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Selma Cook
Did the world really come into existence from one 'big bang' in the universe? Was there no steering hand in this process?

The desert has an eerie beauty. Its golden dunes seem to have stood for time immemorial, and then the wind will blow, changing their contours before your very eyes. You find yourself at the mercy of the elements, completely helpless before the blazing heat of the sun and the emptiness of what surrounds you. Only the hardiest of creatures survive this dreadfully beautiful place. We human beings are not hardy. We depend on so many comforts to maintain our physical and spiritual existence, yet in pride and arrogance we dare to cross the golden plains that lure us to the last challenge between life and death.

One day a group of friends decided to embark on a journey into one of the remotest regions on earth. They started their trek loaded with supplies and confidant about their success. The desert heat beat down upon their heads, turning their gloating happiness into misery and despair. Some stumbled and fell onto the burning sands. Death stood in front of all of them, beckoning them with unfeeling gestures. No one had enough strength remaining to help his or her fellow travelers. At such a time, one thinks only of oneself; a hope and ardent desire to survive that only the deepest bonds of brotherhood and love can surmount. No tears, no feelings remained, just exhausted desperation wandering with half closed eyes. The trail of never ending successions of hope disappeared into the sandy dunes whose glimmering surface hid the dark dangers that awaited the travelers.

Three friends remained. Standing on top of a sand dune, they saw with amazed eyes, a palace. A palace in the middle of the desert! Bearing the most beautiful shape and design that surely must have been made by the very best of architects. Through fading eyes they stood and tried to focus on the beauty and hope that lay just beyond their reach.

As their eyes passed over intricate patterns of beauty, they began to marvel at the sight. Surrounded by nothingness, a palace lay, waiting to embrace them and give them renewed life. They started to run.

Fountains of cool, clear spring water gushed around it, their source unknown. Springing, as it seemed, from the very sands of the desert. Palm trees weighed down with clusters of dates, lay within easy reach of the travelers. "Just reach up and take whatever you need," they seemed to say. Grapevines wound their way around trellises carved from exotic wood. Bunches of ripe, juicy grapes lay ready to be plucked and enjoyed. The gates of the palace arched in a welcoming gesture and just inside were comfortable chairs to recline on. Everything seemed to be made just for them. Nothing too big or too small. Nothing out of reach, nothing unpalatable, nothing insignificant. Everything they needed to suit their needs and sustain their lives. How pleased they were to have survived and witness this miracle.

Easing their thirst from the cool springs, they then washed their tired, dusty faces, hands and feet. Ate their fill of precious life-giving fruit, then started to look around them with curiosity written on their faces. Curious, as human beings will always be. In their wanderings they met a tall, refined man who showed them the many wonders of this place. Rich carpets woven carefully with delicate designs, too intricate for the human hand to conceive. Pearls and shells decorated the tables with wealth. The friends nominated a spokesman from among themselves to question the caretaker. Some information seemed necessary to satisfy their craving for understanding. Stepping forward, with a polite gesture he began.

“Who lives here?” he asked.

“Anyone who passes by,” replied the caretaker.

“Who are you then?” asked the young man.

“Me? I’m the caretaker of this place. I am here to help those who find their way here.”

The young men looked at each other in astonishment. Their thoughts were racing. How did they get all this beautiful and priceless marble and gold here! Into the middle of the desert? Who took the time and effort to design and make these carpets and furniture? And was all this made and brought here for them, just because they happened to pass by? It seemed truly amazing! From where did they get the water and fruit, as they were in the middle of the desert!

“We must thank the owner of this place for providing us with all our needs,” said one of the young men with sincerity in his eyes.

The young man once again stood forward and had to ask, “Who took the trouble to build this most beautiful, perfect place? We must thank him for his kindness.”

“Oh,” replied the man with an arrogant, inflated laugh. “No one built it. No one designed it. No one maintains it. There was an explosion some years ago and it just appeared from nowhere!”

"He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days and then rose over the Throne in a manner that suits His Majesty. He knows what goes into the earth and what comes forth from it, what descends from the heaven and what ascends thereto. And He is with you (by His knowledge) wheresoever you may be. And Allah is the All Seer of what you do." (Al Qu'ran. Sura Hadid 57:4)

"He it is Who gives life and causes death. And when He decides upon a thing He says to it only: "Be!" - and it is." (Al Qu'ran. Sura Ghafir 40:68)