Heavens laid bare: Height of astronomical discoveries and fulfilment of a Quranic prophecy

Al-Fawaz Ajimoti, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana
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Jackson Hendry | Unsplash

Recently, humanity bore witness to yet another remarkable feat. After years of anticipation and hard work by NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explorer) team, a capsule of rocks and dust collected from asteroid Bennu is finally back on Earth. (“NASA’s First Asteroid Sample Has Landed, Now Secure in Clean Room”, www.nasa.gov/)

For NASA, this is merely another milestone in a long line of achievements to explore space. Speaking on why they seek the space beyond, NASA once stated:

“No doubt, humanity’s interest in the heavens has been universal and enduring. Humans are driven to explore the unknown, discover new worlds, push the boundaries of our scientific and technical limits, and then push further. The intangible desire to explore and challenge the boundaries of what we know and where we have been has provided benefits to our society for centuries.” (“Why Go to Space?”, www.nasa.gov)

Reading this, it is no wonder that the US has so far spent upward of 650 billion dollars on NASA since its inception. Since the sky and beyond have long been sources of wonder and curiosity for humans, it is not difficult to understand why we would try so hard to fathom the mysteries of the cosmos and why we are driven to explore the unknown, despite our many problems back home.

Humanity has since embarked on a quest which piloted the evolvement of astronomy into a multifaceted field, giving rise to specialised subfields such as Astrophysics, Astrobiology, and Archeoastronomy among others. (“Astronomy in the Crossroads of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Sciences”, juniperpublishers.com)

Islam and space exploration

It might surprise some, but the Holy Quran also entreats man to look and ponder over the creation of the heavens. It states:

اَفَلَمۡ يَنۡظُرُوۡۤا اِلَى السَّمَآءِ فَوۡقَهُمۡ كَيۡفَ بَنَيۡنٰهَا وَزَ يَّـنّٰهَا وَمَا لَهَا مِنۡ فُرُوۡجٍ

“Have they not looked at the sky above them, how We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it.” (Surah al-Qaf, Ch.50: V.7)

We also read at another place:

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لِّأُوْلِي الألْبَابِ

“In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding” (Surah Aal-e-‘Imran, Ch.3:V.191)

The fact that NASA’s statement aligns almost directly to these verses is a testament to the claim that Islam is a religion which is tailormade for the sound nature of man.

In recent years, scientific advancements have given us a glimpse into the wonders of the cosmos that were previously unimaginable. This has fulfilled the prophecy of the Holy Quran:

وَاِذَا السَّمَآءُ كُشِطَتۡ

“And when the heaven is laid bare.” (Surah at-Takwir, Ch.81: V.12)

The word کشط means “He removed or stripped off a thing from a thing which it covered.” كَشَطتُ البَعِير means “I skinned the camel”. وَاِذَا السَّمَآءُ كُشِطَتۡ therefore means “When the sky shall be laid bare and shall have its covering removed.” (Dictionary of the Holy Quran, Malik Ghulam Farid, p. 720)

In Five Volume Commentary, it is written “The reference in the verse may be to the vast strides that the science of astronomy has made in the latter days. The advance in this branch of science during the past decade has startled the world.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 3323)

Therefore, by stripping off the coverings of heaven, humanity has been able to witness the wonders that have since years awaited us in the night sky. This has advanced our understanding of the universe while simultaneously fulfilling this great prophecy of the Holy Quran.

Exploring the Beyond

After millions of years of gazing at the sky from the relative safety of Earth, people finally stepped off our home planet and onto the surface of another world. It is now quite obvious through the latest developments that the various moon landing missions were but stepping stones for mankind’s voyage into the unknown.

As if by making the moon a starting point, mankind has successfully disproved the age-old rather pessimistic adage — “The sky is the limit.”

NASA currently is planning to resume human missions to the moon as a prelude to astronauts eventually travelling to Mars. We have also seen the rise of private space entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, who has been preparing to reach Mars and build a permanent human settlement there. And other countries are looking to reach Mars as well. China, for example, aims to send its astronauts to the Red Planet by 2033. (“10 Reasons Why Space Exploration Matters to You” science.howstuffworks.com)

The future holds endless possibilities for mankind and it is exciting to imagine what humanity will achieve in the coming years. But so far, for what it’s worth, for a species once hunter-gatherers, heavens have indeed been laid bare.

Space exploration and the Latter Days

One might ask – why make such a prophecy? What does it signify? The answer to this is that this verse is among the many verses of the Holy Quran which contain various signs regarding the advent of the Promised Messiahas which is to take place in the Latter Days. These signs include progress in global communication, the vast circulation of knowledge etc.

As fascinating as it is that the Holy Quran, in such short words, contains such prophecies which clearly describe when and how the Latter Days would take place, it is more fascinating that the time of the revelation of these prophecies was when such events were completely unimaginable.

The Promised Messiahas, while talking about the fulfilment of one such prophecy stated that when one sees such prophecies being fulfilled, “one should believe that the Promised Messiahas is also present at this time.” (Malfuzat [English], Vol. 10 p. 230)

Hence, it can be confidently asserted that this verse and many others like it are simply telling us that ‘when you witness the fulfilment of these prophecies – which in this case is the laying bare of the heaven, be thou aware that the awaited Messiah is already amongst you.’

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