43- Do not you see that God drives the clouds,
then joins them together, then piles them on each other,
then you see the rain comes forth from between them.
And He sends down hail from the sky, where there are mountains of it.
And strikes those with it whom He will and diverts it from whomever He wills.
The vivid flash of its lightning nearly blinds the sight.
(24- The Light, 43)
Water is life. The greater portion of water that is the basic need for the living beings on earth is in continuous motion and transformation. The uninterrupted sequence of these successive transformations is referred to as cycling. Water is always present in the air. This state of water differs from its state in the seas and rivers. The formation of clouds by water in the state of vapor, the transformation of these clouds into rainwater and their falling upon the earth as precipitation are the result of God’s impeccable cycling system. More than 1400 years ago, the Quran began to draw our attention to the facts that today can be established only by the help of satellites. Scientists studied types of clouds and established that they were the consequence of well-designed systems and stages. Meteorologists examined the cumulonimbus clouds. The stages they described tallied with the process described in the sura “The Light”, verse 43.
1- Clouds move thanks to winds: The fact that the wind is the primary cause in the process of the formation of clouds that generates rain is depicted in the sura “The Romans” verse 46 (In the previous chapter, we saw the role played by wind in the formation of clouds).
2- Joining: Then the small clouds combine to form a single large cloud.
3- Piles them on each other: When the small clouds join together, updrafts within the larger cloud increase. The updrafts near the center of the cloud are stronger than those near the edges. These updrafts cause the cloud body to grow vertically, so the cloud is stacked up. This vertical growth causes the cloud body to stretch into cooler regions of the atmosphere where drops of water and hail formulate. When these drops of water and hail become too heavy for the updrafts to support them, they begin to fall from the cloud as rain, hail, etc.
GENIUS OF A MAN?
Meteorologists have acquired what they know about the formation, structure and function of clouds only in recent years by the help of satellites, computers and balloons. It is significant to read about the formation of clouds in the Quran. Today’s data are obtained through the use of instruments and satellites that have a panoramic view of clouds from above, otherwise, it would be impossible for men living on the surface of the earth to have an insight into the updraft in the clouds during their formation and the precipitation emerging from this cloud expanding vertically.
In the verse above, the simile of “mountain masses” is an apt one, since the cumulonimbus rain clouds at an altitude of 5-6 km present a formation like a mountain.
While the verse reveals knowledge unavailable at the time of the Prophet, there is no mention whatsoever of the misconceptions of the time. Up until the 1600s the western world was dominated by the meteorological lore of ancient Greece, itself a hotchpotch of correct and wrong data. It was believed that the atmosphere was made up of two different types of vapor, namely the dry and the moist; that thunder was the outcome of the collision of dry vapor with the neighboring clouds, and that the flash of lighting was produced by the kindling of the dry vapor. In the verse in question no such false information has been provided, while a description is made of the flash of lightning, along with the downfall of rain and hailstones, establishing a link between them. The accumulation of electric charge in the atmosphere causes lightning. The water droplets within the clouds are the most important source of electricity. The water droplets falling down as a result of gravitation break down into yet smaller droplets with positively charged electricity while the surrounding atmosphere is negatively charged. The electric charge of droplets increases at each division into smaller units. Along with the emergence of the electrical charge as a consequence of disintegration of water droplets, the ice crystals at the upper portion of the cloud gain positive electricity charge due to friction, thus separating from the atmosphere with negative charge and increasing the electrical charge of the cloud. This process results in an electric arc, i.e., a flash of light. The verse draws attention to the connection of the precipitation with the flash of lightning, leaving out the wrong information that attributes this process to the kindling of clouds. Describing the meteorological process that creates rain accurately, while eliminating the false ideas predominant at the time successfully, cannot be explained as pure coincidence or the genius of a man.
12- It is He who shows you the lightning for fear and hope,
and raises heavy clouds.
(13- The Thunder, 12)