The All-Wise Creator has made the vegetable and animal kingdoms-particularly the small ones-one of the broadest arenas for displaying His Power and manifesting His Attributes in the greatest abundance, and one of the fields containing most of the 'mirrors' reflecting His Names. He has done this for certain wise, lofty purposes, some of which are as follows:
Vegetables or plants serve as seeds for Earth, and animals are fruits of the world. A seed is a miniature tree, and its fruit is its miniature index. Whatever is manifested in a tree is manifested in the seed and the fruit. The purpose for existence and life is to receive and reflect the manifestations of the Names of the All-Majestic and Beautiful One of absolute Perfection. Divine Favoring manifests itself through the elaboration and reproduction of plants and animals, especially with their most delicate parts and individual members. This is most suitable to the eternal Wisdom.
It is narrated that Prophet Moses complained to God about the abundance of gnats attacking him and asked: 'What is the wisdom of creating so many of them?' God revealed that: 'The gnat asks: 'Why have you created human beings, who are so large? They are unaware and heedless of You. If you had made their heads of gnats, [in return for each,] You would have had tens of thousands of those praising, mentioning, and glorifying You, and displaying Your Names' manifestations and Your art's embroideries through their tongues and disposition.' ' True! While the invisible Qur'an inscribed in the ink of stars on the sheets of the heavens shows you the signs of creation's grandeur and splendor, the Qur'an inscribed in the ink of subatomic particles or the atoms in your eye reads the signs of Knowledge and Wisdom.
The former says: 'Glory be to Him. How splendid are His Essential Qualities,' while the latter says: 'Glory be to Him. How delicate is His Wisdom, how subtle His art.' Although both Qur'ans have the same value and significance, since observers and watchers derive no benefit from multiplying the large one, multiplying the small one is of great importance to those numberless angels and jinn, people and others who study it and reflect on it. When it is multiplied, it will not remain the same, single book; rather, it will be a book of endless variations containing different uses and meanings, one that has increased greatly in beauty and purity of expression. Furthermore, when many chapters of the small Qur'an and its copies are inserted in some of the letters of the large one, the small Qur'an excels the large one to the degree of its smallness.
Another wise purpose for creating many animals and plants is that the most perfect Divine manifestation is that God manifests Himself with all His Names focused on a single being. Art becomes most perfect when the greatest thing, with all of its embroideries, is inserted in the smallest. The seed and fruit with respect to the tree, the plant and animal with respect to Earth, humanity and the Prophet with respect to the universe, and the heart and innermost human sense or faculty with respect to humanity-these are essential, compact samples receiving and reflecting all of the Names manifested on the originals growing from them.
For example a fruit, part of the tree (which represents the whole) points to Unity-the manifestation of Divine Names on all fruits and trees. However, being a sample of the tree (containing whatever is in the tree) and the tree representing the total growing from it and resulting in it, a fruit indicates Divine Oneness-the manifestation of Divine Names as focused on the fruit.
For example, the sunlight illuminating the world in daytime is a manifestation of Unity, while the sun's image reflected in each transparent object is an example or analogy for the manifestation of Oneness.
When you see the sun in your mirror as having taken on the mirror's color and attributes and then see it in other mirrors, you understand and witness what Oneness or Unity means. It is the same (and only) sun manifested in all mirrors that announces: 'We speak in different tongues, but Your Beauty is one and the same.'
Whatever exists points to that Beauty. We understand from this that the All-Wise Creator, with glorified Wisdom and delicate art, turns with His subtle Power, complete Favoring, perfect Mercy, and sensitive Wisdom from creation to Earth, and then, in succession, to living beings, humanity, and one's heart; from humanity to its heart; and finally to the heart of creation and its seed from which the universe, as well as its illustrious fruit, the final purpose for its creation, and the embodiment of the Creator's Love and Mercy, was created. That exalted, noblest, pure, unblemished heart is Muhammad, our master and the master of creation, upon him be peace and blessings to the number of the Tree of Creation's fruits.
Know, O one who thinks that some creatures exist in nature overabundantly and in vain. Creation's perfect order and balance refute this, for the order is a design interwoven by the raison d'etre of all parts, particulars or individuals, and details in creation. One cannot observe the purposes of all details of a palace, nor neglect the main purpose of why it was built. Since the main purpose is considered while building it with all its parts, the secondary purposes expected of the details are thus observed, for there are subtle purposes behind everything related with the All-Living, Self-Subsistent Owner in proportion to His Ownership and disposal, and the extent of His Names' manifestation on that thing. The purposes related to the thing itself are also in proportion to its life and existence.
Everything has been entrusted with a goal in life, which is studied by intelligent beings. If one cannot discern it, others can. Each thing contains numerous benefits. God has uncountable hosts. None knows the hosts of your Lord but He (74:31). Innumerable beings focus their attentive gaze on all things that exist. Among them are angels glorifying and exalting God, jinn observing creation in amazement and reflecting on it, and spirit beings extolling God and proclaiming His Unity, for Whom the solidity of things does not conceal what is in them and Who can observe many things at once. Above all, the Maker of all things looks on the works of His art. Many awake and enlightened believers, as well as many animals moved by their perceptions, also look on God's works of art.
Question: The signs in the Book of the Universe point to the existence of non-human creatures who gaze on and study them in amazement and reflection and then glorify God. Which line indicates this?
Answer: The order on the line of balance in the page of wisdom indicates it. When you enter a theater where a play is being performed, you see many marvels that amaze the audience, as well as pleasing melodies and many types of charms in which minds and imaginations take pleasure. There are also many other things that give pleasure to your innumerable faculties, feelings, and senses. Then you look at the spectators' hall and see a few paralyzed, deaf, and blind children. You will conclude that behind the veils hanging in front of the walls are various intelligent beings with different tastes and temperaments who have come for innocent amusement and are pleased with and want to see every novelty in the play. They see you and the play from where you cannot see them.
If you understand this comparison, look at those creatures and their world. You see 'carpets' spread, 'couches' raised, 'raiments' worn, and 'sheets' unrolled. There are flowers and fresh fruits inviting living, needy beings to themselves with their color, taste and smell, and appealing to those who understand such things with their design, decoration, and art. Plants climb straight up their stalks to fulfill their duty of creation, and animals stand on their legs to do their duty of worship. Most of these creatures are not conscious of the astonishing, pure beauty and excellent faculties lodged in their creation, for they are for other creatures who can see and hear.
Despite this attractive majesty, charming adornment, kinds of favoring, things and events arousing curiosity to know and feelings of love for the One behind them; despite all undertakings, intentions and decisions, self-ornamentation, smiles, beckonings, and flirtations; and despite many similar attractions and charms that almost start to talk and tell their meanings, it appears that only two kinds of intelligent, living beings of understanding can appreciate all of this: humanity and jinn. However, most of them are heedless and are like deaf and blind children with paralyzed minds in the darkness of materialism and naturalism. This shows that apart from humanity and jinn, the universe is full of beings with spirit who reflect on existence and glorify God: The seven heavens and Earth, and whoever is in them, glorify Him; there is nothing that does glorify Him with praise but you do not understand their glorification (17:44).
* Adapted from Bediuzzaman's Epitomes of Light (Mathnawi al-Nuriya)