A NUMBER of biological entities such as birds, animals, insects, plants, fruits etc have been mentioned in the Holy Quran for our knowledge and guidance.
Some of them have been described in terms of praise, importance, need, correlation and significance as masterpieces of Allah’s creation. Every element, creature, and living being has a significant role to signify, glorify, and attest to the infinite power and wisdom of Allah.
As far as birds are concerned, the story of the hoopoe (hudhud) in the times of Hazrat Sulaiman is significant. Allah had bestowed Sulaiman with many gifts, including the ability to understand the language of animals.
In Surah Naml, the story of the hudhud has been mentioned in detail. The bird played a pivotal role in bringing news of Bilqis (the Queen of Sheba) to Sulaiman, after which she embraced Islam. The hoopoe had informed Hazrat Sulaiman that Bilqis, together with her people, worshipped the sun. Sulaiman gave the bird a letter for the queen to check the bird’s truthfulness. In return, she sent gifts to the prophet but he rejected them all. Later she visited Sulaiman and upon seeing the grace and glory of the prophet, she embraced Islam.
There is also mention of ants in the Holy Quran, again in Surah Naml (which translates to ‘the ants’). In verse 18 of the chapter it is stated: “Till when they came to the valley of the ants, one of the ants said ‘O ants! Enter your dwellings lest Sulaiman and his hosts should crush you, while they perceive not’.” On hearing what the ant said Prophet Sulaiman prayed and thanked Allah for granting him such a gift.
The instance of sending flocks of birds upon the army of Abraha has been significantly recorded in Surah Fil. The incident took place during the year of the birth of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Abraha, the ruler of Yemen, and his army — with a contingent of elephants — intended to invade Makkah to demolish the Kaaba. While they were marching towards Makkah no one dared to face them. However, suddenly flocks of birds appeared with the grace of Allah. The birds threw down upon the army small stones; none of the invaders escaped and the force faced destruction.
In the Quranic parable of Hazrat Yunus there is mention of a large fish that swallowed him alive. The prophet had been thrown off a ship and was swallowed by the fish. When the fish disgorged him onto dry land his skin had gone soft after being inside the fish. Yunus was feeling discomfort in the sunlight. Then a gourd plant was ordered to grow by Allah for his comfort. As the prophet sought forgiveness, Allah caused the plant to grow near him under which he took shelter and rested in its shade.
The importance of trees has also been highlighted in Islamic tradition, such as when Hazrat Musa was travelling in the desert and in search of fire, he came to a tree, where he heard the voice of Allah (28:29-30). The historical importance of the tree (babul) under which the Bayt ar-Rizwan took place is mentioned in Surah al-Fath (48:18).
The miracle of Allah in Ghar-i-Saur (Cave of Thaur) is also worth mentioning; how the spider and dove played their parts in protecting the Holy Prophet and his companion Hazrat Abu Bakr from the enemies. The Prophet and Hazrat Abu Bakr had taken refuge in the cave while on their way to Madina during the Hijra. However, when the polytheists of Makkah, who were in pursuit, approached the cave a spider built a web at the entrance to it, while a dove laid its eggs in a nest.
Seeing the spider web and a nest at the entrance of the cave, the Makkan non-believers assumed that there was nobody inside as had someone been inside the cave the spider’s web and nest would have been disturbed. This event is mentioned in Surah Tawbah.
Allah tested the people of Prophet Saleh with a she-camel. This event has also been described in the Holy Quran in detail (11:64-68). It was forbidden to kill the she-camel but the tribe of Thamud killed the camel, which provoked Allah’s anger and therefore severe punishment was inflicted on the wrongdoers. The Quran says: “And O my people! This she-camel of Allah is a symbol to you: leave her to feed on Allah’s (free) earth, and inflict no harm on her, or a swift penalty will seize you!” (11:64).
It is also known how the death of Namrood (Nimrod) occurred due to a mosquito bite. The concept of biodiversity conservation can be linked to the story of Hazrat Nuh when he was ordered by Allah to keep animal and bird pairs in the Ark.Similarly, there is mention of some other fauna in the hadith. We know the story of a deer that some sahaba had captured when the Prophet asked them to let it be for it was feeding its fawns. Similarly, there is an incident where eggs/chicks had been picked up from a nest, which made the parent birds restless. The Prophet ordered that the birds be put back. From these events there emerged Islamic laws and rules of giving protection to animals and birds, especially during times of breeding.
The writer is deputy conservator, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department.