Importance of observation in the Quran

Sensory perceptions in the Quran

As a general rule in the Quran, the word ‘hearing’ is always in singular, while the words ‘sights’, ‘senses’ and ‘skins’ are always in plural.

Hearing, sights and senses as flying birds

Please observe how the Quran draws analogy between the miracles of hearing, sights and senses and the marvel of the flights of the birds.

Meaning of ‘BIRD’ in the Quran

The word ‘BIRD’ in the Quran connotes ‘SELF’ and related neuro-psychological processes like hearing, sights, senses and minds.

Where is our ‘Bird of destiny’?

Our ‘Bird of destiny’ is no more than the database inside our mind. And the word ‘BIRD’ in the Quran connotes ‘self’ and ‘life processes’.

Importance of scientific observation

Please note how the Quran invites man to deeply observe everything in the Universe.

Can scientific observation be one of the ‘pillars’ of Islam?

Please notice how many more times the specific commandments for scientific observation appear in the Quran in comparison to, for example, the specific commandment for fasting.

The Quran calls us to travel

While encouraging travel in general, the Quran also strongly recommends travel when it has a specific, positive purpose: travel to trade, search, explore, visit, migrate, enjoy, learn, study.

Divine messages in physical sciences

Every scientific information represents a divine message. The Quran calls us to ‘read’ these ‘messages’ scripted throughout the great Book of creation.

Divine messages in life sciences

The Quran calls us to ‘read’ the divine messages (ayah) scripted throughout the great Book of life.

Divine messages in human sciences

There are calls in the Quran to ‘read’ divine messages in the study of the humans themselves.

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Where is our ‘Bird of destiny’?

Where is our Bird of destiny

 
Usually translated as ‘bird’, the word ‘ta’ir’ in Arabic literally means ‘flying creature’ or ‘BIRD’.

Since the pre-Islamic Arabs used to foretell the future from the direction in which a bird would fly, the word ‘BIRD’ also came to be tropically used in the sense of ‘omen’ or ‘Bird of destiny’.

In this connection we found it interesting to observe that the Quran persistently describes the flowing processes of hearing, sights, senses and mind – i.e. successions of neuro-psychological actions – in terms of flights of BIRDS or ‘flying creatures’ (16:78-79; 67:19-23; 6:36, 38-39, 103-104; 17:13, 36; 24:41-44): Hearing, sights and senses as flying birds

In view of the above, here we will try to grasp the deeper meaning of the term ‘BIRD’ in the Quran and its association with ‘Bird of destiny’.

OUR ‘BIRD OF DESTINY’ IS FASTENED TO OUR OWN NECK

While portraying senses as data receivers (24:24, 36:65, 41:20-22, cf. 75:14) and mind as a record (17:13-14, 57:22, 39:68, 50:16-18, 50:21-22, 75:2), the Quran maintains that all our subconscious and conscious thoughts and actions, being instantly recorded on our ‘mind’, actually constitute our destiny (17:13-15).

Thus our ‘Bird of destiny’ is no more than the ‘record book’ or database inside our mind, as if it is fastened to our own neck:

And every human, We have fastened his BIRD (of destiny) upon his own neck; and We shall bring forth for him a record on the Resurrection Day which he will find wide open;

Read your book! Your own self suffices today as an accountant of yourself.”

Whoever is guided is guided for himself, and whoever goes astray, goes astray at his own loss. No bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another …

And follow not anything of which you have no knowledge; surely the hearing and the sight and the sense, all those will be questioned about it. 17:13-15, 36

It is important to notice that the above is directly related to a context that depicts a full code of moral conduct while citing the ‘major commandments’ (17:22-37).

Please observe, in the vicinity of the term ‘BIRD’ (17:13), the curious appearance of the words ‘self’ (17:14) and ‘hearing’, ‘sight’ and ‘sense’ (17:36).

OUR ‘BIRD OF DESTINY’ DWELLS IN OUR BRAIN

Remarkably, the Quran contains several references that unmistakably identify brain as the anatomical location of mind or self (‘BIRD of destiny’ 17:13), a concept that is consistent with modern neuroscience (12:41, 17:13, 50:16, 11:56, 96:15-16).

For instance, a narration of Joseph’s interpretation of dreams depicts bad destiny as ‘brain eaten by birds’: BIRDS will eat off his head; destined is the matter you are asking about. 12:41

We cannot ignore here the striking link between the words ‘BIRDS’ and ‘destined’, which, together with the context, further locates the ‘Bird of destiny’ or mind as residing inside the brain.

AS OUR ‘BIRD OF DESTINY’ IS OUR OWN SELF, WE ARE RESPONSIBLE TO ACT

Since our ‘Bird of destiny’ thus approximately corresponds to our own personality (17:13-15), i.e. the aggregate of our own thoughts and deeds recorded in our mind, the word ‘BIRD’ (‘ta’ir’; ‘flying creature’ or ‘bird of destiny’) in the Quran actually connotes ‘self’ (psyche) and related neuro-psychological processes (‘hearing, sights and senses’).

Now, as the Quran thus rejects the idea of fatalistic determinism that humans have no influence on the events destined (36:67-68), and as it dismisses all sorts of intermediary between man and God (2:48, 2:254, 6:51, 6:94, 6:164; 7:53, 19:95, 39:43-45, 66:10), it puts full responsibility on every individual of us (4:32, 5:104-105, 6:94, 6:164, 19:95, 53:38-39) to use our own intellect and reasoning (10:100, 17:36), to personally know and act (17:36), and to live so consciously that we feel morally responsible for our own actions (5:105, 90:4-13).

CONCLUSION AND FURTHER THOUGHTS

‘BIRD’ refers to ‘self’ and ‘life processes’

While our ‘Bird of destiny’ is no more than the database inside our mind, the word ‘BIRD’ in the Quran has the symbolic connotation of ‘self’ and ‘life processes’.

This is further clarified in the following parable:

And when Abraham said, O my Sustainer, show me how you give life to the dead, He said: Have you then no faith? He said: Yes, but that my mind be reassured. He said: Then take four BIRDS, then fashion them towards you; then place them separately on every hill; then summon them: they will come flying to you; and know that God is Mighty, Wise. 2:260

This is an allegory of Abraham that deals with our mind’s curiosity about life’s regeneration from the non-living.

