"Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for those people of understanding. Those who celebrate the praises of God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (and say): "Our Lord! You did not create this in vain …" (Qur'an, 3:190-191).
Contrary to common understanding about religions, Islam is at once a rational and spiritual religion. Above all, it addresses key questions of profound significance to humanity such as "Who am I? Where do I come from? And where will I be going?" It demands that its followers reach rational and spiritual conviction based on thinking, reasoning, searching and verification. While the verses of the Qur'an, which relate to legal issues do not exceed more than 300, there are more than 700 (about 15% of the whole Qur'an) verses urging people to study 'natural' phenomena, to think, reflect, observe, take lessons, read the signs, reflect and verify the immutable truths of existence.
When one follows this advice, one realises that the scale of production found in the universe, the vast quantities of raw material used and the relatively short times involved and high quality of the end products, all tell us that the Creator has created infinite treasures. All one needs to consider is the complexity involved in the human eye - how it focuses, tracks objects, differentiates colours and adjusts incoming light. This shows us that cutting edge technology is applied in all creation with the Creator skilled in all kinds of industry. Consider the colour scheme used on a coral fish; how bright and beautiful the colours are and the beauty and art that are displayed on hundreds and thousands of different flower varieties. The surrealist designs on a butterfly and the ever changing colour tones at sunset show the master 'strokes' of the Greatest Artist of all.
Judging by the beauty and perfection of God's works in the universe, we can easily proclaim that God has infinite beauty and perfection. It is natural that whoever has beauty and perfection would tend towards making those qualities manifest to others. You cannot imagine Leonardo da Vinci not producing the Mona Lisa or Thomas Edison not inventing the light bulb while they have those innate capacities within themselves. They produce their works naturally, because, beauty and perfection unavoidably want to be seen by the owner of the beauty and perfection and by other adoring eyes.
The last sentence is extremely significant. As a consequence of this reality, All Powerful God built this universe like a majestic palace to manifest (meaning to display or show a quality by one's acts) His beautiful and perfect attributes. He has done this firstly for His own Divine view and pleasure (free from human imperfections) and then for the view of other conscious beings. Within this grand palace called the universe, He has created the earth as an impressive exhibition hall. He has decorated and embellished the exhibition hall with His exceptional works of art. He then invited human beings to view, adore, appreciate and applaud the art and the Artist in exaltation, praise and glorification. He also sent prophets as special envoys or guides to show people around the exhibition hall and explain who the Creator is and the purpose of the works of art, the exhibition hall, the palace and our role within it.
Thus, Islam presents natural phenomena as evidence of God's reality confirming Islam's set of faith propositions. Islam calls people to study and reflect on them and thereby collect the nectar of belief. According to Islam, nature is the realm in which God's 99 beautiful names (or titles) are manifested and therefore a set of 'ladders of light' flourishing humans potential on a course to reach God. The artistry of God is the most visible manifestation. Having originated from God's attributes of Will and Power, nature is the created counterpart of the Qur'an, which originated from the Divine attribute of Speech. So, nature is a book like the Qur'an with the Qur'an being a sacred pamphlet explaining its meaning and how to dwell in and benefit from it. Man is the third counterpart of these two books equipped with consciousness and will power to be able to relate together all essential parts of existence. This is alluded to in the verses, "The Most Compassionate (God) has thought the Qur'an. He created the human. He taught him the ability to communicate." (Qur'an, 55:1-4)
Ability to learn and worship is the distinguishing characteristic of humanity
"Read! In the name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists); has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood that clings). Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, Who has thought (the writing) by the pen; has taught man that which he knew not." (Qur'an, 96:1-5).
When we examine nature and living beings in another perspective, we realise that every living being adds value to its ecological system. Consider the vine plant for example. It sucks muddy water from soil and turns it into sweet and nutritious grapes. The sheep consume plain grass off the meadows and produce milk, wool and meat. Trees absorb carbon dioxide in and release oxygen, thus cleansing the atmosphere for animals and humans. Every animal and plant species add value to its natural environment, either by the end products that they produce or by the functions that they perform.
Human beings, on the other hand, consume the best of what the kitchen of nature has to offer and turn it into a waste that is flushed down in a hurry. Humanity, in a physical sense, adds no value to the ecological environment. This observation has two consequences.
Humanity is not part of the ecological system in purely physical terms. We are designed to live in the ecological system, but have come from outside the system.
For the purpose of human existence, humans have to look beyond their mere physical existence. At birth, a human being is born with many faculties in potential form waiting to be developed. Unlike other creatures, he or she enters the world like a seed waiting to sprout. The state of being of a human baby at birth is evidence of this fact. A human baby knows nothing but to suckle the breast of the mother. It takes decades for a human to gain self-sufficiency whereas animals are born with the skills they need to survive in this world. As stated in the Qur'an, the ability to learn and acquire knowledge is the distinguishing feature of man to other creation of God (Qur'an, 2:31-33). A human cannot compete with a bird in his ability to survive on his own, but has great depth and capacity in mental and spiritual dimensions. He is but a tender child fostered and protected in a cradle called the earth that spins around the sun faster than a speeding bullet. This unusual situation shows that he is designed to appreciate and acknowledge the Creator's art and gain knowledge of God's attributes through reading the book of universe (Qur'an, 96:1-5). This knowledge will, in turn, lead to love of God and love of God's creation culminating in a need to communicate and please God through worship and submission. We are the only beings who can, to some extent, know and, hence, worship God. Hence, knowing God and worshipping Him is the primary purpose for humanity's creation in Islam.