastness of space thereof. ”
 (Surat Adh-Dhariyat (The Winds that Scatter):49).
 Early commentators on the Glorious Qur’an saw the significance of this verse in the context of the amazing vastness of the universe, and in the fact that who could make it that vast, is definitely capable of making it even much more enormous, extending its limits outwardly much further, and this is very true. However, after centuries of keen observations, and numerous hypotheses, theorems and interpretations, the American astronomer Vesto M. Slipher noticed in 1912 that, except for a few nearby systems such as the Andromeda galaxy, the spectral lines from the rest of the galaxies were shifted toward longer (red) wavelengths. This shift in wavelength, caused by the Doppler Effect, showed that most galaxies were receding from ours (the Milky Way) at several hundred kilometers per second. In 1929, another American astronomer, Edwin Powell Hubble noticed that the more remote the galaxy, the higher was its recession velocity. This important relationship has become known as the law of the red shifts, or Hubble’s law. It states that the recession velocity of a galaxy is proportional to its distance. The ratio of the recession velocity of a galaxy to its distance (generally known as the Hubble constant) is now estimated to be between 50 and 100 km/sec per mega parsec (1 mega parse = 1 million parsec, and 1 parsec = 3.258 light years). After discovering this cosmic phenomenon of red shift, there was no other plausible explanation for it except the implication that our universe is indeed steadily expanding. Because galaxies in all directions seem to recede from our own galaxy, it might be wrongly concluded that the Milky Way is at the center of the universe. This is not true, as one can imagine a balloon with evenly spaced dots painted on its outer surface. As the balloon is blown up, an observer on each spot would see all the other spots expanding away from it, just as observers from earth see all the galaxies receding from the Milky Way. This analogy provides a simple explanation for Hubble’s law: the universe is expanding like a balloon. This simple cosmological fact, which was deduced from the red shift phenomenon, less than 70 years ago, had already been explicitly mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an, 14 centuries earlier. Thus long precedence of the Qur’an to thousands of scientists who spent many centuries of astronomical observations and research, using sophisticated equipments and elaborate physical properties and mathematical calculations, is a living testimony to the divine purity of this last revelation and to the authenticity of Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh) who received and passed it in its divine purity. The established fact that our universe is steadily expanding is so vital for both its physical existence and survival, that it becomes well-deserving to be mentioned in the Illustrious Qur’an, as one of the great signs of The Creator (S.W.T.). Not only this, but for our universe to be steadily expanding at such fantastic rates, without losing its coherence is one of the most striking and most fascinating aspects of our existence.

B- The Big Bang, or the initial singularity of our cosmos as indicated in the Glorious Qur’an: In the Glorious Qur’an we read: “Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then We parted them? And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" (Surat Al-Anbiya' (The Prophets):30).

