CONTEMPLATING THE SKIES

One proof of the power and majesty of Allah the Almighty lies in the Divine Sovereignty displayed on earth, in the skies and in the stars. Failing to contemplate the marvels of the skies deprives human understanding from a splendid exhibition of wisdom.

Compared to the skies, the Earth is like a drop in an ocean, even smaller. There is almost no chapter in the Holy Quran in which the grandeur of the skies is not given mention to. There are even many oaths made in the name of the skies:

“By the heaven, holding mansions of the stars.” (al-Buruj, 1)

“But nay! I swear by the falling of stars. And most surely it is a very great oath if you only knew…” (al-Waqiah, 75-76)[1]

The immensity of the universe, the separate motions of its objects and the distances separating them are given in gigantic figures that exceed the wildest imagination and the most penetrating comprehension. Scientists have even felt compelled to admit:

“The universe is more terrifying, startling and greater then we can possibly imagine, for the objects in space are distancing themselves from one another at frightening speed.”[2]

Scientists estimate the radius of the universe as 14 trillion light years. The speed of light, as known, is approximately 300,000 km (186,411 mph) per hour.

The Galaxies

There are some hundred billion galaxies in the universe visible to state-of-the-art telescopes. That makes the galaxy a colossal community of spatial bodies that each harbors well nigh a billion stars, including their raw material and residues.[3] The Milky Way, which is home to the solar system, is simply one galaxy among these.

Communities of hundreds or thousand galaxies are called clusters. In turn, communities made up of galaxy groups are called galaxy super-clusters.[4]

Our Milky Way galaxy and the some 30 galaxies near us constitute the local galaxy cluster. The Virgo Cluster, a near cluster which stands at a distance of approximately 65 million light years, includes an estimated 2000 galaxies. A single super-cluster, it should be known, lies amid tens of galaxy clusters, boasting a circumference of a 100 million light years.[5]

Another aspect exhibiting Divine Splendor throughout space is the collision of galaxies. Galaxies collide on a frequent basis. If their orbits cross paths or if they have gained enough proximity their mass gravity attracts them closer to each other. No matter how many billions of stars galaxies may have, owing to the enormous distance separating them, stars pass by each other during the collision without coming into contact. The impact of the collision, however, causes the gases and dust, from which stars are made of, to converge in certain spots, stimulating the formation of stars. Observed, for that reason, is an escalation in the formation of new stars in galaxies that have undergone a collision. According to estimations, a collision of a similar kind looms between the Milky Way and her neighbor Andromeda.[6] The two galaxies are approaching one another at a speed of nearly 500,000 km’s (310,685 mph) per hour. Remembering they are separated by a distance of 2.2 million light years, a collision is imminent in around 3 billion years.[7]

There are approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, just one of which is the Sun. The Milky Way has a circumference of 100,000 light years. Orbiting at a pace of 630 km per second (391 mps), it proceeds at a speed of 900,000 kph (559234 mph) towards the Star Vega.

The Hercules Cluster is made up of 100 small galaxies and lies at a distance of 650 million light years from Earth.

The Solar System

Lying amid the Milky Way, the Solar System has a circumference of 12 billion km (7,566,454,306 miles).  The Sun, located at a distance of 30,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way, is believed to be around 4.5 to 5 billion years old.

The Sun transforms 564 million tons of hydrogen to 560 million tons of helium at each second. In the process, 4 million tons of gas radiates forth as rays of energy. In terms of lost mass, the Sun loses 4 million tons of mass per second and 240 million tons per minute. Considering the sun has been consistently consuming energy at this speed for the past 3 billion years, it means that until now, it has lost 400 billion  x  million of mass. Still, even a massive amount like that is equivalent only to about 1/5000 of the Sun’s current mass.

