Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
In the creation of the heavens and earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships that sail the seas with goods for the benefit of people; in the water which God sends down from the sky to give life to the earth when it has been barren, scattering all kinds of creatures over it; in the changing of the winds and clouds that run their appointed courses between the sky and earth: there are signs in all these for those who use their minds.
(Chapter 2: Verse 164)
We continue to highlight God’s great bounties for humanity; the bounties that transcend all human capability, and lead the thoughtful mind towards the creator. God says: “in the ships that sail the seas with goods for the benefit of people.” How come the sailing of ships in the sea a sign of God, you may ask? We answer that if the ocean and river waters were still, and not in constant motion through winds, waves and currents, then the ships would not have been able to sail. Before the invention of the steam engine, ships relied on the force of the wind and currents for sailing. Rivers flow towards the sea and help ships sail in the same direction. If you want the ship to sail against the current, you would need the support of wind or another source of energy. Allah points to another of his bounties ‘in the changing of the winds and clouds that run their appointed courses between the sky and earth.’ The word ‘wind’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘reeh.’ This word has several meanings, one of which is wind; another is power and strength as illustrated in the following verse:
And obey Allah and His messenger, and do not bicker, or you will lose heart and your power will be gone. And be patient; indeed Allah is with the patient. (08:46)
Here, the word ‘power’ is translated from the same Arabic origin ‘ΡνΝ’ teaching us that conflicts and infighting within the Muslim society only results in the loss of power and strength.
This brings us back to the verse where Allah is highlighting his bounty of allowing the ships to sail in the seas with the power of wind, and the power of all the energy sources He put under our disposal. God says:
And among His manifest signs are the ships running through the sea like floating hills. If He wills He makes the wind stop blowing and then they lie motionless on its surface. There are certainly Signs in that for everyone who is steadfast and thankful. (42:32, 33)
The verse continues “in the water which God sends down from the sky to give life to the earth when it has been barren, scattering all kinds of creatures over it” Fresh water accounts for less than 3% of the total water on earth. It means that the vast majority of water available to us is saltwater which is unfit for drinking, watering crops, or even general use. However, salt is a great preserver. It protects the quality of the ocean water from spoiling and neutralizes many contaminants.
‘the water which God sends down from the sky’ is the divine process of distillation and desalination. Rainfall goes through several stages such as evaporation, condensation, wind pollination, and so on before it reaches us. Science has only come to understand the particulars of these stages recently. Replicating the distillation and desalination process requires large amounts of energy at high financial costs. A cup of desalinated distilled water takes time and money; while the divine lab pours water upon us in abundant quantity and superior quality with zero effort and no cost.
Moreover, it is with rain and fresh water that Allah gives life to the barren earth. What is meant by being lifeless or barren? It means the lack of movement and flexibility. When the earth dries, it remains still and its surface turns stiff, until rain or water mixes with it. God says:
O people! If you are in doubt about the resurrection, consider that We indeed created you from dust, then from a drop of fluid, then from a clinging mass, then from a fleshy tissue, partly formed and partly unformed, so that We may manifest Our power to you. We establish in the wombs whatever We wish for a specified term, then We bring you forth as infants, then We rear you so that you may come of age. There are some of you who are taken away, and there are some of you who are relegated to the nethermost age, so that he knows nothing after having possessed some knowledge. And you see the earth torpid, yet when We send down water upon it, it stirs and swells, and grows every delightful kind. (22:05)
And in another verse:
Have the faithless not regarded that the heavens and the earth were interwoven and We unravelled them, and that from water We brought everything to life? Will they not then have faith? (21:30)
Another of Allah’s great blessings is ‘in the changing of the winds and clouds that run their appointed courses between the sky and earth.’ He Almighty commands the winds to specific directions, differing by season and region. This moderates the temperature of the air, brings rain, and pollinates plants and crops. Take the examples of annual wind currents of the Monsoon in the subcontinent, or the shamal northerly wind of the gulf. God also wants to draw your attention towards His absolute power, so that no one thinks that He created, set up nature laws, and then left things be. God is always the Ever-watchful Lord of the heavens and the earth, and He commands things to His will at all times. He says:
It is He who enables you to travel on land and sea until, when you are sailing on ships and rejoicing in the favouring wind, a storm arrives: waves come at those on board from all sides and they feel there is no escape. Then they pray to God, professing sincere devotion to Him, ‘If You save us from this we shall be truly thankful.’ (10:22)
Similarly, Allah subjects the clouds to pour rain in a specific place at a specific time, and guides streams and groundwater to its destiny. You may benefit from rain that falls hundreds of miles away. Cairo, for example, benefits from the water of the Nile although its rain falls South of Sudan and in the highlands of Abyssinia. Egypt would perish of thirst if it had to rely on its own rainfall. And this emphasises God’s words:
And He it is Who sends forth the merciful winds as glad tidings in advance of His mercy – so that, when they carry heavy clouds, We drive them towards a dead land, then We cause thereby water to descend, and bring forth thereby crops of every kind. In the same way We will resurrect the dead, so that hopefully you will pay heed. (07:57)
All these natural wonders, from celestial giants, to the existence of day and night, to the winds, rains and ocean currents are evidence God presents to the thoughtful mind. God invites you to think, because He is aware that your intellect will lead to the one logical conclusion: ‘Your God is the one God: there is no god except Him, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.’
In fact, the Quran repeatedly presents evidence for “those who give thought,” “those who use reason,” “those who contemplate,” and “those who remember.” All of these phrases mean that if you use your mind and apply common sense and wisdom, you would inevitably reach the reality which God presents you.