Please observe how this ‘thought experiment’ portrays ‘life’ as an ‘assembly of birds or flying creatures’, i.e. an ‘organization of moving atoms and molecules arranged in a specific, divine order’ (note: ‘fashion them towards you’).

While the number ‘four’ here points to the four directions (east, west, north, south), and hence to all directions, the model ‘four BIRDS scattered to four directions’ refers to ‘moving particles scattered to all directions after death but ready to re-assemble instantly under divine call (30:25)’.

As the Quran thus considers ‘self’ and ‘life processes’ as a special assemblage of moving particles (2:260, 19:93-94; 34:3, 34:7, 34:9, 34:22; 72:28), it persistently describes the flowing neuro-psychological processes of hearing, sights, senses and mind as flights of BIRDS or ‘flying creatures’ (16:78-79; 67:19-23; 6:36, 38-39, 103-104; 17:13, 36; 24:41-44).

In fact, wherever the term ‘BIRD’ appears in the Quran (2:260, 3:49, 5:110, 6:38, 12:36, 12:41, 16:79, 17:13, 21:79, 22:31, 24:41, 27:16, 27:17, 27:20, 34:10, 38:19, 56:21, 67:19, 105:3), it is always surrounded by words related to ‘self’ and ‘life processes’ including their sensory and neuro-psychological aspects (For a detailed list of these words, please refer to the articles below).

Related articles:

Hearing, sights and senses as flying birds

Meaning of ‘BIRD’ in the Quran

 

Divine messages in human sciences

Divine messages in human sciences

 

There are calls in the Quran to read divine messages in the study of the humans themselves.

In modern understanding, this should involve the study of the human sciences that “attempts to expand and enlighten the human being’s knowledge of his or her existence, its interrelationship with other species and systems, and the development of artifacts to perpetuate the human expression and thought.”

Messages in anthropology

We are asked to observe God’s signs (ayah) in anthropology, which is a scientific study of the physical evolution, the behavior and the gradual socio-cultural development of the human species. This covers endless areas of human sciences: from the anatomy of bones to the interdisciplines of neuroscience, and from the politics of ecology to the prospects of transhumanism:

And in the Earth are MESSAGES for those who are convinced.

And in your own selves: Will you not then see? 51:20-21

Messages in biological anthropology

For example, we can trace many of these signs – including those signifying an intelligent design and pointing to the unitary origin of all life and man – in anthropological evolution. That is, through a study of that giant ‘tree of evolution’ (‘growing plant’) in relation to its human branch:

He has created you in successive stages.

See you not HOW … / … God has made you grow from the Earth as a growing plant? 71:14-17

And in the creation of yourselves and in what He spreads out of the living creature there are MESSAGES for a people being convinced. 45:4

Messages in man’s unity with the Universe

There are divine messages in human sciences that make us ponder on our unity with the greater ecosystem, where our origin from ‘inorganic substances’ ties us to the planet’s food chain where ‘living’ dialectically recycles with ‘non-living’:

It is He who brings out the living from the dead, and brings out the dead from the living, and who gives life to the Earth after it is dead: and thus shall you be brought out.

Among His wonders is that He created you from dust, and, then behold, you are humankind spreading out.

… In this indeed there are MESSAGES for a people who reflect. 30:19-21

Thus, while studying the evolving, ever-growing ‘Homo sapiens’, we can also contemplate on the unity of all humans in relation to their common, lowly biological origin, and hence on their ultimate oneness and equality.

Messages in man’s unity with all life

We are asked to read the messages of the organic unity of man with the living world, scripted throughout the great Book of life. Please note how the Quranic wisdom holistically simplifies these messages:

Neither creation of you all nor raising of you all is but as a single self (‘single breath’): surely God is Hearing, Seeing.

See you not HOW God merges the night into the day …? 31:28-29

And He it is who has initiated you from a single living entity, and then: a course and a destination. Thus have We detailed the MESSAGES to a people who comprehend. 6:98

Messages in comparative life sciences

While highlighting the strong biological links between animals and ‘man the animal’, and frequently describing humans in relation to animals (2:65, 2:164, 5:60, 6:38, 7:166, 7:176, 7:179, 8:22, 8:55, 10:24, 11:6-7, 16:4-8, 16:66-69, 16:78-80, 20:54, 24:45, 25:44, 25:49, 29:60, 31:10, 32:27, 35:28, 39:6, 42:11, 45:4, 79:33, 80:32), the Quran invites us to study ourselves in parallel with other animals.

We may explore divine messages in our blood kinship with the living world through wider studies of genealogy and comparative life sciences. This would include comparative anatomy, comparative physiology and comparative biochemistry as well as comparative sections of molecular biology, embryology, genetics and palaeontology:

And in the creation of yourselves and in what He spreads out of the living creature there are MESSAGES for a people being convinced. 45:4

Messages in archaeology and palaeontology

In line with the above, the Quran asks us to explore divine messages in the history of Earth’s geo-biological evolution by expeditions and searches through the Earth (2:164, 30:50, 50:7, 88:17-20). Thus, on one hand, we need to study archaeology through the recovery and analysis of the remnants of the material culture and environmental data left behind by the ancient humans. On the other hand, we need to study palaeontology in order to understand the various forms of pre-historic life by ‘reading’ their fossil records (22:46, 29:19-20, 51:20):

Do they not see HOW God originates creation, then reproduces it: surely that is easy for God.

Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe HOW God did originate the creation; then God produces the next creation; surely God has power over all things. 29:19-20

And in the Earth are MESSAGES for those who are convinced. 51:20

In the water that God sent down from the Heaven, thereby gave life to the Earth after it had been lifeless, and did spread out therein all kinds of living creatures … , there are MESSAGES for a people reasoning. 2:164

Messages in ethnic anthropology

The Quran positively highlights the great diversity in humans in their physical and mental features and traits, which is a manifestation of the infinite nuance of ‘colours and hues’ of nature in human forms (35:19-21, 25, 27-28; 30:9, 22; 2:136, 138-139), expressed as numerous ethnicities, cultures, religions, concepts and views throughout the ages and places:

See you not that God sent down water from the Heaven? With it We then bring out produces of various colours. And in the mountains are streaks of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks.

