Quranic Word Series: Bahr

Today’s Quranic Word of the Day is Bahr = بَحْرٌ

Bahr is the ocean. Its plural is bihaar = بِحَارٌ

The majority of our planet is covered by water. It is one of the most amazing creations of Allah ﷻ. Looking out into the calm, blue ocean is a beautiful sight. It is also one of the instruments Allah uses as a blessing for some, a punishment for some, and a test for others.

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The Ocean as a Blessing

Allah may use the ocean as a blessing or a means by which Allah can save someone. One example is when Allah ﷻ saved Prophet Musa (A.S.) from the Pharoah through the ocean. Allah says:

وَلَقَدْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ أَنْ أَسْرِ بِعِبَادِي فَاضْرِبْ لَهُمْ طَرِيقًا فِي الْبَحْرِ يَبَسًا لَّا تَخَافُ دَرَكًا وَلَا تَخْشَىٰ

[Quran 20:77]

And We had inspired to Moses, “Travel by night with My servants and strike for them a dry path through the sea; you will not fear being overtaken [by Pharaoh] nor be afraid [of drowning].”

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The Ocean as a Punishment

With the command of Allah, that same ocean that is a blessing for some can become terrifying for others. It can destroy our strongest and largest ships and can send a tsunami that wipes out entire populations. This is when Allah uses the ocean as a punishment for some people according to His knowledge.

An example of the ocean as a punishment for some is when Allah SWT drowned the Pharoah in the Red Sea. He says: 

وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتْبَعَهُمْ فِرْعَوْنُ وَجُنُودُهُ بَغْيًا وَعَدْوًا ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَدْرَكَهُ الْغَرَقُ قَالَ آمَنتُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ وَأَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

[Quran 10:90]

And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him, he said, “I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims.”

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The Ocean as a Test

Likewise, Allah may make the ocean a test for people. An example of this is when Allah tested the people of Bani Israel through the ocean. He says:

وَاسْأَلْهُمْ عَنِ الْقَرْيَةِ الَّتِي كَانَتْ حَاضِرَةَ الْبَحْرِ إِذْ يَعْدُونَ فِي السَّبْتِ إِذْ تَأْتِيهِمْ حِيتَانُهُمْ يَوْمَ سَبْتِهِمْ شُرَّعًا وَيَوْمَ لَا يَسْبِتُونَ ۙ لَا تَأْتِيهِمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَبْلُوهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ –

[Quran 7:163]

And ask them about the town that was by the sea – when they transgressed in [the matter of] the sabbath – when their fish came to them openly on their sabbath day, and the day they had no sabbath they did not come to them. Thus did We give them trial because they were defiantly disobedient.

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The Ocean’s Purpose

Other than being a means of blessing, punishment, or test for people, Allah has also made the ocean with various purposes for mankind.

Purification

Seawater can purify man from filth and dirt so that he can stand in front of His Lord for worship, purified.

أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ، يَقُولُ سَأَلَ رَجُلٌ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنَّا نَرْكَبُ الْبَحْرَ وَنَحْمِلُ مَعَنَا الْقَلِيلَ مِنَ الْمَاءِ فَإِنْ تَوَضَّأْنَا بِهِ عَطِشْنَا أَفَنَتَوَضَّأُ مِنْ مَاءِ الْبَحْرِ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “هُوَ الطَّهُورُ مَاؤُهُ الْحِلُّ مَيْتَتُهُ” ‏.

[Sahih an-Nasa’i]

Abu Hurairah said: “A man asked the prophet (ﷺ): ‘O Messenger of Allah, we travel by sea and we take a little water with us, but if we use it for Wudu’, we will go thirsty. Can we perform Wudu’ with seawater?’ The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Its water is a means of purification and its dead meat is permissible.'”

Employment and Livelihood

It also serves as a source of employment for man as in the case of fishermen, seawater divers, and so on. Many countries depend on the sea to sustain their economy. Allah says:

أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَحْرِ وَطَعَامُهُ مَتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِلسَّيَّارَةِ ۖ وَحُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ صَيْدُ الْبَرِّ مَا دُمْتُمْ حُرُمًا ۗ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ الَّذِي إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ

[Quran 5:96]

Lawful to you is game from the sea and its food as provision for you and the travelers, but forbidden to you is game from the land as long as you are in the state of ihram. And fear Allah to whom you will be gathered.

Food and Sustenance

The ocean is a source of food and sustenance for man because Allah has made its animals permissible (such as fish, crabs, and others), whether they are caught dead or alive. Seawater, after going through a process of desalinisation, becomes drinkable for us with the permission of Allah SWT. Allah says:

وَهُوَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ الْبَحْرَ لِتَأْكُلُوا مِنْهُ لَحْمًا طَرِيًّا وَتَسْتَخْرِجُوا مِنْهُ حِلْيَةً تَلْبَسُونَهَا وَتَرَى الْفُلْكَ مَوَاخِرَ فِيهِ وَلِتَبْتَغُوا مِن فَضْلِهِ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

[Quran 16:14]

And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat and to extract from it ornaments which you wear. And you see the ships plowing through it, and [He subjected it] that you may seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful.

