Sabahat Ali Rajput, Missionary, Mexico
The Big Bang – A point to ponder
As has been described in part one of this paper with detail and the testimonies of numerous scientists, even the most advanced scientific knowledge falls short where the origin of the universe is concerned – no one seems to have much idea what gave the initial push that caused the big bang.
One might assume that whatever astronomical phenomena are pushing the universe outward must be a part of the same system which exploded the original singularity of the big bang. Initially, it was thought that the expansion of the universe was only a natural consequence of the actual explosion. When a bomb detonates, for example, one does not attribute the outward scattering (diffusion) of the explosion to an independent force from the actual explosion itself.
Amazingly though, scientists have begun to unravel some mysteries of the force(s) behind the expansion of the universe which have compelled them to re-think many aspects of their previous understanding. An explosion occurs when a large amount of energy is released into a small volume of area in a noticeably short period of time. Burning very rapidly, explosive material releases concentrated gas that expands quickly to fill the surrounding air space and apply pressure to everything in it. (Can you really outrun an explosion? HowStuffWorks, retrieved 5 May 2020)
But the Big Bang, scientists say, was very different. Contrary to what many might think, the Big Bang was not an explosion per se, but an extremely dense “ball” (for lack of a better word) of astronomically seething heat paired with hyper-dense energy, and this came to be around 14 billions years ago. Even more bamboozling is the fact that this tiny spec was no more than an atom to begin with, but about 14 billion years ago, it instantaneously swelled up into a golf-ball sized mass and thus began an outward stretch of this breath-taking anomaly at speeds, which perplex the mind when written and compel scientists to admit that the very fundamentals of matter, and perhaps even the laws of physics, must have been quite different than they are today. At any rate, as Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, put it, “This is a moment in time, not a moment in space.” (From Big Bang to Present: Snapshots of Our Universe Through Time, LiveScience, retrieved 5 May 2020)
A not-so-economic inflation of the universe
The farthest-flung pieces of our observable universe are also curiously similar to one another, not just in how they formed over time as the universe expanded at nearly untellable speeds and subsequently cooled down, but in their original composition moments after the big bang as well. This is supported by the theory of cosmic inflation, which basically states that the universe expanded outward with an almost anti-gravitational behavior, instead of everything clumping together, the initial incident of the big bang caused everything to move apart.
Astrophysicist Alan Guth in the 80s pioneered this theory and astrophysicists overall like it. It fits well with other facets of the equation, including super-symmetry and Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. Having said this, the outward expansion obviously did not continue at the colossal pace with which it began. Just as the universe in its infantile stages began to stretch its infinite arms outward at light-speed (or more), it took but another fraction of a second for it to suddenly come to a silent halt. It began to slow down as the tendrils of the galaxies formed and stars were given the opportunity to start decorating the vast ceiling of time and space.
This far-more leisurely expansion, however, was found in the 1990s to be quickening its pace. The universe, scientists realised, was not only expanding, but was doing so at an ever-accelerated pace. Normally, even with a massive blast of say, two neutron stars, which are restlessly dense mini-monsters, usually no more than about 10 kilometres in radius (scoop out a teaspoon of these evasively unassuming mini-giants and you’ll be holding about 1 billion tons of mass), the explosion goes outward at break-neck and eventually slows down. This is the norm for nearly any explosive phenomenon.
The other alternative, as we know, are black holes, which can form (amongst other ways) by an implosion more powerful than the explosion, causing everything to retract into a super-dense mass. When two of these neutron stars begin to circumambulate one another, caught not-so-romantically in each other’s deathly gravitational grip, they dance their last dance together, and what a dance it is!
Eventually, they spin around one another at nearly 500,000 rotations per second. The resulting neutron double-Pirouette ends in a collision for the ages – literally sending a ripple through space time. This is known as a kilonova. These are among the most powerful collisions recorded by science to date.
Quranic language revealed these mysteries long ago
But even an explosion of such chaotic magnitude eventually slows down. So why is it that the universe, after slowing down, is now accelerating in its expansion? It really is mind-numbing to think about. This is also why the statement of the Holy Quran 1400 years ago is as stellar as it is interstellar. The Holy Quran also claims that the force which is causing the universe to expand is the same force, which pushed it into existence in the first place.
