I realized that one of the beauty of retirement is that I have more time to observe nature. While I was strolling in my garden this morning, I had an opportunity to observe a colony of sting less bees (Trigona Bees) that was hidden at a corner of my house. Subhanallah (Glory be to Allah).
I saw the bees were busy coming out from the hive, flying around, resting on the flowers, back to the hive and out again looking for more flowers in my garden.
The Qur’an advises man to keenly observe Allah’s wisdom hidden in the universe and asks him to move about on earth and study and observe the creation of Allah scattered everywhere. But the purpose behind the study and observation should be to have a realization of Allah’s power and not to disturb the balance in the nature.
During my observation, I remembered the verse in Qur’an where Allah says in the Chapter called `The Bees’:
“And your Lord inspired to the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct. Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you].” There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought.” (Surah an-Nahl – The Bee, 68-69).
When I researched about bees, I was fascinated by the 25 powerful lessons put together by Michael O’Malley in his book entitled: `The Wisdom of Bees’.
5 Lessons From Bees
1. Protect the Future
“One teaspoon of honey represents the lifetime work of roughly a dozen bees.”
The first lesson in the hive is to ‘protect the future’. As Muslims, we have a vision and aim when we start anything in our lives, whether it’s a business, a family, a community project. These are created with the future benefit of us and others in mind, thus the bees also start out with a common vision (in honey production). Many people lose sight of this principle with the pressure of maintaining their life in ad-hoc manner.
Bees teach us on the other hand to work in anticipation of tomorrow which makes them maximizes their resources.
2. Keep the Energy Levels Up
“Like the treads on tires, bee wings don’t last forever.”
Given the sheer hard work taken to produce honey, rule number 2 in the beehive is to keep the energy levels up! From a faith perspective, we should start our day with Fajr salah and remembrance of Allah and recitation of verses from the Qur’an to help keep our energy level.
3. Let Merit Be Your Guide
“Honeybee colonies are meritocracies. Unlike the institutions with which we are familiar, favouritism plays little role in the operations of the hive.”
It was interesting to learn this principle occurs even in the beehive. Every good leader is guided by the principle of justice in Islam, chosen on the basis of their knowledge, qualities and competency – which mean no room for favouritism in the hive. Among honeybees, females have the key role in tending to the survival and welfare of the hive making it logical to have the queen bee rule.
These concepts of leadership by those who are best to fulfil it and to remove the leader by failure of their performance are not unfounded in Islam, therefore just as honeybees are performance orientated, so should we be as Muslims!
4. Promoting Community, Sanctioning Self Interest
“The riddle of what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine is neatly settled by the bees”
Bees organise themselves in the hive so as to spread the good for the whole therefore the community is central to their operations. This is mentioned in the hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Sahih Muslim). This suggests that our life ethics and environment should always promote goodness of the community.
5. Distribute Authority
“The queen couldn’t possibly direct all of the actions in the field from her command post. So, she does what every good leader does: she delegates certain responsibilities to a set of lead bees who act as her agents..”
The idea of good leadership has become somewhat misinterpreted in our life today, we assume the leader has to do and dictate every decision and action. In the beehive, it’s quite the opposite and also the prophetic seerah is testimony to this principle as there are ample examples where he (peace be upon him) would choose the most suitable companion for their expertise in certain areas.
Bees offer many such precious lessons, so don’t bee-little them but watch and learn.