Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 27, Al-Naml [64 – 66]

[64] Or, He who originates the creation,93 then repeats it, and provides you out of heaven and earth – is there a god with Allah? Say, ‘Bring your evidence if you are truthful.’94

Commentary

93. Majid offers us a comparison:

“Contrast this with the openly polytheistic teaching of the NT, ‘Giving thanks unto the Father … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son … Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creation: For by him were all things created, that are in heavens, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist … For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell’ (Col. 1: 12-19).”

Origin of the World

After three centuries of intense research, experimentations, observations, and theoretical speculations, the scientists are now in a vicious circle of their own making. They are in the same position which the Prophet (saws) had predicted, but without the solution that he offered. He said, as in reports of Bukhari, Muslim and others, “Shaytan comes to one of you and asks, ‘Who created such and such a thing? such and such a thing?…’ until he asks, ‘who created your Lord?’ When he reaches this (stage of thought), let him seek Allah’s refuge and stop thinking further.” One does not need to be extraordinarily intelligent to conclude that if he did not stop, he will remain within the circle.

Science has simple facts at the bottom. Hence, a good scientific theory is one which, according to most scientists, is simple. (In most cases, also beautiful). One of the simple statements of science is that every cause has an effect. If it is said, therefore, that such and such a thing happened by Allah’s will, directly, following His command, then, according to the scientists, one has not spoken science. Science wants something material, specific, demonstrable, and that which follows physical laws. So, according to them, for anything to happen there has to be a physical cause. Applied to the universe, it can be said safely that today’s universe is the effect of the causes of yesterday. One may go on backward to a point when it would have started. But, as one travels backward to the other end, as the scientists attempt, once again he enters into the circle.

As is generally known, the Universe is expanding. Yesterday’s universe was smaller than today’s. We go way back some 15 billion years, when it was infinitesimally small in size – to be precise 10-32 cm across – and was all energy, highly compressed, and no matter. Why not lesser than that? Because calculations fail below this size and below a point in time 10-42 seconds after the start of the event of creation, or at the event of the Big Bang. (These are known as Planck’s constants).

It was at that point that, according to the theoreticians, time, space, the forces of nature, and laws came into being. Who caused the Big Bang? No answer. What caused it? No answer either. From where did the universe get its time, space, the four forces of nature, and laws that govern it? No answer. Now we are in a circle. Timothy Ferris, an emeritus professor at the University of California sums up:

“The first paradox may be stated: There can be no effect without a cause. Whatever events transpired near the outset of time, each must have been caused by some prior event. So we can never attain an account of the very beginning.”

“The second paradox: You can’t get something from – or for – nothing. The ‘origin’ of the universe, if that concept is to have any meaning, must create the universe out of nothing. Therefore, there can be no logical explanation of genesis.”

“The third, and most telling, cosmogonic paradox holds that: Regardless of its net energy, the universe must have originated from another system, and that system must, in turn, have an origin of some sort. And so, we are caught in infinite regress.”

The author then proceeds to demonstrate, over several chapters, how these paradoxes can be resolved. In his words,

“Examining their thrown bones suggests that each has the potential of being resolved by shifting from a classical to a quantum paradigm. Attaining a quantum perspective is difficult. Living in a macroscopic world where quantum phenomena are rarely manifest, we humans came upon classical physics first, and tend to think of quantum physics as a special case. Nevertheless, it’s beginning to look like the universe is fundamentally a quantum system.” (The Whole Shebang, Timothy Ferris, p. 246-48, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1997)

To put it in simpler words what the above means is that when classical physics and cosmology (of Kepler, Galileo, Copernicus and Newton), fail to resolve the above paradoxes; quantum physics (that of Neils Bohr, Maxwell, Weinberger and Max Plank) rescues the situation.

The universe at large gives no clue of its origin. Every theory that has been advanced in this regard has its own disadvantages and fails to answer the questions that arise if assumed as true. Furthermore, the explanations fail below Max Planck constants. That is, equations start to fail when taken beyond the Planck Time of 10-42 seconds after the big bang event, and below the size 10-32 cm. Below these levels, the problem has to be handed over to the world of quantum physics.

But, as explanations are launched in subsequent chapters of the book, it comes to light, to the discomfiture of the scientists, that quantum physics is fuzzy. At that level, sub-atomic particles seem to be endowed with contradictory qualities. E.g., they can both be particles as well as waves. They can be in two places at one time, crossing the limit set by Einstein’s equations, which suggest that nothing can travel at speeds greater than that of light.

How will a particle behave, whether as a wave or a particle depends, amazingly, on the observer. If it is not observed, it behaves like a particle, but when subjected to observation it begins to behave as a wave. Of course, if science did not have experimental proofs, it would have been thought that they were taking the people for a ride. The sub-atomic particles behave in such inexplicable and unpredictable ways that their behavior is now referred to as weird. One other weird quality of sub-atomic particles is that they seem to know what’s happening at the other end of the universe!

