THE SECOND STEP: The atmosphere
Then the atmosphere, which is a place of wonders, begins to proclaim thunderously to that traveler who has arrived in the world as a guest, “Look at me! You can discover and know through me the One Whom you are seeking, the One Who has sent you to the world!” The traveler looks at the apparently sour, but compassionate face of the atmosphere, and listens to its roaring messages, awesome, yet laden with glad tidings. The traveler comes to observe the following:
The clouds, suspended between the sky and the earth, water the garden of the world in a most wise and merciful fashion, bringing the water of life to the inhabitants of the earth, modifying the natural heat of life, and running to provide aid wherever it is needed. Having fulfilled these and other duties, like a well-organized army that reveals or conceals itself instantaneously according to the commands given to it, the vast clouds, filling the atmosphere, suddenly hide themselves, retiring to rest with their constituent parts so that no trace can be seen. Then, when they receive the command: “March forth to pour down rain!” the clouds come together in an hour, or in a few minutes, filling the atmosphere and standing as though in readiness for further orders from their commander.
Next the traveler looks at the winds and sees that the air is employed wisely and generously in so many tasks that it is as if each of the unconscious atoms of the inanimate air were able to hear and understand the orders coming from the Sovereign of the universe. Without neglecting a single one of them, it carries out its Master’s orders in a perfectly methodical fashion, through the Power of the Sovereign. That is, it gives breath to all beings on the earth, conveys to all living creatures the heat, light, and electricity they need, and transmits sound, as well as aiding in the pollination of plants. It is employed by an unseen Hand in these universal tasks in an extremely conscious, knowledgeable, and life-sustaining manner.
The traveler then looks at the rain and sees that in these delicate, shining, and sweet drops that have been sent from a hidden treasury of Mercy there are so many merciful gifts and tasks that it is as if mercy itself were embodied in rain and flowing forth from the Divine treasury in the form of drops. It is for this reason that rain is called “mercy.”
Then the traveler looks at the lightning and listens to the thunder and sees that both of these, too, are employed in the most amazing and wonderful tasks.
Taking their eyes off these, the traveler then turns to their reason and says to themselves: “This inanimate, lifeless cloud that resembles carded cotton certainly has no knowledge of us, and it does not come to our aid on its own because it has no consciousness so that it may take pity on us. Nor can it appear and disappear without an external command. Rather, it must act in accordance with the commands of a most Powerful and Compassionate Commander. It disappears without leaving a trace and then suddenly emerges again to embark on its task. By the Decree and Power of a most active and transcendent, a most magnificent and self-manifesting Sovereign, from time to time it fills and empties the atmosphere. It turns the sky into a tablet upon which things are written and erased, inscribing with wisdom and effacing by halting for a while, thus displaying an example of the Resurrection. By the order of a most generous and bountiful, a most munificent and attentive Ruler and Director, it mounts the wind and is laden with the treasuries of rain as heavy as mountains, hastening to the aid of places in need. It is as if it were weeping with pity over those places, spraying gardens with water, causing them to smile with flowers, cooling the heat of the sun and cleansing the face of the earth.”
The curious traveler then tells their reason: “These hundreds of thousands of wise, merciful, and ingenious tasks, and these acts of generosity and helpfulness which seem to occur by means of this lifeless, unconscious, unstable, stormy, unsettled, and inconstant air, which cannot possess a conscious aim, prove beyond all doubt that the wind, this assiduous servant, never acts of its own volition; rather, it merely carries out the command of a most powerful and knowing, a most wise and munificent Commander. It is as though each of its atoms were aware of every task and, like a soldier who understands and heeds every order of his commander, were able to hear and obey every Divine command that courses through the air. It serves the breathing and survival of all animals, facilitates the pollination and growth of all plants, and provides all of the substances vital for their existence. It also serves the movement and direction of the clouds, the driving forward of sailing ships and the transmittance of sounds uttered or sent particularly by means of wireless, telephone, telegraph, and radio. In addition to serving in these and other universal functions, and despite being a composition of two simple materials—nitrogen and oxygen—and resembling one another, the particles of air are employed in hundreds of thousands of different tasks with a perfect order by a Hand of wisdom.
Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day (with their periods shortening and lengthening), and the vessels that sail the sea for profit to people, and the water that God sends down from the sky, therewith reviving the earth after its death and dispersing therein all kinds of living creatures, and His disposal of the winds, and the subservient clouds, resting between the sky and the earth—surely there are signs (demonstrating that He is the One God deserving worship, and the sole Refuge and Helper) for a people who reason and understand (2:164).
As stated in the above verse, the traveler concludes that the one who disposes of the winds and employs them in innumerable tasks of sustaining, maintaining, and nurturing; who subjugates the clouds so that they may be used in uncountable errands of mercy and who generates and employs the air in the fashion mentioned above—that such a being can be none other than the All-Majestic and All-Munificent Lord, One Who is Necessarily Existent, Who is All-Knowing and in possession of absolute Power over all things.
The traveler then looks at the rain and sees that it has as many merciful uses, benefits, and instances of wisdom as the number of drops contained in it. Moreover, these lovely, delicate, and blessed drops, as well as the drops of hail and snowflakes, are created so beautifully and with such order and are dispatched with such balance and regularity that not even those stormy winds which cause large objects to collide can destroy this order: the drops do not collide with one another or combine in such a way as to form harmful masses of water. This simple substance, water, which is composed of two simple, inanimate and unconscious elements—hydrogen and oxygen—is employed in hundreds of thousands of wise, purposeful tasks and arts, particularly in animate beings. This means that rain, which is the very embodiment of mercy, can be manufactured only in the unseen treasury of mercy of the One Who is All-Merciful. And through its descent it expounds in physical terms the verse: He it is Who sends down the rain, useful in all ways, to rescue (them) after they have lost all hope, and spreads out His mercy far and wide (to every being). He it is Who is the Guardian, and the All-Praiseworthy (42:28).
The traveler then listens to the thunder attentively and looks again at the lightning. He perceives that in addition to interpreting in physical terms the verses: The thunder glorifies Him with His praise (13:13), and The flash of the lightning almost takes away the sight (24:43), these two awe-inspiring atmospheric events also announce the coming of rain, thus giving glad tidings to those in need of it. And in causing the atmosphere to speak suddenly with an extraordinary uproar, in filling the dark atmosphere with the marvelous light and fire of lightning, and in setting alight the clouds that resemble mountains of cotton or spouts from which hail or snow or rain pours, these and other wondrous and wise phenomena strike blows on the heads of the negligent people who “look down and cannot see them.” They warn, saying: “Lift up your heads and look at the wonderful acts of an Ever Active and Powerful Being Who wills to make Himself known. Just as you are not left to your own devices, so too these phenomena are not random events left to chance. Each of them is employed in many wise tasks; each is employed by an All-Wise Director.”
Thus, the curious traveler hears the loud and manifest testimony of a truth which is composed of the subjugation of the clouds, the disposal of the winds, the descent of the rain and the direction of atmospheric events, and says: “I believe in God.” That which was pronounced in The Second Step of The First Station expresses the above-mentioned observations of the traveler concerning the atmosphere:
There is no deity but God, the Necessarily Existent One, Whose Necessary Existence is demonstrated clearly by the atmosphere with whatever there is in it. This is testified to by the sublimely comprehensive, vast and perfect reality of subjugation, disposal, and causing to descend, and management or direction, all of which are clearly observable.