Omar Bagasra / Anisah B. Bagasra
Spatial dimensions and unseen reality, important in both science and religion, are areas that have perennially fascinated human beings. The quest for truth, in these and other areas, is best realized when both empirical investigations and divine revelations are wisely utilized. The human race lives in and perceives a three-dimensional world, but the existence of at least one additional (unseen) dimension continues to intrigue humankind. Might not time be a fourth dimension, one that continues alongside the spatial dimensions of height, width, and depth? In terms of relativity, all actions take place not only in the three spatial dimensions but also in the fourth dimension of time; this constitutes the space-time concept.
In 1919, the Polish mathematician Theodor Kaluza (1885-1954) advanced the idea that the universe might have more than three spatial dimensions. He reasoned that there might be a curled-up dimension too small to be seen. Attempts to explain this dimension tend to be convoluted, even when accompanied by illustrations, precisely because it is impossible, in our three-dimensional world, to represent anything in more than three dimensions, even in a sculptured object.
Brian Greene (b. 1963)—a Columbia University physicist, and author of The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (Norton, 1999)—not only understands this field of physics, but also has contributed immensely to it. His writing concerning string theory, while admittedly controversial and based on a theory in its formative stages, suggests some interesting perspectives that are being considered. Creative speculation, coupled with critical evaluation, lies at the heart of scientific progress. He spends several pages in his bestseller developing an analogy based on a garden hose stretched across a canyon, with an ant crawling upon it. The hose, which appears different to a human with binoculars than to one without them, and also different to the ant, contains a curled-up space that is invisible to all. To imagine oneself successfully inserting a solid book through a solid mirror is to perceive the illusive fourth dimension. An indirect way to approach the complexity of the fourth dimension is to imagine a world of living things that are, like a drawing on a page, only two-dimensional. Those with 3-D capacity would be able to see a two-D world, but those living in two dimensions would be unable to comprehend the three-dimensional counterpart. The extra dimension that Kaluza worked out involved the amalgamation of electromagnetism and relativity.
What do things look like in a super tiny world with ten dimensions? Imagine a picture (displayed in approximations because it represents a six-dimensional shape on a two-dimensional page) in which a drawing of stairways going nowhere is rolled up into a kind of ball of yarn. The ball shape is no accident, for the additional dimensions posited are curled-up, which renders it as difficult to see as the inside of Greene’s hose stretched across a canyon with a crawling ant on the outside. These six-dimensional spaces exist within the three dimensions we know and see and trust. “String theory” maintains that these gigantically-minute vibrating strings, these multi-dimensional voyagers, actually determine the mass of particles and the charge of forces at the subatomic level, which in turn shapes activity in the real world we inhabit. Obviously, string theory is in its infancy, as is the case with all emerging scientific theories. The general pattern has been that theories partially explain truth, and thereby expand the sum of human knowledge. It is crucial to remember that theories are theories, attempts to advance human knowledge. According to this theoretical perspective, the dimensions beyond 3-D are required for the particular resonances rendered by the strings, similar to how musical resonance varies according to violin wood and shape.
Islamic insights into energy-based, higher-dimensional life forms
Since their genesis, humans have relied on religion to explain things which are true, but nonetheless unseen by the inhabitants of a three-dimensional world. Belief in the unseen, or that which cannot be scientifically proven, is a standard element of religious participation. The Qur’an provides many insights regarding the unseen and the effect of the hidden aspects of reality on human lives. First, it links the creation of life forms to water and other earthy elements: “God created every animal from water” (24:45); “... the heavens and the earth were joined together, then We clove them asunder and We got every living thing out of the water ...” (21:30).
The Qur’an also affirms the existence of aspects of creation that are beyond the comprehension of humans: “Glory be to Him Who created the components of couples of every kind: of what the ground caused to grow, of themselves (human beings) and of what you do not know” (36:36). Besides indicating that earthy life forms evolved from water and clay (earthy elements), the Holy Qur’an also mentions another type of life form created from “smokeless fire.” There are 117 identified elements on earth and all the earthy life forms evolved from some combination of these elements, with water playing a fundamental role. While elements have been identified, and are scientifically verifiable, we do not know how many forms of energy exist in the universe, but known forms include electrical, radiant, thermal, sound, motion, gravitational, chemical, nuclear, mechanical, solar, geothermal, hydro, fossil, biomass, wind, and natural gas. Moreover, since, each of these classes of energy has multiple subclasses, it is estimated that there are hundreds of kinds of energy. For example, visible light has various wavelengths representing numerous colors, each representing a different kind of energy within the visible light class. Within light there are spectra that are invisible to us, i.e. UV and IR lights that we utilize for our benefits (taking x-rays and for sterilizing various objects).
