While reading the Surah Rehman or the chapter of the Most Gracious in Quran, it appears that there are over 30 references to different fields of arts, science, morals, ethics and many other areas. The purpose of writing this article is to share my reflection on some of the verses and what reading those verses made me think of. Things that I have read in science, places that I have visited in my life and general day to day experiences with people, this chapter seemed to connect many things together. When I think about the Quran revelation occurred more than 14 centuries ago, reading these verses really amazed me. In no way I am trying to claim or prove the verses in the light of science, therefore this article is purely my reflection.
1.Psychology; Positive behaviour support and Science of gratitude:
The very first verse talks about God/Allah being the Most Merciful. If we think about the qualities that come to our mind when we think about the word “mercy”, we can think about kindness, helping others, uses kind words, does not harm and hurt others, understands others, empathetic and forgiving. These are some of the characteristics that we use in Positive Behaviour Support.
In the subsequent verses, God asks man repeatedly that how many of His favours would you both deny? There are two behaviours that can be explained using this verse. One is that when we are happy, contented and satisfied in our lives, we often become more self entered and less empathetic as observed and explained in the study . Considering that Allah is giving references to the blessings He Has given and provided, this verse points out the common behaviour that people adapt when they are leading a good and fulfilled life.
The other behaviour that this verse can help us develop and understand is to be thankful and grateful for all the things that we have in our lives. The science of gratitude which is extensively expanding these days has found that developing an attitude of thankfulness has many benefits. According to the Time magazine, some of these benefits are becoming more patient, ability to make better decisions, improved relationships, less tendency to develop depression, improved sleep, lesser chances of over eating and more self care . When we develop attitude of gratitude, we are more likely to live a balanced and stable life, as we remain humble, do not overspend, stay focused on our priorities and goals and stay optimistic etc.
2. Pedagogy; Teaching and learning:
The second verse that Allah taught Quran to mankind highlights the discipline of teaching. This verse made me think of the factors involved in teaching and acquisition of the knowledge. As the above verse highlighted God’s merciness, if we just take the attribute of mercifulness into account in reference to teaching, we will agree that it is utmost important that our teacher/ instructor is kind towards us, s/he does not give up on us especially if the content is difficult, adapts multiple ways of teaching the content based on the learner’s style of learning, gives examples to make things simpler and understandable etc. From the learner’s perspective, the ability to understand what is being taught, pay attention, having good memory and retrieval as needed, ability to analyse and integrate knowledge together. Obviously there are many other factors involved that determine the quality of teaching, the above mentioned are just few of the whole.
3. Embryology and the creation of man:
The third verse points out to the creation/formation of human beings. In the verse 55:14 there is reference to the creation of human being out of the “mineral soil”. Visiting Gravity Centre in Gingin, Western Australia and looking at this picture made me think if the word “soil” may mean the same concept as highlighted in the picture.
4. Speech and language pathology:
As a Speech pathologist, I was most impressed by this verse where God says that He taught man to speak (55:4). Today there are a lot of people with communication difficulties and the profession of Speech Pathology is widely researched and developed to provide therapeutic options to people with communication limitations. The fact that language acquisition is acquired (i.e. children raised in isolation do not learn any words) really amazed me that the verse points out exactly to this process of language learning.
5. Astronomy; movements of the sun and the moon:
The verse 55:5 talks about the motion of the sun and the moon on their fixed courses calculated with stages. Reading it made me think of the possible reference to the field of Astronomy. Back in the day when no telescopes or space missions were sent, a layman could have thought that the sun and the moon move in the sky but the reference to the fixed course made me think if it refer to the orbits or orbital rotation.
Sun is made of plasma and gas. Due to this fact, the sun is able to complete it’s rotation once every 25 days at it’s equator and almost 35 days near it’s poles. It is also speculated that the inner surface of the sun is possibly solid and may have a different rotational movement. The sun also orbits the centre of the galaxy almost every 226 million years.
Similarly the moon has a rotational pattern as well. It takes almost 27 days for the moon to complete it’s one rotation around the earth and itself.
6. Atmospheric science; formation of atmosphere:
In the verse (55:7) Allah says that He raised the sky (atmosphere). We know that atmosphere is composed of many gases mainly Hydrogen and Helium. The theories about the formation of the atmosphere say that the Hydrogen and Helium molecules moved away from earth very quickly, thereby escaping from the effect of the gravity and drifting off into space. If the Hydrogen and Helium had not escaped and risen up, our earth would have been very hot and the atmosphere may have been unable to sustain life. For example Venus’ atmosphere is very dense, whereas the atmosphere of Mars is not dense enough, both of which currently cannot sustain life.
7. Law, justice, equality of rights for everyone:
The verses (55:7, 55:8 and 55:9) explain that God Has set up the balance and instructed everyone not to transgress the balance. A lot of conflicts arise when people feel that they are deprived of their rights or the justice is not served. A Guardian article states that inequality is the biggest threat to the world. Another study focusing on conflicts in Africa found that major root causes of the conflict can be tracked to political, economic, and social inequalities.The societies where the justice and law are upheld ensure that people can live peacefully and as a result, the whole society prospers and progresses.
8. Ethics; business ethics, corruption, auditing, quality control:
Today we are focusing more on more ethics and business ethics or corporate ethics is a separate branch of ethics. The verse 55:9 highlights the principles of ethical dealings by stating that do not change the measurements, quality, quantity etc (i.e. corruption) and be just in your dealings. The quality control is considered one of the hallmarks of any product/service/industry.
