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The Story of Prophet Solomon: Talking Ants

Part 3

Part 1 –  Part 2

In a world in which climate change and caring for the environment have become frequent topics of conversation, a Muslim Prophet from long ago might not seem the most obvious choice of patron for such concerns.

Yet Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) was given the extraordinary gift of being able to converse with animals and birds and he also had some control over the elements of nature. Even those who are not interested in Islam will surely spare a few moments to listen to what the story of Solomon has to offer them.

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In the previous two articles we have seen how Solomon — known as Suleiman in Arabic — was the son of King David and succeeded him as king of Israel. In fact, King Solomon was the last king of a united Kingdom of Israel.

A Special Gift from Allah

Like his father he, too, was a Prophet. We have seen how his fame was so great that when he invited Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, to believe in God, she was so captivated by him that she made a journey from her kingdom, in what is now modern-day Yemen, to visit him. His behavior and his wise words brought the Queen to submit in worship to God.

As a prophet, Solomon not only had great wisdom and great wealth, famed throughout history, but he also received a special gift from God. He was able to understand the language of the animals and the birds:

{O ye people! We have been taught the speech of birds, and on us has been bestowed (a little) of all things: this is indeed Grace manifest (from Allah).}  (27:16)

There are, indeed, many things in this world which are not known to us. Humans, through time, have learned how to make helicopters and airplanes and can now even transplant human hearts from one person to another.

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Humans have even travelled to the moon. Who knows, then, if one day the gift given to Solomon will be available for others to share. There have certainly been plenty of studies about the language of animals.

The Valley of the Ants

Muslims have always believed that when the animals and the birds roar and shout and chirp and twitter, they are indeed praising God in their own way. It was given to Prophet Solomon, then, to understand and to converse with them.

There is the lovely story in the Quran, for example, of the valley of ants.

Solomon, in the story, is marching with his army when he comes across a valley of ants:

{At length, when they came to a valley of ants, one of the ants said: “O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it.} (27:18)

Solomon actually hears what the ant is saying. This is what the Quran says:

{So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said: “O my Lord! So order me that I may be grateful for thy favors, which thou has bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may work the righteousness that will please Thee: and admit me, by Thy grace, to the ranks of Thy righteous servants.”} (27:19)

So even the speech of a tiny ant was enough to make Solomon smile and ponder on the meaning of his life.

In another place it says:

{And before Suleiman were marshaled his hosts,- of Jinns and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks.} (27:17)

In other words, Solomon’s army was not only an army of men, but he had different ranks within it of jinn (Muslims believe that jinn are unseen creatures, both good and bad, created by God) and of birds. When he was reviewing his army one day he noticed that the hoopoe bird was absent without permission.

It was the job of the hoopoe to find water for the army when it was on the march.

{And he took a muster of the birds; and he said: “Why is it that I see not the hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees? I will certainly punish him with a severe punishment, or execute him, unless he brings me a clear reason (for absence).} (27:20-1)

We learned last time how the hoopoe had actually gone off and discovered the land of the Queen of Sheba. When the bird returned, it conversed with Solomon, telling him what it had seen.

More Miracles in the Quran

Now the Quran is not to be taken lightly. If God relates this story to us, it is not just as a pastime to amuse us. Muslims believe that Solomon really did talk with the birds.

In the Christian Gospels, we hear people asking the question about Jesus, “Who is this man, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” The Gospels tell us that Jesus had power over the winds and the waves, and no one questions this power.

So why not Solomon? In the Quran we read:

{And to Solomon (We made) the Wind (obedient): Its early morning (stride) was a month’s (journey), and its evening (stride) was a month’s (journey); and We made a Font of molten brass to flow for him; and there were Jinns that worked in front of him, by the leave of his Lord, and if any of them turned aside from our command, We made him taste of the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.} (34:12)

Even though the Quran does not mention Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) having power over the elements, it does say that Prophet Solomon was granted this gift.

So what does this say to us today?

Well, it reminds us that there are things not yet known to men and women, which may one day be discovered.

It tells us that God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in between, is able to do whatever He wills, so giving understanding of animal language to men is no problem for Him at all.

It tells us, too, that when people are so in tune with their Creator that they devote their whole lives to Him, they receive extraordinary gifts and graces in return.

So, the next time we hear about climate change on the TV, or we listen to the breakdown of talks on environmental issues, spare a thought for Prophet Solomon.

All those years ago, he was so in tune with His Creator that he could even speak to some of His creatures — even to ants and birds!

Solomon is famed for his wisdom. He was also a great ruler, loved by his people. Maybe true wisdom and true greatness begin when we are not too concerned about our own comforts, but we look out for the tiniest of creatures and are concerned for their welfare.

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Idris Tawfiq
Idris Tawfiq was a British writer, public speaker and consultant.He became a Muslim around 15 years ago.For many years, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom.Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest.He passed away in peace in the UK in February 2016 after a period of illness.May Allah (SWT) have mercy on him, and accept his good deeds. Ameen.