Kai Joy: Nature and the Cosmology of the Quran

Nature and cosmology are instrumental to to Islam, to the Quran and to the understanding of both. Nature acts as an embodiment of God’s power, as a devout worshipper, and as a line of communication between God and people.

In the Quran, nature is addressed first and foremost with regard to creation, to God’s ability to create and keep order and balance (at least when it comes to natural processes) on Earth. Nature essentially becomes a testament to the power and benevolence of God. This sentiment is most apparent in the 55th Sura (The Beneficent). The most noteworthy characteristic of this Sura, at least from a literary perspective, is a powerful refrain. “So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?”[1]. This rhetorical question is repeated throughout the Sura amidst examples of  God’s power of creation. This repetition forces readers to question any skepticism that they had towards the scope of God’s power. It is said of God that “the heaven He raised and imposed the balance”[2] and that “the earth He laid [out] for the creatures. Therein is fruit and palm trees having sheaths [of dates] and grain having husks and scented plants”[3]. All of these descriptions solidify a sense of God’s power, to the point of omnipotence. “He released the two seas, meeting [side by side]…From both of them emerge pearl and coral”[4] Even humans are implicated in this show of creation. “He created man from clay like [that of] pottery”[5]. A sense of unity is created by this Sura, between humans and other animals, between flora and fauna, all are creations of an almighty God.

In addition to being simply a creation of God, the organismal conglomerate that is Nature, also naturally worships God and is inherently humbled by Him. This concept is also referenced in the 55th Sura (The Beneficent). In this Sura, it is stated that  “ the stars and trees prostrate” to God[6]. However, this concept is alluded to more thoroughly in the 59th Sura (The Exile). “Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth exalts Allah , and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise”[7]. Every plant, rock, and animal naturally deify God. Even mountains give way to God’s greatness, it is said that “If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah . And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought”[8]. Thus, unlike humanity, nature is inherently muslim, and inherently holy. The quandary of humans’ violence and lack of reasoning is infact addressed in the very same Sura “They will not fight you all except within fortified cities or from behind walls. Their violence among themselves is severe. You think they are together, but their hearts are diverse. That is because they are a people who do not reason”[9].This passage specifically refers to the turmoil within urban centers. This concept, especially in the 59th Sura, works to create a dichotomous relationship between humans and the rest of nature. A dichotomy is also created between cosmological entities and God himself. In the 41st Sura (Explained in Detail) It is asserted that “of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah , who created them, if it should be Him that you worship”[10]. And so humanity, nature, and God are all very distinct, but in very tangible relation to one another.

This relationship is facilitated by the use of signs. Outside of prophecy, God uses nature to communicate with humanity. This is most apparent in the 41st and 45th Suras (Explained in Detail and The Crouching respectively). “Indeed, within the heavens and earth are signs for the believers. And in the creation of yourselves and what He disperses of moving creatures are signs for people who are certain [in faith]…And [in] the alternation of night and day and [in] what Allah sends down from the sky of provision and gives life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and [in His] directing of the winds are signs for a people who reason”[11]. The Qur’anic text also describes the punishments given to those who ignore God’s signs.

 

“As for ‘Aad, they were arrogant upon the earth without right and said, “Who is greater than us in strength?” Did they not consider that Allah who created them was greater than them in strength? But they were rejecting Our signs.

So We sent upon them a screaming wind during days of misfortune to make them taste the punishment of disgrace in the worldly life; but the punishment of the Hereafter is more disgracing, and they will not be helped…And as for Thamud, We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance, so the thunderbolt of humiliating punishment seized them for what they used to earn. And We saved those who believed and used to fear Allah”[12].

 

Nature is not only a conduit between God and humanity, but also a participant in interconnectivity of all things as well as God.

 

Nature plays a huge role in the Quran and Islam as a whole. It worships God, facilitates his communication with humanity, and acts as example of his power. It works for God and was created by God. “And of His signs is that you see the earth stilled, but when We send down upon it rain, it quivers and grows. Indeed, He who has given it life is the Giver of Life to the dead. Indeed, He is over all things competent”[13]. It is sign, supplicant, and substantiation of God himself.

 

Footnotes

1 The Holy Quran 55

2 Ibid 55:7

3 Ibid 55:10

4 Ibid 55:19

5 Ibid 55;14

6 Ibid 55:6

7 Ibid 59:1

8 Ibid 59:21

9 Ibid 59:14

10 Ibid 41:37

11 Ibid 45:5

12 Ibid 41:17

13 Ibid 41:39

 

 

Bibliography

“The Holy Quran.” The Holy Quran. Trans. Saheeh. N.p., n.d. Web.