‘Animals in the Quran’ explores Islam’s view regarding animals. In the Quran, they are sometimes mentioned in terms of their lawfulness or unlawfulness like pigs for example. Other instances that are animals are used is in the form of metaphors or similes to get across a reality or in the context of the narration of a story about nations and people in the past. The Quran also talks about the worship and glorification of animals.
Facts about Animals in the Quran
|No. of animals mentioned in the Quran||14|
|Types of animals mentioned in the Quran||Birds, reptiles, insects, four-legged animals|
|No. of surahs named after animals||6 (Baqarah, An‘aam, Nahl, Naml, Ankabut, Fil)|
|Halal animals in the Quran||Cow, calf, camel, birds (birds are mentioned in general for the most part; some birds are halal in Islam and some are not)|
|Haram animals in the Quran||Elephant, monkey, pig, ant, spider, gnat, honeybee|
Introduction to Animals in the Quran
Animals – an important part of our lives as human beings as well as nature. They are a part of the cycle of life and contribute much to it. In this article, we will be exploring some of the animals in the Quran and the different contexts of their use in this Holy Book.
Which are the mentioned Animals in the Quran?
The following is a list of all the animals in the Quran:
- Honey bee
What does the Quran say about Animals?
As you know there has been mention of different types of animals in the Quran. The context in which different animals have been mentioned is different. Sometimes the Quran uses certain animals as a metaphor to explain something and teach a lesson, sometimes they are mentioned in relation to whether they are lawful to eat and other reasons. Going forward, we will take a look at some of the verses and different animals mentioned in the Quran to learn what the Quran says about them.
If you want to know more about animals that are halal or lawful to eat, enroll in Islam4u’s course on halal food. There is so much to learn in this course that you do not want to miss.
Animals in the Quran: Birds
As one of the animals in the Quran, birds have mostly been used generally without referring to a particular species and in different contexts. One of them is the following:
Birds and the Destruction of an Army
وَأَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْرًا أَبَابِيلَ ﴿3﴾
And send against them flocks of birds
The king of Yemen, Abraha, sought to destroy the Ka’bah and brought with him an army of elephants to do so. When the Quraysh saw this army, they left Makkah as they felt they did not have the ability to come up against them.
As a result, only Abdul Muttalib and Shaybah ibn Uthman remained there.
Abraha proceeded to the Ka’bah with the intention of destroying it when the Ababil birds with stones in their beaks attacked the army, pelting them with the stones and thus the army was destroyed. 1
Another place where they are used is in connection to Prophet Ibrahim 2 . He seeks certainty of heart and God guides him to kill a bird and then call to it and it comes back to him whole.
One instance in which a bird is mentioned by name is the hoopoe in connection to Prophet Solomon. The bird reports to the Prophet about the Queen of Sheba and her people worshipping other than God. 3
Animals in the Quran: Insects
Different insects are mentioned as part of the animals in the Quran, usually in the context of a metaphor and to teach a lesson.
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ كَمَثَلِ الْعَنكَبُوتِ اتَّخَذَتْ بَيْتًا ۖ وَإِنَّ أَوْهَنَ الْبُيُوتِ لَبَيْتُ الْعَنكَبُوتِ ۖ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿41﴾
The parable of those who take guardians instead of Allah is that of the spider that takes a home, and indeed the frailest of homes is the home of a spider, had they known! 4
That the polytheists take guardians for themselves apart from God has been likened to a spider making or choosing a home. A spider’s web is the frailest of houses and is only a house in name. This is because it does not have any of the signs of a home as a house is to protect its owner from the heat and cold. That which does not do this and does not protect its owner from that which is undesired is not a house.
Similarly, the guardians that the polytheists have chosen for themselves are guardians in name only because they neither bring harm nor benefit; they neither own death nor life nor resurrection. 5
حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَتَوْا عَلَىٰ وَادِ النَّمْلِ قَالَتْ نَمْلَةٌ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّمْلُ ادْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَكُمْ لَا يَحْطِمَنَّكُمْ سُلَيْمَانُ وَجُنُودُهُ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ ﴿18﴾
When they came to the Valley of Ants, an ant said, ‘O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Solomon and his hosts should trample on you while they are unaware.’ 6
One day the Prophet Solomon (peace be on him) was out with his army and entered into a place where ants dwelled. Seeing this, one of the ants warned the rest of the ants to go into their holes so that they are not trampled by Prophet Solomon’s army. Hearing their words, the Prophet smiled and thanked God for the blessings that He had blessed him with: Prophet-hood, understanding the language of animals, a vast kingdom, an army of jinn and men and birds, etc. He also thanked Him for the blessings bestowed on his parents. 7
This shows that animals too have some form of reasoning and are able to recognize that which is harmful and corrupt and warn each other. And they also have dialogue, commands and prohibitions among themselves. 8
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي أَن يَضْرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوضَةً فَمَا فَوْقَهَا ۚ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَيَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّـهُ بِهَـٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِ كَثِيرًا وَيَهْدِي بِهِ كَثِيرًا ۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِ إِلَّا الْفَاسِقِينَ ﴿26﴾
Indeed Allah is not ashamed to draw a parable whether it is that of a gnat or something above it. As for those who have faith, they know it is the truth from their Lord; and as for the faithless, they say, ‘What did Allah mean by this parable?’ Thereby He leads many astray, and thereby He guides many; and He leads no one astray thereby except the transgressors. 9
The Quran gives a lot of importance to parables in order to help people understand realities. Animals in the Quran are part of the use of parables to get a meaning across. The verse indicates that there is no deflection or passivity from God in giving parables like the passivity of someone who is afraid to do give such parables.
People are two groups in relation to these parables:
- The believers who know that these parables are true and are to explain a matter
- But the disbelievers and those who don’t accept the truth ask, what does God mean in this parable?
And we see the reply the verse gives and as it is clear, it can be a means of guidance for some and misguidance for others. Both are rooted in the people themselves and it is their choice. 10
وَأَوْحَىٰ رَبُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِي مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِشُونَ ﴿68﴾
And your Lord inspired the bee [saying]: ‘Make your home in the mountains, and on the trees and the trellises that they erect. 11
One of the proofs of God’s Unity and Tawheed is the creation of the honeybee and its honey making. The word ‘awha’ (أوحی), i.e. inspiration in this case, shows that God has given this responsibility to the honeybee alone and other insects are unable to perform it.
This inspiration and the essential and instinctive understanding is one of the proofs of Tawheed, the affect of God’s will in the world and His provisions for life. 12
Four-legged Animals in the Quran
Four-legged animals such as the donkey, the camel, the cow, and the calf have been mentioned as part of the group of animals in the Quran.
The cow 13 and calf 14 have been mostly mentioned in relation to Prophet Moses (peace be on him) and the stories that have been narrated about him in the Quran. for example, the slaughtering of the cow and the questioning of the Israelites and the worship of the calf by his people while he was away for a period of 40 days. Therefore, the discussion of these animals can be found in the relevant article on this prophet.
We will be discussing going forward, the donkey and the camel.
مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ حُمِّلُوا التَّوْرَاةَ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَحْمِلُوهَا كَمَثَلِ الْحِمَارِ يَحْمِلُ أَسْفَارًا ۚ بِئْسَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿5﴾
The example of those who were charged with the Torah, then failed to carry it, is that of an ass carrying books. Evil is the example of the people who deny Allah’s signs, and Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot. [62: 5]
The Torah was revealed to Prophet Moses and he taught its teachings and laws to the Jews. However, some of them abandoned him and did not act upon its commands. Therefore, God likens them to donkeys that carry loads and books but have no knowledge of the truth and teachings that they contain. As a result, they achieve nothing from carrying the load of books except tiredness.
The Quran brings an example of the Jews to remind the Muslims to give importance to religion, to be Godwary, to revere and respect Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his household), to consider what he brought as insignificant, and to fear the wrath of God overtaking them as it did the Jews. If they don’t, they will also be likened to donkeys that carry loads on their back but do not benefit from it. 15
Another verse that refers to the donkey is in relation to Prophet Uzair. 16
أَفَلَا يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ ﴿17﴾
Do they not observe the camel, [to see] how it has been created? 17
Another one of the animals in the Quran is the camel.
In this verse, those who refute God’s Lordship have been invited to look and pay attention to how the camel has been created; how God brought it forth from a dead and lifeless land in this strange form. Not only is this form strange, but also its limbs, faculties and actions are also strange and has placed this big body under man’s control and man uses it as amount, to carry loads, as well as its skin, meat and milk.
Can anyone logically imagine that the camel and these benefits came into being on their own and that there was no purpose for man in its creation and that man has no responsibility in relation to it and all other blessings? 18
قُل لَّا أَجِدُ فِي مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ مُحَرَّمًا عَلَىٰ طَاعِمٍ يَطْعَمُهُ إِلَّا أَن يَكُونَ مَيْتَةً أَوْ دَمًا مَّسْفُوحًا أَوْ لَحْمَ خِنزِيرٍ فَإِنَّهُ رِجْسٌ أَوْ فِسْقًا أُهِلَّ لِغَيْرِ اللَّـهِ بِهِ ۚ فَمَنِ اضْطُرَّ غَيْرَ بَاغٍ وَلَا عَادٍ فَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴿145﴾
Say, ‘I do not find in what has been revealed to me that anyone be forbidden to eat anything except carrion or spilt blood, or the flesh of swine—for that is indeed unclean—or an impiety offered to other than Allah.’ But should someone be compelled, without being rebellious or aggressive, indeed your Lord is all-forgiving, all-merciful. 19
One of the animals forbidden to eat or use in any way is the pig or swine.
According to the verse, the reason for the prohibition of eating pigs is because of its filth and uncleanliness as expressed by the word ‘rijs’ (رجس). 20 To know more about lawful and unlawful animals to consume, enroll in the course, “Halal Food.”
There are also other animals in the Quran. For example, the elephant 21 in the story of Abraha mentioned above; where he brought an army of elephants to destroy the Ka’bah or the monkey or the locust. However, since these are only mentioned without going into much detail we have not mentioned them in this article.
Worship and Animals in the Quran
أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ ۖ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ ﴿41﴾
Have you not regarded that Allah is glorified by everyone in the heavens and the earth, and the birds spreading their wings. Each knows his prayer and glorification, and Allah knows best what they do. 22
According to this verse and other verses, all that is in the Heaven and the earth and that which is in between glorifies God. 23 Animals in the Quran are also mentioned as glorifying and worshipping God.
The word ‘tasbeeh’ (تسبیح) means to consider God impeccable and infallible of all that is unworthy and from imperfections. 24 Some commentators believe that when the verses speak of the glorification or tasbeeh of God it refers to existential glorification. In other words, their existence is such that it shows the will, wisdom, knowledge and justice of God.
Others though, believe that all of creation has some form of reasoning and knowledge and are in a state of tasbeeh. However, our ears do not comprehend their voices. This view jibes with the verses. 25
The Speech of all Creation
It is not impossible for things to speak because it will happen on Qiyamah: We were given speech by Allah, who gave speech to all things. 26 Even stones have knowledge and humility and fall from the mountains in fear of God: and there are some that fall for the fear of Allah. 27
Prophet Solomon could understand the speech of ants and speak the language of the birds. The hoopoe determined the deviation of people and came and informed him of it. 28 And God has addressed the mountains in verses too: O mountains…, chime in with him! 29 30
Apart from these instances, the worship of other creatures has also been mentioned in the Quran as well as in narrations.
According to a narration, when Ja‘far bin Muhammad al-Sadiq (peace be on him) heard the sound of a sparrow he said: this bird is busy in praying and glorifying God. 31
Summary of Animals in the Quran
Animals have been used in different contexts in the Quran; sometimes as part of a narrative of events in the life of one of the Prophets and other times as metaphors or similes to help understand a matter more easily. Other times they are mentioned in terms of which of them are prohibited or allowed.
Animals are described to have understanding and knowledge since they are mentioned as worshipping and glorifying God which indicates reasoning and knowledge. If you would like to know more about which animals are halal to eat, you can enroll in our course on “Halal Food.”
- Tabatabai, M. H. (1374 AP). Tafsir al-Mizan. (Transl. by Seyed Muhammad Baqir Musavi Hamedani). Jamiat al-Modarresin Publications. Vol. 20, pp 622-624.
- [2: 260]. Other verses which refer to birds are: [3: 49], [5: 110] (relating Prophet Jesus); [12: 36 & 4] (relating to Prophet Joseph); [21: 79] (relating to Prophet David); [27: 16] (relating to Prophet Solomon); [16: 79]; [22: 31] & [24: 41].
- [27: 20-26]
- [29: 41]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. Vol. 16, p. 194
- [27: 18]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. Vol. 15, pp. 502 & 503.
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Naml. Verse 18
- [2: 26]. Qarai translation
- Qarashi, A. A. (1377 AP). Tafsir-i Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Publications. Vol. 1, p. 78
- [16: 68]. Qarai translation
- Qarashi, A. A. Ibid. Vol. 5, p. 468
- [2: 67-71] & [6: 144, 146]
- [2: 51, 54, 99-93]; [4: 153]; [7: 152]; [11: 69] & [51: 26]
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. Vol. 19, p. 449
- [2: 259]
- [88: 17]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. Vol. 20, p. 459
- [6: 145]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-An‘aam. Verse 145.
- [105: 1]
- [24: 41]. Also refer to: [17: 44]
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Isra (no. 17), verse 44
- Qarashi, A. A. (1371). Qamus al-Quran. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah. Vol. 3, p. 212
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Isra (no. 17), verse 44
- [41: 21]. Qarai translation
- [2: 74]. Qarai translation
- [27: 20-26].
- [34: 10]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Isra (no. 17), verse 44