Hence, the words of the Holy Quran, that
وَ السَّمَآءَ بَنَیۡنٰہَا بِاَیۡٮدٍ وَّ اِنَّا لَمُوۡسِعُوۡنَ
“… We have constructed the heaven with Might, and verily, We are the Ones Who go on expanding it,” (Surah al-Dhariyat, Ch.51: V.48)
refer precisely to this phenomenon. It must be borne in mind that this same conclusion took the bleeding edge of science until about 100 years ago to come to. What’s more, the word musi‘oon is the plural for a person who increases the sa‘ah of something (Lane). The word, according to leading Arabic lexicons, refers to the “width, breath, extent and space” of a thing, as well as its “ampleness, plentifulness, richness, competence, capacity and power.” (Ibid)
At another place in the Holy Quran, God Almighty explains that when He created the heavens, He also ascertained the particulars of all the values required to maintain equilibrium and balance in the universe. Scientists argue that the four fundamental forces may very well have been determined within a millionth of second aft er the big bang – values that, if they were off by even a hundredth of a decimal point would have forced the universe into an immediate regress or totally halted the formation of hydrogen and subsequently, the galaxies, stars, Earth, and life itself. Thus God Almighty states:
وَ السَّمَآءَ رَفَعَہَا وَ وَضَعَ الۡمِیۡزَانَ
“And the heaven He has raised high and set up a measure.” (Surah al-Rahman, Ch.55: V.8)
Even more fascinating is that the ancient interactions between these fundamental forces are so peculiar and well organised that many leading cosmologists and astrophysicists have opined for decades that they are actually just four varied manifestations or expressions of one fundamental force. The most successful attempt at such a unification is the electroweak theory, proposed during the late 1960s by Steven Weinberg, Abdus Salam and Sheldon Lee Glashow. This theory, which incorporates quantum electrodynamics (the quantum field theory of electromagnetism), treats the electromagnetic and weak forces as two aspects of a more-basic electroweak force that is transmitted by four carrier particles, the so-called gauge bosons. (Encyclopedia Britannica, under Fundamental Interaction).
Either way, God Almighty acknowledges that there is a system in place of various forces which contribute to the expanding universe. As has been explained, the Holy Quran uses the word musi‘oon (the ones who go on expanding) in the plural. It is a linguistic excellence of the Holy Quran that where it seeks to point out a multitude of constituents involved in any action, it uses the plural when talking about God Almighty.
Hence, whether the fundamental forces or interactions between these forces are expressed by physicists as one or four, the Holy Quran invites the attention of its readers toward an All-Powerful cause of all causes and Originator of the universe. But that’s not all. The same force Who informed the Holy Prophetsa of Islam 1,400 years ago of the expansion of the universe, also brilliantly described the phenomenon of the Big Bang, specifically addressing those who refuse to believe in God. Regarding the Big Bang, the Holy Quran clearly illustrates:
اَوَ لَمۡ یَرَ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡۤا اَنَّ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضَ کَانَتَا رَتۡقًا فَفَتَقۡنٰہُمَا ؕ وَ جَعَلۡنَا مِنَ الۡمَآءِ کُلَّ شَیۡءٍ حَیٍّ ؕ اَفَلَا یُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ
“Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass [ratqan], then We clove them asunder [fataqna] And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (Surah al-Anbiya, Ch.21: V.31)
Commenting on this verse, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh writes:
“It is significant that this verse is specifically addressed to non-believers, implying perhaps, that the unveiling of the secret mentioned in this verse would be made by the non-believers, a sign for them of the truth of the Quran.
“In this verse the words ratqan (closed-up mass) and fataqna (We clove them asunder), carry the basic message of the whole verse. Authentic Arabic lexicons give two meanings of ratqan, that have great relevance to the topic under discussion. One meaning is ‘the coming together of something and the consequent infusion into a single entity’ and the second meaning is ‘total darkness’. Both these meanings are significantly applicable. Taken together, they offer an apt description of the singularity of a black hole.” (Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, p. 304)
It only gets more interesting. As has been described above, the current understanding of the initial expansion of the universe is becoming more and more clear to scientists today. The light that our amazing scientific minds are shedding on the first few instances of the universe also illuminates the genius of the language used by the Holy Quran 1,400 years ago.
