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In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Assuredly, We have adorned the world’s heaven with lamps,
and We have made them missiles for the devils.

O modern, educated man, in order to ascend to the heaven of this verse’s meaning, first read the following report about a meteor shower.

The Perseid meteor shower

The Perseid meteor shower observed in almost every year suggests that those meteors are shot for certain, important purposes. For they surprise the observers by showing great diversity. The observations made in, for example, 1993, demonstrate the fact that the structure of the shower is yet poorly known.

According to information given by the International Meteor Organization about the events of the 1993 shower (Astronomy, October 1993), the first results posted for the night of 11/12 August came from Japan. Up to 20:30 (all times UT), 11 August, the meteor rates were found to be normal. A zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of 40 meteors per hour (m/h) was tentatively assigned to the shower at this time.

Preliminary data from European observers indicated that the rates had gradually increased to ZHR of order 100 m/h between 20:00, 11 August and 01:00, 12 August. Observers in France reported a noticeable increase in rates after 00:30, 12 August, with the rate being about twice that of ‘normal’. The rates continued to climb between 01:00 and 03:00. A preliminary ZHR of 200-250 was ascribed to this period. The rates appeared to reach a maximum between 03:00 and 03:30. The ZHR at maximum was estimated to be of the order of 500. Observations from the Canary Islands indicated that the rates began to decline after 04:00.

Higher than normal rates were also reported from many observers in the United States and Japan. As commented by Martin Beech in Astronomy, p.11, the results clearly indicated that the shower did not behave as predicted. Speculation about a possible meteor storm proved incorrect. Another unexpected feature in 1993 was the high number of bright fireballs observed. Observers reported something like five times the normal level of Perseid fireballs on the night of 11/12 August. The Perseid shower once again demonstrated how difficult it is to predict meteor shower activity.

A. Cressy Morrison (Man Does Not Stand Alone, New York, 1945, p.100) mentions, as a typical human characteristic, the reluctance to give up fixed ideas, the stubborn resistance to accepting unfamiliar truths. The early Greeks knew the earth was a sphere, but it took two thousand years to convince men that this fact is true. New ideas encounter opposition, ridicule and abuse, but truth survives and is verified. Neither scientific studies nor developments in science can offer any excuse not to accept God. What we observe in nature and what we obtain from it must encourage us to know Him more closely and see the strong bridge between science and religion, the world and the Hereafter, and between the reason and the spirit.

Now, come and let us climb together a stairway of seven steps:

First step

Existence of Angels

Reality and wisdom require that, just as the earth does, the heavens should also have inhabitants of their own. In the language of Islam, those inhabitants of various kinds are called angels.

Indeed, reality requires it to be so, for despite its small size and relative insignificance, the earth is being alternately filled with living and conscious beings, then emptied of them, then replenished again. This suggests-rather, it shows evidently-that the heavens too, which have magnificent constellations and are like decorated palaces, must also be filled with conscious and percipient beings. Like men and jinn, those beings too are spectators of the palace of the world, students of the book of the universe, and heralds of the sovereignty of Divine Lordship. For its Lord has embellished and ornamented the universe with innumerable decorations, beauties, and inscriptions, and this evidently requires the existence of contemplative and appreciative eyes that will observe and be delighted. Certainly, beauty requires a lover, and food is given to the hungry. Men and jinn are able to perform only a millionth of this boundless duty, this glorious viewing, and this comprehensive worship. This means that countless sorts of angels and spirit beings are necessary to perform these infinite and diverse duties and acts of worship.

Some prophetic traditions suggest, and the wisdom in the order of the universe indicates, that certain kinds of moving bodies, from planets to drops of rain, are the transports of some kinds of angels. They mount them by God’s permission and tour and view the visible, material world. Also, it may be said that certain kinds of animal bodies, from the birds of Paradise called ‘the green birds’ in a hadith, to flies, are the ‘aircraft’ for one kind of spirits. They enter them by God’s command, look round the physical world, and observe the miracles of creation through the windows of the senses of those bodies.

The Creator Who continuously creates subtle life and enlightened, percipient beings from dense earth and turbid water, must certainly have created conscious beings from light and even from darkness who are worthier to have a higher life and spirit, and created them in great abundance.

Second step

The earth and the heavens are connected to each other like two countries under one government.