So the theories that explain the universe at the quantum level cannot be advanced in a straightforward logical manner. They need a few – almost philosophical – turns. They need some “ifs,” “perhapses,” “assumptions,” “suppositions” and words of this class to stand on their own. Hence, the careful choice of words in the above statement. Note, for example: “Examining their thrown bones suggests,” (note the words ‘suggests’), “that each has the potential” (note the words ‘has the potential’) “of being resolved by shifting from a classical to a quantum paradigm. Attaining a quantum perspective is difficult.” (So do not worry yourself about it. Just take it as true). “Living in a macroscopic world where quantum phenomena are rarely manifest, we humans came upon classical physics first, and tend to think of quantum physics as a special case.” (Note the words, “tend to think”). “Nevertheless, it’s beginning to look like the universe is fundamentally a quantum system” (note the words, ‘it’s beginning to look like’).

To be sure, studies and experiments at the quantum level have neither been able to, nor give hope of, the removal of ambiguities, anxieties and uncertainties. Some scientists have begun to make statements similar to what Darwin made when asked about how life began. He remarked that it was a meaningless question.

To our relief, not every scientist subscribes to the view that the world’s origin has a perfect scientific explanation. In the words of Ferris himself, (who places this piece of writing at the beginning rather than at the end of the discussion),

“Science as we know it is built on cause and effect, space and time. How can it comprehend as uncaused effect that, by definition, could not have occurred within a preexisting framework of space and time? Many scientists think it can’t. ‘Ultimately, the origin of the universe is, and always will be, a mystery,’ writes the astronomer Stuart Bowyer’. Says the physicist, Charles Townes, ‘I do not understand how the scientific approach alone, as separated from a religious approach, can explain an origin of all things. It is true that physicists hope to look behind the “big bang,” and possibly to explain the origin of our universe as, for example, a type of fluctuation. But then, of what is it a fluctuation and how did this in turn begin to exist? In my view, the question of origin seems always left unanswered if we explore from scientific view alone.’” (The Whole Shebang, p. 245-46) – Au.

94. Asad comments, “The implication being that most people who profess belief in a multiplicity of divine powers, or even in the possibility of One God’s ‘incarnation’ in a created being, do so blindly, sometimes only under the influence of inherited cultural traditions and habits of thought, and not out of a reasoned conviction.”

[65] Say, ‘None knows the Unseen in the heavens and the earth except Allah.’ And they do not know when they will be resurrected.95

Commentary

95. Accordingly, `A’isha (ra) has said that whoever said that he – the Prophet – knew what tomorrow held, fastened a lie upon Allah (swt), for Allah Himself said, ‘None knows the Unseen in the heavens and the earth except Allah.’ (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir)

In fact, the Prophet himself objected to being referred to as someone who knew what tomorrow held in store. On the authority of Rabi` bint Mu`awwaz, she said: “The Prophet (saws) entered upon me the day I was being prepared (for marriage). He sat down on my bed as you (the next narrator) are sitting down now. Young girls were beating a tambourine and singing in praise of those of their fathers who had been martyred at Badr; until one of them sang out, ‘And amongst us is a Prophet who knows what tomorrow holds.’ The Prophet (saws) interrupted, ‘Do not say this. But rather say what you had been saying earlier’” (Au.).

And Qatadah has said in a trustworthy report, “Ignorant people have ascribed effects to stars. They say, ‘He who married according to such and such stars …, he who traveled when such and such stars …, he who was born by such and such star …’ and such other things, whereas neither do the stars, nor animals, nor birds know anything about the Unseen. Allah (swt) has decreed that no one shall know what is in the Unseen except He, and they do not know when they will be raised up.” (Ibn Kathir)

[66] But rather, their knowledge failed96 as to the Hereafter; nay, they are in doubt thereof; nay, they are blind thereunto.97 

Commentary

96. Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Zayd said that the meaning is, “they missed its meaning.” There have been other alternative readings of the term “iddaraka” and, hence, as many interpretations (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Shawkani). A few other meanings forwarded are, “their knowledge about it is equal.” That is, they are equally ignorant. Or, their knowledge about the Hereafter will only be complete when they are actually raised in the Hereafter. Another interpretation is, “Their knowledge stops short of knowing when it will be.” (Ibn Kathir)

97. Yusuf Ali comments on the hopeless state in which the deniers are:

“The Unbelievers are generally materialists, who cannot go beyond the evidence of their physical senses. As to a spiritual vision of the future, their physical senses would only leave them in doubt and uncertainty, while their rejection of the spiritual Light makes them blind altogether to the next world.”

Asad adds:

“i.e., (they are) blind to its logical necessity within God’s plan of creation. For, it is only on the premise of a life after death that the concept of man’s moral responsibility and, hence, of God’s ultimate judgment can have any meaning: and if the absence of choice is taken for granted, all differentiations between right and wrong become utterly meaningless as well.”

(To be continued)