Behind the Logo
Viruses are not found among the “created things” described by Qazwini nor by any other pre-modern scholar. Some Muslim scholars, such as Ibn Sina, al-Abdari, and others, understood contagion and contamination to be processes involved in the spread of disease, and warned that air, water and human breath, as well as contact with objects carrying harmful substances could result in disease. Even in the 19th century, when scientists became aware of the existence of viruses, their structure was unknown and viruses remained invisible forces until the invention of the electron microscope. Until today, there are many forces in creation, such as thoughts, subatomic particles and astronomical bodies that remain invisible to human beings, although their effects can be observed, and knowledge based on those observations can contribute to the improvement of human life.
For the believer, the signs of creation point to the Creator, Who is unseen. Reflecting upon God’s signs, following the truths revealed by Allah, and submitting to God’s command, puts the believer on the path to success. In this illustration of “the element of air” from an illustrated copy of Qazwini’s “Book of Created Things,” we see clouds moving and grasses and trees bending as they experience the invisible force of the wind. As believers living through the COVID19 pandemic, we too must submit and respond to circumstances ordained by God. We use our God-given capacities of body, intellect and heart/emotion within the limits set by God to benefit the servants of God and to refine our spiritual capacities.
The element of air from a 10th/16th c. illustrated copy of Qazwini’s ʿAjaʾib al-Makhluqāt, held by the Cambridge University Library.