“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and We made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe?” (Al-Anbiya – 21:30)
One explanation for the origins of religion is that man could not understand natural phenomena, and therefore invented religion to explain it. I hear this pretty often, and it misses a crucial point. The essence of religion is not the creation stories themselves. Religion gives instructions for conduct and behavior, including how to relate to The Creator and the rest of creation. Religion is instructional not just philosophical (or for mere entertainment purposes). And no religion claims to explain every aspect of nature or the universe. This explanation also fails to acknowledge the wonder and awe that humans have always had for the creation. And this amazement naturally increases when one learns more about how these things actually work.
“And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things. We produce from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from the palm trees – of its emerging fruit are clusters hanging low. And [We produce] gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at [each of] its fruit when it yields and [at] its ripening. Indeed in that are signs for a people who believe.” (Al-Anaam – 6:99)
In the Qur’an, humans are urged to reflect on the wonders of the creation thus illustrating the Majesty of The Creator. There are many verses that describe natural phenomena that we may take for granted, as “signs for those who reflect” or “for those with understanding”. Rain, the changing of seasons, birds, fruits, the wide range of colors and languages of mankind are things that we are to think deeply about and appreciate how amazing they are…and by doing so, we should appreciate how amazing The Maker of those things must be.
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.” (Al-Baqara – 2:164)
From an Islamic perspective, science only strengthens faith and devotion, because the more we learn about biology, physics, geology, astronomy and any other observational study of the universe, the more we see how amazing it really is. We would consider it ridiculous if someone said a Monet painting was produced randomly, but we consider it acceptable to suggest that the very flowers and fields and sky that inspired his painting, happened randomly with no meaning or purpose?
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.
And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.
And of His signs is your sleep by night and day and your seeking of His bounty. Indeed in that are signs for a people who listen.
And of His signs is [that] He shows you the lightning [causing] fear and aspiration, and He sends down rain from the sky by which He brings to life the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that are signs for a people who use reason.
And of His signs is that the heaven and earth remain by His command. Then when He calls you with a [single] call from the earth, immediately you will come forth.
And to Him belongs whoever is in the heavens and earth. All are to Him devoutly obedient.” (Ar-Rum 30:21-26)
Ali Nouman Khan recently gave a good sermon that touches on this subject: