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The Dark Matter

He Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between, in six
days, and is firmly established on the Throne (of Authority): Allah Most
Gracious: ask thou, then, about Him of any acquainted (with such things).
(Quran 25:59)

In many verses, Quran talks about creating the heavens and the earth in six
days. Only in couple of verses, Quran makes it a point to add something else
i.e. wama baynahuma, which means "what's between them".  My entire
fascination and fixation was initially on "six days", whether it was really
six days, six years, periods, stages and I never appreciated this word
"what's between them". As I grew up and read and started to sort of study, I
was really surprised to see that the truly amazing thing in this verse is
the word "what's between them".

So I started going back to see what did our scholars say about this word in
the tafsir books and most scholars glossed over this word in its entirety
and focused mainly on heavens and earth. One or two books of tafsir said
"what's between them" means the trees and animals on the surface of the
earth must be what Quran is talking about. We can not say this
interpretation is wrong but we can definitely say that today there is a
better interpretation.

What is that interpretation in my opinion?

It is the notion of what we have come to learn as a product of 20th century
science called "Dark Matter".

We know that everything is made of atoms. Atoms are made of electrons,
protons and neutrons. Science advances more, then we say even the electrons,
protons and neutrons are made of even smaller things like quarks and so
forth. Then all of a sudden science discovers that there is another form of
matter out there that we are not able to detect with any of our conventional
methods at all. Most of the way, we are able to say that matter exists is
because it interacts with electromagnetic radiation either it interacts with
light or it interacts with X-rays or gamma rays.

Dark matter does not seem to interact with anything that we know about. We
are able to deduce its existence simply because it has gravitational force.

Professor John Vacca in his book "The World's 20 Greatest Unsolved Problems"
discusses about the mystery of dark matter in its very first chapter because
he considers dark matters as the most basic fundamental problem and
everything else is less important than that.


MALE (voice-over):  Stars spinning around the center of galaxies were
supposed to behave like the planets.

NATARAJAN: With our solar system, you have the sun in the center and you
have sort of the planets orbiting around. And since the dominant gravity is
that of the sun, the planets that are the outer planets, they are much
slower than the planets that are inside. So naturally what people expected
to find was similarly in a galaxy, if you measure the speed of the stars
away from the center towards the Edge, you expect it to fall off.

And what Vera Rubin found instead, which actually she measured that, for a
spiral galaxy was that the speed stayed the same. As she sort of mapped the
speed of the stars from the inside out all the way to the Edge, they stayed
the same.

Rubin was the first to pose the question that baffled the scientist ever
since. If all the stars in a galaxy moved with the same speed regardless of
their distance from the center, then the center could not be the only source
of gravity, something else should be exerting the powerful force, something
that we simply can not see.

Rubin had every reason to believe that her discovery will bring great
excitement. Her announcement that there was dark matter associated with
every individual galaxy was received with much skepticism because of far
reaching implications it had on the percentage of dark matter in the
universe. From her work, she inferred that almost 90% of the mass in a
spiral galaxy had to be dark matter.

Rubin's finding suggested that the destiny of galaxies is governed by a vast
and inscrutable network. Every galaxy is enveloped in dark matter, invisibly
locking all the stars in its embrace with the gravity of its exertion.

MALE (voice-over):  What was the Dark Matter? Steve Hawking one of the
leading scientists of the 21th century says,

STEVE HAWKINGS: By its very nature, (cold) dark matter has to be hard to
detect. Finding a way to do so is one of the most difficult tasks in physics

There are two possibilities. If there is only a fair small amount of dark
matter, the universe will continue to expand forever and on the other hand
if there is a lot of dark matter, then the gravity will slow down the
expansion of the universe and stop in eventually. Then the universe will
begin to contract and will end up in a Big Crunch, like the Big Bang


As Steve Hawkins indicated, the fate of the universe and Allah knows the
best, is ultimately determined based on the amount of dark matter that is
contained in this universe. If there is no sufficient dark matter, the
universe will keep expanding forever. If there is more than certain critical
amount of dark matter, that would be enough for the stars to loose some of
the energy and the expansion slows down a little bit, that will be enough
for the gravitational force to run this process in reverse, the way it
initially began.

Scientists have sent space probe to try to define and they call it gamma.
Gamma is a quotient.On the top half of the quotient is the total amount of
mass in the universe (an easy enough idea). On the bottom half is the
amount of mass needed to provide enough gravity so that the universe
doesn't fly apart forever. If gamma is greater than one then the mass of the
universe is greater than the amount needed to hold it together and the universe
will contract back on itself. If gamma is less than one then the mass of the
universe is less than the amount needed to hold it together and the universe
will expand out through space forever. All the measurements they made fell
on the line very close to gamma being equal to one. We don't really have a
good handle yet at all on what is going to happen. But the time scale when
the Big Crunch will happen will be determined based on the how much dark
matter there is.

"Do they not reflect in their own minds? Not but for just ends and for a
term appointed, did Allah create the heavens and the earth, and all between
them: yet are there truly many among men who deny the meeting with their
Lord (at the Resurrection)! (Quran 30:8)

When Allah says, "Do they not ponder themselves", it means He is giving us a
hint.  In one of the very few instances where Allah puts in wama baynahuma,
which means "what's between them", He linked "what's between them" to "this
is for an appointed period". In my mind what interesting way of looking into
this verse is that Allah may be giving us a hint and Allah knows the best
that the dark matter is indeed going to determine this "ajal' meaning "how
long it would last". Allah further says, despite all of these so many people
do not believe that they are going to meet God.

Steve Hawking believes in Big Crunch whereas other scientists believe that
the universe will keep expanding.

Allah says in the Quran, "The Day that We roll up the heavens like a scroll
rolled up for books (completed),- even as We produced the first creation, so
shall We produce a new one: a promise We have undertaken: truly shall We
fulfill it.." (Quran 21:104)

In the past, science was not developed as we have today and hence tafsirs
could not explain this verse the way we described. Hence based on the
Quranic verse it is evident that the Universe will contract and Allah knows
the best.

Excerpts from the "Quran & Science" sunday lecture addressed by Dr. Gasser Hathout at the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles on July 17, 2005.