And so amongst men and animals and livestock, are they of various colours. As such, only the knowledgeable among His servants stand in awe of God: surely God is Mighty, Forgiving. 35:27-28

This human diversity not only displays by itself nature’s splendour, wonder and beauty, but also contains messages declaring God’s oneness and greatness and His infinite creative and re-creative potential (17:44, 57:1). There are recurrent calls to read these messages that can be traced through the study of ethnic anthropology:

And among His wonders is … the diversity of your languages and colours: in this indeed there are MESSAGES for the worlds. 30:22

And all that He has multiplied for you in the Earth of diverse colours; verily there is a MESSAGE in this for a people who recollect. 16:13

Messages in anthropology of gender

Exploring of divine messages in the study of humans extends to anthropology of gender that investigates, among other issues, the cohesive forces of the dialectics between the human opposites – man and woman – who, through the same process of sexual differentiation, share common and reciprocal descent and hence unity and equality with each other:

And among His wonders is that He created opposites for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He placed love and mercy between you: in this indeed there are MESSAGES for a people who reflect. 30:21

Messages in linguistic anthropology

We are asked to read the messages in the linguistic diversity of humans:

And among His wonders is … the diversity of your languages and colours: in this indeed there are MESSAGES for the worlds. 30:22

Messages in cultural anthropology

Exploring of divine messages should extend to such areas of anthropology that deal with evolution of humans in their socio-cultural awareness:

O children of Adam! We have indeed sent down for you garments to cover your nakedness and as feathers. And the garment of awareness, that is the best. This is of the MESSAGES of God that they may be mindful. 7:26

Messages in the study of ancient parables

There are messages in the study of ‘parables’ of the ancients (‘mathal’; 24:34, 25:33; cf. 3:3-7; 5:27) – i.e. their legends, myths, allegories and educational stories – which are often to deliver some moral lesson or wisdom (25:33, 39:27, 12:111), and are not necessarily meant to be understood literally as real or historical events:

In (the story of) Joseph and his brothers there are MESSAGES indeed for those who inquire. 12:7

In their stories is a lesson for those who possess intelligence. 12:111

In this (story of Lot) there are MESSAGES indeed for those who can interpret. 15:75

In this (story of Noah) there are MESSAGES indeed; for most surely We are ever testing (people). 23:30

Messages in history

The Quran insistently invites us to read God’s messages and warnings in the lessons of history (3:137, 6:11, 16:36, 27:52, 27:69, 30:9, 30:42, 34:19, 35:44, 40:21, 47:10):

So these are their homes empty, ruined, for what they transgressed. In that there is a MESSAGE for a people learning. 27:52

And they were unjust to themselves so We made them hadiths and scattered them with an utter scattering. In this there are MESSAGES indeed for all who are steadfast, appreciative. 34:19

Then, while calling to ‘travel through the Earth’ to gain insight by learning from the past, the Quran also positively reminds the traveller, who is wandering through the pages of history, that, as rain vivifies a barren land, man’s conscious effort can as easily create a civilization out of ruins:

Was it not a lesson for them, how many generations We annihilated before them, in whose dwellings now they do walk about? Certainly there are MESSAGES in this: Will they not then hear?

Do they not see that We drive the water to the barren land, then We bring forth thereby crops of which their livestock and they themselves eat; will they not then see? 32:26-27

Messages in sociology

We should observe divine signs in all areas of sociology, which investigates the social, intellectual and organizational evolution and diversification of the human as an integrated part of the dialectical development of the whole Universe (alluded below by a range of duality in expressions):

Among His wonders is that He created you from dust, and, then behold, you are humankind spreading out.

And among His wonders is that He created opposites for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He placed love and mercy between you: in this indeed there are MESSAGES for a people who reflect.

And among His wonders is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours: in this indeed there are MESSAGES for the worlds. 30:20-22

Messages in politico-economics

Then there are messages in politico-economics, in the study of those historical dialectical laws and deterministic principles that regulate the provisions and material life of humans:

Do you not see that God extends provision for whom He wills, or restricts, determining according to a measure (His laws)? In this there are MESSAGES indeed for a people who acknowledge (the divine laws). 30:37

Do they not know that God extends provision for whomever He wishes, or restricts, determining according to a measure? In this are MESSAGES for a people who acknowledge. 39:52

Messages in neuroscience

The Quran asks us to read the messages in the flowing neurosensory and mental processes (‘hearing, sights and senses’), which it persistently illustrates as flights of BIRDS (16:78-79; 67:19-23; 6:36, 38-39, 103-104; 17:13, 36; 24:41-44):

And God has brought you forth from your mothers’ wombs while you knew nothing, and He has endowed you with the hearing, and the sights, and the senses, so that you might have cause to be grateful.

See they not the birds, held poised in the midst of the sky? Nothing holds them up but God. Verily in this are MESSAGES for those who acknowledge. 16:78-79

Messages in psychology

We can read some of God’s messages contained in the books of psychology – the science of minds that deals with the mental states and processes:

And in the Earth are MESSAGES for those who are convinced.

And in your own selves: Will you not then see? 51:20-21

Most certainly in the Heavens and the Earth are MESSAGES for the acknowledgers.

