Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|The barrier between Earth's waters|
|08/18/01 at 02:36:32|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
[center]The barrier between Earth's waters[/center]
One of our readers requests a comment on the verses 19 and 20 of Surah 55, entitled "The Most Merciful", or Ar-Rahman
The two verses may be given in translation as: "He has given freedom to the two great bodies of water, so that might meet. Yet between them is a barrier which they may not transgress."
The reader mentions that as the first verse mentions the word, "bahrain", he has been told that it refers to the country called by that name, and also that it refers to the meeting point between the River Nile in Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. May I say that the possibility that this word refers to the country Bahrain is absolutely wrong. The word means literally, "the two seas". The sentences are expressed in the dual form, which means that the verses are referring to two entities, not a single one. Had the reference here been to the country, the verses would have used a single pronoun, not a dual one.
"The two seas", or the bahrain if we are to use the Arabic word, refer to the two great bodies of water on Earth: the salty water which comprises all seas and oceans, and the sweet water which comprises all rivers. The verses in this surah and similar references in the Qur'an indicate that God has left these two great bodies of water meet, but has given each its definite limit which it does not transgress. Thus each of them has its role which it fulfills. The barrier is part of their nature, and it is placed by God Himself. The reference here in fact is not to a single location, but to every location where the two types of water meet.
In commenting on these verses, the late scholar Sayyid Qutb says: "The division of water on Earth has not come about by coincidence. It is deliberate and made according to a fine measure. Salty water covers almost three quarters of the surface of the Earth without physical separation, while dry land forms only about one-fourth. This great body of salty water is exactly what is needed to cleanse the atmosphere of the Earth so that it remains able to support life. Despite the continuous discharge of gases, most of which are poisonous, century after century, the air maintains its appropriate mix which is necessary to support human life. The means to achieve this great balance is that great body of water, namely the oceans.
It is from this great body of water that vapor rises into the sky by the heat of the sun. These vapors return to the Earth in the form of rain which replenishes sweet water in all its form, the most important of which are the rivers. The balance between the volume of water in the oceans and seas, the heat of the sun, the cold temperature in the upper reaches of the atmosphere and other cosmic factors produce the rain which forms the sweet body of water which supports life on Earth in its vegetation, animal and human forms.
Almost all rivers end up into the sea, carrying with them salts from the soil. Thus the rivers help to maintain the natural formation of the salty water, but do not transgress over the sea. Usually the level of the river water is higher than the level of seawater.
This ensures that the sea water does not overwhelm the river water and fill the river course with its salty water to change the nature of the rivers and their role. There always remain between them a barrier of God's own making to prevent them both from transgression against each other."
This is the general meaning of these verses which refers to a great phenomenon which is worthy of contemplation and reflection. However, scientists have shown in recent years that where seas meet at a point where there is a narrow passage, as in the case between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean at Gibraltar, or between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean at Ras Al-Mandab, the water of one sea is different from the other and the marine life at each side of the narrow passage is totally different. It is as if there is an unseen barrier separating the two seas, despite the continuous flow of water from one to the other with the waves. This is an extension of the meaning of the verses. But God knows best the complete meaning of His words.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 10 August 1998[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Haniff (with 2 f's)
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