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One of the chapters of Quran that Muslims are recommended to recite often is called Surah Al-Waqia. This chapter discusses the afterlife, detailing where different groups of people will end up depending on how they spent their lives. I remember when I was younger, my parents and I would sit down together after Maghrib, the prayer performed at sunset, and take turns reciting a certain number of verses until we completed the whole chapter.
Towards the latter part of the chapter after discussing the three groups of people’s end destinations, God turns mankind’s attention to specific creations. He says,
“And have you seen that [seed] which you sow? Is it you who makes it grow, or are We the grower? If We willed, We could make it [dry] debris, and you would remain in wonder”
In this group of verses, God tells man to look at something as small as a seedling. What begins as something that can fit in the palm of our hands ends up growing exponentially in size. Trees end up bigger than people themselves, and on top of that, they bear fruit. Other seeds turn into grains and still others into vegetables. God asks human beings to reflect: was it really our doing that grew that little seed? We may have planted it and watered it, but other than that, we had no part in actually transforming it into something so grand. God says it was He who grew that seed and if He wanted to, He could have amounted it to nothing. Instead, He allows all of the world to benefit.
The verses then continue with God pointing to another blessing,
“And have you seen the water that you drink? Is it you who brought it down from the clouds, or is it We who bring it down? If We willed, We could make it bitter, so why are you not grateful?”
This is the sign that has made me stop and really lean back in my seat. While I am not much of a gardener myself looking after seeds and plants, water definitely plays a daily and direct role in my life. Imagine if water was bitter! The idea nearly leaves me speechless. God sends water down to us from the clouds—we have no power over such a system. It is through His bounty that He made that water pure and delightful for mankind, animal-kind, and plant-kind too. Water is an immense blessing that is necessary for life; it itself is a sign of life. We not only need it to drink, but to clean ourselves, our food, and our clothes. Whenever the water turned off in my home for even a few hours due to routine maintenance, my entire day had to be rescheduled and replanned. God asks mankind, why are we not grateful for His bestowing of water upon us? Surely we use it every day without thinking where it really comes from.
God then mentions the last sign in this fashion, “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?” (Q. 56:71-73).
Rubbing two sticks together, the way so many of us learn at our first camping trip in our youth, could have amounted to nothing. Instead, God allowed fire to ignite in this incredible way. Fire provides warmth and safety, and a means to cook our food. We do nothing to make the sparks ignite into something of survival and substance—that, like the other signs mentioned previously, are only and all from God.
God did not need to give us such provisions as food, water, and fire. We overlook these essential blessings every moment in our lives, and God knowing our tendencies to forget uses these verses in Surah Al-Waqia to refocus our attention on Him through His signs. After realizing such enormous blessings come to us with no doing of our own, we should feel an incredible sense of gratitude and thankfulness to God.