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وَجَدتُّهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ أَعْمَـٰلَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ ٱلسَّبِيلِ فَهُمْ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ ٢٤
I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allah. For Satan has made their deeds appealing to them—hindering them from the ˹Right˺ Way and leaving them unguided—
(If you usually read these blogs, please listen to this one! It’s part of the experience)
Have you ever heard the tweets of a bird? In the story of Prophet Sulaiman (as), we are given a glimpse into the way these creatures think and speak, translated to us by Allah ﷻ. Its chirping would not have been dissimilar to the tweets at the start of this podcast, yet they are completely inaccessible to us. How strange it is to think these tweets carry sophisticated language and meaning within them, yet to us sound nothing more than a few simple sounds. This characteristic is not unique to birds either. Allah ﷻ declares:
تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتُ ٱلسَّبْعُ وَٱلْأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ ۚ وَإِن مِّن شَىْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِۦ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًۭا ٤٤
The seven heavens, the earth, and all those in them glorify Him. There is not a single thing that does not glorify His praises—but you ˹simply˺ do not comprehend their glorification. He is indeed Most Forbearing, All-Forgiving.
Everything around us speaks; we just simply do not have the tools to access it. Allah ﷻ does not say we cannot hear them (تسمعون); He deliberately selects the word comprehend (تفقهون), pointing out our inability to understand them. In fact, the word of negation selected is (لا) not (لن); i.e. it negates the ability to understand them currently, but not the possibility of it ever happening!
Indeed, the miracle to communicate with animals, whilst gifted to Prophet Sulaiman (as), was not unique to him. Our beloved Prophet ﷺ had countless incidents of creatures speaking with him throughout His Prophethood. He was once approached by a bird complaining that it’s eggs had been stolen, beseeching Him to find and return them to her. Camels came complaining of their workload, wolves guided people towards him and lizards bore testimony before everyone that He was the Messenger of God. Even inanimate objects would speak and interact with Him ﷺ. Omar bin Al-Khattab (ra) narrates
“I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: ‘I know a stone in Makkah that used to greet me before I was sent as a Prophet and I still recognize it now.”‘
In fact, it’s known that some companions were gifted moments to hear and speak with them too. The story of the companions hearing the weeping tree stump is well-known, but there are other incidents too such as the supplicating stones in the hands of the companions, the quake of mountain of Uhud as the companions stood upon it and its settling down as the Messenger ﷺ spoke to it, and the testimony of a tree in the middle of the desert as a disbeliever challenged the Prophet ﷺ to bring forward a witness to his Message. One companion, Safina, famously commanded a lion to guide their way through the desert after being shipwrecked on the coast.
Even stranger is how Allah ﷻ at times grants non-believers this miracle. Qadi Iyaad narrates several incidents of animals speaking to some of the greatest enemies of Islam such as Abu Jahl calling them to believe in the Prophet ﷺ. At the end of times, the Quran describes how a beast will rise from the earth to speak to us about Him:
۞ وَإِذَا وَقَعَ ٱلْقَوْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَخْرَجْنَا لَهُمْ دَآبَّةًۭ مِّنَ ٱلْأَرْضِ تُكَلِّمُهُمْ أَنَّ ٱلنَّاسَ كَانُوا۟ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا لَا يُوقِنُونَ ٨٢
And when the decree ˹of the Hour˺ comes to pass against them, We will bring forth for them a beast from the earth, telling them that the people had no sure faith in Our revelations.
So why mention all of this?
- We often forget to contextualise the verses we read, and nothing captures this more than the realisation that the words we are reciting are in fact the tweet of a bird! Knowing the context gives many more layers of reflection to a verse, something we will see many podcasts to come, insha’allah.
- Humble yourself. There is so much around us we do not know, yet we have the arrogance to claim we know it all. Everything in the universe is praising God, yet because they cannot understand them, they claim no God exists!
- These animals see us, understand us and will witness against us. They know that God exists, and they are shocked when humans go against the grain and disbelieve or disobey. Next time we sin, find a place where no object created by Allah ﷻ is present, then realise how futile it is to try and hide from Him!
- Across the Quran, when Allah ﷻ states people do not comprehend, it is not stating they cannot do so. Our inability to comprehend the language of animals does not negate the possibility of doing so. Understanding comes through study, and we may reach a point when we could understand what they are saying too! Allah ﷻ knows best.
- In the previous verses, Prophet Suleman is said to have heard the communication of the Ants. Even if he understood their language, how can he possibly have heard the speech of an animal so small, particularly amidst the commotion of the marching army? Perhaps communication amongst these animals is not simply through speech, but through another mechanism granted to them which we have no access to, or perhaps he was just given super hearing 😊. Allah ﷻ knows best!
- Finally, if the communication of animals carry so many meanings that we are closed off to, how is it then for the words of Allah ﷻ? If we are curious to understand the animals or speak to Jinn, why do we not endeavour to understand God’s words? This Quran has endless layers of meaning within it, and we have the gift of intellect to explore it. We should not be satisfied to simply revel in the beauty of its recitation without understanding it. We have the ability to learn it, comprehend it and communicate with Allah ﷻ through it