The earth and the heavens are connected to each other like two countries under one government. There are important relations and transactions between them. Things necessary for the earth like light, heat, blessings, and forms of mercy like rain, come, rather, are being sent, from the sky. Also, it is unanimously confirmed by all the heavenly religions, which are founded on revelation, that the angels and spirit beings descend to the earth from the heavens. This truth is also agreed upon by all the saintly scholars who unveil the secret truths of creation on the basis of what they have witnessed. From this it may be concluded as almost certainly as if it were directly sensed that for the inhabitants of the earth there is a way to ascend to the heavens.

Indeed, everyone can always travel to the heavens through his mind, vision and imagination. So too, freed from or purified of the gross heaviness of their carnal and material being, the spirits of the prophets and saints travel there by God’s leave, and the spirits of the ordinary people do so after their death. Those who are ‘lightened’ and have acquired ‘subtlety’ and spiritual refinement travel there. For sure, then, certain inhabitants of the earth and the air who are clothed in an ‘ideal’ body or energetic envelope or immaterial body or form and are light and subtle like spirits, may go to the heavens.

Third step

The inhabitants of the heavens are all obedient to God and do whatever He commands them.

The silence and tranquility, the order and serene regularity of the heavens, and their vastness and radiance, show that their inhabitants are not like those of the earth; they are all obedient to God and do whatever He commands them. There is nothing to cause quarrels or disputes among them because they are innocent, their realm is vast, their nature is pure, and their stations are fixed. On the earth, opposites exist side by side, evils are mixed with the good, and disputes arise among its inhabitants. This is the reason for the conflicts and suffering on the earth. Conscious beings are thereby made subject to testing and competition, which results in progress or regress. The reason and truth behind all these facts are as follows:

Man is the furthest part of the tree of creation, its fruit. It is well-known that the fruit of something is its furthest, most delicate, and most important part. Man, the fruit of the universe, is a most comprehensive, most wonderful, most impotent and weak, and a most subtle miracle of Power. Therefore the earth, which is his cradle and dwelling-place, is, despite its small size and insignificance in comparison with the heavens, the heart and center of the whole universe with respect to its meaning and the art it contains. The earth is the exhibition-place of all the miracles of the Divine Names; it is the place of concentration and reflection of the infinite activity of God as the Lord, Sustainer, Trainer, and Ruler of all beings. It is the center and pivot of endless Divine creativity, which is displayed in infinite liberality, especially in the numerous small species of plants and animals. It is the place, in a small measure, of the samples of the things belonging to the truly vast worlds of the Hereafter. It is the speedily operating workshop for eternal textiles, the fast-changing place of the copies of the eternal scenes, and the narrow, temporary field and tillage rapidly producing the seeds for permanent gardens (in the Hereafter). It is because of this immaterial greatness of the earth, and its importance with respect to art, that the wise Qur’an puts it on a par with the heavens, although it is like a tiny fruit of a huge tree when compared with the heavens. It places it in one pan of a pair of scales and the whole of the heavens in the other, and repeatedly says, ‘the Lord of the heavens and the earth’ [thus mentioning the earth together with the heavens].

The fast and constant changes and transformations on the earth, which follow from the purposes mentioned above, require that its inhabitants should also undergo corresponding changes. It is because this bounded earth has been made the object of countless miracles of Divine Power that the faculties of men and jinn, who are its most important inhabitants, have essentially not been restricted. As a result of this they have been given the potential of endless progress and endless regress. A great field of trial and testing has opened for everyone, from the prophets and the saints to the Nimrods and devils. Since this is so, of course, in their endless evil, the Pharaoh-like devils will attack the heavens and its inhabitants.

Fourth step

God has numerous Names whose decrees and functions are all different

The Majestic One, Who is the Lord, Administrator, and Creator of all the worlds, has numerous titles and Beautiful Names whose decrees and functions are all different. For example, whichever title or Name required the sending of angels to do battle among the ranks of the Prophet’s Companions against the unbelievers, also requires that there should be battle between angels and devils. It requires contest between the good inhabitants of the heavens and the evil inhabitants of the earth. Certainly the All-Powerful One of Majesty, Who holds within the grasp of His Power the souls of the unbelievers, does not eradicate them with a single command, a single trumpet-blast. As the function of being the Lord (Sustainer, Upbringer, Controller) of all creatures, and the requirements of His Names the All-Wise and Administrator, He opens a field of testing and contest.

Only for the sake of comparison: a king has numerous different names and titles in respect of the different departments of his government. For example, in the department of justice he is known by the name ...
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