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Aliens, Alternate Dimensions, and Allah

Let’s say that one day we discover extraterrestrials knocking on our atmosphere. No doubt, this would be a shock to the world. But would the mere existence of these aliens shake the core foundation of all world religions? Would a heavenly revealed religion come to a screeching halt with the revelation that there is other intelligent life in the universe? Not at all.

For starters, here is this verse in the Qur’an: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures that He has scattered through them: and He has power to gather them together when He wills.” (Surat Ash-Shuraa 42:29).

The Arabic term used for the phrase “through them” is fihima, which can only mean the living creatures can exist both within the heavens and on Earth[1].

One could interpret the “living creatures” to be angels, since the term “heaven” used here is often used to denote the realm of God. There are two problems with this interpretation, however.

First, there is another verse in the Qur’an where God makes a clear distinction between “living beings” and angels: “And to Allah doth obeisance all that is in the heavens and on earth, whether moving (living) creatures or the angels: for none are arrogant (before their Lord).” (Surat  An-Nahl: 16:49).

Second is that the term used for “heaven” in Arabic (sama) is not synonymous with Paradise (jannah), as is common in English terminology, which we often attribute to the residence of God and angels.

As the scholar Muhammad Asad explains in his translation, The Message of the Qur’an: “The term sama (“heaven” or “sky”) is applied to anything that is spread like a canopy above any other thing. Thus, the visible skies which stretch like a vault above the earth and form, as it were, its canopy, are called sama: and this is the primary meaning of this term in the Qur’an; in a wider sense, it has the connotation of “cosmic system”.”

It’s also worth noting that the first chapter of the Qur’an, the one that all Muslims recite in their daily prayers, contains the verse “Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds,” (Surat Al-Fatihah 1:2).

Notice the plural of “worlds”. The meaning here is that God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Master of all worlds in our universe—and, inevitably, any inhabitants within those worlds.

Yusuf Ali, whose translation of the Qur’an is one of the most widely read in the world, also comments on this, saying that “It is reasonable to suppose that Life in some form or another is scattered through some of the millions of heavenly bodies scattered through space.”

The existence of extraterrestrial beings is not outside the bounds of Islamic thought, and so it falls upon proof, not conjecture (and vague, grainy footage of discs in the sky), to confirm or deny their existence.

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