Animals in the Holy Quran – The Ant

So hopefully your read (and enjoyed) my last piece on the bee and are now ready to read some interesting insights about the next Quranic animal – the ant.

Before the interesting trivia, it’s worth first sharing that the twenty-seventh chapter of the holy Quran is named The Ant, and in verse eighteen, the ant is directly referred to:

“Until when they came to the Valley of Ants, an ant said: ‘O you ants! Get into your habitations, so that Solomon and his hosts may not crush you, being unaware’.”

What intrigues me about this verse was the fact that God describes a command literally by an ant to the rest of the colony. Now unless you’ve seen the film Antz, this really is quite a vague notion, but bearing in mind the previous verse mentions Solomon’s ability to speak to the birds, it’s not as strange a concept as it first seems. Communication and clan-ship therefore seems to be a theme that comes through from this initial interaction with the verse – and this certainly is something pivotal to the existence of the ant nation.

  1. So the first area to explore has to be the ant lingo, and how true it is. As we learnt from the bee, complex but ingenious methods of communication within animals do exist, and you’re about to be bewildered by the language of the ant. Using pheromones, antennae touch and scent trails, ants have such an outstanding code that modern day technology stems from it.

2. Like in bees, there are no sex chromosomes in ants, and therefore the gender is determined by the fertilisation process. Fertilised eggs are female, and non-fertilised ones are male. (It’s very interesting that the two ‘divine’ creatures I’ve looked at so far share this, and other, unique societal traits).

3. Ants and bees also have some of the highest numbers of odorant receptors in the insect kingdom. These are the receptors that allow them to obtain information about food, surroundings, dangers, and so on, via a keen sense of smell. The bee has 174 (high compared to most other insects), and the ant has 400 – the highest amongst all insects!

4. The total biomass of all the ants on Earth is roughly equal to the total biomass of all the people on Earth. How can this be?! Ants are so tiny, and we are so big! But scientists estimate there are at least 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human being. Over 12,000 species of ants are known to exist, on every continent except Antarctica. Most live in tropical regions. A single acre of Amazon rainforest may house 3.5 million ants.

5. Ants are capable of carrying objects approximately 30 times their own body weight with their mandibles (jaws). Relative to their size, their muscles are thicker than those of larger animals or even humans. This ratio enables them to produce more force and carry larger objects. On this note, there seems to be a lesson for humans to take stock of. We are God’s best creation, and at times it feels like we have troubles that weigh us down, but if we take the ant as a parable, then we really can find the inner strength, collectively, to get past the hurdles we face.

6. Teamwork makes the dream work. This could never be truer than with the ant. As we have mentioned, they can lift some serious weight, but what is more impressive, is the way in which they can work together to achieve great feats. Not only is it impressive, but as mentioned above, essential to their existence and survival. To demonstrate their remarkable skill, the video below shows how ants can join arms (as it were) to create a living raft to facilitate movement across the water and protect their queen. (It seems the queen is held in high esteem by ants as well as bees!).

Once again, as I write this piece – which has hopefully served as a way to appreciate God’s majesty more – I personally get that sense of awe and personal humility. The ant is often seen as the most mundane and trivial, annoying even, insect, but when we take a closer look, there is a beautiful and magnificent design behind this tiny creature. Not only is there a reason to be unpretentious, especially in front of God, but the team spirit of the ants also makes me think of just how successful mankind could be if we truly came together as one.

“Just see how the ants gather together to gather food for themselves. You will find that when several ants mean to carry a grain to their homes they resemble several men engaged in carrying home their corn. The ants in fact bring in effort and activity which men cannot do. Do you not see how they help each other in carrying the grain like men? All these activities, however, are without the intervention of reason, purely instinctive, with which their constitutions are endowed with, by the Kindness of the Almighty Allah.” (Tawhid al-Muffadhal)

And surely God is all-knowing.