Guest Post by Salitah Qureshi. She has completed her master’s in bioethics. She currently working with research centers to help study and provide better health care to the south asian community of NYC. Her interests include traveling, playing sports including badminton and volleyball and creating artwork and calligraphy.
Surah Naml (27) ayah 18
حَتّٰٓى اِذَاۤ اَتَوۡا عَلٰى وَادِ النَّمۡلِۙ قَالَتۡ نَمۡلَةٌ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ ادۡخُلُوۡا مَسٰكِنَكُمۡۚ لَا يَحۡطِمَنَّكُمۡ سُلَيۡمٰنُ وَجُنُوۡدُهٗۙ وَهُمۡ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ.
Until, when they (Prophet Suleiman and his army of men, jinn, and birds) came to the valley of the ants, an ant said, “O ants! Enter your dwellings so that Suleiman and his hosts may not crush you while they do not perceive.”
We studied Surah Naml today, and this ayah was so amazing to understand. In this ayah, an ant is warning its fellow ants about Suleiman (A) and his army approaching, so that they may move out of the way and not get crushed. But the way Allah has said these ayahs is truly amazing. So much depth!
First, Quran is talking about how animals talk! There are so many people, companies, even scientists studying animal behavior, trying to figure out their language even teaching animals to talk. There was an article about how an ape was able to understand 450 words. For instance for the word pizza he would point at cheese, tomato and bread. I believe his name was Kanzi. There are talking dog collars, etc. So much time and money has been spent on these studies, experiments and devices just so we can ‘understand animals’. And here Allah has so simply shown us at least one animal/insect talking! This was 1300-1400 years ago! I found it amazing…it reminded me of when I was little and would feed the pigeons and pretend to talk to them and use my imagination on how they would reply. I can only imagine how this ant would have sounded!
Secondly, in this one ayah the ant was able to portray many emotions! The ant Felt, Called, Warned, Advised, Emphasized, Commanded, Clarified and Forbade! In the ayah instead of ‘ya naml’ the word ‘ya-ayuhanaml’ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ is used…the first one would have been fine to call the ants, but why use the longer word, instead? Because in Arabic increasing the letters in a word increases the meaning of the word, therefore by using this specific word it bring attention…like a flood warning on tv…ALERT! Big and Bold, so you don’t miss it…in this case so it grabs the attention of the ants and they don’t miss it.
Then there is the use of the word ادۡخُلُوۡا which is a masculine word. Masculine is used for things that are animate (not inanimate). Here it shows that animals are intelligent creatures. The ant is commanding the other ants to get into their own homes. You have seen an ant farm, with all its tunnels beneath the ground. Do you think 1300 years ago people knew how ants homes are like? From the top all you see is a hole. But each ant has its own home and knows where its home is! So the ant is advising the ants to go to their individual homes!
Then the ant says ‘they won’t perceive it‘ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ …if you were to step on an ant do you feel it? You don’t, unlike if you were to step on a cat or dog or mouse (please don’t step on animals). So the ant knows they would not be noticed and get stepped on. But that is not the only thing it knows….it is also aware of who is coming: Prophet Suleiman. And the ant just doesn’t say Suleiman (A) and an army are coming, it attributes the entire army to Suleiman (A) and says, Suleiman (A) and HIS army is coming. It shows the respect a tiny ant had for him.
The ayah was so amazing, so much brain leakage by just one ayah and that too about an ant! I remember when i was younger someone told me that the Prophet (saw) would watch where he was going and not step on any ants…I don’t know how true this is, but when I heard it I always tried my best to not step on a single ant. And now to read and understand even a little of this ayah about the ant made all the side stepping worth it.
Ants are very small and I would say humble creatures. In the big world they get trampled upon by people even if they don’t mean any harm. However, this ayah shows the ant to be wise. It is able to carry on its own (ants can carry 10-100- some even say 1000 times their body weight) and they even make a big impact on the ecosystem. So even in this big complicated world, there is always space for the small, humble people.