Stephen Hawking – Time and Islam by Adv Omar Moosa

Speaking at the Suleman Lockhat Auditorium at the Mariam Bee Sultan Islamic Centre in Overport, Durban, Advocate Moosa told the Islamic Forum sponsored event, “Stephen Hawking – Time and Islam”, that people should guard against relying on science to validate faith.  He said that in his experience of studying Astronomy and Cosmology for over fifty years, he found that science was forever catching up with what was stated in the Holy Quraan.  He also said that it was to be regretted that Christians and Mulims alike saw fit to attack Stephen Hawking, the successor to Newton and Einstein, personally because Hawking was an avowed atheist.  To Moosa, this kind of ad hominem attack betrayed an insecurity in belief in the Almighty on the basis that it appeared that people of faith were afraid that an understanding of Hawking’s contribution to science might shake the foundations of their belief.

Moosa said that Hawking’s contribution to the advancement of science lay primarily in Hawking’s work whereby he applied the principles of quantum mechanics to Einstein’s theory of relativity in order to explain how the Big Bang could be scientifically understood even though the normal laws of physics broke down at that point.  His other major contribution was his work relating to Black Holes in the Universe, where it is theorised that matter and time come to an end.

Insofar as Hawking’s lack of belief in God is concerned, Moosa said that Hawking had conceded that he could not disprove the existence of God.  However, in Hawking’s view Hawking did not find it necessary to explain the creation of the Universe some fourteen billion years ago through an agency of an outside force.  While Hawking accepted that time can only exist in space and matter, and that real-time only came into existence at the Big Bang, when a point of light, measuring one billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a centimetre, kick-started the creation of the Universe, in order to propound his theory of a spontaneous creation of the Universe Hawking developed the notion of imaginary time which existed before real time.

In Moosa’s view, there is no point in people of faith trying to establish the existence of God through some kind of mathematical formula such as one plus one equals two.  If it were possible to do so, there would simply be little purpose in the earthly life which is fundamentally a test to determine whether people will believe in God regard being had to all the signs in creation which point to such existence.   That aside, however, Moosa said that the Almighty has given to humankind a unique gift of intellect and rationality which is extremely useful for purposes of worldly existence.  Humankind must use the intellect and rationality to explore and develop knowledge as much as possible.

Whilst therefore one could not prove or disprove the existence of God through some kind of scientific experiment in a laboratory, one could debate, rationally, whether the logic adopted by Hawking and his fellow Scientists in the Western world, over ninety percent of whom are atheists, is inherently sound.  Moosa said that, in his respectful view, this is where the postulations of such Scientists broke down in terms of rationality.

Intrinsic to the thesis that God does not exist, and that God was not the external agent that started the creation of the Universe, was an assumption, without anything scientific to back it up, that nothingness and creation are both Absolutes.  Whilst Hawking accepted that time and space are not Absolutes and that the Universe was not imposed on pre-existing time and space but rather that time and space are products of creation, starting from the Big Bang, Hawking assumed that nothingness existed prior to the Universe coming into being.  Where is the evidence for this, Moosa asked? In Moosa’s view, a proper understanding of Islamic Theology requires an acceptance that God alone is the only reality and that nothingness did not exist alongside God but that nothingness is something that God first created before bringing forth something-ness from that nothingness.  In any event, according to Moosa, it is accepted conventional wisdom that most of the so-called visible Universe is made up of dark matter and dark energy which no one has seen but whose existence has been established because of the gravitational effect that they have on visible objects. Similarly, with regard to humankind’s attempt to create vacuums in laboratory settings.  It is accepted scientific wisdom that virtual particles keep appearing and disappearing from such vacuums.

According to Moosa, when Hawking and other Scientists ask questions such as what it is that God was doing before He created these questions are self-contradictory because it is accepted conventional scientific wisdom that time did not exist before creation.  If that is so, then it is illogical to ask any question about God that involves the word “before”.

In addition, there is also an assumption amongst such scientists that the notion of creation is an Absolute.  Again, Moosa asks where is the proof for this? Moosa says that according to Islamic Theology there is no such Absolute as creation.  The whole notion of creation, that is of bringing forth something which did not exist before, is itself a creation of the Almighty.  It is therefore fallacious to ask questions such as “who created God?” As the Holy Quraan itself says, the Almighty does not beget nor is he begotten!

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