IMASE Reflections 3: The Origin of Life

Water is a chemical substance that is essential to all known life forms. About 1,460 teratonnes (Tt) of water covers 71% of the Earth's surface, mostly in oceans and other large water bodies. Fresh water only makes up 3% of the total water on earth of which 2.4% are glaciers and polar ice caps. Clean, fresh water is essential to human and other life forms. In many parts of the world, it is in short supply. Many organic molecules as well as salts, sugars, acids, alkalis, and some gases (especially oxygen, making water able to support life), are soluble in water making it one of the world most effective solvent. However, this characteristic which makes it the best of cleansers, also makes it easier to be polluted. Water is in dynamic equilibrium between the liquid, gas and solid states at standard temperature and pressure, and is the only pure substance found naturally on Earth to be so. Water vapour and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere provide a greenhouse effect which has helped to maintain a relatively steady surface temperature on Earth for life to thrive.

Humans use water for drinking, weighing, power generation, recreation, as a solvent, as a thermal transfer agent and for many industrial applications. However, our indiscriminate use of water has presented a modern day problem that threatens the future of this living planet. The use of renewable water resources has grown six-folds over the last 100 years and this rate of increase is likely to grow much faster in the next 100 years (e.g. producing 1kg of potatoes requires 100 litres of water, whereas 1 kg of beef requires 13 000 litres – meat production has increased 500% since 1950). There is more waste water generated and dispersed today than at any other time in the history of the planet. One out of six people on earth lack access to safe drinking water, more than two out of six lack adequate sanitation and 3900 children die every day from water borne diseases, are being conservative estimates. Some of the countries whose proportion of its population (number is brackets) only consume contaminated water such as Sudan (12.3 million), Iran (5.6 million), Venezuela (5.0 million), Syria (3.8 million), Zimbabwe (2.7 million), Tunisia (2.1 million) and Cuba (1.2 million).

The symptoms of this new Water Crisis is already evident on earth and they are:

  • Inadequate access to safe drinking water
  • Groundwater over-drafting leading to diminished agricultural yields
  • Overuse and pollution of water resources which harms biodiversity
  • Regional conflicts over scarce water resources
  • Waterborne diseases and the absence of sanitary domestic water

Allah created all living things from water. From water he created plants, which then converts them into food. These fruits nourishes animal to grow and propagate. Water nourishes and maintains every single cell that makes up the living animal. The animal then uses water as a medium to reproduce. He says that water is sign of His mercy, for “He sends water so that you may taste His mercy” (30:46). Do we taste His mercy?

Allah then created humans, and he gave water to quench the thirst of a tired traveller, revitalising him to continue his journey. He gave man water for cleaning himself and his utensils so he may be protected from disease. He gave man water to clean the cloths which he wears and the home which shelters him from the elements. He gave him water to purify himself for worship, as a conduit to which He uses to decontaminate the person’s soul to a day long forgotten, when he was born from his mothers womb, when he was surrounded and immersed in water. He gave man water that he may use it to travel and meet people from different tribes around the world so they may know each other and learn from each others knowledge in humility. He gave man water so he may carry his heavy loads for trade with ease, so he may transact and find new partners in lands far away, a wonder for he who reflects.

Allah takes water everyday and converts it from that which is salty and bitter to that which is palatable and sweet, which pours down from the sky as rain, turning that which is dry and barren to that which is lush and living. He then turns the rain into rivers that flows and irrigates the land, turning them into gardens which are sources of nourishing food and enchanting beauty, reminding man of a paradise lost. Do we taste His mercy?

He created life from water, He purifies with water, He moves and transfers his creation with water, He nurtures garden beneath which rivers flow with water. He lets us taste the sweetness of His mercy with water. However, man changes the taste of His mercy from sweet and palatable to bitter and dirty. Do we not want to taste His mercy?