Kriti Monga
The Prophet Abraham asks: “My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.” He said, “Do you not believe?” He said, “I do! But this is so my heart may be calm.” He said, “Then take four birds and draw them to you. Then place a part of them on each mountain. Then call them; they shall come to you in a rush. And know that indeed Allah is overpowering, all-wise”
(Holy Quran, chapter 2, verse 260)

Birds… a lots of birds… a lots of birds flying on the sky and warm gold round sunset in late crispy February evening, like this I remember my first visit of the Qutub Minar, symbol which marks the beginning of the Muslim rule in India, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom.

When I saw picture of the ‘Golden Bird’ illustrated by Delhi based artist Kriti Monga (Turmeric Design), in my mind these birds were flying in front of Qutub Minar richly decorated by inscriptions in Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters, quoting verses from Quran. I just typed two words in goggle search: ‘birds’ and ‘Quran.’

Delhi - Qutub Minar
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – The Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world, inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, it is an important example of early Afghan architecture, which later evolved into Indo-Islamic Architecture. Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced the construction of the Qutab Minar in 1200 AD, but could only finish the basement. His successor, Iltutmush, added three more storeys, and in 1368, Firoz Shah Tughlak constructed the fifth and the last storey. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with surrounding buildings and monuments.


Birds make several appearances in the Quran, in a variety of contexts. They were part of unforgettable stories in prophetic history, appearing with such illustrious figures as Abraham, Joseph, Solomon, David, and Jesus.

Delhi - Qutub Minar
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – Qutub Minar is a soaring, 73 m tall. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony and tapers from a 15 m diameter at the base to just 2.5 m at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone; the fourth and fifth storeys are of marble and sandstone. The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tughlak is quite evident in the minar. The relief work and even the materials used for construction differ. The 238 feet Qutab Minar is 47 feet at the base and tapers to nine feet at the apex. The tower is ornamented by bands of inscriptions and by four projecting balconies supported by elaborately decorated brackets. Even though in ruins, the Quwwat Ui Islam (Light of Islam) Mosque in the Qutab complex is one of the most magnificent structures in the world.


The Quran, in one of its verses clearly writes of a similitude between humans and birds:

Quran 6_38

And there is no animal in the earth, nor a bird that flies on its two wings, but (they are) communities like yourselves. (Holy Quran, chapter 6, verse 38)

This verse indicates that there are two types of people. One, which like ants clings to the ground, and whose sight never rises above the world. Their purpose in life is no more than the satisfaction of their low desires and they spend their entire lives engrossed in their love of the world. These people have been likened to creatures like ants that crawl on the ground and cannot fly to any heights. The other type of people are those whose purpose in life is not this world, but the attainment to God. They fly to the heights, and as their wings gain strength and power, they rise higher and higher.

Delhi - Qutub Minar
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – The Qutub complex initially housed twenty-seven ancient Hindu and Jain temples which were destroyed and their material used in the construction of the Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque or Dome of Islam (later corrupted into Quwwat-ul Islam) next to the Qutb Minar, in the Qutub complex, built on the ruins of Lal Kot Fort built by Tomar Rajput ruler, Anangpal in 739 AD and Qila-Rai-Pithora, Prithviraj Chauhan’s city, the Rajput king, whom Ghori’s Afghan armies had earlier defeated and killed, at the Second Battle of Tarain.


Prophet Abraham’s story with the birds is one of the most turned to stories in the Quran. The theme it evokes touches the soul of all of us who seek a kind of reassurance bird that satisfies our natural desires for both belief and proof.

Quran 2_260

The Prophet Abraham asks: “My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.” He said, “Do you not believe?” He said, “I do! But this is so my heart may be calm.” He said, “Then take four birds and draw them to you. Then place a part of them on each mountain. Then call them; they shall come to you in a rush. And know that indeed Allah is overpowering, all-wise.” (Holy Quran, chapter 2, verse 260)

According to Mosque Foundation, the most popular interpretation of this verse is that Abraham was ordered to take these birds and to physically cut them into pieces and to place each of these pieces on separate mountains. When Abraham called to them, Allah caused their parts to be rejoined and refilled with pulse and life. They then flew to Abraham with a speed that showed no sign of trauma, no sign that they had just been dismembered and scattered. And in this way did God show His prophet how He gives life to the dead. Abraham did not have doubt; what he wanted to know was “how” Allah gives life to the dead. Abraham had certainty that Allah gives life and causes death. What he sought was a higher level of certainty which involved his heart and eyes.

