Islamic Theology and Extraterrestrial Life: New Frontiers in Science and Religion

Dear colleagues,

It is with profound gratitude that I announce the publication of a volume edited by Shoaib Ahmed Malik and me. It is entitled Islamic Theology and Extraterrestrial Life: New Frontiers in Science and Religion (London: I.B. Tauris, 2024). Free review copies are available.

Islamic Theology and Extraterrestrial Life: New Frontiers in Science and Religion

Blurb:

Over the last thirty years, humanity has discovered thousands of planets outside of our solar system. The discovery of extraterrestrial life could be imminent. This book explains how such a discovery might impact Islamic theology. It is the foundational reference on the subject, comprising a variety of different insights from both Sunni and Shi’i positions, from different Muslim contexts, and with chapters that compare and contrast Islamic perspectives with Christianity. Together, they address some of our biggest questions through an Islamic lens: What makes humans unique in the cosmos? What are the ethics of dealing with other sentient beings? And how universal is salvation?

Given the accelerating advances in exoplanet research and astrobiology, the book is at the frontier of science and Islamic thought. Contributors include a range of leading experts from Muslim theologians, scholars of comparative and philosophers, to historians, social scientists and natural scientists.

Editors:

SHOAIB AHMED MALIK is Visiting Researcher at St Mary’s University, UK. He is the author of Islam and Evolution: Al-Ghazali and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm (2021) and various peer-reviewed journals. He specializes as an interdisciplinary researcher in the field of Islam and science.

JÖRG MATTHIAS DETERMANN is Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University, Qatar. He is the author of four books published by I.B. Tauris: Islam, Science Fiction and Extraterrestrial Life (2020); Space Science and the Arab World (2018); Researching Biology and Evolution in the Gulf States (2015); and Historiography in Saudi Arabia (2013).

Endorsements:

“This landmark interdisciplinary volume fills a huge gap in our discussions of the theological impact of the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence. Heretofore, the focus has been on Christianity, but for the first time we have multiple scholarly views of the potential impact on Islamic theology and the Earth’s two billion Muslims. This is a substantial contribution to the new and growing field of astrotheology, and should be read by anyone interested in the future evolution of religions on Earth.” — Steven J. Dick, former NASA chief historian, former Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress chair in astrobiology

““The Qurʾān meets exotheology. This is a most informative, comprehensive and reflective compilation of Islamic thinking about the prospect of sharing God’s cosmos with other intelligent creatures on exoplanets. Now, aliens do not seem so alien any more.” — Ted Peters, co-editor, Theology and Science

Islamic Theology and Extraterrestrial Life takes one small, but significant, step as a pioneer work in exotheology, but potentially representing one giant leap for a forthcoming discipline. Through a series of thought-provoking chapters that span various disciplines, including Islamic theology, jurisprudence and Christianity, this work delves into hitherto relatively uncharted scholarly territories. It explores scholarly, complex and intellectually intriguing questions, such as how the discovery of extraterrestrial life forms aligns with religious beliefs. Do these forms of life possess souls and spirituality? How do we ethically and spiritually relate to them? This volume offers a captivating journey into unexplored realms of religion and science, inviting readers to contemplate the mysteries of the cosmos.” — Mohammed Ghaly, professor of Islam and biomedical ethics, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar

“This is a fascinating collection – due both to the intrinsic interest of the topic and to the richness and creativity of the Islamic philosophical, theological and literary traditions engaging with it. Out of this world.” — Stephen Bullivant, professor of theology and the sociology of religion, St Mary’s University, UK, and professorial research fellow in theology and sociology, University of Notre Dame, Australia

“As realization grows that we are a global community across the Earth, researchers have increasingly considered the question of whether we are alone. What would the encounter with an extraterrestrial mean for our assumptions about the nature of reality, of the human, of gods, and for some of the most fundamental theological and ethical questions that follow, concerning goodness, recompense and the life of the soul? It also reminds us of the importance of philosophical and theological questions raised by sci-fi that is also worth pursuing to make sense of Muslim futurism. This pioneering volume – and there is little doubt that it not only is the first but potentially seeks to open up a broader field of the intersection of Islamic studies and exotheology – attempts to address these by looking at the resources and possibilities within the Islamic traditions (one should emphasize the plural here) in order to create positive theologies for the future. An exciting turn in the literature on religion and science.” — Sajjad Rizvi, professor of Islamic intellectual history and director of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK

“The discovery of extraterrestrial life, if made, will likely impact all cultures, societies and religions. It is important to assess such an impact as James Webb Space Telescope is searching for bio signatures in exoplanet atmospheres, there are rovers currently on Mars and the SETI programme is actively looking for signals from technological civilizations in our Galaxy. This eclectic collection of essays fills in a crucial gap in literature and provides a glimpse into potential Islamic theological and jurisprudential responses to such a discovery.” — Salman Hameed, Charles Taylor chair and professor of integrated science and humanities, Hampshire College, United States

More information:

https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/islamic-theology-and-extraterrestrial-life-9780755650880/

Free review copies:

Are you interested in writing or commissioning a review of our book? Would you like to interview me? If so, you can get a free copy by contacting me or my publisher.

