Talking Beasts and Insects: Revisiting the Amazing Fables of Islam

Sam Shamoun


Previously, we had discussed some fantastic fables and myths of Islam. Here, we would like to continue where we left off by providing an additional Islamic fable, this time from the Quran.

What makes this beast fable all the more interesting is that Muslims are fond of quoting liberal, critical scholarhsip that seeks to debunk the Holy Bible due to it supposedly containing fables and myths. For instance, Shabir Ally encourages Muslims to purchase the St. Joseph's medium size edition of the New American Bible because it contains some critical notes, one of which says, "... The Bible contains ‘Beast Fables.’ Examples: Genesis; Numbers 22, 22-35." (Source)

Since Ally seeks to undermine the Bible's authentiticy on the basis that it allegedly contains ‘beast fables’, then on what grounds does he still believe the Quran when it has a passage about a talking beast? If any book contains beast fables it is the Quran with its talking beasts, birds, ants etc. (See these articles: www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Menj/ants.htm, www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Menj/she-monkey.htm, www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/90feet-adam.htm)

For a comprehensive response to the above mentioned article by Shabir Ally, please read the following: www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Shabir-Ally/nab.htm.

With that just said we now turn to the subject at hand. According to the Quran Allah will raise up a talking beast to admonish the unbelievers:

And when the word is fulfilled concerning them, We shall bring forth a beast of the earth to speak unto them because mankind had not faith in Our revelations. S. 27:82 Pickthall

Not all translations render this passage in exactly the same way. For instance, some versions translate the word for beast as insect while other translations render the text in a way as to make the beast actually speak a few words and place those words within quotation marks. Still others translate the text so that the beast is sent to wound the unbelievers rather than to speak to them. Notice the following translations:

And when the Word is fulfilled against them (the unjust), we shall produce from the earth a beast to (face) them: He will speak to them, for that mankind did not believe with assurance in Our Signs. Y. Ali

When the Word falls on them, We shall bring forth for them out of the earth a beast that shall speak unto them: 'Mankind had no faith in Our signs.' A.J. Arberry

And when the Word (of torment) is fulfilled against them, We shall bring out from the earth a beast to them, which will speak to them because mankind believed not with certainty in Our Ayt (Verses of the Qur'n and Prophet Muhammad SAW). Hilali-Khan

And when the word comes to pass against them, We shall bring forth for them a creature from the earth that will speak to them, because people did not believe in Our messages. M. Muhammad Ali

Whenever the Sentence prevails against them, We shall bring forth a monster from the Earth for them who will speak to them, because mankind has not been convinced by Our signs. T.B. Irving

When the word about them comes true We shall make a creature appear to them on earth who will tell them that people had no faith in Our revelations. Muhammad Sarwar

At the right time, we will produce for them a creature, made of earthly materials, declaring that the people are not certain about our revelations. Khalifa

When the doom shall be ready to light upon them, we will cause a monster to come forth to them out of the earth, and cry to them "Verily men have not firmly believed our signs." Rodwell

And when the sentence falls upon them we will bring forth a beast out of the earth that shall speak to them, (and say) that, 'Men of our signs would not be sure.' Palmer

When the sentence shall [be ready to] fall upon them, we will cause a beast to come forth unto them from out of the earth, which shall speak unto them: Verily men do not firmly believe in our signs. Sale

And when the word shall come to pass against them, We shall bring forth for them a creature from the earth that shall wound them, because people did not believe in Our communications. Shakir

And when the sentence is passed against them, WE shall bring forth for them an insect out of the earth which shall wound them because people did not believe in Our Signs. Sher Ali

When we turn to the commentary of Ibn Kathir, it is quite clear that many of the first Muslims believed that the beast will speak and that he is no mere insect:

The Emergence of the Beast of the Earth

This is the beast which will emerge at the end of time, when mankind has become corrupt and neglected the commands of Allah and changed the true religion. Then Allah will cause a beast to emerge from the earth. It was said that it will be brought from Makkah, or from somewhere else, as we shall discuss in detail below, if Allah wills. The beast will speak to people about matters. Ibn `Abbas, Al-Hasan and Qatadah said, and it was also narrated from `Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, that it will speak words, meaning, it will address them. Many Hadiths and reports have been narrated about the beast, and we will narrate as many of them as Allah enables us to, for He is the One Whose help we seek. Imam Ahmad recorded that Hudhayfah bin Asid Al-Ghifari said, "The Messenger of Allah came out from his room while we were discussing the matter of the Hour. He said...

