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Caution Against Muslim Apologists: Zakir Naik, the Big Bang and the Qur'an
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Topics: Zakir Naik

Zakir Naik, the Big Bang and the Qur'an

In the video clip Zakir Naik says (quote):

Then ask them this question. The atheists will tell us, that how did this universe come into existence. The atheists will tell us that initially there was a primary nebula, then there was a big bang, there was a secondary suppression which gave rise to galaxies, the sun, the moon, and the earth on which we live. This we call as the big bang. When did you come to know of this creation of the universe? So he will tell you about 30 or 40 years back, the scientists discovered this. You ask him the question, but what you are talking about the big bang is already mentioned in the Qur'an in Surah al-Anbiya, chapter number 21 verse number 30 which says, "Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together and we clove them asunder" what you are talking about the big bang is already mentioned in the Qur'an 1400 years ago. Who could have mentioned that?

Upon this there are numerous points:

01. No atheist scientist believes there was a "primary nebula" before the big bang which subsequently exploded. Rather, they refer to a "singularity" (an infinite density and temperature) from which all matter expands into existence. But mischaracterising the position of scientists is the least of Zakir Naik's crimes. A greater crime is lying upon the Book of Allaah, the Sublime and Exalted, and distorting the verse in question to fit in with the big bang model in order to "impress" the atheist and also the lay Muslim who does not know that interpreting the Qur'an in this way is unlawful, let alone knowing the model itself is conjectural, speculative and has a variety of problems. In the remaining points we will elaborate on this topic to provide a clearer picture.

02. First, two very important verses of the Qur'an which are extremely relevant here before proceeding: The first is the saying of Allaah, the Exalted, (مَا أَشْهَدتُّهُمْ خَلْقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَا خَلْقَ أَنفُسِهِمْ), "I made them not to witness the creation of the heavens and the Earth and nor the creation of themselves" (18:51). And also the saying of Allaah, the Exalted (لَخَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَكْبَرُ مِنْ خَلْقِ النَّاسِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ), "The creation of the heavens and the earth is indeed greater than the creation of mankind, yet most of mankind know not." (40:57). First, both the origin of the universe and of life have not been observed and therefore human scientific knowledge and understanding in these areas are automatically limited, will be deficient, incomplete and full of speculation. That is just a reality and some of the most prominent scientists (in cosmology) readily and humbly admit that "a theory of everything" even if one exists, may be impossible to know. The claim of "we will get there one day" is simply a fantasy. The second point is that the creation of the heavens and the earth is much greater than the creation of man himself, and when the origin of life is as baffling as it is, then the universe is even more baffling and bewildering. This is known also through the current state of cosmology: Lost and grasping at straws. Due to these realities, mankind can only speculate within limited boundaries in these affairs and arrive at patchy knowledge. This means that when Muslim apologists come along and start employing the speculative, tentative theories and propositions held by these scientists, they put themselves in a very precarious position, on a cliff-edge. This is what people like Zakir Naik do, they lead people to a cliff-edge, building their eemaan upon a cliff-edge, which can tumble and crumble at any moment (when the prevailing scientific view suddenly changes).

03. The origins of the big bang model lie in the proposition by a Belgian Jesuit Priest by the name of Georges Lemaitre, also an astronomer and physicist, in the 1920s, of an expanding universe. This is said to be corroborated by Edwin Hubble some years later who noticed that galaxies further away (less bright) have a larger red-shift and galaxies closer (more bright) have a smaller red-shift. This is the core proof behind an expanding universe and hence the big bang model. The idea of a big bang which entails chaos and randomness is suited to the theory of evolution which also rests on chaos and undirected processes, and the two provide a nice package-deal for atheists and naturalists. This is why both the big bang theory and the theory of evolution are defended with vigour, and are ring-fenced in academic institutions and scientific journals. At the same time, the big bang theory is beneficial for the speculative theologians (people of kalaam) who rely upon the kalam cosmological argument. They have incorporated the big bang theory into their apologetics and polemics against atheists and Philosophers. These apologists are unaware of the reasons why the big bang model is rigorously defended and propped up. It is because it supports a naturalist world view and combines perfectly with an evolutionary model for origin of life. Cosmology is being viewed through an evolutionary lens as is clear from many papers, publications and journals. That it implies a beginning (though many atheists hold and argue it does not) is just an uncomfortable aspect of the model for which scientists have theorized solutions.

