Underlying Wisdoms in the Animal Kingdom

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One ought to look carefully at the birds fluttering in the skies, animals both domesticated and wild and the tiny, barely visible insects; for they possess such peculiarities that it is impossible not to stand in awe of the splendor, power and wisdom of the Almighty. Here are the animals that stand out with all the beauties of Allah…

Just how has the Creator placed such incredible appendages on those tiny, hardly perceptible insects? And how to they flawlessly carry out their functions without faltering? Even a complete insight into the features they simply possess stands beyond the capability of human comprehension.

If man was to gaze carefully at animals, their diverse shapes and appearances and then reflect on what they provide of their skin, fur, meat and milk for man’s comfort, he would no doubt become aware of the boundless blessings and mercy of the Almighty. Allah, glory unto Him, has given each of them a distinct skin to protect them from the cold, thick nails to safeguard their feet and has covered for all the needs they may have in the best, most aesthetic manner conceivable.

For example, parading in bodies adorned with the most beautiful, exquisite of patterns despite having a lifespan of a mere fortnight, butterflies reveal many mysteries through their body language; just one of the infinite Divine wonders presented to the gazing eye, the comprehending mind and especially the sensitive heart…

The Holy Quran summons us to observe the camel and reflect on how it has been created:

“Will they not then consider the camels, how they are created? And the heaven, how it is reared aloft? And the mountains, how they are firmly fixed? And the earth, how it is made a vast expanse? Therefore do remind, for you are only a reminder.” (al-Ghashiya, 17-21)

That means that manifestations of Divine splendor beckon in an observation of the structure of animals and other organisms.

The Almighty has endowed all living beings with such characteristics that they produce different products despite feeding off the same food. For instance, if a cattle or sheep were to eat the green leaves of a mulberry, they would produce meat, milk and skin or wool. A silkworm on the other hand, a tiny bug, weaves silk from the very same leaves. Similarly, the ability of a bee to generate honey from pollen is absolutely beyond human power.

While a single animal is able to turn grass into meat and milk, human beings, the most perfect of creation, cannot emulate this feat even using tons of grass just in hope of producing a mere drop of milk, even if they were to set up the most state-of-the-art laboratories for the purpose.

The Almighty declares:

“And most surely there is a lesson for you in the cattle: We give you to drink of what is in their bellies, from between the feces and the blood, pure milk, easy and agreeable to swallow for those who drink.” (an-Nahl, 66)

The Honeybee

Allah, glory unto Him, states:

“And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build: Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord submissively. There comes forth from within it a beverage of many colors, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who reflect.” (an-Nahl, 68-69)

The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said:

A Believer is like a honeybee. He eats what is clean, he produces what is clean, he settles on clean places and he neither breaks nor harms where he settles.” (Ahmed, II, 199; Hakim, I, 147)

Mentioning the traits of a Believer, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, at the same time, hints at the beauties of a honeybee and its underlying wisdom.

Huseyin Kashifi comments:

“Contemplative believers know that Allah, the Omniscient and Omnipotent, has created the frail honeybee upon numerous underlying wisdom.

  • The honeybee obeys and never strays of the path.
  • It eats the sweet and sour fruits it comes across and gives sweet honey in return.
  • It is so pious that it does not eat anything but what is pure.
  • It is so obedient that it never leaves the Almighty’s command.
  • It is so loyal that it travels to places remote only to return to its home of origin.
  • It is so clean that it does not perch upon and eat what is dirty.
  • It is such a craftsman that even if the entire architects and engineers were to join forces, they would not be able to imitate what it produces.

There…just as there are curative properties in the honey they produce for diseases of the body, there is, in contemplating their states a cure for ignorance, the disease of the heart.”

