Science is still unable to explain what life really is. This world is the arena where God manifests His Will from behind the veil of what we experience and describe as “natural causes,” but life is the result of the direct manifestation of His Name, the All-Living. So, as long as science insists on its positivist, even materialist, viewpoint, it will never penetrate the mystery of what life is.
Scientists restrict the concept of life to the conditions that obtain on or beneath the outer surface of our planet. Therefore, when they have looked for extra-terrestrial life, what they have looked for is conditions which are the same as or similar or closely corresponding to the conditions in which life is evident on the surface of the earth. But surely, if they had retained sufficient sense of the absolute wonder of life (and that absolute wonder is an aspect of life’s being a direct manifestation of the All-Living), they should not have ruled out forms and conditions of life which are at present beyond their understanding. In their view, the arguments put forward by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi for the existence of angels and other spirit beings may not be worthy of consideration. However, the latest discoveries in deep sea biology may persuade them to review Nursi’s arguments. Said Nursi wrote at the beginning of the 1930s:
Reality and the wisdom (purposiveness) in the existence of the universe require that the heavens should have conscious inhabitants of their own as does the earth. These inhabitants of many different kinds are called angels and spirit beings in the language of religion.
It is true that reality requires the existence of angels and other spirit beings because the earth, although insignificant in size compared with the heavens, is continually being filled with and emptied of conscious beings. This clearly indicates that the heavens. . . are filled with living beings who are the perfect class of living creatures. These beings are conscious and have The perception, and they are the light of existence; they are the angels, who, like the jinn and humankind, are the observers of the universal palace of creation and students of this book of the universe and heralds for their Lord’s kingdom.
The perfection of existence is through life. Moreover, life is the real basis and the light of existence, and consciousness, in turn, is the light of life. Since life and consciousness are so important, and a perfect harmony evidently prevails over the whole creation, and again since the universe displays a firm cohesion, and as this small ever-rotating sphere of ours is full of countless living and intelligent beings, so it is equally certain that those heavenly (realms) should have conscious, living beings particular to themselves. Just as the fish live in water, so those spirit beings may exist in the heat of the sun. Fire does not consume light, rather, light becomes brighter because of fire. We observe that the Eternal Power creates countless living beings from inert, solid substances and transforms the densest matter into subtle living compounds by life. Thus It radiates the light of life everywhere in great abundance and furnishes most things with the light of consciousness. From this we can conclude that the All-Powerful, All-Wise One would certainly not leave without life and consciousness more refined, subtle forms of matter like light and ether, which are close to and fitting for the spirit; indeed, He creates animate and conscious beings in great number from light, darkness, ether, air and even from meanings and words. As He creates numerous species of animals, He also creates from such subtle and higher forms of matter numerous different spirit creatures. One kind. . . are the angels, others are the varieties of spirit beings and jinn.1
Half a century after Said Nursi wrote this, nearly three hundred animal species, almost all them previously unknown, have been discovered living around hydrothermal vents which form when sea water leaking through the ocean floor at spreading ridges is heated by the underlying magma and rushes into the cold ocean. Verena Tunnicliffe writes:
All life requires energy, nearly all life on earth looks to the sun as the source. But solar energy is not the only kind of energy available on the earth. Consider the energy that drives the movement and eruption of the planet’s crust. When you look at an active volcano, you are witnessing the escape of heat that has been produced by radioactive decay in the earth’s interior and is finally reaching the surface. Why should there not be biological communities associated with the same nuclear energy that moves continents and makes mountains? And why could not whole communities be fuelled by chemical, rather than, solar energy? . . .
Most of us associate the escape of heat from the interior of the earth with violent events and unstable physical conditions, with extreme high temperatures and the release of toxic gases—circumstances that are hardly conducive to life. The notion that biological communities might spring up in a geologically active environment seemed fantastic. And until recently, few organisms were known to survive without a direct or indirect way to tap the sun’s energy. But such communities do exist, and they represent one of the most startling discoveries of twentieth-century biology. They live in the deep ocean, under conditions that are both severe and variable.2
This “startling” discovery of biology contains clues to some other realities, which the sciences should consider. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, states that angels are created from “light.” We read in the Qur’an that God created humanity from dried earth, from wet clay and from an extract of clay. According to the Qur’an, humanity has been made a khalifa on the earth. Khalifa means, literally, one who succeeds. Many interpreters of the Qur’an have concluded from this that the jinn once ruled the earth and they were succeeded by men.
Starting from the clues above, it should be possible to do formal studies to determine the worth of conclusions such as these:
During the gradual creation of the universe, God Almighty spread one kind of existence through another having different, particular characters according to the conditions of each realm of existence, compounding and interweaving. He also created living beings in every phase of creation appropriate for each phase. Thus, He has numerous kinds of creatures such as angels, that are created from “light (nur),” and the jinn, created from “smokeless fire” or something like energy (55:15). While He inhabited the heavens, the pure realms of material existence, with angels, He settled the jinn on the earth. He also created plants, animals and humans on the earth. He adorned every part and phase of the universe with creatures, among them living ones, that are appropriate for that part and phase.
Gulen, Muhammed Fethullah. The Essentials of the Islamic Faith. The Light, Inc. 2005.
- September 19, 2013
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