And in the earth are neighbouring tracts,
“And in the earth are neighbouring tracts, and gardens of grapes, and green crops, and date-palms, growing into two or three from a single stem, or otherwise, watered with the same water; yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Verily, in these things there are signs for the people who understand.”
(Ar-Ra‘d (The Thunder): 4)
By: Dr. / Zaghloul El-Naggar
This noble verse comes at the beginning of Surat Ar-Ra‘d (The Thunder), a chapter revealed in Makkah comprised of 43 verses after the basmallah (In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate). The reason for its name is the reference to thunder (a recurring meteorological phenomenon) as a way to glorify and praise Allah as Allah the Almighty says in Surat Al-Isrā’, what can be translated as, “The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving.”
(Surat Al-Isra' (The Journey by Night):44).
The main theme of Surat Ar-Ra‘d is the tenets of faith which include:
1) Belief in the Oneness of Allah the Almighty.
2) That He has no partner and no one could ever resemble Him.
3) That every description must befit His Glory and that servitude should be totally submitted to Him alone.
4) Belief in His angels and the Holy Scriptures and messengers.
5) Belief in the last revelation to the last of His Messengers (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon them all).
We must also believe, as it was mentioned in all religions, in the certainty of the Day of Resurrection and Judgment, and in heaven and hell. We must believe that the Holy Qur’an is integral and protected by Allah the Almighty against distortion. We must also follow the Sunnah (sayings, orders and actions) of the last of the Messengers, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
There are many verses in Surat Ar-Ra‘d that refer to a large number of scientific facts and phenomena in the universe. The following are some of these facts:
1. Raising the heavens with invisible pillars.
2. Subjecting the sun and the moon, each running its course for an appointed term.ž
3. Extending the earth (by making it round), and placing firm mountains and their relationship with forming rivers of flowing water.
4. Creating vegetables, fruits and everything else in pairs (of opposite gender or type).ž
5. The gradual alternation between day and night, which refers to the spherical shape of earth and it’s revolving on its axis relative to the sun.
6. Creating the earth’s crust in the form of neighboring plates, and making various different rocks within each plate due to difference in origin, and in geological and chemical characteristics. This results in different kinds of soil formed from rock decomposition (by weathering and erosion) and also results in the variability in their ability to act as a medium for vegetation under different environmental conditions (climatic and topographical).
7. Creating gardens of grape vines, and green fields, and date-palms, growing into two or three from a single trunk, or otherwise (one trunk for every palm), watered with the same water; yet Allah makes some of them more favored than others to eat. These facts clearly indicate the diversity of vegetable groups in the same soil, watered with the same water and under the same environmental conditions. It also implies the glory of the diversity of these neighboring sections of land that are different in their rocky and mineral content and encompass different environmental conditions. That diversity has led to different kinds of soil and agricultural environment. Moreover, the diversity of growing plants under the same conditions indicates Allah’s wonder in each plant sprout. Geneticists are beginning to discover these wonders by studying the genomes for each species. They are also investigating the variety in the genetic makeup that results from mating and how it leads to differences in taste, color, size and form of each plant.ž
8. Referring to the fact that human bodies decay into dust after death and to its resurrection from dust once again.
9. Referring to the fact that Allah the Almighty knows what every female bears, and by how much the wombs fall short (of their time or number) or exceed. Everything with Him is in due proportion.
10. Referring to the occurrence of thunder and lightning and their relation to clouds heavy with water.
11. Mentioning that everything in the heavens and the earth falls in prostration (submits) to Allah alone, willingly or unwillingly, as do their shadows in the mornings and in the afternoons.ž
12. The accurate scientific comparison between darkness and light
13. Sending down, by Allah’s Will and Power, water (rain) from the sky in due measure, and its flow in the valleys in due proportion.
14. Drawing an analogy between obvious Truth and the benefits for mankind that rests in the earth such as mineral deposits carried by floods; and between Falsehood and the foam that passes away as scum upon the shores or the slag that rises to the surface when precious minerals are melted to purify them from their impurities.ž
15. Mention of the reduction of the earth from its outlying borders and using that idea in figures of speech and metaphors.
16. Confirming that all Holy Scriptures, prior to the Prophet’s (PBUH) mission, mentioned the coming of the last of the Messengers (PBUH).
17. Underlining the value of the intellect and the obligation of using it sincerely and deeply to contemplate our souls and the universe so that we can understand the truth about our existence and our role in life.
“And in the earth are neighboring tracts, and gardens of grapes, and green crops, and date-palms, growing into two or three from a single trunk, or otherwise (one trunk for every palm), watered with the same water; yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Verily, in these things there are Ayāt (proofs, evidence, lessons, signs) for the people who understand.”
(Ar-Ra'd (The Thunder): 4).
Ibn Kathir (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “this means neighboring lands, although one may be good and grows what benefits people the other could be marshy and salty”. The above verse includes all different types of land: Lands that are red, white, yellow, and black, Lands that are hard and the others that are easy, Lands that are thick and others that are thin, and all could be next to one another. Only Allah has the Ability to make this possible, there is no Lord worthy of worship but Him. In the holy verse that can be translated as, “And in the earth are neighboring tracts, and gardens of grapes, and green crops, and date-palms”, green crops and date-palms could either be combined (conjugated) directly with "gardens of vines" and hence "gardens" would denote: gardens of vines, gardens of green crops and gardens of date-palms. Or it could be combined with "neighboring tracts" and in that case the elements stated by this verse to be "in the earth" are: neighboring tracts, gardens of vines, green crops and date palms. The word Sen’wan (growing into two or three from a single trunk) refers to branched trunks; and Gha’yr Sen’wan (only one trunk) refers to plants that have a trunk that is not branched. The verse that can be translated as, “watered with the same water; yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat.” shows the difference between the types of fruits and plants as regard to their forms, colors, taste, smell, leaves and flowers, although they all use and depend on the same water. All that represents proofs and evidences for the people who understand that Allah the Almighty created diversity among things according to His Will and that is why He says what can be translated as, “Verily, in these things there are signs for the people who understand.”
