Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Qur’an and the miracle of the female talking ant

A number of Islamic proponents have proposed the idea that Sura 27: 18-19 depicturing the prophet Solomon hearing the words of a female ant reveals two clear modern scientific discoveries, which were virtually unheard off prior to Islam and not confirmed until the recent era.

This is the passage:

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." 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" (Sura 27: 18-19).

Muslim exponents presuppose two miraculous predictions here:

1. The ant can communicate by talking

2. The ant is a female

Both claims are drastically portrayed in this youtube video in a response to the ‘answering-islam’ website:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPWO7kow59E&feature=related

Lets assess these claims:

Does the Qur’an predict the female nature of worker ants?

That the Qur’an addresses the ant as feminine is accurate, it is also accurate that the worker ants are females. However, contrary to what Muslims believe this idiom is not suggesting that the Qur’an describes a female creature. In a number of languages not only human female and males are referred to by their gender as male or female but entire species and objects are referred to as either male, female or neuter gender. In the Arabic language the ‘ant’ (naml) is simply generic female, it does not indicate natural gender or a biological female or male at least not in its singular and this particular ant is referred to as singular.

For further study read:

http://arabic.tripod.com/VocabAnimals.htm

http://www.quran4u.com/Tafsiraya/027%20Naml.htm

http://www.studyquran.co.uk/LLhome.htm

This completely debunks and refutes the popular claim that the Qur’an predicts the discovery that worker ants are female.

Does the talking ant predict modern scientific discoveries?

Similar exaggeration is utilized to introduce divine miraculous revelation through the prediction of a talking ant. Solomon supposedly heard an ant warning the ant community to escape into their dwellings do evade Solomon’s proceeding army.

To prove their case Muslims have recently turned to a very recent discovery which involved microphones to detect the communication between ants. The discovery revealed that some ants indeed communicate with sounds.

A Muslim youtube which appears to represent Osama Abdallah’s website ‘answering-Christianity’ praises this discovery:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPWO7kow59E&feature=related

This particular and very recent discovery which Muslim exponents quote is found here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5672006.ece

Unfortunately for the Muslim the claims are typically exaggerated and the discovery does not effectively render that much support to the Muslim use of the passage.

In the article we read:

‘Professor Thomas said it remained unclear how much the ants relied on sound for
language but he suspected that further analysis would reveal a wider vocabulary
than had been seen yet.
“The most important discovery is that within the ant
colony different sounds can provoke different reactions,” he said. “I would be
very surprised if we didn't get different types of sound.
“It's within the
power of the ant to play different tunes by changing the rhythm with which they
rub.”


Hence, far from what the Qur’an supposes, ants do not talk, they make sounds by rubbing body parts together. The sound might according to professor Thomas ‘provoke different reactions’.

However Thomas also concedes that it still remains unclear to what extent ants rely ‘on sound for language’ and that the variety in sounds is still a matter undiscovered.

Hence contrary to what the Qur’an states an ant cannot by talking vocabulary warn a community of ants about an imminent disaster.

But there is more, lets for a moment presume that the Qur’an actually provides insight into a natural fact that virtually remained unknown until recent times; are when then correct to deem the Qur’an as miraculous in its statement.

Not really.

A pre-Islamic scientific description of much greater details than the Qur’an describes this same ability to ants and appears much closer in word and details to the modern discoveries of Professor Thomas and others.

The text is found in the writings of the Christian philosopher Origen in his writings against Celsus, chapter 84, written in the third century and therefore predates Islam with 350 years; it reads:

And since he asserts that, "when ants die, the survivors set apart a special
place (for their interment), and that their ancestral sepulchres such a place
is," we have to answer, that the greater the laudations which he heaps upon
irrational animals, so much the more does he magnify (although against his will)
the work of that reason which arranged all things in order, and points out the
skill336 which exists among men, and which is capable of adorning by its reason
even the gifts which are bestowed by nature on the irrational creation. But why
do I say "irrational," since Celsus is of opinion that these animals, which,
agreeably to the common ideas of all men, are termed irrational, are not really
so? Nor does he regard the ants as devoid of reason, who professed to speak of
"universal nature," and who boasted of his truthfulness in the inscription of
his book. For, speaking of the ants conversing with one another, he uses the
following language: "And when they meet one another they enter into
conversation, for which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they
possess a full endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general
subjects, and a voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental
things."
337 Now conversation between one man and another is carried on by means
of a voice, which gives expression to the meaning intended, and which also gives
utterances concerning what are called "accidental things; "but to say that this
was the case with ants would be a most ridiculous assertion.

http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/EN/eso.htm

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/origen164.html

Notice that Origen in his writings against Celsus 350 years prior to Islam describes a view of his time that ants talk and converse with each other:

For, speaking of the ants conversing with one another, he uses the following
language: "And when they meet one another they enter into conversation, for
which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they possess a full
endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general subjects, and a
voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental things."

