The existence of green plants is indispensable for the continuation of life, because they provide the balance required by oxygen, water, and nutrients. Other balances are also very important both for humanity and all other living things, for they control Earth's temperature and protect the balance of gasses in the atmosphere. Our Lord endowed Earth with millions of different plant species, each having its own colors and appearances. Besides their usefulness, plants also give comfort, joy, and pleasure to the human spirit. In this chapter, we will analyze the role of plants in creation, and how they are a great manifestation of His generosity toward humanity.
The fact that different plants sprout from the same soil is a blessing from Allah. For example, look at melons, kiwis, bananas, cherries, tomatoes, grapes, peaches, and beans. When you peel off a banana's dark yellow skin, a light colored and aromatic banana reveals itself. An apple's peel can be red, green, or yellow with a smooth glaze. Inside, the juice has its own particular taste and smell. So, we may ask ourselves, why do all flowers, trees, vegetables, and fruits have such different colors even though they all come from the same soil? This is proof of Allah's infinite knowledge and unique creation.
All colors that we produce are derived from colors in nature. Allah, Who creates from nothing, created all colors that complete every thing in the world. One of the names of Almighty Allah is the Al-Musawwa (The Shaper).
Allah clothes all plants with colors and attractive appearances so that they will appeal to the human spirit. Fruits, vegetables, trees, and flowers all have an incomparable variety of colors, esthetic appearance, marvelous patterns, and their own characteristics. For example, the purple-colored violet with its velvet-soft leaves is incomparable. Velvet cloth seeks to imitate its texture, but it can never possess the same quality. No matter what plant we consider, we must conclude that Allah created the best and most beautiful things for human beings.
This generosity is one of His countless graces to human beings, for there is no way that we could ever produce something that He has not created. He created all fruits with unimaginable beauty, taste, and colors, and then wrapped them in the most perfect manner and offered them to us. The different tastes of every fruit and vegetable were created to appeal to us and give us pleasure, for as our Creator, He knows what will give us the most pleasure. Whenever we see a cherry tree with its branches laden with fruit, or smell the aroma of a banana or a strawberry, or see hundreds of grapes growing on a dry branch, we will remember, hopefully, that Allah created them. Out of His generosity and love for humanity, He offers us the best and the most beautiful of everything.
He Who created the heavens and Earth and sends down water for you from the sky by which We make luxuriant gardens grow - you could never make their trees grow. Is there another deity besides Allah? (Surat an-Naml, 60)
Human beings cannot create such blessings. We can imitate them, but they will not awake in our spirits the deep amazement and excitement produced by the natural ones. For example, an artificial flower will never produce within us the same psychologically positive feelings as a flower growing in a garden does. Moreover, in His infinite generosity, Allah has offered all of these blessings to us and has spread them throughout the world. Their amazing richness and variety awaken immense pleasure in human beings. Indeed, we are indebted to Allah for all of these pleasant and beautiful things that move the human spirit. Apart from His will and mercy, we could not attain even one of these blessings:
He Who created the heavens and Earth and sends down water for you from the sky by which We make luxuriant gardens grow - you could never make their trees grow. Is there another deity besides Allah? (Surat an-Naml, 60)
Scientists could never make a tree grow nor create a majestic plane tree, a palm tree, a pine tree with its musky smell, or a willow tree with its hanging branches. A human being has neither the strength nor the lifespan to create a tree. But everywhere we go, we see majestic trees, each with its own particular beauty. Some are laden with fruit, and some are remarkably beautiful. Allah created them from nothing, for He created all beauty and every blessing to please human beings.
A very small seed planted in the ground will eventually bring forth a huge tree that will grow 4-5 meters (13-16 feet) high and weigh hundreds of kilos (pounds). In the first stages, its extra internal nutrients are essential; later on, more essential nutrients come from the soil and the sunlight. For example, an apple seed produces a well-designed tree that has its own transport system and roots that process materials in the soil. An intelligent creature, such as a human being, would find it hard even to draw a tree, and even harder to draw its roots and branches. But a seed produces this highly complex living thing, including all its systems, even though it has no independent intelligence, consciousness, or will. So, we cannot say that the seed is responsible for the tree. In reality, each seed contains a high intelligence and all-embracing knowledge given to it by Allah, Who is the only possessor of such knowledge and power.