Following are some scientific facts from the noble verse:
First, “And in the earth are neighboring tracts.” This inimitable Qur’anic expression includes the following facts:
The earth’s crust consists of 12 large neighboring plates in addition to a number of smaller ones. They are separated by a huge network of rifts, the depth of which ranges between 65 and 150 km; their length reaches tens of thousands of kilometers. These plates surround the earth completely like a twisting single crack that scientists liken to the seams on a tennis ball.
1. Every plate in the crust has its own origin and consequently these plates differ in their rocky and mineral content and in their density and thickness.ž
2. Every plate in the crust consists of three main kinds of rocks which are: the igneous, the sedimentary and the metamorphic rocks along with their different combinations, which in turn form neighboring tracts in each plate of the crust. These differ in their natural and chemical properties, in their external appearances as well as in their forms on the surface.ž
3. The igneous rocks, for example, are divided into acidic, intermediate, basic and ultra-basic groups. In each group there are rocks that exist at profound depth, with high crystallization, and in which crystals reach great sizes (pegmatitic). There are also rocks, which exist in a medium depth from the earth’s surface and consequently their crystallization is medium as well as their crystals’ size (phaneritic). Also, there are the glassy volcanic rocks (meaning they lack crystallization) or are very low in crystallization (aphanitic). The same diversity applies for the sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Depending on the dominance of any of these rock types, in any part of the rocky cover, differences in the formed neighboring tracts for each of these plates will exist and consequently the same is true throughout the rocky surface of earth.ž
4. There is an apparent difference between the kinds of soil resulting from the erosion of each rock type, which is due to the difference between the rocks’ source and their chemical and mineral content, as well as the differences in environmental circumstances (climate, topography, existing forms of life, etc.). The soil covering each kind of formed rock, from each plate of earth’s covering, differs greatly from one spot to another, taking the form of neighboring tracts. Thus, it gives the land tremendous diversity in its natural and chemical attributes and in its arability.ž
So, the earth differs from once place to another based on differences between neighboring tracts, differences between the plates forming its rocky cover, differences in the kinds of rocks forming each one of those plates, and differences in the kinds of soil resulting from weathering and erosion of each type of rock. All this exists under many environmental circumstances, in different climatic regions and topographies, all the while supporting varied forms of life. Hence, these neighboring tracts vary widely in their arability and in their vegetation that produces different fruits. Research has showed us that every form of life lives in its own environment; and, accordingly, the earth’s cover consists of many domains and ecosystems, each of them distinguished by its geographical characteristics (topographies, climate, kinds of rocks and soils, and its related biological groups). For example, Allah the Almighty has granted some forms of life the ability to coexist with each other; a useful coexistence for the two kinds in order to live in a mutual symbiosis. This coexistence may be useful to only one of them, but at the same time it is not harmful to the other. If it is harmful to the host, we call this a parasitic relationship.
Every living organism has its own habitat, i.e. its location in a specific environmental region, with a specific ecosystem including kinds of rocks and soils, surface topographies, climate conditions, and kinds of coexisting living organisms with which they interact, affect and are themselves effected.
Ecosystems are differently distributed on the earth’s surface. They vary from tropical zones that are distinguished by high temperature and high humidity, to arctic regions characterized by their cold, dry environment, with moderate regions in between. They even vary in the same location between high summits, sloping hills and plains. On summits where height exceeds three thousand meters, life forms are reduced to some algae that grow on ice or pools resulting from molten ice. Tiny flowers spread between rock crevices grow between about 2500-3000 m. Alpine fir trees grow between about 2000-2500 m. Conifer forests grow between about 1500-2000 m. Deciduous forests grow between about 1000-2000 m. Below that, from a thousand meters above sea level, forests and different forms of vegetation spread over the land.
Many of these ecosystems overlap each other in a gradual manner, although some of these ecosystems reach distinct boundaries where the environment changes abruptly. Every ecosystem varies according to that gradual or abrupt change of climatic conditions or to human intervention, which leads to the change of the vegetation or its elimination, or according to animal migration or extinction. All this contributes to the diversity of neighboring tracts that differ in their geology and their physical and chemical attributes. They also differ according to their soils, their environmental conditions, the native life forms and the relative geologic age of the region. žSince these neighboring tracts are in a state of constant change, the noble Qur’anic verse referred to the term tracts as an indefinite noun (tracts) and not as a definite one (the tracts); it is indeed one of many fascinating flares of the verse.
Scientists did not recognize these facts until the last decades of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. The fact that they were mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in the beginning of the seventh century and revealed to an illiterate prophet (PBUH), in a nation that had an overwhelming majority of illiterates, proves without a doubt that the Holy Qur’an is truly the words of Allah, and asserts the Prophethood of the Last of the Messengers (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and Companions and those who followed his guidance and words until the Day of Judgment).ž