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Last Updated: 2010/05/30
Summary of question
How do plants and inanimate objects glorify God, the Exalted?
question
How and in what form do plants and inanimate objects glorify God Almighty?
Concise answer

Man's knowledge about creatures of the world is truly restricted and unmentionable. How Dif y restricted and unmentionable. nanimate objects testiory?

different creatures glorify God is still unknown to humans. In several Quranic verses and in traditions it has been stated that all parts of the universe testify to God's glory. Quran interpreters have two viewpoints in this regard: 1- Creatures glorify God nonverbally as if they confess with all their existence: "If you see any flaw in us it is a necessity for our essence and God is far from it."  2- They glorify God verbally, however, their language is different from mans' languages and those of animals rather they have a language specific to them which is still beyond mans' grasp.

Detailed Answer

Man's knowledge about creatures of the world is very limited and is almost nothing compared to his ignorance. We don't know how ants, worms, insects and many other creatures communicate. We are even unable to hear their sounds since our hearing can hear sounds in a specific frequency range and it is unable to detect sounds with smaller or greater frequencies while there is no doubt that these creatures are communicating with each other.

How creatures glorify God is still beyond man's perception therefore we can't imagine its quality. In numerous verses and traditions it's been stated that all parts of the universe glorify God[1].

"Glorifying God" means to say that God is far from any flaw, inability and defect and generally speaking any trait which is characteristic of created entities. Imam Sadiq (A) was asked about subhanallah. He said: "It means to testify to God's purity from any flaw and evil out of the servant's zeal"[2]

There are two viewpoints among the exegetes of the Holy Quran on how creatures (inanimate objects and animals) testify to God's glory: 1-nonverbal glorification 2-verbal glorification

1-Nonverbal glorification

Some Quran interpreters believe that glorification of creatures is nonverbal and they interpret this glorification as "the existence of the universe and all creatures is an indication of divine essence and God's attributes of perfection". To them, glorification by creatures is imbedded in their creation. In fact, creatures nonverbally indicate their creator and say: "If you see any flaw in me it is concomitant to my essence and God is far from this flaw." Abu Nasr Farabi, Tabarsi, Fakhr Razi and Alusi believe in nonverbal glorification of creatures. Tafsir Namunah [One of the Commentaries of the Quran] also endorses this viewpoint. On glorification and prayer of the creatures, Farabi states:  «صلّت السمـــــــاء بدورانها و الأرض برجحانها و المطر بهطلانه»  “Heavens say prayers by revolving around God's throne, the earth by shaking and rain by descending[3]." Based on this viewpoint, it is very easy to understand and confirm glorification of creatures and parts of the universe, since every speck of the world performs a task which is its prayer.

2-Verbal glorification

This type of glorification means that all creatures are intelligent and aware and in addition to their nonverbal glorification of God, they also have verbal glorification. However, we simply know that this glorification is based on the fact that all humans and inanimate objects have a kind of perception and reasoning soul. And every creature glorify God by his reasoning soul and there is an uproar of glorification of creatures in specks of the universe. However, it is not possible for everyone to hear their glorification and only those who have torn the veil of nature will hear the glorification of all creatures resonating in their ears. Mawlavi Rumi says: "If you are granted two eyes to see the unseen world, specks of the world will confide in you their secrets and one who has purified soul and heart can hear the prayers and words of water, earth and mud". Among the contemporary scholars who believe in this viewpoint, Allama Tabatabai and Shahid Motahhari can be mentioned. Allama Tabatabai states that: "Glorification of all creatures is real and verbal however it does not necessarily mean that their glorification should be audible and comprehensible words[4]." Based on this viewpoint, glorification of inanimate objects and animals is real and verbal and it is not accurate to consider angels' and believers' glorification as verbal and glorification of other creatures nonverbal. For one should purify his soul to see the unseen. If we grasp the other aspect of the existence of creatures we will notice all creatures are perceptive, intelligent and knowledgeable and they glorify and praise God.

Quran states about David (AS): "And remember Our servant David, the possessor of power; surely he was frequent m returning (to Allah).Surely We made the mountains to sing the glory (of Allah) in unison with him at the evening and the sunrise, And the birds gathered together; all joined in singing with him[5]."

There are two points in this verse proving that glorification of creatures is verbal; the first is that mountains and birds accompanied David (AS) in glorifying God "glorified God in unisonwith him". If the glorification of creatures was nonverbal their unison with David was meaningless or it was pointless to be mentioned. The context is uniform and there is no point in taking the glorification of mountains and birds nonverbal and David's (AS) glorification verbal since nonverbal glorification would be there with or without David (AS). The other point in this verse is that it states that mountains and birds would accompany David (PBUH) in his glorification of God mornings and evenings. It is possible to say that mornings and evenings refer to day and night and therefore means all the time. But according to the previous point (accompanying David (AS)) it should be said that mountains and birds would glorify God simultaneously and in a choir i.e. whenever David (AS) started the glorification, mountains and birds would accompany him, therefore the words "‘ashii" and "ibkar" are used in their literal meaning "sunrise" and "sunset". Therefore it is not true to consider the glorification of mountains and birds as nonverbal and indicating God's existence and as we said earlier, this glorification exists all the time and there is no point in assigning it to morning and evening or along with David (AS). David (AS) who would hear mountains and birds glorify with him had another ear which could hear the esoteric side of the creatures and could hear their esoteric sound. "If our inward ears open we will hear the same esoteric sounds[6]."

About the story of sands speaking in Pprophet Muhammad's (PBUH) hand[7], Shahid Mutahhari says:" Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) miracle was not to make the sands glorify but his miracle was to open people's ears to the sound of those sands. Those sands would glorify all the time but the Holy Prophet's (PBUH) miracle was to make ears hear the sound not to make the sands produce the sound[8]."

Therefore it can be said that verbal glorification of creatures is quite possible while only purified humans with purified hearts would hear such sounds.

 


[1]  "تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّماواتُ السَّبْعُ وَ الْأَرْضُ وَ مَنْ فِيهِنَّ وَ إِنْ مِنْ شَيْ‏ءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَ لكِن‏لا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ"The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth (too), and those who are in them; and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification Quran 17:44

[2] Al-Kafi, vol.1, p.118, tradition no.10, narrated by Hisham bin Hakam

[3] Glorification by different creatures

[4] Translation of Al-Mizan, vol.13, p.152

[5] Quran 38:17-19 وَ اذْكُرْ عَبْدَنَا دَاوُدَ ذَا الْأَيْدِ  إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ(17)إِنَّا سَخَّرْنَا الجِْبَالَ مَعَهُ يُسَبِّحْنَ بِالْعَشىِ‏ِّ وَ الْاشْرَاقِ(18)وَ الطَّيرَْ محَْشُورَةً  كلُ‏ٌّ لَّهُ أَوَّابٌ(19) ".

[6] See al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.13, p.120-121

[7] Biharul Anwar, vol.57, p.169

[8] Mutahhari, Mortaza, Becoming Familiar with Quran, vol.4, p.174

 

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