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Some Aspects of Islamic Cosmology and the current state of Physics. Shahidan Radiman School of Applied Physics Faculty of Science and Technology Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Int. Conf. on Mathematical Sc. 29 Nov.2007. Islamic Cosmology (with main work by Kalam cosmologists and Mir Damad).

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some aspects of islamic cosmology and the current state of physics

Some Aspects of Islamic Cosmology and the current state of Physics

Shahidan Radiman

School of Applied Physics

Faculty of Science and Technology

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Int. Conf. on Mathematical Sc. 29 Nov.2007

islamic cosmology with main work by kalam cosmologists and mir damad
Islamic Cosmology (with main work by Kalam cosmologists and Mir Damad)

1. The argument for the temporality of the world is part of a whole theory of natural philosophy that Kalam cosmologists tried to construct under the heading of Daqiq al-Kalam which discusses the properties of nature as compared to Jalil al-Kalam which discusses Divine attributes and metaphysics.

2. Under Daqiq al-Kalam were 5 principles:
  • Temporality (of the universe)
  • Discreteness ( space, time, energy , matter are discrete)
  • continual creation (and annihilation) – occasionalism
  • indeterminism i.e laws of nature are contingent and undetermined
  • Space-time integrity : both space and time must exist together for both body and events
3. It is the last of this principle that was challenged by Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Mir Damad (d.1631 ) who proposed the concept of huduth dahri ( atemporal creation) -see also Fazlur Rahman , JNES, 1966. His other two division of createdness : huduth al dhati (essential createdness) and huduth zamani (temporal createdness) has no problem with other Muslim philosophers. This division came from his distinction of 3 kinds of worlds: (i) the everlasting worls ( alam al-sarmadi) which is the space for Divine presence , his essence and his attributes; (ii) Atemporal world ( alam al dahri) which is the space for pure archetypes ( al mujarradat) and (iii) the temporal world ( alam al zamani) where we live now.
Brief CV of Mir Damad (d.1631):

A Gnostic philosopher arguing that activity of the minds makes possible spiritual vision while visionary experience gives rise to rational thoughts.

Born in Astarabad but grew up in Mashhad. Studied in Qazwin and Kashan before coming to Isfahan.

He is also a mystic and jurist.

His kitab al Qabasat is well studied in modern times by Majid Fakhry , M.M Watt and O. Leaman , Hamid Dabashi , Henri Corbin and S.Ashtiyani.

4.Mir Damad concludes that the contingent non-being of the world of the archetypals of the dahri stage in the stage of the sarmadi existence is a real and self-evident non-being. Thus , all created beings and their archetypals are consequent to real and self-evident non-being. Their creation is an atemporal (dahri) creation and NOT as mutakallimun maintain , a temporal (zamani) creation. From this it follows that beyond their essential creation (al huduth al dhati) all temporal events are contingent upon and consequent to 3 real modes of non-existence: temporal, atemporal and everlasting.
5. “ By devising the concept of huduth dahri (atemporal creation) , Mir Damad has succeeded in establishing a compromise between the theologians ( mutakallimun) and the philosophers , in other words , between religious law and reason” .

- Musawi Bihbahani in introduction to 1977 edition of Kitab al Qabasat (Book of Embers) of Mir Damad ( written presumably before 1631).

comments on mir damad by fazlur rahman jnes 1966
Comments on Mir Damad by Fazlur Rahman (JNES 1966)

1. Damad formulated his doctrine opf real origination in dahr , a theory implying a rupture or dislocation(or hiatus) of being between God and the world.

2.Damad has made a real departure from Ibn Sina for whom normally huduth means origination in time, which Damad thinks is actually imkan.

3. Dahr then , means the world of pure time where origination or “eventuality” remains WITHOUT the extension of time.

4. Damad , who is in the tradition of essentialism ( as opposed to his pupil Mulla Sadra who is an existentialist) believes that prior to their positive real existence , essences exists with God and are caused by Him.This is what he meant by taqaddum dhati or essential/logical priority….. But the discontinuity of their being with God’s requires that they exist at a lower level of being which Damad called dahr….when an essence is translated into external existence , it can no longer remain in the state of pure contingency or imkan, but must develop a rupture (infikak) with God’s being….
quantum cosmogeny
Quantum cosmogeny

In quantum cosmogeny gravitational instanton gives rise to Lorentzian signature spacetime by analytic continuation across minimal hypersurfaces. This continuation can be interpreted either as quantum tunnelling or creation of the Universe from nothing (ex nihilo). Weighting on gravitational action SE can serve as a method of selecting a vacuum from the landscape of string vacua.

recent findings on big bang cosmology
Recent Findings on Big Bang Cosmology
  • Martin Bojowald equation (spin network model) : refined quantisation to the Friedmann equation –physically realistic and no singularity , no need for inflaton field , can reach the time before Big Bang. This equation is the equivalent discretised (difference) Wheeler-DeWitt equation for the universe. The individual snapshots of the Big Bang recognisable under the “eye” of quantum geometry.
2. Time may not exist (C. Rovelli- Intro.chapter on Quantum Gravity , Edit D. Oriti, CUP)

Space: Space might not be infinitely divisible. It may have a quantum granularity at the Planck scale , (hG/c3)1/2 = 10 -35 m analogous to the granularity of energy in a quantum oscillator. This granularity of space is fully realised in loop quantum gravity theory and there are hints of it also in string theory. This is the current state of Atomism!