The word used by God Almighty to describe the outward expansion of the initial super-dense singularity 1,400 years ago comes from fa-ta-qa. According to the leading dictionaries, fataqa literally means “he rent [it] asunder, opened it up, disunited something – the disunion of a previously merged thing.”
To an unbiased reader, this striking language of the Holy Quran in its picturesque description of the first few breaths taken by the infantile cosmos is undeniably wondrous and thought-provoking.
Again, we must re-emphasise: here is an entity, force, or whatever name one gives it, which is not only expounding and unravelling interstellar mysteries of the universe with incredible precision and step-by-step detail to an unlettered man in 7th century Arabia, but is Itself claiming that It is the same force which created the universe, and is its First Cause.
To draw a logical parallel, we must remind the reader that according to New Atheists, there is sufficient cause to believe in the existence of a force, if it even unconsciously interacts with what is known. Indeed, this is how Dark Energy and Dark Matter are known, as has been established using various academic sources in part one of this article. Yet, here is an obviously conscious force, articulating itself and claiming to be the Cause of all Causes, the force behind the Big Bang and even the force that shall bring an end to the known universe and New Atheists will not even give it a fair thought.
Beyond the physical senses
If the five basic senses were the only faculties given to man, then perhaps belief in things metaphysical or concepts, which transcend the tangible and empirical could be objectionable. Imagine, then, if the Holy Quran had not invited its readers to hold firmly onto believing in those things which are beyond the scope of the physical senses.
Hence, at a time when science was simply too young to understand the micro and macro universe, the Holy Quran made it intellectually, spiritually, and – indeed – scientifically incumbent upon Muslims to expend and exhaust their super sensory faculties for things that they could not, with their naked eye, observe. It is this bridge between science and faith to which Islam draws our attention by providing inexplicably profound insight into the truths of our universe.
Islam lauds and celebrates science but invites man toward factoring into it a cause of all causes as well. We close this short interlude about blind faith and the astonishing astrophysics pioneered by the Holy Quran 1,300 years before any science could, with the following quote of the fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslims Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh. To this effect, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh, states:
“Of the material forms of existence, there are many categories which defy direct examination. The knowledge of their existence and that of their physical properties can only be gained through logical deduction, or with the help of sophisticated electronic devices, which make them accessible to the senses, indirectly. What are neutrinos and anti-neutrinos? What is matter and antimatter? What are bosons and anti-bosons? The answer to these questions cannot be obtained through any direct means of examination, yet their unseen world has become a universally accepted reality. It should be remembered here that the mind is the ultimate entity of life, which receives and computes all messages transmitted to it by the senses through the computer of the human brain. Mind is not just another name for the brain. It transcends the brain and manipulates its operation.
“The mind is the ultimate seat of consciousness. Deductive logic is the most amazing faculty of mind. Even when there are no facts fed to it, it may continue to operate with hypothetical data. It can also operate by ruminating over the previously stored data. All decision making is done at the level of the mind, while the brain is merely a material hardware, a storehouse of memory. Moreover, the mind has the power to contemplate upon metaphysical and conceptual issues like infinity and eternity. It endeavors to resolve the enigma of a seemingly endless chain of cause and effect. Where did a certain thing begin and what lies beyond every beginning? Was there a first cause preceding all other causes? If so, was that first cause living and conscious, or was it dead and mindless? The only rational conclusion the mind can draw is that the first cause could not be unconscious and dead.”
“Again, the question as to whether death can create life, and unconsciousness give birth to consciousness, is a subject fit only to be explored by the mind and not by the mere brain mass itself. Thus, sometimes the mind learns to believe in the unseen entirely through hypothetical exercises, while at other times it examines and sifts material data and draws logical conclusions from them. It can visualise all forms of radiation which coexist with us, but man can learn of their presence neither through sight, hearing, taste or smell nor through the sense of touch. They can be seen and heard of course by means of radio and television, but only when they are transformed into visible and audible pulses. Even then it is only the faculty of mind which is responsible in the final analysis for decoding these electrical vibrations into sounds and pictures and lifelike phenomena. The images which the mind creates are not merely those seen by the eye on the flat surface of television. There is more to them than meets the eye. Many an unseen meaning is added to the visible scene by the mind, before it is finally developed into a meaningful concept.” (Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmadrh, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, pp. 273- 74)