One of the proofs that the Quran has not been tampered since its revelation to mankind are some of the claims that many nonbelievers will claim are fanciful. Some examples of such events that that are documented in the Quran have to do with the relation between God’s messengers and animals.
Jonah and the Fish
One of the most notable examples of a miracle involving one of God’s messengers and an animal that is documented in both the Bible and Quran is that of Jonah and the fish.
[37:139] Jonah was one of the messengers. [37:140] He escaped to the loaded ship. [37:141] He rebelled and thus, he joined the losers. [37:142] Consequently, the fish swallowed him, and he was the one to blame. [37:143] If it were not that he resorted to meditation (on God), [37:144] he would have stayed in its belly until the Day of Resurrection. [37:145] We had him thrown up into the desert, exhausted.
James Bartley (1870–1909) is the central figure in a late nineteenth-century story according to which he was swallowed whole by a sperm whale. He was found still living days later in the stomach of the whale, which was dead from harpooning. The story originated of an anonymous form, began to appear in American newspapers. The anonymous article appeared in the St. Louis Globe Democrat of Saint Louis, Missouri, then the note appeared in other newspapers with the title “A Modern Jonah” or something similar in multiple newspapers. The news spread beyond the ocean in articles as “Man in a Whale’s Stomach. “Rescue of a Modern Jonah” in page 8 of the August 22, 1891 issue of the Yarmouth Mercury newspaper of Great Yarmouth in England. While some people question the authenticity of the story and similar occurrence took place a few days ago.
On Friday June 11th, 2021 commercial lobster diver Michael Packard was diving to off the coast of Cape Cod when we was swallowed by a humpback whale. He was fully inside the mouth of the whale for more than 30 seconds before the whale threw him back up. Aside from minor injuries and the fear of losing his life he survived the ordeal and was able to come back home to his family.
In the Quran the word used for “the fish” in 37:142 verse is الْحُوتُ / l-ḥūtu.
(١٤٢) فَالْتَقَمَهُ الْحُوتُ وَهُوَ مُلِيمٌ
This same word is used again in regards to Jonah in 68:48.
[68:48] You shall steadfastly persevere in carrying out the commands of your Lord. Do not be like (Jonah) who called from inside the fish.
(٤٨) فَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ وَلَا تَكُنْ كَصَاحِبِ الْحُوتِ إِذْ نَادَىٰ وَهُوَ مَكْظُومٌ
While these verses may very well be referencing a fish based on modern terminology, the Arabic word الْحُوتُ / l-ḥūtu also can be in reference to a whale. We see this in the following Hadith regarding a fish that the people discovered on the shore that was described as a small mountain. The meat from it was able to feed the people for 18 nights, and its two ribs were big enough that a she-camel could ride under them without touching. This provides additional support that the word الْحُوتُ / l-ḥūtu can be in reference to a whale in Classical Arabic.
Additionally, this word is associated with the term whale in modern Arabic today.
Talking to Birds
In Sura 27, we read that Solomon was blessed with understanding the language of the birds.
[27:16] Solomon was David’s heir. He said, “O people, we have been endowed with understanding the language of the birds, and all kinds of things have been bestowed upon us. This is indeed a real blessing.”
In the following verses we read the exchange he had with a kind of bird known as a hoopoe.
[27:20] He inspected the birds, and noted: “Why do I not see the hoopoe? Why is he missing? [27:21] “I will punish him severely or sacrifice him, unless he gives me a good excuse.” [27:22] He did not wait for long. (The hoopoe) said, “I have news that you do not have. I brought to you from Sheba, some important information. [27:23] “I found a woman ruling them, who is blessed with everything, and possesses a tremendous palace. [27:24] “I found her and her people prostrating before the sun, instead of GOD. The devil has adorned their works in their eyes, and has repulsed them from the path; consequently, they are not guided.” [27:25] They should have been prostrating before GOD, the One who manifests all the mysteries in the heavens and the earth, and the One who knows everything you conceal and everything you declare. [27:26] GOD: there is no other god beside Him; the Lord with the great dominion. [27:27] Solomon said, “We will see if you told the truth, or if you are a liar. [27:28] “Take this letter from me, give it to them, then watch for their response.”
