During medieval times, Christian theologians accepted the Ptolemaic earth-centered Greek view of the universe as an absolute universal truth. They believed that the earth, life in general and human life in particular should be the center of God’s world. Thus they also taught that the incarnation of God through the body of Jesus must be an absolutely unique event the likes of which could not happen elsewhere.

 

Even today Jose Funes, the Argentine director of the Vatican’s astronomical observatory, who has a degree in theology and a doctorate in astronomy, said that, “What is clear is that while God may have created aliens and planets similar to Earth, there can be no second Jesus.”

"The discovery of intelligent life does not mean there's another Jesus," he insisted, because "the incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity; of the Universe.”

But Islam teaches that Allah, the one and only God of the whole universe, has not only sent thousands of prophets to all the nations and peoples on earth, but has also sent prophets to the jinn, who are non-human species.

 

Both the Qur'an and the Hebrew Bible teach that God created the whole universe to be conducive to the universal evolution of life.

 

The Qur'an says, “We have not sent you but as a blessing for all the worlds.” (21:107)

 

The Hebrew Bible says in the Zaboor of Prophet David, the King of Israel, “ Your kingdom is a kingdom of all worlds; and Your dominion is for all generations.” (Psalms 145:13)

 

These two statements show that God’s concern for the religious guidance of all intelligent creatures is universal and therefore God’s prophets must be active wherever intelligent creatures live.

 

Two recent studies support this Islamic-Jewish view. One study in the journal Naturereported by ScienceDaily found that organic compounds of unexpected complexity exist throughout the Universe. Thus complex organic compounds are not the sole domain of living beings, but can be made naturally by stars. This means that life is not a random fluke; the universe itself is formed to produce life.

 

Organic substances commonly found throughout the universe contain a mixture of ring-like and chain-like components. The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble those of coal and petroleum. Since coal and oil are remnants of ancient life, this type of organic matter was thought to arise only from living organisms. The team's discovery suggests that complex organic compounds can be synthesized in space even in the absence of life.

 

Now (July 2015), the first near-Earth-sized planet in the "habitable zone" around a sun-like star capable of hosting life has been confirmed according to a NASA report. The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to-date discovered orbiting in the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a planet orbiting a G2-type star like our sun.

 

On the 20th anniversary of the first discovery that proved other suns host planets, the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star that closely resemble the Earth and our sun.

 

 

Kepler-452b is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky like Earth. While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, it has a 385-day orbit and the planet is only 5 percent farther from its parent star, Kepler-452, than Earth is from the sun.

 

Also, the sun Kepler-452, which is six billion years old, is 1.5 billion years older than our sun yet it has the same temperature, is 20 percent brighter and is 10 percent larger in diameter. So Kepler-452b is an older, bigger cousin of Earth. The Kepler-452 system is 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The number of new exoplanet candidates is now 4,696. Candidates require follow-up observations and analysis to verify they are actual planets.

 

Just four centuries ago the Catholic Inquisition punished those who dared to voice new ideas. Since Jews and Muslim are more open to learning about new scientific discoveries than some Christians. Some Christians still think that only the Earth’s life forms can be at the center of God's creation.

 

Even in America today, many Protestant Christians avoid learning about new scientific discoveries. According to a recently completed study "Religious Understandings of Science”, among members of non-Christian religions, 42 percent of Jews and 52 percent of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus (taken as a group) are twice as interested in new scientific discoveries compared to only 22 percent of Protestant evangelicals.

 

Before I decided to become a Reform Rabbi, I was studying to become an astrophysicist. I still follow scientific developments closely and I can safely say that many astrophysicists think that by the end of this decade dozens of earth-like planets will be found much closer to us than Kepler 452b. They also think that before the end of the next decade we will have evidence of more than one planet with an atmosphere that not only contains clear signs of the water needed for life to develop but also has the levels of oxygen that can only be produced by large numbers of living beings.

 

“From water We made every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (Qur’an, 21:30)

 

Indeed, scientists now believe that every living thing on our planet is descendant from creatures that first originated in our planet’s oceans more than three billion years ago. Humans, one of planet Earth’s most recent species, are also descendants from God’s original creation: ”It is He Who has created man from water.” (Qur’an, 25:54)

 

As it is written in the Zaboor of Prophet David, the King of Israel, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The universe proclaims God's handiwork.” (Psalms 19:2)

 

Rabbi Maller's website can be found at www.rabbimaller.com

 

Rabbi Allen S. Maller's web site is: rabbimaller.com. He is an ordained Reform Rabbi (HUC_JIR 1964) who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California.

Rabbi Maller has written many articles about Islamic and Jewish connections that have appeared on Islamic and Jewish web sites. He is also the editor of a series of “High Holydays” Prayer books, and the author of a book on Jewish mysticism.