Ants were in fact considered unique in the writings of antiquity; in this same passage Origin described them as highly intelligent, possessing gardens, etc. Plato, Aristotle, Pliny and others referred to the ant as a political animal and Aelian the Greek-Roman philosopher ‘noted that ant colonies and ant highways were very much like the famous buildings and roads of Greece and Crete’:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Plin.+Nat.+toc&redirect=true

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0137%3Abook%D11%3Achapter%3D36

While most of these noted that ants communicated by other means rather than sounds, the source of Origen nevertheless reveals that speaking ants was a theory that existed 400 years prior to Muhammad and indeed the effective observation of ants within that era might certainly have led to such a conclusion by a number the thinkers of antiquity.

Yet I am not proposing that Muhammad or another Qur’anic author borrowed straight from Origen or even from an oral tradition deriving from such a source or even that the Qur’anic author had access to Origen’s writings. The Qur’anic description appears much more fairytale-like than then description of Origen and apart from Origen there were indeed tales existing prior to Islam of talking ants.

Hence I am inclined to believe that the author of the Qur’an did not depend upon a Greek Philosophical source.

Here ancient tales fit Islam a much as philosophy, Islam is a religion in which trees bow before prophets and where the dinner on your table has the capability to speak to you and stones possess the ability to steel you possessions. Solomon in Jewish fairytales possessed the ability to communicate with animals, to understand them and even to mobilise them in his battles against human enemies, hence the reason for this story. It reveals nothing of scientific significance but merely the belief that Solomon had extraordinary abilities. Desperate Muslim apologists read far too much into this fairytale.

Osama Abdallah, Haran Yahya and others nevertheless propose that the passage is miraculous in its incredible prediction of modern science; just take Osama Abdallah for example:

Again, the Holy Quran and Islam are filled with scientific statements and
notions. These are statements of Allah Almighty describing how He created things
on earth and in the Universe. What's most amazing is that all of these
scientific statements and notions had been proven to be in perfect agreement
with science and our modern-day scientific discoveries. Allah Almighty made the
Noble Quran be Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) Everlasting Divine Miracle
and proof for Prophethood. The Holy Book certainly stood the test of time 1,500
years ago with Its Claims, Prophecies and Miraculous language eloquence, and it
does again and again in our day today with Its overwhelming agreement with
science and discoveries that were not known to man 1,500 years ago.


http://www.answering-christianity.com/ants_do_talk.htm

If Abdallah is correct then Origen’s source was indeed inspired by God some 400 years prior to Islam:


For, speaking of the ants conversing with one another, he uses the following
language: "And when they meet one another they enter into conversation, for
which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they possess a full
endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general subjects, and a
voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental things.
I am sure that Osama Abdallah will not ascribe such divine honour to Origen as to the Qur’an despite the fact that Origen provided more insight and details than the Qur’an?
Furthermore, Osama Abdallah also needs to consider the divine inspiration upon pre-Islamic Roman writers and their tales, such as Aesop who wrote the fable ‘The ant and the Grasshopper’:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper

The Fable reads:

‘The ants were spending a fine winter's day drying grain collected in the
summertime. A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged
for a little food. The Ants inquired of him, "Why did you not treasure up food
during the summer?' He replied, "I had not leisure enough. I passed the days in
singing." They then said in derision: "If you were foolish enough to sing all
the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter."’
http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/greekliterature/a/antsgrasshopper.htm

It is obvious that the Qur’anic description is much more of the same nature as the tale of Aesop rather than that of Origen, yet neither Muslims nor scientists would recognise the tale of Aesop to provide us with anything of scientific nature. Here Muslims might argue that ants deploy the ability to communicate to each other and not to grasshoppers, however Aesop does describe the ants as communicating by language or sounds.

Note here, I am not saying that the author of the Qur’an plagiarized Aesop’s tale, I am pointing out that such tales were common in Muhammad’s time.

So, Harun Yahya and Osama Abdallah, do you guys 1) recognise the source of Origen and Aesop as divinely inspired? 2) Do you still claim that the ability of ants to speak in detailed language (if that should be proven right in future) is a scientific fact unheard of until the rise of Islam?

The above sources do not agree with you and I suggest that since your claims have been debunked and refuted that you remove these particular deceptive articles about the ant from your websites and ones again apologize to the readers you have mislead.

11 comments:

Fernando said...

Schhhhhh... an ant thate sais " "O you ants, go into your homes, lest you get crushed by Solomon and his soldiers, without perceiving"...

so wathe?