04. Muslims ought not to rely heavily upon the big bang model to prove the universe began (even if we assert that it did). This is for reasons: a) Within the wider context of the falsehood of the claim that in order to prove a creator you have to prove the universe began. This is the claim of the people of speculative theology (kalaam) and is outright false. Rather, the routes and methods of affirming a creator for this universe are innumerable, many and varied and do not center around origins of the universe alone. Read more about in this article, "The Methods and Routes to Affirmation of a Maker Are Innumerable and Not Restricted" (see here). b) The big bang theory and the "facts" associated with it are based on assumptions which are mostly not presented. Its "factual" nature depends in reality on those assumptions. Those assumptions are not always disclosed or made clear except in scientific papers. As for textbooks, popular science books, and media these matters are not disclosed and the result is misleading the public by the assertion of a level of certainty that is not warranted by the nature of the evidence put forward and which itself relies upon prior assumptions for it to be valid. c) Arguments involving fine-tuning do not require acceptance of the big bang model either. In fact it is counter-intuitive because the big bang model brings with it chaos and disorder which support a chance evolution of galaxies through forces created by the big bang thereby laying the groundwork for chance evolution of inorganic to organic matter and life on planets. Reconciling explosions, chaos and disorder with harmony, order and fine-tuning is something those atheists have to deal with, it is a problem they create for themselves by asserting the big bang model. But fine-tuning itself can be explained on its own right without a violent, chaotic, orderless explosion (or expansion, call it what you will) to justify the actual presence of fine-tuning. On the contrary, prior created matter with prior physical law (that has been put in place), in the context of prior order, along with design, skilful implementation and orderly creation is more in line with a fine-tuned universe than a chaotic explosion as the starting point.

05. The big bang theory has a growing number of detractors who have pointed out serious flaws in the model. In "An Open Letter to the Scientific Community" published in New Scientist, May 22, 2004, thirty-four scientists wrote the following letter:

The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed-- inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise serious questions about the validity of the underlying theory.

But the big bang theory can't survive without these fudge factors. Without the hypothetical inflation field, the big bang does not predict the smooth, isotropic cosmic background radiation that is observed, because there would be no way for parts of the universe that are now more than a few degrees away in the sky to come to the same temperature and thus emit the same amount of microwave radiation.

Without some kind of dark matter, unlike any that we have observed on Earth despite 20 years of experiments, big-bang theory makes contradictory predictions for the density of matter in the universe. Inflation requires a density 20 times larger than that implied by big bang nucleosynthesis, the theory's explanation of the origin of the light elements. And without dark energy, the theory predicts that the universe is only about 8 billion years old, which is billions of years younger than the age of many stars in our galaxy.

What is more, the big bang theory can boast of no quantitative predictions that have subsequently been validated by observation. The successes claimed by the theory's supporters consist of its ability to retrospectively fit observations with a steadily increasing array of adjustable parameters, just as the old Earth-centered cosmology of Ptolemy needed layer upon layer of epicycles.

Yet the big bang is not the only framework available for understanding the history of the universe. Plasma cosmology and the steady-state model both hypothesize an evolving universe without beginning or end. These and other alternative approaches can also explain the basic phenomena of the cosmos, including the abundances of light elements, the generation of large-scale structure, the cosmic background radiation, and how the redshift of far-away galaxies increases with distance. They have even predicted new phenomena that were subsequently observed, something the big bang has failed to do.

Supporters of the big bang theory may retort that these theories do not explain every cosmological observation. But that is scarcely surprising, as their development has been severely hampered by a complete lack of funding. Indeed, such questions and alternatives cannot even now be freely discussed and examined. An open exchange of ideas is lacking in most mainstream conferences. Whereas Richard Feynman could say that "science is the culture of doubt", in cosmology today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model. Those who doubt the big bang fear that saying so will cost them their funding.

Even observations are now interpreted through this biased filter, judged right or wrong depending on whether or not they support the big bang. So discordant data on red shifts, lithium and helium abundances, and galaxy distribution, among other topics, are ignored or ridiculed. This reflects a growing dogmatic mindset that is alien to the spirit of free scientific inquiry.

