Are We Alone?

There are estimated to be 100 billion stars in our Galaxy, and there are billions of galaxies like our own in the cosmos. There have to be billions of planetary systems, with some kind of life in them somewhere in the outer world, writes SYED IQBAL ZAHEER.

What could ever have been a time for Man when the world was not a source of wonder for him? From where has he come? And where does he go? Religion provides the answer. But its answer primarily deals with the fate of the individual.

Further, the answer is a matter of belief. If somebody wishes, he can join the band of believers. Proofs are not supplied. And, it is, at best, only theoretical. No hard facts. So, one has the choice to believe or not to believe. Humanity at large remains in its puzzle.

Another question is repeatedly asked. Are we alone? Or, are there others around us in the same predicament? Again, no definite answer has been obtained. If there are conscientious beings, where are they?

The cosmological developments of the last hundred years kindled hope, that there has to be another kind of life somewhere in another part of the cosmos: if not humans, then, some other kind, but physical.

The argument is, the cosmos is too large not to contain a second kind of life elsewhere appearing by itself, by chance, as our own has.

At one time it was thought that there appear to be rivers in Mars, a sign of life. But investigations led to conclude that there are no rivers in the planet, nor any water, nor any signs of life – of any kind.

But the world does not end at Mars. If you are beginning to search in the cosmos – anything for that matter – then Mars is not the right place to start from – because it is too close. The entire Solar System, the Sun and its Planets, are as close to each other as beads in a necklace – or nearer.

There are estimated to be 100 billion stars in our Galaxy, and there are billions of galaxies like our own in the cosmos. There have to be billions of planetary systems, with some kind of life in them somewhere in the outer world.

NASA has launched efforts to trace any sign of life in any part of the cosmos. Its search began some three decades ago, but so far it has netted no results. The search goes on.

As Paul Davies has noted, most cosmologists believe there are infinity of universes.The Inflation theory first gave an idea of multiple universes, and has led many cosmologists to firmly believe in it. That then is the oil for the lamp of hope.

The multiverse is part of the Inflation Theory. Mathematical calculations lead to it and without which the theory is not complete.

On the mission of search for life, we encounter a section of astronomers who believe that our world is holographic in its essence – not real. Some others believe that our world is fake. This idea goes back to the Middle-ages.

The Sufiya’ believe that there is a world in existence, called `Aalam al-Amr, where Allah’s commands are assembled and from which world, human deeds are generated before being committed by the humans on land.

In his book, ‘What’s Eating the Universe?’ Paul Davies writes thus:

“I haven’t conducted a straw poll, but there is a list of very distinguished physicists and cosmologists who are totally persuaded that we do, indeed, live in a universe delicately poised in the Goldilocks zone, and that – theological explanations being anathema – there must be a multiverse.”

Among Muslims, the belief that this world is real, is fundamental. Although to some Sufis, this life is virtual and the next, real. Or, a dream. Indeed, there have been several scholars of Islam who have held this position. They say, in the words of Sufyan Thawri of the first Islamic century:

“People are asleep. When they die they become awake.”

The Qur’an has adopted a clear attitude. There are multiple worlds. Its first line says, (All) praise belongs to Allah the Sustainer of the Worlds.” (1: 1)

But what about ‘life’ in existence somewhere now? At this moment? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? At this moment? In parallel to ours?

That’s a difficult question for Christian scientists to answer. Since, according to them, Jesus Christ was the “only” son of God, sent for salvation of the mankind. But the difficulty is, he has come and gone: the first and the last.

So, what about salvation of the people, beyond this earth, if there are any? Where is their Savior? Therefore, although the question is quite old, Christian Scientists have managed to ignore the question and skirt its answer.

But Islam suffers no conundrum, no confusion, in issues involving faith. No skirting around, no dodging the answer.

One of the most prominent commentators of the Qur’an, a scholar of the very first century, a close Companion of the Prophet, his cousin, in fact, `Abdullah ibn `Abbas, issued a very unusual statement in this regard. He remarked,

“In this world, there also exist beings like us and you, leading their own specific kind of life, culture and civilization – who have their own Nuh, their own version of Ibrahim, and so forth.”

That is a courageous statement to make.

Common Muslims are not aware that in some matters – such as those in the Unknown sphere – Muslim scholars are more advanced in their opinions than even scientists; and, having lost the scientific mentality, thanks to their lethargic minds full of fossilized grey matter, will even consider Ibn `Abbas’ statement with skepticism.

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