Those who consider seeds to be no more than insignificant objects might think that they are something like fruit pits or twigs. Plant each of these and see what happens. Only the seeds, provided that their needs are met, will sprout and produce a variety of plants. What makes them different from a splinter of wood? For one thing, seeds contain information about every branch and stem of the plant species to which they belong. They know about every leaf, their number and shapes, their thickness and what color their bark or covering will be; their width and the number of capillaries that will carry nutrients and water, their height and whether they will produce fruit or not; and how the fruit will taste and smell, what shape and color it will have, and everything else.
Allah creates many plants with various benefits from seeds that look alike. Information relevant to every plant is contained in its seed.
If we saw seeds for the first time and knew nothing about them or what they were good for, how could we imagine that all plants and trees come from them? Could we ever imagine that the countless musky smelling flowers or pleasant smelling fruits of various shapes and colors could come from what looks like a splinter of dry wood? We are amazed that these little seeds bring forth an infinite number of fruits and vegetables, flowers and trees, all of which benefit us. It is beyond belief that for millions of years, seeds have used their stored knowledge to produce the same item each time, without ever making a mistake. Clearly Allah, Who stores so much incomparable information in a dry splinter of wood and brings forth from it sweet-smelling plants with delicious tastes, is extremely generous.
Everything in the heavens, everything on Earth, everything in between them, and everything under the ground belongs to Him. (Surah Ta Ha, 6)
The main source of energy on Earth is the Sun. However, human beings and animals cannot use this energy directly, because they do not have the necessary systems to use this energy as it is, and so must depend upon the nutrients produced by plants. All of the energy that these raw materials provide to our cells are actually the Sun's energy given to us by plants. For example, when we sip tea or eat some bread, we acquire a bit of the Sun's energy. The strength in our muscles is just another form of this energy. By performing complex operations on this energy, plants store molecules inside themselves for both human beings and animals. They eat plants, which become their energy packages of stored energy from the Sun. Plants produce their own nutrients and, unlike the cells in human beings and animals, can use the Sun's energy directly. Thus, each plant's cells transform this energy into energy that human beings and animals can acquire by eating them.
A process known as photosynthesis enables plants to produce nutrients using the Sun's energy. Herbivorous animals receive the Sun's energy by eating plants, carnivorous animals receive it by eating herbivores, and we receive it by eating both plants and animals. And so Photosynthesis has another important consequence: Along with glucose it also releases six oxygen molecules, a process that allows plants to purify the atmosphere that is continually polluted by people and animals. People and animals, who obtain energy by burning oxygen in the atmosphere, reduce the amount of oxygen available just by breathing. Photosynthesis replaces this lost oxygen and makes it possible for life to continue.
Photosynthesis is an extremely important process, one characterized by a perfect balance between the energy consumed by plants and animals. Plants give us glucose and oxygen, both of which we combine and burn it in our cells. In this way, the Sun's energy that plants have added to the glucose is released for our use. What we do is actually the reverse of photosynthesis: Carbon dioxide from our lungs is released into the atmosphere and is immediately used by plants for photosynthesis. This amazing process, which we take for granted if we ever think about it at all, is also automatic. Could trees and flowers have created such a process, which is still not fully understood, on their own? Could plants have designed the mechanism that formed the special root system that extracts the materials needed for photosynthesis from the soil, or a transport system with different kinds of channels to transport nutrients and water? We could multiply these questions, but every answer would point to the same thing: Every aspect of a plant has a different beauty.
Such characteristics require intelligence, knowledge, the abilities to measure and evaluate--none of which plants have. In the absence of such abilities and awareness, we must conclude that all plants are the creations of Allah, Who has supreme intelligence, sustains His creations, and fulfills all of their needs. He plans, considers, and calculates everything flawlessly for the sake of our good, comfort, health, and, most importantly, life.
