Kareem and Grandpa Hassan
Kareem was looking out of the window, impatiently waiting for his grandfather. It was good fun spending time with Grandpa Hassan. Finally, his grandfather arrived. Kareem ran excitedly to the door and gave him a hug. Just as he had expected, his grandfather had brought him a gift—his favorite toy and some picture books. Grandpa Hassan liked seeing his grandson so happy. He said: "Today, I have something to do out of town, would you like to come with me? We can enjoy an outing together."
Kareem gladly accepted and off they went. They eventually left the city, and Kareem was really enjoying this surprise trip.
"The air is so wonderful," he breathed deeply. "Today we will fill our lungs with this fresh air. I wish the air was always like this in the city."
"That would be a little difficult, Kareem," replied his grandfather, "because car exhaust, the smoke from chimneys, especially in winter, and the scarcity of trees and plants prevent the air in the city from being clean."
Kareem pondered a little: "I understand the smoke, but I don't quite understand what plants have to do with it. Trees are meant to bear fruit and make the city beautiful, aren't they?"
"Yes," answered Grandpa Hassan, "trees do all that; but probably more importantly, they also clean the air. Plants breathe in just the opposite way to other living things. Human beings and animals take oxygen from the air, and after using it in their bodies, they breathe out the used air as carbon dioxide. But plants do the opposite: they take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, which is how they clean the air. There are other wondrous qualities that plants have, Kareem, and it is Allah, the All-Wise, Who has created all of them. If you would like, I will tell you what I know about plants."
"Yes, please, Grandpa; I'm all ears!" shouted Kareem excitedly.
Grandpa Hassan took a deep breath and began, "Plants breathe in a process called photosynthesis."
"What is photosynthesis?" Kareem interrupted.
"I'll try to explain it to you," said his grandfather, "but it won't be easy because it's very difficult and complicated. Even scientists are still trying to completely understand the process."
Kareem thought for a moment: "So, plants survive by a process that scientists are still trying to understand. When you say the word 'process' I think of mathematical operations and formulas. Even we find math hard to learn sometimes, but plants, that have no mind or body like we have, can do it. It's a miracle!"
Grandpa Hassan smiled: "Yes, it is definitely a miracle. From the day they were created, plants have been performing this chemical process without a problem. Wherever green plants are, it means that there is a factory producing sugar from carbon dioxide and water by using the Sun's energy. Even though they lack our awareness, the spinach we eat, the lettuce in our salads and the ivy in our houses are always in constant production for us. This is a result of the mercy that Almighty Allah, with His supreme knowledge, has on human beings. He has created plants for the benefit of human beings and all animals. This flawless process that modern human technology cannot even fully understand has been used by leaves for millions of years. In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that a human being cannot even create even a single tree from nothing: 'He Who created the heavens and the Earth and sends down water for you from the sky by which We make luxuriant gardens grow—you could never make their trees grow ...' (Surat an-Naml: 60)"
Kareem was amazed that plants could breathe by this special chemical process called photosynthesis. "So, how did this process take place?," he wondered. While he was thinking about this, his grandfather continued his story: "Using the soil, water, air and the Sun, unconscious plant cells take a certain amount of minerals and water from the soil and produce food for human beings. With the energy they take from the Sun, they break down these materials and later bring them back together to produce food. This is just an outline of the process, but at every stage you can see that there is a conscious and intelligent plan. It is clear that the purpose of this amazing system operating in plants is to provide a source of life created for the benefit of human beings."
"So, what do leaves do?" enquired Kareem.
Grandpa Hassan went on: "You know the microscopes you have in the school laboratory to examine things? … well, if we were to examine a leaf closely under a very advanced microscope, we would once again see the splendor of Allah's creative artistry. There is a perfect production system in each and every leaf. In order to understand this system better, we can compare what goes on in a leaf to appliances we use in our everyday life. When we magnify the elements in a leaf, we see a constantly operating automatic food factory with pipes that work continually, rooms built for special processes, valves that work like giant pressure cookers and countless buttons controlling thousands of processes. And if we look more carefully, we see timers, thermostats, humidifiers, heat control mechanisms and feedback systems located at particular points."
Kareem thought for a moment: "It is wonderful that all these things come together in a single little leaf and work with no problem."
"It is our Lord Allah, Kareem, Who has created this marvelous system," Grandpa Hassan reminded his grandson. "With Allah's permission, every leaf in the world has come into being having this marvelous system. Be sure not to forget that."
While he was listening to Grandpa Hassan, Kareem saw a very large tree, and a problem occurred to him. He began to wonder how a tree could survive without solving that problem. He immediately asked his grandfather: "Grandpa, trees are very tall. How do they draw up water and food from the soil? Look at that tree! It is so tall, but the leaves at the top are still very green."
Grandpa Hassan nodded: "Do you remember? A little while ago I compared leaves to a factory; let's make the same comparison again. Think of a pipeline with a web-like covering all over it; it makes sure that the raw material reaches the production units and that the product obtained from these units is distributed in the syrupy liquid produced in the leaves to other areas so that the whole tree can be nourished. These channels serve not only to transport this vital fluid; they also make up the skeletal system of the trees and their leaves. In a building constructed by human beings, the elements that hold the building up (studs and beams) and the water system are built separately. It is a case of marvelous design that, in the case of plants, these two things happen at one and the same time."
Kareem was thinking: "This is really a wonderful system. I wonder … it's as if there was a calendar or a clock hidden inside a plant that lets it do the same things all the time without getting confused. For example, every spring the flowers bloom and every fall the leaves drop off the trees. How does that happen, Grandpa?"
