By: Zia Mahmood Minhas
The mountains are landforms that rise above the surroundings. They generally exhibit steep slopes and relatively confined peaks. Mountains are large structures and normally higher than 2000 feet. The mountains lower than this are referred as hills.
They very rarely occur in isolation. Generally mountains are found in elongated ranges or chains which extend to hundreds of kilometers in length. Mountains cover around 24% of earth’s surface.
Significance of the Mountains
Humans have been fascinated by mountains since times immemorial. Their beauty, cold climate, flora and fauna make them attractive tourist spots for millions of people. The snow clad peaks, rivers, streams and lakes and peaceful environments attract large segments of all societies. Adventure seekers throng to the mountains for sports like mountaineering, trekking and skiing. They provide respite from noisy congested settlements and hot environments of summer.
Qur’an has widely covered their significance. Some of the verses are quoted below.
﴾وَالْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ دَحَاهَا ﴿٣٠﴾ أَخْرَجَ مِنْهَا مَاءَهَا وَمَرْعَاهَا ﴿٣١﴾ وَالْجِبَالَ أَرْسَاهَا ﴿٣٢﴾ مَتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِأَنْعَامِكُمْ ﴿٣٣
And the earth thereafter He flattened bringing forth its water and its pastures. The mountains He anchored: all for your enjoyment and for your cattle.
(Soorah An-Naziat 79: 30-33)
﴾أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ كِفَاتًا ﴿٢٥﴾ أَحْيَاءً وَأَمْوَاتًا ﴿٢٦﴾ وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ شَامِخَاتٍ وَأَسْقَيْنَاكُم مَّاءً فُرَاتًا ﴿٢٧
Did We not make the earth a homestead, for the living and the dead? And We planted in it lofty mountains, and gave you sweet water to drink?
(Soorah Al-Mursalat 77:25-27)
وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ جَعَلَكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ مِن بَعْدِ عَادٍ وَبَوَّأَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ تَتَّخِذُونَ مِن سُهُولِهَا قُصُورًا وَتَنْحِتُونَ الْجِبَالَ بُيُوتًا ۖ
﴾فَاذْكُرُوا آلَاءَ اللَّـهِ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ ﴿٧٤
Remember when He made you his deputies following the people of Ad and gave you mastry over the earth, when you seized its plains to build your mansions and carved houses from the mountains. Remember the bounties of Allah and do not make mischief in the land to corrupt it”
(soorah Al-A’raf 7:74)
﴾وَتَنْحِتُونَ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا فَارِهِينَ ﴿١٤٩
And do you carve your homes from the mountains exulting in them?
(Soorah ash-Shu-shu’ara 26:149)
ۚوَاللَّـهُ جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّمَّا خَلَقَ ظِلَالًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنَ الْجِبَالِ أَكْنَانًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ سَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُمُ الْحَرَّ وَسَرَابِيلَ تَقِيكُم بَأْسَكُمْ
﴾كَذَٰلِكَ يُتِمُّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُسْلِمُونَ ﴿٨١
It is Allah Who made for you, among what He created, the shades, and made the mountains for you places wherein to hide, and made for you shirts to protect you from heat, and other shirts to protect you in battle. Thus does He complete His bounty upon you ; perhaps you will submit to Him.
(Soorah An-Nahl 16:81)
Significance of the mountains can be summed as below:
|-Mountains and hills have been habitat for human beings from times immemorial. Qur’an has specially mentioned the people of the Thamud. This nation was descendants of people of Ad and inhabited the north of Hijaz, in the region called as Al Hijr.They carved their palatial houses in the mountains which has been termed in Qur’an as bounty of Allah. They were destroyed by the wrath of Allah due to their misdeeds. The Naabtaeans also carved houses in the mountains.|
|-Moses was awarded prophethood on the mountain Toor-e-Sina which has been termed as sacred valley in the Qur’an.|
|-The mountains are source of water for most of the world’s rivers. The snow acts as storage for downstream users. In Soorah Al-Mursalat the link of sweet water and mountains has been pointed out. Mountains have been clubbed with water showing that they are interrelated. The mountains have been termed as deep freezers of earth by the scientists.|
Environmental Impacts of Mountains.
