We sent down a measured amount of water from heaven and lodged it firmly in the earth; and We are well able to remove it. By means of it We produce gardens of dates and grapes for you, in which there are many fruits for you and from which you eat. And a tree springing forth from Mount Sinai yielding oil and a seasoning to those who eat. (Qur'an, 23:18-20)
Have you thought in detail about the fruit trees in your gardens, the pine forest you see from your window, or the plane trees lining the road you drive? Do you know how these plants appeared, and the stages they underwent before growing into mature trees? Or do plants have a purely aesthetic meaning for you, and it doesn’t really matter to you whether or not they exist? If you think that way, you are deceiving yourself, because it’s largely due to plants that there is an adequate balance of oxygen in the atmosphere that enables you to breathe, and that you are not poisoned by excessive carbon dioxide, that the humidity of the air seldom reaches uncomfortable levels, and is neither too hot nor too cold. That is to say, you owe a great deal to plants for being able to lead a comfortable life. Nor are these the only ways in which plants are useful to most living creatures. In plants are found the vitamins and minerals you need in order to live.
How the general characteristics of plants influence the lives of living creatures, how they create nutrients through photosynthesis, and wondrous details such as how great trees carry substances their roots draw from the earth to the outer branches, are detailed in another book, The Miracle of Creation in Plants. Here, we will examine a different aspect of plants in more detail to help people look at the subject in a different way. Everyone knows what seeds look like, and knows that plants arise from seeds. But few have ever wondered how so many varieties of plants can germinate from something so small and seemingly lifeless, or how the seeds come to contain all the individually coded information that determines these plants’ characteristics.
How can fruits, with their unique tastes and aromas and just the right degree of sweetness, come from something that’s small and dry? Does the seed produce the tree and adorn it with fruit? Does the seed determine the shape and color of fruit and flowers? Does the seed pack all the information on the tree into the embryo it contains?
If people give such questions a little thought, they’ll start to wonder about how a seed knows how to produce a tree. How does something so small know what shape and form the tree it will produce should take? This last question is particularly important, because it is not just a mass of wood that develops from a seed. For example, we know that apple trees, like thousands of other plant species, grow from little seeds in the earth. But by some unknown means, after a certain amount of time, from that seed grows a big tree 4 to 5 meters (13 to 16 feet) tall weighing hundreds of kilos. The perfect apples on that tree have polished skins, unique aroma and contain sweet juices. While producing this tree, whose proportions are gigantic compared to its own, the only materials this seed has to use are the nutrients it contains at its initial stage – and after that, just earth and sunlight.
Each seed, like those in this example, produces an extremely well-organized life form with its own circulatory system and roots for assimilation of soil nutrients. Even an intelligent human artist finds it difficult to draw a good picture of a tree, much less the details of the roots and branches. But a seed produces a living version of this extremely complex shape, complete with all of its systems.
Though we say the seed “produces,” let’s remind ourselves that the seed lacks any independent mind, consciousness or will. Thus it’s not plausible to claim that it is the seeds themselves that produce trees and plants with such striking systems. Such a claim would imply that the seed is extremely knowledgeable, more intelligent even than a human being.
As evidenced throughout this book, the explanation is that within the seed is concealed a superior intelligence and comprehensive knowledge that, of course, do not belong to the seed itself. It cannot be claimed that the atoms and molecules of the materials that make up the seed are intelligent and knowledgeable, so this knowledge must be inserted into the seed somehow. But who inserted it?
When thinking through these steps, one arrives at some very important truths. The seed, dry and seemingly lifeless, is capable of doing nothing of its own accord. This knowledge has been implanted in seeds by a far greater unrivalled power, Who is God. God creates seeds with the knowledge and system to develop into plants. Each seed cast on the ground is enveloped in God’s knowledge, with which it germinates and grows.The keys of the unseen are in His possession. No one knows them but Him. He knows everything in the land and sea. No leaf falls without His knowing it. There is no seed in the darkness of the earth, and nothing moist or dry which is not in a clear book. (Qur’an, 6:59)