If “smokeless fire” is interpreted to refer to a class of energy, then the Holy Qur’an seems to suggest the possibility that certain life forms have arisen from energy sources: “And indeed, We created man from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud. And the jinn, We created aforetime from the smokeless flame of fire” (Qur’an Sura 15, verses 26-27; italics added). It stands to reason that our 3-D-limited vision and linear interpretation of time prevents us from seeing life forms that exceed these dimensions, but many people, from many faiths, have insisted that they have felt their influence.
Based on our knowledge of the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), we would assume that an energy-based life form moving at that speed would clearly be invisible to dimension-limited mortals. Humans cannot see any light beyond a limited visible spectrum, but they can sometimes perceive the effects of such light. Persons who hear their cell phones ring would think it ludicrous to dismiss the existence of sound-causing microwaves on the grounds that they are invisible. Nor would they refuse to acknowledge the heating capacity of microwave ovens simply because they cannot visually perceive the tiny waves. Likewise, x-ray photographs, or sunburned skin, give evidence of that which is unseen but nevertheless real. These effects of energy are routinely felt but not seen. Earlier theoretical postulations and examination have led to developments in these known areas of energy forms. Contemporary theories, including string theories, will, hopefully, result in further breakthroughs.
Perspectives on unembodied entities, often called spirits, abound. They range from deep doctrinal perspectives from theologians to the speculative viewpoints of scholars and persons from all walks of life. What these widely divergent views have in common is their belief in the reality of the unseen, and the idea that the unseen may, under certain conditions, be seen. In Zoroastrianism, the evil spirit Angra Mainyu opposes the leading deity, Ahura Mazda. Descriptions of this evil figure have much in common with the devil or Satan (the counterpart of the Islamic jinn, Iblis), who figures prominently in Judaism and Christianity. In Greek mythology, the Daemones are spirits who influence world conditions. Examples of these numerous spirits, and what they bring to humanity, are Algea (pain), Elpis (hope), Eupheme (praise), Momus (criticism), Nemesis (jealousy), and Phobus (fear) (Theo Greek Mythology: Exploring Mythology in Classical Literature and Art, http://www.theoi.com/greek-mythology/personifications.html). In Hinduism and other religions that teach reincarnation, spirits continue to exist through various iterations of life. Hinduism refers to the soul as the Atman, that spiritual entity that precedes birth and continues after death (Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/).
Mormons, like Muslims, stress the importance of the Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, and their “Book of Abraham” (derived from an ancient Egyptian papyrus) reveals that spirits exist prior to gaining a body through mortal birth. These spirits “have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are ... eternal” (Abraham 3:38). Likewise, the Holy Qur’an informs to us that God has created all the souls of humankind before He created Adam and made covenants with them: “When your Lord drew forth the Children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes! We so witness!’ Lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: ‘Of this we were unaware!’” (7:172). Referring to unembodied personages still awaiting birth, Abraham states, “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones” (Abraham 3:22). Abraham learned that he was one of these: “And God . . . stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born” (Abraham 3:23). Christian and Jewish beliefs overlap in the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian Old Testament, which include this teaching from the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I [the Lord] formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). These passages help us understand the views of other religious groups regarding unembodied spirits, a concept that exists prominently, albeit with significant differences, in Islam, which emphasizes jinn.
