EVERY HUMAN BEING, Muslim or not, can attest to the extreme beauty and diversity in Allah’s creation. He created man with multiple skin colors, various ways of speaking and living in many nations. But all have the same purpose and that is to worship Him and to attain His pleasure.
All living creatures worship Allah in a submissive way. Do you think it is mere coincidence that you see a flock of birds chirping in unison along power lines just before Maghrib prayer? Or a tree that mysteriously has bowed its limbs toward the Kaʿbah over time?
Allah mentions in Surat Al-Nûr:
Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whoever is within the heavens and the earth and by birds with wings spread in flight? Each of them has known his means of prayer and exalting Him, and Allah is Knowing of what they do. [Sûrat Al-Nûr, 24:41]
He mentions in the âyah birds specifically then states: Each of them has known his means of prayer. Each creature, each bird, is submissive to his Creator in his own way.
Birds are one of those peculiar creatures that have been mentioned in the Quran numerous times. They seem like such normal, mundane creatures, we all know what birds are and what they look like, but have we ever contemplated the miracle of birds?
Due to the force of gravity, all objects in the air will eventually fall to earth. But bird’s flight is indeed a miracle of Allah as they can propel themselves through the sky. They glide so effortlessly, sometimes without even moving their wings.
If you have ever seen a baby chick plunge itself from the nest being only days old, would you say this is mere trial and error? Or do these birds inherently know that their wings are meant to help them fly?
Mention of Birds in the Quran
Allah mentions the word ‘bird’ in the Quran five times and mentions the plural form ‘birds’ thirteen times. Nothing is mentioned in the Quran without deep wisdom so let us take a look at some of these âyahs.
Allah says in Sûrat Al-Nahl:
Do they not see the birds suspended in mid-air up in the sky? Nothing holds them there except Allah. There are certainly signs in that for people who believe. [Sûrat Al-Nahl, 16:79]
The word ‘suspended’ in Arabic ‘مسخرات’ (musakharât) suggests that Allah holds them up in the sky by His command and that they fly by His command. He is the one who directs the birds during their migration period and keeps them on track without getting lost! (How many of us get lost just traveling to a new shopping center?) The âyah also suggests that being ‘musakharât’ means they have submitted to something, or have bound themselves to Allah and submitted to Him.
Also in Sûrat Al-Mulk Allah says:
Do they not see the birds above them with wings outspread and [sometimes] folded in? None holds them [aloft] except the Most Merciful. Indeed He is, of all things, Seeing. [Sûrat Al-Mulk, 67:19]
The word used in this âyah that refers to holding the birds is ’يمسكهن’ (yumsikuhunna). This literally translates into ‘upholding them’ or ‘holding them poised’ and not as taking them, or catching them or any meaning that would suggest their lack of freedom. So we see that these tiny birds are at the mercy of their Lord; what can be said of the gigantic airplanes we ride in to transport us from one country to another? We must be grateful to a Lord whose mercy and graciousness allows us to be safely propelled in the air and arrive at our destinations with comfort and ease.
Mention of Birds in Hadith
Umar ibn Al-Khattâb reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
If you were to rely upon Allah with reliance due to Him, then He would provide for you just as He provides for the birds. They go out in the morning with empty stomachs but return full. (Tirmidhi, 2344)
Tawakkul, or relying on Allah in your affairs, is a characteristic of the believers. Allah says in the Quran:
…and in Allah, therefore, let the believers put their trust. [Sûrat Al-Taghâbun, 64:13]
So why is it that such small creatures, like birds, possess such a noble characteristic (tawakkul on Allah), that many of us like to think we have, but in reality, we often do not?
We fear for our future, we fear for our grades, we over-think situations, we lose sleep over petty things, we think our failures were meant to destroy us; do we also forget that Allah is in control of all of our affairs? We should always work as hard as we can, and strive as long as we can, but we must realize that Allah is in control of our affairs in the end, and He does not forget.
It is reported by Anas ibn Mâlik in a famous hadîth:
A man said to the Prophet ﷺ: ‘Oh Messenger of Allah! Should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?’ The Prophet replied: ‘Tie her and trust in Allah’. (Tirmidhi, 2517)
Furthermore, Allah says in the Quran:
And He will provide him from [sources] he could never imagine. And whoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Indeed, Allah has set a measure for all things. [Sûrat AlṬalâq, 65:3]
Another verse, in Sûrat Al-Mulk, a sûrah that many of us read every night:
Say: ’He is the Most Gracious (Allah); in Him we believe, and in Him we put our trust. So, you will come to know who it is that is in manifest error.’ [Sûrat Al-Mulk. 67:29]
Also in Sûrat Al-Anfâl:
The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts and when His Verses are recited to them, they increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Lord. [Sûrat Al-Anfâl, 8:2]
When we recite Sûrat Al-Fâtiha in our prayers each day, we say with great conviction and belief:
You alone we worship, you alone we ask for help. [Sûrat Al-Fâtiḥah, 1:5]
Additionally, the Prophet ﷺ was reported to have said:
A group of people (both men and women) whose hearts will be like the hearts of birds, will enter Jannah. (Muslim, 2840)
This ḥadîth has been interpreted to mean that it is those people who put their trust in Allah who will be in Jannah. Under this interpretation, there seems to be direct correlation between the way the people of Tawakkul lived their lives in this world, and their reward. It is the people of Tawakkul who would never have worried about their provisions, food, and means of subsistence, and are like the birds who do not collect any food to keep in reserve, but go out every morning in search of food, hoping for and believing in Allah’s provision, and then returning home to their nests fully satisfied. (This interpretation is according to the renowned author of Riyâd Al-Salihîn.)
Allah says in the Quran:
Do they not then think deeply about the Quran, or are their hearts locked up (from understanding it)? [Sûrat Muḥammad, 47:24]
There are some very noble lessons to learn from birds. Not only are they a living, breathing, flying miracle of Allah’s creation, but they are also a token of reliance on Allah. They represent how believers should go about their daily lives (in terms of reliance on Allah), and how we should submit to His majesty by fulfilling His commands. Nothing is mentioned in the Quran in vain, no matter how minute it may seem. There is so much we can learn from Allah’s creation; if we only open our hearts and eyes to see!