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Animals and Birds in the Quran

Within the stories of the Prophets and events related in the Holy Quran, we uncover a group of animals and birds, which have played a major and important role in history. The Holy Quran has either flashed a certain episodes of their lives or has propelled them on the platform of events at a set place and a set time.

Over two hundred verses deal with animals and birds and six chapters (suras) of the Holy Quran are named after them, for instance,

*Elephant- Chapter 105-Al Fil- event took place in Mecca about 570A.D, during the year of Prophet Muhammad’s birth, where elephants and flocks of birds were involved.

Abraha, An Abyssinian governor, invaded Mecca with a large army, intending to destroy the Kaaba. The custodians of the Kaaba were defenseless in front of the strong army and trained elephants, but through a miracle, Abraha’s offensive intentions were defeated. A shower of stones, made of baked clay, were thrown by flocks of birds, spreading like a plague, producing sores and abscesses on the skin of the invading army. 

The moral of this event is, Abraha found to his cost, that man cannot be intoxicated by power and material possessions. His profane attack on the holy Fane of God brought about his own undoing.

*Heifer – Chapter 2- Al Baqara- verse 40-121- event took place in the tribe of Banu Israel in the era of Prophet Musa (Moses).

A subjective appeal was made to Israel in accordance to own traditions and favors they have received, before passing to particular incidents involving a calf. While Prophet Musa (Moses) was asked on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights, his people through their impatience of his delay, offered worship and sacrifice to a calf of melted gold. By worshipping the calf, his people have wronged their souls and through repentance and the Prophet’s prayers, they were forgiven.

Verse 67 of the same chapter, relates about the sacrifice of a heifer. The people were quarreling among themselves about a murder that no one was taking the blame. Prophet Moses, under God’s instructions, orders the slaughtering of a heifer so as to reveal the identity of the mysterious murderer; it was, however, executed hesitantly and half heartedly by his people. The dead man, after being struck by a piece of the animal’s flesh, revived and pointed to his murderer.

The lesson of this story is that, how hard men try to hide their crimes, Allah bring them to light in unexpected ways.

*The ants- Chapter 27-An Naml- in the time of Prophet Suleiman (King Solomon).

Verse 16, reveals that Prophet Suleiman knew the language of birds and reference is also made to the communication between birds through their chirping and singing. Through observations of the orderly flight of migratory birds and the harmonized behavior of bees, ants and other beings, it is understood that birds and animals live in communities, where they are able to organize, live and work together.  

Verse 17-18, a warning was given to the ants by one of their fellow ant to flee to their abode, lest to be crushed by Prophet Suleiman and his army. “And before Solomon were assembled his hosts – of Jinns and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. At length, when they came to a (lowly) valley of ants, one of the ants said: ‘O ye ants get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it.’”  While the ant carries its own life in its own surroundings and through its wisdom it contributes to the balance of life, it is often ignored and crushed by people without intention of harming. In comparison, even the humblest person has its contribution in the spiritual world.

Verses 20-26, the hoopoe, a pious and royal bird belonging to Prophet Suleiman, after an absence from his muster of birds, came back revealing information on the Queen of Sheba and her whereabouts.

Hence, various degrees of intelligence, skill and development through order, discipline, justice and teamwork are demonstrated by stories involving birds and ants as performers.

*Cattle- Chapter 6-An’am- this chapter partly deals with the ascription of all life, activity and existence including all animals, birds, reptiles, insects and so on, to the Will and Plan of Allah.

Verse 38, “There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, or a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.”

Therefore, all creatures on earth, be it human beings, animals, birds, insects and so on are not left out of the Book and are all subjected and accountable to different degrees to the Plan of Allah.

*The Bee-Chapter 16- An Nahl- narration of all the wonderful things on earth are due to Allah’s artistry, teachings, power and wisdom, like the flight of birds in mid-air,

Verse 79- “Do they not look at the birds, held poised in the midst of (the air and) the sky? Nothing holds them up but (the power of) Allah. Verily in this are Signs for those who believe.”

Like the bee’s instinct and skill,

Verse 68-69 “And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought”

*The Spider-Chapter29-Al Ankabut- out of spiritual unawareness, men build their hopes on unsubstantial things, same like the spider’s web, which are broken by the weather, animals or men’s actions. So, to grasp your own good, seek Light of Allah.

Verse 41, “The parable of those who take protectors other than Allah is that of the Spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the Spider’s house – if they but knew.”

This parable compares the flimsiness of the relationship in the Spider’s web to the weakness in people’s relationship. They enthrone others in lieu of Allah.

By Allegorical interpretation, quoting animals and birds in many verses, the Quran depicts the harmonious adaption of all creation to the requirements of men and lays stress to the close belief and submission of men on Divine Will and Law.


 The Holy Quran, translation by A Yusuf Ali