I habe a botle thate sais Coca-Cola...

GreekAsianPanda said...

I was surprised they used that as evidence for the divine inspiration of the Quran in the first place.

Islam Exposed said...

So much for the Muslim claim about the scientific accuracy of Quran. I wonder how can human beings be so brainless as to believe fairy tales to be scientific?

Ilena said...

o cannot believe that they really claim that these absurdities r scientific. i really wonder how they arent really ashamed of these claims. this story for me is rather embarrassing than scientific. i read once an article which has a a good point. note that the ant recognised solomon from the distance and how the hell would this be possible unless solomon had been visiting the ant regularly or going 2 coffee with him?? well nontheless, i am sure that muslims will dig up some absurd scientific claim for this issue as well..

Odo said...

Great sources. I was thinking the same thing as IIena, if I were a Muslim I would be completely embarrassed to walk around knowing I had to acknowledge (and believe) that my Holy book is scientifically accurate because of a talking ant.

I think there is a problem with CONTENT that Muslims miss (if they actually think this talking ant proves anything) because they want the Qur'an to be correct.

What is the ant saying? The ant is literally saying to his ant buddies: 'Everyone go back to your dwellings for shelter, that approaching guy named Solomon might step on you!' That is some ant.

I ask any Muslim who believes this proves the Qur'an as scientifically correct or accurate: how does the ant even perceive a human being? How does this ant know Solomon's name, how does the ant know to warn all his buddies, and better yet, how does the ant speak in human tongue?!?!? I mean? Its not like God is talking through the ant, there is nothing about that in the text. Are the ants just sitting around in their nest talking about the weather and next season's harvest habing a jolly old time? Ants do not perceive humans as we would imagine. There is no knowledge or comprehension or reason like with us.

I dont think ants even know what a human is or the purpose of what ants do, they just exist. As the Times article stated: 'information exchange'.

When you tell your dog to sit, it does not sit because it understands the meaning of sit, it sits because you conditioned it to associate an action with the sound coming out of your mouth.

I was just surprised you spent your time and resources writing this article Hogan. It is just so unbelievable to me that anyone would believe this is proof of Divine origin for the Qur'an. But your work is much needed cause apparently Muslims are deceived by this science hokum, and you debunk their claims.

To quote Origen again: Now conversation between one man and another is carried on by means of a voice, which gives expression to the meaning intended, and which also gives utterances concerning what are called "accidental things; "but to say that this was the case with ants would be a most ridiculous assertion.

C said...

Apart from communications, the ants need many more requirements
1) Ants need to identify the army as humans and not for example a flock of sheep. Also they are not any human (for example 10 kids) but an "army"
2) Ants also need to identify that it's not any army. it's the army of Solomon (and also needs to identify Solomon distinctively).

Given that ants have poor vision with very low resolution (and many species are blind), the only resort to identify this is through smell. Now ants don't have a developed olfactory. It's pretty primitive as one would expect. They can identify their own community and also intruders but identification at the level of (1) and (2) need highly developed brain and olfactory system (like dogs).
Ants usually communicate using chemical signatures (pheromones) and stridulation (rubbing body parts) is confined in some ant species. Rubbing produces vibrations (both acoustic and substrate based) but to what extent ants rely on acoustic signals is highly debatable. An acoustic signal doesn't imply a language (else knocking at the door will become language). For ants to have a "human like" language, they need to have extremely high number of brain cells. But the count is 250,000 while human have 10000 million.
The question regarding Solomon understanding any chemical/acoustic signals is beyond any debate. The acoustic signals of ants can be recorded using 21st century microphones.

In conclusion, in order to make a fairy tale myth a facts, there comes unimaginable number of contraints. Only extremely stupid people can take myth as a fact and try to corroborate with science

sirdarka7 said...

The Creator of the World's guides whomever He wills.

So stick to your life of denying the Holy Quran, the third & final testament, embodied by the seal of the prophets

pachu said...

Of them there are some who (pretend to) listen to thee; but We have thrown veils on their hearts so they understand it not and deafness in their ears; if they saw every one of the Signs not they will believe in them; in so much that when they come to thee they (but) dispute with thee; the disbelievers say: "These are nothing but tales of the ancients." (Quran 6:25)

dave bog said...

what the quran meant by talking is ants communication is like of human being and only prophet solomon pbuh could supernaturally understand there communication, the miraculousness of the quran is the female ant.

Aqib Majid said...

Feel free to read the commentary on the verses quoted at the start of this article here: http://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=1968&region=E1

It's absent of Ants.

Zarga Halib said...

Bees and ants communicate messages of help (food location) and warnings (impending doom - being stood on by Solomon) and are INCAPABLE OF LYING! Food for thought.....