-Mountains help in water supply to the earth in rainfall system’ monsoon’. The phenomenon is mysterious and not yet fully understood but provides elaborate system of water supply to Indian subcontinent and some other parts of the globe. Winds move in one direction for 6 months and reverse the direction in the other half of the year.
-In case of Indian subcontinent water vapors rise from Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The water laden winds are intercepted by the mountains of Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and Himalayas. The winds rise high, condensate and result in rainfall. These rains are extremely beneficial for sustenance of communities in this region.
-As we go to higher elevations on mountains the average temperature decreases and snowfall increases.
-The colder climate on mountains affects the plants and animal types. Eco systems tend to lie along elevation bands of roughly constant climate called ‘altitudinal zones’. Mountains are generally less preferable for human habitation because of harsh climate and difficulty in farming. Human settlements are therefore concentrated on hills.
-Lower atmospheric pressure, greater exposure to radiation and less oxygen are some of the factors that contribute to difficulty in living.
-The highest known permanent habitation is at 5100 meters. There is not enough oxygen to support human life above 8000 meters; hence these are called death zones. The summits of Mount Everest and K 2 are in the death zone.
Some Prominent Mountain Peaks.
The peaks over 5000 meters have been given below in the table
|Mount Everest||Nepal/People’s Republic of China||8848|
|K2||Pakistan/ People’s republic of China||8611|
|Shishapangma||People’s Republic of China||8027|
How mountains are formed and transformed?-The Plate Tectonics Theory
Scientists base the formation and transformation of mountains on the theory of plate tectonics. According to this theory the solid surface of earth’s crust is broken into 12 massive pieces called plates. The thickness of earth’s crust is 70-75 kilometers in oceans and 100-150 kilometers on solid ground. These plates move slowly but constantly over the mantel below. This great network forms system of faults that circulates the globe for tens of thousands of kilometers in all directions. This system splits the lithosphere into relatively big, medium and small plates. The movement of these plates gives rise to different types of mountains. The process of mountain building is very slow and may take millions of years. Due to movement of the plate tectonics, portions of earth crust move, crumple and dive. Compressional forces, isostatic uplift and intrusion of igneous matter forces surface rocks upward creating a landforms higher than the surroundings I.e. mountains. This is a massive, slow process and has been referred to in Soorah At- Tariq.
﴾وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الرَّجْعِ ﴿١١﴾ وَالْأَرْضِ ذَاتِ الصَّدْعِ ﴿١٢
By the sky which gives rain again and again and by the earth that splits.
(Soorah At-Tariq 86:11-12)
The mountain rocks undergo a slow process of erosion due to action of harsh weather, precipitation, flowing water and wind. The erosion gradually wears and tears the uplifted area down. The weathered rocks move with water and glacial movements. It is deposited in the low lying areas by the process called sedimentation. Sedimentation leads to change in the mountain forms and emergence of vast cultivable lands called alluvial plains. Sedimentation and arable soil formation is very slow process and takes millions of years.
Plate tectonics is an elaborate system designed by Allah almighty to make the earth habitable and sustenance of life. The plates are important in following ways.
- The faults cause absorption of gases by earth’s atmosphere and hydrosphere.
- Formation and breakup of continents
- Impregnation of crust with minerals
- Growth of mountains
- Release of accumulated heat in earth’s bowls
Mountains as Pegs of Earth:
Mountains have been described in Qur’an as pegs that impart stability to the earth. The following verses point to the fact.
ۚخَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ تَرَوْنَهَا ۖ وَأَلْقَىٰ فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَن تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَابَّةٍ
﴾وَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ زَوْجٍ كَرِيمٍ﴿١٠
He raised the heavens without pillars that you can see, and cast upon the earth towering mountains, lest it should shake you violently and He set loose in it every sort of animal. From the heavens We sent down water and caused to grow therein of every noble species
(Soorah Luqman 31:10)
﴾أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًا ﴿٦﴾ وَالْجِبَالَ أَوْتَادًا ﴿٧
Did We not make the earth a cradle, and the mountains as pegs?