Every year various organisations and departments conduct audits to ensure that they are doing their job ethically. The fact that this verse comes immediately after the verse instructing not to disrupt the balance, seems to highlight that law, justice, equality, ethics and freedom from corruption are all inter-related. It is no wonder that the countries which have better law system also have lesser corruption.
The reference in 55:10 that the earth was laid out may refer to the layers of the earth. When studying about the earth’s layers formation process, it appears that the surface of the earth possibly remelted several times most likely by the impacts of large asteroids. This was then followed by cooling and differentiation of the layers of earth If we look at the timeline of fossils deposited inside the earth, it appears like this :
(Image courtesy: Prehistoric planet)
10. Pomology and botany, nutrition and health:
The verses 55:11-12 talk about the fruits (pomology) and flowers (botany). There is specifically reference to the date fruit which is considered as a “complete diet” as it contains carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, fatty acids, amino acids and steroidal substances. The dates contain antioxidants (protection against cancer and inflammation) Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium (useful for bone health thereby offering protection against osteoporosis) as well also possess antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Dates are also helpful during pregnancy and have been found to decrease labour time as well as have low glycemic index which may imply that they may help with blood sugar management.
11. Cardinal directions, maps, poles, weather, sunset, sunrise:
Initially the reference to the 2 Easts (2 sunrises in some translations) and 2 Wests (2 sunsets in some translations) in verse seemed to refer to the 4 cardinal directions i.e. North, East, South and West. Interestingly the statement that sun rises in the east and sets in the west is only partially true as it happens only on 2 days of the year. For the rest of the 363 days, the sun will rise either north or south of true east and will set north or south of true west. Therefore the sunrise and sunset’s locations change in reference to the cardinal directions based on the weather.
12. Oceanography, water density and gemmology:
The verses 19-22 talk about two seas which flow together but do not mix with each other. There are several places in the world where 2 different seas or rivers may flow together but may appear to be separated. As far as my own knowledge of science goes, the waters that flow together and do not mix with each other could be explained due to differences in the water density and temperature. Scientifically total separation between the two waters does not occur, however because the surface area of the oceans or seas is so large, the mixing of different waters will be very minimal. There is also reference to the corals and pearls found in the ocean.
13. Physics of the sea; Archimedes’ buoyancy principle and application in geology:
The verse 24 talks about the ships movement in water. Reading the verse immediately made me think of the Archimedes’ buoyancy principle. According to Archimedes’ buoyancy principle if the upward force or buoyant force (e.g. exerted by water) is greater than the applied force (e.g. exerted by the ship on the water), the object (e.g. the ship) will not sink. What is interesting is that the similarity is drawn between ship and the mountain. The mountains have buoyant roots extending into underlying mantle. When the mountain top gets eroded, the buoyant roots can rebound the amount proportional to the difference of density between the mountain roots and the earth’s mantle. Because of this reason, the lifespan of mountains span over millions of years.
Another reason of similarity drawn between the ship and the mountain could be to highlight that just like ships, mountains also extend underneath the surface.
In the verse 26 Allah says that all forms of life on earth will eventually perish. There has been a lot of research and studies done to prevent ageing and death. One of the issues is that if we prevent ageing, chances are that the damaged cells in our body may survive which may mean that we will get other forms of diseases. The ability of our DNA to repair cells decline with age and hence we are limited to a particular lifespan.
The verse 29 states that whosoever is in earth and skies asks from God. Could it imply life on other planets? On a recent visit to Perth observatory, we were told about the water showers from Enceladus; one of the moons of the Saturn.
It is thought that all the ingredients needed for life to sustain are present at Enceladus. Listening to the presentation at Perth observatory and reading more about Enceladus made me wonder if the verse refers to Astrobiology?
16. Shape/structure of universe:
In the verse 33 the mankind and jinn are challenged to escape from the confines of the earth and the heavens, could this possibly refer to the shape of the universe or the presence of living conditions to a confinement. Because of the constant expansion of our universe, it appears that we cannot escape out of it.
17. Fire dynamics, chemistry of gases, flaming and smouldering:
There are two different types of flames mentioned in the verse 35; smokeless flames (produced by burning Hydrogen gas) and flame-less smoke (smouldering). When considered from a health perspective, both have different effects.
18. Physical cosmology:
The verse 37 talks about the end of the universe and the skies turning rose coloured. The verse also mentions that it will look like oil. It is speculated that sun will use all it’s Hydrogen and will switch to Helium as a source of energy, which will cause the sun to become red giant . Helium in the plasma has a reddish-violet glow .
At the Gravity Centre, reading the info and looking at more pictures made me think of this verse.
19. Face recognition (Physiognomy) based on characteristics:
The verse 41 describes that the sinners will be recognised by their appearance. Reading the verse in the age where thumb impressions, facial recognition are used to identify people, as well as used for login into computers/phone seemed quite relevant. In Greek civilisation, face reading was practised widely. Although physiognomy is now considered as a pseudoscience, the facial recognition through artificial intelligence has revived interest in face recognition. Some studies have found that it might be possible to predict the personality traits based on facial features.
20. Accountability and conscience:
The verse 55:46 points to the concept of accountability. As a famous English saying goes that character is what you’re in the dark. Anyone can pretend to be a good and nice person in front of people, but if they are a different person when no one is around, then they are leading a fake life. They are even lying to themselves. But a person with good conscience is likely to think before their actions, and less likely to lead totally different lives in public and privately.
Finally the verse 60 points to the principle of doing good, which we commonly know as “do good, have good”. Reading the verse made me think of the concept of karma.
These were my reflections. If you have any feedback, please use the comments section.
Written by Muhammad Wasif Haq (2018)
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