What is Life ?:
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
What Is Life?
In our attempt to know the meaning of life we have to bear in mind that Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has not restricted life to mankind and jinn alone, but life extends to every spot in this universe. We deem life as being only sense and motion. Actually, life means that everything performs its role in this universe.
We judge that man is living because he moves, walks, and talks. We also judge that animals are living because they move and feel. Furthermore, we say that plants are living because they breathe. As for the rest of the universe, we believe that it is lifeless, which is untrue, but how can that be?
The concept of life in this universe entirely differs from our own. In fact, the species of the universe are classified into four: inanimate beings, plants, animals and mankind. Every species among the aforementioned serves the other and does not surpass its special characteristics.
For instance, inanimate beings serve plants, animals and mankind. Its last distinguishing characteristic is growth, which we perceive in the coral reeves within seas. They grow in spite of the fact that growth is not among the distinctive characteristics of inanimate beings. But every species among the species of the universe has higher classes that cease and end where begin the distinctive characteristics of the species succeeding it. Inanimate beings stop in their development at the characteristics of growth, which are the first to distinguish plants. Naturally, plants start with growth and stop at sensation, but there is a plant that senses like the mimosa; the coy lady as countrymen calls it. It is a flower when you approach with your finger folds its leaves.
As for animals, they start with sense until the more advanced classes among them verge on the basics of reason, instinctively formed in them. Thus, we find that some of the advanced breeds of monkeys are able to mimic man, but with neither understanding nor by heredity.
Man can train animals on performing some games that involve some sort of primitive thinking. But animals do not inherit such skills. Meaning, the monkey that learned to jump over the hurdles would not give birth to a monkey that could do the same without training. It ascertains that all the acts the trained animals perform are individually acquired skills.
Afterwards comes man, the master of the universe, whom Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has distinguished by the power of reason in order for him to mediate on the Universe of Allah, to comprehend the Signs of Allah, and to pursue His Course, praise and glory be to Him.
We consider inanimate beings as having neither life nor motion, and we do not heed the fact that their duty in life dictates so. On contemplating the Qurâ€™anic Statement of The Truth, be He highly blessed and exalted, in His Noble Book, which falsehood cannot come to it from before it or behind it, that says (what means):
â€œEverything will perish save His Face.â€ (Al-Qasas, 28: 88)
We will realize for sure that all that is called a thing in this universe will perish on the Day the Trumpet will be blown. Since Allah, praise be to Him, has said (everything) will perish then everything has life in it, because perishing, as we have already said, is the opposite of life or its antithesis. Recite the noble Qurâ€™anic verse in which Allah, glory be to Him, says (what means):
â€œSo that those who were to be destroyed (for their rejecting the Faith) might be destroyed after a clear evidence, and those who were to live (i.e. believers) might live after a clear evidence.â€ (Al-AnfÃ¢l, 8: 42)
This noble Qurâ€™anic verse shows us that destruction opposes life. When Allah, praise and glory be to Him, says (part of the Qurâ€™anic verse that means): â€œEverything will perish.â€ (Al-Qasas, 28: 88), it means that â€˜everythingâ€™ that lived would be destroyed, save (what is done for the sake of) the Honorable Face of Allah, praise be to Him.
We approach life based on its being sense and motion only, because we are measuring it compared to ourselves, but life has to be measured based on the role that everything plays in this universe. Inanimate beings have a (form of) life that suits them, whereas plants have a (form of) life that suits them and animals have a (form of) life that suits them. So, there subsists a truth that bears neither ambiguity nor controversy, that those things celebrate the Glory of Allah, The Almighty, as verified by the noble Qurâ€™anic verse in which Allah, glory be to Him, says (what means):
â€œThere is not a moving (living) creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings, but are communities like you. We have neglected nothing in the Book, then unto their Lord they (all) shall be gathered.â€ (Al-Anâ€˜Ã¢m, 6: 38)
And the noble Qurâ€™anic verse in which Allah, glory be to Him, says (what means):
â€œAnd there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification.â€ (Al-IsrÃ¢â€™, 17: 44)
Let us start with inanimate beings. They have a (form of) life that suits their task, even if we do not understand it. We see inanimate beings before us still, motionless, but is it their reality?
