“And tall date-palms, with ranged clusters” (I)
This verse appears towards the beginning of Surah Qaf, a Makkan Surah whose main theme is the final revelation, the resurrection of man (on the Day of Judgement) and the disbelievers’ rejection of both. The Surah begins with Allah (SWT) swearing by the Glorious Qur’an and other patent miracles in the universe that prove that He is the Creator of everything and that He is capable of destroying His creation and resurrecting it. For disbelievers, polytheists and those who have been led astray through doubt, the denial of any form of resurrection is at the core of their arguments for rejecting faith as it contradicts their corrupt beliefs.
Surah Qaf discusses the concepts of life, death, the decaying of the human body, its resurrection, restoration and judgement. It also mentions what will happen on the Day of Judgement and Allah’s constant observation of each individual, an observation that never ends. This Surah also describes an attitude that will be adopted by the disbelievers on the Day of Judgement; in an attempt to escape their crimes, they will blame their partners in wrongdoing among the humans and jinn who will fiercely deny the accusations. The argument will only end when they are all thrown into the hellfire; at the same time as Allah (SWT) grants His righteous believers permission to enter paradise. Surah Qaf advises the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Muslims to be patient against the harm they may face from the disbelievers and their various, corrupt beliefs. This Surah also advises them to be steadfast in their worship of Allah (SWT), who Has no partner, equal, adversary, companion or son, because these are all characteristics of His creation and He is above such attributes. Surah Qaf states that the role of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is to remind people of what they have been commanded to do by Allah without arrogance or hatred, as one of the fundamentals of Islam is that there is no compulsion in religion.
Because of the magnificent message of this Surah, its effect on the ears, mind and heart and as it mentions many miracles, the Prophet (PBUH) used to refer to it often during the khutbah (sermon) on Eid (Islamic holiday) and on Fridays.
Sometimes, this Surah was the entire topic of the khutbah and, with a large audience present, he would speak of its amazing meaning and unique effect; it would affect many of those present who were inattentive and for whom the message of Islam fell on deaf ears; it would refresh their minds and spirits.
Signs of Creation in Surah Qaf
- The decomposition of dead bodies in the grave, turning to dust except for part of the coccyx (the tail-bone at the base of the spine). The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the fourth verse of Surah Qaf inform us of this; modern scientific research has confirmed the fact.
- The heavens are a unified structure, decorated with stars and there is no empty space that does not host some substance or energy because the heavens, as the verse states, have “no holes”.
- The earth is round in shape as it extends infinitely; such a characteristic is, ultimately, a sign of roundness.
- The creation of the mountains after the Earth to serve as pegs to balance the Earth during its orbit around the sun; they also serve as pegs to the Earth’s rocky surface so that it does not tremble.
- Everything that Allah (SWT) has created exists in pairs, making His oneness exclusive and manifest to His creation; scientific research has shown that all living beings exist in pairs.
- Allah (SWT) controls the water cycle around the earth with His knowledge, power and wisdom; rain, blessed, clean and pure falls from the sky by His leave. He allows it to fall to the ground reviving dead plants and allowing plants and grain to grow. Allah (SWT) compares the resurrection of man on the Day of Judgment with the germination of seeds after rain has fallen on them, further emphasizing the certainty and the importance of the resurrection.
- The description of palm trees as being tall with ranged clusters.
- Emphasis on the fact that humans are Allah (SWT)’s creation; He is the Creator of everything. Death is inevitable for all creation; that Allah (SWT) controls life and death and that He created life from nothing in the first place proves that Allah is more than able to resurrect His creation.
- Mention of the fact that the creation of the heavens and earth took place in six consecutive stages; a fact scientific research is currently addressing.
- The term “splitting asunder” to describe the opening of the earth to reveal those buried inside it.
Each of these issues requires in-depth and individual discussion; I shall focus my discussion on the seventh point mentioned in the list above, which talks about the tall palm trees with its ranged clusters. Before delving into this topic, it is important to present what scholars have said about this particular verse.
Interpretations of the following verse by some scholars
Concerning the interpretation of the verse that can be translated as:
“And tall date-palms, with ranged clusters” (I)
At-Tabari says that “date-palms” means “tall” as the Arabic word “basiq” means tall. He also explained that “with ranged clusters” means piled on top of one another.
Scientific implications in this noble verse
The verse refers to a particular type of date-palm distinguished by its long trunk that can be taller than 30 meters; there are palm trees whose trunks do not exceed two meters in height, explaining the wisdom of specifying “tall date-palm trees” in this verse. This is further emphasized by Allah then describing the fruits of these trees as growing in “clusters”.
- Some of the obvious characteristics of palm trees are their stability in the ground, height, resistance to the wind, survival in extremely high, arid temperatures along with their durability, long life and abundant fruit production in spite of the harsh environment they live in. These trees also produce fruit that vary in shape, colour, taste, size and benefit in addition to all the benefits that can be extracted from each part of these blessed trees.