He sends down water from the sky from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots... (Surat al-An'am, 99)
Human beings and animals use nutrients produced by plants to obtain the energy they need to survive. In fact, plants were created to benefit all creatures, but especially people. Let's consider our environment and what we eat. For example, a melon: This watery fruit grows from the dry soil during the summer. Think about its nice, clean, and delicious smell. Those who produce artificial aromas expend great effort to control the process and make the same smell last. But no control is needed to get the aroma of a fruit to last. Besides this, every fruit has components relative to its season. For example, such winter fruits as oranges and tangerines are loaded with vitamin C and energy. Vegetables contain all the vitamins and minerals that living things need. Photosynthesis enables the delicate roots of fruits and vegetables to extract chemicals from the dark soil, which become extremely beneficial nutrients. Since this is true of every plant, we can understand that all plants have been specially created and designed for human beings and animals. Allah, the Lord of the universe, created food for every creature and bestowed various tastes, aromas, and benefits upon them. This is proof of His goodness and abundant generosity:
... and also the things of varying colors He has created for you in the soil. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who pay heed. (Surat an-Nahl, 13)
Among the most amazing characteristics of all fruits are their total compatibility with human taste and its health benefits. Each fruit has its own delicious taste and aroma, both of which are derived from materials they obtain from the soil. But soil does not smell so good and tastes bad. A tree takes what it needs from this mass of mud, puts them through a chemical process, and creates wonderful tastes and aromas. However, we must realize that goodness of taste and smell is a human idea, as is a person's sense of pleasure and that both of these are, of course, unknown to trees. If a tree were to fulfill these functions without being inspired by Allah, it would have to learn why we take pleasure from delicious tastes and what tastes we like, and then devise and implement a chemical process to carry out this job with materials gathered from the soil.
...And We send down water from the sky and make every generous species grow in it. (Surah Luqman, 10)
The incredible ability of a tree is not limited to smell, taste, and color. This wooden structure knows what vitamins we need, puts them inside its fruit, and even adds the needed vitamins according to the season. Such winter fruits as oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits are richer in vitamin C than summer fruits, so that they can protect people against the cold. How and why do these things occur? How can a piece of wood like a tree produce good tastes and aromas? How can it know what pleases people, meet their esthetical sense, supply the necessary vitamins, and produce something on the basis of these requirements? If we try to make with our own hands what a tree produces, we would become engaged in an unending effort. First of all, a machine to obtain fruit from the soil has not even been invented yet. We can produce aromas, but only after lengthy procedures in a laboratory.
However, the resulting perfumes are not totally artificial, for all of them contain various fine aromas that come from plant essences. In short, human technology remains unable to produce the fine and beautiful scents of plants and trees. There is only one explanation for this amazing situation: Tree and plants have been created by Almighty Allah Who, with His sublime intelligence and infinite knowledge, brings out of the dark, malodorous soil the most delicious and wonderfully scented foods. In the Qur'an, Allah says:
A Sign for them is the dead land that We bring to life and from which We bring forth grain of which they eat. We place in it gardens of dates and grapes, and cause springs to gush out in it, so they may eat its fruits - they did not do it themselves. So will they not be thankful? (Surah Ya-Sin: 33-35)
The color of a red rose, every curl of its leaves, the softness of its petals, its velvety structure, and its scent are all bits of information. And what brings forth sweet and watery grapes on a dry vine is the bits of information hidden in the seeds' nucleus that makes a grape's skin different from the shell of a hazel nut; gives to each its color, taste, smell, and their vitamins; and determines that one is watery and the other is dry. Since fruits first appeared, this knowledge has existed in every seed.
Now, who puts this information in the seed? From what we have learned above, only Allah, the Creator of all, could have done such a marvelous thing. The various characteristics of seeds, together with the amazing information they contain, are examples for believers of Allah's incomparable creative artistry and are displayed to bring them closer to Allah and follow His path more carefully. The infinite amount information placed in tiny seeds and the resulting varied incomparable plants that come from them show us once again His almighty power. He tells us of this truth in the Qur'an;
Allah splits the seed and kernel. He brings forth the living from the dead, and produces the dead out of the living. That is Allah, so how are you led astray? (Surat al-An'am, 95)
Do you not see that Allah sends down water from the sky and by it We bring forth fruits of varying colors? (Surah Fatir, 27)
All of these miraculous events and wonders, both hidden and visible, have been given to us as blessings. We cannot make even one grape or the color of one flower, for we need Him in everything. He needs nothing, and yet is infinitely generous, merciful, and gracious to all of creation. In His sublime artistry, Allah created these blessings with their complex, miraculous systems so that we might come to know Him.
