The Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner: A Quranic Commentary for the 21st Century


He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al Quran 59:24)

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

In 1913, the chemist Lawrence Joseph Henderson wrote The Fitness of the Environment, one of the first books to explore fine tuning in the universe. Henderson discusses the importance of water and the environment to living things, pointing out that life depends entirely on earth’s very specific environmental conditions, especially the prevalence and properties of water.[6]

In 1961, physicist Robert H. Dicke claimed that certain forces in physics, such as gravity and electromagnetism, must be perfectly fine-tuned for life to exist in the universe.[7][8] Fred Hoyle also argued for a fine-tuned universe in his 1984 book The Intelligent Universe. “The list of anthropic properties, apparent accidents of a non-biological nature without which carbon-based and hence human life could not exist, is large and impressive”, Hoyle wrote.[9]

We will get back to the biophylic universe after talking about the holy Quran and how it has become the biggest argument against atheism in our times, in age of information, in the 21st century.

Almost each Surah of the holy Quran, with the exception of the last few Surahs, starting with the opening verse of the Surah Fatihah, “All praise belongs to Allah the Creator and the Sustainer of all the worlds,” talks about God the Creator.

In the next Surah, which is Al Baqarah, we read:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of night and day, and in the ships which sail in the sea with that which profits men, and in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and quickens therewith the earth after its death and scatters therein all kinds of beasts, and in the change of the winds, and the clouds pressed into service between the heaven and the earth — are indeed Signs for the people who understand. (Al Quran 2:164)

In the third Surah of the Quran, we read:

And to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and Allah has power over all things.

In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding;

Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this in vain; nay, Holy are You; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire.’ (Al Quran 3:189-191)

In case a casual reader misses the point of the above few verses, due to the subtlety of the language, Allah links all his creations as the main reason for man’s gratitude and submission in a very powerful manner:

We have created you. Why, then, do you not accept the truth?

What think ye of the sperm-drop that you emit?

Is it you who have created it or are We the Creator?

We have ordained death for all of you; and We cannot be prevented

From bringing in your place others like you, and from developing you into a form which at present you know not.

And you have certainly known the first creation. Why, then, do you not reflect?

Do you see what you sow?

Is it you who grow it or are We the Grower?

If We so pleased, We could reduce it all to broken pieces, then you would keep lamenting:

‘We are ruined!

‘Nay, we are deprived of everything.’

Do you see the water which you drink?

Is it you who send it down from the clouds, or are We the Sender?

If We so pleased, We could make it bitter. Why, then, are you not grateful?

Do you see the fire which you kindle?

Is it you who produce the tree for it, or are We the Producer?

We have made it a reminder and a benefit for the wayfarers.

So glorify the name of thy Lord, the Great. (Al Quran 56:57-74)

In the past centuries the Muslim commentators read these verses in light of human knowledge at that time. Now, with our current state of knowledge of cosmology and physics, any discussion between theists and agnostics or atheists, will lead inevitably to biophylic universe.

We simply have no way to argue that Allah is the Creator, the Maker, and the Fashioner of the universe, without mastering the argument of biophylic universe: Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God.

Physicist Paul Davies has said, “There is now broad agreement among physicists and cosmologists that the Universe is in several respects ‘fine-tuned’ for life.” However, he continued, “the conclusion is not so much that the Universe is fine-tuned for life; rather it is fine-tuned for the building blocks and environments that life requires.”[12] He has also said that “‘anthropic‘ reasoning fails to distinguish between minimally biophilic universes, in which life is permitted, but only marginally possible, and optimally biophilic universes, in which life flourishes because biogenesis occurs frequently”.[13] Among scientists who find the evidence persuasive, a variety of natural explanations have been proposed, such as the existence of multiple universes introducing a survivorship bias under the anthropic principle.[1]

The premise of the fine-tuned universe assertion is that a small change in several of the physical constants would make the universe radically different. As Stephen Hawking has noted, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”[5]

If, for example, the strong nuclear force were 2% stronger than it is (i.e. if the coupling constant representing its strength were 2% larger) while the other constants were left unchanged, diprotons would be stable; according to Davies, hydrogen would fuse into them instead of deuterium and helium.[14] This would drastically alter the physics of stars, and presumably preclude the existence of life similar to what we observe on Earth. The diproton’s existence would short-circuit the slow fusion of hydrogen into deuterium. Hydrogen would fuse so easily that it is likely that all the universe’s hydrogen would be consumed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.[14] This “diproton argument” is disputed by other physicists, who calculate that as long as the increase in strength is less than 50%, stellar fusion could occur despite the existence of stable diprotons.[15]

The precise formulation of the idea is made difficult by the fact that we do not yet know how many independent physical constants there are. The standard model of particle physics has 25 freely adjustable parameters and general relativity has one more, the cosmological constant, which is known to be nonzero but profoundly small in value. But because physicists have not developed an empirically successful theory of quantum gravity, there is no known way to combine quantum mechanics, on which the standard model depends, and general relativity. Without knowledge of this more complete theory suspected to underlie the standard model, it is impossible to definitively count the number of truly independent physical constants. In some candidate theories, the number of independent physical constants may be as small as one. For example, the cosmological constant may be a fundamental constant, but attempts have also been made to calculate it from other constants, and according to the author of one such calculation, “the small value of the cosmological constant is telling us that a remarkably precise and totally unexpected relation exists among all the parameters of the Standard Model of particle physics, the bare cosmological constant and unknown physics.”[16]

Martin Rees formulates the fine-tuning of the universe in terms of the following six dimensionless physical constants.[2][17]

  • N, the ratio of the electromagnetic force to the gravitational force between a pair of protons, is approximately 1036. According to Rees, if it were significantly smaller, only a small and short-lived universe could exist.[17]
  • Epsilon (ε), a measure of the nuclear efficiency of fusion from hydrogen to helium, is 0.007: when four nucleons fuse into helium, 0.007 (0.7%) of their mass is converted to energy. The value of ε is in part determined by the strength of the strong nuclear force.[18] If ε were 0.006, a proton could not bond to a neutron, and only hydrogen could exist, and complex chemistry would be impossible. According to Rees, if it were above 0.008, no hydrogen would exist, as all the hydrogen would have been fused shortly after the Big Bang. Other physicists disagree, calculating that substantial hydrogen remains as long as the strong force coupling constant increases by less than about 50%.[15][17]
  • Omega (Ω), commonly known as the density parameter, is the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the universe. It is the ratio of the mass density of the universe to the “critical density” and is approximately 1. If gravity were too strong compared with dark energy and the initial metric expansion, the universe would have collapsed before life could have evolved. If gravity were too weak, no stars would have formed.[17][19]
  • Lambda (Λ), commonly known as the cosmological constant, describes the ratio of the density of dark energy to the critical energy density of the universe, given certain reasonable assumptions such as that dark energy density is a constant. In terms of Planck units, and as a natural dimensionless value, Λ is on the order of 10−122.[20] This is so small that it has no significant effect on cosmic structures that are smaller than a billion light-years across. A slightly larger value of the cosmological constant would have caused space to expand rapidly enough that stars and other astronomical structures would not be able to form.[17][21]
  • Q, the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass, is around 10−5. If it is too small, no stars can form. If it is too large, no stars can survive because the universe is too violent, according to Rees.[17]
  • D, the number of spatial dimensions in spacetime, is 3. Rees claims that life could not exist if there were 2 or 4 spatial dimensions.[17] Rees argues this does not preclude the existence of ten-dimensional strings.[2]

I will conclude this article with the verse with which I began as an epigraph:

He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al Quran 59:24)

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