Bees have been around for centuries and have been continuously used in various religious scriptures to depict a specific set of qualities or traits that shows an ideal devotee. In this article, you will learn more about the symbolism of the bee in the Quran and its importance, as well as a few passages and verses from the holy book itself.
Bees are quite fascinating, there are definitely lots to learn from these tiny insects. In fact, in the Islamic holy book, a whole chapter is dedicated to the bee, called An-Nahl. This literally translates to ‘The Bee’ and it describes the bee’s way of life and how Muslims should be more like them.
Overview of Islam
Islam is a monotheistic religion that is centered around one God or Allah. It is the second largest religion in the world with over a billion followers. Like other religions, Islam has its own set of beliefs and rituals, but it all boils down to having one God who is all-merciful and all-powerful.
The teachings of Islam is found in their holy scriptures called the Quran. This book is written in its original Arabic, which is said to be unaltered and is the very final revelation of God Himself. Similar to other monotheistic religions, Islam teaches their people about the final judgement where the good are rewarded with eternity in paradise, whereas the bad are punished in hell. Muslims follow and practice unique religious concepts such as the Five Pillars of Islam, which are mainly:
- Shahada: Faith
The Shahada is the base of the Islamic belief. Muslims believe that “There is no other God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Through this, we are able to identify that the Islamic religion follows only one God who is called Allah. The verse is often used in Arabic calligraphy, manuscripts, and in mosques, making it extremely popular among its followers.
- Salah: Prayer
According to this pillar, a Muslim devote must pray five times a day. A set of prayers should be recited with a series of bowing, kneeling, and touching the ground on a prayer mat. They don’t necessarily need to do their prayers in the mosque. They can pray anywhere as long as they pray towards the direction of Mecca. Similar to a Sunday Mass, Muslims attend a mosque khutba lead by an imam during the midday.
- Zakat: Charity
Also known as giving alms, is noted as the third pillar. Though it is not specifically defined in the Quran, followers still practice this. Through this pillar, Muslims must share their wealth to those who are less fortunate. This act of charity is a way to pay for their sins.
- Saum: Fasting
Muslims have a holy month that falls on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar called Ramadan. During this time, they are expected to fast from dawn to dusk. There is absolutely no food or water intake during this time. Fasting exceptions are made for the elderly, pregnant, sick, and women on menstruation.
- Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca
As part of their ritual, an able Muslim must be able to visit Mecca at least once in their whole life. During the pilgrimage, they are supposed to walk around the Kaaba seven times. The Kaaba is a cube-shaped structure which was said to be given by Gabriel to Abraham and is built from black stone. The pilgrimage happens during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.
Importance of Bees in Islam and What it Symbolizes
As mentioned, an entire chapter in the Quran is dedicated to the bee. Specifically Chapter 16. Making the number 16 also as important. The only verse in this chapter that mentions bees is made up of 16 words and 16 different Arabic letters. Coincidentally, female bees have 16 pairs of chromosomes, whereas males have 16 chromosomes having been hatched from unfertilized eggs. The phenomenon behind the male bees being born without a male input is quite similar to how Jesus was brought into this world.
What is quite fascinating about the bees in the Quran is that it was written from a scientific standpoint where the colony, roles, and practices of bees are observed. These characteristics and traits were used as a figure of speech for the follower reading the Quran.
Aside from this verse, chapter 16 talks about a variety of topics, but Allah specifically chose the title The Bee to catch the attention of the readers. Bees are said to be Allah’s miracles; the way they function and how they behave, are to be held as an example. Muslims are told to learn from these magnificent creatures.
Quran Passages On Bees
The verse in An-Nahl specific to the bee literally translates to:
And your Lord revealed to the bees; “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and that which they construct. Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down for you.” There emerges from their bellies a drink varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.
In the first part of the verse, Allah commands the bee to choose a place for his home. In Arabic however, the verb specifically pertains to a female, and would, therefore, pertain to the queen and female worker bees. This phenomenon is actually observed in nature today, the female bees: both queen and workers are the heart of the hive. They are responsible for finding and building the hive, which makes sense why Allah would be using a female imperative verb in this particular statement. This verse in the Quran established scientific fact without any contradiction.
The latter half of the verse talks about the process of making honey and its benefits. The bee collects the nectar and pollen from various flowers and forms the honey within its body. They then regurgitate the honey into wax cells they made. There are different kinds of food that come from honey, and it comes in a variety of colors. This bee food can range from the regular light brown honey, we all know and love, to a deep dark color, or even a very light white hue. With a variety of color, taste and flavor also vary depending on the plant source and weather.
When talking about medicinal benefits, honey is known to be a natural healing supplement. This has been documented in various scriptures dating back to 5,000 years ago. Ancient civilizations used honey to treat internal and external ailments such as ulcers, wounds, and other diseases. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, has used honey to treat his patients. Today, we are able to determine the healing benefits of honey by studying its antibacterial activity, enzymes, and chemical build-up.
Lessons That Muslims Learn From Honeybees
In the verse, it mentioned: Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought. With this Allah is asking his people to “give thought” to the attributes of the bees and embody these traits in their lives. Through their behaviour, we learn different things such as:
- Bees Influence Us to Gain Knowledge and Reflect
Going back to the verse, we understand the color and flavor of the honey they make differ depending on the source of nectar. Nectar from the nicest flowers or fruit-bearing plants. Bees also have the ability to create “Royal Jelly” that is specifically fed to the queen and her growing larvae.
We, as normal individuals, would not be able to decipher the behavior of bees without putting effort into learning about them and doing our part in the research. Thus, influencing us to learn more and reflect on their traits and characteristics.
