Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Zil-Hijjah / Muharram 1423 H
March 2003
Volume 16-03 No : 195
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Quran And Science


Ants-Creatures of Allah!
The Wisdom of the Anthill


Ants-Creatures of Allah!

When we analyse the details of the system in the ant colonies,
we feel the power of the invisible will-and this will is of Allah alone.

By Harun Yahya

Ants live in colonies and that a perfect division of labour exists amongst them. When we take a closer look at their systems, we shall also see that they have a pretty interesting social structure. It will also come to our attention that they are capable of sacrifice at a much higher level than humans are. One of the most interesting points is that - compared to humans - they do not know the concepts such as the rich-poor discrimination and the fight for power that are observed in our societies.

Many scientists, who for years have been doing extensive research on ants, have not been able to clarify the subject of their advanced social behaviour. Caryle P. Haskins, Ph.D., the president of the Carnegie Institute at Washington has this to say:

After 60 years of observation and study, I still marvel at how sophisticated the ants’ social behavior is. ...The ants thus make a beautiful model for our use in studying the roots of animal behavior.

Some colonies of ants are so extensive with respect to population and living area, that it is impossible to explain how they can form a perfect order over such a vast area. Therefore, it is not easy not to concur with Dr. Haskins.

It is very hard to explain how the ants have maintained this order without any problems, considering the vast area they are living in. We must not forget that various security forces are needed for enforcing law and maintaining social order, even in a civilized country with a low population density. And there is an administrative staff leading and managing these units. Sometimes, it does not become possible to maintain the required order without problems despite all these intense efforts.

Yet in ant colonies there is no need felt for police, gendarmerie or guards. If we consider that actually the duty of the queens, whom we think of as the leaders of the colonies, is just to maintain the species, they do not have a leader or a governor. There is thus no hierarchy based on a chain of command amongst them. Then who is it that lays down this order and maintains its continuity?

Ants, which are very small creatures, pursue their lives with perfect orderliness

Each ant colony without exception complies strictly with the caste system. This caste system consists of three major parts within a colony.

Members of the first caste are the queen and the males who make reproduction possible. More than one queen may exist in a colony. The queen has assumed the task of reproducing and thus increasing the number of individuals making up the colony. Her body is larger than that of the other ants. The duty of the males on the other hand is just to fertilize the queen. In fact, nearly all of these die after the nuptial flight.

The members of the second caste are the soldiers. These take on duties like the setting up of the colony, finding a new living environment and hunting.

The third caste consists of worker ants. All of the workers are sterile females. They take care of the mother ant and her babies; they clean and feed them. In addition to all these, other jobs in the colony are also under the responsibility of the workers. They build new corridors and new galleries for their nests; they search for food and continually clean up the nest.

The worker and soldier ants also have sub-groups. These are named slaves, thieves, nurses, guards and foragers. Each group has a different task. While one group focuses completely on fighting the enemy or hunting, another group builds nests, and yet another one looks after maintenance.

Every individual in the ant colonies does his full share of the work. None of them worry about the position it is in nor the nature of the job it performs, but it plainly does what is required of it. What is important is the continuity of the colony.

When we think about how this system could have developed, we cannot avoid reaching the fact of creation.

Let us explain why: Where there is perfect order, logically we reach the conclusion that this has certainly been established by a planning mind. For instance, there is a disciplined order in the military; it is obvious that the officers in control of the army have established this order. It would certainly be an absurd idea to assume that all individuals in the army came together on their own and organized themselves and that later on they were grouped in different ranks and started acting in compliance with these ranks. Furthermore, the officers who have established this order have to keep on carrying out inspections of this order so that it may persist without any problems. Otherwise, an army left solely to the troops would soon be transformed into an unruly crowd, regardless of how well disciplined it might have been at the beginning.

The ants also have a discipline very similar to that of the military. Yet the critical aspect is that there is no “officer”, that is any organizing administrator, in sight. The various caste systems within the ant colony carry out their duties in a faultless manner; although, yet there is no obvious “central power” which supervises them.