While this dialogue may seem far fetched what we forget is that we are interpreting this language in modern vernacular of human speech, but just like we can guarantee that Solomon was not speaking Arabic, the language of the Quran, this dialogue is a translation of the communication between Solomon and the hoopoe and not to be mistaken for the actual sounds and words that were exchanged between the two.
Humans have had a long history of communicating with birds. One of the most notable examples of this is that of the honeybird which has a long history of working with humans to lead them to honey deposits that they have discovered. Not only do honeyguides use calls to find the right human partners who will respond to their calls, but humans also use specialized calls to summon the birds. This symbiotic relationship allows the honeyguides to feast off the grubs and beeswax that their human counterparts leave behind.
These are one of many different kind of guide birds that work in conjunction with humans. This is not much different than the function of the hoopoe, but rather than looking for honey the hoopoe found something else of interest for Solomon.
In addition to Solomon’s ability to understand the language of the birds he also understood the language of ants. Sura 27 of the Quran is entitled The Ant (Al-Naml). In this Sura we read the following passage regarding Solomon’s exchange with an ant:
[27:15] We endowed David and Solomon with knowledge, and they said, “Praise GOD for blessing us more than many of His believing servants.” [27:16] Solomon was David’s heir. He said, “O people, we have been endowed with understanding the language of the birds, and all kinds of things have been bestowed upon us. This is indeed a real blessing.” [27:17] Mobilized in the service of Solomon were his obedient soldiers of jinns and humans, as well as the birds; all at his disposal.
[27:18] When they approached the valley of the ants, one ant said, “O you ants, go into your homes, lest you get crushed by Solomon and his soldiers, without perceiving.” [27:19] He smiled and laughed at her statement, and said, “My Lord, direct me to be appreciative of the blessings You have bestowed upon me and my parents, and to do the righteous works that please You. Admit me by Your mercy into the company of Your righteous servants.”
At first glance, such an exchange might appear to be more suited in the land of science fiction and not what one would expect in a Holy Scripture that is from God. But it is passages like this that provide assurances to believers that the Quran has been untampered since its revelation over 1400 years ago.
For generations individuals probably struggled to comprehend how ants could communicate in such sophisticated manner let alone how a human being would ever be able to understand such communication. Even to date, people use this passage in an attempt to discredit the Quran. But despite the pushback and ridicule these verses have stayed intact and now with advancements in science and the understanding of ant communication we can have the final laugh.
Edward Osborne Wilson, usually cited as E. O. Wilson, is an American biologist, naturalist, and writer. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants, on which he is considered the world’s leading expert. On June 14, 2009, E.O. Wilson sat down for an interview at the World Science Festival to discuss ant communication. Below are some of his comments from the interview:
“We humans are highly unusual we communicate by audio and visual, but ants don’t do that. Some of them have eyes big enough to see, but they don’t use them very much at all to signal back and forth. What they do is they let out smells, and they offer substances on their bodies. And they have many kinds of glands, from where their mouths open all the way to the end of their bodies. And these glands open to the outside so when an ant wants to say something you know like: “watch out danger” or “come here I have something important” or “follow me out the end of the trail I just laid there’s food out there” or “there’s an enemy out there.” They let out a particular substance that has that signal in it.”
When he was asked how many different words do ants have, he continues by saying:
“Ten to twenty. They can say things like, “lookout danger.” They can say things like, “I’m a soldier” or they can say things like, “I’m a member of the such-and-such colony sniff are you a fellow member.”
Based on this information let’s take another look at the verse and specific comment from the ant:
[27:18] When they approached the valley of the ants, one ant said, “O you ants, go into your homes, lest you get crushed by Solomon and his soldiers, without perceiving.”
From the above comments from E.O. Wilson, we see that ants do communicate to their colony to look out for danger, and that they also possess the vocabulary to identify known colonies like that of the army of Solomon. Therefore, not only is this passage from the Quran possible based on what we now understand about ants, but it appears to be typical ant behavior. Additionally, as the communication signal is transmitted as a scent, as opposed to audibly, it further indicates how Solomon was able to decipher this comment from the ant.