The temperature of the Sun’s surface is 6000 degrees C° (10,832 F). The heat of its core, on the other hand, reaches 20 million degrees C°. While the Sun’s temperature increases  constantly, so does it circumference. It is therefore considered a possibility that the ever-growing the Sun could one day explode and spell an end to the planets closest to it, in Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

Exactly 324,529 times greater than Earth, the Sun has a mass of 2 x 1027 tons, that is a billion times a billion times a billion, multiplied twice, and a gigantic radius of 700,000 km, or 434.969 miles.[8]

The Holy Quran reminds:

“Blessed is He Who made the constellations in the heavens and made therein a lamp and a shining moon.” (al-Furqan, 61)

The Skies are Constantly Expanding

Allah, glory unto Him, states that He constantly expands the flawlessly created skies. The verse declares:

“And the heaven, We raised it high with power, and most surely We are the makers of things ample.” (ad-Dhariyat, 47)

In 1929, scientists discovered that nebula[9] constantly travel further away from our galaxy, a finding later used as a basis for the theory that space is undergoing constant expansion.[10] According to this theory, doubtless one of the most significant turning points in 20th century space research, galaxies are increasingly moving away from each other in proportion with the accumulated distance.[11]

Applying this theory to the objects in space in 1950, scientists proceeded to calculate the speed with which galaxies travel away from each other. While a galaxy 10 million light years away from our own cuts loose at a speed of 250 km’s per second, the breakaway speed of a galaxy 10 billion light years away is 250,000 km’s per second.[12]

That the universe, the enormity of which is spoken of here, is ever-growing in dimension without ever remaining the same, goes to show the impossibility of perfectly comprehending the splendor of Allah the Almighty.

Beautifully expressed is the feeling of awe that envelops one upon contemplation of these countless exhibitions of Divine Majesty:

     Grand You are Lord, grand, so grand,
Greatness itself  to You is a strand!

Constantly expanding this colossal universe, Allah, glory onto Him, will eventually roll it up, just like a scribe rolls up a piece of paper.[13] Again, when the time comes, He will transform Earth to an earth of another kind, and the skies to skies of another sort.[14] This entails the creation of a new universe, signaling the beginning of a new life.[15]

 

The Seven Heavens

In the Holy Quran, Allah the Almighty also makes mention of seven heavens or levels of skies. Presuming what has been mentioned up until now pertains to the first level, how are human reason and comprehension expected to bear the mysteries of the others?

Allah, glory unto Him, asserts:

“[And] who created seven heavens in layers. You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful any inconsistency. So return [your] vision [to the sky]; do you see any breaks? Then return [your] vision twice again. [Your] vision will return to you humbled while it is fatigued. And We have certainly beautified the nearest heaven with stars and have made [from] them what is thrown at the devils and have prepared for them the punishment of the Blaze.” (al-Mulk, 67:3-5)

Now, lift your head and turn your gaze to the skies! Reflect on the innumerable objects in space, faltering not even for a split second in their orbit amid this grand order, each loaded with an underlying mystery and wisdom in its movement.

If the Earth did not rotate on its axis, one side of it would constantly be bright, while the other side doomed to perpetual darkness. There would have been no way of separating the hours of work from the hours of rest.

There is also inherent wisdom in the fact that it takes 24 hours for Earth to rotate once around its axis. Were it to take longer, Earth would have been something like Mercury, where the difference between daily and nightly warmth exceeds 1000 C° (1,832 F). Excess heat would have scorched the Earth in those long days, leaving only for a menacing cold come the evening, freezing everything in its wake.

With these in mind, take note of how Allah the Almighty has blanketed the day with night and rendered the former a time to work, while the latter a time to rest. Think of the manifestations of Divine Power and Mercy in their relentless pursuit of each other!

Again, had the Earth not rotated around the Sun with a tilt of 23 degrees and 27 minutes, there would not have been the four seasons so vital for life. Furthermore, had the Earth not been given this tilt, water evaporating from the oceans would have surged north and south, turning continents into daunting icebergs.

If the moon, say, was 50,000 miles further away from where it is now, the tides would have been so enormous that the continents would have been deluged twice on a daily basis. Even the mighty mountains would have eroded to utter annihilation, in almost the blink of an eye.[16]

So therefore, do not be stuck in awe of the sky simply for the sake of its immensity and the myriad of stars it boasts. Instead, proceed to reflect on its Creator and how He has fashioned and ordered it all! How is it that Allah the Almighty holds those massive stars together without a visible pillar or peg?