- Bees Motivate Us to Work Well With Others
Most bee species live in colonies, and they would need the participation of each and every member to be a well-functioning hive. Female worker bees take the time to go out of the hive and find food. By the time they get back to the hive, instead of placing the collected nectar in the individual cell themselves, they opt to pass the nectar by regurgitating it to their co-worker. This process goes on until the nectar turns into honey and reaches the cell of the honeycomb. They then fan it with their wings until it becomes stickier, by the time it is ready they seal the cell with a wax lid to keep it clean. The colony works as a team, and each member is given a role.
Another example of how bees work as a team is during winter, in order to keep the hive warm they start clumping together and constantly move in order to create heat. This heat keeps the queen warm, and their hive livable during the harsh weather.
In reality, our hive is our home, and our colony is our family. No matter what your role is in the house, each member has a valuable contribution to ensure the success of everyday endeavours. In Islam, the ultimate goal of a typical Muslim family is to achieve Allah’s promise of eternal paradise. If every member of the family acts accordingly to his or her role, you can reach anything your heart desires.
- Bees Show Us How to Thrive Through Obeying One God: Allah
In the verse, Allah speaks directly to the bees. His command for them to build their homes and make their honey was followed, and mankind is able to reap the benefits of the sweet healing honey. Allah is said to have conveniently placed honeybees on earth to be of service to us. Such simple creatures, yet quite obedient. This is how Allah wanted his followers to be, His faithful followers.
Another way to see this is how bees pledge their loyalty to their Queen. Once they are part of a certain hive and colony, they dedicate their lives to the betterment of the colony itself. Drones, in fact, willingly sacrifice their lives for the benefit of the colony.
An obedient Muslim must be able to follow the foundation set-forth by Allah to achieve eternity in paradise. By following Allah’s word, and doing good we are promised eternal life with Him.
- Bees Teach Us to Be Pure
Fun fact, bees only collect the nectar of fresh flowers that have not been touched by other bees. Thus, making the nectar they get from a pure source. The purity is guaranteed by Allah Himself; it is the Muslim’s duty to keep it that way.
With newer generations, we observe how easy it is for younger Muslims to let go of their purity and commit haram since it is much easier to live this way, but it is not the way of Allah. It is through halal means that they are able to keep the sources of our blessings, as well as themselves, pure in their eyes.
To cite an example, let’s say you own a restaurant, and even if you know doing business with alcohol is haram you still do it for the revenue it brings you business. If you follow the strict halal teachings of Allah, you would know that there is no greater reward than the promise of paradise, it can never be replaced with any form of riches you may receive in the mortal world. But hey, if there’s money to be made!
As humans, we are quite flawed, and we will find ways to make excuses. It is best to keep in mind that excuses will get you nowhere and there is no blessing from haram that no amount of prayer can make up for it unless you are willing to change. Take a look at your methods, and ask yourself if this is the rizq you want to keep on pursuing to please Allah.
- Bees Help Us Become More Efficient
The term “busy bee” has been used often to describe the very prominent trait of the bee. This figure of speech is often used to describe people who are hardworking. Bees are quite efficient, they work smart, and they work hard. A single beehive can have thousands of bees all working together to provide food, shelter, and protection to their queen and the rest of the colony. They travel over 50,000 miles and visit at least a million flowers just to make a jar of honey.
Bees work in a structure and follow a specific pattern or schedule. This is what we need to apply in our daily life. It’s not just about working hard. It’s about making the most of your time and resources and working efficiently rather than waste time with mediocre work. Schedule your day well, list the things you need to accomplish within the day, and do not forget to add the responsibilities of being a good Muslim (obeying Allah) in your list.
- Bees Provide Us With Relationship Advice
Who would have thought that you can get relationship advice from a bee? But amazingly, most bees, especially those living in a colony, have excellent relationships with different species. Bees are not greedy and do not intend to harm any other creature. In fact, the only time a bee would even sting a human is if it felt extremely threatened.
Bees live in a symbiotic relationship with plants, they take nectar, but in return they pollinate. This allows the plant species to thrive. After all, they are able to efficiently reproduce this way.
In reality, we must be more like bees, whether it is to our family members, our spouses, or people in the community. Allah is not asking people to be completely selfless, but to know when to give back and not to be greedy. Treat everyone around you with kindness, and be considerate of others with whatever you do. It does not take much to just be a good person, after all.
Bees Influence Us To Care for Our Community
The hive is a well-organized community. As we have established, the colony functions well because the bees play the right roles and are responsible for each other. The queen lays the eggs, the worker bees clean the hive and make the honey, and the drones protect the hive. In chapter 16, Allah taught the bees to dance in order to show fellow bees the location of the flowers in order for them to follow. In retrospect, a honeybee cannot exist on its own. They would need to be with other bees in order to thrive.
Just like people, we need to be able to take responsibility and work well with other people in our community to live in harmony within a society. As simple as it sounds, this is not as easy in the dog eat dog world we live in. People are constantly in pursuit of wealth which makes them selfish. We see this every day, how large companies exploit lowly employees, how siblings enter rivalry with one another, and how politicians are consumed by greed. Muslims must do there part and resist from being influenced by these ideals, and learn to share in blessing, look out for others, and be helpful to fellow believers.
Allah is said to have created one of the most magnificent creatures we could ever grace our earth. As simple as the bee may look, they have a great system and structure that have a great influence. The goal is to reach the promised paradise, and by following the way of the bee, we are able to attain this.
If you like this article then why not checkout our article on The symbology of bees in christianity and judasim.