On 7th August 1996,NASA (1) scientists made an announcement that made front page headlines throughout the world.Within a Martian meteorite,they had found evidence of a microscopic lifeform that may have existed on Mars more than three billion years ago. (2) Although other studies were later published which challenged this conclusion, (3) numerous recent discoveries,for example,the discovery by the Galileo spacecraft, (4) in February 1997,of a possible red-coloured sea under the ice crust of Jupiter’s moon,Europa, (5) are raising hopes that we may soon be able to get an answer to one of the oldest and most interesting questions asked by humans-“Is anyone out there,or are we alone in the universe?”
However,it may be that none of us may live to see the day when scientists will give us a definitive answer to this question.For Muslims,that should not be a problem.We already have the answer.Although many Muslims are unaware of the fact,the Quran (6) explicitly mentions the existence of extraterrestrial life.
The existence of creatures of a spiritual nature,such as angels,in the universe,is accepted as a fact by all Muslims,as well as people of other religions, such as Christians.The point that generates excitement among the public,and scientists is the question of whether material lifeforms like ourselves,which can be found by science,do actually exist outside the earth. (7) The objective of this article is to present evidence from the Quran for the existence in the universe,of MATERIAL lifeforms (“Life as we know it”).
In Sura 42,Verse 29 (42:29) of the Quran,we are told, “Among His (God’s) 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.” (8) Before proceeding further,a point or two must be noted.The word “sama”,translated “heavens”,is also the Arabic for “sky”.One may object that the verse refers to creatures in the sky (which would be birds),not in the heavens.However,birds are mentioned seperately from creatures of the heavens in 24:41, “Seest thou not that it is God Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate,and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread?…” (9) In a note to 42;29,Muhammad Asad states,”In the Quran,the expression “the heavens and earth” invariably denotes the universe in its entireity.” (10) The Quran mentions that inanimate objects also worship God:”Do they not look at God’s creation, (even) among (inanimate) things- how their (very) shadows turn round,from right to left,prostrating themselves to God…”(16:48). (11) Therefore,may not the creatures spoken of in 42:29 in the heavens,be inanimate creatures of God.No.The next verse,16:49 goes, “And to God doth obeisance all that is in the heavens and earth,whether moving (living) creatures or the angels…”. (12) The word translated “living creatures” here is the same as that in 42:29- “Dabbatun”.Comments Asad,”The word dabbah denotes any sentient,corporeal being capable of spontaneous movement and is contrasted here with the non-corporeal,spiritual beings designated as “angels” “. (13) In other words,42:29 is referring to precisely the type of lifeforms that science is searching for,not some metaphysical entities.Yusuf Ali says,”Dabbatun:beasts,living,crawling creatures of all kind.” (14) This is the same word used in 2:164,”…in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth…are signs for a people that are wise,” (15) and in 24:45,”And God has created every animal from water:of them are some that creep on their bellies;some that walk on two legs;and some that walk on four. God creates what he wills…” (16) Commenting on 42:29,Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani says,”From the verse it appears that like on the earth,there are some kinds of animals- living creatures- in the heavens also.” (17) On the same verse,Yusuf Ali comments, “Life is not confined to our one little Planet.It is a very old speculation to imagine some life like human life on the planet Mars…it is reasonable to suppose that Life in some form or other is scattered through some of the millions of heavenly bodies scattered through space.” (18) From such remarks,the reader will realize that Muslim scholars are well aware of the fact that 42:29 clearly mentions the existence of aliens.