Humans are a special creation of Allah. They are the only creation which can make the best use of their natural environment. They are physically and mentally designed to observe, comprehend, imitate, innovate, retain, and communicate in a manner which no other creature can. They are designed so because unlike other living creatures they are the ones who need to learn everything from birth. Born with the sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing, and a productive mind, they are the best explorers of the universe.
Allah brought you out of your mothers’ womb, not knowing anything; and He gave you the hearing, and the eyesight, and the brains; that you may give thanks (16: 78)
To survive and make adjustment with the physical environment, humans need to learn several skills. The presence of a trainer and an environment full of resources are basic requirements of learning any skill. Allah is very kind to humans; to make their life easy and comfortable He provides all kinds of support in the form of trainers, material, and suggestive ideas. They all help them in learning different kinds of skills and making all kinds of inventions. Allah has purposely set up the environment in a way so that humans can attain the maximum benefits out of it [and be grateful to Him].
We have honored the Children of Adam, and carried them on land and sea, and provided them with good things, and greatly favored them over many of those We created (17: 70)
And He placed at your service whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth – all is from Him. In that are signs for a people who think (45: 13)
It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and sent down rain from the sky and produced thereby some fruits as provision for you and subjected for you the ships to sail through the sea by His command and subjected for you the rivers. And He subjected for you the sun and the moon, continuous [in orbit], and subjected for you the night and the day (14: 32-33)
And [He has subjected] whatever He multiplied [plants and animals] for you on the earth of varying colors. Indeed, in that is a sign for a people who remember (16: 13)
And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them…………… (14: 34)
The history of human learning begins from the caves. Ancient humans learned from many birds and animals that the caves were secure natural places to live. These caves kept them protected from the harsh weathers and the brutal attacks of the animals. Humans also learned that such shelters or hideouts could be created artificially when they observed burrows and dens of different animals. As humans were yet to learn that how to make tools for digging or excavation, so initially they relied on natural caves; a favor from Allah.
And Allah has made for you shade of what He has created, and has given you resorts in the mountains………… (16: 81)
In the beginning, there was nothing except natural objects. So everything on and above the earth was an object of attraction and curiosity for mankind. Animals, birds and insects were the center of attention because they were the only moving and sound producing objects that could stimulate the senses and draw the attention of humans. Humans, by utilizing their natural tools [sense organs as eyes, ears etc.] and natural skills of observation and imitation, learned a lot from these skillful trainers and companions of the earth.
………………….. “O people, we were taught the language of birds, and we were given from everything. This is indeed a real blessing [favor].” (16: 16)
By observing the structure and mechanism of beaks, teeth, nails, bones; and jaws, claws/paws; limbs, wings and even tails of different birds, animals and insects, humans learned that these are actually tools to bring ease in different kinds of activities. Thus humans started keeping these remains of dead birds and animals to use them as their tools.
By observing birds and insects, making their nests and hives, humans realized that they can also build their houses according to their needs. They took the concept of construction from observing the nests, the hives,and the mounds. Termites, wasps, ants, and many of the birds use mud to build their nests; it gave humans an idea that construction of their houses can be done with mud. Even the idea of multistory houses came from observing the mounds of the termites and multilayered nests of different birds.
By observing the nests of birds, humans learned how to utilize twigs, branches, leaves and other soft materials like feathers and fur, for different purposes. They also learned [from weaver and tailor birds] how to weave, sew and tie that material together. By accomplishing these techniques humans learned how to make different things by weaving, sewing, and tying together different materials available in their physical environment.
Humans also learned some other useful techniques like swimming, hunting and climbing [a tree or a mountain] from these trainers. By observing a spider that uses its web-line for ascending and descending, humans learned that long and flexible hanging-shoots of trees can be used for this purpose. They also learned how to sway or suspend on these rope-like hanging-shoots. Later they learned how to make rope and how it can be used for multiple purposes. Humans learned wood carvings from carpenter-ants. By observing chameleons and some other animals and insects that can change the pattern of their skin to blend with their surroundings, humans also learned how to camouflage or conceal oneself from the enemy. The idea of a storage of food is imitated from different insects, squirrels and acorn woodpeckers. Collective behavior, like migration, is adopted from different migratory animals and birds. The concept of community living is also picked up from these creatures. Town planning and collective labor is copied from ants and termites.
A random look at history shows that every era of human development is full of these imitations. The techniques for building a dam were learned from the beavers. The technique for turning a wood into paper was adopted from the wasps. The concept of chemical spray or use of chemical weapons also came from the insects [e.g. Bombardier beetle] that spray/spit poisonous substance from their bodies on the enemy as a defense mechanism. The radar system and scanners were developed on the same principles that a bat uses to see the echo. Even the technology that can jam the ultrasonic signals is copied from a Tiger/Hawk moth.
