Most everyone claims to love nature, but is it nature or only their perception of nature that they adore. To evaluate this, let’s take a look at people’s relationship with nature by observing the yards and lawns of most homeowners. What we typically will find is perfectly manicured lawns, bushes and hedges trimmed in uniform patterns, where weeds are no where to be found, and fallen leaves are meticulously gathered and disposed of. So instead of nature, in its true chaotic sense, we tend to create an artificial construct to fit our preferred perception of nature where things are orderly and made to our liking.

Even when we go for a hike to be closer to nature we find maintained guided paths with railings and steps that have been cleared for us to comfortably observe our surroundings without having to deal with any of the harshness and unpredictability. We want the perception of nature without the actuality of nature. These blessings of bending our environments to best suit us historically has not been the norm, but the exception. For thousands of years and many generations humans’ relationship with nature consisted of fending to survive, fighting against the elements, and living in a state of continuous insecurity.

The reality is that most people today would be incapable of surviving on their own in the wild without the amenities and protections that are provided by modern society. It is when we are stripped away from these blessings that we are reminded just how inhospitable nature can be. This only becomes a problem when we forget the magnitude of the blessing for having this level of command over our environment and we turn unappreciative for this privileged state of affair. If we begin to think that this is the expected way things should be and become unappreciative of our ability to impose our will upon nature, then God will soon send us a reminder so that we may take heed and return to humility.

[10:24] The analogy of this worldly life is like this: we send down water from the sky to produce with it all kinds of plants from the earth, and to provide food for the people and the animals. Then, just as the earth is perfectly adorned, and its people think that they are in control thereof, our judgment comes by night or by day, leaving it completely barren, as if nothing existed the previous day. We thus explain the revelations for people who reflect.

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ النَّاسُ وَالْأَنْعَامُ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَخَذَتِ الْأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَازَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَا أَنَّهُمْ قَادِرُونَ عَلَيْهَا أَتَاهَا أَمْرُنَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَاهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَنْ لَمْ تَغْنَ بِالْأَمْسِ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

One of the clearest forms of man’s overcoming of nature is through the building of structures. Structures are a sign of man’s investment in a location to indicate that they are willing to reshape their surroundings to meet their needs as opposed to resorting to migrating each time their environment becomes less hospitable. While structures can come in many forms: homes, buildings, stores, even sky scrapers, one structure has historically been one of the largest achievements for people throughout history, that of a dam.

A dam allows man to harness nature to maximize its utility. By controlling the flow of water societies have been able to reap all the benefits that come along with mobilizing such power. In the past, dams predominately provided societies with a steady source of water to irrigate crops, for drinking, bathing, and sanitation. This allowed ancient civilizations to feed and provide crucial water to a growing population. This ability for people to be able to bend nature to accommodate their personal needs is a major blessing, but if people forget this and become unappreciative then this blessing can very quickly turn into a curse.

The Great Dam of Ma’rib was built in the 8th century BC in modern day Yemen. It was one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world and a central part of the Sabaean and Himyarite kingdoms around Ma’rib. The Kingdom of Sheba (Saba’) was a prosperous trading nation, with control of the frankincense and spice routes in Arabia and Abyssinia. The Sabaeans built the dam to capture the periodic monsoon rains which fell on the nearby mountains and to irrigate the land around the city. It is estimated that at the time the water from the dam irrigated some 12,000 acres and supported over 50,000 people.

But what happened when the people became unappreciative of such blessings, and started to take this amazing marvel for granted. We read their history and what took place in the following verses of the Quran.

[34:15] Sheba’s homeland used to be a marvel, with two gardens on the right and the left. Eat from your Lord’s provisions, and be appreciative of Him—good land, and a forgiving Lord. [34:16] They turned away and, consequently, we poured upon them a disastrous flood, and we substituted their two gardens into two gardens of bad tasting fruits, thorny plants, and a skimpy harvest. [34:17] We thus requited them for their disbelief. Do we not requite only the disbelievers?

