An exploration of the Muslim holy book that seeks to connect it with science, earthlings and extraterrestrials.
If, as recent science seems to suggest, we are not alone in the universe, did God then create just the Earth and its peoples, or did he create many earths and extraterrestrials under his dominion? That seems to be one of the main questions posed by this book, shakily translated from Urdu. The answer, according to Rahman’s interpretation of the Quran: Countless earths have been created through time and space and have hosted human populations in God’s unending, thankless quest to perfect humankind. Everything under and beyond the sun has a divine purpose, the author avers—even space voids. For believers and nonbelievers alike, Rahman raises interesting speculations. But his attempts to reconcile science and religion via excerpts from the Quran are unconvincing. He likens “faint voices” mentioned in the Quran to radio signals from distant planets. When the holy book states that God has “created the skies with pillars invisible to you,” it’s referring to gravity, he suggests. Drilling down through Rahman’s unclear prose, readers might strike up their own fascinating questions about the relation of science to religion, the science of religion and the religion of science. Unfortunately, the author explores few of these potentially fascinating paths and answers fewer questions convincingly. Rather, much of his book reworks all-too-familiar fire-and-brimstone ground. Lengthy screeds warn of the troubles in store for disbelievers, and Rahman makes the oft-heard case for the superiority of Islam over other religions. Choppy translation and turgid prose will stymie those searching these pages for a breezy sci-fi read or interplanetary escapade. Which is too bad, because the idea of the mind of God working through the eternities of the Quran’s “seven skies” and earths has a kind of poetic, hall-of-mirrors, infinitely mysterious appeal.
A promising premise, but this godly space odyssey barely gets off the ground before it veers off course.