Religion is the clearest telescope through which we can behold the beauties of creation. -William Scott Downey
Among the many consistencies man has had over the entire stretch of his existence whether biblical or anthropological is the need for speed. While we cannot point at any outstanding developments in terms of fast travel in biblical times, the eras proceeding revelation have had significant development and improvements on speed and travel thanks to the likes of Karl Benz, Rudolf Diesel and Robert Goddard. As any would predict, man eventually moved from walking to climbing to surfing to flying. The passion to see man go faster eventuated in the concocting of concordes that traveled at supersonic speeds as experienced in the 70s 80s and late 90s…
Increasingly, speed arose in man the mania to see earth from above, the passion to venture in a place other than earth. The desire to listen to outer space and appreciate creation or nature – depending on your persuasion, led man to land on the moon and to send satellites beyond earth. In short, passion led man to speed, speed led man to passion and passion led man to speed again.
In all these perfect chaos and storm arises a critical yet important phenomenon that has perfected, confirmed and affirmed religion or revelation as conforming to science and beyond -the matter of angels and the speed they move at.
In Islamic literature-to exclude the Quran for later examination, angels have been recorded to have appeared just in time to either save a person’s life or deliver crucial information. On one occasion as narrated by Anas ibn Malik1 (R.A) that a certain merchant, a companion of the prophet PBUH, was on his way home when he encountered a robber who would neither leave him alive nor just take his possessions. The merchant pleaded with the robber to allow him to pray four rakaat and he did-too sweet of the robber I would tell you. On concluding his prayer he saw a man, as frisky as a lamb, with a shining sword dipped in blood and the robber on the ground head and body separated. On inquiring who it was, the mysterious blessed somebody would reply that he was an angel sent from the fourth heaven by God. That was brisk, given that no one knows exactly where God resides in the universe.
When coming back from Taif, the prophet PBUH was pelted and was bleeding. An injustice that warranted an expeditious punishment from the skies. In between the moments appeared archangel Jibreel or Gabriel I should say. Alongside this magnificent Holy Spirit was the lieutenant angel in charge of mountains, their objective being to blow the mountains over the people of Taif or crush them in between. Probably the most intriguing and emotional punch line in all of history is that this mercy-to-all-the-living declined and forgave them. Too much mercy given the truth that you and I would have ordered them to viciously proceed.
On another occasion, though disputed since most scholars could not authenticate the source-I don’t know why they couldn’t, the prophet PBUH is alleged to have asked Gabriel if he ever traveled at full speed to which Gabriel said on four occasions. He had to plummet seven heavens to cool the fire when Abraham was thrown in it something probably unheard-of of Abraham in the Christian persuasion. He had to descend and avert Abraham from sacrificing Ishmael and instead replaced him with a lamb, another idea disputed too in the Christian doctrine. He had to tumble fast to save Joseph from crumbling into pieces when his brothers threw him in a well. On the fourth occurrence, he descended super-fast to stop the blood of the prophet PBUH from touching the ground lest nothing grow on earth during the battle of Uhud when the Muslims were beleaguered by well…non-believers.
The big question is not whether angels did that or not but if they could, how would they do it? The only plausible and well-grounded explanation is that angels would have to travel super-fast at a speed relative to something we all know – the speed of light (299,792.458km/s) calculated successfully first by one: Olaus Roemer, a Danish astronomer.
Our justification has to take a scientific, tangible and empirical approach. According to Albert Einstein’s special relativity theory E=mc2 (where E is energy, m is mass and c is a constant for the speed of light) for a body to move at the speed of light it has to have infinite mass and zero length. That’s just crazy. However if you’re crazy enough you will acknowledge that the body has to be something immensely heavy that doesn’t exist, an unlikely scenario, or light itself a highly abso-reasonable-lutely case. Therefore, evidence has to construe that angels are made of, from, and up of light as supported by the following prophetic tradition.
