(Draft Article) Objection: “Verse 21:30 is not about the Big Bang, it is about Pagan Mythology”

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By MuslimAnswers.net Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

Statement: Dr. Naik says verse 21:30 talks about the Big Bang. This verse is actually about a pagan mythology.

Answer:

The connection between Verse 21:30 and the “Big Bang” is made by Dr. Naik in the following passage:

The creation of the universe is explained by astrophysicists in a widely accepted phenomenon, popularly known as the ‘Big Bang’. It is supported by observational and experimental data gathered by astronomers and astrophysicists for decades. According to the ‘Big Bang’, the whole universe was initially one big mass (Primary Nebula). Then there was a ‘Big Bang’ (Secondary Separation) which resulted in the formation of Galaxies. These then divided to form stars, planets, the sun, the moon, etc. The origin of the universe was unique and the probability of it occurring by ‘chance’ is zero. The Qur’aan contains the following verse, regarding the origin of the universe: “Do not the Unbelievers see That the heavens and the earth Were joined together (as one Unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?” [Al-Qur’aan 21:30]

The striking congruence between the Qur’aanic verse and the ‘Big Bang’ is inescapable! How could a book, which first appeared in the deserts of Arabia 1400 years ago, contain this profound scientific truth?[1]

Actually, there are a lot of things that may be the subject of vociferous objections by the non-Muslims in the above presentation by Dr. Naik, but only one of them is germane to our discussion, the one spefically mentioning the “Big Bang”.

Now, concerning the original statement of the non-Muslim, we are not sure what “pagan mythology” is exactly supposed to mean in here, since different religions have different explanations about how the Universe came to be, and the explanations are in fact quite varied, so much so that the umbrella term “pagan mythology” is not really descriptive. Perhaps the objector is referring to those myths where “gods” identified with ‘Heaven’ and ‘Earth’ came together in “Union” and brought everything into being.

If this is what the objector is pointing towards, then there can never be any attention paid to such thoughts in Islam. Forgetting the physical side of the narrative for a moment, there is no way that Islam says that there can be a confluence of “two gods” uniting to give a kind of birth to the Heavens and the Earth, when the entire message of Islam is about the absolute unity of Allah. For those who falsely believe that the Qur’an was “concocted” by Muhammad , it would seem astonishing that a story rife with a “mystical union between two gods” would be presented, without it seriously undermining or even killing off the Islamic religion in one blow.

One more thing we need to mention, is that generally, if the non-Muslim claims that Muhammad copied the Qur’an from other texts, or that it was dictated to him by someone, then the burden of proof is on that non-Muslim, in the sense of bringing the eyewitnesses who saw this alleged dictation or copying, through an acceptable chain of transmitters. If that is done, then our scholars can argue with the non-Muslim on an academic level concerning the strength of the eyewitness accounts and so forth. But to simply hypothesize about this matter due to some alleged similarity the non-Muslim may have found between a Qur’anic Verse and some narrative in previous books cannot stand a chance of being given a second thought, especially when it is presented without a rigorous narrational particularization.   

So what we see then is a case of the non-Muslim burdening the primary texts with something that is totally baseless and not at all found in the texts. Then again, if the objector is alluding to some other type of “pagan mythology”, they can bring forth their objection, and we will invariably show the falsity of such claims at least from a theological point of view.        

So we cannot make much of the saying of the objector in this regard. However, we can deduce some valuable information from the explanation given in Maariful Quran, which says :

Different exegesists have explained differently the sense of the words “closing” and “opening”, but the meanings which the companions of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and the majority of the exegesists have adopted are that closing of sky and earth means shutting off rainfall from the sky and vegetation from the earth, and opening means the opening of these two i.e. the rainfall and vegetation.

So this is a presentation of one of the more famous saying of the exegesists of the earlier generations regarding the meaning of this Verse – the interpretation above is attributed to the exegete of this nation, ‘Ibn Abbas (Radhia Allahu Anhu). There are in fact a number of other sayings in this respect as well, including that the Heavens and Earth were “stuck” to each other before they were separated, and that the Heavens and the Earth were closed up, then they were rent into the seven Heavens and Earths[2]. (The provided link is to the exegesis of Imam Fakhrudin ar-Raazi (Rahimahulla). Among the recent scholars, Shaykh At-Tantaawi (Rahimahulla) also mentions all the three possibilities above[3]. Perhaps a more thorough search might bring up other views about what meanings this Verse may include).

What we think is of importance to mention is that further down in this interpretation, there is one note from Mufti Taqi Usmani which says the following:

But the miraculous style of the Holy Qur’an is that the words used by it may have different possibilities for interpretation. The words ratq and fatq used here have another meaning which is ‘being compact’ and ‘being separated’. If these words are taken in this sense, the verse may also be translated as, “The heavens and the earth were compact, then We separated them.” In this case the verse will refer to an event of the early creation, meaning thereby that the heavens and the earth were originally a single body. Thereafter Allah separated the earth from the heavens. The contemporary research about the Big Bang is close to this description. But it should always be kept in mind that the Qur’anic descriptions are independent of any scientific theory and the Qur’an should not be made subject to ever-changing theories[4].

