Ahmad Kamal, Student, Jamia Ahmadiyya Ghana
As early as the 5th century BC, Greek philosophers and mathematicians looked at the movement of the stars and wondered if there was something out there. From that point onwards, man’s fascination and curiosity with the unexplained never seemed to have ceased.
Some months ago, the US Department of Defense officially released intriguing footage of what seemed to be an “unidentified aerial phenomena”.
An article by The New York Times, “No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s U.F.O. Unit Will Make Some Findings Public”, deep-dived into the discovery, reviving the century-old debate concerning the existence of aliens. (www.nytimes.com/2020/07/23/us/politics/pentagon-ufo-harry-reid-navy.html)
However, we need to clarify, do aliens exist? And does religion have a say in this seemingly scientific matter?
If we do discover some substantial evidence proving the existence of aliens, how would Christianity fare? The Bible makes it clear that God created everything in the universe – as John declared:
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John, 1:3)
The Bible never explicitly says that humans are the lone life form in the universe, but then, there is also no mention of extraterrestrials in the Bible which leaves a lot of grey area. Most fundamentalist Christians thus conclude that this proves the absence of any such beings in the universe.
If Christians do choose to believe in aliens, it raises a lot of questions. The first and elementary, of course, is how aliens fit into Christian ideas about salvation. Did Jesus’ death save every living being in the universe, or did it only affect humanity? Did Jesus Christ’s death on earth offer any redemptive value for any other beings anywhere else in the cosmos? Why would Jesus Christ have come to earth, of all the inhabited planets in the universe, to save earthlings and abandon the rest of God’s creatures?
In this predicament, Islam shows its dominance. It was revealed to an unlettered son of the desert, in a period of scientific darkness wherein man had absolutely no true knowledge of the universe.
It was not until 15 March 1929 that the research of Astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) helped prove that the universe was expanding. However, the Holy Quran had hinted towards this centuries ago in the verse:
وَالسَّمَاءَ بَنَيْنَاهَا بِأَيْدٍ وَإِنَّا لَمُوْسِعُوْنَ
“And We have built the heaven with might and We continue to expand it indeed.”(Surah al-Dhariyat, Ch.51: V.48)
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh directed our attention to the uniqueness of the Holy Quran by saying:
“It should be remembered that the concept of the continuous expansion of the universe is exclusive to the Quran. No other Divine scriptures even remotely hint at it.” (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, p. 303)
The Holy Quran has proved to contain unlimited eternal truths and insights which unfold as time goes on. The very first leaf of the Holy Quran praises the Lord Who is the Sustainer of all the Worlds. The Arabic word رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْنَ is used in its widest sense and signifies “all that is besides Allah”, i.e. both those that have life and those that do not, including heavenly bodies, the sun, the moon, the stars, etc. The knowledge of the Holy Quran nourishes every branch of the human tree.
Islam’s distinctive and unique teachings feature the Holy Quran which is fully capable of guiding humanity in all ages. Thus a verse in the Holy Quran directly points to the existence of sentient life forms:
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَثَّ فِيْهِمَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ وَهُوَ عَلَى جَمْعِهِمْ إِذَا يَشَاءُ قَدِيْرٌ
“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and [of] whatever living creatures [dabbah] He has spread forth in both. And He has the power to gather them together whenever He pleases.” (Surah al-Shura, Ch.42: V.30)
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IVrh, in his book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, wrote:
“Dabbah covers all animals which creep or move along the surface of the earth. It does not apply to animals which can fly or swim. It is certainly not applicable to any form of spiritual life.
“In Arabic a ghost will never be referred to as dabbah, nor an angel for that matter. The second part of the same verse speaks not only of the possibility of extraterrestrial life, but it categorically declares that it does exist – a claim which even the most modern scientific researchers have not been able to make so far with any measure of certainty. Yet, this is not all that the verse reveals.
“Wonder upon wonder is added when we read at the end of this verse, that He (Allah) will bring together the life in the heavenly bodies and life on earth when He so pleases.” (Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, p. 330)
It was impossible to make a statement of this calibre 1,500 years ago when the science of astronomy was in its infancy. This only goes to prove that the origins of the Holy Quran are divine and its grand prophecies will be fulfilled in their own time.
As far as the spirituality of extraterrestrials goes, we turn to Professor Clement Lindley Wragge (1852-1922).
Professor Wragge was an English meteorologist who travelled widely, delivering lectures in London and India.
In one of his travels, he met the Promised Messiahas and below is an extract of the conversation which ensued between them:
Professor Clement Wragge asked the Promised Messiahas: “This earth, with which we have a connection, is but one among many thousands and millions of other systems which God has created. Then why would God’s sovereignty and blessings be limited to this earth?”
The Promised Messiahas replied:
“This is not our belief. We do not say there is no system other than our earth and sky; rather, our God says He is Rab-ul-Aalamin, meaning, He is the Lord of all the worlds and wherever there has been a population, He has sent His messengers there. Lack of knowledge does not disprove the existence of something. Why would God – Who created such a vast system for this small earth – not have created provision for all other habitations? He is the Lord for everybody equally and is aware of everyone’s needs.” (www.alhakam.org/professor-clement-wragges-first-meeting-with-the-promised-messiah/)
The universe has 10 million million million suns (10 followed by 18 zeros) similar to our own. One in a million has planets around it. Only one in a million has the right combination of chemicals, temperature, water, days and nights to support planetary life as we know it.
Thus, even though the odds of sentient life forms existing elsewhere are very questionable, we can and we must believe that they do exist because this prophecy of meeting other life forms remains as yet unfulfilled. Ergo, we can only hope and pray that we live long enough to witness the glorious day when we discover them or they discover us.