Just think of the Sun and the Moon; do they ever breakdown? Is there ever a time when they are sent to repair? While traveling in their predestined orbits do any of the countless objects in space step out of their Divine course and have accidents?

It is a Grave Sin to Abandon Contemplation

How amazing it is that man is infatuated upon seeing an ostentatious, embellished palace. The sight never leaves his mind, as he keeps on spreading the news of its beauty for the rest of his life. But in spite of constantly seeing the grand Divine masterpiece of art that is the universe, he shrinks back from thoroughly reflecting on it and shies away from making an adequate mention of it. He takes no notice of it and carries on, like it is an ordinary thing. Little is he aware that the palace he admires so much is but a tiny particle of Earth, which in turn is one of the smallest specks of the grand universe…

A person oblivious to contemplating Divine Power resembles the ant in the below parable:

An ant builds a nest in a king’s palace, which is surrounded by high walls, built on a solid foundation, decorated by the most exquisite furniture and swarming with servants. When encountering its friends upon making its way out of its nest, the ant speaks to them about nothing but its nest, the crumbs it gathers and how it stocks them for the morrow. The ant is utterly and almost hopelessly remote from the thought of the magnificent palace in which it roams and the power, splendor and sovereignty of the king. Its ignorance is all the more compounded by the fact that he is completely unmindful of those who live there.

An ignorant man is also unmindful of Allah the Almighty’s Divine masterpieces of art, the angels and the righteous person living in His dominion.

There is no way that an ant can become aware of a palace and the beauties it boasts. But through contemplation and imagination, we humans can journey through many realms. In a humble return for the countless blessings Allah the Almighty has endowed him with, a person can come to terms with his nothingness and vulnerability, and prostrate in gratitude. Only a ‘human’ can do this; or in other words, only those who do this can carry the honor of humanness. Indeed, humanity has a natural predisposition and ability for contemplation. Gradually laying waste to this potential by not putting it to use is to betray Divine trust and to bid farewell to one of man’s most defining attributes.

It is said that a certain man during the time of Prophet Musa (upon him be peace) had worshiped persistently for thirty years; such that a cloud had even begun to shade him during his times of worship, owing to his piety. But there came a day when the cloud did not make its appearance, leaving the man to worship in the sun. He went to his mother to see if she might know the reason.

“You must have committed a sin”, she commented.

“No”, he responded. “I do not believe I have!”

“Did you not gaze at the skies, the flowers? Were you kept back from contemplating the splendor of Allah despite seeing them?” she asked.

“Yes”, the man then confessed. “I failed to contemplate in spite of seeing the wonders around me.”

“Are you looking for a greater sin than that?” his mother then said. “You must repent immediately!”

A believer of right mind must therefore never neglect the duty to contemplate.

The more a person learns of the magnificence of Allah the Almighty’s art and the more he contemplates it, the more his wisdom of the Almighty’s Glory and Majesty and his proximity to the Truth will be.

Ali (Allah be well-pleased with him) has said, “Expanding knowledge of the Quran with some knowledge of astronomy enables one to grow in faith and certainty”, after which he quoted the following verse:

“Most surely in the variation of the night and the day, and what Allah has created in the heavens and the earth, there are signs for a people who guard (against evil).” (Yunus, 6)

Every single being created by Allah the Almighty, serves a specific purpose within the Divine order. Until now, mankind has been able to gain acquaintance with only a few of these purposes. Wisdom unseen and as yet not comprehended are multitudes infinitely greater in number than compared to those thought to have been understood.

If we know what sound is, it is because we have receptive organs like ears. If we know what color is, it is all thanks to our eyes. Who knows of the many Divine manifestations in this infinite realm of being of which we have absolutely no clue, simply because we are deprived of the receptive organs to sense them.[17]

Restrained by a limited power of reason, how can man be able to perfectly comprehend Allah, glory unto Him, when he cannot even completely grasp the entire creatures and their specific characteristics? Muslim scholars, who were able come to terms with just an infinitesimal glimpse of the Almighty’s Splendor and the manifestations of His attributes, felt compelled to admit, in awe and dazzle:

“To understand Him is to understand He cannot be comprehended.”