Early commentators saw in this verse a reflection on the unity of creation as a dominating factor in the orderly, wonderful universe, throughout its evolutionary history from one stage to another, which is true. However, long before discovering the established phenomenon of the red shift, and its logical consequence of describing our universe as an expanding one, scientists used Einstein’s theory of general relativity to extrapolate back in time and came to the striking conclusion that the universe had actually emerged from a single, unbelievably small, dense, hot region ( the hot Big Bang model of the universe). The model was formally proposed by George Gamow in 1948, after a lengthy discussion on other models of the universe by a number of workers ( e.g. Albert Einstein, 1917; William de Sitter, 1917; Alexander Friedmann, 1922; George Lemaire, 1927, etc.). Lemaitre is credited for introducing the idea of the “Primeval atom”, where galaxies originated as fragments, ejected by the explosion of this atom. In 1948, George Gamow modified Lemaitre hypothesis into the “Big Bang Theory” of the origin of the universe. In this theory, Gamow proposed that the universe was created in a gigantic explosion whereby the various elements observed today were produced within the first few minutes after the Big Bang, as the extremely high temperature and density of the universe would fuse subatomic particles into the chemical elements. More recent calculations indicate that hydrogen and helium were the primary products of the Big Bang, with heavier elements being produced later within stars. The extremely high density within the “primeval atom~ would cause the universe to expand rapidly. As it expanded, the smoky cloud of hydrogen and helium thus formed would cool and condense into stars, galaxies, clusters, super clusters, black holes, etc. This explains the original singularity of the universe, its explosion, then expansion, as well as the physical basis of Hubble’s law. As the universe expanded, the residual radiation (radiant heat) from the Big Bang continued to spread outwardly and to cool down gradually until about the 3K ( = - 2700 C) of today. This relic radiation was detected by radio astronomy in 1964, thus providing a direct material evidence for model. Further evidence in support for this model is provided by the chemical composition of the observed universe. This amounts to about 74% hydrogen and 24 * helium (by mass), with only traces of other elements that in total amount to about 2%. All the recorded hydrogen in the observed universe and almost all the recorded helium are primordial, although some helium is currently produced by the process of nuclear fusion within all the stars since the beginning of creation amounts to only a small percent. It is calculated that when the universe was 3 minutes old, its temperature must have been 109 0C. At such high temperature hydrogen was subject to nuclear fusion, leading to the formation of helium. Theoretical calculations show that the fusion reactions led to an abundance of about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium, which is a remarkable agreement with the observed abundance. This further confirms the hot, Big Bang model for the creation of the universe. The hot Big Bang model has steadily and successfully battled other explanations for the origin of the universe, and the model has been gradually refined with time. The “hot Big Bang model for the origin of the universe envisages a beginning from an extremely small, hot, dense initial state some 10 -15 billion years ago. This initial, minute body exploded, and started to expand, forming the still expanding, vast, cold universe of today. The model predicts the formation of nuclei, the relative abundances of certain elements, and the existence and exact temperature of the cosmic microwave, background radiation (or the glow of radiation left over from the initial explosion, which is currently permeating the universe). The prediction of the cosmic background radiation, made by Ralph A. Alpher of Union College and Robert Herman of the University of Texas at Austin, was confirmed by Arno Penzias and Robert W. Wilson of Bell Laboratories in 1964.. Despite its success, the hot Big Bang model leaves many features of the universe unexplained. For example, the universe today includes a vast number of regions that could never have been in causal contact at any stage in their entire history. These regions are moving away from one another at such a rate that any information, even traveling at the speed of light, could not cover the distance between them. This “horizon problem” makes it difficult to account for the striking uniformity of the cosmic background radiation. Other unexplained features in the hot Big Bang model include the “flatness problem”, the origin of large scale structures such as galaxies, galactic clusters and super clusters, etc. In 1980, Alan H. Guth of M.I.T. suggested a further refinement of the Big Bang model which he called “the inflationary universe scenario. In this scenario, the universe is believed to have started with a very brief, but exceedingly rapid period of expansion (for about 10-30 second), matter consisted of scalar-field particles (while in the hot, Big Bang model, the matter content of the universe is presumed to have been a uniformly distributed plasma or dust). As mentioned by J.J. Halliwell (1991), the origin of the universe in the inflationary scenario can be explained as follows: by following the expansion of the universe backward in time, the size of this vast, complex universe tends to zero. Here the strength of the gravitational field and the energy density of matter tend to infinity. This means that the universe appears to have emerged from a singularity; a region of infinite curvature and energy density at which the known laws of physics break down. These conditions are a consequence of the famous U singularity theorems”, proved in 1960 by Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford. These theorems showed that under reasonable assumptions any model of the expanding universe extrapolated backward in time will encounter an initial singularity. The singularity theorems do not imply, however, that a singularity will physically occur. Rather, the theory predicting them - classical general relativity - breaks down at very high curvatures and must be superseded by the quantum theory. Near a singularity, space - time becomes highly curved; its volume shrinks to very small dimensions, and here only the quantum theory can be applied. Quantum cosmologists began a few decades ago (since the 1960s) to address the problems of the origin and evolution of the universe in a more subtle way than classical astronomy. Quantum cosmology attempts to describe a system -fundamentally - in terms of its wave function. Yet, many conceptual and technical difficulties arise. At the singularity, space becomes infinitely small, and the energy density infinitely great. To look beyond such a moment, requires a complete, quantum theory of gravity, which is currently lacking. Whether to accept the hot Big Bang model of the universe, or its modified inflationary scenario explanations on the basis of conventional or quantum astronomy, the established fact is that our universe emerged from a single, infinitesimally small, dense, hot source. To agree or differ on the events that unfolded since that moment, including the formation of matter, followed by its coalescence into galaxies, stars, planets and chemical systems, does not change the fact of the one singularity from which our universe was created. The Qur’anic precedence with this fact at time when nobody had the slightest knowledge of it or even for several centuries after the revelation was received is indeed most striking. The objective notion to this Qur’anic verse in the right context of a science course can indeed be spirit lifting and enlightening for the younger Muslim generations of students and faculty.
C- The Big Crunch, or the destruction and annihilation of our cosmos in the Glorious Qur’an: Commenting on the process of destruction, annihilation and recreation of the universe, the Illustrious Qur’an reads: “And (remember) the Day when We shall roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books, as We began the first creation, We shall repeat it, (it is) a promise binding upon Us. Truly, We shall do it.” (Surat Al-Anbiya (The Prophets):104).

