Islam teaches that God is the Almighty Creator, the Sovereign Ruler, and the unquestioned Owner of everything in the universe. And it is out of His will that He chooses to create things or beings; and only He knows the why of His creation.
Indeed, we have no way of knowing God’s will, except for what He Himself has allowed us to know through His revelations, and through His prophets. To acknowledge this fact is the first step towards the conscious and willful worship of God.
The worship of God is to accept Him as our Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign Law-Giver, and to submit to Him all our activities in all walks of life. God has commanded the believers in the Qur’an, which Muslims believe is the word of God, to declare:
“Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.” (Al-An`am 6:162)
The foregoing sums up the conscious and deliberate act of submission to God, which only intelligent and free beings can undertake. But there is another sense in which the word, “Islam” is used in the Qur’an: willing or unwilling act of submission to God’s laws, as every living or non-living thing or being obeys God’s laws, usually called the laws of nature.
This sort of willing or unwilling submission is, also, Islam or in another sense, the worship of God. The Qur’an states what means:
“Do they seek for other than the religion of Allah while all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willing or unwilling, bowed to His will (accepted Islam), and to Him shall they all be brought back.” (Al-An`am 6:83)
From this point of view, all beings do necessarily worship God. Making use of our analytical skill and power of reasoning, we can, to some extent, get an idea of God’s creative power, as well as figure out the rationale behind His choices in the light of His revelation.
By this means we may get some knowledge about the reason for the creation of things or beings in the universe too — such as the microbes or a single grain of sand in the desert, or a drop of water in the sea.
In the Qur’an, God Almighty states that everything on earth has been created for the benefit of mankind:
“He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth.” (Al-Baqarah 2:29)
This verse implies that the best of God’s creation is humankind, for whom all other beings were created. Thus all creatures — whether they are as tiny as microbes or as mighty as whales — were created for mankind.
In the divine scheme of creation, all things — whether big or small — have their place. Nothing happens without the knowledge of Allah the Almighty; and nothing happens without a good reason; and all things and beings are interconnected in mysterious ways.
That all things and beings are interconnected has been recently established by the new science of ecology. Today we know that the life of the plants and animals on earth is closely linked to the life of man. Rachel Carson (1907-1964), an environmentalist who embraced nature in all its manifestations, has shown through her researches that the survival of mankind depends on the balance of nature. She wrote:
For each of us, as for the robin in Michigan, or the salmon in the Miramichi, this is a problem of ecology, of interrelationships, of interdependence. We poison the caddis flies in the stream and the salmon runs dwindle and die…
We spray our elms and following springs are silent of robin song, not because we sprayed the robins directly but because the poison travelled, step by step, through the now familiar elmleaf–earthworm-robin cycle. These are matters of record, observable, part of the visible world around us. They reflect the web of life-or death-that scientists know as ecology. (189)
According to Carson, life on earth is possible only through an interaction between living things and their environment. Carson’s war on the irresponsible use of chemical pesticides was inspired by her insight that all species, including humans, are interconnected with one another, and killing one species may endanger others.
The foregoing means that even a single grain of sand in the desert, or a drop of water in the sea, has a role to play in the scheme of the Almighty. And Allah does not need to expend a lot of time and energy to create a microbe or a dinosaur either. When He intends to create something, He commands: “Be”, and it simply is. This means that when God’s command comes, things in nature start working as God wills, until the command is fulfilled.
Moreover, it is well stated in Islam that God is the One:
“Who creates [everything], and thereupon forms it in accordance with what it is meant to be and who determines the nature [of all that exists], and thereupon guides it [towards its fulfillment].” (Al-A`la 87:2-3)
This means that the nature, origin, growth, decay, and end of a thing or being is determined by God. It is God who decrees its “destiny”, as it were. Nothing can happen out of the sphere of God’s control. Therefore, a country can attain development only by following what we may consider “the naturally necessary course” leading to that development, which is in reality, determined by God.
The Qur’an does not say that the material or physical development of a country is determined by the religion of its citizens. But the Qur’an does say that the final destination of a person or a people is determined by religion. And the Qur’an also teaches that righteousness and prayer certainly lead to good results here and now, as well as in the hereafter.
It is true that the extension of the average life span of men and women depends on the general advance in the field of medicine and hygiene; and it is equally true that the extension of the average life span of men and women happens within the will and plan of God the Almighty.
There is no contradiction here, because it is God’s will that the average life span of men and women should increase; as it is God’s will again that this should be the result of the general improvement of the health conditions. In other words, both the extension of the life span of people and the general improvement in the health conditions happen as God wills. This means that “being religious and praying more,” also, serves.
This article is based on a Q & A on Onislam.net’s Ask About Islam service. It was taken and editorially modified to suit our design and purpose on this website.
Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant to the Reading Islam Website. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.