While in school, they used to teach us how to magnetize iron, meaning, to make it magnetic. We used to bring a tube containing some iron filings, and then we used to bring a magnet and pass it over them unidirectionally. Consequently, we find that the iron filings have changed their movement and were regulated in one row thus becoming magnetized. This process, in which the iron particles have moved, occurs in every iron bar over which we pass a magnet in one direction. This simple process, which we have noticed in (the iron filings), is the same that occurs when passing a magnet over an iron bar, even if we fail to notice it because of the iron bulk and its cohesiveness.
Inanimate beings cry, hear and talk
Hence, there is motion in inanimate beings, which the eye fails to notice and we know nothing about. But it occurs in order for inanimate beings to carry out their role in life as a living entity, not as dead inanimate objects. We assume that there is not life in inanimate beings, but those inanimate beings we claim to be lifeless have sentiments we are unaware of. Recite the Qurâ€™anic Statement of The Truth, praise and glory be to Him, (which means):
â€œAnd the heavens and the earth wept not for them, nor were they given a respite.â€ (Ad-DukhÃ¢n, 44: 29)
Indeed, the heavens and the earth have sentiments. They cry and perhaps laugh, even if we do not perceive it and think them inanimate, neither sense nor cry. The heavens and the earth can also hear the Words of Allah, understand them and answer them, as the Lord of Majesty and Sovereignty, praise and glory be to Him, has told us in His Noble Book, (what means):
â€œThen He IstawÃ¢ (rose over) towards the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: â€˜Come both of you willingly or unwillingly.â€™ They both said: â€˜We come, willingly.â€™â€ (Fussilat, 41:11)
Allah has addressed His Words to the heavens and the earth, which understood His Command, be He highly blessed and exalted, and they spoke with a language that none but Allah knows. If so, we have no right to say that the heavens and the earth are deaf. Even more, the earth has what resembles the ears whereby it hears and responds. Recite the noble Qurâ€™anic verse in which Allah, glory be to Him, says (what means):
â€œWhen the heaven is split asunder, and listens and obeys its Lord, and it must do so; and when the earth is stretched forth, and has cast out all that was in it and became empty, And listens and obeys its Lord, and it must do so.â€ (Al-InshiqÃ¢q, 84: 1-5)
What is then meant by â€˜Listens and obeysâ€™ (in the noble Qurâ€™anic verse)? It means that it heard by its own ear, that is to say the heaven has an ear wherewith it hears, and the earth has an ear wherewith it hears. So, when Allah commands them, they listen and respond. But we know nothing about all this.
Furthermore, Allah reveals to us that such inanimate beings have emotions and show due fear of Allah that transcend the emotions and fear evinced by the human heart. Allah, praise be to Him, says (what means):
â€œThen, after that, your hearts were hardened and became as stones or even worse in hardness. And indeed, there are stones out of which rivers gush forth, and indeed, there are of them (stones) which split asunder so that water flows from them, and indeed, there are of them (stones) which fall down for fear of Allah.â€ (Al-Baqarah, 2: 74)
Thus, we have seen that inanimate beings have forms of life, some of which are mentioned in the Noble Qurâ€™an, and we knew nothing about, whereas others are stated in the Hadiths of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) about the pebbles glorifying Allah between his hands and the mountains that used to glorify the Praises of Allah along with DawÃ»d (David, peace be upon him). In this Regard, the Noble Qurâ€™an says (what means):
â€œAnd We subjected the mountains and the birds to glorify Our Praises along with DawÃ»d (David), And it was We Who were the doers (of all these things).â€ (Al-AnbiyÃ¢â€™, 21: 79)
Plants as well
If we move from inanimate beings to plants we will find life pulsing in them also. Plant is also a glorifier and rememberer of Allah. The story of the date palm trunk, which the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to deliver sermons while leaning his back on it and they made it a pulpit to him afterwards, is a famous one. That trunk whined out of grief for being parted from the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). It indicates the sensibility and feelings of plants, even if we are unaware of their language. The date palm that kissed the hand of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is one of his several miracles.
