Monday, March 25, 2013

Islam and Extraterrestrials

I’ve discussed religions enlarging their perspectives to accommodate the possibility of extraterrestrial life and intelligence. The Roman Catholic Church has been the most prominent religious institution to take this approach. A number of astronomers at the Vatican Observatory have taken up the issue, including Father Jose Funes. The message is simple: god is great enough to include all things, including extraterrestrials.

There has been less talk of how Muslims might consider extraterrestrial beings. Imam Shabir Ally, president of the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International in Toronto, seems to share the Catholic interpretation. In a recent article on the OnIslam website, Ally frames the question of extraterrestrial intelligence from readings in the Quran. Imam Ally says that the Quran has several passages that refer to many Earths existing and universes in a plural form. He also says that if humans had the Prophet Muhammad, perhaps aliens too could have prophets spreading the word of Islam on other planets.

I personally believe that alien religion would be quite foreign to us, if the concept was even relevant to extraterrestrials. It is interesting, though, that this Imam is taking a view similar to the Catholic perspective. Perhaps this is an indication of how the large religious institutions would handle alien First Contact? There is still the question of fringe groups and outliers. How will fundamentalist groups and religious extremists in many different religions react to the reality of extraterrestrial intelligence? We may never find out, and extraterrestrial beings may not even exist. However, I think it will be an interesting theological debate if First Contact ever does occur.

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