Revisiting some scientific talks on Shab-e-Miraj

Young people are not prone to accept any doctrine easily. They ask their friends and superiors for facts. Perhaps an inborn yearning for a science-religion synergy grows in them.

I first learned about Einstein’s theory of relativity in a physics class at BUET in 1996. In the next Lailat-ul-Miraj, I explained and asked my learned father about the scientific connectivity of this event with this theory. In reply, he only said, ‘it may be’. After a few years, he came up with a foreign newspaper article on this subject to answer my previous query. This may be a strong motivation for writing this article compiling information to the context of the holy night.

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Many scientists meanwhile confirmed that the Holy Qur’an contains many references to the scientific findings like the constellations of the sky, the nature of subatomic particles, and the development of the human fetus. Given these facts have been proven correct by science, we perhaps have taken on the approach to use these facts to verify the accuracy of the Islamic faith and distinguish Islam as the religion of knowledge to other societies, particularly those with atheist beliefs rather than exploring the significance behind the references and implementing this knowledge to build a better understanding of our life as Muslims.

Although science is universal, the practice of science has always been driven by political, economic, and social interests. Science and religion do not need each other to function, but they can benefit from each other. Anyway, science like Modern Physics cannot explain thoroughly all the metaphysical phenomena that Islam reports. Indeed, Islam does not necessarily need the endorsement of science to validate its principles, yet it is very interesting to observe that findings in modern physics give clues about the theoretical proof of many events and messages like Miraj of the World Prophet (PBUH) conveyed in the Holy Qur’an. After the Wright brothers had invented the first successful airplane in 1903, atheists used to say, “Man is only able to ascend to a height of one or two kilometers with a thousand difficulties by means of a plane. How then could someone come and go bodily within a few minutes covering a distance that would normally take thousands of years?” They regarded and realised time and space in the same category. But space is relative — that is, it varies according to the one who moves. For the one who moves at a speed close to the velocity of light, space is shortened and time is extended or dilated. And when Einstein finally came up with the theory of general relativity that brought revolutionary changes in human concepts of time, space, and gravity, it has become an undisputable fact to the prominent physicists and even to the disbeliever that the truth of the Miraj is bound to the resolution of the mystery of time and space.

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In Einstein’s theory of relativity, time and space were not considered as absolute as was assumed by the old physicists like Newton. In brief, modern physics responds positively to the question of ‘how does a human being can go a thousand-year-distance within a couple of minutes.’ Theory of general relativity also foresaw the Big Bang event, and predicted that time is slowed down when the attraction is intense. This means that the watch of a man in space and of a man on the ground shows different times, because since the man on the ground is strongly affected by the Earth’s gravity, his watch is slower compared to the watch on the man in space.

Einstein came up with an example to show the effects of time dilation that he called the “twin paradox.” Stephen Hawking also described this using the example of twins in page 54 of his popular science book ‘A Brief History of Time’. If it is supposed that one man sets off on a voyage with a craft in space, and the other man on the ground measures that time for the man in the spacecraft gets slower. In the same way, the distance also must shorten according to a person moving fast with the velocity near light velocity.

The greatest heavenly journey of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) — a mercy on His beloved and intimate friend by the Almighty — is described in many verses: Surah Al-Isra 17:1 and Surah An-Najm 53:9 of the Holy Qur’an. After Muhammad (PBUH) returned to Earth and told this story in Makkah, the unbelieving townspeople regarded it as absurd. Some went to Prophet’s companion Abu Bakr (R.A.) and said to him, “Look at what your companion is saying. He says he went to Jerusalem and came back in one night.” Abu Bakr (R.A.) replied, “If He said that, then He is truthful.” It was for this that Abu Bakr (R.A.) is said to have received his famous title as “Siddiq”, — The Truthful. And time dilation occurred during the event of Miraj. Therefore, time seemed to stop or a very short duration of time passed as mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) know the best. After a long visit, the Prophet (PBUH) returns to the Earth just in time to catch a jar of water the horse had kicked over before starting its ascent.

Many critics opined that the theme of Professor Sagan’s film “Contact” alludes cultural conflicts between religion and science, the existence of God and suggests science and religion can coexist rather than being opposing camps as the story used science and religion analogies as a metaphor of philosophical and intellectual interest in searching for the truth. Sagan also incorporated Nobel laureate Kip Thorne’s study of wormhole space travel into the screenplay. Hawking and Sagan’s friend and world’s leading expert on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Dr Thorne defined wormhole as a hypothetical topological feature of space-time that would fundamentally be a “shortcut” through space-time.

Briefly, if one imagines the space that mankind lives in as a two-dimensional flat held paper like a map, and marks two opposing points on the edges, say one is al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the other is Makkah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), he may go from one point to the other over the flat paper through one of several paths. According to the conception of Prof Thorne, it is possible to bring two points over each other leaving 2–3 cm between them by curving the paper, that is, he showed that it is possible to curve space like a flexible sheet and thus to bring together two points. When one point comes under the other one, it would be possible to travel from Makkah to al-Quds without spending any time.

Of course, for such a curving to be possible, there would be a need for extreme gravity. Is there any reason for such an intense gravity to happen? In a talk with ‘Edge’ on ‘Time Loops’, Professor Paul Davies summarizes the issue by commenting that the idea of a wormhole is quite speculative and marginal, but the kind of situation is theoretically possible if it is understood from the nature of gravity along with quantum physics. And a black hole (an instantaneously interesting centre of attraction) needs to be grabbed and its inside customized to turn it into a wormhole. That is a kind of engineering in the scale of the cosmos. Sagan and Thorne supported this type of arguments while interviewed during a TV show called ‘Nova’ highlighting travel through time as a main theme, aired on the American TV channel PBS on 12 October 1999.

Astronomers have very recently captured the first image of a black hole, heralding a revolution in our understanding of the universe’s most enigmatic objects. Black holes were first predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity — although Einstein himself was skeptical that they actually existed.

One of the most poetic descriptions of time travel occurs in a popular medieval legend describing a monk entranced for a minute by the song of a magical bird. When the bird stops singing, the monk discovers that several hundred years have passed.” Martin Gardner cited this story in his article ‘Mathematical Games’ published by Scientific American in March 1979. Thus, they related the “myths and legends” of classical and ancient civilizations while mentioning travel through time. And they said that there were various stories regarding this concept keeping reservation for the episode of Miraj.

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The relativity of time has been revealed in the following verses of the Holy Qur’an: Surah Al-Hajj 22:47, Surah As-Sajdah 32:5 and Surah Al-Ma’arij 70:4. An event that took place 1400 years ago and today can only be understood by science, through complex theories of time and space, none of which were known at that time, must be the truth.

I would like to end my article by quoting the second verse of Surah Ya-Sin from the Holy Qur’an: By the Qur’an, full of wisdom. All the answers to scientific inquiries and discoveries -things, events, processes, causes, and properties as well as theories and hypotheses and their features and the physical materials needed for inventions of the present smart world are there revealed or concealed by the wise Al- Qur’an al-Kareem about fourteen hundred years ago.

In the Holy Qur’an, there are many mysteries like the event of Miraj in shrouding.

We just need to delve into through more math, more physics, and more examinations. They can prove faith though, yet it is nonessential for the believer.

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