In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
He has created the skies without any support that you can see, and has placed firm mountains on earth, lest it sway with you, and has scattered through it all manner of living creatures. We send down water from the skies to cause every kind of goodly plant to grow on earth in pairs. This is all God’s creation. Show me, then, what others might have created! Surely, the wrongdoers are in obvious error. (Luqman: 31: 10-11)
The surah describes the Qur’an as a book that is full of wisdom. It certainly reflects the wisdom of its author, God Almighty. His wisdom can easily be seen in everything He has created. The present verses speak of the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in these, we behold a great many aspects of divine wisdom.
If we take the term “skies” at its apparent meaning, without going into complex scientific research, we see how awesome, expansive and sublime they are. Whether the reference here is to planets, stars, galaxies or other celestial bodies that move in the space whose nature and extent are known only to God, or to this blue dome which we see with our eyes but no one knows what exactly it is, the fact remains that there are huge, majestic bodies that are elevated without supporting pillars. People see them with their eyes, wherever they look during the night or day and wherever they travel on earth. To contemplate the sky with our naked eyes, even though we cannot comprehend its great dimensions, is sufficient to send a shudder through our whole beings. We see a great, endless expanse without limits, but we also see a fine and beautiful system that holds all these creatures in such perfect harmony. Neither our eyes nor our hearts ever tire of contemplating such majesty. Indeed, this beauty is so captivating that all our feelings are absorbed. What does man say when he realizes that each little dot of light moving in this great expanse may be millions of times bigger than the earth he lives on?
This reference to the limitless space, ‘He has created the skies without any supports that you can see,’ is made quickly and briefly, before we are returned straight to earth which is no more than a tiny particle when compared to the great universal expanse. Yet man sees the earth as huge indeed: no man can traverse it all, even though he spends his life in continuous travel. Thus, the surah returns us to earth so we contemplate it with open minds, and without the effects of familiarity that cloud our vision: “and has placed firm mountains on earth, lest it sway with you.”
Geologists say that mountains are undulations of the face of the earth resulting from underground pockets of coolness where gases get frozen and reduce in size. Thus the surface of the earth shrinks and becomes wrinkled allowing elevations and falls to take place in proportion to underground reductions in size. This may or may not be true, but God’s book clearly states that these mountains stabilize the earth so that it does not sway. Thus, the rise of a mountain in one place balances shrinkage in another. However, God’s word remains supreme. He is indeed the One who always states the truth.
God “has scattered through it all manner of living creatures.” This is one of the great wonders of existence. Up to the present day, no one can claim to have fathomed the secret of the presence of life on earth. This applies to life in its simplest, one-cell form. How then can we fathom the greater secret that causes life to become more varied and complex, giving rise to countless species, types and kinds of creatures? Yet most people choose to pass by such great wonders with their eyes and minds closed, just as they pass by something very ordinary that does not deserve a second look. These very people stand amazed as they look at a man-made machine which is very simple when compared to a single living cell and its accurately regulated behavior. We need not compare such machines to more sophisticated living creatures, let alone to the human body which contains hundreds of chemical laboratories, storehouses, distribution centers, wireless stations that receive and transmit messages, as well as hundreds of other complicated functions, the secrets of which are known only to God.
“We send down water from the skies to cause every kind of goodly plant to grow on earth in pairs.” Sending rain down from the sky is yet another universal wonder which we take for granted, oblivious to what is involved. The water that runs in rivers, fills up lakes, or bursts out in springs comes from the sky according to a carefully planned system that, in turn, is linked to the regulation of the heavens and the earth, their relative distances, natures and formations. The growing of plants after rain has fallen is another wonder that remains infinitely amazing. It reflects several miracles, including those of the springing up of life, its diversity, and the hereditary genes within a small seed allowing replication of all types of flora. To study the color diversity in one flower of a single plant leads an open heart to reflection on life and its profound secrets, and hence to genuine belief in God, the Originator of life.
The surah makes clear that God has caused plants to grow in pairs, which is a fascinating fact that scientific research has only recently discovered. All plants have male and female cells, which may combine within the same flower, or in two flowers in the same little branch, or in two branches or trees. No fruit can be produced unless pollination takes place between the two types, just as happens in animal and human life.
That these plants and their pairs are described as ‘goodly,’ imparts a significant feeling, making it suited as God’s creation. Hence, it is raised in front of our eyes: “This is all God’s creation.” (Verse 11) And a challenge follows: “Show me, then, what others might have created.” (Verse 11) Then follows the comment: “Surely, the wrongdoers are in obvious error.” (Verse 11) What could be worse than wrongdoing and the error of associating partners with God when looking at God’s great and universal creation?