This is because created beings contain no reflection or manifestation of Allah the Almighty’s essential reality. Everything created by Allah, glory unto Him, is constituted by the combinations of Divine attributes. The fact that there has not been created a single space that can endure an essential manifestation of Allah the Almighty is proven by the Divine response “You can never see Me” [18] given to Prophet Musa (upon him be peace) upon his adamant request to see Allah the Almighty, as a consequence of which he fell down unconscious fainting from it. It is for that very reason that, let alone seeing Allah the Almighty’s essential reality, man is limited by an insufficiency to even comprehend the reality of His attributes.

[1]        Also see, ad-Dhâriyât, 7; an-Najm, 1; at-Takwîr, 15; at-Tarıq, 1; as-Shams, 1-2, 5.

[2]        Yûsuf al-Hajj,  Mawsûatu’l-I‘cazi’l-Ilmi, p. 413.

[3]        http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr, Evren/Evrenin Yapıtaşları Gökadalar, (Accessed, 06.12.2005).

[4]        http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr, Evren/Gökbilim Sözlüğü, (Accessed, 06.12.2005).

[5]        http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr, Evren/Evrenin Yapıtaşları/Gökadalar/Gökada Kümeleri, (Accessed, 06.12.2005).

[6]        http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr, Evren/Evrenin Yapıtaşları/Gökadalar/Çarpışan Gökadalar, (Accessed, 15.12.2005); http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr/haberler/gokbilim/99-08-4.pdf

[7]        http://www.newsandevents.utoronto.ca/bin/000414b.asp; http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr/haberler/gokbilim/2000-05-3.pdf

[8]        See,http://www.physics.metu.edu.tr/~ecevit/bilinen_evren_gercekleri.ppt, (Accessed: 21. 06. 2007); http://gokyuzu.org (Accessed: 21.06.2007); http://www.ozaltin.8k.com/NN/2.htm. (Accessed: 16.10.2004); Yûsuf al-Hajj, Mawsûatu’l-I‘cazi’l-Ilmi,, p. 413-417; Akram Ahmed İdrîs, al-Falak wa’t-Tıbb Amama Azameti’l-Qur’ân, 19-112; Prof. Dr. Osman Çakmak, Bir Çekirdekti Kâinat, p. 66.

[9]        Nebulas are the massive white spots, apart from stars, found in space, given the name due their resemblance of whitish clouds.

[10]       Celâl Kırca, Kur’ân-ı Kerîm’de Fen Bilimleri, p. 165; an-Najjâr, as-Samâ, p. 82-93; Faruk Yılmaz, Kâinâtın Yaratılışı, p. 64-67, 255-258.

[11]       Şakir Kocabaş, Kur’ân’da Yaratılış, Istanbul 2004, p. 19.

[12]       Prof. Dr. Osman Çakmak, Bir Çekirdekti Kâinat, p. 28.

[13]       al-Anbiya, 104.

[14]       Ibrâhîm, 48.

[15]       See, an-Najjâr, as-Samâ, p. 82, 105-106, 187-194; http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr, Evren/Evrenin Kaderi/Kapalı Evren.

[16]       See, İlim-Ahlâk-Îman, prepared by, M. Rahmi Balaban, Diyanet Publishing, Ankara, p. 187.

[17]       The universe, according to Muslim scholars, consists of substances and accidents. Substances are material entities. Accidents, on the other hand, are the perceptible qualities of a material entity. Color and smell, for instance, are accidents perceptible only through the subsistence of a material being. As mentioned above, color would not have been perceived had there been no such thing as eyesight, and smell it were not for smelling. As we are to begin a life of a unique character in the Hereafter, presuming we will then begin perceive accidents of an entirely distinct nature is as conceivable as considering many other accidents to exist, here on Earth, that lie beyond our perception.

[18]       al-Arâf, 143.