"Scientists call this a biological clock," his grandfather explained. "The clocks that make time adjustments for plants calculate how long sunlight falls on the leaves for. These biological clocks calculate this length of time differently for every plant. For example, as a result of experiments done on soy beans, we know that these plants bloom every year at the same time, no matter when they are planted. It is certainly Almighty Allah Who makes these time adjustments in plants."
Grandpa Hassan and his grandson stopped by an orchard next to the road. After receiving permission from the owner, they picked some plums, washed them carefully and began to eat them. They were really delicious. Grandpa Hassan said, "Did you know, Kareem, that the energy plants give us actually comes from the Sun?"
Kareem was surprised: "How do you mean?' he asked, "When we eat these plums, are we really eating the Sun?"
Grandpa Hassan smiled: "Actually we are eating the Sun, but indirectly. We all know that the main source of energy on Earth is the Sun. But human beings and animals do not use this energy directly, because we don't have the right systems. Do you know how we use it? Human beings and animals can only get usable energy from the nutrients produced in plants. The energy we use is really the Sun's energy given to us by plants. For example, when we sip tea we are actually sipping energy from the Sun; when we chew a piece of bread, there is actually a piece of the Sun's energy between our teeth. The strength in our muscles is really an altered state of the Sun's energy. Because of this energy, you can run and play. So, how do plants manage this? Plants perform some complicated operations in order to store the Sun's energy for us. What allows plants to produce their own food and separates them from other living things is that their cells are different from the cells of human beings and animals; they have structures in their cells that allow them to use the Sun's energy directly. With the help of these structures, they transform the Sun's energy into a form that human beings and animals can use for food, and they store this energy in food using a special hidden formula."
"That's wonderful!" exclaimed Kareem, delighted. "Allah has created everything for the good of human beings!"
Grandpa Hassan agreed: "So, we have to think about all this and thank our Lord that He has given us so many blessings. Allah tells us in the Qur'an that we should give Him thanks: 'So they may eat its fruits—they did not do it themselves. So will they not be thankful?' (Surah Ya Sin: 35)"
Kareem's favorite subject was science. Suddenly, an experiment they did in school came to his mind. He turned to his grandfather and said: "Grandpa, we did an experiment in school one day. Our teacher gave us some homework to do. We put a bean inside a piece of cotton, put it in a sunny place and watered it for a few days. Guess what happened!"
Grandpa Hassan smiled again: "The beans sprouted, didn't they? Let's think about that. It shows you a very basic natural occurrence; which is actually a miracle. You've seen a rabbit being pulled out of an empty hat in magic shows haven't you?; well, that is rather similar to a plant sprouting in a piece of cotton or under the ground. In a magic show, however, our eyes are deceived, but a plant coming out of a tiny seed doesn't deceive anyone. With miracles such as this, our Lord, the All-Knowing, makes plants from tiny seeds and shows us clearly that no living thing exists by chance. Those who say that living things have come into existence by chance are just deceiving themselves, aren't they, Kareem?"
"Yes, Grandpa," Kareem agreed happily.
Grandpa Hassan went on: "Part of the plant that sprouts from a tiny seed goes under the ground and part of it grows upward. The ground is quite hard and tightly packed and it is very difficult to grow in both directions. These little sprouts don't have intelligence and consciousness like we have, so it is a real miracle how they manage it."
"Just think of what would happen if we put a seed in the ground and it didn't sprout," cried Kareem. "Then we would all have huge problems finding food to eat. And if human beings and animals couldn't find anything to eat, they would slowly die."
Grandpa Hassan nodded his head: "Allah warns us in the Qur'an, Kareem: 'Have you thought about what you cultivate? Is it you who make it germinate or are We the Germinator? If We wished We could have made it broken stubble. You would then be left devoid of crops, distraught.' (Surat al-Waqia'a: 63-65)"
As they walked, Kareem began to consider what his grandfather had told him. He told his grandfather what he was thinking: "Plants are so important for our survival, Grandpa. They clean the air we breathe, they feed us and give us energy, they provide delicious fruits and vegetables for us and make everywhere look beautiful. Just look. See how many different trees, flowers, fruits and grain there are!"
"There is another blessing that you have forgotten about," said his grandfather. "It comes from plants, and Allah tells us about it in the Qur'an: 'He Who produces fire for you from green trees so that you use them to light your fires.' (Surah Ya Sin: 80)"
"Yes, how could I forget that?" asked Kareem. "We burn wood from trees to keep warm. The raw material for books, notebooks, newspaper and all kinds of paper comes from trees; as well as matches to light fires with, armchairs we sit on, our desks, doors, windows…"
Grandpa Hassan entirely agreed: "Apart from the usefulness of plants, they also have another characteristic. A vine that grows in Central and South America attracts and provides ideal food for black and green caterpillars and red butterflies. These insects lay their eggs on this vine so that, when they hatch, they will have this delicious food to eat. But the important point is this: before laying their eggs on the vine, the butterflies check the leaves. If another insect has laid its eggs there, they realize that it would be difficult for two families to feed themselves from the leaves of the same plant, so they decide to leave that plant and look for another whose leaves are available.
This vine forms green bumps on the top surface of its leaves. And some varieties produce spots that resemble butterfly eggs under their leaves at the point where they join the branch. When the caterpillars and butterflies see these, they think that another insect has laid its eggs on these leaves first. They then don't lay their eggs on that plant, but go away in search of another."
"What a great defense system!" said Kareem, impressed.
"Yes, Kareem," concluded Grandpa Hassan: "It is Allah with His supreme knowledge Who has taught this plant how to protect itself. Never forget that, OK?"