Today, virtually all financial and experimental resources in cosmology are devoted to big bang studies. Funding comes from only a few sources, and all the peer-review committees that control them are dominated by supporters of the big bang. As a result, the dominance of the big bang within the field has become self-sustaining, irrespective of the scientific validity of the theory.

Giving support only to projects within the big bang framework undermines a fundamental element of the scientific method -- the constant testing of theory against observation. Such a restriction makes unbiased discussion and research impossible. To redress this, we urge those agencies that fund work in cosmology to set aside a significant fraction of their funding for investigations into alternative theories and observational contradictions of the big bang. To avoid bias, the peer review committee that allocates such funds could be composed of astronomers and physicists from outside the field of cosmology.

Allocating funding to investigations into the big bang's validity, and its alternatives, would allow the scientific process to determine our most accurate model of the history of the universe.

Since its publishing that number has grown to 218 scientists and engineers and 187 independent researchers. Note that alternative and competing explanations posit an eternal universe but this does not mean that just because Muslims believe the universe is not eternal and must have had a beginning that the big bang model is therefore correct. It may support that position better than other models on the surface, but it remains speculative, is not free from major flaws and is favoured because it lays the groundwork for the origins of life through random, undirected processes. Chaos is the atheist's psychological need. That's his fix. As much as that can be incorporated into a belief-system and world-view he is happy. That's why the big bang model is an addiction and scientists are happy to resort to supernaturalism (see below) in order to maintain it. As for the flaws in the big bang model, then that can be elaborated upon in brief by the following:

06. First: The results of the PLANCK satellite data released in March 2013 which support previous results indicating that the Earth is at or near to the centre of the universe, thereby invalidating the Cosmological principle which underlies the big bang model. A separate article looks at this in more detail (see here).

07. Second: The original "standard model" of the big bang (an explosion with subsequent cooling and congealing to form galaxies), on its own does not work. This standard model contradicts, in many different ways, hard empirical (observational) data. One of its main problems is that there is not enough time in this standard model for life to develop (as in we should not really be here) because there is not enough time for the debris of the big bang to form into galaxies. To patch this up a period of super-inflation has to be added into the model to speed things up rapidly at the very early stage (in quantum time). This is of course speculation. It means that after the initial explosion, there was a period of super-inflation to make the universe rapidly expand (faster than the speed of light) and then that inflation stopped and normal expansion continued as before. This is make-believe. With this addition the new model is called "the big bang inflationary model." After this, dark matter has been added to the model to account for anomalies between the model and what is observed of the speed of motion of stars in galaxies as well as their not being enough matter in the universe. Stars, planets and gas only make of 4% of matter in the universe. So they added the concept of dark matter (making up 23%) into the model to add more gravity into the mix so galaxies can form easily and more rapidly. But that still does not make the model work and fit in with empirical observations, because they claimed that the expansion of the universe is now accelerating (instead of slowing down). So dark energy (making up 73%) is another patch to explain this to make the theory work, it is an anti-gravity force. The dominant forms of matter (making up 96%) in the universe are in reality all hypothetical. They have no idea what these terms represent (dark matter, dark energy). They are just invented terms devoid of any meaning or tangible reality. This is supernaturalism being invoked to explain the natural. This is a flat contradiction to their rigged definition of science (see here) which requires that only material (observable) causes should do the explaining. They do not consider the possibility that the theory itself (order from chaos, life from explosion) could be fundamentally flawed. What they are doing here is inventing fudge factors. When empirical observations do not validate the theory, assumptions, metaphysical and supernatural beliefs are brought in to patch up these flaws. Experiments are designed to validate the assumptions so that the overall theory can be said to be validated (through validation of the assumptions and not the core elements of the theory). One has to be careful in identifying what is proven and established by hard empirical data and what is merely constructed as a rhetorical instrument (and made to appear as fact) by which to deal with uncomfortable empirical observations (like fine-tuning for example). There is plenty of sleight-of-hand going on.