Mode of Transportation

For centuries, water has been a mode of transportation for the human population. The Quran also relays the story of how Allah ordered Prophet Nuh (AS) to make a ship to safely transport him and others from his city to another.

The ocean is still a dominant mode of transportation. To this day, we still largely rely on ships or boats as a means of transport for goods as well for people to move from one place to another. A significant portion of import-export businesses utilise transport via oceans. Allah says:

رَّبُّكُمُ الَّذِي يُزْجِي لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ فِي الْبَحْرِ لِتَبْتَغُوا مِن فَضْلِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ بِكُمْ رَحِيمًا

[Quran 17:66]

It is your Lord who drives the ship for you through the sea that you may seek of His bounty. Indeed, He is ever, to you, Merciful.

Recreation and Tourism

The ocean serves as recreation. For many countries, its beaches and seas are tourist attractions that fuel the economy. Recreation also gives a believer physical strength, which is beloved to Allah as mentioned in a hadith. Likewise, tourists that visit the beach will see the might of Allah through what He has created within the ocean and the ocean itself.

It is soundly narrated from the Prophet ﷺ that he said:

كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لَيْسَ مِنْ ذِكْرِ اللهِ فَهُوَ لَعِبٌ ، لَا يَكُونُ أَرْبَعَةٌ: مُلَاعَبَةُ الرَّجُلِ امْرَأَتَهُ ، وَتَأْدِيبُ الرَّجُلِ فَرَسَهُ، وَمَشْيُ الرَّجُلِ بَيْنَ الْغَرَضَيْنِ، وَتَعَلُّمُ الرَّجُلِ السَّبَّاحَةَ

[Sahih an-Nasa’i]

“Everything in which there is no remembrance of Allah is idle play, except four things: a man playing with his wife; a man training his horse; a man running between two lines (as in a race); and a man learning how to swim.”

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Corruption of the Ocean

The ocean is home to millions of different sea creatures; those that we know and those that we do not. We must respect their home in the same way we respect the homes of our fellow humans. Concerning this, Allah alone has knowledge of everything in the sea. Allah says:

وَعِندَهُ مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَا إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ ۚ وَمَا تَسْقُطُ مِن وَرَقَةٍ إِلَّا يَعْلَمُهَا وَلَا حَبَّةٍ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْأَرْضِ وَلَا رَطْبٍ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ

[Quran 6:59]

And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record.

The ocean is the main source of water and sustenance for mankind, plants, and animals. Yet, mankind is polluting the world’s oceans and destroying marine ecosystems. The effect of this pollution will not only affect the creatures that live under the sea but all other creatures, including humans, that eat the animals or plants of the ocean. Allah says:

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

[Quran 30:41]

Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].

The damage mankind has inflicted upon oceans has been significant. Examples of this include oil spillage, chemical wastes from industries, agricultural wastes from farms, sewages being channelled to the sea, as well as pollution from plastics and other rubbish. All of this has contributed to corrupting the oceans. 

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A Muslim’s Responsibility Towards the Ocean 

It is our obligation as Muslims to care for mankind, animals, and the environment. We shouldn’t fall into despair because of past damage. Rather, we should move forward to take action through any of these three means:

Enforcing Law

Those holding positions to create or enforce governing laws should ensure policies are in place to keep industries, farms, businesses, and society at large accountable for any excessive damage to the environment. Businesses and individuals are more likely to refrain from damaging the environment when there are penalties and punishments for breaking environmental protection policies.

Creating Awareness

Businesses, charities, and individuals can organise community service messages, programmes, and training centres to educate people on environmental pollution. These education initiatives can teach people the effect of pollution on our lives and health, as well as give them proactive steps to prevent or manage environmental pollution.

Do Your Part

Once laws and policies are in place and people can easily access knowledge on how to care for the environment, the final step is for every individual to play their part as best as they can. For example, we can make a conscious effort to decrease our use of plastic as much as possible and increase our awareness about this issue.

The first step to doing your part is accepting our responsibility as individuals to protect the environment. This is not something we should expect our government or industries to fulfil by themselves without any action on our part. When we acknowledge how our behaviour can impact the environment, we can take proactive steps to help decrease the environmental pollution.

After all, it is our duty as Muslims to do whatever we can, within our capacity, to create change when we see corruption. Our Prophet, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, has said:

‏ عن أبي سعيد الخدري رضي الله عنه قال‏:‏ سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول‏:‏ ‏ “‏من رأى منكم منكرًا فليغيره بيده ، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه وذلك أضعف الإيمان‏”‏‏‏.‏

Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith”. [Muslim].

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