And in your own nature and in what He spreads out of the living creature there are MESSAGES for a people being convinced. 45:3-4

In time We shall show them Our MESSAGES in the utmost horizons and within themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the truth. 41:53

And among His Signs is the sleep that you take by night and by day, and your seeking of His bounty. Most surely in that there are MESSAGES for a people who hear. 30:23

It is God that takes the selves at death and, those that die not, during their sleep; He keeps that for which He has ordained death and the rest He sends back for a term appointed. Most surely in this there are MESSAGES for a people who reflect. 39:42

Messages in moral sciences

Then there are messages in ethics and moral sciences:

Say: What if God should take away your hearing and your sights and seals your minds; which god besides God could bring it back to you? Deeply observe how many facets we give to our MESSAGES, but how they still turn away. 6:46

Have you not seen the ships speeding through the sea, carrying God’s provisions, so that He might show you some of His wonders? In that there are MESSAGES indeed for all who are patient, grate­ful. 31:31

See you not that God sends down water from the Heaven, and leads it through springs in the Earth? Then He grows therewith produce of various colours: then it withers; you will see it grow yellow; then He makes it dry up and crumble away. Truly, in this is a reminder for those with insight. 39:21

And among His signs are the vessels that sail through the seas, lofty as mountains.
If He willed, He could still the winds, leaving them motionless on top of it. In that there are MESSAGES indeed for all who are steadfast, appreciative. 42:32-33

And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the Heavens and whatsoever is in the Earth: it is all from Him. Behold, in that are MESSAGES indeed for those who reflect. 45:13

Messages in spiritual sciences

There are deeper messages in the ‘veiled dimensions of reality’, a bit of which has been claimed to be ‘perceived’ by activities in spiritual sciences like theosophy and anthroposophy:

Are they then not aware of how little of the Heaven and the Earth lies open before them, and how much is hidden from them? … Most surely in this there is a MESSAGE for every servant who turns. 34:9

He it is who shows you His MESSAGES and sends down for you sustenance from the Heaven, and only he pays heed who turns. 40:13

Here comes ‘the sixth sense’ that often grasps the inner nature of things intuitively by ‘hearing’ the voice of our subconscious while ‘resting in night’s darkness’ – something in addition to ‘seeing’, i.e. conscious reasoning based on ‘observation in daylight’ (‘hearing’ and ‘seeing’ are often associated in the Quran with ‘darkness’ and ‘light’ respectively, e.g. 22:61; 6:36, 39; 6:96, 103, 28:71-72):

Say: Have you noted: if God made the night eternal over you until the Resurrection Day, what god other than God would bring you light? Do you not then hear?

Say: Have you noted: if God made the day eternal over you until the Resurrection Day, what god other than God would bring you night wherein you rest? Do you not then see? 28:71-72

It is He who has made the night for you to repose therein and the day sight-giving. In that there are MESSAGES indeed for a people who hear. 10:67

Have they not seen that We have made the night that they may repose therein and the day sight-giving? In that there are MESSAGES indeed for a people acknowledging. 27:86

SUMMARY AND FURTHER OBSERVATION

Messages extend beyond physical, biological and human sciences

As noted earlier, the Quran calls us to study the Universe constantly, and as minutely and deeply as possible, in order to explore the veiled messages scripted throughout the great Book of nature (96:1, 45:3, 29:44, 30:25, 34:9, 12:105, 46:26).

There are divine messages to be read in all branches of physical science: in the study of the Universe that involves the study of logic, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry (13:2, 6:97, 16:12), in the study of the Solar system (41:37, 10:5-6) and Earth sciences, including geology, oceanology, meteorology, ecology, geography (51:20, 21:31-32, 20:53-54, 13:3) as well as evolutionary sciences and related areas like geophysics, organic chemistry, hydrology and so on (2:164, 45:5).

Then, apart from physical sciences, there are further messages to be read in various branches of life science: in the study of general biology (26:7-8), evolutionary biology (2:164, 6:98, 29:19-20, 45:4, 71:14-17), study of abiogenesis and biochemistry (41:39, 16:65, 30:24, 22:63), botanical sciences (6:99, 13:4), agricultural and nutritional sciences (16:10-11, 16:67, 6:118), zoological sciences (2:164, 45:4, 16:65-66), entomology (16:68-69), ornithology (16:79, 24:41, 67:19), mammalogy (16:65-66), anthropology (51:20-21, 45:4, 30:20, 22) and so on.

Then, apart from physical and life sciences, there are further messages to be read in various areas of human science: in the study of anthropology (51:20-21), biological anthropology (71:14-17, 45:4), man’s unity with the Universe (30:19-21), man’s unity with all life (31:28-29, 6:98), comparative life sciences (45:4), archaeology and palaeontology (29:19-20, 51:20, 2:164), ethnic anthropology (35:27-28, 30:22, 16:13), anthropology of gender (30:21), linguistic anthropology (30:22), cultural anthropology (7:26), study of ancient parables (12:7, 12:111, 15:75, 23:30), history (27:52, 32:26-27, 34:19), sociology (30:20-22), politico-economics (13:26, 30:37, 39:52), neuroscience (16:78-79; cf. 67:19-23; 6:36, 38-39, 103-104; 17:13, 36; 24:41-44), psychology (51:20-21, 45:3-4, 41:53, 30:23, 39:42), moral sciences (6:46, 31:31, 39:21, 42:32-33, 45:13), spiritual sciences (34:9, 40:13, 10:67, 27:86, 28:71-72) and so on.

This reading of divine messages should continue in all areas of knowledge: in the study of the Universe, life and man, including human’s own self.

Related articles:

Divine messages in physical sciences

Divine messages in life sciences

Divine messages in physical sciences

Divine messages in physical sciences

 

Messages in all branches of physical science

The Quran imposes no regimentation but simply invites us to study the Universe constantly, and as minutely and deeply as our faculties allow, in order to explore its veiled messages.

Messages in the study of the Universe: in logic, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry

We can uncover some of these messages while engaged in the study of the Universe that includes logic, mathematics, astronomy, physics and chemistry:

God is He who raised up the Heavens with supports invisible to you, while He is established on the throne; He has subjected the Sun and the Moon, each one pursues its course to an appointed term. He regulates the affair, explaining the MESSAGES in detail, that you may be certain of meeting your Sustainer. 13:2

And He it is who has set for you the stars that you may guide yourselves by them in the darkness of the land and the sea. We have detailed Our MESSAGES for a people who possess knowledge. 6:97

And He has made subservient for you the night and the day and the Sun and the Moon; and the stars are in subjection by His Command: most surely there are MESSAGES in this for a people reasoning. 16:12

Messages in the study of the Solar system

There are messages to be ‘read’ in the study of the Solar system that includes our planet Earth (cf. revolving ‘night and day’), its star, the Sun and its satellite, the Moon (cf. Abraham’s quest for God, 6:75-79, 14:33-35):

Among His MESSAGES are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. Adore not the Sun not the Moon, but prostrate yourselves in adoration before God, who has created them. 41:37

He it is who made the Sun a splendour and the Moon a light, and measured for it stages that you might know to compute the years and reckon. God did not create this but with truth. He details these MESSAGES unto people of knowledge.