The Marvel of Instinct

In the following, İsmail Fennî Ertuğrul highlights how animals lead their lives within a Divine program called the subconscious mind or instinct:

“Animals know through instinct without ever being taught of the essentials needed to maintain their survival, the continuation of their offspring and the food that is good for them. Birds build wonderful nests. Migrant birds come together on a specific day before setting out. Before dying, instead of killing the other bugs that are to become food for its babies waiting to hatch out of their eggs, some insects injure their glands so as to make them unable to crawl and then place the injured bugs by the side of the eggs. Yet, how amazing it is that once developed these very insects begin to live off foods of other kinds. Bees possess the ability to determine the gender of larvae by changing their foods. In this way the bees can make a queen out of a larva should the hive lose its leader through an accident of some sort…”[1]

Again, how astounding it is that once a hornet overpowers a grasshopper, it digs a hole in the ground. It then stings the grasshopper in such a spot that the grasshopper does not die though it loses consciousness. Placed in the hole in the ground, the grasshopper is henceforth like conserved meat. Soon after this, the hornet lays her eggs by the side of the hole and the newborns find the fresh meat they need to consume by their side the moment they enter the world. As for the hornet, she flies to a remote place, away from the newborns, to die. There is no way that such mysterious behavior can be explained through terms like adaptation and learning. They have been given this instinctual knowledge by the Almighty.[2]

After spending years in the sea, a salmon returns to its native waters, the river. What’s more, it comes back to the very place it was born, the shore where the stream flows into the river.

Who has endowed the salmon with the instinct to return to its place of birth? If you were to put a salmon in another stream that flows into the same river, immediately realizing that it is in the wrong place, it would turn back and make its way back to its stream of origin, swimming against the flow to get to its place of birth.

It is even more difficult to make out the mystery of the eel. When about to hatch, these amazing creatures come from all the lakes and rivers across the world and make their way towards pits located near the Bermuda Islands[3], where they lay their eggs and die. The eels of Europe, too, traverse a distance of thousands of miles across the vast ocean and arrive at the same place. Without further ado, the newborn eels, which supposedly do not know anything other than that they have opened their eyes in boundless waters, set out from those pits and swim relentlessly, up until they ultimately reach the shores where their parents had once come from. The eels do not stop there; they proceed to reach the river or lake where their parents had dwelled in. Up until now, there has never been a sighting of an American eel in European waters, and vice-versa. What’s more, owing to the greater distance they are required to travel compared to other species of eels, Allah, glory unto Him, has extended the lifespan of the European eel by about a year!

Now, what is the origin of such a strong feeling of direction?[4]

These amazing traits of animals show that neither their lives nor their behavior are based on sheer coincidence and that, much rather, they all take place within a plan and program sketched out by the Power who has created them.

It stands as one of the clearest proofs of the existence, power, splendor and sovereignty of Our Lord that even animals are governed by a higher consciousness. By exhibiting such proofs to the judgment of mankind, Our Lord exposes those who are ready to acknowledge the Truth and submit to it, as opposed to those who will stubbornly turn a blind eye on the miraculous manifestations staring at him in the face. The verse indeed declares:

“Surely Allah is not ashamed to set forth any parable- (that of) a gnat or any thing above that; then as for those who believe, they know that it is the truth from their Lord, and as for those who disbelieve, they say: What is it that Allah means by this parable: He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright by it! But He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors” (al-Baqara, 26)

Creation in Pairs

Reserving singleness to Himself alone, Allah, glory unto Him, has created all beings in twos. The Holy Quran reveals:

“And of everything We have created pairs that you may be mindful.” (ad-Dhariyat, 49)

“He created the heavens without pillars as you see them, and put mountains upon the earth lest it might convulse with you, and He spread in it animals of every kind; and We sent down water from the cloud, then caused to grow therein (vegetation) of every noble kind.” (Luqman, 10)

Dual creation, of which science has only recently become aware, was informed by the verse of the Quran revealed 14 centuries ago, presented humankind as a gift of insight.