- Some of the hidden characteristics of palm trees lie in the amazing features that Allah blessed them with in order for to them to function effectively, from making maximum use of the water in the ground, channelling the desired compounds and nutrients into their roots and pumping sap to their upper parts, leaves, flowers and fruits, no matter how high these upper parts are and no matter how far apart the leaves, flowers and fruits are.
- Palmaceae is a family of about 200 genera of which, more than 40 species are trees, shrubs and climbers that are found mainly in tropical and temperate regions. Some of these species, like Phoenix dactylifera (date palm), are found in arid desert environments where the temperature sometimes exceeds 50°C and the ground-surface temperature is more than 90°C , in addition to there being scant rain. All of this shows the divine creation of palm trees, and in particular date-palm trees that derive maximum benefit from the slightest amount of water.
The importance of Water to the life of Palm trees
It is an undeniable fact that water is an essential element of life, to the extent that it composes more than 95% of the total weight of some living creatures (plants and animals). This is due to the amazing physical and chemical features of water, created by Allah, enabling it to dissolve many solids and gases as well as to blend and mix with other liquids making it an essential medium for all biological operations and to reduce the temperature of living organisms by evaporating from them. Plants, in general, especially highly developed plants and specifically desert plants, need massive amounts of water which they get from their habitat through their roots.
Soil holds water in two ways; in its capillary pore spaces or as a film coating on its particles (particularly fine particles like clay and decayed organic substances that have a high water retention capacity). Water reaches the soil through rainfall, irrigation or through ground water. Since rain rarely falls over desert areas, Allah blessed these areas with massive reserves of ground water resulting from heavy rainfalls that occurred thousands of years before they became desert. Consequently, Allah gave palm trees the ability to reach any moisture that might exist underground through lateral roots. He further protected their trunks with covers made of old dry frond bases. These frond bases have rough fibrous sheaths at the meeting point with the trunk, which increases its durability, prevents water loss, and protects the palm tree from adverse weather conditions, erosion and from attacks by animals.
Allah also made the fronds of a palm tree from a leather-like substance that prevents water loss, made them with pointed arrow-like ends turned into their centre and into the centre of the frond. He further made some of the leaves in the form of thorns to reduce water loss, which happens through transpiration. Allah protected the palm tree flowers with a waterproof thick pointy-edged leather-like cover, which fully surrounds them and is covered on the outside with a red velvet-like substance that helps preserve the water in both the flowers and the spandex; these are thick fleshy twisted branches that bear the flowers like a compound inflorescence or spikelet. These spadices along with the flowers they bear are known as spathes
Water is transported from the soil to the cells of the palm tree’s root system due to the difference in water potential between the solutions in the soil and xylem; this is known as root pressure. Consequently, water with all its dissolved minerals and nutrients move from the roots through the cells of the cortex until it reaches the endodermis, pericycle and finally the xylem in the centre of the palm tree. The water movement is also affected by the gradual change in water potential from one cell to another.
Moreover, Allah blessed water with physical characteristics that make it one of the most adhesive and cohesive liquids and amongst the liquids with the highest surface tension after mercury. That is because Allah blessed water with dual polarity, a unique feature of the water molecule. The greater the water surface tension, the greater its ability is to climb the sides of its container, especially if the diameter of this container is small. In other words, the smaller this diameter gets, the faster the water goes up and reaches higher levels. This special feature of water is known as the capillary action and allows water taken in by the palm tree’s roots to reach the top of the tree, its leaves, flowers and fruits in accordance with Allah’s plan. This way the water from the soil remains, with all its elements and mixes in one continuous form from the base of the plant to its top. Furthermore, what helps to maintain this continuity is the pulling power produced through transpiration, a process through which excess water evaporates into the surrounding atmosphere through pores found mainly in leaves (stomata). Transpiration is affected by the size, number and distribution of stomata on the plant surface, temperature, relative humidity in the surrounding environment, wind speed, as well as the internal structure of the leaves.
In addition to transpiration, there is another process called guttation that helps plants lose excess water; it frequently occurs in plants found in areas of high humidity. It was Allah’s will to make the diameter of the xylem in the centre of the palm tree small to help it pull the sap through capillary action to its upper parts which, in some cases, exceed thirty meters in height.
All of these factors combined: root pressure, capillary action and the pulling power produced by transpiration result in massive suction, equal to tens of atmospheric pressures. This power pulls water and dissolved minerals (unprocessed sap) through the xylem against gravity from the base of the palm tree to the top regardless of the height of the tree. At the same time, the organic nutrients (processed sap) that have been prepared in the leaves at the top of the tree go down to its roots through phloem due to the force of gravity.
