Lessons From Nature
The diverse methods that animals use to protect themselves hold great significance for human beings, because these methods are natural methods, bestowed by God.
By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Animals face two very big challenges: finding food, and defending themselves. Animals have enemies in the animal world, and so every animal has to arrange for its protection. The diverse methods that animals use to protect themselves hold great significance for human beings, because these methods are natural methods, bestowed by God. Nature teaches these methods to animals directly. It is as if they are students who have received this training in the school of Nature. Their ways of acting and reacting are lessons that Nature has schooled them in. These methods testify to the Creator who made them.
Consider some examples in this regard.
Elephants and tigers are among the largest of animals. If an elephant and a tiger clash, it can cause the death of both. They are both are well aware of this, and so they always try to avoid each other. It is very rare that they allow themselves to enter into a conflict.
A war in which the contending parties do not have the power to eliminate each other always ends in mutual destruction. Tigers and elephants know this, and they act accordingly.
The same thing holds true for bulls. If two bulls fight, it is very unlikely that one can finish off the other. And so, bulls have an interesting way of avoiding such pointless confrontation—by establishing their respective boundaries. If two bulls enter the same locality and confront each other, they bang against each other’s horns to symbolize an agreement to divide the territory into two separate zones, one for each of them. After this symbolic confrontation, they draw back and carefully observe the border they have demarcated between themselves. And so, it is very rare that two bulls fight with each other.
There is a certain insect, which, if you touch it, will curl up and freeze. This is an easy method it uses to protect itself from its enemies. When it sees that its enemy is almost on top of it and that escape is impossible, it is suddenly turns completely motionless. Its enemy thinks it is dead and so ignores it. When its enemy leaves the scene, it runs away.
Animals that live in burrows constantly face the threat of enemies entering their homes. Because their homes are very small, they cannot run away from their front doors if an intruder enters. That is why such animals always make another tunnel, at the rear of their homes, which they can use to escape in emergency situations. When they see that a predator has entered their burrow, they run away through this rear door. In this way, they save themselves from their enemies.
There is a very tiny insect that uses a fascinating method of eliminating its enemies. It stings its enemy—like an injection—and then lays innumerable eggs inside its enemy’s body. The eggs soon hatch into babies that begin to eat up the enemy’s body from within. The babies grow into larvae that struggle to come out of their host’s body. This causes the host terrific pain, but it finds itself confronted with enemies that it cannot fight with because they are present inside its body. The larvae keep up their struggle to get out of their host’s body till they manage to succeed in tearing its body apart, causing the enemy’s death.
These diverse methods of protection that Nature has schooled animals in, hold important lessons for humans. For humans, too, the best policy to adopt vis-à-vis their opponents is to save themselves from directly clashing with them, and, instead, to try to move ahead by avoiding confrontation. One’s opponent should not get the opportunity to feel that one is interfering in his domain. If one happens to confront one’s opponent, one should appear to be inactive, in this way saving oneself from his aggression. Or, one can keep oneself carefully confined to one’s own domain, and, in this way, convince one’s opponent that one will not cause him any harm.
Animals did not invent these above-cited methods of protection by themselves. It was God who taught these to them. These methods have Divine sanction. They are not a form or expression of cowardice. Rather, they indicate a very necessary pragmatism. They teach us humans that we, too, should avoid unnecessary confrontation with others, and, instead, should focus on our own growth.
Some animals roam about in search of fodder; others in search of their mates. Some are busy and run around building their houses. Some hunt for food for their babies. While engaged in these and other such tasks, they may suddenly confront an enemy. If they enter into a fight with them, the work that they had set out to do would be completely disrupted. That is why all animals abstain from direct confrontation with their enemies, unless they find themselves in a situation where they feel absolutely compelled to do so. In order to continue their own constructive work, they simply avoid conflict and move ahead.
Animals use this wise approach to dealing with opponents on the basis of instinct. Humans must use the very same approach, but based on conscious choice and awareness.
(Translation of excerpts of a chapter in Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s Urdu book HAL YAHAN HAI (‘The Solution Lies Here’). (Translated by Yoginder Sikand)