Are you a Bee-liever?
Life Lessons from the humble bumblebee.
One of the things that really fascinates me is biomimicry.
Biomimicry is defined as the imitation of models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. This I believe to be very in line with God’s command to reflect and ponder on nature and recognise ‘signs’ around us.
One of the signs of nature I think we as humans should most reflect on, is that of our black and yellow, buzzy friend, the humble bumblebee. It is something we often consider insignificant. Or we shoo it away. Or we’re even scared of, due to the fear of getting stung.
For me, it is doubly of interest because there’s actually a whole chapter named ‘the Bee’ in the Qu’ran (Surah al-Nahl, chapter 16). This intrigues me. Why is it so significant and so revered that attention has been drawn to this creature?
Even the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
“The example of the believer is just like the example of the bee”.
So, as ‘believers’, what can we learn from the bee?
- The first is the one thing bees and humans share in common, which is the honour and ability to recieve ‘wahi’, which translates as revelation or divine inspiration directly from God. And there is inspiration He gave to bees, that He DIDN’T give to humans, nor any of the other creatures. This alone makes them worth studying further, as this is certainly a lofty honour indeed.
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. (16:68–69)
With this in mind, I watched a bee documentary or two to really get to know the bee.
- They are the very essence of excellent teamwork in action — you cannot produce honey without worker bees working together — one passes the nectar, the other chews it etc to produce it.
- They give back to the flower more than they take when they pollinate it. This means they are always adding value and keeping strong relationships, and leaving the other party in a better place than when they found them.
- They only eat nectar from fresh flowers that no other bee has eaten from — so they are pure and wholesome in what they take in, and they are also mindful of not taking from anyone else’s fair due. They don’t go to flowers that are not yet mature, nor ones which are rotting. So they are very careful about what they consume and only accept the best of the best. Think about that the next time we slurp down a Coke and munch on a burger which may not be the best things for us?
- When they land on something they don’t break or destroy it — they are gentle and nimble and therefore very careful of causing harm. The bee if it landed on the flower to guzzle its nectar carelessly, could easily break it, given its weight versus the relatively delicate flower. But it chooses to flutter and flap its wings as it’s over the flower so its own weight is supported. If only we thought like this, the world would be a much safer and kinder place.
- “In their bellies is a healing for mankind (honey). This means all the hard work they do, is to give benefit to mankind, it’s not for their own benefit, it’s for the higher purpose.
- They are very mindful of doing good and not causing harm. So if a bee from another hive is already at the bee — they know if they went and took from the same flower, it would cause it to die. So they respect that another bee got there first and go and find another.
- They also provide a knock on effect in terms of impact — so much of our food today wouldn’t exist without the bee. We wouldn’t survive for too long if bees became exctinct. This means they have a legacy, something they do which they don’t even benefit from themselves but others do. This is a great example of ihsan in action!
- They know their truth. They understand their purpose in life and work towards that very thing — they don’t question it or try and be something they’re not. They’re on a mission, but humbly so. A worker bee doesn’t try and fight for power.
- In the same spirit, every bee has a role to play — and no good deed is considered too small. It all counts.
- The queen bee is the one who builds the home, the male worker bees are the ones that go out and do the work to make her home prosperous and plentiful.
- They are great communicators and keep their hive and community informed of any dangers up ahead. They also do a special ‘bee-dance’ if they have good news to share, such as a new food source. They don’t hoard, they’ll share the benefits with their fellow bee as they know sharing with their own community will benefit their own hive in the long run!
- They are persistent — if they fail they keep on trying.
- They are super loyal to their queen — they understand authority and work diligently towards their chosen one.
- According to scientists, the bumblebee’s body is too heavy and its wing span too small — so aerodynamically, in theory, the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly. But the bumblebee doesn’t know that and it keeps flying. Therefore it doesn’t allow himself to be affected by (often self-imposed) limiting beliefs.
- They are super intelligent — apparently the bee’s brain can perform 10 trillion operations per second! Not bad, eh?
- They admire beauty and are attracted by beautiful pleasant things. They will go to the flower that is most attractive to them.
- Really interestingly, they are lifelong learners — they have to constantly learn new locations and flowers to visit.
- They are bloody hardworking. Did you know, the bee has to travel some 90,000 miles (which is the same as 3 orbits around the earth) to produce just 1kg of honey?!
I was shocked there were so many lessons that could be gleaned from such a seemingly insignificant creature. But the biggest one for me, is the fact that in order to get to the end result — i.e the honey which contains the “healing for mankind”, that cannot and will not come without all of the other aspects, the hardwork, the humility and the unity to come together for the greater good and to work towards their overall purpose. And the fact that in all that they do, they give life, add value and do not disrupt or harm a single soul.
It is one of the greatest tragedies that the bee population is dying — and yet, little do we pay attention that if they die, we die. More importantly, is their living, breathing daily example is a shining light on how we could and should live our lives as successful humans, if we would only but reflect and act.
I think we could do with being less like Believers and more like Bee-lievers.