The main parts of a palm tree
We will define the following parts of a palm tree:
First: The root system
The root system of a date-palm tree starts to form as soon as the seed germinates. However, propagation can also occur through offshoots (offsets) or through tissue culture techniques. In all cases, the plant starts with the formation of the root system. The root system portion that comes out of the planted seed is called the primary root. Gradually, these roots start to disappear and are finally replaced by lateral roots arising from the stem of the seedling. As the plant grows, these lateral roots increase in size and number; these are fibrous roots that do not have any root hairs. The surface cells in these lateral roots absorb water and nutrients from the soil through epidermal cells. One special feature of palm trees is their amazing speed to form and spread their roots through the soil, especially sandy soil, in order to stabilize the tree and enable it to stand erect at great heights.
Second: The vegetative system
The palm tree trunk: the trunk is cylindrical in shape with a diameter ranging form 40cm to 90 cm; its height ranges from between less than two meters up to thirty meters or more. The trunk has no branches and is covered with a special type of fibre and with frond bases. These fibres and frond bases strengthen the trunk; protect it from environmental hazards and attacks by animals, water loss through evaporation as well as helping the trunk to stand erect tens of meters above the ground.
The palm’s terminal bud: This contains the single special bud that exists at the top of the tree, where it stocks a big amount of the processed food sap. This special bud is responsible for the vertical growth process, which increases the height of the trunk and forms the leaves, flowers and fruits. The death of this terminal bud means the death of the tree; therefore, Allah surrounds it with a thick barrier cover consisting of the curled and clustered frond petioles in order to protect it from changes in weather conditions. The terminal bud of the palm tree is divided into a lower part, from which the fronds and fibre grow, and an upper part from which the clusters grow.
The palm tree leaves (fronds): These are complex, very long, feather-shaped leaves. Their length ranges between three to six meters. Each palm tree produces between ten and twenty fronds every year starting with its terminal bud. The frond has a long, thick, strong but flexible midrib. The width of this midrib increases where it meets the trunk and decreases towards the midrib’s other end. Its colour varies from yellow to dark red to brown. It bears mini-leaves, which number ranges from 120 to 240 with length varies between 15cm to 100cm and which width varies between 1cm and 6cm. That is in addition to a number of thorns in the lower part of the frond. Each frond consists of a formed mini-leaf, which might exist solely or in groups. The mini-leaf connects to the central part of the leave through a swelling at the base of the palm leaf. Each leaf’s stem is surrounded by a sheath and produces a red fibrous substance, which surrounds the trunk, increases its’ thickness and strength, protects it and preserves the water inside it.
Third: the system of flowers and fruits in palm trees
Palm inflorescences emerge from auxiliary buds at the leaf base. The inflorescence is a complex spathe that branches into a few branches that bear flowers which either exist on top or are embedded in the branch that bears them.
The spathe is a complex spikelet that includes the spadix and the flowers. The spadices are fleshy thick branches that bear the flowers. The unisex flowers (either males or females) are organized without a stem; meaning carried directly by the spadix. There are nearly ten thousand flowers in each inflorecences. This fact is reflected in the Qur’anic verse: “with ranged clusters” meaning organized clusters.
The male flowers are white and slightly yellow and exist on male palms whereas the female flowers are yellow and smaller in size than the male flowers and they exist on female palms. In both types, the bud consists of a hard envelope that encloses the flowers and is known as the spathe. All flowers, clusters and spadices that are kept inside this covering/ envelope are known as tenders. The male spathes have short spadices and many branches and they bear adjoining flowers whereas the female spathes have longer and thinner spadices and they bear fewer flowers spread at some distance from one another. Fertilization occurs when the pollination of female palms by males takes place either naturally (by means of wind and insects) or artificially (manually or by machines). Consequently, the fruit is produced by one of the three carpels that form the female flower. The remaining two carpels, however, degenerate and fall to the ground.
The reproductive system of the palm tree consists of: shoot-tips, anthers, clusters, panicles and fruits. The fruit is spiky and it carries a single split stone that envelops the embryo of the palm inside, it is surrounded by an endospermic membrane that protects and feeds the embryo at the same time. In case the female flower does not get pollinated, the three carpels continue to grow and produce small seedless fruits, all joined below one funnel. However, these fruits have no nutritious or economical value. Date-palm trees are planted for their edible fruits and for their wood and fronds, which have countless uses and benefits.
Glory to Allah who fourteen centuries ago revealed the verse: “And tall Date-palms, with ranged clusters”. Fourteen centuries later, scientific research confirmed the magnificent power that Allah created in tall-palms in order to enable them to suck sap from the soil upwards to their terminal buds. It also confirms that there are nearly ten thousand flowers on each spadix, meaning ranged clusters on top of one another, which results in producing clustered fruits as well. These facts were unknown at the time of the revelation and they remained unknown for long centuries afterwards; they remained, however, in the Holy Book (Al-Qur’an) as a definite proof that it is Allah’s word and a definite proof that Muhammad, who received this word, was a true prophet; may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him and upon his family, companions and all those who follow him and spread his message until the Day of Judgement.
Praise to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds.
(I): Surah Qaf: V 10
Source: Dr. Zaghloul El-Naggar [External/non-QP]