Then the only explanation is that the central will in question is an “invisible” one. The inspiration which is mentioned in the Qur’an with the statement “And your Lord revealed to the bee” (Surat Nahl: 68), is this invisible power.

This will has achieved such tremendous planning that people are in awe of it when they try to analyze it.

When we analyze the details of the system in the ant colonies, we feel the power of the invisible will, which establishes and governs this system, in a more concrete way. Now let us take a look at these details.

The connections to the outer world of the ant nests are usually via a small hole large enough for an ant to go through. Passing through these holes is by “permission”. There are ants within the colony whose numbers are not very many with the duty of “serving as a doorman”.

“The doormen” serve as living gates with the shapes of their heads fitting right in the nest entrance. Furthermore, the colour and design of their heads are the same as that of the tree barks in the close surrounding. The doorman sits for hours at the entrance hole and allows free passage only its nestmates.

This means that the idea of keeping a doorman to guard the buildings has been put into practice, before men, by doorman ants, who cover the entrance with the strongest part of their bodies, who also camouflage themselves and who do not let in those who do not say the right “password”.

It is quite obvious that that the head of the doorman ant that we mentioned above fits right into the hole, that its colour and patterns conform to the environment, and that it does not let in anybody that it does not know, cannot be up to its own will. There certainly is an owner of intellect who has designed the body of the ant in this form and who inspires the job it is doing.

Let us think: Why would an ant want to be a doorman? If it had a choice, why would it pick the job, which is the most cumbersome and that requires the most sacrifice? If it did have such a chance, it would certainly pick a job that would provide it with the most comfortable environment and the best service. The choice, in fact, has come about with the determination of Allah. And the doorman ant performs its duties in full obedience. Only the creator of the ants may have designed such a perfect colony life to show the striking side of His art and given particular duties to the ant colony which abides by this system.

When food shortages occur in the colony, the worker ants are immediately transformed into “feeder” ants and they start feeding others with the food particles in their reserve stomachs, and when there is surplus food in the colony, they shed this identity and again become worker ants.

The sacrifice displayed here truly is at an advanced level. While human beings have not succeeded in fighting hunger in the world, the ants have found a practical solution to this problem: to share everything, including their food. Yes, this is a real example of sacrifice. Giving without hesitation everything it owns including its food to the next ant, so that it may survive, is just one of the examples of sacrifice in nature which the theory of evolution cannot manage to explain.

There is no overpopulation problem for ants. While today, the metropolises of man are becoming hard to live in due to migration, lack of infrastructure, misallocation of resources and unemployment, ants can manage their underground cities, with a population of 50 million in a fantastically orderly fashion, without the feeling that anything is lacking.

For the emergence of such extremely well organised systems, there has to be a “master will” to give them the inspiration to do their work and to give them orders. Otherwise, great chaos would ensue rather than order. And this master will pertains to Allah, Who owns everything, Who is Almighty, Who directs all living beings and orders them by inspiration.

The fact that ants perpetually strive without any consideration of benefit, is proof that they are acting on the inspiration of a certain “supervisor”. The verse below fully confirms that Allah is the master and supervisor of everything and that every living creature acts on His inspiration:

I have put my trust in Allah, my Lord and your Lord. There is no living being He does not hold by the forelock and inspect! My Lord is on a straight path. (Surah Hud: 56).

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The Wisdom of the Anthill

If ants can run efficient supply chains with brains that weigh less than the ink in this comma, why do we humans have such trouble? The question has dogged Eric Bonabeau for years. The 34-year old Frenchman - a scientist and student of thebranch of complexity science known as chaos theory- has spent nearly a decade studying the organisation, coordination, and work habits of social insects.

Ant colonies are so efficient, Bonabeau deduced, because they lack centralised control; no single ant boss runs the business.

Bonabeau took this notion a step further in his 1999 book, Swarm Intelligence, in which he described how the study of an organization’s “ ants, “ its myriad individual parts, could help business find solutions to problems that elude ordinary top-down analysis: how the late arrival of a single package can derail an entire supply chain, say, or why adding a lane to a highway can often worsen traffic jams.

Thomas Mucha
BUSINESS 2.0
November 2002
(rafiq@thelodhiacenter.org)

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