Thank you so much!

With best regards,

Matthias

Jörg Matthias Determann

Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar

https://vcu.academia.edu/Determann

jmdetermann@vcu.edu

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Astronomy: A Modern History

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is with the deepest gratitude that I announce the publication of my new book entitled Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Astronomy: A Modern History (Springer, 2023). Free review copies are available.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Astronomy: A Modern History

Key points:

Tells the modern history of the movement that has sought to make astronomy more diverse and inclusive

Shares important lessons and context for how the space industry can be made more equitable and just

Provides fascinating insights into the lives and work of leading scientists and activists from around the world

Blurb:

Astronomy is a field concerned with matters very distant from Earth. Most phenomena, whether observed or theorized, transcend human spaces and timescales by orders of magnitude. Yet, many scientists have been interested not just in the events that have occurred millennia before Earth’s inception, but also in their very own society here and now.

Since the first half of the twentieth century, an increasing number of them have pursued parallel careers as both academics and activists. Besides publishing peer-reviewed papers, they have promoted a great variety of underrepresented groups within their discipline. Through conferences, newsletters and social media, they have sought to advance the interests of women, members of racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, and disabled people. While these activists have differed in the identities they focus on, they have come to share a conviction that diversity and inclusion are crucial for scientific excellence as well as social justice.

In this book, you will read of the biographies and institutional contexts of key agents in the diversification of modern astronomy. As most are recent figures whose discoveries have not been commemorated by Nobel Prizes, they are relatively unknown among historians of science. They have, however, been central to discussions about who has privileged access to the tools of astronomical inquiry, including powerful telescopes and extensive databases. As such, they have also significantly shaped views of our universe.

More information:

https://www.springer.com/book/9783031461125

Free review copies:

Are you interested in writing or commissioning a review of my book? Would you like to interview me? If so, you can get a free copy by contacting me or my publisher.

Thank you so much!

With best wishes,

Matthias

Jörg Matthias Determann

Virginia Commonwealth University

jmdetermann@vcu.edu

https://vcu.academia.edu/Determann

COVID 19, the way forward for African Countries

CONCERNING COVID 19, the major test for African countries is whether non-pharmaceutical care will do the trick or a strict adherence of both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical strategy shall suffice.  I argue that, due to limited infrastructure; non-pharmaceutical strategies like quarantine, social distancing, lock-downs and observance of proper hygiene, contact tracing and immediate treatment after isolation or quarantining should suffice. For countries that have limited number of health and quasi health professionals as well as limited hospital beds and preventive and protective equipment’s and gears, they will be safer if they avoid or reduce contacts and infections. We say, “prevention is better than cure”.

Some have argued that economic disruptions and poor economic performance shall defeat lock-down strategies in Africa. It is worrying for many that the economic fatigue and hunger shall make lock-downs ineffective and also have the potential to cause deaths on its own. However, the public health strategy would largely be that which ensures the protection of the citizenry, holding all other things constant. Concerning the case of Ghana, there is a rising curve in terms of the infection rate but the President has removed a partial locked-down he placed on Greater Accra, Tema and Kasoa. Accra which is the capital of Ghana is the epicenter of the COVID 19 in Ghana. During the  colonial period, Accra was the epicenter of the flu pandemic which decimated one hundred thousand (100,000) lives in Ghana. It seems we are not learning from history and we are not actually following the science.

Not being a pessimist,  the expectation is that, there might be some turn of events in the atmosphere; that was the expectation during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919. At Cape Coast,  in Ghana, an open air crusade was organized. It was well attended because people believed that there was the hand of God in the events or the occurrences of the time. The fear is that, when infection rates increase through community-spread and more people are hospitalized, the rate of infections among physicians and nurses who are limited and disproportionately distributed in Ghana will increase. This shall lead to a cataclysm. Ghana Health Service might be found wanting and the hospitals shall be overwhelmed. There is also  news about cerebra spinal meningitis increasing its threshold in terms of mortality in the northern and upper regions of Ghana. The endemic nature of malaria has not stopped. Chronic non-communicable diseases continue to fester among other challenges. These challenges including accidents and other emergencies have not stopped because of the pandemic. Indeed, these are not normal times. The already overstretched health infrastructure, medical personnel and poverty in Africa can have the proclivity to exacerbate the challenge in African countries.

The above has equally called for extraordinary efforts from West-African Health Organization (WAHO) , which my country, Ghana, is a member, and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as respective governments in the West-African block to develop a synergistic relationship in their quest to fight the COVID 19 pandemic. Same should suffice within the broader continent of Africa under the African Union and respective commissions. At the heart of same, is the question concerning the true emancipation of Africans. Shall home-grown strategies as well as personnel be able to withstand the scourge of COVID 19 ? Are the colonial masters making some efforts  to support their former colonies ? Great Britain which had several satellite territories during the colonial period is also overwhelmed by the onslaught of COVID 19 . The economic pundits are predicting  doom and gloom economies as lasting legacies of the pandemic, not excluding the pain, shame (stigma) as well as its wanton destruction of the youthful and the elderly population.

COVID 19 oh COVID 19, let the conversation commence !