Tag Archive | oxygen

Aisha’s Office: Photosynthesis in the Qur’an


Essential in the production of not only light, but also hydrogen and oxygen, the sun plays a primary role in sustaining all of creation across the globe. Swearing, “by the dawn when it breathes“ (“itha tanaffasa”), Allah reveals in the Qur’an the life-sustaining production of oxygen, which is performed only during daylight. Ceasing production as the night “closes in,” oxygen production once again resumes as the horizon approaches the dawn.

So I swear by the retreating stars –
Those that run [their courses] and disappear –
And by the night as it closes in
And by the dawn when it breathes
[That] indeed, the Qur’an is a word
[conveyed by] a noble messenger

{Surah Al-Takwir 81:15-19}

Earth’s Oxygen Production Resumes Daily at Dawn

Making up 21% of the air we breathe, oxygen is produced only during photosynthesis – a process used by plants to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into sugar. The resulting sugar, glucose, becomes the nutritional fuel supplying plants with energy needed for growth.

Harun Yahya, in A Scientific Miracle of the Quran: The Dawn that Breathes, states, “While 30% of the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by plants on land, the remaining 70% is produced by plants and unicellular organisms in the seas and oceans – which are capable of performing photosynthesis.”

Yahya points out that “itha tanaffasa”(“when it breathes”), in Surah Al-Takwir, “metaphorically means to breathe deeply or respire.” He notes, “The phrase emphasized in the verse is remarkable in the sense that morning is the time when oxygen production starts, as well as being the time when the oxygen is produced most. In addition, the importance of this fact is emphasized in the verse with the oath being made upon this fact.”

Only with solar energy can Earth’s plants perform photosynthesis, a respiration cycle of inhaling carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen in the chemical production of glucose. Thus, the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere could not be produced without the daily dawning of the sun.


Just as the daily dawning of the sun is critical for the process of photosynthesis, so too is the nightly approach of darkness. As the Qur’an reveals in the above verse, the two phenomena are paired in a joint relationship: As the darkness “closes in,” the absence of light halts the cycle of glucose production, and reverses the cycle of respiration. At nights, plants, just like humans and animals, inhale oxygen and exhale CO2.

The Complex Process of Photosynthesis

As discussed by the scientific research team at Istanbul Quran Research Association (IQRA), in Respiration and Photosynthesis, identification of the scientific process now known as photosynthesis is fairly recent. A research team led by American Chemical Engineer Melvin Calvin was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for work on photosynthesis.

“At the time of the descent of the Quran,” IQRA notes, “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.”

When oxygen is released during photosynthesis, energy in the molecules of nutriments stored in the plant’s cells is chemically released. “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.”

Photosynthesis and the Carbon Cycle

Holli Riebeek, Education and Public Outreach Specialist of NASA Earth Observatory, writes in The Carbon Cycle, “Carbon is both the foundation of all life on Earth, and the source of the majority of energy consumed by human civilization.”

Carbon cycles through Earth’s atmosphere geologically and biologically. The geological, or Slow Carbon Cycle primarily involves carbon compounds expelled by volcanoes, eroding from land into the ocean, sinking to Earth’s mantle and once again expelled by volcanoes.

The biological, or Fast Carbon Cycle, primarily involves photosynthesis. Riebeek reports the two most significant components of the fast carbon cycle are respiration of land-based plants and microscopic organisms in the ocean, called phytoplankton.


Photosynthesis impacts the Fast Carbon Cycle so significantly that monthly CO2 fluctuations associated with plant-growing seasons are measurable. Riebeek reports, “In the Northern Hemisphere winter, when few land plants are growing and many are decaying, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations climb. During the spring, when plants begin growing again, concentrations drop.” She continues, “It is as if the Earth is breathing.”

Every Dawn Breathes New Life Into Earth’s Atmosphere

Providing an excellent fuel source for growing plants, the bonds of carbon molecules are highly-energized. However, without the catalyst provided by sunlight, and the resulting oxygen generation during photosynthesis, the chemical energy to sustain life can never be released.

In Miracles from Quran and the World of Plants, Dr.Nazmy Kaleel abu al Ata states, “Photosynthesis is the basic source of almost all energies on earth and food substances.” Dr. Nazmy, a Biology Specialist at Ain Shams University in Egypt, continues, “and if it hadn’t been for light this process wouldn’t exist and all means of life would vanish.”

Regarding Allah’s oath, “And by the dawn when it breathes,” Harun Yahya points out, “this single feature is enough to prove that the Earth and the whole universe is certainly not an idle place that accidentally came into being. The universe, the Earth we live in all the systems that sustains life on Earth, animals and men, are all created by the Almighty Allah, in all their intricate detail.”

Every morning brings a fresh, new start to the cycle of photosynthesis. Every dawn brings a new day, literally breathing new life into Earth’s atmosphere, a blessing from Allah for all of His creation. We may be reminded by this to recite the following du’a upon waking every morning:

Alhamdulillaahil-lathee ‘aafaanee fee jasadee,
wa radda ‘alayya roohee,
wa ‘athina lee bithikrihi.

“Praise is to Allah
Who gave strength to my body
and returned my soul to me
and permitted me to remember Him.”
(–The Prophet Muhammad, recorded by At-Tirmithi 5/473)

Sunrise from the International space station

Sunrise from the International space station


(This is an article I wrote for onislam.net, but their website disappeared, unfortunately, and it was never published. Insha’ Allah, I hope you found it interesting!)