لَقَدْ كَانَ لِسَبَإٍ فِي مَسْكَنِهِمْ آيَةٌ ۖ جَنَّتَانِ عَنْ يَمِينٍ وَشِمَالٍ ۖ كُلُوا مِنْ رِزْقِ رَبِّكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لَهُ ۚ بَلْدَةٌ طَيِّبَةٌ وَرَبٌّ غَفُورٌ فَأَعْرَضُوا فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ سَيْلَ الْعَرِمِ وَبَدَّلْنَاهُمْ بِجَنَّتَيْهِمْ جَنَّتَيْنِ ذَوَاتَيْ أُكُلٍ خَمْطٍ وَأَثْلٍ وَشَيْءٍ مِنْ سِدْرٍ قَلِيلٍ ذَٰلِكَ جَزَيْنَاهُمْ بِمَا كَفَرُوا ۖ وَهَلْ نُجَازِي إِلَّا الْكَفُورَ

The Arabic for the word translated as “disastrous flood” is “سَيْلَ الْعَرِمِ” (sayla l-ʿarimi) the word سَيْلَ sayla means “flood” while the word الْعَرِمِ l-ʿarimi means “violent” or “disastrous” but also means “dam”. We see the reason for this consequence in the following verses.

[34:18] We placed between them and the communities that we blessed other oases, and we secured the journey between them: “Travel therein days and nights in complete security.” [34:19] But they (turned unappreciative and) challenged: “Our Lord, we do not care if You increase the distance of our journeys (without any stations).” They thus wronged their own souls. Consequently, we made them history, and scattered them into small communities throughout the land. This should provide lessons for those who are steadfast, appreciative.

وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ الْقُرَى الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا قُرًى ظَاهِرَةً وَقَدَّرْنَا فِيهَا السَّيْرَ ۖ سِيرُوا فِيهَا لَيَالِيَ وَأَيَّامًا آمِنِينَ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا بَاعِدْ بَيْنَ أَسْفَارِنَا وَظَلَمُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ فَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَحَادِيثَ وَمَزَّقْنَاهُمْ كُلَّ مُمَزَّقٍ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ

The history of the people of Sheba and their destruction of the dam of Ma’rib are well documented not only in the Quran, but in history books as well. When the dam broke not only did the people lose their crops, but this caused the 50,000 people who were dependent on all benefits that the dam provided to instantly turn into refugees. Because of the people’s lack of appreciation for such blessings and their complacency to the provisions they inherited, God made them taste the hardships of scarcity and insecurity. This is the reality that if a society fails to be appreciative for what they have they too will suffer the same consequences, but we see that history continues to repeat itself.

[16:112] GOD cites the example of a community that used to be secure and prosperous, with provisions coming to it from everywhere. But then, it turned unappreciative of GOD’s blessings. Consequently, GOD caused them to taste the hardships of starvation and insecurity. Such is the requital for what they did.

 وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

While the dams of the past were mostly used for irrigation, the dams of today are predominately used to generate power for its inhabitants. The Yangtze River, in China, which spans 3,900 miles is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within a single country. This one river has provided so much economic prosperity to China that the Yangtze River Delta alone generates as much as 20% of China’s total GDP. This river is believed to be by many one of the best gift’s from God to a nation.

Originally proposed in 1919, in 2009, China completed the build of the Three Gorges Dam, that spans the Yangtze River. This dam is currently the largest concrete structure in the world. It is 185-meter-high and 2.3-km-wide with a reservoir of 39.3 billion cu. meters of water, and has a total electric generating capacity of 22,500 MW (~20 standard nuclear reactors). In 2018, the dam generated 101.6 terawatt-hours of power, about 10% of China’s total power usage. In addition to power generation, the dam also allows for increased shipping capacity and thus increasing the GDP output of the nation.