The proofs created in fruits are great blessings from Allah. For example, a melon's spongy cells can carry a large amount of water, which they spread equally throughout the fruit. If we think of gravity, this water should collect at the bottom and the upper area should be dry. But due to this even distribution, a melon's sugar, taste, and aroma are also spread evenly. All of this is due to the information encoded within every seed, which is covered with a special, protective case that has just the right amount of flexibility to prevent any damage to the seed. Under the case is another layer that connects the upper and lower parts that hold the seed together. As a result, a seed opens as soon as the appropriate level of heat and moisture is reached. Within a short time, the smooth white section within the seed produces green sprouts.
Consider the structure of a melon's shell. Its cells produce the melon's smooth waxy appearance by secreting the same amount of a waxy material. And what makes the melon smooth and round is its cells' perfect arrangement, all of which must know where they have to go to make the melon smooth and perfectly round. Clearly, a melon's cells work in flawless harmony with each other, just as they do in plants. We would come to the conclusion that plants have been specially created for human beings and all other creatures. Allah, the Lord of the universe, has created food for every creature and has made every kind of food with its different tastes, aromas, benefits:
And also the things of varying colors He has created for you in the soil. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who pay heed. (Surat an-Nahl, 13)
... and soaring date-palms with layered spathes, as provision for Our servants; by it We brought a dead land to life. Thus will the Resurrection be. (Surah Qaf, 10-11)
This is Allah's creation. Show me, then, what those besides Him have created. The wrongdoers are clearly misguided. (Surah Luqman, 11)
The ability of ivy to climb along a branch or another object is something that people should think about. If we filmed its growth and then watched it in fast motion, we might think that ivy had some sort of conscious awareness. It pushes itself forward along a branch as if it knew there was a branch there, and attaches itself to it as if it were throwing a lasso. Sometimes it even anchors itself as it advances. In this way it moves quickly and, when it comes to the branch's end, turns around or finds a new path downwards. Believers who witness this see once again that Allah created every living thing with its own flawless systems. If we continued to observe its movement, we would notice another important characteristic: It sprouts tentacles along its sides, which allow it to cling strongly to a wall. The resulting adhesive is so strong that if it were removed from any surface, it would pull some of the paint off as well. Who else could have created such an amazing phenomenon other than Allah, Who created them out of His mercy?
Plants do not only provide water and put oxygen into the air; in addition, their leaves act as highly developed cleansing and purifying devices. The cleaning devices that we use are developed and produced by scientists after a great deal of labor, effort, and expense. These machines need a lot of care and technical support both during and after use, all of which require technicians, additional machines, and spare parts. The waste material that they produce is another problem. All these explained here in fact covers only the brief summary of what actually happens in cleaning devices. However, plants do the same work as these machines, and yet need only water and sunlight to function. Moreover, they do the tasks without fail, the quality of their work is guaranteed, and the waste they produce after cleansing the air is oxygen, the most basic need of all living creatures.
So eat from what Allah has provided for you, lawful and good... (Surat an-Nahl, 114)
Allah gives food to His servants at no cost and creates various blessings for their benefit: "Truly Allah, He is the Provider, the Possessor of Strength, the Sure" (Surat adh-Dhariyat, 58). Allah is very compassionate toward all people, as we can clearly see through all of the blessings that He has given us. Sometimes the soil brings forth green plants and spikes of grain in the absence of any cultivation; other times it brings forth yellow, red, green, and orange fruits and vegetables. The blue sea is filled with thousands of different kinds of delicious fish. Besides all of these things, He has given us the meat of animals and birds to eat. He makes animals produce clean milk and causes bees to make honey. But the Qur'an tells us that, if He willed, the land would not bring forth its products, rain would not fall, and everything would be dry and barren: "Who is there who could provide for you if He withholds His provision?" (Surat al-Mulk, 21). But Allah is the All-Merciful and Most Merciful, and the kinds of food He gives to us are infinite. The Qur'an tells us that Allah gives countless blessings to His servants:
O humanity! Remember Allah's blessing to you. Is there any creator other than Allah providing for you from heaven and Earth? There is no deity but Him. So, how have you been led astray? (Surah Fatir, 3)