It was not only the behavior or skills of these earth-fellows which were imitated but their anatomy and structure was also taken as a guideline by the human learners. From an elephant and a giraffe, humans got the concept of a crane. The idea of an armor was adopted from a turtle. By observing the structure and mechanism of the sting of an insect or the fang of a snake, humans learned how to make a syringe.
Even the physiology of these creatures benefited the humankind revealing that they have the same body organs as that of the humans: brain, heart, lungs, and muscles etc. Hence it was easy to do experiments on these creatures for the sake of bringing perfection in surgical techniques including transplants and blood transfusions. Animals suffer from similar diseases as that of humans, including ulcers, cancer, asthma, tuberculosis, leprosy, flu and different kinds of infections etc. Effects of medicines are similar in both kinds. This is why new medicines are tried upon these fellows. If their physiology were different than that of the humans, then how could humans have perfected their knowledge?
There is no animal on land, or a bird flying, with its wings, but are communities like you. ……………….(6: 38)
Birds and animals are also a good source of different materials like hides, wool, feathers, bones etc. All of them can be used for different purposes.
And Allah has made for you from your homes a place of rest and made for you from hides of the animals tents which you find light on your day of travel and your day of encampment; and from their wool, fur and hair is furnishing and enjoyment for a time (16: 80)
The hydrodynamic shape equates the buoyant force which enables a fish to move in the water. Fish uses its fins as propellers. Such observations helped humans in the invention of a submarine. There would be no desire to fly in the air and no aircrafts if there were no flying creatures in our environment. Humans would have no knowledge of aerodynamics if these creatures were not a part of our environment.
Have they not seen the birds above them, spreading their wings, and folding them? None holds them except the Compassionate. He is Perceiver of everything (67: 19)
Most of the birds catch their prey from the land and water by identifying them from above the sky; aerial view gives more details of the ground. Even the concept of ‘air strike’ came from the birds.
Have you not considered how your Rubb dealt with the People of the Elephant? Did He not make their plan go wrong? He sent against them swarms of birds. Throwing at them rocks of baked clay. Leaving them like chewed-up leaves (105: 1-5)
It is not only living creatures which Allah has purposely created for humans, but also, it is all the materials humans can use to benefit themselves. Different kinds of material are purposely created by the Creator. With distinctive physical or chemical properties [color, texture, weight, temperature, taste] each material has a purpose. Our progress is totally dependent upon the presence of certain materials in our environment. If they were not present, we would be unable to have a comfortable life.
The presence of different things in our environment is in fact an invitation to observe their shape, structure and mechanisms. Such invitations encouraged humans to alter or customize different items either according to their own requirements and comfort or according to their environment. The idea of customization also came from nature. The camel, for instance, is a naturally customized animal [adapted to its environment] for harsh conditions of a desert. Its long eyelashes keep sand out of its eyes. It can close its nostrils, so the sand does not get up its nose. It can go a week or more without water and food. It can withstand extreme changes in the temperature. Its feet are wide so it can walk without sinking into the sand. Its long legs keep its body farther from the ground, which can heat up to 70 OC. It can eat prickly desert plants without feeling pain because it has thick leathery lips. Likewise, there are numerous structures and shapes around us inviting us to ponder their utility and importance.
Then do they not look at the camels- how they are created? And at the sky- how it is raised? And at the mountains- how they are erected? (88: 17- 19)
Everything in nature is open for observation and understanding. It depends upon us whether we understand its physics, chemistry, mathematics, anatomy or physiology.
The natural environment provides the material and the design and in some cases it exhibits the mechanism of how certain things work. For the designing and making of anything, humans have to rely upon nature. Sometimes a design [structure or shape] is copied, sometimes a function is followed and sometimes a specific material enhances an idea. And sometimes merely a clue facilitates an idea to make combinations or find connections between different shapes, structures, functions and mechanisms.
There are innumerable clues in our environment that serve as inspiration behind different kinds of inventions. A leaf, for example, floating on the surface of water provides a clue for a boat. And a floating log of a tree suggests that wood is the suitable material that can float on water. A fallen trunk of a tree across a stream or over a pit gives an idea for a bridge. Trees and even huge leaves provide shade from the sun, they are natural umbrellas. Thorns are the natural needles. A tendril is a natural spring. Still-water is a natural mirror. A cocklebur is natural Velcro. A reflected image of objects falling on a flat surface of still water is a source of an idea that three-dimensional view can be transferred onto a flat two-dimensional surface. Likewise, the shadow of different objects falling on the ground encouraged humans to save or shift these images by tracing them onto a flat surface.