<The Hour will not come until you see ten signs: the rising of the sun from the west; the smoke (Ad-Dukhan); emergence of the beast; the emergence of Ya'juj and Ma'juj; the appearance of `Isa bin Maryam, upon him be peace; the Dajjal; and three land cave-ins, one in the west, one in the east and one in the Arabian Peninsula; and a Fire which will emerge from the midst of Yemen, and will drive or gather the people, stopping with them whenever they stop for the night or to rest during the day.>"

This was also recorded by Muslim and the Sunan compilers from Hudhayfah, in a Mawquf report. At-Tirmidhi said, "It is Hasan Sahih." It was also recorded by Muslim from Hudhayfah in a Marfu` report. And Allah knows best. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

And please note Ibn Kathir's rather fantastic description of the beast:

Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded from Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah said...

<A beast will emerge from the earth, and with it will be the staff of Musa and the ring of Sulayman, peace be upon them both. It will strike the nose of the disbelievers with the staff, and it will make the face of the believer bright with the ring, until when people gather to eat, they will be able to recognize the believers from the disbelievers.>

It also was recorded by Imam Ahmad, with the wording...

<It will strike the nose of the disbelievers with the ring, and will make the face of the believer bright with the staff, until when people gather for a meal, they will say to one another, O believer, or O disbeliever.>

It was also recorded by Ibn Majah. Ibn Jurayj reported that Ibn Az-Zubayr described the beast and said, "Its head is like the head of a bull, its eyes are like the eyes of a pig, its ears are like the ears of an elephant, its horns are like the horns of a stag, its neck is like the neck of an ostrich, its chest is like the chest of a lion, its color is like the colour of a tiger, its haunches are like the haunches of a cat, its tail is like the tail of a ram, and its legs are like the legs of a camel. Between each pair of its joints is a distance of twelve cubits. It will bring out with it the staff of Musa and the ring of Sulayman. There will be no believer left without it making a white spot on his face, which will spread until all his face is shining white as a result; and there will be no disbeliever left without it making a black spot on his face, which will spread until all his face is black as a result, then when the people trade with one another in the marketplace, they will say, `How much is this, O believer' `How much is this, O disbeliever' And when the members of one household sit down together to eat, they will know who is a believer and who is a disbeliever. Then the beast will say: `O so-and-so, enjoy yourself, for you are among the people of Paradise.' And it will say: `O so-and-so, you are among the people of Hell,' This is what Allah says...

<And when the Word is fulfilled against them, We shall bring out from the earth a beast for them, to speak to them because mankind believed not with certainty in Our Ayat.> (Source; bold emphasis ours)

Hadith Compiler Ibn Majah narrates the following details about this beast:

4066. Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "The beast would appear (near the Last Hour) along with the signet-ring of Sulaiman b. Dawud and Musa b. 'Imran's staff (peace be upon both of them). It would make a believer's face brilliant with the staff and brand the nose of a disbeliever with the signet-ring till inmates of a collection of houses adjacent to one another would assemble and this (man) would utter, 'O believer' and that (man) would say, 'O infidel'(1)."

Dabbat ul-And is an angel in the form of a beautiful beast that would appear in Safa mountain. According to some learned scholars, it will be a queer creature sixty arm long having the resemblance of every animal in it.

