WHY ‘GREEN’ IS SO IMPORTANT
GREEN is common in nature and is abundant in growing grass and leaves that contain the green pigment chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is a complex biomolecule that is critical in photosynthesis. It is green because it absorbs other colours of visible light, like red and blue, while reflecting green.
Now, photosynthesis is a process whereby the ‘green‘ in the plant utilizes sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates, or sugars, which allows the plant to grow. The process also releases oxygen.
These carbohydrates, i.e. simple and complex sugars, are then stored in grains, fruits and various parts of the plant. They provide the basic energy source for all life on Earth for its survival and sustenance.
THE VERSE OF ‘GREEN’
At this point we come across the Verse of ‘Green’ (‘the Photosynthesis Verse’):
And He it is who has sent down water from the Heaven; and therewith have We brought forth all living growth, then have We brought forth out of it GREEN, from which We produce grain heaped up; and out of the date-palm, out of its sheaths, clusters low-hanging; and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates: each alike yet unlike. Deeply observe the fruit thereof, when it comes to fruition, and its ripening! Most surely in all this there are messages for people who acknowledge! 6:99
Note in the above the stress on ‘GREEN’ (‘khadir’), the very central word which the description actually starts with and revolves around.
Here ‘green’ unmistakably reminds a modern reader about the green pigment chlorophyll, the basis of photosynthesis, which produces all food for virtually all living creatures on Earth (‘We brought forth out of it GREEN, from which We produce …’).
The rest of the verse continues with the description about the photosynthetic products of green.
This involves various fruits, their appearances and properties and the processes of fruition and ripening.
It is interesting to observe how the Quran precisely describes all different fruits and grains as the products of ‘GREEN’.
The Verse of ‘Green’ is better understood when read together with the Colour Verses (35:27-28; see We are called to observe the colours).
PRODUCTS OF ‘GREEN’
The main product of photosynthesis is GLUCOSE, which is the fundamental building block of all carbohydrates.
Thus all carbohydrates are eventually produced through photosynthesis. They include monosaccharides (glucose and fructose e.g. in ‘grapes’), disaccharides (sucrose in ‘dates … grapes … pomegranates’), starch (sugar polymer in ‘grain’) and cellulose (sugar polymer in ‘sheaths’).
The water-soluble sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose are used for immediate energy. The insoluble sugars like starches are stored (‘grain heaped up’) as tiny granules in various parts of the plant – chiefly the leaves, roots, and fruits – and can be broken down again when energy is needed. Cellulose is used to build the rigid cell walls representing the principal supporting structure of plants.
Photosynthesis manufactures, apart from carbohydrates – i.e. sugars, starches and cellulose – also acids (e.g. in ‘olives’ and unripe fruits: ‘deeply observe the… ripening!’) including amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and derive from the intermediate products of photosynthesis.
There is an emphasis in 6:99 on ‘green’ (‘khadir’), depicted as the fountain of an endless range of harvests.
This is in line with the constant call in chapter 6 (see Abraham’s observation of the Universe), as well as throughout the Quran, to observe the One in the Many (‘each alike yet unlike’).
The emphasis on green in 6:99 is elaborated by a rich description of multiple fruits and grains as the products of green. Rendered into modern scientific language, the verse also alludes to various carbohydrates (sugars) including monosaccharides, disaccharides, starch and cellulose.
Obviously, ‘green’ in this specific context concurs with our current understanding about chlorophyll, i.e. the green pigment in the plants, and its vital role in the process of photosynthesis, which is the basis of all life on Earth.
Then, importantly, we are called to reflect on the divine messages in ‘photosynthesis’, in this great miracle of nature (‘in all this there are messages …’). These messages are expounded throughout the Quran in many other places.
For instance, 36:77-82 describes the natural phenomenon of storage of solar energy in the form of fuel, via GREEN, and then its rebirth into activated life-forces and flames as a proof of God’s ability to resurrect the dead (see Every kindling of fire is a reminder!).
Thus the messages in ‘photosynthesis’ are not only about the unity in diversity (16:10-13) but also about God’s oneness and greatness and His infinite creative and re-creative power (17:44, 57:1, 36:77-82).