Qur'an Difficulty:

Ants Cannot Talk

At length, when they came to a valley of ants, one of the ants said: "O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it."

So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said: "O my Lord! so order me that I may be grateful for Thy favours, which Thou has bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may work the righteousness that will please Thee: And admit me, by They Grace to the ranks of Thy Righteous Servants."
-- Sura An-Naml [The Ant] (27):18-19

But then there are these Amazing Facts About Ants that in contradiction to the Qur'an, ants do communicate using smells, not modulation of sounds. Solomon could not have heard any talk since ants do not produce any.

Additionally, to imagine that ants communicate such sophisticated information as the Qur'an claims seems rather to belong into the land of fairy tales than science (e.g. an ant being able to distinguish between Solomon and a soldier).

Even though basically all communication between ants is through chemical signals, there are, however, a few subspecies of ants which do use some sound communication. But of what kind and complexity is it?

All the above is taken from:

Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson
The Ants
Cambridge, Mass., Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1990. xii, 732 p.,
ISBN 0674040759, Library Call Number: QL568 .F7 H57 1990

Chapter 7, pages 227-297 speak about communication. Page 228 gives a table of different signals in communication between ants. Of the 17 "messages" listed 14 are chemical, 2 are tactile, 1 is "chemical or tactile". In all the intensive studies of ants, "speech" (modulated sound of complex meaning) has never been observed.

When a live ant is marked with the chemical [one that develops in dead ants], i.e. sending the message that this ant is dead, the struggling ant is nevertheless taken by the others and carried out to the rubbish dump. Chemicals take the precedence over anything else. Surely no intelligent speech communication as claimed in this Qur'an passage. Action is blind reaction to the chemical message [pheromones]. (See From Gaia to selfish genes : selected writings in the life sciences, edited by Connie Barlow, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1991, 273 p, the chapter "From ants to anthropology" by E. O. Wilson, page 153-154.)

A recommendation I got: The great Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson has spent his life studying the captivating ants. See your local bookstore for his several works available on his studies of ants. If you live near a Barnes and Noble bookstore, they stock his books.

This verse is the only one in the Qur'an talking about ants and the information it conveys is wrong. The Qur'an only shows an understanding on the common level of other fables known from the same time in history.

Last edited: January 16, 1997

Muslim responses by and my answers to Randy Desmond, Moiz Amjad, Amer Yousafzai, Shibli Zaman

Contradictions in the Qur'an
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