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.’
BIRDS OF THE HOLY QURAN
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.
THE SIMILITUDE OF MAN TO BIRDS
The Quran, in one of its verses clearly writes of a similitude between humans and birds:
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.
ABRAHAM AND A CALM HEART
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.
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.
JESUS AND MIRACLES
Jesus indicated the purpose of his appointment to his nation in the following words:
“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.
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.
GALLERY: DELHI – QUTUB MINAR
Illustration: Kriti Monga – Turmeric Design
Cover Photo: Anish Dhingra
Text: Zuzana Zwiebel – Source: quran.com, Mosque Foundation and Reference to Birds in the Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
ART OF TRAVEL: www.shaktitrails.com