The Quran and Hadith instruct us that all species of animals are "communities" like the human community. In other words, they are communities in their own right and not merely in relation to humankind or its values. The exact words of the Quran are:
There is not an animal on earth
Nor a bird that flies on its wings,
But they are communities like you.
(ch. 6 v. 38.)
According to the learned commentators of the Quran, the word communities is used here in the sense of genera and ani¨mals and birds for all kinds of vertebrates, quadrupeds, mammals, birdlike mammals such as bats, crustaceans, reptiles, worms, and insects. They all live a life, individual and social, like the members of the human society.
To define what it means by the "communities of animals," the Quran says:
Allah has created every animal from water:
Of them there are some that creep on their bellies:
Some that walk on two legs:
And some that walk on four.
(ch. 24 v. 45.)
The first category includes all kinds of worms, reptiles, centipedes, insects, and all such creatures. The second cate¨gory includes birds and human beings; and the third category covers all kinds of mammals. The significant point to note is that, physically, humans have been put in the same bracket as all other creatures.
The following Hadith leaves no ambiguity about the sense in which the Quran uses the word "communities":
Abu Huraira reported the Prophet Muhammad as telling of an incident that happened to a prophet in the past. This prophet was stung by an ant and, in anger, he ordered the whole of the nest of ants to be burned. At this God reprimanded this prophet in these words: "Because one ant stung you, you have burned a whole community which glorified Me."1
One of the reasons why the human and all other species have been classified together throughout the Quran is that even animals possess a psyche. Although their psychic force is of a lower level than that of human beings, there is ample evi¨dence in the Quran to suggest that animals' consciousness is of a higher degree than mere instinct and intuition.
We are told in the Quran that animals have a cognizance of their Creator, and hence they pay their obeisance to him by adoration and worship. Out of the many verses of the Quran on this proposition, a few must suffice here:
Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praises are celebrated
By all beings in the heavens and on earth,
And by the birds with extended wings?
Each one knows its own [mode of] prayer and psalm.
And Allah is aware of what they do.
(ch. 24 v. 41.)
The statement that "Each one knows its own prayer and psalm" is worth noting. The execution of a voluntary act, performed knowingly and intentionally, requires a faculty higher than those of instinct and intuition.
In the event that some may doubt that animals could have such a faculty, the following verse points out that it is human ignorance, not animals, that prevent us from understanding their celebration of God.
The seven heavens and the earth and all things therein, Declare His glory,
There is not a thing but celebrates His praise;
And yet ye mankind! ye understand not
How do they declare His glory.
(ch. 17 v. 44.)
The following verse tells us how all the elements of nature and all the animal kingdom function in harmony with Godís laws; only some humans disobey and so bring affliction cm themselves. The Quran dwells on this subject repeatedly to emphasize the point that humans should bring themselves into harmony with nature, as the rest of creation does:
Seest thou not that unto Allah payeth adoration
All things that are in the heavens and on earth;
The sun, the moon, the stars, the hills, the trees, the animals;
And a large number among mankind?
But there are many [humans] who do not,
And deserve chastisement.
(ch. 22 v. 18.)
It is understood that the inanimate elements of nature perform the act of worshipping God without verbal communi¨cation by functioning in conformity with the divine ordinances known as the laws of nature.
In the case of animals, however, the Quran teaches that God actually communicates with them, as the following verse shows:
And your Lord revealed to the bee, saying:
Make hives in the mountains,
And in the trees,
And in [human] habitations.
(ch. 16 v. 68.)
It is anybody's guess what form God's communication with animals takes. We know only that the Quran uses the same Arabic word Wahi for God's revelations to all his prophets, including Prophet Muhammad, as well as to the bee. It is ob¨vious that the connotation of God's revelations to his mes¨sengers would be different from that of his revelations to animals. But this is too complex a theological subject that can¨not be dealt with here. Nevertheless, it proves the basic fact that animals have enough psychic endowment to understand and follow God's messages - a faculty higher than instinct and intuition.
Animals are not inferior to us because they have a different vocal apparatus; nor does the fact that they cannot make articulate speech, like we can, mean that they are "contemptible dumb animals." Science has proved now that they com¨municate not only with each other but also with humans, at least enough to express their social interests and biological needs. Those of us who enjoy the privilege of a loving and caring relationship with our pets will bear witness to this fact.
With the aid of modern technology, naturalists have made some progress in deciphering bird and animal languages. But, according to the Quranic evidence, humans had acquired this lore as early as the time of King Solomon, son of Prophet David. Perhaps in those times human civilization was nearer to nature than it is today. The Quranic verse runs like this: "And Solomon was David's heir, and he said: / 'O ye people! we have been taught the speech of birds.'" (ch. 27 v. 16.)
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