The Holy Qur’an states that the Creator has made many non-earthy life forms that are energy-based, and capable of changing shape and form. The two life forms described in the Qur’an (in addition to human beings) are angels and jinn. It depicts angels as having originated from light and as lacking free will; they simply obey. It describes the jinn, created from smokeless fire, as preceding the creation of humankind which was made from mud or clay. Both the Qur’an and related Hadith (words and deeds ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) identify the jinn as spirit entities capable of appearing in different forms and of acting according to their own free will to assist humans or lead them astray, as well as to worship God or to deny Him. Islam teaches that the jinns can take the form of various 3-D life forms, including birds, dogs, bees, and humans (Ameen, 2005). In an article describing Islamic medical sciences, Speziale (2003) describes the jinn as “created from fire, who inhabit a subtle world in which mankind is immersed, as into a liquid.” This description corresponds well with Kaluza’s string theory as both deal with a multidimensional world, much of which is beyond our limited sensory perceptions. The Qur’an thus portrays the jinns as occupants of a parallel world of spirits, a doctrinal stance that – as shown above – has its counterpart is many other religions.
The jinn are mentioned in more than forty verses in the Qur’an; one chapter is named (Surat-ul-Jinn) explicitly after them. Further information regarding the jinn, their food, behavior, and capabilities come to us through information regarding the Prophet that has been transmitted over the generations via the Hadith. Among the references to the jinns is the following passage from which we may infer that jinns have the ability and responsibility to choose right over wrong: “‘O you tribes of Jinn and humans, did not messengers come to you from amongst you and relate to you My revelations, and warn you of the meeting of this Day?’ They said: ‘Yes, we bear witness upon ourselves;’ and the worldly life deceived them, and they bore witness on themselves that they were rejecters” (Qur’an Sura 6, Verse 130). A second verse reinforces this conclusion: “I did not create the jinns and the humans except to worship Me alone” (51:55).
The validity of string theory relies on the reality of unseen dimensions, and although we do not purport that the Holy Quran directly endorses this theory, it does support a search for truth. Moreover, a number of Qur’anic passages suggest the reality of more dimensions than meet the human eye, and of human inability to comprehend these additional dimensions: “The seven heavens extol His limitless glory, and the earth, and all that they contain; and there is not a single thing but extols His limitless glory and praise: but you [O men] fail to grasp the manner of their glorifying Him!” (Qur’an Sura 17, verse 44; italics added); “Do you not see how God has created seven heavens in full harmony with one another?” (Qur’an Sura 71, Verse 15; italics added).
Can we see jinns?
As inhabitants of a three-dimensional world, we would presumably be able to see a 2-D world, just as we are able to read the two-dimensional words on these magazine pages. Following this logic, those living in a parallel world, with more dimensions than earth’s inhabitants perceive, would have the capacity to observe 3-D activity while remaining invisible to the lower-dimension world. According to such logic, jinns could see humans but not vice-versa. The Holy Qur’an states, “Lo, he [the devilish Iblis] sees you, he and his tribe, from whence you see him not” (Al-Araaf verse 27). Iblis (the counterpart of Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, etc.) is the leader of the evil jinns.
The following verse from the Qur’an, which sounds like a divine approbation of space exploration, has been intriguing to many: “O assembly of Jinns and Men, if you can penetrate regions of the heavens and the earth, then penetrate them! You will not penetrate them save with a Power” (Qur’an Sura 55, verse 33). The Pakistani Islamic scholar Mawdudi asserts that Qur’anic verses describe the capabilities and limitations of the jinn, specifically their ability to travel rapidly though space: “In surah Al-Hijr: 16-18, surah As-Saaffat: 6-10 and surah Al-Mulka: 5, it has been said that although the jinn can ascend to the heavens, they cannot exceed a certain limit; if they try to ascend beyond that limit and try to hear what goes on in the heavens, they are not allowed to do so, and if they eavesdrop they are driven away by meteorites” (The Alim for Windows).
