Maulana Khalid Dhorat|
Why are honeybees, out of so many insects and animals, mentioned in the Qur’an? In fact, there is a whole surah in the Qur’an called An-Nahl (The Bee)! Well, honeybees are fascinating and it’s amazing how much we can learn from a tiny insect.
Allah Ta’ala speaks about the honeybee as follows: “And your Lord inspired to the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct. Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.” (16: 68-69)
In an effort to be among those who ‘give thought’, we will go through some lessons that we can learn, ponder upon and implement in our lives from the honeybee:
Lesson 1: Honeybees inspire us to reflect and gain knowledge:
I’ve always wondered how bees make honey. After doing some research, I found out that bees start making honey – their food – by visiting flowers. They collect a sugary juice called “nectar” from the blossom by sucking it out with their tongues. They store it in what’s called their ‘honey stomach’. The color and flavor of honey they produce differs depending on the nectar source.
So the first lesson to learn is that there is knowledge to be learnt and gained before doing anything. Don’t do anything blindly or without learning everything there is about it.
Lesson 2: Honeybees inspire us to work together:
When they have a full load, the honeybees fly back to their hive. There, they pass the nectar on through their mouths to other worker bees who chew it. It’s then passed from one bee to the other, until it gradually turns into honey. The bees then store the honey in honeycomb cells, which are like tiny jars made of wax. At this stage, the honey is still a bit wet, so they fan it with their wings to dry it out until it becomes stickier and has no moisture at all in it. This is why good quality honey can last forever. When it’s ready, they seal the cell with a wax lid to keep it clean.
Teamwork is the secret to their success.
Being part of a team makes us all feel special; our family is the first ‘team’ we join. Whether you’re a dad, mum or child, we can all contribute to the success of our family or our business or project. This also teaches us humility. The goal of a humble honeybee is to play its part in producing honey, while the ultimate goal for a Muslim family is to achieve Allah’s Ta’ala’s pleasure and attain Jannah. Just like a tiny bee, our individual role is crucial in our family; if mum decides to let her kids play on the laptop for hours or dad chooses to spend more time at the gym than with his kids, then everyone in the family will suffer, because the main role is not being played or sought after.
Lesson 3: Honeybees teach us to thrive through obeying Allah:
Bees put in much effort in producing a small amount of honey. However, what fascinates one is that Allah Ta’ala divinely inspires honeybees! Allah Ta’ala commands bees to make homes in mountains, trees and hives that people construct. As a direct result of that command, we are able to have bee farms and can harvest and enjoy honey. In effect, Allah Ta’ala has placed bees at our service! Subhan Allah!
I envy honeybees for the simple yet extremely productive life they lead: they are highly organized, focused and produce amazing results as a team, all through obeying Allah’s command! Similarly, let’s aim to live productive and meaningful lives through obeying Allah Ta’ala: by decreasing the bad habits in our lives like listening to lewd music, watching vulgar TV shows and un-Islamic socializing. Let us also replace those with better habits like reading Qur’an, surrounding ourselves with good people, or simply going to the park with our family and appreciating Allah’s magnificent creation!
Lesson 4: Honeybees teach us to seek pure livelihood:
Bees only eat nectar from fresh and clean flowers that no other bee has eaten from. So, their sustenance (rizq) is from a pure source. On the subject of rizq, Imam Malik was reported to have said: “No one will die until his provision is completed for him, so behave correctly in your seeking it.”
Our rizq is guaranteed by Allah Ta’ala. It’s up to us to decide how to attain it. Nowadays, obtaining our rizq in objectionable ways is sometimes easier than the pure option. Serving alcohol in your ‘halaal’ restaurant will make you more money; buying properties with an interest-based mortgage and renting them out is very lucrative; selling small quantities of marijuana to your friends is a quicker way to earn money than stacking shelves… many examples can be given of these.
We can all make excuses to make ourselves feel better, such as: “I’m doing it out of necessity” or “I’m doing it for my kids’ future”, but the bottom line is you will receive no blessings from your haram earnings. Our most noble Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) said: “Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good. And verily Allah has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So the Almighty has said: “O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat [all kinds of halal (legal) foods], and perform righteous deeds.” [23:51] and the Almighty has said: “O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you.” [2:172]”
Take the time out to review your finances and make sure the rizq you pursue, not just your food but also your job or business, is pure and clean.
Lesson 5: Honeybees teach us efficiency:
We have all heard someone describing his/herself by saying they’re ‘busy as a bee’. This description sums up the life of honeybees: they’re extremely efficient. A large beehive can house up to 60,000 bees and they may collectively travel 55,000 miles and visit two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a half kg of honey! Let’s take inspiration from honeybees and work not just hard but efficiently to achieve the best results in whatever actions we do.
A simple way to increase your efficiency is by changing your sleep pattern. Gradually begin to go to bed earlier and start waking up earlier just by 30 minutes. Late at night, we don’t really get much done, but in the morning, our body and mind are much more alert. In fact, our most noble Prophet Muhammad (Sallallau ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) specifically prayed for barakah (blessings) in the morning hours: “O Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings (i.e., what they do early in the morning).” (ibn Majah)
Lesson 6: Honeybees provide key relationship advice:
Did you ever think you could get a relationship tip from a bee? Well, think again! Bees have amazing symbiotic relationships with plants; they are neither greedy nor selfish. In the process of gathering nectar, a bee gives back more to the flower: it transfers pollen grains from one flower to another, hence pollinating the flower for essential fertilization and reproduction to take place.
In our relationships, we should try and give more, just like the honeybee does. It’s good to be generous with our love, attention and time. In addition, while the bee is drinking nectar, it doesn’t harm the delicate petals of the flower.
Likewise, our parents, spouses and children also deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration. Once a week, choose someone you will do something extra special for, like making dinner for your mum, or playing football with your son. The opportunities for being considerate and generous are endless!
Lesson 7: Honeybees teach us to care about our communities:
Bees live together in well-organized hives where every bee has a role to play in its community. The queen bee lays the eggs while worker bees clean the hive and keep the hive’s temperature cool. Some bees protect the hive from intruders while others fly for miles to collect nectar. When a bee returns to its hive, Allah Ta’ala taught it to do a little dance (it’s called the bee dance) to show the other bees the coordinates of the flowers so they can go and feed. A bee cannot survive or make honey on its own; it has to cooperate with its fellow bees.
People are exactly the same: we need to take care of our responsibilities and work with others to create harmonious and productive societies. Unfortunately in this day and age, the pursuit of wealth and being individualistic and selfish is paramount. Many multinational companies exploit their workers and the environment and only care about profit. As Muslims, we must do our best to resist these harmful ideas and just like the honeybee, share our good fortune, be helpful and look after others.
When honeybees work together they produce more honey then they need, and people can benefit from its healing properties. When Muslims work together for the sake of Allah Ta’ala, we too can help humanity by engaging in da’wah, building Masjids, setting up Islamic schools and doing many types of charity work.
The life of the honeybee is truly amazing. If a tiny creature can achieve such levels of perfection, why can’t human beings too?