Marwa Hamid is a junior researcher and a doctoral fellow. Her research involves creating alternative food resources by working with black soldier flies. In this article, she shares a new perspective on the world of insects.
Verily, Allah is not ashamed to set forth a parable even of a mosquito or so much more when it is bigger (or less when it is smaller) than it - Al-Baqra Verse No: 26
I do not know exactly when we lost our connection with our surrounding environments to the point the only relationship we share with insects in most cases is how to get rid of them. It might be that popular media helped create the gut feeling we have towards insects by associating them with dirt and diseases. This gut feeling urges us to do one thing if we ever come across an insect and that is: smash it with the closest flip-flop to you.
However, we tend to forget that there are over 1 million species, representing over 90% of all living things on the earth and by studying them, we can learn more about our planet including our own selves. Never the less, the tiniest of creatures are paid homage to in the Quran, where in their hard work, contribution to Earth and humankind, and sometimes even in the plights they bring about; there is a wisdom.
The Quran contains a whole Surah (chapter) named after the bees, Al Nahl, contains information about the healing power found in the different coloured honey made by the hard-working bees. The teamwork and level of organisation that goes into its production – because a single bee cannot make honey on its own – should be an example for humans on the importance of working together. The bees are venerated for their diligence and sacrifices, and just how respected they are is highlighted in a hadith (narration) by the Prophet Mohammed ﷺ ...
إِنَّ مَثَلَ المؤمِنِ كَمَثَلِ النَّحْلَةِ أَكَلَتْ طَيِّبَاً و وَضَعَتْ طَيِّبَاً و وَقَعَتْ فَلَمْ تَكْسِرْ و لَمْ تُفْسِدْ
The believer is like a bee which eats that is pure and wholesome and lays that which is pure and wholesome. When it lands on something, it doesn’t break or ruin it.
(Narrated by Imam Aḥmad on the authority of Abdullah bin Amr)
The hard-working Ant also gets a chapter named after it and it’s part of the story of Prophet Sulaiman AS (Solomon), who was gifted with the ability to speak and understand the language of animals, birds and insects. As told in the verses of the Quran, one of Prophet Sulaiman’s stories tells of his encounter with the smallest of creatures, the Ant.
Until, when they came upon the valley of the ants, an ant said, ‘O ants enter your dwellings that you not be crushed by Solomon and his soldiers while they perceive not. So Solomon smiled, amused at her speech, and said, ‘My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favour which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into [the ranks of Your righteous servants - Surah An-Naml 18-19
Prophet Suleiman could not hold back a smile as he heard the Ant talk and thanked the Almighty for the many favours bestowed upon him, including his ability to understand and avoid trampling over the homes of the ants.
Mercy and compassion towards other living beings, no matter their size and shape, is one of the foundations of Islam. In one narration, Prophet Mohammed ﷺ censured some of his companions for acts of cruelty towards birds and ants colonies.
The Quran also mentions mosquitoes, locusts, lice and flies to highlight how small creatures can be powerful, especially in big numbers, and some have been sent as punishment.
So We sent upon them the flood and locusts and lice and frogs and blood as distinct signs, but they were arrogant and were a criminal people - Al-Araf Verse No:133
I have been working with insects for some years now. My main research deals with black soldier flies and their ability to decompose waste and extract high protein livestock feed with the aim of increasing and enhancing our food security alternatives while cleaning and clearing up our surroundings. I myself have learnt a lot from studying insects. The fact that insects have very short life cycles that I can trace on my own together with the changes they undergo during their development is a blessing.
While developing into their adulthood, insects undergo the process of metamorphosis. Insects undergo metamorphosis by finding a safe place to rest, and then they develop a hard casement on their outsides while developing adults within. Once the process is complete, the hard case is broken and adults are free and ready to reproduce. In between, insects would have to find intelligent ways to fill their insides with water and air to sustain their survival and growth. Whether useful or harmful and even though they may be small and not always liked, there is a lot to learn from them. As revealed by the following verse, even a fly can be unstoppable.
O people, an example is presented, so listen to it. Indeed, those you invoke besides Allah will never create [as much as] a fly, even if they gathered together for that purpose. And if the fly should steal away from them a [tiny] thing, they could not recover it from him. Weak are the pursuer and pursued - Al-Hajj Verse No: 73
Read more about black soldier flies: https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/black-soldier-fly-bio-tool-converting-food-waste-livestock-feed/
Read more about an entomologists research and travel journal: http://blog.zef.de/?author=7
Author: Marwa Hamid