All this draws to us a picture of the life of plants we are unaware of. We know that plants grow but there is also a Divine power of choice created in them. The plants imbibe water from the soil through small capillaries known as (osmotic pressure) which causes the water to rise in these capillaries.
We have conducted this experiment while in school; they brought us some capillary tubes and placed them in a vessel containing water and the water rose in the capillary tubes by osmotic pressure. They inferred that plants feed in this manner but they forgot something. If plants fed in this manner, there would not have existed different fruits since the water and the land are one. But Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has granted plants the particularity of choice besides that of kind. Therefore, we find that every tree chooses from land the elements appropriate to its kind and its fruits.
An apple tree, for instance, chooses from the elements of the land what ensures endowing a sweet taste, color and a special charming fragrant to its fruits, while having a colocynth tree growing just by its side. On the other hand, the colocynth tree chooses what makes it hard and bitter with a special color, while a pepper tree is growing by its side; which in turn chooses what makes it hot with a special flavor. All this is watered with the same water, yet the life that Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has endowed the plants with makes every kind of tree chooses from the elements of the land what suits it. Recite the noble Qurâ€™anic verse in which Allah, glory be to Him, says (what means):
â€œAnd in the earth are neighbouring tracts, and gardens of vines, and green crops (fields etc.), and date-palms, growing out two or three from a single stem root, or otherwise (one stem root for every palm), watered with the same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat.â€ (Ar-Raâ€˜d, 13: 4)
These are some colors of life in plants that we pay them no attention: sense, movement, choice and fulfillment of their role.
The ant speaks and the hoopoe has knowledge?
If we move after that to the insects we will find that they have a highly accurate system and a language whereby they communicate with their species. Has not an ant said when it saw the armies of SulaimÃ¢n (Solomon, peace be upon him) (what means):
â€œO ants! Enter your dwellings, lest SulaimÃ¢n (Solomon) and his hosts crush you, while they perceive not.â€ (An-Naml, 27: 18)
What made the ant knows that it was SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) and those with him were his armies? What made them know that when the armies of SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) would tread on the ants they would crush and kill them, while they perceive not? What made the ant perceive that and by what mental power had it perceived, if it had not a life that we know nothing about, and perceptions that we do not understand?
When you read the story of the hoopoe and SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him), you would perceive the extent of the knowledge that the Creations of Allah, other than mankind, could possess. What did the hoopoe say to SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him)? Allah, praise and glory be to Him, says (what means):
â€œI have grasped (the knowledge of a thing) which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Sabaâ€™ (Sheba) with true news. I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth, and she has a great throne. I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and ShaitÃ¢n (Satan) has made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and has barred them from (Allahâ€™s) Way, so they have no guidance.â€ (An-Naml, 27: 22-24)
Let us contemplate what came in these noble Qurâ€™anic verses. Allah has bestowed upon SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) a kingdom the like of it shall never belong to any other among mankind or jinn. Nevertheless, He, praise be to Him, made the hoopoe grasp of knowledge what SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) was held unaware of, so that SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) might learn that Allah, praise be to Him, does not restrict the bestowal of His Knowledge to someone and if man learns a certain thing he is incognizant of many others.
Who has taught the hoopoe that this kingdom is called the kingdom of Sabaâ€™ (Sheba); that those people were ruled by a woman who had a great throne and that they worshipped the sun instead of Allah, which was of Satanâ€™s handiwork who made their deeds fair-seeming to them? All this is the knowledge that Allah, glory be to Him, has bestowed upon the hoopoe, whereas we believe that birds have no knowledge! That they only roam the sky searching for their provision and that is all what they can do!
Allah informs us that ants have a language with which they speak. Undoubtedly, had we known it, we would have understood what an ant says. That the hoopoe possesses knowledge, had we known how to talk to it, we would have learned a great deal about what is unknown to us. Moreover, all of them celebrate the Glory of Allah, praise and glory be to Him! For life does not comprise man alone, it comprises the species of the entire universe, even if we knew but little about them.