Aisha (R.A) reported that the prophet PBUH said…
“The angels were created from light, the jinn were created from a mixture of fire, and Adam was created as has been described for you.”–that is soil (italics mine) 2
Any economic, social, political, or even psychological minded personalities, companies or corporate entities would place efficient and fast delivery of goods and services as priority. The same goes for God even though He is nothing like the mortal beings we are-as we surely look nothing like Him. I have to keep silent here and let The Majestic One speak in Quran 35:1
[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Creator of the heavens and the earth, [who] made the angels messengers having wings, two or three or four. He increases in creation what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.3
After substantiating their being messengers, let’s critically analyze what the Quran says about the speed of light. Though not explicit, any existence that utilizes their power of reason and discernment can contemplate and apprehend the beautiful pearls from the following tunes of inspiration worth being inscribed in gold. Quran 32:5 states:
(Allah) Rules the cosmic affair from the heavens to the Earth. Then this affair travels to Him a distance in one day, at a measure of one thousand years of what you count.4
A day totaling a thousand years!!! A fifth-century Arab Bedouin wouldn’t comprehend that and neither did Albert Einstein nor Galileo Galileo. To simplify all these, it’s common knowledge that the moon goes around the earth once a month, called the lunar revolution. In a lunar year, those
twelve revolutions rake in the mileage at:
2152612.27 × 12 = 25831347.24 km.
And in one thousand years is 25831347 × 1000= 25831347240 km.
The day is 24 hours and in seconds it is 86400 seconds according to the International standards.
Right now, we have the value of one thousand years “25831347240 km” which is “the distance” and we have the length of the day “86400 seconds” which is “the time”.
Hence, to realize the hidden relation between distance and time we can use the known formula:
Speed = distance ÷ time
After applying these figures in the formula, we can goggle at the surprise which is:
The cosmic speed = 25831347000 ÷ 86164
= 298,973.926 km/s which is exactly the speed of the light (calculated to 0.273% error)
Thus, we can realize that the allusion in the holy verse is the speed of light by liking “the one day” and “the one thousand years”. This is scientific precedence for the Qur’an and it wouldn’t be a coincidence.
Let’s back up a bit and then think of limitations. If angels travel at such speed, they would take a day to hand over the affairs to God. Then what about the incidences when they appeared instantly! According to Einstein’s relativity theory, no object or particle even light itself could break the Olympic record of its speed. All the more, angels travel in realms full of other beings and objects which should logically slow them down. Therefore, it is reasonable to science and any discipline for that matter to purport that being created from light only places limitations on the angels’ ability to traverse such elephantine distances in a jiffy-but they did.
The current dilemma can be satisfyingly milked away to produce such plausible and rational explanations by employing the following theories. To violate the speed of light, angels would have to possess’ negative matter or negative energy or dark matter. Negative energy is free from the effect of gravity. In fact, it goes against gravity. Coupled with light particles can violate the set limit and travel faster.
Another explanation is that of time travel. Whenever an object budges at the speed of light, which angels ought to, the time for that object stops. It becomes infinitely big and can bend space to travel within time. In fact Gabriel was so indeterminably huge that the only two times the prophet PBUH saw him in his real form, he fled in terror and fright.5 They (angels) travel so fast that time may stop for them and in an instant, they are within the company of the prophet PBUH or people at the same time when they were at their original positions, that’s rocket science, I know. The universe keeps expanding till judgment day therefore space exists materially just like the chair or bed you’re sitting on, or the legs you’re crossing while reading this article. Whenever space is bent, time reduces and one can travel either to the future or past or hop within galaxies in picoseconds. And that may just be the case with angels.
To sum up the colloquy, while these may be opinions and an attempt to explain creation and while we may be wrong or right, it still calls upon the thoughtful to contemplate such unique existence. Science can only go so far in explaining phenomena and then faith comes in. When the Lord God you pray to says He owns the universe and whatever is in it, He can do anything, anywhere, anytime. All the above discussion and mysteries point to a single Controller, Director, Sustainer and Fashioner of these creatures that are marvelous and expedient. We can only appreciate and marvel at the completeness and sublime essence of the Mighty One worthy of worship. So which of the blessings of your Lord do you deny?
NB: Words in italics other than Qur’anic verses, quotes and scientific formulae are a responsibility of the author of this article i.e. Huseyin Yusuf and should not be taken out of context to be the sole position of Islam or Islamic literature i.e. the Quran and Hadith as regards the above discussed injunctions.
- Narrated by Ibn Abi’l-Dunya in Majaabi al-Da’wah (64) and al-Hawaatif (24)
- Sahih Muslim of Imam Muslim
- Quran 35:1 surat-al-fatir
- Quran 32: 5 surat-as-sajda
- Narrated by Imam Tirmidhi from Abu al Aswad from Aisha R.A as stated by Imam ibn Hajar in Fat’h al Baari
R.A- (radhiallahu anhu/anha) may God be pleased with him/her
PBUH- peace and blessings be upon him.
Rakaat-(singular-rakat) units of prayer in Islam.
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