(Soorah An-Naba 78:6-7)
﴾وَإِلَى الْجِبَالِ كَيْفَ نُصِبَتْ ﴿١٩﴾ وَإِلَى الْأَرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ ﴿٢٠
And mountains how they were moored? How the earth was smoothed?
(Soorah Al- Ghashiyah 88 : 19-20)
﴾وَالْأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَّوْزُونٍ ﴿١٩
We spread out the earth and cast upon it mountains firmly anchored, and caused vegetation to grow there in, balanced in all its kinds.
(Soorah Al-Hijr 15:19)
In these verses following impacts of mountains have been elucidated. These concepts have been repeated in several other Soorahs.
-Mountains are like pegs and create fixing effect against violent movement or earthquake’s.
-Earth has been made a life sustaining abode and mountains have their role in creating stabilizing impact.
Are the mountains like pegs having subsurface roots?
The peg is a structure used for anchoring and as leash for putting the animals on hold. As we know the peg is partly subsurface and partly above ground. The subsurface length is proportionally longer. This points to the divine fact that mountains have deep roots below the surface of the ground. Formerly the mountains were taken as structures protruding above the surface only. It was discovered in the latter half of 19th century that mountains were embedded deep into the earth’s crust. The portion below the surface of ground may be 10-15 times the height of mountain. The height of Mount Everest is 15 kilometers, but its underground portion is 125 kilometers. This scientific phenomenon of mountains being like pegs has been endorsed by eminent geologists.
Frank Press is ex- president of Academy of Sciences, USA and ex adviser to Jimmy Carter (Ex-president of USA). In the book ‘Understanding Earth’ by Press and Raymond Siever it has been stated that studies based on seismic waves prove that mountains have underlying roots. Explaining the below given diagram(page 489) it is given that mountains have deep roots to support the heavy load in accordance with the principle of isostasy This book is taught in many universities as text book of geology.
Andre Calleux and J. Moody Stuart In their book’ Anatomy of Earth’ have endorsed the mountains having deep roots as shown in the below given diagram.
Edward J Tarbuck and Frederick K Lutgens have endorsed the peg like structures of mountains in their book ‘Earth sciences’.
Apart from the findings of geologists, a common man can comprehend this phenomenon. Since the universe has been created by the supreme designer Allah, there are commonalities in its design. All towering things have deep subterranean portions to keep them firmly anchored. We see that trees have root systems almost as deep as to its height and spread in the soil matching the circumference of canopy. Without this design the trees cannot grow upright. How come that the mountains with so much height and huge weight can stand firm without sub surface roots.
Role of Mountains in Stability of Earth
Mountains induce stability to the earth’s crust by joining crust and lower layer. This creates a fixing effect which is termed as ‘isostasy’. Isostasy is a state of equilibrium between the upward force created by the mantle layer and down force created by earth’s crust.
As we know earth is round in shape and moves around its axis at a tremendous speed. The earth’s circumference is 25000 miles at the equator which is covered in 24 hours. Thus the speed of movement is over 1000 miles per hour. Scientists say that due to plate tectonics and movement of earth around its axis, it would have shaken violently if the stabilizing effect of mountains was missing.
In a way the mountains act as the weights put on rims of car wheels for balancing in a workshop. Without these balancing weights the steering wobbles and drive is not smooth. Moreover the underground roots of mountains act as nails to the different layers of the earth providing it much needed stability.
Now we see that Qur’an’s description of significance of mountains, their structure and impact of stability for sustenance of life on earth revealed over 1400 years back are scientifically true. These discoveries were made centuries later and are still inconclusive. Little was known about mountains and research was postulated by earliest geologists G.B Airy and JH Pratt in later half of 19th century. Disclosures of such startling scientific information about mountains can only be attributed to divine origin of The Qur’an.