104- On that day We will fold the heaven, like the folding of a book. Just as We initiated the first creation, We will revert it. This is Our promise. We will certainly fulfill it. 21-The Prophets, 104 [021 SURE AL-AMBIYA, V104] I would like to bring an interesting point to your attention. In the verse it is said that God will return it to its former state. Therefore, to be able to understand the end of the universe, we have to go back to the first three chapters of our book where the beginning of Creation is described. The fact that they appear in the same sura is meaningful (The beginning is explained in the sura The Prophets; verse 30, in the same sura, verse 104, the end is explained).
30- Do not these disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were an integrated mass, which We then split, and from water We made all living things? Will they not believe even then? 21-The Prophets, 30 [021 SURE AL-AMBIYA, V30]
47- With power did We construct Heaven. Verily, We are expanding it. 51-The Dispersing, 47 [057 SURE AL-HADEED, V47]
We deduce from the above two verses; 1- that the universe was separated from a whole, and 2- that the universe formed following this separation is expanding. The extraordinary miracle in these verses of the Quran was examined in the first three chapters. Now if we may be allowed to go back to the verse we quoted in this chapter, if the universe is going to regress to its original state, then:
1- the expanding universe will have to contract, and 2- the expanding universe will return to its primordial unity.
Experts versed in astrophysics will take cognizance of the magnificence of this verse. We know today that the universe is expanding. We also know that this expansion is the consequence of the acceleration generated by the Big Bang. We are faced with two alternatives here. According to one of them, the expanding universe will spread out to a vast expanse, all the stars will have exhausted their energies, the temperature will fall and thus the end will be reached. Following the exhaustion of the energy of the stars and the coming to a standstill of all actions, all celestial bodies will break apart and escape from gravitational force. This is called the “Open Universe Model.” According to a second alternative, the expanding universe will stop because of the mutual attraction of all bodies, and the universe will contract to return to its primordial state.
ONE MIRACLE AFTER ANOTHER
It seems that the Quran’s implication is inclined toward the second alternative. At a time when people believed that the earth stood on the horns of an ox or on a fish, the Quran’s description of the event was incredible. There is no way this fact could have been rendered from the scientific knowledge base of the day, or have been a product of fancy or flight of thought. The source of this knowledge is not scientific observation but God’s revelation. The verse under our scrutiny also gives an answer as to which of the two alternatives man should put faith in. The greatness of the Quran, which stated that the universe was created from the one primordial wholeness, that it expanded, and that it would shrink back -at a time when all scientific evidence was lacking- is understood better today with the advance of science and the discovery of the mystery of the universe.
The collapse of the universe is referred to as the “Closed Universe Model.” The power to realize this folding up is gravity. As we know, all matter is in mutual attraction. When something is thrown into the air, the object thrown cannot help falling back after some time because of gravity; matter that has scattered in every possible direction in space following the Big Bang will retrace its steps in a given time to be folded up. We must remember that at the time of the descent of the Quran, the notion of gravity did not exist and that it was to be known some one thousand years later, thanks to Newton’s discovery.
Once the expansion of the universe was established, scientists began to study whether the universe would continue to expand or come to a close by folding up. To this end, they tried to find out the critical density of matter in the universe and arrived at certain ratios that they called “Omega.” If the density in the universe is at a certain level, the process of folding up will begin before the scattering of matter into infinity...
Humans are born, live and die and eventually return to the dust of which they were made. The same thing holds true for beasts and plants. It appears that the law that governs all living creatures is also applicable in the case of the universe. In the verse we examined, this event is stressed with the word “revert.” Following are the verses in which this word is used.
27- And He is the One who first creates and then reverts it. This is very easy for Him. And to Him belongs the most sublime similitude, in the heavens and the earth. And He is the Almighty, Wise. 30-The Romans, 27 [030 SURE AR-ROOM, V27]
34- Say: “Can any of your idols initiate creation, then revert it?” say “It is God who initiates the creation, and then reverts it. Then, how could you deviate?” 10-Jonah, 34 [010 SURE YUNUS, V 34]
HEAVEN RENT ASUNDER AND THE RED ROSE
37- When the heaven will split asunder, and become rosy red like the dregs of anointing oil. 55-Gracious, 37 [055 SURE AR-REHMAN, V37]
The Quran speaks of the color of heaven on the day the solar system comes to an end. Heaven’s “split asunder” is also mentioned in other verses of the Quran.
9- When the heaven split asunder. 77-The Emissaries, 9 [077 SURE AL-MURSALAT, V 9]
16- When the heaven will crack and split asunder. That day it will be flimsy. 69-Incontestable, 16 [069 SURE AL-HAQQAH, V 16]
I believe that these verses may be understood in two different ways. If we take heaven for the entire universe, one may think of the decay at the outer extremities of the universe in continuous expansion. (By this the decay in the vacuum structure of the universe may have been meant. However, I am not going to dwell on this long issue.) According to a second alternative, if we take heaven for the atmosphere of our earth, big earthquakes, activities on the surface of the earth will likely affect the atmosphere, which will be split asunder and the protective layer of the atmosphere will be peeled off. As a matter of fact, the atmosphere depends on the fine balance between the earth’s gravitational force and the movement of molecules in the atmosphere. Any alteration in this balance will likely affect the atmosphere. Either of these two alternatives, or both, for that matter, may have been meant by the verses.
187- They ask you about the Hour and when it will come to pass. Say, “The knowledge thereof is with my Lord. Only He reveals its time. Heavy it is, in the heavens and the earth. It will come to you suddenly.” They ask you as if you are well-informed of it. Say, “The knowledge thereof is with God. But most people do not know.” 7-The Purgatory, 187 [007 SURE AL-AERAAF, V187]
The Quran says that the process of the end of the world and the universe will begin all of a sudden, at a time which even the Prophet does not know. According to the theory of relativity, the fastest motion in the universe belongs to light, the speed of which is not surpassed by anything. The data we obtain from light-emitting objects and the reflection of light are the limits of our understanding of the phenomena taking place in the universe. If information about the time the Hour will take place is to be transmitted at the speed of light, we can never be informed of it before some time has elapsed. For instance, if the sun explodes this very moment and the beginning of the end has come, we will be aware of it only after the lapse of eight and a half minutes.
The same holds true for other phenomena that will likely occur, causing the destruction of the universe. If the process in question has started at some point in the universe, we cannot be aware of it for some time. A series of phenomena will occur before we are conscious of it, up until the time we are suddenly caught by it.
1- When the inevitable comes to pass. 2- There can be no denying of its befalling. 3- It will lower some, and raise others. 4- When the earth will be shaken up. 56-The Inevitable, 1-4 [056 SURE AL-WAQIYA, V1-V4]
The end of the universe and of the world is the most serious event next to its formation. Riches, reputations, situations, families, beauty, ugliness, joy, distress will be no more; the entire universe will be transformed into a small unit. Superiority will no longer be measured by riches, possessions and high offices. Now, “superiority” will depend on the sort of life man has led. From the scenery of the end of the universe and the world described in the Quran, there are lessons to draw in this life of ours. All these are not for the mere sake of knowing. What is communicated has as its objective to move people and guide them to God. We must bear in mind the third verse of the 56th sura:
3- It will lower some, and raise others. 56-The Inevitable, 3 [056 SURE AL-WAQIYA, V 3]