One of the most distinctive aspects of the Quran is the way it seems to speak directly to you. It’s a verbal version of the visual phenomenon of the Mona Lisa through which it seems that the eyes of the lady follow the eyes of the viewer. Today when I was reading the Quran I was struck by this passage from the Chapter of Prophet Noah, peace be upon him (Nuh, alaihis salaam). In this passage, an exhausted Noah recounts his efforts to invite his people to the truth.
“What is the matter with you that you do not regard the greatness of Allah  when He has created you in gradual stages?  Can you not see how Allah created the seven heavens one above the other,  placing in them the moon as a light and the sun as a glorious lamp?  Allah has caused you to grow as a growth from the earth.  He will return you to the same earth and then raise you back again.  Allah has made the earth for you as a wide expanse  so that you may walk in its spacious paths.”  (Excerpted from Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik’s English translation of the Quran, 71:13 – 20, italicized portion removed).
There’s so much depth to plumb here that I feel I can only scratch the surface. I love how Noah speaks to his people as if there is something defective in them. But Noah is right. There is something wrong with them if they cannot see the beauty of Allah. It is part of our true nature that we recognize our Creator.
Allah has created humanity in stages. There are many possible meanings here, but I think the Quran is referring to the physical development of Homo Sapiens. From conception, through the stages of pre-natal development, to childhood, puberty, adulthood, and finally senescence, the life of a human is marked by stages. Even 6th century Arabs had a sense of this as part of our development is obvious to the eyes. But as people of the 21st century, we can perceive development in a way the Arabs could not. We have seen images of human eggs or ova. We have seen fetuses growing in the womb. We have access to pictures of individual cells at any point in the life of a person. And yet instead of having more faith, we have less.
The passage I have excerpted here also talks of the “spacious paths” of the Earth. I was recently telling my cousins that Chicago’s Western Avenue is the longest street in the world (24 mi / 38km). Actually, according to Wikipedia, though multiple sources make that claim, Toronto’s Yonge Street is longer. The exact length of Yonge Street is disputed, but it is at least 33 miles (53 km) long and may even be an amazing 1,178 mi (1896 km) long. Even if we discount the Canadian claim and accept Western as the longest, 24 miles is a remarkable length for a single street. The fact that humans have built roads of this length, that our species has the ability to transform nature in this way, is something impressive. Yet like so many features of our world, it is something most people take for granted. We never stop to think about the planning, the digging, the overcoming of obstacles and the sheer effort this must have taken.
So why don’t you stop to wonder about the world around you and the One who created it all? What is the matter with you?