Most surely in the succession of the Night and the Day, and in all that God has created in the Heavens and the Earth, are MESSAGES for a people who are conscious. 10:5-6

Messages in the study of the Earth sciences: in geology, oceanology, meteorology, ecology, geography

Then there are messages to be ‘read’ in the study of the Earth sciences including geology, oceanology, meteorology, ecology and geography:

And in the Earth are MESSAGES for those who are convinced. 51:20

And We have set on the Earth mountains standing firm lest it quake with them, and We have made therein wide ways that they may follow a right direction.

And We have made the Heavens a guarded roof. Yet they turn away from its MESSAGES. 21:31-32

He it is who has made the Earth a cradle for you, and has traced out for you ways thereon, and sent down from the Heaven water, and thereby We brought forth pairs of various plants, each separate from the others.

Eat you and pasture your livestock thereon; most surely in this there are MESSAGES for those who are endowed with reason. 20:53-54

And it is He who spread out the Earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and flowing waters: and of every fruit He placed therein two opposites; He draws the night as a veil over the day. Most surely in all this there are MESSAGES indeed for a people who reflect. 13:3  

Messages in the evolutionary sciences and related areas like geophysics, organic chemistry, hydrology etc

Clearly, there are messages in the Study of cosmology in general, which involves evolutionary sciences that deal with the study of both celestial and terrestrial evolution, as well as numerous related areas like geophysics, inorganic and organic chemistry, hydrology and so on:

Behold! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, in the succession of the night and the day, and in the ships that speed through the sea with what benefits man, and in the water that God sent down from the Heaven, thereby gave life to the Earth after it had been lifeless, and did spread out therein all kinds of living creatures, and in the changing of the winds and the clouds made subservient between the Heaven and the Earth, there are MESSAGES for a people reasoning. 2:164

This perfect harmony in the working of the Universe, based on the mutual agreement between all the diverse forces of nature, is, according to the Quran, a sign or proof of the oneness and greatness of its Maker. We are asked to reflect over this creation and to ‘read’ its veiled messages in order to realise the divine unity and majesty in the midst of its infinite diversity (‘there are messages for a people reasoning’).

A summary of the above is the verse below:

And in the succession of the night and the day, and in what God sends down of sustenance from the Heaven, then revives therewith the Earth after its death, and in the changing of the winds, are MESSAGES for a people reasoning. 45:5

 

Summary and further observation

Messages extend beyond physical sciences

The Quran calls us to study the Universe constantly, and as minutely and deeply as possible, in order to explore the veiled messages scripted throughout the great Book of nature (96:1, 45:3, 29:44, 30:25, 34:9, 12:105, 46:26).

There are divine messages to be ‘read’ in all branches of physical science: in the study of the Universe that involves the study of logic, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry (13:2, 6:97, 16:12), in the study of the Solar system (41:37, 10:5-6) and Earth sciences, including geology, oceanology, meteorology, ecology, geography (51:20, 21:31-32, 20:53-54, 13:3) as well as evolutionary sciences and related areas like geophysics, organic chemistry and hydrology (2:164, 45:5) and so on.

Then, apart from physical sciences, there are further messages to be ‘read’ in other branches of science: in the study of biology (26:7-8), evolutionary biology (2:164, 6:98, 29:19-20, 45:4, 71:14-17), abiogenesis and biochemistry (41:39, 16:65, 30:24, 22:63), botanical sciences (6:99, 13:4), agricultural and nutritional sciences (16:10-11, 16:67, 6:118), zoological sciences (2:164, 45:4, 16:65-66), entomology (16:68-69), ornithology (16:79, 24:41, 67:19), mammalogy (16:65-66), various branches of human science (51:20-21, 45:4, 30:20, 22, 6:98, 29:19-20, 31:28-29, 71:14-17, 30:21, 39:52, 51:20-21, 41:53, 31:31, 6:46, 10:67, 39:42, 40:13, 30:23, 27:86) and so on.

Related articles:

Divine messages in life sciences

Divine messages in human sciences

Sensory perceptions in the Quran

Sensory perceptions in the Quran

 

Please note a GENERAL RULE in the Quran that – in contrast to the word ‘hearing’ (‘samaa’), which is always in singular – the words ‘sights’ (‘absar’), ‘senses’ (‘afida’) and ‘skins’ (‘julood’) are always in plural:

And it is He who has created for you the hearing, and the sights, and the senses: little thanks it is that you give! 23:78

And you can not be hiding yourselves from the testimony of your own hearing, your sights and your skins about you! 41:22; cf. 10:31, 16:78, 23:78, 32:9, 46:26, 76:2, 41:20-22

The term HEARING, always appearing in the Quran as singular, denotes the singleness and simplicity of hearing:

Hearing is a relatively simple, uncompounded sense by which sounds are perceived by conversion of sound waves into nerves impulses, which are then interpreted by the brain. Members of two animal groups, arthropods and vertebrates, are capable of sound reception. It enables an animal to sense danger, locate food, find mates, and, in more complex creatures, engage in communication.

The term SIGHTS, on the other hand, always appearing as plural, denotes the multiplicity and complexity of visual senses:

As the eyes and the visual brain areas have evolved in human and other higher animals a size and complexity far beyond hearing and other sensory systems – sight, of all the senses, provides the most detailed and extensive information about the environment.

Now, sight is a group of senses by which the form, colour, size, movement, position and distance of objects in the external environment are perceived by means of the light they reflect. Thus, rather than one single sense, physiologists often regard sight as a sum of several senses involving different neuroreceptors, e.g. perception of colour (colour vision), perception of brightness and perception of depth (stereopsis).

Also, apart from physical sights, man has been further gifted with insights (‘ainain’, as in 90:8, means ‘two eyes’ or ‘two sights’):

Does he then think that no one sees him?