Delicately prepared beyond the most innovative thoughts and wildest imaginations of human beings, like the most exquisite bride’s chamber, our universe has been subjected to a specific and incredible marital law, according to the particular characteristics of each and every element, from the cells of plants and animals to the mysterious protons and electrons of atoms that dwell harmoniously in matter. And this opens up for us a magnificent horizon for contemplation.

Contemplating the Blessings of the Almighty

The greatest favor Allah, glory unto Him, has bestowed upon us is that, among the entire possible range of creation, we have been created as human beings and have come into the world in a Muslim environment. Of even further greatness is that we have been subjected to the Holy Quran and have been made members of the followers of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

For us, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- is the most perfect example of the Holy Quran personified. Teaching us the Book and wisdom, he makes our inner worlds crystal-clear. Fully comprehending just these favors alone would be enough make us fall prostrate in gratitude, without lifting our heads for even a mere second.

Of course, the Almighty’s favors are not limited to these. Like a virtual cloudburst, many of His blessings pour down upon us, His servants, at each moment. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- states:

“Allah has said, ‘Provide, so that I provide for you’. The treasures of Allah are vast. What He provides for entire creation does not reduce His treasure in any way. He provides ceaselessly, day and night. Think of what Allah has provided since the day He created the heavens and earth! They have not reduced anything from His Sovereignty.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 11/2, Tawhid, 22)

Required by these blessings are their contemplation and inferring through them the existence of their Creator, conducive to a thankfulness for His Power and Generosity.

Omar ibn Abdulaziz –may Allah have mercy on him- remarks:

“There is beauty in remembering Allah in conversation. But contemplating the blessings of Allah, now that is the most virtuous of deeds.” (Abu Nuaym, Hilya, V, 314; Imam Ghazzali, Ihya, VI, 45)

Ingratitude or a lack of due appreciation is to neglect giving thanks for these blessings and to squander the lavishly, in a manner dictated by the ego. This state of mind distances one from the Almighty, their ultimate source.

Thankfulness is threefold:

  1. Thankfulness of the heart: To think about the blessing.
  2. Thankfulness of the tongue: To utter praises of the Allah, glory unto Him, over the blessing.
  3. Thankfulness of the limbs: To give the blessing’s due in proportion, at least, with the enjoyment acquired.

It has been said on the other hand that ‘to each blessing, a thanks of its kind’; that is, whatever it may be that the Almighty has blessed us with, we ought to extend it those in need. So states the verse:

“And seek by means of what Allah has given you the future abode, and do not neglect your portion of this world, and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the land, surely Allah does not love the mischief-makers.” (al-Qasas, 77)

Contemplating at Every Opportunity

Ziya Pasha writes:

A wisdom of a thousand lessons read in every page,

Of the universe, o Lord, how beautiful a stage!

In what could be taken as an elucidation of the above couplet, the great Muslim scholar Sufyan ibn Uyayna –may Allah have mercy on him- used to frequently repeat the below saying, originally belonging to a poet:

“If contemplative, man takes a lesson from everything.” (Imam Ghazzali, Ihya, VI, 45)

This must be the logic behind the Arabic proverb, “So many things to take a lesson from, yet so few are those who do.”

Each Particle Explains the Almighty

Once one is able to learn how to read the book of universe through contemplation, every single particle around him begins to instill in him the majesty of Allah, glory unto Him, and bring him closer to His knowledge. Fuzuli articulates this beautifully:

If a wise is able to grasp the revelation Divine,

Each particle for him becomes a Jibril come-to-life

Allah, glory unto Him, declares:

“But nay! I swear by that which you see, and that which you do not see. Most surely, it is the Word brought by an honored Messenger.” (al-Haqqa, 38-40)

One of the wisdoms underlying the vows taken in the Holy Quran is to draw attention to a particular lesson, benefit of and insight into the object on which the vow has been taken. The servant is thereby summoned to gain a depth of spiritual feeling through an understanding of that splendor.

Thus all beings, both visible and invisible, evidence the power and lordship of Allah, glory unto Him. Countless wisdoms beckon in their thought and reflection.

