Vol. 4    Issue 04   01-15 July 2009
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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
The Holy Quran A Pictorial Gallery
Muslim Minorities in Non-Islamic Milieus
Virtual Museum of Islamic Arts and Culture

Minaret Research Network

The Quran says: “Surely, in the alternation of the night and day and in all that God has created in the heavens and on earth are signs for those who fear Him” (1”6).

Several species of animals, including cows, crow, wolves, camel, donkey, horse, elephant, honeybee, ants, spider, dog and hoopoe, are mentioned in various contexts in the Holy Quran. In some cases, they are mentioned as an illustration of the marvels of divine creation. In some instances, there is a figurative, symbolic reference to their behaviour. More importantly, some verses of the Quran refer to the existence of animal societies and of systems of communication in various species of animals. Thus the Quran says: “There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (constitute) societies or communities like yours” (6:38). The explicit reference in the Quran to systems of communication in animals occurs in the context of ants and the hoopoe (both in the story of the Prophet Sulayman). The Quran says: “Then, when they reached the valley of the ants, an ant said: Ants! Enter your dwellings lest Sulayman and his troops trample upon you unwittingly” (27:18). The bird Hud-hud (hoopoe) is mentioned twice in Surah al-Naml in the Holy Quran (27:20-22). The Quran says: “And he (Prophet Sulayman) sought among the birds and said: “How is it that I see not the hoopoe, or is he among the absent?” (27:20). “But the hoopoe tarried not far: he compassed (territory) which thou hast not compassed and I have come to thee from Saba with tidings true (27:22). Prophet Sulayman was aware of the communication system in animals, birds and insects.

The honeybee

The Quran says: “And thy Lord inspired the bee, saying: choose thou habitations in the hills and in the trees and in people’s habitations” (16:68). A German biologist Karl von Frisch carefully observed and recorded the dance communication of the honeybee in the 1940s, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. The results of his researches were published in his books The Dancing Bees (1954) and The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees (1967). It is estimated that the brain of a honeybee, which weighs only ten milligrams, is superior by about seven orders of magnitude the most efficient of today’s computers. The frequency range of the sounds a bee can detect extends well beyond the threshold of human hearing. Both sound and dance are required to communicate information about the location of food.

Scout bees, when they have found a rich source of nectar, return with the pollen or nectar to the hive and communicate accurately the location of the source by dancing in the dark hive on the vertical combs. The dancer emits sound signals that help the dance followers determine where the dancer is and how she is moving, which in turn offers them critical information regarding the direction and distance to the feeding site. The followers emit sounds that vibrate the comb. It is interesting to note that, in the verse quoted above, the command is given to the bee in the feminine imperative form. It was discovered only a few decades ago that only a female bee finds a new dwelling.

Scientists from Edinburgh and Oxford universities, who have recently used mathematical models to study the behaviour of bees, have found that bees tend to work together as a single unit—creating a “superorganism”—and are prepared to die for the greater good of the colony. The findings were published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology in March 2009. Dr Andy Gardner, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “An ant nest or a beehive can behave as a united organism in its own right. In a beehive, the workers are happy to help the community, even to die, because the queen carries and passes on their genes. Bees are highly related to one another. Initially, the queen lays only female workers, and these sisters are prepared to work for the good of the colony, rearing more of their sisters instead of leaving to establish their own colonies. This behaviour makes bees distinct from herds of bison or shoals of fish.

For their brain size, bees show amazing capacity and behaviour. Experiments carried out at Queen Mary, University of London, suggest that bees are capable of learning and memory. They have very impressive navigation skills. They can recognise complex patterns and show flexible learning, such as the shape, colour, scent and even the texture of flowers. They can learn the location of landmarks and even how to recognise human faces. Bees communicate a surprisingly large amount of information with their waggling dance moves.

Bumblebees are faced with population decline as a result of pollution, habitat loss and pesticide poisoning. Over the past two years, more than a third of all honey bee colonies in the United States have died. In the UK, some species of bees are already extinct, and some more face extinction within the next few years. The British Beekeepers’ Association says the bee population in the UK fell by nearly a third between 2007 and 2008. The decline of honey bees has disturbing consequences for human societies. They are not only a valuable source of honey but also of crop pollination, most animal products and many plant-derived medicines.

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