A lifeâ€¦ yet unknown to us
There exists living beings we know nothing about, save what Allah, glory be to Him, has told us. Angles are creatures of light, which we neither see nor hear. The jinn are creatures of fire, which we neither see nor hear, unless materialized. The Truth, be He highly blessed and exalted, informs us about Satan in the Noble Qurâ€™an through the verse saying (what means):
â€œVerily, he and QabÃ®luhu (his soldiers from the jinns or his tribe) see you from where you cannot see them.â€ (Al-Aâ€˜rÃ¢f, 7: 27)
But we wonder: how can we believe in the existence of species and things that we do not see?
The answer is that manâ€™s perception of a thing is not the sole means whereby its existence is proved. Moreover, there are things that exist but we do not perceive their existence. In other words, the existence of a thing is independent of our awareness of such an existence. Therefore, Allah, praise and glory be to Him, prepared for the revelation of the things that we now perceive their existence but we were ignorant of them in the past.
For instance, if you looked at a drop of water, you would see nothing, but if you put this drop of water under the microscope you would perceive life in it and bodies moving. Look at a drop of blood, you would see nothing in it, but if you sent it to the laboratory, it would report to you multitude of things it contains: as the red and white blood cells, the hemoglobin besides other things. Furthermore, the microbe that penetrates the body is so minute but we can observe it in blood and specify its type.
Modern sciences have allowed us to learn from the secrets of the heavens what we have not known before. Everyday, we disclose new secrets, unknown planets and stars. Have these things been created the moment we discovered them. The answer is no, they definitely have preexisted, performing their role ever since in the universe.
The microbes, which the modern microscopes have allowed us to see, count and categorize, have preexisted and inflicted people with diseases but none knew a thing about them until these microscopes that magnify things by hundreds of thousands of times emerged. So, we discovered that there exists a stupendous life we know nothing about. A life that includes reproduction, multiplication and is governed by laws, but so minute that you cannot see even though the microbes penetrate your body, inflict you with fever and may cause your death.
For instance, the laser rays that specify distances so accurately and we use in agriculture, surgery and many other fields, is man the one behind their existence in the universe? Of course not, they were created since eternity and have kept performing their role precisely, but we have discovered them only a few years ago.
The Knowledge of Allah and that of mankind
What did SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) say to his supporters from jinn and mankind when he wanted to bring the throne of BalqÃ®s (the Queen of Sheba) after she had left her kingdom on her way to meet him? He said as the Noble Qurâ€™an relates to us (what means):
â€œWhich of you can bring me her throne before they come to me surrendering themselves in obedience?â€ (An-Naml, 27: 38)
Species have rivaled with one another to bring forward the throne of BalqÃ®s to SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him). Man kept silent; because he is made of clay, neither have agility nor speedy movement. The ordinary jinn also kept silent, but the one who spoke was a stalwart of the jinn, so what did he say? The Noble Qurâ€™an relates that incident through the verse saying (what means):
â€œAn IfrÃ®t (strong) from the jinns said: â€˜I will bring it to you before you rise from your place (council).â€™â€ (An-Naml, 27: 39)
In other words, before SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) leave his council, but for how long would the council of SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) last? Perhaps for one, two or three hours, what matters is that before SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) rise from his place he would find the throne before him. But what did the one with whom was knowledge of the Scripture say? He said as the Noble Qurâ€™an relates (what means):
â€œI will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!â€ (An-Naml, 27: 40)
And before finishing his sentence the throne of BalqÃ®s was before SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him)!!
It follows then that there exists of knowledge what makes man capable of bringing a thing from one place to another within a few seconds. But such knowledge is not attainable except to those specially favored by Almighty Allah with its mastery. In order for him to bring the throne within seconds, he must have called it or issued an order whereby it moved from the palace of BalqÃ®s in Yemen to the council of SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) in Syria!
This urges us to believe in all what Allah, praise be to Him, has told us about the things unseen to us. We should neither deny their existence nor their life just because we do not perceive them, why? Because we definitely have hundreds of things, which we could not see or perceive their existence and afterwards we perceived such existence. Consequently, it is an established fact in the universe.
