Concepts of Modern Cosmology and Astrophysics in Two Ismaili Ginans, Choghadia and Mul Gayatri — BY SHIRAZ A. PRADHAN

“Our story begins as all stories do: In the beginning there was nothing, no universe, no galaxies, no sun, no moon, no stars. Then all of a sudden there was a titanic explosion from nothingness — BIG BANG….In this essay I propose to first present a brief scientific description of the Big Bang origin of the universe from a gigantic explosion, its growth in various phases right up to our present time, and then cite Ismaili Ginans that have striking parallels of modern Cosmology and Astrophysics in them” — Shiraz Pradhan

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Big Bang Universe according to Modern Science

In the 1920′s scientists [5] proposed the theory of the Big Bang origin of the universe based on the idea of Georges Lemaitre’s “primeval atom”. This states that 14 billion years ago the universe came into being from nothingness. Dense, hot and packed into a tiny volume, the new-born universe expanded massively in a tiny fraction of the first second.

Figure 1: Big Bang creation of universe.

Figure 1: Big Bang creation of universe.

Later, in the 1980’s Dr. Stephen Hawking and Rodger Penrose proposed a theoretical model of the Big Bang Theory. Actual confirmation of this theoretical model has come from several different directions right up to our present day. First, was the discovery of the microwave radiation (a form of Light) in the universe, which is the residual effect of the Big Bang explosion. Second, was the work of a team of American researchers who discovered evidence of temperature variations in deep space that provided further evidence in support of the Big Bang Theory. Said Dr George Smoot, leader of the American research team: “If you are religious, it is like looking at God. The order is so beautiful and the symmetry so beautiful that you think there is some design behind it.” [6]

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CHOGHADIA

Pir Sadr al-Din’s twenty-nine compositions, Choghadia, [15] form an essential part of the devotional singing in Ismaili worship. Of these, twenty-four are compositions that are mostly sung in the mornings and five are sung in the evenings. Our focus is on the evening Choghadia, which contains reference to three important aspects of Cosmology, that of the origin of time, role of God in creation of the universe and an explicit reference to the concept of the Primeval Atom.

According to the Choghadia, the creation of the universe is a game initiated by a nameless, formless creator. At His command the universe came into being effortlessly and was the origin of time (SHUNKAL). This is very much in agreement with the Big Bang Theory as the origin of time. It is also in agreement with the creation concept in the Holy Qur’an, namely that Allah willed creation by his command Kun fayakun (Be and it is) and soon after this creation, the universe began to expand:

“We have built the heaven with (the power of Our) hands, and We are expanding (it)” — Surat Al-Dhariyat, Chapter 51, Verse 47.

In the third verse of the Chogadia we read that upon creation, the universe acknowledged the sovereignty of Vishnu, the manifest form of the formless, nameless deity. The Chogadia further states that the creation proceeded from an egg. If we focus on the symbolism of the egg, we see the possible reference to Georges Lemaitre’s “hypothesis of primeval atom.”

VERSE ONE

Aashaji, sacho tu alakha niranjan, agam agochar
Sunkale sami to ramat ramiyo

Translation

O you nameless, formless true lord,
You who are beyond human conception
At origin of time (Shunkal) you played your game

VERSE TWO

Aashaji ahunkar madhe shah Ali saheje thi upnu
Uniyade aade shah jo nam bhaniyo

Translation

In the beginning, at Lord’s command,
the universe came forth, effortlessly,
and the entire creation recited His name

VERSE THREE

Aashaji ind mahe shan more shrest rachai
Shrest kirtar samji Vishnu bhanio

Translation

From an egg, He created the universe
And the entire universe paid homage to the sovereignty of Vishnu

The theme of the creation is taken up in full by the next Ginanic work that I shall focus on.

MUL GAYATRI*

Mul Gayatri [16] by Imam Shah has as its theme the creation of the universe, and its evolution and growth. Indeed, the proper title of the Ginan is “Description of the Creation of the Universe”. All through the text there are ideas and theories that closely resemble the scientific ideas of Cosmology, Astrophysics and Standard Model that I have just summarized.

The first page of the text of the ginan Mul Gayatri.

The first page of the text of the ginan Mul Gayatri.

 

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