Have We not made for him two eyes? 90:7-8

Sights encompass Him not, but He encompasses all sights; and He is Unfathomable, All-aware.

Insights have certainly come to you from your Sustainer; then whoever sights, does so for his own self, and whoever is blinded, does the same. And (say): I am not over you an overseer. 6:103-104

The term SENSES, always appearing in the Quran as plural, denotes the multiplicity of senses:

Translated here as ‘senses’, the word ‘afida’ (plural of ‘fuad’) in classical Arabic is a metonym for ‘feelings’, ‘senses’ and ‘hearts’. Thus it covers all the internal senses (proprioception, chronoception, interoception, thirst, hunger etc) as well as all other senses including taste, smell, balance, acceleration and the skin senses.

The term SKINS, always appearing in the Quran as plural, denotes the multiplicity of skin senses:

In addition to the classical ‘five senses’ – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch – humans have senses of heat, cold, pressure, pain, tickle, itch, vibration, position, motion and balance, most of which are located in the skin. Thus skin is a major sense organ as the site of multiple senses with various sensory receptors located in the dermis or epidermis.

The Quranic use of the word ‘skins’ (‘julood’) not only portrays skin as a mainly sense organ (e.g. 4:56), the plural use of the word ‘skins’ in all its 8 appearances in the Quran in total 6 verses (4:56, 22:20, 39:23, 41:20, 41:21, 41:22) indicates this plurality of the cutaneous senses (of touch, temperature, pain, pressure, tickle, itch, vibration, position). An example is the following allegory:

When they come to it, their hearing, sights and skins will bear witness to everything they had done.

And they will ask their skins: Why did you testify against us? They will say: God, who gives speech to all things, has given speech to us, and He created you in the first instance, and unto Him you return.

And you can not be hiding yourselves from the testimony of your own hearing, your sights and your skins about you! 41:20-22

The Quran calls us to travel

The Quran calls us to travel

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

 

Throughout the Quran life is described as a journey, and knowledge and ignorance as light and darkness on its way (e.g. 6:122, 13:16, 24:35, 24:40, 27:86, 35:19-20, 37:5, 40:61, 84:18-20).

However, besides numerous references to this spiritual journey, special emphasis is also laid on physical travel.

The word ‘saiyr’ – which means travel or move (e.g. a planet is ‘sayyarah’) – with all its variations, appears in the Quran total 27 times. Many of its usages are in the formulation of ‘Do travel’, ‘Tell them to travel’, or ‘Do they not travel?’.

The Quran promotes travel as a potential pilgrimage, since during travel one passes by numerous ‘ayah’ or divine messages (31:31, 12:105, 22:46; cf. 45:3, 10:6). Also, man’s ability to travel is described as a special honour endowed to man as part of man’s exalted status above all natural Forces (17:61, 66, 70).

Travel, tour and navigation demand geographical and astronomical information as well as nautical, aeronautical and astronautical knowledge. Because scientific data about natural objects (explored messages of nature) give man orientation and power, they are described in the Quran as directions of paths, like landmarks and guiding stars:

And He it is who has set for you the stars that you may guide yourselves by them in the darkness of the land and the sea. We have detailed Our messages for a people who possess knowledge. 6:97

And He it is who has made the sea subservient …

And He has placed firm mountains on Earth, lest it sway with you, and rivers and paths, so that you might find your way,

And landmarks; and by the stars they are guided. 16:14-16

He it is who has made the Earth a cradle for you, and has traced out for you ways therein. 20:53

While thus encouraging travel in general, the Quran also strongly recommends travel when it has a specific, positive purpose: travel to trade, search, explore, visit, migrate, enjoy, learn, study and so on.

Travel to read divine messages

The Quran promotes travel as a potential pilgrimage since during travel one passes by numerous ‘ayah’ or divine messages that declare God’s oneness and greatness (cf. 45:3, 10:6):

Have you not seen the ships speeding through the sea, carrying God’s provisions, so that He might show you some of His wonders? Herein, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are patient, grate­ful. 31:31

And how many a Message in the Heavens and the Earth which they pass by, yet they turn away from it! 12:105

There is a call for travel in order to read these messages by searching new information and experience-based knowledge and thereby to acquire wisdom:

Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the minds which are in the foremost. 22:46

Translated here as ‘minds’, the word ‘quloob’ signifies ‘sites of intellect or understanding’ (as defined in 6:25), whereas the word ‘sadr’, translated here as ‘foremost’, has a metaphoric connotation, and – since in Arabic it has the connotation of chest, top, foremost or upper part of anything – indicates brain as well.

Travel for trade and commerce

The Quran encourages travel for trade and commerce – which generates mutual profit and benefit through exchange of commodities and export-import – while depicting it as a great way to get some of the divine blessings:

Your Sustainer is He who causes the ships to move on for you through the sea so that you may go about in quest of some of His bounty: verily Most Merciful is He towards you. 17:66

And in the ships that speed through the sea with what benefits man … there are messages for a people reasoning. 2:164

Then, once the contact prayer is ended, disperse through the Earth and go in quest of some of divine Bounty, and remember God frequently, so that you may succeed. 62:10

Travel to explore new horizons

Another emphasized purport of travel is searching and exploring new lands and areas, new possibilities, potential resources and richness of various cultures:

And on that one sees ships ploughing through the waves, so that you might go forth in quest of some of His bounty, and thus have cause to be grateful. 16:14

And you see the ships cleave through it that you may seek of His Bounty and that you may be thankful. 35:12

It is God who has subjected to you the sea that the ships may run thereon by His command, that you may seek of his Bounty, and that you may be thankful. 45:12

Travel for recreation

Travel even for simple pleasure, in the form of recreational tourism, is also encouraged:

He it is who enables you to travel by land and sea; until when you are in the ships, and they sail on with them in a pleasant breeze, and they rejoice. 10:22

Lawful for you is all water-game, and all the catch of the sea, as enjoyment for you and for those who travel. 5:96

And among His signs is that He sends the winds with glad tidings, and to give you a taste of His grace, and so that the ships might sail by His command, and that you might go about in quest of some of His Bounties, that you may be thankful. 30:46