In GR there is no external time parameter. Coordinate time is a gauge variable which is not observable and the physical variable measured by a clock is a nontrivial function of the gravitational field. Fundamental equations of quantum gravity might therefore not be written as evolution equations in an observable time variable. In fact , the Wheeler-De Witt equation there is NO time variable at all.
To make sense of the world at the Planck scale and to find a consistent conceptual framework for GR and QM we might have to give up the notion of time altogether and learn ways to describe the world in atemporal terms. In fact , another approach ( apart from strings and loop quantum gravity) is Topos theory where time and space are just another named dimensions. So, time is treated equally like another space dimension.
To make sense about NO time , complementary ideas or approaches based on non-commutative geometry , dynamical triangulations , effective theories , causal sets etc are being employed.

Connes and Rovelli in fact define time in quantum gravity by using thermodynamics and using the Tomita-Tasesaki theorem cook up a Hamiltonian (hence a notion of time evolution) from a state of quantum system!

3.Planckscale physics:

Near Planckscale (10-35 m) , ground state graviton constantly stretch and squash the geometry of space-time causing conformal fluctuation in space-time. Information on gravitons near Planckscale can be extracted by observing this fluctuations by analysing blurring effects (decoherence) on coherent matter waves. This decoherence can be seen by neutrons (first proposed by Ellis et al , 1984)

4. Transplanckian footprint

In the framework of inflation , scales which nowadays corresponds to large scale structures were smaller than the Planck length at the beginning of inflation. Therefore, measurements of CMBR anisotropy or surveys of galaxies and clusters of galaxies could help us probe physics beyond the Planck scale.

This Planckscale physics is the footprint of the “atom” of existence ( space and time).

inflation and high energy physics whither decoupling
Inflation and High Energy Physics: Whither Decoupling?
  • Inflation solves the horizon, flatness and fluctuations problems via superluminal expansion.
  • All physical scales are then stretched exponentially.
  • We need at least 65 e-folds of inflation to solve the problems. This means that sub-Planckian scales can be stretched to cosmological size!


Horizon/Hubble radius in SBB



TransPlanckian region

th (k)

ti (k)

Hubble radius during inflation

Physical scale size k-1



Could Trans-Planckian physics affect the CMB power spectrum? If so, how?

  • Change the dispersion relation for TransPlanckian physical wave numbers to
  • Change the vacuum for TP modes so that they are different at Hubble crossing.

Dispersion relation with saturation: two branches

String space-time uncertainty

  • vacua;de Sitter invariant like BD (Allen, Mottola)

Minimum length

mind independent reality
Mind-Independent Reality
  • Idealism vs Realism :

Idealist philosophy believes that the mind exists, and that our sense of the external world (physical reality) is simply a construction of the mind. Given that all our knowledge is in fact a creation of the mind (imagination) it has been difficult to refute this - to get from our ideas of things to the real thing in itself .

Realism: Atomism is an example of near realism. Mathematical realism consists in considering that the concepts that truly fits Reality are of a mathematical nature. A corollary to realism is counterfactuality ( very important in quantum theory).

In his various proofs for the establishment of dahr , Damad seeks to prove , for example , that Intelligences and heavenly spheres must really exist in dahr …..- Fazlur Rahman.

I have not been able to find direct discussion of Mind-Independent reality discussed by Muslim philosophers.

As for Causality , much has been discussed especially that of Al-Ghazali and I will not repeat it here.

Quantum theory is weakly objective ( d’Espagnat) e.g Born rule .Its weak objectivity is a powerful indication that what science describes cannot be conceived of as being “Mind-Independent” Reality.

2. Ontologically interpretable models:

They are “non-std models” –reproducing observational predictions of conventional quantum theory but fully expressed in strongly objective terms. Some are undeterministic while some like Broglie-Bohm model are deterministic.


I have briefly discussed the relevance of Mir Damad’s theory with current understanding of Big Bang cosmology and also the concept of atom as understood by Mutakallimun as compared to current physics understanding of what is at the Planckscale.

It would be interesting to connect many of the earlier theories of Islamic philosophers with the current understanding of modern physics on the nature of the Universe.