In 1580, Bernard Palissy was the first person to describe the present day concept of ‘water cycle’. He described how water evaporates from the oceans and cools to form clouds. The clouds move inland where they rise, condense and fall as rain. This water gathers as lakes and streams and flows back to the ocean in a continuous cycle. In the 7th century B.C., Thales of Miletus believed that surface spray of the oceans was picked up by the wind and carried inland to fall as rain.
In earlier times people did not know the source of underground water. They thought the water of the oceans, under the effect of winds, was thrust towards the interior of the continents. They also believed that the water returned by a secret passage or the Great Abyss. This passage is connected to the oceans and has been called the ‘Tartarus’, since Plato’s time. Even Descartes, a great thinker of the eighteenth century, subscribed to this view. Till the nineteenth century, Aristotle’s theory was still prevalent. According to this theory, water was condensed in cool mountain caverns and formed underground lakes that fed springs. Today, we have come to know that the rainwater that seeps into the cracks of the ground is responsible for this.
This is described by the Qur’an in the following verses:
39.021► “ أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَلَكَهُ يَنَابِيعَ فِي الأرْضِ ثُمَّ يُخْرِجُ بِهِ زَرْعًا مُخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَجْعَلُهُ حُطَامًا إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَذِكْرَى لأولِي الألْبَابِ “
“ Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth? Then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colours: then it withers; thou wilt see it grow yellow; then He makes it dry up and crumble away. Truly, in this, is a Message of remembrance to men of understanding.”[Al-Qur'an-Surah Az-Zumar -39.021]
30:24► “ وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ يُرِيكُمُ الْبَرْقَ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَيُنَزِّلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَيُحْيِي بِهِ الأرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ “
“Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth? then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colours.” “He sends down rain from the sky and with it gives life to the earth after it is dead: Verily in that are Signs for those who are wise.” [Al-Qur’an Surah Ar-Room - 30:24]
23:18 ►“ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً بِقَدَرٍ فَأَسْكَنَّاهُ فِي الأرْضِ وَإِنَّا عَلَى ذَهَابٍ بِهِ لَقَادِرُونَ “
“And We send down water from the sky according to (due) measure,and We cause it
to soak in the soil;and We certainly are able to drain it off (with ease).” [Al-Qur’an –Surah Al-Mumenoon -23:18]
No other text dating back 1400 years ago gives such an accurate description of the water cycle.