When you look at the mountains, you think that they are standing still. But they are moving, like the clouds. Such is the manufacture of GOD, who perfected everything. He is fully Cognizant of everything you do [27:88]
There are many great artists like Michelangelo whom we can never meet. We can glimpse their greatness by experiencing their artistic creations. Similarly, we cannot meet God in this world, but we can glimpse His greatness by experiencing His work (27:88).
While many events have shaped my life, one of the most important occurred during a 15-day field trip to some of the last great remaining concentrations of wildlife in the Western Hemisphere. Our explorations included several biologically diverse wildlife refuges— Ruby Lake of Nevada, Bear Valley of Utah, Red Rock lakes of Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Nature treated me to some of her most spectacular light shows, a night sky crowded with stars, a double rainbow and a fabulous green sunset. I saw huge flocks of birds, herds of buffalo, moose, and pronghorn antelope. I heard an owl hoot for the first time. Experiencing these wonders helped put my life in perspective. It made me realize that social justice is not only justice between people but also justice and kindness toward other creatures on this planet we call home (6:38; 15:19-20; 55:10).
Being out in nature, sleeping under the stars, and listening to the silence awakened in me a love of nature and a desire to take care of it. I also became a more creative person, as well as a better critical thinker, problem solver, and writer. I learned how to live in the present from the river; it is always changing, always in balance, always present. The appearance of a double rainbow taught me a lesson both in science and philosophy; I learned it was caused by the refraction of light through the raindrops. I connected its appearance with the joyous feeling we
experience after the rainstorms in our lives. Looking at the landscape at Red Rock with the sun setting into the lake behind the bushes, facing a majestic mountain awakened in me a child-like sense of wonder and imagination. I saw a green sunset – my version of Alice in Wonderland. It was an image I will remember all my life.
At night, the sky was so immense and full of stars that I lost my sense of distance. I felt connected with that sky; oh yes, I could reach the stars! But that was not all. I realized that winds have character. They can be harsh and violent, soft and lovely, strong or weak, or simply do their jobs as pollinators. Dealing with winds is like dealing with people – the relationship is not perfect; it's part of a whole. You must first understand these other entities, and then learn how to live at peace with them.
As I reflected on what I had seen, I began to understand the interconnectedness of all life. On my first night of camping, I set my tent next to a killdeer nest. The mother bird was walking on the ground and flapping her wings as if she were injured and could not fly. Watching the bird, I thought she was hurt. My professor explained that she was protecting her eggs by drawing attention to herself and away from her nest. This bird showed me how important it is to respect the feeling of others, and treat animals humanely – not just endangered species in the wild but also those we raise to provide us food. Seeing the impact my presence had on this bird, let me better understand how all species connect and share the planet.
My professor emphasized that what we do with inanimate objects can have as great an impact as what we do with living things. When you pick up a rock, to you it is just a rock, but to the creatures who live beneath it, it was a roof that you tore off. And if you throw it back down, you could crush their neighbors. So, “don't move a stone thinking it's just a stone,” my professor said.
One of the places we visited was Sand Dunes in Idaho. Before this trip, I thought nothing could be more dead or less inviting than a barren desert.
How wrong I was! Wildlife was everywhere, but you had to look for it. Because most animals are active at night, they leave behind only their tracks, and those tracks vanish quickly without doing damage during the day. What kind of tracks do we leave on this earth? This was the question I asked when it was time for my sunset prayer. Life in this delicate world is so fragile. Everything in nature lives in the present and so did I. Here in barren nature, away from all material things, with no appearance of luxury, except the luxury of the living desert, I prayed with my whole being. A pure, cool breeze refreshed the area. I felt connected to the Lord of the universe. I had always wondered why God named one of the chapters in the Quran "the Dunes"! Now I think I know why. Yes, I used to think that nothing could be less inviting than a desert, but now I understand a day there brings with it a deep sense of peace and pleasure that is hard to replicate.
God also uses nature to teach us important lessons on life. Although the Dunes form a desert, none of its sand blows away. Why? If only one wind were blowing, the sand would be scattered and lost just as evil tries to blow away what is good and just. But here, there also blows an opposing wind which keeps the sand safely in place. In a similar way, the power of God fights against the evil and unjust, preventing us from being scattered and lost.
Quran repeatedly reminds us that everything and everyone belongs to God (10:66; 20:6). We are just His trustees (10:14; 15:23; 17:70), commanded to treat the earth gently (25:63; 31:18-19). From His love and greatness, God has honored us by providing us with the land and the sea. He provides for us good provisions, and gives us greater advantages than many of His creatures (17:70). With every gift comes a responsibility. The greater the gift, the greater the responsibility. If we deny that responsibility, God has told us the result: Disasters have spread throughout the land and sea, because of what the people have committed. He thus lets them taste the consequences of some of their works, that they may return (to the right works). [30:41]
The future is ours; the choice is ours.