A drop of water, sitting on any surface, magnifies the image; a suggestion from the nature that images can be enlarged/enhanced if observed through a special medium. A footprint is a demonstration from nature that shows us how to make a mold or a stamp. The veins in our body are natural pipes that explain how gas and liquid can easily be transferred from one place to the other. When thunderbolt strikes the sand, it turns that sand into a fulgurite; a clue that when sand is exposed to extreme heat, it turns into a glass. An afterimage and an echo that we experience even after the cessation of an external cause provides a clue that visual image and sound can be captured.
The favors and guidance from the Creator never stops. Even if we get sick, remedies and cure are available in our surroundings. With experience and interaction with nature, humans learned that certain herbs and chemicals have healing properties. Such interactions with nature does not happen accidentally, there is a purpose behind every happening.
…We threw him [Jonah] onto the open shore while he was ill. And We caused to grow over him a gourd vine (37: 145-146)
Examples of cloning and grafting are widely present in nature. A broken branch of a tree continuing its growth by sitting on some exposed part of a living tree provides a clue that by joining living tissues together, growth can be continued. Or, regeneration of a plant out of some broken twig is a clue that growth or regeneration [reproduction] is possible even from a body cell/tissue.
The happening of certain events back in history were in fact the introduction of certain things to humans. Fire, is one of them. Humans were unaware of the fire until they saw a thunderbolt hitting and setting the trees on fire. It was in fact an introduction of fire to humanity. And a forceful fall and collision of stones resulting in ignition and setting dry twigs and grass on fire was in fact an exhibition of how to ignite a fire and also, what material [dry wood/grass] is good as the fuel for fire. There are a number of benefits hidden in the fire. It would be impossible for us to give shape to several things if there were no fire at all. Think of the things in our daily use that come into shape by casting, molding and heating; the list is endless. Would it be possible to make them without the existence of the fire? How important is fire and ignition for our comfortable life? Have we ever thought about it?
And have you seen the fire that you ignite? Is it you who produced its tree, or are We the producer? We have made it a reminder and provision for the travelers. So exalt the name of your Rubb, the Most Great (56: 71-74)
Keen observations of the universe led humans to learn that certain conditions or certain events are a consequence of a specific cause. They also learned that each and everything follows certain rules/laws. By applying these rules/laws to different situations they made several discoveries and inventions.
With time and experience humans learned about different kinds of energies. Some observations helped them to draw inferences, or formulate theories for the events where it was difficult/impossible to obtain direct observational evidence/s. Such an approach helped humans to unlock new avenues of knowledge. With experience humans learned that Physical objects have certain properties and characteristics which differentiate them from each other. To standardize these observations, they invented the tools for measurements and calculations. Some tools were already present in nature. The sun, for example, is a natural tool that gives precise information about the time of the day. Different phases of the moon help us in calculation of the days of the month. Similarly, the stars are natural tools for navigation or to find a location.
………………………….and the sun and the moon for calculation [of time]. Such is the disposition of the Almighty, the All-Knowing (6: 96)
All heavenly bodies are created and placed in a way which can draw the attention of humans. If they were not observable by the human eye, nobody would have paid attention and learned about navigation.
And We have placed within the heaven great stars and have beautified it for the observers. (15: 16)
And landmarks. And by the stars they [people] guide themselves (16: 16)
The invention of tools enabled humans to make quantitative observations in terms of numbers, weight, mass, volume, temperature, and speed etc. This is how precision and accuracy became a part of human knowledge.
Advancement in designs, constructions and inventions became possible when humans learned about geometry. From the sun and shadows humans learned the basics of straight lines, and different angles. Changes in the direction of shadows and their resulting angles is a demonstration of how different lines and angles can change the shape of an object.
Do you not see how your Rubb extends the shadow? Had He willed, He could have made it still. And We made the sun a pointer to it (25: 45)
Knowledge about the whole world cannot be sought by sticking to just one place. To expand their knowledge humans need to explore different regions. Diversities in the regions are created by Allah to broaden human knowledge. The minerals and metals they utilize are not found in one place. To encourage exploration, these materials have been scattered all over the world. Each region of the earth is unique and full of opportunities and food. Allah has filled every land with diversity of food so that fear of the deprivation of food could not hold people back from exploring new regions.
It is He who made the earth manageable for you, so travel its regions, and eat of His provisions……… (67: 15)
The exploration of different regions of the earth is related to the ability to maintain spatial orientation. Spatial orientation is useful for finding routes in an unfamiliar place. The ability to know one’s location in the environment and to navigate is essential for a family or a community living. If this were not present, we would be lost and unable to find our destination: workplace or home. We are blessed with the ability to utilize landmarks to build cognitive maps in our brains to determine where we are, how to get to a particular place, and how to navigate to the next destination. Reference points or landmarks are useful for finding routes in unfamiliar places. Spatial orientation drops to zero if there is no reference point at all in the surroundings. Without landmarks it is difficult to find where we are and which way to go. Think of a world with no landmarks!
