Nature and the Qur’an
Book: Nature and the Qur’an
Author: S. Tahsin Ahmed
Reviewer: Dr. Abdul Ghaffar Khan
Publisher: Academy Publishers, B’lore
Pages: 145, Photos: 10, Year: 2007,
Price: Rs 100/-
Sir Philip Sidney, while arguing the poet’s case in his celebrated Defense of Poesie (An Apology for Poesie), claimed that Nature’s world was brassen; only poets delivered it golden. Nature has been the object of admiration and emotional exhilaration for the poets: for some it was a place of refuge from the hustle-bustle of life; for some it was a teacher, for many its sheer beauty and enchantment was a solace to the soul. While for Wordsworth it was for pleasure; for Emerson it was an occasion for transcendental meditation.
Taking cognizance of all these perspectives of English poetry, Syed Tahsin Ahmed regards poets as myopic who dealt with only superficialities without going deep into the hidden message scattered all around. He draws our attention to the fact that ‘most of the nature passages in the Holy Qur’an end with the poser: these are signs, “for people who are wise,” “for people who can understand,” “for men of understanding.”’
The author probes deep in the miracles and provokes us to reflect over things which we might have missed in our readings of the Qur’an. The ant, the fly, the bee are signs which none pays much importance to. It is to them the author draws our attention. He examines marvels of botany; flora and fauna; galaxies and the majesty of astronomical bodies vis-à-vis the earth (a tiny speck) and on this vast expanse of earth, man – a helpless feeble creature; and yet the Ashraf-ul-Makhlooqat because Allah created the entire creation for man at his disposal, for his benefit and use. This makes us not only humble but also extremely grateful for His immense mercy.
Time and again, the author points out how everything in nature are similar in kind, yet different in variety – be it the plants, fruits, human off-springs, or life in the sea kingdom. They resemble and yet they differ. In spite of identical traits, there are variations. This Qur’an has reminded us and the author focuses our attention to such uniformity and diversity – from microcosm to macrocosm.
Allah’s creation is very orderly and very systematic. There is neither disorder nor deviation from an orbit in which these are “swimming through space” (p. 103). On the one hand, he reminds us of the hardness of earth that needs an iron plough: while on the other hand, the tender seed makes it “split and sprout” (p. 59). Wondering at the architectural marvel of a honeybee comb or the process of conversion of nectar into honey, he quotes the Qur’anic verses.
“And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in the hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations.” (An-Nahl: 68-69)
Or, the poised bird during its flight as described in the Qur’an:
“Do they not look at the birds, held poised in the midst of (the air and) the sky? Nothing holds them up but (the power of) Allah.” (An-Nahl: 79)
In all such citations the author reminds us of the Controller who regulates these organisms at every stage. In Surah Al-Aadiyat (verses 1-5), the author goes beyond the picturesque depiction of the horses running, panting, striking sparks of fire and raising the dust. He draws our attention to the gratefulness of the steed vis-à-vis human ingratitude. He reminds:
“The horses or swift camels boldly penetrate into the midst of their foe at the behest of their masters, risking their lives for a cause. When applied to spiritual warfare, the virtuous men, unmindful of the consequences, bravely take the fight inside the world of evil in direct contrast to the ungrateful men who are overwhelmed by evil. The clouds of dust depict the evil of ignorance and confusion.” (p. 86)
It is quite relevant here to quote several Muslim thinkers on the Qur’an. The author, at the same, also draws our attention to what people of other faiths have to say about the Qur’an. Prof. K. S. Rama Krishna Rao draws our attention to the fact that the Qur’an depicts Nature vividly and “the number of verses….inviting close observation of nature is several times more than those that relate to prayer, fast, pilgrimage; all put together.” (quoted on p. 55). Referring to the Qur’an itself as a miracle, the author quotes Paul Casanova who testifies to the rhythmic charm of the verses.
“The ampleness of its syllables with a grandiose cadence and with a remarkable rhythm has been of moment [SIC] in the conversion of the most hostile and the most skeptics” (quoted on p. 43).
Decrying the lovers of natural beauty merely for the aesthetic pleasure or for ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ be it Keats or Wordsworth, the author reminds us that for the reader of the Qur’an, “Man is not just an observer of Nature” (p. 67); he quotes verse 64 of al-Mu’min to substantiate the point.
A well researched, thought-provoking book, Nature and the Qur’an provides us not only the fascinating facts of Nature, but also correlates them to their succinct description in the Qur’an. Neatly printed, its beauty is further enhanced by ten extremely beautiful photographs. The title cover itself radiates what is inside the book. A very perceptive approach to the study of the Qur’an, the book is very moderately priced at Rs. 100/-. A few typographical slips apart, this book deserves not only admiration but also warm appreciation.
[Syed Tahsin Ahmed is a Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) Officer working at Bangalore. He may be contacted at 9945364685. The reviewer Dr. A.G. Khan is Head, English dept., Institute of Higher Learning, Bangalore.]