It is He who sends down water for you from the sky, from which comes a drink for you, and the shrubs that you feed to your animals.
With it He grows for you grain, olives, palms, vines, and all kinds of other crops. There truly is a sign in this for those who think.
(Quran 16, 10:11)
The Quranic passage is expecting us to see a sign by using our reason. The passage talks about a “He.” But who is He? My understanding of Him is expected to be shaped through recognizing what He does. I shouldn’t jump into conclusions utilizing my previous knowledge. Instead, I should ride the verse, and see where it is taking me regarding knowing the “He.” There’re certain actions that are attributed to “He” in the verses. He actively sends down water for us, grows for us grains etc.
Not blind acceptance, but reflective reasoning
But? Doesn’t water from the sky come from clouds, which we know “how” they’re formed (the water cycle)? Don’t olives, grains, palms etc. grow “naturally” when we plant the seed in the right environment?
How come the Qur’an is attributing these actions to someone? Does it mean that someone has designed them? For sure, it doesn’t say only that. The passage clearly state active verbs for his actions… It is as if the Qur’an wants to introduce me to Him through my recognition of His actions… If I can use my reason and recognize who is the primary actor of these actions, then I might get a glimpse of Him.
The passage expects me to know Him through a reasoning exercise, not by mere acceptance or blind belief. In other words, I should come to know the “He” as a result of my reflection of his actions, not as a blind acceptance… The Koran wants me to know God, not through dry theoretical concepts that are memorized but not internalized. Instead, the Koran invites me to know him through deep reflection and intellectual reasoning.
Who is responsible of the actions?
The big question that this passage brings then, is this: who is responsible of these actions?
First, I need to think anew about whether “He” is the primary actor here. Since the cloud brings down the rain, does the passage mean that He is the cloud? Or is “He” the earth that grows the olives? Interestingly, the verses point towards meaningful results of these actions. Water is brought down to fulfill very important and meaningful duties, like drinking water, vegetation, etc.
Now, the question the reasoning mind asks: Can these meaningful duties be performed by inanimate, unintelligent causes, such as the cloud, the earth etc.? Have we ever witnessed any meaningful action, like manufacturing a car for instance, come out of unintelligent source? Can steel transform itself to a meticulously manufactured car? Of course not, since although steel, electricity, and machinery are used to produce the car, all of these are brought together by many engineers, over many years… These materials do not have the intelligence, power, and a sense of beauty that is required to produce a car. In other words, the qualities in the result must be possessed by the cause of the result.
So, the Koranic passage pushes me to ponder how the olive, such a beautiful, delicious, and resourceful plant, comes into being? Can the seed, soil, water, and sun alone explain the creation of such a magnificent piece of art? Or is there someone who is using all these ingredients to grow the olive? I need to think and reflect on this…
The main premise here is this: Before deciding too fast on the actor of any action, I need to see the results of the actions, and I need to decide whether I can explain these results with the assumed actors.
For instance, I see a great book, and someone tells me that the pen wrote it. Hmm… Yes, the pen was used to write it, but the pen does not have the intelligence to write a meaningful book by itself! It doesn’t add up… The pen does not possess the qualities that need to be necessarily present for a meaningful book to come into being. Ingredients like strong imagination, intelligence, sense of beauty, etc. are needed to produce a book. This is a reasonable conclusion of my reflection on the creation of a book…
Going back to the examples in the Koranic passage, we see that meaningful results are brought forth… Can the assumed actors (cloud, soil, etc.) be responsible for the result? No… All these are like a pen is for a book… Olives, rain, vines etc. necessitate an intelligent, powerful, esthetically elegant, compassionate actor, because the effect is full of these marks.
This reflection brings me to the conclusion that although I don’t see him with a naked eye, there is definitely someone with all these qualities who is responsible for these results… There must be someone who is responsible for the wisdom, power, intelligence, compassion, beauty, etc. that are necessarily needed to grow an olive!
There is potentially a very important life changing sign for me here: If my reasoning ends with this conclusion, then I will start to know who “He” is. Not only that, but although I don’t see “Him”, with my naked eyes, I will start to see the whole creation as “His” actions, which are reflections of His qualities.
Post written by Dr. Omar