And landmarks. And by the stars they [people] guide themselves (16: 16)
Trails appearing after a prolonged and frequent usage of a route serve as guidelines for the travelers/followers. These easy-to-follow and time-saving pathways inspired the people to construct roads for the known destinations. There is a guidance everywhere and in any case. During a sea voyage or when it is dark at night, the landmarks are no longer visible to us. But the positioning of the stars help us in finding the way.
He who made the earth a habitat for you, and traced pathways for you on it, that you may be guided (43: 10)
And it is He Who created the stars for you, that you may be guided by them in the darkness of land and sea. We thus explain the revelations for people who know (6: 97)
Raw materials for utility, luxury and embellishment are provided in our physical environment [nature] in abundance. Silk, cotton, wool, wood, silicon, iron, gold, silver, diamond, ruby, pearls, coral and even flowers (for scent); everything is created for a purpose. It depends upon us as to how and when we explore them and how we utilize them.
And Allah made the earth a spread for you. That you may travel its diverse roads (71: 19-20)
And the earth He laid [out] for the creatures. Therein is fruit and palm trees having sheaths [of dates]. And grain having husks and scented plants (55: 10-12)
……… And We sent down iron, in which is violent force, and benefits for humanity…………. (57: 25)
And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear. And you see the ships plowing through it, and [He subjected it] that you may seek of His bounty [and explore new lands]; and perhaps you will be grateful (16: 14)
From them [seas] emerge pearls and coral (55: 22)
…………….. [Allah] has made for you [material for] garments which protect you from the heat and [material for] garments which protect you from (your enemy in) battle. Thus does He complete His favor upon you that you might submit (to Him) (16: 81)
Our earth is surrounded by different atmospheric layers [troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, exosphere, and the edge of outer space]. The second layer [stratosphere] is a cloud-and-weather-free layer. As it lacks weather producing air turbulence and has stable conditions many jet aircrafts fly in this layer for safety purposes. Think! How difficult and turbulent would it be to travel in the air if this stability was not set by Allah? Similarly, exosphere, the fifth layer of the atmosphere is ideal for satellites to orbit the earth. Think! How much of our technologies would have failed if this layer had not existed? Video and audio signals are sent via these satellites thus we can easily listen to and see each other while sitting in different continents. With the help of navigational satellites, we can easily locate our or anybody’s position on the Globe with the use of electronic receivers. We can easily draw the world map with so many details and observe weather changes in different regions of the world with the help of these satellites. And it is because of these satellites that we came to know about different galaxies and other planets. It took us humans many years to discover how to build an aircraft and make it fly and how to set a satellite in orbit around the earth using these pathways, but Allah had already designed these pathways for us. If there were no such pathways, it would be impossible for us to travel in the sky or send space crafts into space.
We created above you seven pathways, and We are never heedless of the creation (23: 17)
The inspiration, guidance, and help from Allah is a never ending process. With each passing day natural models are still being imitated and thus new technologies with useful innovations are being introduced. Technology derived from nature can be seen everywhere: in the air, water, and on land. It can be seen in everything: our homes, schools, offices, hospitals, transportation, communication, entertainment, products, services, architecture, agriculture, medicine, engineering, and town planning.
A thing that we need to remember is that whatever technology we have at present is a result of the guidance and help from Allah. The comfort and the luxury that we are enjoying is because of that guidance and help. Allah has guided us throughout time to achieve everything we have at present. It is because of guidance from Allah that we have achieved so much in technology. Everything is just a click away now: online education, online job, online business, online shopping, and online communication – it is all a favor from Allah.
All the provisions [material] and all the guidance [suggestive ideas] are countless reasons to say, “Allahu Akber[Allah is Great], SubhanAllah [all praise is for Allah Who is Perfect], Alhumdulillah [all praise and thanks belong to Allah Alone] – there are so many favors of Allah upon us!”
……….say, “Glory be to Him Who placed these at our service; surely we could not have done it by ourselves. (43: 13)
Your Rubb is gracious towards humanity, but most of them are not thankful (16: 73)
We have established you firmly on earth, and made for you in it livelihood – but rarely do you give thanks (7: 10)
And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is most unjust and ungrateful (14: 34)
This blessing can change into a disgrace in no time if we do not acknowledge Allah or show gratitude to Him.The same technology can become a big problem. It is not uncommon to witness how too much use and too much reliance upon technology is making people inactive: physically, mentally, and socially.
Despite their ungratefulness, Allah is still so gracious towards humanity. He keeps His doors of forgiveness open to everyone who asks for forgiveness [details in Next Chapters].
And if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful (16: 18)
So remember Me, and I will remember you. And thank Me, and do not be ungrateful (2: 152)