Travel to learn from visiting new places

The Quran encourages travel that aims to visit new places as a means of learning:

Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear? 22:46

Have you not seen the ships speeding through the sea, carrying God’s provisions, so that He might show you some of His wonders? Herein, behold, there are messages indeed for all who are patient, grate­ful. 31:31

Travel to immigrate

We are asked to fight or flight. Fight against oppression or, if this is not an option, flight to seek refuge elsewhere. When we fail to freely express our opinions or practise our decent values in a particular country, we should try to emigrate to another which is more suitable for the purpose. Thus travel with intent of immigration, whenever essential, is prescribed, while apathy and self-harm are condemned:

Was God’s Earth not spacious enough that you could emigrate in it? 4:97

Those who have emigrated for God because they were oppressed, We will grant them good in this world, and the reward of the End will be greater, if they knew. 16:41

Travel to study evolutionary science, palaentology and anthropology

One of the highlighted purposes of travel is searching, exploring and learning about origin and evolution of Universe, life and man:

Do they not see how God originates creation, then reproduces it: surely that is easy for God.

Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe HOW God did originate the creation; then God produces the next creation; surely God has power over all things. 29:19-20

Travel to study archaeology and history

Over and over again the Quran emphasizes the importance of travel with a purpose to study archaeology and the history of nations and humankind in general, including causes of rise and fall of previous peoples and civilizations:

Do they not travel through the Earth, and deeply observe what was the End of those before them? 47:10

Have they not travelled through the Earth and deeply observed the consequences for those who were before them? 40:82 Please refer to similar statements in 35:44 and 40:21.

Travel to learn from the past

Then we are invited to ‘travel through the Earth’ so that we can learn lessons from the past. What happened to all those great powers and civilizations of the past? One needs to travel, both physically and conceptually, to search and explore the history and the driving forces behind it:

Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe how was the End of the rejectors. 6:11

Ways of life have passed away before you. So do but travel through the Earth and deeply observe how was the End of the rejectors. 3:137 Similar verses are e.g. 16:36 and 27:69.

The Quran asserts that the cause of the causes of the decline and fall of a civilization is people’s rejection of the divine oneness – expressed as their denial of the unity of nature and the unity of humanity. This denial leads to the rejection of human’s ultimate responsibility for his conscious actions, and this, in turn, leads to cognitive and moral bankruptcy – i.e., unscientific attitude to nature and life, and subsequent socio-economic and political chaos – and so to the downfall of communities and civilizations:

Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of what men’s hands have earned, and so He will give them a taste of some of their deeds, in order that they may turn back.

Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe what happened in the end to those before you: Most of them worshipped others besides God.

Set then your face steadfastly towards the system which is straight. 30:41-43

Here the growing pollution and destruction of our natural and social environment (‘Corruption has appeared on land and sea’), so seriously demonstrated in our time, is predicted as a consequence of man’s self-destructive – because utterly materialistic – inventiveness and frenzied activities (‘because of what men’s hands have earned’) which now threaten the human existence itself with previously unimaginable ecological and socio-economic disasters: an outcome of man’s oblivion of God and, hence, of moral values, and his delusion that ‘material progress’ is the only thing that matters.

We are asked to learn lessons from history of the extinct civilizations who likewise worshipped material comfort, ego and power, as well as worshipped various false idols like messengers, avatars and other sanctified creatures (‘Most of them worshipped others besides God’). They thus lost harmony with natural laws and moral values – which are based on the unity of nature and the unity of humanity and which have their ultimate foundation on God’s oneness – and, as a consequence, destroyed themselves.

A call of cheer for the traveller

However, the Quran also positively reminds the traveller, who is wandering through the pages of history, that – as rain vivifies a barren land – man’s conscious effort can as easily create a civilization out of ruins:

Was it not a lesson for them, how many generations We annihilated before them, in whose dwellings now they do walk about? Certainly there are messages in this: Will they not then hear?

Do they not see that We drive the water to the barren land, then We bring forth thereby crops of which their livestock and they themselves eat; will they not then see? 32:26-27

Summary

Throughout the Quran life is described as a journey, and knowledge and ignorance as light and darkness on its way (e.g. 6:122, 13:16, 24:35, 24:40, 27:86, 35:19-20, 37:5, 40:61, 84:18-20).

However, besides numerous references to this spiritual journey, special emphasis is also laid on physical travel.

The word ‘saiyr’ – which means travel or move – with all its variations, appears in the Quran total 27 times. Many of its usages are in the formulation of ‘Do travel’, ‘Tell them to travel’, or ‘Do they not travel?’.

The Quran promotes travel as a potential pilgrimage, since during travel one passes by numerous ‘ayah’ or divine messages (31:31, 12:105, 22:46; cf. 45:3, 10:6). Also, man’s ability to travel is described as a special honour endowed to man as part of man’s exalted status above all natural Forces (17:61, 66, 70).

While thus encouraging travel in general, the Quran also strongly recommends travel when it has a specific, positive purpose, e.g.:

  • Travel to ‘read’ divine messages (31:31, 12:105, 22:46);
  • Travel for trade and commerce (17:66, 2:164, 62:10);
  • Travel to explore new horizons (16:14, 35:12, 45:12);
  • Travel for recreation (10:22, 5:96, 30:46);
  • Travel to learn from visiting new places (22:46, 31:31);
  • Travel to immigrate (4:97, 16:41);
  • Travel to study evolutionary science, palaentology and anthropology (29:19-20);
  • Travel to study archaeology and history (47:10, 40:82, 35:44, 40:21); and
  • Travel to learn from the past (6:11, 3:137, 16:36, 27:69, 30:41-43).

Importance of scientific observation

“Where the telescope ends the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view?” – Victor Hugo

 Importance of scientific observation

 

THE QURAN CALLS FOR SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATION

Please note how the Quran invites us to deeply observe everything in the Universe:

Say: Deeply observe all that is in the Heavens and the Earth! 10:101

Here the term ‘unzuru’, i.e. ‘deeply observe’ – and not just ‘see’, for which there are other words in Arabic – derives from ‘nazr’, which means ‘to observe deeply and seriously with full attention’, ‘to behold or see all the details’.

