“...and who is more truthful than God in His words.” [Qur’an, Surah An-Nisa’, 4:122]
The ‘Big Bang Theory’ - Historic Preamble
The enormously vast universe has been the object of curiosity since time immemorial. Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, believed that the Universe had always existed and would continue to do so eternally. This was also the mainstream view in scientific circles at the beginning of the 20th century, aptly known as the ‘steady state theory’. An eternal state of the universe meant that there was no inherent need for a Creator – for what does not have a beginning does not necessitate a need for a cause. However, advancements in science would shatter this view and fundamentally prove that the Universe had a beginning.
In 1922, physicist Alexander Friedmann, produced computations showing that the structure of the universe was not static and that even a tiny impulse might be sufficient to cause the whole structure to expand or contract according to Einstein’s ‘Theory of General Relativity’. George Lemaitre was the first to recognise the implications of what Friedmann concluded. Lemaitre formulated that the universe had begun in a cataclysmic explosion of a small, primeval atom. He also proposed that the amount of cosmic radiation are the leftover remnants of the initial “explosion.”
The theoretical musings of these two scientists did not attract much attention and probably would have gone ignored except for new observational evidence that rocked the scientific world in 1929. That year, American astronomer Edwin Hubble, made one of the most important discoveries in the history of astronomy. He discovered that galaxies were moving away from us at speeds directly relative to their distance from us and from each other. A universe where everything constantly moves away from everything else implied a constantly expanding universe.
Stephen Hawking writes, ‘The expansion of the universe was one of the most important intellectual discoveries of the 20th century, or of any century.’ Since the universe is constantly expanding, were we to rewind a film [of its history], then necessarily we would find the entire universe was in a joint state, referred to by some as the ‘Primordial Atom’. Many scientists and philosophers resisted the idea of a beginning to the universe because of the many questions that it raised – primarily what or who caused it. However, with Penzias and Wilson’s discovery of microwave radiation emanating from all directions, possessing the same physical characteristics - namely petrified light which came from a huge explosion during the first seconds after the birth of the universe – left little doubt about the fact that the universe had a beginning.
For fourteen hundred years, since the revelation of the Qur’an, sceptics had trouble understanding the verse, ‘...the heavens and the earth were a joined entity and We separated them...’ [Surah Al-Anbiya’, 21:30].
However, with the assistance of scientific advancements, we can now understand these verses in a new light which help us piece together the cosmological puzzle. The miraculous nature of the Qur’an lies in the knowledge it contains. Its verification of scientific facts shows that its message is as applicable to the scientist in his laboratory today as it was to the Bedouin in the desert.
“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a [ratq] joined entity, and We [fataqa] separated them….Then will they not believe?” [Qur’an, Surah Al-Anbiya’, 21:30]
The word ‘ratq’ translated as ‘sewn to’ means ‘mixed in each, blended’ in Arabic. It is used to refer to two different substances that make up a whole. The phrase ‘fataqa’ is ‘unstitched’ and implies that something comes into being by tearing apart or destroying the structure of things that are sewn to one another. In the verse, heaven and earth are at first subject to the status of ‘ratq.’ They are separated [fataqa] with one coming out of the other. Intriguingly, when we think about the first moments of the ‘Big Bang’ we see that the entire matter of the universe collected at one single point. In other words, everything including ‘the heavens and earth’ which were not created yet were in an interwoven and inseparable condition. Then, this point exploded violently, causing its matter to disunite.
The Expanding Universe
“And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander.” [Qur’an, Surah Adh-Dhariyat, 51:47]
It was only after the development of the radio telescope in 1937, that the expansion of the universe was observed and established. This discovery is regarded as one of the greatest in the history of astronomy.
During these observations, Hubble established that the stars emit a light that turns redder according to their distance. The wavelengths of receding bodies prolonged in the spectrum of light waves would shift to red, while, if the bodies approached each other, the wavelengths would shorten, shifting to blue. The light that came from galaxies that shifted to red showed that the galaxies were receding. In line with this observation, Hubble discovered a striking law: the speed of galaxies that receded was directly proportional to the distance between galaxies. The farther away a galaxy stood, the more its speed of recession accelerated. The result was tested again and again. In short, galaxies were moving further and further away, all the time.
A universe where everything constantly moves away from everything else implied a constantly expanding universe. The debate now is not whether the universe is expanding but rather at what rate. In 2011, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three scientists for the ‘discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae’.
Early Universe in a state of ‘Smoke’
The science of modern cosmology, observational and theoretical, clearly indicates that, at one point in time, the whole universe was nothing but a cloud of ‘smoke’ [i.e. an opaque highly dense and hot gaseous composition]. This is one of the undisputed principles of standard modern cosmology. Scientists now can observe new stars forming out of the remnants of that ‘smoke’. The illuminating stars we see at night were, just as was the whole universe, in that ‘smoke’ material.
God has said in the Qur’an:
“Then He directed Himself to the heaven while it was smoke...” [Qur’an, Surah Fussilat, 41:11]
Because the earth and the heavens above (the sun, the moon, stars, planets, galaxies, etc.) have been formed from this same ‘smoke,’ we conclude that the earth and the heavens were one connected entity.
We know that our world, the sun and the stars did not come about immediately after the primeval explosion. For the universe was in a gaseous state before the formation of the stars. This gaseous state was initially made of hydrogen and helium. Condensation and compression shaped the planets, the earth, the sun and the stars that were but products of the gaseous state. The discovery of these phenomena has been rendered possible thanks to successive findings as a result of observations and theoretical developments.
The knowledge of all contemporary communities during the time of the Prophet would not suffice for the assertion that the universe had once been in a gaseous state. The Prophet himself did not claim to be the author of the statements in the Qur’an as it often reminded, declaring that he is simply a messenger of God.
“That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you, [O Muhammad]. You knew it not, neither you nor your people, before this. So be patient; indeed, the [best] outcome is for the righteous.” [Qur’an, Surah Hud, 11:49]
 Weinberg. The First Three Minutes, a Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, pp. 94-105.
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