There is also an unperceived life within our bodies. The organs of the body: the hand, the foot, the tongue, the skin and all the organs of our bodies have a life, which we believe to be derived from us. In other words, we order them and they obey. You order the foot to walk to the Masjid and it obeys, and you order it to walk to a bar and it obeys. The hand also may help a cripple in crossing the road or you may use it in oppressing, killing and assaulting people. The tongue also, you utter the truth and it obeys you and you utter falsehood and it obeys you as well.
Seemingly, you are mastering those organs, which do as you wish, but actually they have a life of their own. They are glorifiers of Allah and believers in Him. They also have a language with which they talk. They are subjugated to you only in the life of this world. But when they come to an end, you would have no control over them. In the hereafter, they would neither obey nor submit to your will, but they would bear testimony against you and curse you if you have subjugated them in what may incur the Wrath of Allah. Recite the Qurâ€™anic Statement of The Truth, praise and glory be to Him (which means):
â€œTill, when they reach it (Hell-fire), their hearing (ears) and their eyes, and their skins will testify against them as to what they used to do. And they will say to their skins, â€˜Why do you testify against us?â€™ They will say: â€˜Allah has caused us to speak, as He causes all things to speak.â€™â€ (Fussilat, 41: 20-21)
Whoever has performed the enjoined duty of Hajj would wonder at the vigor that overwhelms the pilgrims. In spite of the hardships and the fact that they do not get enough sleep you find them highly active, whereas at their homeland they lack such vivacity though they have much rest.
This happens because the body organs desire neither sleep nor rest, but always want to be engaged in the Remembrance and Worship of Allah, simply because during the performance of the Hajj rituals man is engaged with nothing except the Remembrance of Allah. Those organs wish that they do not miss His Remembrance by going to sleep so as to remain a glorifier of Allah, whereas, the organs of a sinning disbeliever force him to go to sleep so as to rest from his wrongdoing.
Some people may wonder how could those deaf organs speak? We reply by quoting the noble Qurâ€™anic verse, which says (what means):
â€œAllah has caused us to speak, as He causes all things to speak.â€ (Fussilat, 41: 21)
It follows that all what is termed a â€˜thingâ€™ in this worldly life has a language whereby Allah makes it speaks, for the entire universe celebrates the Glory of Allah, praise be to Him. If you wonder that your skin, hands, feet and tongue would bear testimony against you and would have a language and a power of discrimination, we say that Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has called our attention to such reality. We find that the organs of the one body perfectly know one another through a special language or code. So, if you lost, for instance, a part of your skin and wanted to graft it with the skin of another human, the body would reject it, whereas if you got hurt or lost a number of cellular tissues as a result of a wound or a burn, your whole body would work so powerfully to weave new tissues same as your old tissues to compensate what you have lost.
Accordingly, every body knows its organs quite well and repels the foreign cells. This means that Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has taught it how to distinguish between its own cells and that of other bodies.
All what is in the universe is alive
Briefly, we summarize what we have detailed by saying that everything in this universe is alive and everything enjoys a (form of) life that suits its mission. Neither the inanimate beings, nor the plants, nor the animals are dead but we simply do not perceive their lives. Furthermore, the inanimate beings sense, feel and cry. When a son of Adam (man) dies, two places mourn his death: the place where he used to prostrate himself (in worship) and the place where his deeds ascend to heaven. Allah, praise and glory be to Him, has set forth in the Noble Qurâ€™an examples of the knowledge acquired by other species as well as their lives. For the ant knew that the man coming forward was the Prophet SulaimÃ¢n (peace be upon him) and that he might tramp on them with his army.
Life exists in all the species of the universe. It exists in what we see before us solid and motionless as mountain rocks, sand particles besides the other species of the universe that we know nothing about their lives. We have also shown the evidence that these species have a role to play in the universe.
We have also clarified that existence is one thing and its perception is another, as life is not limited to mankind alone but it extends to comprise all the species of the universe.
But is this the life that Allah, praise be to Him, wishes for us, merely a worldly life? Or is there another life beyond this worldly life which the Lord of Majesty, praise and glory be to Him, has indeed meant for us. That is what we shall discuss, by the Will and Help of Allah, in the next chapter.