Access to fresh water has been an existential threat to the nation of China for many years and this dam was part of their plan to provide much needed relief to many people, but instead this year has seen record inflow from rainfall in the Yangtze basin which has been twice as heavy as normal. This is leading to major possible risk of flooding to the 400 million people who live in the Yangtze’s basin, which is about one-third of China’s population. This has resulted in floods which has already caused over $26 billion in economic damages and affected as many as 63 million people, with over 4 million people being displaced, and hundreds of reported deaths. The Chinese Communist Party continues to assure people that the waters can be held back and the dam will not breach, but time will tell.

An anonymous source in China created a simulation of what a collapse of the Three Gorges Dam and its potential impact downstream would look like. Needless to say, according to the calculations the destruction would be immense and terrifying. If the dam was to collapse it is estimated that 39.3 billion cu. meters of water would create a wall of water over 100 meter (328ft) tall flowing at over 100km/hr (62mph). This would cause a cascading effect of downstream dams to collapse and after 30 minutes the water speed would be reduced to 75km/hr (47mph) at a height of 20 meters (65.6ft) tall. After 8 hours this tidal wave would flooded both large and small cities and still be traveling at 60km/hr while the height of the water will be 15 – 20 meters. As the flood waters begin to fan out it will reduce the speed to 20km/hr with a height of 8 meters while the area around the Yangtze will maintain a speed of 35km/hr. It will take about 10 hours before Wuhan, which has a population of 11.5 million people and is 18 – 40 meters above sea level, would be flooded submerging the city in 5 – 7 meters of water. Within 24 hours water ways will finally arrive in Nanjing, with a population of 8.5 million people and 1,500 km away from the Three Gorges Dam, before the excess water finally settles.

God knows what the outcome will be for this dam and the Chinese people, but nevertheless this is a wake up call to the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party that they are not the ones who are in control, and if they fail to take heed of these warnings they should expect the same fate as that of the generations of the past.

[34:34] Every time we sent a warner to a community, the leaders of that community said, “We reject the message you are sent with.” [34:35] They also said, “We are more powerful, with more money and children, and we will not be punished.” [34:36] Say, “My Lord is the One who controls all provisions; He grants the provisions to whomever He wills, or reduces them, but most people do not know.” [34:37] It is not your money or your children that bring you closer to us. Only those who believe and lead a righteous life will receive the reward for their works, multiplied manifold. In the abode of Paradise they will live in perfect peace. [34:38] As for those who consistently challenge our revelations, they will abide in retribution.

[10:24] The analogy of this worldly life is like this: we send down water from the sky to produce with it all kinds of plants from the earth, and to provide food for the people and the animals. Then, just as the earth is perfectly adorned, and its people think that they are in control thereof, our judgment comes by night or by day, leaving it completely barren, as if nothing existed the previous day. We thus explain the revelations for people who reflect.

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاءٍ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الْأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ النَّاسُ وَالْأَنْعَامُ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَخَذَتِ الْأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَازَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَا أَنَّهُمْ قَادِرُونَ عَلَيْهَا أَتَاهَا أَمْرُنَا لَيْلًا أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَاهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَنْ لَمْ تَغْنَ بِالْأَمْسِ كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

[16:112] GOD cites the example of a community that used to be secure and prosperous, with provisions coming to it from everywhere. But then, it turned unappreciative of GOD’s blessings. Consequently, GOD caused them to taste the hardships of starvation and insecurity. Such is the requital for what they did.

 وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ

[8:36] Those who disbelieve spend their money to repel others from the way of GOD. They will spend it, then it will turn into sorrow and remorse for them. Ultimately, they will be defeated, and all disbelievers will be summoned to Hell.

 إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُنْفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ لِيَصُدُّوا عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَسَيُنْفِقُونَهَا ثُمَّ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِمْ حَسْرَةً ثُمَّ يُغْلَبُونَ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَىٰ جَهَنَّمَ يُحْشَرُونَ

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