Abu l-Hasan al-Qattan mentioned like that with the chain of transmission consisting of Ibrahim b. Yahya, Musa b. Isma'il Hammad b. Salama and said one about it, "This (man) would say: O believer and this one (would say): O the Non-believer." (Sunan Ibn-I-Majah (Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad b. Yazid Ibn-I-Maja Al-Qazwini), English version by Muhammad Tufail Ansari [Kazi Publications, Lahore (Pakistan), 1st edition 1995], Chapter NO. XXXI, "The Beast of the Land Women", Volume V, pp. 366-367)

Other reports imply that certain Muslims had actually met and talked with this beast:

... So I set out towards that mosque and observed prayer along with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and I was in the row of the women which was near the row of men. When Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) had finished his prayer, he sat on the pulpit smiling and said: Every worshipper should keep sitting at his place. He then said: Do you know why I had asked you to assemble? They said: Allah and His Messenger know best. He said: By Allah, I have not made you assemble for exhortation or for a warning, but I have detained you here, for Tamim Dari, a Christian, who came and accepted Islam, told me something, which agrees with what I was telling, you about the Dajjal. He narrated to me that he had sailed in a ship along with thirty men of Bani Lakhm and Bani Judham and had been tossed by waves in the ocean for a month. Then these (waves) took them (near) the land within the ocean (island) at the time of sunset. They sat in a small side-boat and entered that Island. There was a beast with long thick hair (and because of these) they could not distinguish his face from his back. They said: Woe to you, who can you be? Thereupon it said: I am al-Jassasa. They said: What is al-Jassasa? And it said: O people, go to this person in the monastery as he is very much eager to know about you. He (the narrator) said: When it named a person for us we were afraid of it lest it should be a Devil. Then we hurriedly went on till we came to that monastery and found a well-built person there with his hands tied to his neck and having iron shackles between his two legs up to the ankles. We said: Woe be upon thee, who are you? And he said: You would soon come to know about me. But tell me who are you. We said: We are people from Arabia and we embarked upon a boat but the sea-waves had been driving us for one month and they brought us near this island. We got into the side-boats and entered this island and here a beast met us with profusely thick hair and because of the thickness of his hair his face could not be distinguished from his back. We said: Woe be to thee, who are you? It said: I am al- Jassasa. We said: What is al-Jassasa? And it said: You go to this very person in the monastery for he is eagerly waiting for you to know about you. So we came to you in hot haste fearing that that might be the Devil. He (that chained person) said: Tell me about the date-palm trees of Baisan. We said: About what aspect of theirs do you seek information? He said: I ask you whether these trees bear fruit or not.

We said: Yes. Thereupon he said: I think these would not bear fruits. He said: Inform me about the lake of Tabariyya? We said: Which aspect of it do you want to know? He said: Is there water in it? They said: There is abundance of water in it. Thereupon he said: I think it would soon become dry. He again said: Inform me about the spring of Zughar. They said: Which aspect of it you want to know? He (the chained person) said: Is there water in it and does it irrigate (the land)? We said to him: Yes, there is abundance of water in it and the inhabitants (of Medina) irrigate (land) with the help of it. He said: Inform me about the unlettered Prophet; what has he done? We said: He has come out from Mecca and has settled in Yathrib (Medina). He said: Do the Arabs fight against him? We said: Yes. He said: How did he deal with them? We informed him that he had overcome those in his neighbourhood and they had submitted themselves before him. Thereupon he said to us: Had it actually happened? We said: Yes. Thereupon he said: If it is so that is better for them that they should show obedience to him. I am going to tell you about myself and I am Dajjal and would be soon permitted to get out and so I shall get out and travel in the land, and will not spare any town where I would not stay for forty nights except Mecca and Medina as these two (places) are prohibited (areas) for me and I would not make an attempt to enter any one of these two. An angel with a sword in his hand would confront me and would bar my way and there would be angels to guard every passage leading to it; then Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) striking the pulpit with the help of the end of his staff said: This implies Taiba meaning Medina. Have I not, told you an account (of the Dajjal) like this? 'The people said: Yes, and this account narrated by Tamim Dari was liked by me for it corroborates the account which I gave to you in regard to him (Dajjal) at Medina and Mecca. Behold he (Dajjal) is in the Syrian sea (Mediterranian) or the Yemen sea (Arabian sea). Nay, on the contrary, he is in the east, he is in the east, he is in the east, and he pointed with his hand towards the east. I (Fatima bint Qais) said: I preserved it in my mind (this narration from Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him)). (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 7028)

Here we find two of the ten signs which Muhammad said would appear before the Last Hour, the beast and Dajjal. And, according to this narration, the beast is clearly a talking animal!


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