In its Quranic context related to observation of nature, if translated in modern term, it clearly connotes ‘scientific observation’ that includes analysis of both microscopic and telescopic visions combined, and much more.

Usage of other words derived from ‘nazr’ – e.g. ‘nazirin’ (‘deep observers’) and ‘yanzuru’ (‘deeply observes’) – can be found throughout the Quran. We will cite a few examples.

 

OBSERVATION IN ALL AREAS OF SCIENCE

For instance, here is a grave call to the observation of NATURAL SCIENCES in general:

Will they not then deeply observe the clouds, how they are created?

And the Heaven, how it is raised?

And the mountains, how they are firmly set?

And the Earth, how it is outstretched? 88:17-20

There is specific emphasis on observation in COSMOLOGY that will then involve study in MATHEMATICS, PHYSICS and CHEMISTRY:

Do they not deeply observe the Heaven above them how We have constructed it? 50:6

In the organisation of innumerable celestial objects in the tremendous vastness of cosmos there are marvellous order and harmony as well as endless beauty. The more the observers behold the details the more they can appreciate the beauty. The Quran refers to this charm scientists enjoy in investigating areas in ASTROPHYSICS as they enter the depth of their observation:

And indeed We have set up in the Heaven Strongholds, and endowed them with beauty for those who deeply observe. 15:16

We get serious invitation to scientific research in important subjects like ASTRONOMY, GEOLOGY and BIOLOGY:

Do they not deeply observe the Heaven …

And the Earth, We have spread it out, and set thereon mountains firm, and caused every pair of lovely growth to grow thereon. 50:6-7

And, together with GEOLOGY and BIOLOGY, invitation to scientific research also in specific areas such as EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, ANTHROPOLOGY and PALAEONTOLOGY:

Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe HOW God did originate the creation; then God produces the next creation; surely God has power over all things. 29:20

Also invitation to research in BOTANY:

Deeply observe the fruit thereof, when it comes to fruition, and its ripening! 6:99   

And to research in important fields like AGRICULTURAL, NUTRITIONAL and FOOD SCIENCES:

Then let man deeply observe his food. 80:24

And to research in ZOOLOGY including ANATOMY and PHYSIOLOGY:

Deeply observe your food and your drink, which have not rotted; and deeply observe your donkey: and that We may make of you a sign unto the people, deeply observe further the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh. 2:259

Will they not then deeply observe the camels, how they are created? 88:17

Then, there should be scientific observation in ORIGIN OF LIFE that would lead to the study of BIOCHEMISTRY:

So deeply observe the signs of God’s grace, how He gives life to the Earth after its death. 30:50

And scientific research in HUMAN EVOLUTION, EMBRYOLOGY and GENETICS:

So let man deeply observe of what he was created! 86:5

Then again, there is constant stress on the importance of study in ARCHAEOLOGY and HISTORY (35:44, 40:21, 6:11, 47:10, 3:137, 27:69, 16:36):

Do they not travel through the Earth, and deeply observe how was the End of those before them? 30:9

Say: Travel through the Earth and deeply observe what happened in the end to those before you. 30:42

No doubt, the ongoing scientific research should eventually extend to ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE – to absolutely everything:

Do they not deeply observe … all the things that God has created? 7:185

Say: Deeply observe all that is in the Heavens and the Earth! 10:101

 

WHY SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATION IS IMPORTANT

According to the Quran, it is through the strength of human’s ever-growing SCIENTIFIC VOCABULARY (‘And He taught Adam all the names. 2:31’), parallel to her ever-growing scientific knowledge, that she is superior to – and is gradually becoming capable of harnessing – all the observable and hidden Forces of nature that are commanded by the Divinity to submit to human (‘We said to the Forces: Prostrate yourselves before Adam. 2:34’; cf. 17:61).

Then, the real strength of humanity is in her scientific knowledge, which is a product of her divine gift of conceptual thinking, i.e. her unique faculty of logical definition (2:30-33, 33:72, 35:39, 55:3-4).

So human obviously needs to acquire scientific knowledge, and for this she needs to get engaged in deep observation of nature, in order to understand its laws and live in harmony with them. Only through this process of observing and learning she can get access to the divine treasures of the universe (39:63) and to eventually gain mastery over the world in and around her, which is potentially made subordinate to her:

And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the Heavens and whatsoever is in the Earth: it is all from Him. Behold, in that are messages indeed for those who reflect. 45:13

However, apart from achieving worldly, material end, deep observation of the Universe must also have a specific SPIRITUAL DIMENSION:

Say: What if God should take away your hearing and your sights and seals your minds; which god besides God could bring it back to you? Deeply observe how many facets we give to our messages, but how they still turn away. 6:46

So deeply observe the signs of God’s grace, how He gives life to the Earth after its death. Such is the One who will revive the dead, and He is capable of all things. 30:50

An example in this regard is Abraham’s ‘deep observation’ of the Universe during his quest for God (6:75-79, 37:88, 14:33-35), which is an allegory of humankind’s spiritual journey in search for the ‘Ultimate’ behind the laws and harmony of nature:

After beholding the planets (6:76), the Moon (6:77) and the Sun (6:78), his continuing observation crossed the boundaries of the Solar system (‘the lowest Heaven’, 37:6, 41:12, 67:5) and encompassed the Stars (37:88), i.e. OUTER COSMOS:

Then he did observe the Stars with deep observation. 37:88

As in the example of Abraham – the spiritual father of monotheists (4:125, 22:78) – this contemplative study of the Universe is essential for attaining the logical certainty in faith:

And thus did We demonstrate to Abraham the divine dominion of the Heavens and the Earth, that he might be of those who are certain. 6:75

This profound observation would eventually convince a reflective mortal of divine power and greatness, in contrast to her own smallness and limitations, and so would remind her of her ultimate dependence on her Sustainer:

Do they not deeply observe the divine dominion of the Heavens and the Earth and all the things that God has created, and that it may well be their own term that has already drawn nigh? Then in which HADITH after this will they believe? 7:185