Honey bees are fascinating, and it’s amazing how much we can learn from them. There is a surah in the Qur’an called An-Nahl (the bee), where in ayat 68-69 Allah (SWT) says:
And your Lord inspired the bee: “Set up hives in the mountains, and in the trees, and in what they (people) construct.” Then eat of all the fruits, and go along the pathways of your Lord, with precision. From their bellies emerges a fluid of varying shades of colour, containing healing for the people. Surely in this is a sign for people who reflect.
Lesson 1: Honey bees are ingenious
I had always wondered how bees make honey; after doing some research, I found out that bees start making honey, which is 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, which is exactly what Allah (SWT) mentions in the surah. The colour and flavour of honey differs depending on the bees’ nectar source.
Lesson 2: Honey bees work together
When they have a full load, the bees fly back to the hive. There, they pass the nectar on through their mouths to other worker bees who chew it; it’s passed from bee to bee, until it gradually turns into honey. Then the bees store the honey in honeycomb cells, which are like tiny jars made of wax. The honey is still a bit wet, so they fan it with their wings to dry it out and make it become stickier. 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, and our family is the first ‘team’ we join. The goal of a humble honey bee is to play its part in producing honey; the ultimate goal for a Muslim family is to achieve Allah’s pleasure and attain Jannah. Just like a tiny bee, our individual role is crucial in our family. For example, 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.
Lesson 3: They obey Allah (SWT)
I was surprised by how much effort bees put in to produce honey. However, what surprised me more was that Allah (SWT) has given honey bees inspiration (wahi)! Allah (SWT) commanded bees to make homes in mountains, trees and hives that people construct, and as a direct result of that command, we are able to have bee farms and can harvest and enjoy honey. In effect, Allah (SWT) has placed bees in our service! Subhanallah!
Lesson 4: A honey bee’s rizq is pure.
Abu Ruzayn narrated that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the believer is like a bee which eats that which is pure and wholesome and lays that which is pure and wholesome. When it lands on something it does not break or ruin it.” (Ahmad)
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, Abu Darda’ narrated that Allah’s Messenger said: “Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, has ordained for every servant amongst His creation five things: his death, his action, his abode, the places of his moving about and his means of sustenance.”(Tirmidhi)
Our rizq is guaranteed by Allah (SWT), what we have to decide is how we attain it. Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported that Allah’s Messenger said: “A servant cannot earn wealth from what is forbidden and spend it and receive blessings in it. He cannot give in charity from it and have it be accepted. He cannot leave it behind his back except that it increases him in the Hellfire. Verily, Allah the Exalted does not expiate an evil deed with an evil deed. Rather, He expiates an evil deed with a good deed. Verily, a wicked deed cannot expiate a wicked deed.” (Musnad Ahmad)
Unfortunately, obtaining our rizq in a haram way is often easier than the halal option. Serving alcohol in your ‘halal’ restaurant may make you more money. Buying properties with an interest-based mortgage and renting them out can be very lucrative. Selling small quantities of illegal drugs to your friends seems to be a quicker way to earn money than stacking shelves.
We can all make excuses to make ourselves feel better i.e. I’m doing it out of necessity or for my kids future, but the bottom line is you will receive no blessings from your haram earnings.
Lesson 5: Honey bees are highly efficient
We have all heard the saying ‘Busy as a bee’ and it really does sum up their lives – 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 pound of honey! Let’s take inspiration from them and whatever actions we do, let’s work hard to achieve the best results. The Messenger of Allah (SWT) said, “Verily, Allah loves that when anyone of you does a job he should perfect it” (Al-Bayhaqi).
Lesson 6: Honey bees are considerate
Did you ever think you could get relationship guidance from a bee? 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 and hence pollinates the flower. In addition, while the bee is drinking nectar it doesn’t harm the delicate petals of the flower. In our relationships we should try and give more just like the bee does – it’s good to be generous with our love, attention and time.
Lesson 7: A honey bee cares about its community
Bees live together in well-organised hives, and every bee has a role to play in its community. The queen bee lays the eggs; worker bees clean the hive and keep the hive temperature cool, some bees protect the hive from intruders, others fly for miles and collect nectar. When a bee returns to its hive, Allah (SWT) taught it to do a little dance (it’s called the bee dance) to show the other bees the co-ordinates of the flowers so they can go and feed. A bee cannot survive or makehoney on its own – it has to co-operate 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.
Nowadays, the pursuit of wealth and being individualistic and selfish is paramount. 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 honey bee, share our good fortune, be helpful and look after others. When honey bees work together, they produce more honey than they need, and people can benefit from its healing properties. When Muslims work together for the sake of Allah (SWT), we too can help humanity by engaging in da’wah, building masjids, setting up Islamic schools and charity work.
Farhat Amin has been involved in Islamic teaching and parenting for over 15 years. She homeschooled her children and subsequently became the deputy head of the Islamic school they attended. Eight years ago, she started an innovative business: The Muslim Sticker Company. She felt there was a need for positive Islamic parenting resources to inspire kids to follow Islam. She regularly posts Islamic studies resources and articles on her blog http://muslimstickers.com/fblog/. You can also visit her website at: www.muslimstickers.com