Einstein’s Gravity Waves, A Rabbi, And Muhammad’s Smile – OpEd


Astrophysicists will soon announce that they have found the first direct evidence of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves. When I first heard this, I immediately thought of the Hadith about the Rabbi who made Prophet Muhammad smile.

Jews, to this very day, still recite special blessings before they perform Jewish rituals that always begin: “Blessed are you Adonai our God, King/Ruler of the World/Universe….”, and end with a specific reference to what Jewish religious activity they are engaged in.

The rabbis ordained these blessings because even when we do something small like eating the fruit of a tree, or some human baked bread whose grain comes from the earth, we acknowledge that it all ultimately comes from the One who created; humans, the trees, the earth, and the whole universe.

The Hadith I thought of, as found in Sahih Bukhari: Book #60 Hadith #335, and Book #93, Hadith #510 and #543), is: “Narrated ‘Abdullah: A Rabbi came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Muhammad! We (Jews) learn that Allah will put all the heavens on one finger, the earths on one finger, the trees on one finger, the water and the sand on one finger, and all the other created things on one finger. Then He will say, ‘I am the King.’

Thereupon the Prophet smiled so (much) that his pre-molar teeth became visible, and that was the Rabbi’s confirmation. Then Allah’s Apostle recited: ‘No just estimate have they (the pagans) made of Allah such as is due to Him.’ (Qur’an 39.67)

What does this Hadith about the Prophet’s approval of the Rabbi’s poetic account of the One God who created heavens, earths and everything else, have to do with the first scientific confirmation of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity’s prediction of gravity waves?

Is the creation of the universe, life, and ultimately self conscious intelligent minds in a material universe, the unfolding process of an infinite One?

The scientific ideas of events in the creation of our universe are incomprehensible and much more incredible and amazing than traditional poetic religious images such as the one used by the Rabbi who made Muhammad smile. Indeed it is true that ‘No just estimate have they (yet) made of Allah such as is due to Him.’ (Qur’an 39:67)

Although Einstein’s theory has been validated by many observations of predicted events, but no one until now had ever observed gravitational waves/pulses. And this is what the scientists have now observed. So what is the religious lesson we learn from all this?

The new discoveries show that the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity, which governs very large-scale phenomena, are also quantum phenomena. For more that eight decades this dualism of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity has bothered almost all theoretical physicists and cosmologists.

They believed that there should be one much greater theory of everything (sometimes called TOE) that would incorporate and harmonize both theories, which have a great amount of evidence to support them. Hundreds of scientists have spent their professional lives seeking a TOE. Although there was no logical reason to believe that an overall harmony of a TOE was required; they all believed it was there.

Religious people call this scientific faith in a theory of everything: monotheism. We also believe that the dualistic division of worlds of reality into: material and spiritual, objective and subjective, secular and sacred, moral and amoral, will someday be overcome.

Now we have the first scientific evidence that there is indeed a basic connection between the microcosms and the macrocosms.

Although the TOE itself has not been discovered yet, and might not be discovered for decades or even centuries, we have external objective evidence of its presence, and renewed confidence that it will someday be discovered. As the Qur’an proclaims over and over again, “Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth exalts Allah” (Qur’an 57:1, Qur’an 61:1, and Qur’an 64:1)

Prophet Muhammad must be smiling again, for each new major discovery in astronomy yields new evidence of God’s wisdom and power. As the Qur’an says, “Verily in the heavens and on the earth are signs for those who believe.” (Qur’an 5:3)

And as prophet David said, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The universe proclaims God’s handiwork.” (Zabur Psalms 19:2)

Thus, now would be a good time for all leaders of monotheistic religions to start working on improving the search for religious unity and harmony.

I do not mean the unity of sameness, or of detailed agreement between competing religions. I mean the unity and harmony of a symphony orchestra; playing different notes on different instruments, guided by a director and One invisible composer.

Orchestras should compete through their excellence in playing the composer’s music, and not by claiming that their director is the best, or that the composer of their music only composed music for them.

As the great poet Jalal al-Din al-Rumi taught, “Ritual prayer can be different in every religion, but belief never changes.” (Fihi Mafih)

Thus, the Qur’an proclaims: “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If God had pleased He would have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; for all return to God, so He will let you know (after Judgment Day) that in which you differed.” (Qur’an 5:48)

This is a wonderful further development of a teaching of the Biblical prophet Micah; that in the end of days—the Messianic Age—“All people will walk, each in the name of their own God, and we shall walk in the name of the Lord our God forever.” (Micah 4:5)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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