People do many different things in their daily lives.
But whatever they do, they still have to keep breathing.
Yet they never need to make a conscious effort in order to breathe.
Neither do they use their free will in order to breathe. They breathe right from the moment of their birth, even in their sleep.
The brain is the command centre for the whole process of respiration.
A group of nerves in the brain stem and the medulla region of the brain direct the respiratory system.
The nerves in the medulla send commands to the muscles surrounding the ribcage to contract for two seconds. As the muscles contract the lungs fill with air.
Then, the nerve signals from the medulla are cut for three seconds. The muscles then relax. The air in the lungs is then expelled as the muscles assume their earlier form.
Directed by the medulla, breathing takes around five seconds: two seconds for inhaling and three for exhaling. Under normal conditions a healthy person breathes some 12 times a minute.
Yet that figure goes up under certain circumstances.
If you exercise, you’ll see that your breathing rate rises considerably. Yet it is not you who has decided to breathe quickly at this moment, your chest muscles are forcing you to, and you feel discomfort if you try to breathe slowly. Since you are working out, your tissues has a greater need for oxygen and your brain obliges you to breathe faster. In the same way that your breathing under normal conditions is out of your control, so is the way when you are breathing quickly.
Control of breathing is thus independent of an individual’s will.
When the muscles work more than under normal conditions they consume more oxygen. As the level of oxygen in the blood falls, the level of carbon dioxide rises.
Muscle cells under pressure give off lactic acid.
The oxygen, carbon dioxide and lactic acid receptors in various parts of the body become aware of this change and send warnings to the respiratory centre in the brain.
When the warning reaches the medulla, the respiratory neurons send commands to the chest muscles and ensure that they work faster.
On the other hand, other precautions are also taken in the body. The heart starts beating faster, for instance. The skin pores are opened in order to balance the rise in body temperature and attempts to cool the body down.
When pressure on the muscles is lifted, all the systems gradually return to their normal conditions.
The flawless, interconnected systems work and serve beyond the individual’s control, will and knowledge.
Man’s duty is thus to give thanks to Allah, Who created him with such perfection, and to appreciate the artistry in His creation.
In one verse of the Qur’an, Allah reveals:
He is Allah – the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Qur’an, 59: 24)