Islam and the Imagination of Life beyond Earth
Dr Jorg Matthias Determann
Dr Jorg Matthias Determann, Associate Professor, Department of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar
Despite the futuristic architecture of cities like Dubai and the fantastical tales of the Arabian Nights, the Muslim world is not commonly associated with science fiction. Religion, repression, and rote learning have often been blamed for a perceived lack of creativity, imagination and future-oriented thought. Nevertheless, even the most authoritarian Muslim-majority countries have produced highly imaginative accounts on one of the frontiers of knowledge: astrobiology, or the study of life in the universe. Despite the influence of conservatives, the Islamic tradition has been generally supportive of conceptions of extraterrestrial life. The Qur’an repeatedly speaks of God as “lord of the worlds” and of creatures across the heavens. Muslims have combined such ideas with global astrobiological research and science fiction. The universe’s strangest beings can thus be seen as creations, and evidence for the existence, of an all-powerful God.