Ghosts and jinns
Western civilization has generally misunderstood Islamic doctrine concerning jinns and has often erroneously equated ghosts with jinns. In Islam, the jinns are real life forms capable of carrying out behaviors and mental processes. Whereas the ghost of Western traditions tends to be the departed spirit of a deceased mortal; Islam has no such concept per se, but maintains that so-called manifestations of ghosts are nothing more than close encounters with jinns. Countless individuals have insisted that they have seen implausible life forms or other objects that appear to have crossed over into the human dimensions to become visible for a time. Many have affirmed that they have seen loved ones, which they explain as the spirit of the deceased, but Islam would tend to interpret such manifestations as evidence of jinns. Some have gone so far as to maintain that such occurrences are explicable via scientific theory, which may be substantiated by evidence. One theoretical explanation is founded on the presence of energy in human life, and in life from other dimensions. Others have maintained that energy appears when supernatural manifestations occur, including cases of so-called hauntings or paranormal activity. Assuming that jinns are made of energy and give off energy, it has been hypothesized that their presence might be measured by electromagnetic force (EMF) detectors, which can examine and record even the smallest fluctuations in electromagnetic fields. According to this line of reasoning, the human body radiates a limited electromagnetic field; electrical appliances – from low-energy light bulbs to higher-energy televisions and computers – give off even more; and jinns, or so-called ghosts, theoretically, would cause far higher levels of measurable electromagnetic distortion. Some have insisted that these distortions are so powerful that they interfere with the working ability of computer systems, EMF detectors, and audio-visual equipment; and that high levels of static electricity have been detected by sophisticated devices. Like string theory, such theoretical suppositions invite investigation, analysis, and refinement in pursuit of truth.
Yet another theoretical approach focuses on recording temperature changes to scientifically detect the presence of invisible entities. This approach maintains that because fluctuations of more than ten degrees have been recorded in small areas with constant temperatures, it is reasonable to conclude that some energy-altering form has been present. Temperature does not change unless something causes such a change. Further theoretical modeling has revolved around cold spots and hot spots, the former linked to the notion that light does not reflect correctly off ghosts, which gives them a dark form because light is absorbed into the ghost. This theory would explain the claim that, even though ghosts absorb both light and heat energy, the general area around them is several degrees cooler than elsewhere in the room. Hot-spot theorists argue that just the opposite occurs; ghosts reflect light and heat rather than absorb it, thus causing the area to be hot or cold.
One of the most common claims of unexplained objects that become temporarily visible involves unidentified flying objects (UFOs). In many accounts, UFO observers report serious EMF distortions, which may result in an engine stalling or car lights ceasing to function. One can speculate that the ability of giant flying objects to maneuver with amazing speed could be due to the presence of jinns, whether for serious or mischievous motives during their brief crossing into the 3-D terrestrial realm.
The Prophet Muhammad’s traditions inform us that the jinns live, take nourishment, have offspring, enjoy life, and die, although their lifespan is unfathomable to 3-D-limited mortals. Like humans, they create different languages, believe in diverse religions, establish varied civilizations, and may choose to be either good or evil. Islamic belief credits jinns with the capacity to terrify humans, carry out pranks, and take possession of their consciousness. Ameen (2005), in his text The Jinn and Human Sickness, describes the type of sickness caused by the jinn, including physical sickness, hallucinations, creating enmity between people, sexual problems, and psychological disorders (52-3). Symptoms of jinn possession have also been categorized and researched by Ameen and include erratic behavior, seizures with no medical cause, paralysis of limbs, frequent headaches, and barrenness in women with no medical cause, Therefore, Islam, as well as other religions, resorts to some form of exorcism – that is, the expulsion of evil spirits from possessed victims. The ability to expel jinn from the human body has been described in Hadithic tradition. Biblical literature also documents the existence of demon possession and the ability to remove such evil spirits from the human body (see specifically the Gospels of Matthew and Mark). Of course, the symptoms of possession are also common problems that plague many humans due simply to aging, accidents, genetic disabilities, or emotional trauma and should not automatically be attributed to jinn possession without careful medical and psychiatric examination.
In summary, we remind our readers that truth is truth, regardless of where it is found, and ultimately all truth is perfectly correlated and logical. Given the sensory and perceptual limitations imposed by three-dimensional mortality, the dazzling possibilities suggested by string theory and other explanations of the unseen prove tantalizing to humans, who are searching to correlate the truths gleaned from various sources, including science and religion. We trust that the summary of string theory, the citations from the Holy Qur’an, the comparative perspectives from other religious traditions, and the overview of some phenomena that seem logically inexplicable, without the insights of revealed theology, will spark interest in the ongoing quest for truth that renders the human experience both fascinating and meaningful.
Figure 1: One of the ways to explain the multiple Dimensions is “String theory.” Theoretical string theory analyses, in hopes of eventually producing a comprehensive “theory of everything,” have focused not only on strings but also on membranes and have inspired new mathematical advances vis-à-vis Calabi-Yau spaces and knots.
(Adapted from Onpedia http://www.onpedia.com/encyclopedia/string-theory)