Here the statement from a contemporary scholar of a high caliber is made that there is a possibility for this Verse to refer to the contemporary scientific theories concerning the beginning of the Universe. As noted previously though, not a great deal is made out of this possibility, since there is no absolute certainty that this Ayah refers to the Big Bang, or even that the theory of the Big Bang is so well-entrenched that it is impossible for new research to force future scientists to modify this theory, either slightly or considerably.

So what we see from a consideration of the old and newer interpretations is that this Verse does not refer to “pagan mythology” as originally forwarded by the non-Muslim objector. It may be said that many of the explanations of the earlier generations are very simplistic and have nothing “scientifically visionary” about them at all. We can live with that, as it is not necessary that this Verse be true only in the “modern scientific” sense.

But seeing that a scholar of the highest caliber takes note of the possibility that the “Big Bang” could be referred to in this Verse should also be food for thought for the readers, so that they may realize that there may be multilayered meanings to the Qur’an, and that each meaning can be correct in its own context and sphere, without jeopardizing any other meanings and interpretations that may be deduced subsequently by the exegesists.

We hope that this small explanation will be used as a stepping stone for all of us to consider the Qur’an as it should be considered, to study its meanings through the proper means, and to obtain guidance from it. And through Allah is our success.

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4 thoughts on “(Draft Article) Objection: “Verse 21:30 is not about the Big Bang, it is about Pagan Mythology”

  1. Asalaamu Alykum brother,
    Thank you for taking the time and reading this. I had a question regarding extraterrestrial life/Aliens, conscious life outside our planet, What would be the Orthodox perspective concerning this, we as Muslims believe in unseen realms and creatures such as the Jinn, we know they travel across the stars and sometimes appear before us taking the shape of animals and humans, while some of them look similar to us while others look like animals. Could they possibly be a similar description to extraterrestrial life/Aliens? One fellow who i think is most likely a troll by looking at his twitter account asked this from a scholar:

    “If The Lord of The Worlds created intelligent life in another solar system, is our “Last Prophet” also their “Last Prophet”?”
    “The claim of final prophethood worries me a great deal. You?”

    What should be our response to these questions? If Alien life exists did they most likely have prophets before us? Are Aliens and the Jinn one and the same? Would you say that Muhammad (PBUH) being the best of creation is only restricted for the human race or just this universe or is the title for best in every creation.
    I would like to add that aliens and beings from other dimensions seem to be the new Jinn/spirits of other cultures as the new mysterious and unknown creatures of the new secular mythology, so our definitions and views will most likely be biased when talking about this subject. In a video, Yasir Qadhi makes a point that you could interpret certain verses to mean that god has chosen humanity over all other creation, which could mean that god chose to guide humanity exclusively with prophets above any other species in the universe, and perhaps the multiverse (unless that theory has been debunked). There usually is an article from the internet every few other months about some strange light in a galaxy trillions of light-years away where a reporter uses sensationalist titles when it’s just a very slim maybe, plus we have to take into consideration that people like Neal Degrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan are/were very vehement on encountering Alien life in an eerily religious manner which produced literature that can at times be similar to the Christian afterlife literature in which people who experience near death suddenly tell tales of the afterlife that nobody could really prove or disprove.

    Like

    • Salam Alaykum,

      I will give an answer the question, while I await the answer of a scholar I have sent this question to. What is known is that the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) is the Messenger sent to all creation, even to the angels [who are not Mukallaf, but rather he (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) was sent as an Honorary Messenger to them].

      There is one recent answer about multiple Earths on this link: http://www.hadithanswers.com/seven-earths-and-seven-nabis/

      As you can see, the scholar acknowldges other views, but is against the idea that this is a properly established narration, and from this it would appear to be difficult to build a case based on rather weak narrations.

      Concerning the issue of the ‘Final Prophet’ I do not know why this should be a big issue or problematic in any way. Just as we would make an invitation to Islam to Native tribes in America or Africa whose existence was totally unknown a few centuries ago, in that hypothetical scenario we would make Da’wah to any other intelligent life who is Mukallaf and with whom we can communicate (perhaps related to giving the message to the Jinns, but this is all speculation).

      Anyway, I will await any answer I receive and if I modifications are required I will post a new comment.

      Wa Salam.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Salam Alaykum,

      I am adding to the first reply something additional which I heard from one of Shaykh Osi-Efa’s lectures a few days ago, which is that we are indeed very skeptical about Alien Abductions being exactly abductions from aliens, yet we could interpret these as being “Jinn Abductions” – this was said in connection with the story of “Khuraafa” and how that term came about as explained in one narration of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). The Shaykh also mentioned that the Jinn are more technologically advanced than what we are, so the stories of “Aliens” would indeed seem to match what we Muslims know about Jinns. [This also while not denying that Aliens might exist].

      Like

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