بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Prophet Suleiman (a.s) was granted a kingdom, the likes of which had not been seen in the world before. His kingdom is characterized by peace, control, innovations and developments. Quran mentions that he was taught the logic of flyers (مَنطِقَ الطَّيْرِ/language of the birds or logic of flyers as used in air travel). This ayat lead some to assume that he would also know the language of animals. There is an event mentioned in Al-Quran about ‘ants’ in sura ‘Namal/Ant’. In this post we will review the implication of these ayahs.
In many languages, ‘ant’ is used in allegorical and idiomatic terms to describe an insignificant person vs a powerful person. In every society there exists quite a substantial population of people comprising the lower middle and lower classes which historically had little or no say in matters of the state. Their voice was seldom heard by the upper echelons and ruling class of the society. The general perception of the people in this class is that the ruling/elite class exploits and crushes them under their feet.
27:16-17 وَوَرِثَ سُلَيْمَانُ دَاوُودَ ۖ وَقَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ عُلِّمْنَا مَنطِقَ الطَّيْرِ وَأُوتِينَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ ۖ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْمُبِينُ وَحُشِرَ لِسُلَيْمَانَ جُنُودُهُ مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ وَالطَّيْرِ فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ
And Suleiman inherited from Dawood. He said. “O people! We have been taught the logic/language of flyers, and we have been given from all things (blessings). This is indeed a manifest grace. And presented to Suleiman were armies of Jinns and Ins/people and fliers, and they were all kept in order.
The kingdom and control of prophet Suleiman (a.s) was blessed and extended over Jinns (the developed nations), all other people and on the flyers (air force). Then they turned their attention towards the dwellings of the lower class of the society referred as the ‘valley of ants’.
27:18 حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَتَوْا عَلَىٰ وَادِ النَّمْلِ قَالَتْ نَمْلَةٌ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّمْلُ ادْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَكُمْ لَا يَحْطِمَنَّكُمْ سُلَيْمَانُ وَجُنُودُهُ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ
Until, when they reached the valley of ants, one of the ants said. “O you ants, get into your habitations, lest Suleiman and his armies crush you without (even) knowing it.”
A representative of the lower class of the society referred as an ‘ant’, assumed that being insignificant people as they are, they may not have any value in the eyes of the ruler . They (their welfare, rights, freedom) may be crushed by the ruler as historically rulers used to be concerned more with their own plans for grandeur and didn’t care much for the lower classes. Therefore the ‘ant’ advised the fellow ants to get out of sight of the ruler so that he may not get ideas about them and they be persecuted.
27:19 فَتَبَسَّمَ ضَاحِكًا مِّن قَوْلِهَا وَقَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ
So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said. “O my Lord! Direct me that I should be grateful for Your favors, which You bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may work righteousness that will please You, and admit me, by Your Grace, to the ranks of your righteous servants.”
Prophet Suleiman (a.s) thanked his Lord, for bestowing the blessings on him and to enable him to hear to the lower classes of the society to be able to do good for them as well. In his Government, there were means established to hear and get opinions from the lower classes of the masses.
- Animals use different methods of communication however their communication is not by language or ‘words’ as the ‘Nouns’ and words are taught to ‘Adam’ only, by God. Therefore in ayat 27:18, the utterance of ‘Sulieman’ by an actual ant is not possible, indicating that ‘ant’ in the ayat is a reference for some human.
2. A couple of questions may arise such as why in this narration Allah used the example of ants for people and if example of ants is appropriate to use for people. So we see the below ayahs:
17:89 وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ مِن كُلِّ مَثَلٍ فَأَبَىٰ أَكْثَرُ النَّاسِ إِلَّا كُفُورًا
And We have explained for people, in this Quran, every kind of example. yet the greater part of mankind reject them.
From above ayat 17:89 it becomes evident that it is not unusual for Allah to narrate events with the help of examples so that people can relate with them.
2:26 إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِهَٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ
Allah does not shy away from citing the example of a mosquito, or anything above it. As for those who believe, they know that it is the truth from their Lord. As for the rejecters, they Say: ‘What does Allah intend with this example?’ He lets many stray by it, and He guides many, but He only lets stray the fasiqeen/evil-doers.
Ants are wonderful creatures. They built complex structures which can be compared to sky scrappers in an ant scaled city, size wise. The workers ants spend their whole lives doing real hard manual work. Citing of the examples of these wonderous creatures for the hard working low earning classes of humans is not an insult but rather a relatable example.
Other relevant previous posts to this topic are given below: