Ant Communication

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.

As if that isn’t amazing enough, there is another scientific fact that is embedded inside this verse. In Arabic every word is either masculine or feminine. In the English translation of 27:18 when it states: “one ant said,… ” the Arabic for this expression is “قَالَتْ نَمْلَةٌ” this is the feminine form for both words “she said” and “ant”. The literal translation for this statement would be “she the female ant said”. The reason this is significant is because all worker ants are female, so it only makes sense that the one ant who made this statement was also female.

All this further confirms the authenticity of the Quran as a scripture from God. That despite being revealed during the dark ages of Arabia it has so much embedded scientific knowledge that it has taken mankind 1400 years to fully appreciate just this one single verse.

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