My first memorable encounter with bees in the outdoors was during my Gunung Tahan climb back in 2004. We were still quite low in altitude during the first 2 days. That meant that it was still quite hot and humid and we were perspiring buckets. There was something interesting which happened each time we finished a break and were about to pick our backpacks up. Our backpack straps were covered with bees! Thankfully, our guide who was a native there told us not to worry and that the bees won’t sting us. But, like it or not, we still had to brave ourselves and pick our bags … fast forward to today … it is just amazing reading about bees in the Quran!
Bees in the Quran
[Quran, Surah An-Nahl 16: 68-69] And your Lord inspired the bee: “Set up hives in the mountains, and in the trees, and in what they construct.” Then eat of all the fruits, and go along the pathways of your Lord, with precision. From their bellies emerges a fluid of diverse colors, containing healing for the people. Surely in this is a sign for people who reflect.
General Facts about Bees
Bees live in colonies where there are mainly 3 types of bees: The Queen bee, the female and male bees. The Queen bee is to lay eggs, the male bees are to JUST inseminate and fertilize the Queen. The female bees, or known as worker bees, do most of the job: gather food, building and defending the honeycomb and making honey.
If bees feel threatened, they will sting the enemy and in doing so will die. A dead bee will also attract other bees to attack the threat or enemy.
What can we learn from bees?
1.We can benefit others through our work in 2 ways: Directly and indirectly.
Bees make honey by collecting nectar from flowers followed by a long chain of processes back in their hive. At the same time, bees indirectly help in the pollination of flowers by passing on male pollen to female flowers. Hence, there are two ways to do good.
2.The importance of having an organizational structure.
Learning from bee colony, it is important to have a solid organizational structure with clear roles for all members of the organization or community. Although the bee colony is simplified but I believe that it provides sufficient example for us to learn from.
3.The noble act of self-sacrifice.
Well, the self-sacrificing nature of bees might be quite extreme for some of us but we could still develop our character of care and concern for our fellow members.
4.More quality from more effort.
It is definitely more difficult to build a bee hive in the mountains as compared to a man-made one such as in those farms. However, better quality honey is produced at bee hives in the mountains. Perhaps we could draw some relation that quality work is produced when greater effort is put in.
5.The importance of women in society.
The role of women in society is vividly highlighted in bees. Starting from the Queen bee who produces the young (younger generation) to defending the hive, producing the honey (physical work taking care of the family and house) to looking for nectar (feeding the family), those are the natural roles of women.
(Perhaps, there is some wisdom as to why the role of male bees is to just fertilize the Queen bee. We do not have to follow the exact example set out by the bees but in essence, we could now learn to appreciate of women in society)
Additional Lessons About Bees from the Quran
Referring to the verse 16: 68-69, I reflect further about bees in the Quran:
1.High status and the importance of bees given by God.
Bees (An-Nahl) was chosen as the 16th Surah’s name, indicating that bees are significant subjects we should pay more attention to and have valuable lessons to learn from.
2.The Quranic verses above that refer to bees that generate honey as female bees.
The two verses contain feminine Arabic grammar: (1) “kuli” – eat, (2) “usluki” – follow the path, and (3) “butuniha” – their bellies. It was only until recently that scientist discovered that the worker bees are all female. However, it is amazing that the verses were sent down 1,400 years ago.
For Further Reading
In the Bee and its Honey, there is Blessing and a Lesson click here
Disclaimer: I am not an Ustaz (Islamic teacher) and these reflections are purely personal and based on my limited knowledge. Should there be any mistakes in my citations or any parts which may misrepresent Islam, kindly contact me and I will rectify them as soonest. Thank you.