The wisdom acquired and mysteries solved as a result of the strengthening of our ability to contemplate and sense through the verve of the Quran will be just as magnificent as the grandeur a tiny plane seed gains through becoming a grand tree in fertile soil.

The Almighty declares:

“Most surely in the heavens and the earth there are signs for the believers. And in your (own) creation and in what He spreads abroad of animals there are signs for a people that are sure. And (in) the variation of the night and the day, and (in) what Allah sends down of sustenance from the cloud, then gives life thereby to the earth after its death, and (in) the changing of the winds, there are signs for a people who understand.” (al-Jathiya, 3-5)

Getting hearts and minds to focus on such material for contemplation alluded to by the Holy Quran will deliver one to the climes of taqwa. Just as flowers depend on water, air, soil and light to exist, granting contemplation a desired level depends on attaching it to piety.

The Almighty desires His servants to be people of delicate thought; inquiring human beings of understanding. Each Muslim should therefore turn to contemplation, at every given opportunity, with an ardent feeling of worship. The words of Rabia –may Allah have mercy on her soul-, the wife of Ahmed ibn Hawari, provide splendid examples in relation:

“Whenever I hear the adhan, I am reminded of the crier of Judgment Day…

“Whenever I see snowfall, it is like I see books of deeds drifting about in the sky…

“I am reminded of Resurrection the moment I see a pack of swarming grasshoppers…”

It is reported that Caliph Harun ar-Rashid once went to a bath, where the bath attendant accidentally poured boiling water over him. Suffering major burns on his scalded body and in agonizing pain, the Caliph rushed outside and gave away thousands in charity, commenting:

“I cannot stand the heat of hot water today…How will I be if I am destined for hellfire in the Hereafter?”

The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, taking a lesson from everything he witnessed, used to turn to the Lord in thanks and seek His refuge. We, too, ought to perceive Divine splendor in everything we see and seek to acquire the spiritual food to sustain the inner world of our hearts and minds. Wherever a Muslim may look, be it the Sun, the Moon, the atmosphere, his own creation, his ancestors or children, he must read the Divine messages communicated through them with the eye of the heart. By virtue of reflecting on his origin and destination, on how he is able to survive, by whom he is given a particular shape and form, a specific brand and span of life; and through acknowledging that neither life itself nor the universe is ever detached wisdom, that nothing has been created in vain and most importantly that man himself has not been left unaided and alone, he must constantly be aware of Divine power and majesty.

Why has the Almighty created the Universe?

Allah, glory unto Him, says:

“And We did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them in vain. We did not create them both but with the truth, but most of them do not know.” (ad-Dukhan, 38-39)

Contemplating the universe must grant one an appreciation of the will of the Almighty and of the fact that everything, presented to the use of man, has been created with a purpose. Through this, one must reflect on his responsibilities towards the Creator and not neglect his duties of servanthood. Remaining insensitive and ingrate to the enormous favors and blessings of the Almighty, is a undoubtedly a woeful ignorance that does not, in any way, befit the honor and dignity of being human.

Man must not forget he will be called into account for all the blessings received; so states the Almighty:

“Then on that day you shall most certainly be questioned about the joy you indulged in!” (at-Takathur, 8)

We are therefore eternally indebted to our Lord for all the blessings that surround us, both for those of which we are aware and unaware. How wonderful are those hearts of wisdom which, fully conscious of this debt, strive to put deeds of gratitude into practice!

[1]     Îman Hakîkatleri Etrafında Suallere Cevaplar, p. 58-59.

[2]     See, İlim-Ahlâk-Îman, prepared by: M. Rahmi Balaban, p. 189.

[3]     The Bermudas are a chain of islands in the Atlantic, off the north coast of the Caribbean, east of the United States.

[4]     İlim-Ahlâk-Îman, prepared by: M. Rahmi Balaban, p. 188-189.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, Contemplation in Islam, Erkam Public.

Contemplation Of The Universe

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