Are There Other Universes?

08 September, 2016
Q I am a new Muslim. The Quran refers to Allah as being "the Lord of the worlds". What are those other "worlds"?

Answer

Salam Dear Rick,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

One of the oft-repeated descriptions of God Almighty as given in the Quran, which Muslims believe is His word, is that He is the “Lord of the worlds”:

Read for instance the relevant verses in the chapters of Al-Fatihah (the first chapter) and Al-Qasas (the 28th chapter):

{Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds} (Al-Fatiha 1:1)

{O Moses! Verily I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds} (Al-Qasas 28:30)

Apart from the expression, “Lord of the worlds”, we find several other similar expressions about God used in the Quran. And see the following verses too:

{The Originator of the heavens and the earth!} (Al-An`am 6:101)

{Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the Guardian and Disposer of all affairs.} (Az-Zumar 39:62)

{It is He Who is Allah in heaven and Allah on earth; and He is full of wisdom and knowledge.} (Az-Zukhruf 43:84)

{And He is the Mighty, the Wise. His is the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; He gives life and He gives death; and He is able to do all things. He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward; and He is the Knower of all things.} (Al-Hadid 57:1-3)

{He is Allah the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (and Colors). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: Whatever is in the heavens and on earth, do declare His Praise and Glory; and He is exalted in Might, the Wise.} (Al-Hashr 59:24)

{So glory to Him in Whose hands is the dominion of all things: and to Him will ye be all

brought back.} (Ya-Sin 36:83)

{(Allah)! There is no god but He! Lord of the Throne Supreme!} (An-Naml 27:26)

In the Quran, the name “Allah” is used more than 2,600 times and His attribute, Al-Rabb (the Lord, the Cherisher, the Sustainer), has been used over 1,000 times. The Quran is categorical that there is absolutely no being in existence in any part of the universe who possesses any power or ability except for what Allah Almighty Himself has given.

He is the only Creator and Sustainer and Sovereign Law-Giver of the whole of the universe — which includes galaxies, stars, planets, the sun, and the moon — and whatever that exists, no matter our scientific investigations have comprehended them or not.

In all the above quoted Quranic verses, the expression, “worlds” gives us the idea of a plurality of worlds. The first and the most apparent meaning of the word “worlds” is “all categories of existence both in the physical and spiritual sense.” (See note 2 to the translation of Surat Al Fatiha, in The Message of the Quran by the well-known translator of the Quran Muhammad Asad.)

This would mean that Allah is the Lord of the world of the jinn, the Lord of the world of the angels, and the Lord of the world of the hereafter. All of these worlds belong to the world of the ghayb, that is, the unseen world. Allah is, also, the Lord of the world of humans, the Lord of the world of animals, and the Lord of the inanimate world of the plants, trees, minerals, and so on. This is the world of the shahadah, that is, the perceptible, physical world.

According to Abu Said Al-Khudari, one of the Prophet’s companions, Allah has created forty thousand worlds, and the earth and all the creatures on it are only one of those worlds. (138)

Here the reference is to Allah as the Creator, Sustainer and the Law-Giver of “the heavens and the earth”, meaning all the heavenly bodies existing in the universe.

Indeed, astronomers who have delved into the mystery of the celestial systems speak of the existence of hundreds of thousands of galactic systems, each of which carries within it, hundreds of thousands of stars and planets. And what is equally interesting, we now hear of “parallel universes” too.

Though no clear scientific evidence has been presented by the scientists so far, there are enough indications that suggest the possibility of several other universes existing side by side with our own universe.

And most assuredly, the Quran is positive and emphatic in its support for scientific studies and investigations into the mysteries of our universe, as well as, beyond its borders.

Indeed, a BBC documentary, shown on February 14, 2002, spoke of multiple universes existing parallel to one another. Though it may sound crazy, there are scientists who say that other universes exist less than one millimeter away from our universe, probably at another level of existence. (Parallel Universes.)

For years, science fiction writers indulged in the luxury of imagination to claim that the “might-have-beens” in our life could very well acquire “a local habitation and a name” in another world: For instance, consider the case of someone who strove to be a gold medalist in Olympics in this world, but failed to realize his dream. In one of the parallel universes, he (or his double) realizes this dream!

Of course this is fiction. But at the same time, can anyone rule out the possibility of several other universes existing, maybe with a different system of physics in that kind of a “multi-verse”?  Our universe could be like a mere bubble floating in an ocean of other bubbles! Who knows? (Parallel Universes.)

In fact, the mathematical laws of quantum physics circumscribe only the “possibilities” of reality, and not reality itself. But a higher dimension of space, or an extension of our space that may be called “a super-space”, is a veritable possibility indeed. In altered mental states that enable us to attain knowledge now inaccessible to us, we may have startlingly “close encounters” with these parallel worlds. (Parallel Universes.)

The foregoing points to the possible meanings of the Quranic description of Allah Almighty as

{the Lord or the Sustainer of the worlds.} (Al-Fatihah 1:2)

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Salam.

Works Cited:

Al-Qurtubi, Muhammad. Al-Jami` li’Ahkam Al-Quran. Riyadh: Dar Alam Al-kutub, 2003

About Professor Shahul Hameed
Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.