We can give an example here to indicate the kind of process that is taking place. Imagine a completely innocent person suspected of murder. If you want to insist he is guilty of the murder, it is not difficult to imaginatively construct evidence to help convict him. At each stage you can make assumptions, invent explanations, collect circumstantial evidence and gradually build a strong case. There comes a point beyond which the accumulation of apparent evidence has become so strong that the possibility of being wrong in your original assumption has gone out of the window. Then whenever objections are brought, you can easily find explanations to dismiss them. Even when a clear and blatant piece of evidence is brought that undermines the original assumption, it can just be dismissed outright or be explained away in imaginitive ways and so it becomes very difficult to disprove the case because imaginitive and creative resources are always available to offer suitable explanations. The broader and more comprehensive the assumption (theory), the easier it is to find explanations to fill in the gaps. Now, when you consider that billions of dollars (grant money), institutions and careers are dependent upon maintaining a certain world view based upon certain scientific theories, then it becomes very easy to dismiss contrary evidence. Who's going to jump off the gravy train? So this provides a glimpse of what can be going on in the field of scientific enquiry. Appropriate here is a statement by Peter Woit, published in the Scientific American online blog, "My own moral concerns about the multiverse have more to do with worry that pseudo-science is being heavily promoted to the public... if a wrong idea is promoted for enough years, it gets into the textbooks and becomes part of the conventional wisdom about how the world works. This process is now well underway with multiverse pseudo-science." The Multiverse theory states that many (or infinite) big bangs are taking place and universes are being created all the time through inflationary processes. The intent behind this theory is to do away with the problem of fine-tuning in this universe.

08. Third: There is a growing controversy that is not going to be easily dismissed. This controversy relates to the basis upon which the universe is claimed to be expanding. The red-shift effect (also known as the Hubble effect) is said to be evidence for galaxies travelling away from each other. However, study of a growing number of quasars are undermining this claim. This in turn has serious implications on everything else, on the age of the universe and therefore on the theory of evolution. This puts the whole naturalist package-deal under threat. Many Quasars are seen as ejections from existing galaxies to which they are connected by streams of plasma. There are many examples of these being studied where a quasar is right next to a galaxy (connected by a plasma stream) but the red-shifts for both are very different. This would indicate that the red-shift effect is not exclusively related to velocity. In other words red-shift is not exclusively an indicator of movement, but can also indicate changing electron density in galaxies. This then brings into question the theory as a whole because the expansion of the universe is based on the red-shift effect which provides the basis for the big bang model. You can look at some papers on the topic of "red-shift anomalies" (here), (here: abstract, conclusion), (here). There are plenty more studies in this area and these are only samples. The scientific priests and clergymen of the big bang model are trying to dismiss this observational, empirical data. You can search for this topic using "non-cosmological red-shift", "intrinsic red-shift", "red-shift anomaly", "Halton Arp", "Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies" but be prepared to wade through much propaganda and the standard racket protectionism that surrounds closely guarded theories. There are attempts to explain this problem away and to discredit what are clear empirical observational data through statistical experiments and other methods, none of which can trump empirical observational data. There are many scientific papers attempting to explain away or discredit these observations. In an article in New Scientist, "Time waits for no quasar - even though it should" (no. 2755, 08 April 2010) Martin Chown writes, "Why do distant galaxies seem to age at the same rate as those closer to us when the big bang theory predicts that time should appear to slow down at greater distances from the Earth? No one can yet answer this new question, but one controversial idea is that the galaxies' light is being bent by intervening black holes that formed shortly after the big bang." Controversial ideas do little to explain away hard empirical observational data. When you consider the implication this has on standard cosmology, reading carefully and in between the lines to detect propaganda is essential. If the red-shift effect is not exclusively a measure of velocity it means the big bang model comes crashing to the ground. It also means the age of the universe is wrong. This then has implications for the theory of evolution too.

09. Fourth: Massive structures have been discovered which squarely contradict the big bang model. The big bang model assumes uniformity in distribution of galaxies in all of space. An example of an anomalous structure is the large quasar group (LQG) which is 4 billion light years long. Structures this size are simply not possible according to the big bang model. Refer to this Science Daily article (screenshot).

