In scale, a human being is about half-way between an atom and a star. Interestingly, this is also the range beyond which comprehension breaks down. The atomic and subatomic world is governed by the strangeness of quantum mechanics while the macroscopic vastness of curved space-time is ruled by relativity. The failure to unify these two branches of physics highlights the inability of the human mind, and ultimately of science itself, to ever fully encompass the mysteries of creation. This limitation must be born in mind as we explore the new frontiers of understanding.
In the beginning everything was compressed into a single point of infinite density, a singularity, which fractured and inflated to cosmic proportions bringing space, time and matter into existence some 13.8 billion years ago. Within this act of creation was encoded several physical constants (such as gravity, electromagnetism and the conversion rate of hydrogen into helium) all finely tuned for the formation of stars, galaxies, planets and water-based life.
21:30 ARE, THEN, they who are bent on denying the truth not aware that the heavens and the earth were [once] one single entity, which We then parted asunder? – and [that] We made out of water every living thing? Will they not, then, [begin to] believe?
As the universe expanded it cooled and subatomic particles formed into stable elements of hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of lithium. The new elements conglomerated within the gravitational scaffolding of dark matter and huge clumps of churning gas eventually cooled and collapsed. High temperatures in the dense cores of these massive protostars initiated thermonuclear reactions and atomic nuclei fused into heavier elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and iron.
41:11 And He [it is who] applied His design to the skies, which were [yet but] smoke; and He [it is who] said to them and to the earth, “Come [into being], both of you, willingly or unwillingly!” – to which both responded, “We do come in obedience.”
The early giants ran through their life cycles quickly, filling the Dark Age with light, before dying in supernova events – cosmic explosions which liberated heat energy of 100 million degrees or more – high enough to fuse atomic nuclei into even heavier elements such as silver and gold. After ejecting their outer envelopes to seed interstellar space with the periodic table of elements stars collapsed into singularities merging and growing into supermassive black holes around which smaller, more stable stars began to form. A vast cloud of galactic clusters, superclusters and watersheds grew along the expanding branches and strands of dark matter while heavy elements joined by electrostatic forces forming dust, rocks, moons and planets around a new generation of countless galactic stars.
79:27 [O MEN!] Are you more difficult to create than the heaven which He has built? (28) High has He reared its vault and formed it in accordance with what it was meant to be; (29) and He has made dark its night and brought forth its light of day.
79:30 And after that, the earth: wide has He spread its expanse, (31) and has caused its waters to come out of it, and its pastures, (32) and has made the mountains firm: (33) [all this] as a means of livelihood for you and your animals.
Some four billion years ago, in the tidal pools of the primordial sea, elements formed into double helix strands of DNA, RNA and amino acid enzymes – unifying within a cellular membrane to bring the first microorganism to life. These unicellular cyanobacteria photosynthesised water molecules, feeding on the hydrogen and expelling oxygen. Once high O2 levels had been established mitochondrial cells appeared and formed symbiotic relationships bringing multicellular organisms to life. New species evolved as the continents drifted and collided through glacial, interglacial and mass extinction events. Out of this incredible complexity awoke human consciousness – carried, accompanied and fed by the modern plant and animal kingdoms.
51:47 AND IT IS We who have built the universe with [Our creative] power; and, verily, it is We who are steadily expanding it.
The growing strength of dark energy is increasing the rate of the expansion of the universe and will eventually reduce the physical world to a widely scattered cloud of subatomic dust. Black holes, however, continue to grow, gobbling up matter and warping space-time around themselves as they all merge into one supermassive singularity.
21:104 On that Day We shall roll up the skies as written scrolls are rolled up; [and] as We brought into being the first creation, so We shall bring it forth anew a promise which We have willed upon Ourselves: for, behold, We are able to do [all things]!
‘The Message of the Quran’, www.openingislam.com
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