Delhi - Qutub Minar - Alai Darwaza
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – The Alai Darwaza is the main gateway from southern side of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. It was built by the second Khilji Sultan of Delhi, Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1311 AD, who also added a court to the pillared to the eastern side. The domed gateway is decorated with red sandstone and inlaid white marble decorations, inscriptions in Naskh script, latticed stone screens and showcases the remarkable craftsmanship of the Turkic artisans who worked on it. This is the first building in India to employ Islamic architecture principles in its construction and ornamentation.The Slave dynasty did not employ true Islamic architecture styles and used false domes and false arches. This makes the Alai Darwaza, the earliest example of first true arches and true domes in India. It is considered to be one of the most important buildings built in the Delhi sultanate period. With its pointed arches and spearhead of fringes, identified as lotus buds, it adds grace to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque to which it served as an entrance.


Jesus indicated the purpose of his appointment to his nation in the following words:

Quran 3_49

“And (make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (who will say), ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay (that which is) like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah. And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead by permission of Allah. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.” (Holy Quran, chapter 3, verse 49)

On Mosque Foundation page is written, that Jesus was never unclear of his role; never unsure of his humanity; never confused about the fact that God is God, and nothing else is or ever was to any degree. The miracles that came at his hands were by the power, permission, and grace of his Lord, Allah the Exalted, who aided His Prophet with miracles so that the people would heed his words and follow his mission. One of the miracles bestowed upon Jesus is him taking a clump of clay and shaping it into the form of a bird. When Jesus blew into it, this clay became a live bird, a miracle from Allah.

Delhi - Qutub Minar -Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque (Strength of Islam) (also known as the Qutub Mosque or the Great Mosque of Delhi) was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, founder of the Mamluk or Slave dynasty. It was the first mosque built in Delhi after the Islamic conquest of India and the oldest surviving example of Ghurids architecture in Indian subcontinent. The construction of this Jami Masjid (Friday Mosque), started in the year 1193 AD, when Aibak was the commander of Muhammad Ghori’s garrison that occupied Delhi. The Qutub Minar was built simultaneously with the mosque but appears to be a stand alone structure, built as the ‘Minar of Jami Masjid’, for the muezzin to perform adhan, call for prayer, and also as a qutub, an Axis or Pole of Islam. It is reminiscent in style and design of the Adhai-din-ka Jhonpra or Ajmer mosque at Ajmer, Rajasthan, also built by Aibak during the same time, also constructed by demolishing earlier temples and a Sanskrit school, at the site.

There are several other contexts in which the Quran mentions birds: Solomon and the Hoopoe, David and birds glorifying God, the birds pelting the Companions of the Elephant who marched from Yemen to destroy the Ka‘ba; the story of the crow and the sons of Adam; and more.

Delhi - Qutub Minar - Iron pillar
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel – The iron pillar is one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities. The pillar, 7.21-metre high and weighing more than six tonnes, was originally erected by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–414 AD) in front of a Vishnu Temple complex at Udayagiri around 402 AD, and later shifted by Aangpal in 10th century AD from Udaygiri to its present location. Anangpal built a Vishnu Temple here and wanted this pillar to be a part of that temple. The estimated weight of the decorative bell of the pillar is 646 kg while the main body weighs 5865 kg thereby making the entire pillar weigh at 6,511 kg. The pillar bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script dating 4th century AD, which indicates that the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja, standard of god, on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra, believed to Chandragupta II. A deep socket on the top of this ornate capital suggests that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it, as common in such flagpoles


Illustration: Kriti Monga – Turmeric Design

Cover Photo: Anish Dhingra

Text:  Zuzana Zwiebel – Source: quran.comMosque Foundation and Reference to Birds in the Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad


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