The team, led by Dr Roger Clowes from UCLan's Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, has identified the LQG which is so significant in size it also challenges the Cosmological Principle: the assumption that the universe, when viewed at a sufficiently large scale, looks the same no matter where you are observing it from. The modern theory of cosmology is based on the work of Albert Einstein, and depends on the assumption of the Cosmological Principle. The Principle is assumed but has never been demonstrated observationally 'beyond reasonable doubt'... "This is significant not just because of its size but also because it challenges the Cosmological Principle, which has been widely accepted since Einstein. Our team has been looking at similar cases which add further weight to this challenge and we will be continuing to investigate these fascinating phenomena."

In addition, advanced, well-formed galaxies have been found which are close to 11 billion years old (according to red-shift measurements), such as the BX442 galaxy. A well defined and formed spiral galaxy after 3 billion years after the big bang is not possible. Refer to this Science Daily article (screenshot):

"The fact that this galaxy exists is astounding," said David Law, lead author of the study and Dunlap Institute postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto's Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. "Current wisdom holds that such 'grand-design' spiral galaxies simply didn't exist at such an early time in the history of the universe." A 'grand design' galaxy has prominent, well-formed spiral arms.

This conflicts with the big bang model in which such galaxies can't possibly exist this early on. Attempts have been made by scientists to explain this away by claiming a nearby dwarf galaxy offered some gravitational help and the proof for this idea is presented through "numerical simulations." If you want something (an imagined effect) to become real, you can very easily make it real (breathe life into it) through maths on paper or simulations on computer! Note that a large number of "truths" are often asserted in this manner with little connection to actual reality (empirical evidence).

10. These uncomfortable findings (especially the PLANCK satellite data and the red-shift anomaly) are not easily dismissed through slogans such as "non-standard cosmology" or "controversial views which do not accord with the standard model of physical cosmology" or "contradicts the accepted model." What they really mean is that when hard, empirical, physical, observable data clashes with our theory, we are not going to accept it because it is controversial and does not agree with our belief (and our world-view)! Many of their supernatural explanations are devised only to help explain away the fine-tuning of this universe, and this is where string-theory and multiverses come into play. The bottom line is that there is "supernatural" stuff needed in cosmology too! It is not easy to separate ideology from science.

11. So what is the point here then? The point here is to indicate that there is no certainty in these proposed models and they have flaws. In light of this, the use of mere speculation to argue in favour of what is mentioned in revealed texts amounts to fabricating lies and speaking without knowledge. Thus, Muslims should be wary of individuals like Zakir Naik who drive Muslims towards doubts in their aqidah and eemaan through the type of simple-minded, child-like polemic that you have seen above. That's leaving aside the crime of distorting the Book of Allaah, the Exalted. Using the verse "Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and Earth were together (رتقا) and we separated them and with water we created every living thing" (21:30), to refer to the "singularity" in the big bang hypothesis is futile because in the big bang hypothesis all bodies (stars, planets and gaseous matter) were combined in a single mass, no single body or entity is excluded. The revealed texts indicate that there was space, time and matter before the heavens and Earth. Created entities also existed before this universe. There is explicit mention of a prior measurement of time. This in turn indicates the presence of order and physical laws prior to this universe. The heavens and earth were created from prior matter (which itself was originated) and not out of "nothing". Putting these affairs together it is more reasonable to accept an orderly, planned, systematic, purposeful construction (creation) of the heavens and earth from prior created matter in the context of prior order and regularity than a random, chaotic, explosive mess supervised into order. But at the end of all this discussion, we reiterate what we said at the beginning. It is not possible to arrive at certain knowledge in these fields because we are dealing with events passed, unobserved. Thus, all of the specific details and proposed mechanisms about the origin and creation of the heavens and the earth is largely speculation built upon patchy information. The scientific method cannot lead to certain knowledge in these particular fields because there are limiting bounds to what can be known as well as insufficiency in the tools of observation and investigation and thus everything remains tentative and speculative. Therefore, it is sounder and safer in reason to remain within the bounds of what is plain and apparent from the revealed texts and refrain from speaking without knowledge instead of riding upon the speculations of the atheists and scientists, (إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلاَّ الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلاَّ يَخْرُصُونَ), "They do but conjecture (give opinions) and they do but guess" (6:116), and then attempting to give explanations to the revealed texts on the basis of that, which amount in reality to conjectures and lies.

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