   Early commentators on the Glorious Qur’an, saw in this verse a divine promise to fold up the universe like a scroll of parchment folds the contents of books written on its inner side, and that as Allah (S.W.T.) created all this universe out of nothing, He can destroy it to nothing, and create an entirely new one. This interpretation is correct, but from the purely semantic analysis of the verse it clearly implies that in as much as the present-day universe started from an initial singularity, its end will come again to the same form, through the folding and rolling up of the universe like a scroll folds the letters, words and sentences written inside it as it is rolled up. In clear concordance with this interpretation, the most widely accepted “hot Big Bang model” for the origin of our expanding universe (Gamow, 1948), implies that such expansion cannot continue for ever, but it has to end in a reverse process of contraction. Due to such contraction all of the material of the universe would eventually come back to a central point (exactly similar to what the universe initially began with), in an implosion that would annihilate all forms of matter (atoms, molecules, compounds, planets, stars; galaxies, galactic clusters and super clusters, etc.). The result would be a singularity-identical to the initial one - that will explode and start the production of an earth other than ours and of heavens different from the present-day ones, in exactly the same way the initial singularity behaved. The scientific reason behind this expectation is the fact that the motion of recession of the galaxies in our expanding universe does not proceed with constant velocity. The force of gravitation attracts these galaxies, super galaxies and clusters to each other. This mutual attraction tends to decelerate the expansion, despite the very weak pull of gravity in view of the enormous inter-galactic distances. Nevertheless, this very small deceleration can become important in the long run, to the extent of hindering the process of expansion to a big halt. If this motion of galactic recession stops, then the galaxies will begin to fall back towards each other. The universe will then start to contract, the galaxies will gradually come closer together, the gravitational pull will become gradually greater, and the velocities of contraction will be come excessively larger with time. Finally, the galaxies will collide with one another, and the universe will collapse in a cosmic implosion, generally described as the “Big Crunch”. This cosmic disaster will end by an extremely small, hot, dense singularity, identical to the initial singularity which exploded in the “First Big Bang”. This second singularity is also expected to explode in a “Second Big Bang”, leading to a new cosmos. The most widely accepted scenario of "The First Big Bang”, followed by the formation of smoky nebulae in which the nuclei of matter started to form, small and large scale structures started to condense from fluctuations in the density of matter that would have seeded galaxies, followed by the expansion (or inflation) of the universe, then its expected contraction (or Big Crunch), the expected “Second Big Bang”, followed by the creation of new cosmos, are beautifully described in the following 5 Qur’anic verses" Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then We parted them? And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?" (Surat Al-Anbiya (The Prophets):30);

"Then He rose over (Istawa) 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." (Surat Fussilat (They are explained in detail):11);

"With power did We construct the heaven. Verily, We are Able to extend the vastness of space thereof." (Surat Adh-Dhariyat (The Winds that Scatter):47) ;

"And (remember) the Day when We shall roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books, as We began the first creation, We shall repeat it, (it is) a promise binding upon Us. Truly, We shall do it." (Surat Al-Anbiya (The Prophets):104) and "On the Day when the earth will be changed to another earth and so will be the heavens, and they (all creatures) will appear before Allah, the One, the Irresistible." (Surat Ibrahim (Abraham):48). In any Islamic science curriculum such Qur’anic verses cannot be overlooked. These represent the word of The Creator, in an area (of origin, annihilation and recreation of the universe) which does not fall within the direct observation of man. As man’s knowledge in that area cannot exceed the limit of theorization, these 5 Qur’anic verses come to us as a guiding light for choosing between heaps of human ideas, that can do no more than confusing the human intellect.

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