Surah An Nahl to me is like a never ending panoramic slide show of Allah’s blessings. It’s so visual and the words used are so apt, as is representative of Allah’s Wisdom, Knowledge, and Majesty.
As a nature lover, I revel in the word analysis and tafseer of this surah. The word analysis gives me a visual imagery that is so rich, the tafseer gives me reflective points to continue pondering on, and our weekly group sessions feed my hungry appetite for more points of reflections.
So I’ve decided to bring the visual pull of this surah from whatever images I can find. Of course, nothing beats the real thing, but for other lovers of nature, maybe you can relish these imagery as you never have before, as guided by Allah’s words.
An Nahl [16:5] Sahih International
And the grazing livestock He has created for you; in them is warmth and [numerous] benefits, and from them you eat.
In this ayah Allah says that He has created grazing livestock, which includes cows, sheep, goats, and other domesticated animals that graze. Here, Allah mentions 3 things we get from these grazing livestock.
The Arabic word used for this is دِفْءٌ , which has the root د ف ء. It means warmth that is obtained through warm clothing. Isn’t it true that we get wool from sheep and from that wool we make sweaters, carpeting, bedding, blankets, rugs, lining ; things that give us warmth? In fact, wool is well known to have certain properties that makes it perfect for textile production. As I did more research on wool, I discovered an amazing wealth of information on it I never knew before. Wool has the capacity to absorb water to 30% its weight without becoming damp and this makes it waterproof. Its fibers trap heat so as to create a layer of warmth for the wearer. It also takes in dye very easily and keeps it, subhaanallah. Out of His mercy, Allah has made this one of its characteristics so human beings can use it for warmth, and at the same time satiate human desire for beauty and variation. Imagine if the only color we can get from wool is the original color.
Wool is natural, hypoallergenic, and most importantly renewable. It can be spun into yarn and then woven into blankets or knitted or crocheted into warm apparels and furnishings. Navajo blankets are made from woven yarn. Wool can be processed and turned to felt which can be used for a myriad of uses, some of which are preschool teaching material and arts and crafts. How amazing is it that Allah has also inspired man to come up with various ways of using this wool in order to make means of warmth. The creativity and ingenuity manifested by man through the many types of wool textile we now have is just another proof of Allah’s mercy. For a long time, wool has been used as a means of providing warmth in the form of clothing, lining for garments and boots and even house insulation. The Mongolian nomads use felt to insulate
the floor and walls of their yurts. Houses and buildings also use wool for insulation.
According to Wikipedia, the use of wool as insulation for buildings and houses are rising in popularity but are more popular in Europe, Australia, and Canada than the United States. Not only is wool used for means of attaining warmth for man, but it also serves the other creatures. No, not the sheep or llama or aplaca or goats it originally came from (well, they do too, but we’re talking post shearing), but on other animals such as horses. Saddle blankets are also made from wool for horses. Subhanallah, such mercy is bestowed on all His creatures!
So who do we attribute all these to? Man’s ingenuity? Why is it that we, the only creature that has been gifted with full intellect, tend to attribute greatness to the vessels of blessings? Man’s ingenious. Man comes up with creative ways to make things that may be useful to him. Man gets the full credit. Who created man? Who gave man this blessings of ingenuity? Who gave man his life, his ability to breathe, let alone generate ideas that can come to physical fruition? Why doesn’t man use his given intellect to thank the source of all these blessings? Allah.
So, the next time you step on a carpet, think wool, think dif’-un. When you go to bed (especially if your mattress is Serta) instead of counting sheep, count your blessings (though man will never be able to, subhanallah). When you slip on your socks, think warmth. The next time you are freezing in out of ordinary winters, think of this ayah, remember Allah and thank Him.
The Arabic word used is مَنَافِعُ , which is plural for مَنفَعَة , and this clearly shows that from these grazing livestocks are numerous benefits. As humans utilize one of the greatest blessings given to them, the brain, more uses for wool are discovered. As we go back to being green, cloth diapers are making a come back. Guess what is used to make them?
Yup! Wool! Its breatheable quality, ability to absorb 30% of moisture while still being dry, antibacterial property (thanks to the lanolin – that are also used for cosmetics and- yet another benefit from these livestock), and its stretchability make it the perfect material for cloth diapers
. And of course, it’s organic. Lanolin in wool is used for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, not to mention Lansinoh, a nursing mother’s best friend. The properties of lanolin
make it better as an emollient than petrolatum. It treats skin problem such as eczema, dryness, and even open wounds.
Cow hides were used as shelter, garments, etc and now for luxurious furnishings such as cowhide rugs, mostly manufactured in Brazil. Manure is used as fertilizer. Gelatin, used to make some types of pies, marshmallows, jelly, ice cream and many other desserts (and this is just desserts!) come from their hooves. The grazing livestock also help naturally graze unwanted vegetation, and man, being ingenious, have also utilized this as an income-producing service; fee-service landscape management. Llamas are also grazing livestock. Llamas are curious, gentle animals and make great pack animals. Apparently, their hooves cause less damage to trails compared to hiker boots. They are even used as pet therapy, just as horses are. More on benefits of llama here
. The benefits, if listed, would overwhelm us all. Truly, if you were to count Allah’s blessings you will not be able to enumerate them. Alhamdulillah!
Even though most of us, especially those who are able to read this, are far removed from farms, that we don’t even know what sheep husbandry is, and might even be surprised to know that wool comes from sheep, llama, alpaca, etc. we are not far removed from the benefits of these farms and its grazing livestock. Every time we slather that lotion and cream on our bodies and faces, we are in very close contact with these grazing livestock. Every time we look at the ingredients list on packaged food and come across ‘gelatin’, their feet are right in our faces. Our lives are so intertwined with these grazing livestock despite the physical miles between us and them that this ayah pertain to us no matter how advanced we are technologically.
With the Industrial Revolution, farmers left their farms to work in the cities and as a result, cities began to mushroom all over the globe, but these farms, in reality, are at the core of our daily lives. The benefits of these livestock continue to serve us by Allah’s merciful bounties. How can this ayah then not affect and touch us when we recite it with understanding?
Allah says, “from them you eat.” When we think of cows, sheep, goats, one of the very first thing that may come to our mind that is usually governed by our stomachs, are milk and meat.
Milk is almost a staple drink for most people, and it can come in many different forms; yogurt (which reminds me of the wonderful yogurt ice cream we had at Hogi Yogi in Arizona just last weekend), cheese, ice cream, whipped cream, heavy cream, milkshakes, and more. As for meat, ahh…the controversial food item that we have to take with caution and limitations due to modern sedentary lifestyles, increase in damage to the earth resulting from man’s greed and hastiness, and an abundance of food; despite its bad reputation, it particularly helps anemics and is highly valued.
Look at any price of steak and you’re staring at its value in the face. Allah has made these grazing livestock for us to eat. So let us not transgress by going vegetarian for the purpose of advocating mercy to animals. Moderation is the answer, based on what Allah has determined.
Subhanallah, this is just one ayah from Surah An Nahl, and I am running out of energy just writing and researching the benefits from grazing livestock! No wonder this surah is also known as An Ni’aam (The Blessings).