what does the quran say about aliens

What does Islam say about aliens? – Part 1

What does Islam say about aliens?

Contributed by Nouri Sardar at The Muslim Vibe


he idea of extraterrestrial life is one of incredible fascination to us. Perhaps aggrandized through a century of literature and film, human beings are obsessed with the idea of searching the stars and discovering intelligent life.

With the Universe being as unfathomably vast as it is, it seems impossible that Earth is the only planet that contains life.

Humans have been searching for alien life rigorously for the past few decades. It just may be, however, that Islam has already confirmed the existence of extraterrestrial life.

What Does Science Say?

Even within the solar system, there exists the possibility of some form of life. Europa, for example, one of Jupiter’s larger moons, is believed to be a geologically active world, due to the gravitational fields of Jupiter heating its interior. Its surface is covered by water ice, and scientists believe that beneath the surface, due to the heated interior of the moon, is a global ocean which may be over 100 km deep. It’s plausible that the ocean floor contains hydrothermal vents and volcanos, features on Earth that enable the existence of life in the deepest depths of its oceans.

Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, is also ice covered with a subsurface ocean of salty liquid water. Scientists discovered enormous geysers near the moon’s south pole which spray out water into space. The water contains tiny grains of rocky silicate particles that provide strong evidence for the existence of hydrothermal vents, and possible conditions for life.

Another moon of Saturn which is of interest to scientists looking for life is Titan. Its weather system is methane-based, instead of water-based, and the moon contains rivers and lakes made of methane and ethane, as well as possible cryovolcanoes that erupt liquid water rather than lava. It’s entirely possible that lifeforms exist on Titan, made up of different chemistry to lifeforms on Earth.

Titan, artist’s depiction.

Some scientists are still hopeful of the discovery of life on Mars. It had water billions of years ago, and potentially life, but what interests scientists today is the methane that exists in the Martian atmosphere, as methane can be produced by biological processes. While its atmosphere is very thin, it’s not impossible that life may still exist if the planet has managed to retain some reserves of water beneath its surface.

Outside of the solar system, the possibilities are endless. Scientists generally look for planets in what is known as the Goldilocks Zone, which refers to the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is just right for liquid water to exist on a planet. And, based on our understanding of life, where there is water, there should be life.

There are however other factors to consider. Scientists look for rocky planets, rather than gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn. And even if they find them, it doesn’t automatically make them inhabitable. For example, Mars and Venus exist in our sun’s Goldilocks Zone, but Mars barely has an atmosphere, and Venus is being decimated by its own greenhouse effect. Scientists would also look for traces of gases on potential worlds that can only be produced by life.

The Goldilocks Zone

In short, there may be life outside Earth. There may not be. What that life may look like – and whether it is intelligent life – no-one can say for sure. Whether we will ever even discover life outside of Earth, no-one can know for sure. And, regardless, given how vast the Universe is, finding life is unbelievably difficult.

Aliens in the Qur’an

The Holy Qur’an, perhaps, alludes to the existence of alien life multiple times.

In a surah we read every single day – Surah Al-Fatiha, Allah (SWT) says:

All praise is for Allah—Lord of all worlds.”

(Holy Qur’an 1:2)

Allah emphasises that He is the Lord of all worlds, perhaps referring to worlds as in planets, universes, or dimensions. ‘Aalam’ – the word used for worlds here – can refer to an entire world or an entire people. Classical scholars obviously understood ‘aalam’ to mean people, animals, jinn, angels etc, but Allah is, from the very beginning, saying here that we are not alone.

The biggest pointer to life on other planets is a verse in Surah Ash-Shuraa, where Allah says:

And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and of whatever living creatures He has spread forth in both. And He has the power to gather them together whenever he pleases.”
(Holy Quran, 42:30)

Examination of this verse leads many to believe that Allah is being clear here about the existence of extraterrestrial life. Firstly because the plural is used for heavens – ‘Samawaat’, meaning He is not just referring to the sky above us. Secondly, because the word used for creatures here is ‘daabah’. ‘Daabah’ refers to land-dwelling animals that move along the surface of the Earth. Therefore He is not referring to spiritual beings, but literal beings that occupy the Heavens (i.e., outside of Earth).

The famous Qur’an translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali seems to agree. He writes:

…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 Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Ad-Dar Al- ‘Arabiah, Beirut, 1938, 1314)

He isn’t the only one. In a commentary on this verse, Allamah Tabatabai says:

The apparent meaning of this verse is that there are living creatures (Dawab) in the heavens similar to those on earth…”

(Al-Mizan – Volume 18, Page 58)

Islamic theologian Fahir al-Din al-Razi says in his commentary of this verse:

It is not impossible that in the heavens there are species of animals that move just like humans walk on the earth.”

(Religions and extra-terrestrial life, David Weintraub, pg. 165)

Agha Mahdi Puya, the Ayatollah who authored his famous Qur’an tafsir, was quite specific about the existence of alien life. He writes:

Life is not confined to the earth. It is indicated in this verse that life in some form or other is existing in the millions of heavenly bodies scattered through space. The Almighty who created such countless beings has surely the power to bring them together when the trumpet is blown.”

(Pooya/Ali Commentary 42:29)

What’s also interesting is the latter portion of the verse, where Allah says ‘He has the power to gather them together whenever he pleases’, emphasising that He can gather these various types of life together. Meaning that if the verse does refer to extraterrestrial life, He could be alluding to contact between beings on Earth and beings living beyond it. Let’s not forget that we look back at many verses today that highlighted hidden mysteries which science later “discovered”, such as living things being made of water, the expansion of the Universe, etc. We may one day look back at this verse and point out that the Qur’an foretold first contact with extraterrestrial life.

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About the author

Nouri Sardar is a British poet, spoken word artist and television personality from London. At the age of 15 he converted to Shia Islam. He began his writing in 2007 and published his first poem titled 'We Remember' in 2009. He is known for writing poetry related to Shia Islam and hosting TV shows on Ahlulbayt TV.

Sardar than began performing his poetry as spoken word in seminars and conferences. In 2011, he released his debut spoken word album "Hussain To Me". In 2013, Sardar began presenting a show on Ahlulbayt TV titled, 'Poetry Corner'.

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