In two or three places in the Quran, it is said that there are lessons to be learned from the sailing of the ships over the sea, but I have not been able to notice the lesson to be learned. Will you explain it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We can list some of the lessons to be learned from the issue of the ship floating and sailing on the seas mentioned in the verses as follows:

a. The salvation of the Prophet Nuh (Noah) (pbuh) and those who embarked the ship with him is a living proof that Allah protects those who obey Him with His infinite power and mercy.

According to what Qatada narrates, the historical ship in question continued to stand on Mount Judi until the first years of the emergence of Islam. The following verse points to that fact:

“But We saved him and the companions of the Ark, and We made the (Ark) a Sign for all peoples.” (al-Ankabut, 29/15)

b. The recommendations for taking those lessons are not about only the ship that Nuh (pbuh) built, but about all ships in general. The lesson learned from it is the lesson of tawhid (oneness) because the existence of ships is a miracle that shows the existence and oneness of Allah and the trueness of the invitations of all prophets. In the Quran, the word “ayah (sign)” is used in this regard; it means evidence, lesson, miracle. We can explain this miraculous aspect as follows:

It is a miracle that Nuh (pbuh) built the ark for the first time because it is something that beyond the power of the human mind. Think about it; it is certain that it will be considered very funny for someone to open a simple umbrella over his head with the intention of sheltering from the rain on a day when there is no sign of any cloud.

When there was nothing, Nuh (pbuh) built a workshop on a piece of land, established a shipyard, and built a ship with the materials he collected - in order to avoid a flood that would break soon.

“Forthwith he (starts) constructing the Ark: Every time that the chiefs of his people passed by him, they threw ridicule on him. Noah said: If ye ridicule us now, we (in our turn) can look down on you with ridicule likewise.” (Hud, 11/38)

That fact is indicated in the verse above.

This extraordinary situation shows that the ship was built upon the order of Allah because only Allah knew that it would rain and the deluge would occur. Only Allah knew that the earth would become a sea, a lake. Only Allah knew the project of a ship that would float on water without sinking. Only Allah knew how long it would stay on the water, how much food he needed to take to the ship, when the flood would end and how long it would take to land. All of them are evident as living miracles about the ship that Nuh (pbuh) built for the first time, and hence the ships that were built after it.

“But construct an Ark under Our eyes and Our inspiration, and address Me no (further) on behalf of those who are in sin: for they are about to be overwhelmed (in the Flood).” (Hud, 11/37)

That fact is emphasized in the verse above.

c. The ship is the first technology product that ensured civil and social solidarity for people in terms of transportation, trade and economy. When we consider the issue within the framework of the evidence of divine grace, there is no doubt that the wonderful occurrence of a mechanism that provides all those benefits is a clear proof of the grace of Allah, the All-Merciful. Therefore, the ship is mentioned together with great blessings such as the sun, the moon, the atmosphere and the cloud in the Quran:

“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.” (al-Baqara, 2/164).

Eight different cosmological proofs are listed in the verse above:

1. The creation of the heavens.
2. The creation of the earth.
3. Alternation of the night and the day.
4. The sailing of the ships in the sea.
5. Rain falling and the dead soil coming to life and becoming green with it.
6. The development and spread of all kinds of living beings on the earth.
7. The movement of the winds in various directions.
8. The movement of the clouds.

It is interesting that all those proofs are chosen from the ordinary natural events that surround man and that he sees and experiences every day. Accordingly, human beings live in the middle of the proofs reflecting the existence, unity and loftiness of Allah’s power every moment. Nature itself is a miracle; but since man keeps seeing the natural events every day, he is not aware of the manifestations in those events.

For example, if the heavens, celestial bodies, and their system had been established differently, if the earth had been created differently, the order of life and living things as we know them would not exist. The constant change of the night and the day in the same order provides many benefits not only for humans but also for all living beings and plants.

The sailing of the ships in the sea is essentially an example of the importance of transportation vehicles and the divine laws that enable us to use and benefit from those vehicles in maintaining our existence and easing our lives. Rain is one of the most important natural events that make the world livable. The blowing of the wind in various directions, as well as the movement of the clouds in various directions, provide innumerable benefits from the order of meteorological events to the fertilization of plants and the distribution of precipitation.

Nature exists and the order in nature continues because Allah exists. The regular functioning of nature proves not only the existence of Allah but also His oneness and having no partner along with the perfection and continuity of his knowledge, will and power, and his control and influence on things. If His interest in the universe stopped for a moment, the universe would disappear at that moment or there would be only chaos.

Those brief explanations also show that besides the book of revelation, the book of the universe is also full of verses that prove Allah to us but only those who use their minds can see and understand these verses. Therefore, the following is stated at the end of the verse related to all those listed beings and events: “Here indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.” For, intellect is one of the greatest blessings bestowed upon man by Allah, and as in other issues, a person needs to use his ability properly in order to analyze the events proving the existence, unity and power of the Almighty Creator in a healthy manner and reach the right conclusions. According to Fakhruddin ar-Razi, this verse shows the necessity of not only being content with traditional knowledge but also benefiting from rational evidence in proving the existence of the creator. (Razi, IV, 179)

It is necessary to learn natural sciences, which are methods of examining, seeing and discovering, in order to examine and observe the beings and events in nature correctly, to reach scientific facts in this field, and to discover the divine order and laws in nature, and finally to see the “ayahs (signs)” that take us to Allah in nature. It is not possible for a person who does not have the mental and scientific training to study nature to see or detect the laws and verses there. It shows that the Quran leads us through the world of knowledge and science to belief and guidance. (Kur’an Yolu, Tefsir -Diyanet, I/158-159.)

It is Allah who creates causes and effects. People often fail to see this fact, and even if they do, they can forget. For example, it is Allah who created the law of the buoyancy of water; similarly, it is also Allah who makes ships float like mountains on that water. The verse reveals this and similar proofs of oneness. Thus, it emphasizes that we must know, serve, praise and give thanks to Allah, who creates those blessings and puts at our disposal.

In addition, Almighty Allah invites people to use their intellect and recommends them to think in order to find the physical law that allows the ship to float in the sea and not to sink. Thus, it is pointed out in the verse that we should think about the issue of how an object floats on water without sinking, and establish and develop marine sciences, marine research and marine industry.

Since the word fulk used in the verse means “turning”, it can be thought that it also evokes the turbine turned by the water. Attention may have been drawn to the program to produce the technology necessary for the conversion of water power to energy.

There are many benefits for people in the movement of ships in the sea. There are ships that carry commercial goods, that are used for war and that are used for research. It is understood from the verse that all of them are done so that man will benefit from them. The technology to be produced based on the law of the objects not sinking in water will be useful to people.

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