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18- And the dawn as it breathes.
(81- The Rolling, 18)

The verb to breathe is a term originally used to describe the process in which many living organisms take in oxygen from their surroundings and give out carbon dioxide. But what has respiration to do with the dawn? What brings together these two seemingly different subjects? Does something new happen in the daylight different from the night? These questions were bound to remain unanswered until the time the process of photosynthesis came to light, the synthesis of simple carbohydrates like glucose and starch from carbon dioxide and water, with the liberation of oxygen, using the energy of light, in green plants chlorophyll being the energy transformer. Nutriments of high-energy content formed as a result of this process, called photosynthesis, are stored in tissues while oxygen is given out.

This phenomenon takes place only during the day. Photosynthesis is dependent on the energy of light and cannot be realized in the dark. When the “dawn breaks” as described in the verse, light shines and oxygen, the sine qua non of respiration, begins to be given out by plants. This makes clear the reason of successive usage of words “dawn” and “breathe” in the verse.


Energy is absolutely necessary for living organisms. This energy, which contributes to the functioning of our muscles and heart, and plays an important role in the chemical reactions of our body, is supplied by animal products and vegetables. The primary source of the energy contained in nutriments is the sun. At night, the sun’s rays do not reach us. The “dawn” is the time these rays begin to reach the earth. The plants that receive those rays transform this light energy into chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis. Regeneration and growth of plant tissues depend on this energy. While the plant continues to grow using this energy, it stores some of it in the form of chemical energy. A man or an animal that consumes this plant receives the energy it contains. This perpetuates the chemical reactions in their bodies and stores energy in their tissues. Consequently, the energy we derive from animal products and plants is the energy coming from the sun through the plants, forming the initial stage of nourishment. Had there been no process that enriched the oxygen in the air, the oxygen available in the atmosphere would have been exhausted by now. Thanks to this process that begins at dawn can we breathe. At the time of the descent of the Quran, people knew nothing about photosynthesis or transformation of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or again, about the role played by the sun’s rays in the realization of this process. The establishment of such a connection between the dawn and respiration in this verse astounds us once again.

Energy is absolutely necessary for all biochemical processes fundamental to living organisms. The energy is the result of the breaking down into elements of nutriments stored in the cells. When they come into contact with oxygen during this process, the chemical energy stored in molecules of the nutriment is released. This is a reaction similar to the phenomenon that takes place when a piece of wood kindled gives out heat and light. So the act of respiration must not be considered exclusively as an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, but as a more complex process that forms the basic energy source of plants and animals.

Had God not created the various requirements for photosynthesis, such as, for instance, the chlorophyll necessary for the plants’ realization of photosynthesis, we would not survive. Like many phenomena in the universe, photosynthesis, the transformation of oxygen and carbon dioxide necessary for respiration, is a part of the great and perfect design.

Knowledge of photosynthesis is of fairly recent origin. Scientists have conducted major research projects; among others, the team headed by Melvin Calvin, an American chemical engineer, is of great importance. This team was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1961.

The photosynthesis that enables us to breathe and supply oxygen can be formulized as follows:

Light energy   + Carbon dioxide + Water = Chemical energy + Oxygen.

(coming from     (coming from
the sun)                the air)

The chemical formula is:

Light + 6CO2 + 6H2O = C6H12O6 (Glucose) + 6O2


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