Nature and Serenity
A look into nature’s effects on human health
Imagine yourself at a beach, sitting on the warm sand and watching a breathtaking sunset. A single thought comes to mind: Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah). Why does watching the sunset make one feel so tranquil? What is that indescribable emotion one feels when surrounded by nature? Such a feeling is inevitable when one ponders on the creations of Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (the Exalted and Glorified).
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an in Surat Ar-R`ad (Chapter: Thunder), “For without a doubt, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction” (13:28). Whether one looks up at a blue sky, or watches water gushing down a waterfall, nature can help one achieve happiness and serenity.
Recent scientific research provides evidence on the healing effects of natural beauty. Case studies and surveys performed by environmental medicine researcher Dr. Howard Frumkin, have shown that hospital patients, nursing homes residents, and prisoners who interacted with nature experienced higher rehabilitation rates than those in facilities lacking natural views. Dr. Robert Ulrich obtained similar results after studying patients in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital from 1972 to 1987. He concluded that patients who had a view of nature from their hospital room windows were discharged earlier from the hospital and required fewer pain medications than patients whose windows faced bricked walls.
Much before modern science was able to derive the healing effects of nature, Islam revealed the concept more than 1,400 years ago. Islam teaches that everything in the universe was created with one purpose—to worship Allah (swt). Nature should not be viewed as “Mother Nature,” an entity of free will. Rather, it is one of the creations of Allah (swt) controlled by Him alone. All living creatures, the leaves of trees, and even the waves of seas praise Allah (swt) at all times.
Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an, “Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whoever is within the heavens and the earth and by the birds with wings spread (in flight)? Each of them has known his means of prayer and exalting (Him), and Allah is Knowing of what they do” (24:41). Therefore, the creations of Allah (swt) serve as instruments of His remembrance.
Contemplating scenic beauties and always praising Allah (swt) is essential to a person in this technologically advanced and hectic world. The sun, the moon, the beaches, and the skies were created with utmost perfection.
Allah (swt) reminds mankind, “Have they not looked at the heaven above them—how We structured it and adorned it and how it has no rifts?” (50:6). Life is full of turmoil and inconsistency; natural serenity, in contrast, is a relieving resort.
Modern day science has finally accepted that nature can relieve stress. Research regarding natural environments and their effects, as opposed to those of urban environments, has shown that a natural atmosphere can lower a person’s heart rate. Two subject groups were asked to watch a video containing scenes from an assigned environment, either natural or urban. The group that watched a natural environment video experienced a reduction in their heart rates. On the other hand, those that watched an urban environment video did not experience any change in heart rates.
These findings suggest that the video depicting a natural environment had a relaxing effect on autonomic functions, such as heart rate. These conclusions are similar to the ideas presented by Dr. Ulrich’s research, in which reduced physiological stimulation was shown to lead to natural healing. Reflecting on nature is a reminder of the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu `alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings be upon him), who used to seclude himself in the cave of Hiraa outside the city of Makkah where he would spiritually contemplate.
One can remember the purpose of life simply by looking outside the window. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “Do they not look in to the realm of the heavens and the earth and everything that Allah (swt) has created, and think that perhaps their appointed time has come near?” (7:185). Nature has an ambience of peace and redirects one’s focus to worshiping Allah (swt) and committing actions that please only Him. One realizes that the chaos in this life is insignificant. Nature is filled with signs that remind human beings to purify their hearts with every thought of Allah (swt) and His magnificence.
A person ought to think about life, and where it is headed. Are the right actions
being taken—actions that will earn the ultimate place in paradise? Next time one feels depressed, it helps to look outside at the fluffy clouds that float in the soothing blue skies while praising Allah (swt). Even with a single glance, natural beauty stimulates countless inspiring thoughts. “But if you count the favors of Allah, never will you be able to number them” (14:34). Thank Allah (swt) for His abundant Blessings, for He is Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, Most Gracious and Most