Pearl of Wisdom

Wisdom is the garden of the intelligent ones and the amusement of the noble.'

Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib [as]
Ghurar al-Hikam, no. 1715

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Islamic Occasions » Holy Month of Ramadan » Fasting in animals (Fasting Benefits)
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Fasting of Ground Squirrels

There are many types of squirrels in the world. Some live in trees, while others live in underground burrows. The ground squirrels fast for days at a time in winter.

Squirrels are vegetarian animals. Squirrels that live in places with cold winters are very active in the autumn. They gather nuts, pinecones, and seeds and hide them in various places to eat during the winter.

While tree squirrels do not hibernate, ground squirrels do. Their length of hibernation depends on where they live. In some areas they may remain dormant as long as eight months of the year. During hibernation, they are in a state of near suspended animation. Their heart rate slows to only a fraction of its normal rate, and they might breathe only once every couple of minutes. However, they wake up for a short period every four or five days to eat from their stored food.

When the warm weather begins in spring, the squirrels become fully awake and active. They happily seek fresh provision that Allah has provided them.

Fasting of Salmon

he aquatic environment introduces to us various patterns of fish species that fast. Here we present the fasting of the red salmon whose natural fasting is considered one of Allah's signs and an image of the wondrous biological diversity.

In the early stages of life, these species inhabit fresh water. Before long they migrate to salt water in the seas and oceans.

Characteristically, red salmon spend one part of their life, extending from about four to seven years, in the high seas. When they are about to mature sexually and prepare to reproduce, they gather together in the ocean via an arduous journey of from four to five thousand kilometers. Afterwards, each species heads for its native land, and they continue their journey to reach the mouth of the river in which they were hatched.

Wonderfully, these fish start their fasting as soon as they leave salt water swimming to fresh water. This journey lasts for several months. Obviously, they make use of the sensitive feeling generated by the long period of fasting to recognize the proper location. Each fish swims upstream in the river in which it was hatched to reproduce in the same place from which it originated. When they are guided to the fitting place, the salmon start to dig holes for eggs. Generally speaking, both parents share in this work. The females lay eggs, then the males cover them with their sperm to fertilize them externally, as is the case with most great fish.

Following this process, the females are motivated by instinct to cover the eggs with an appropriate layer of soil from the riverbed. They stay behind the eggs until they incubate and the young red salmon come out of their holes and shake off their dust. Both parents cast a final look on the young and realize that they have successfully concluded their mission. Then they pass away in a state of fasting in the same location, leaving behind a new generation of the young that prepare themselves for another cycle of suffering that is experienced by all creatures. When those young grow up and become sexually mature, they will start their fasting and then pass away in a state of fasting in their and their fathers' birthplace.

Fasting of Snails

Snails are small, snail-like gastropod mollusks. Some live in water, others on land. They have a slow-moving elongated body with a shell to protect them from danger.

Ground snails prefer damp areas. They bury themselves under the surface layer of the earth during broad daylight and become active at night and on cloudy days. They do so to avoid the heat and light of the sun so that their skin won't dry.

Snails get their nutrition from plants and from organic substances in the soil. They are so greedy while eating that their bodies acquire extra fat.

Where winters are cold, snails hibernate like many other animals, fasting through the cold weather. But they also fast in hot weather.

Almighty Allah has provided theses creatures with the ability to secrete a mucus cover for themselves to protect their bodies from drying out. During hot, dry periods, snails are threatened with dehydration. So they seal themselves off with a parchment like membrane, and often attach themselves to tree trunks, fences or walls. During this time they fast until cooler, wetter weather comes. Both males and females do this.

When the cooler weather comes, snails come out of their shelters to seek their nutrition, declaring the end of their fast. At that time they have lost their extra fat and returned to their vitality.

Almighty Allah gives His slaves many examples of the variety of life and proofs of the oneness of the Creator.

Fasting of the Spiny Anteater

The echidna, or spiny anteater, is one of several nocturnal, burrowing, egg-laying mammals. It lives in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. It is toothless and covered with spines. It has a slender snout and an extensible sticky tongue used for catching insects, such as ants and termites.

The spiny anteater prefers to live on mountains and high places over 200 meters above sea level. It likes to stay in uninhabited places and shadowed forests. This is due to its feeding habits, for it feeds on ants. When the spiny anteater extends its long sticky tongue inside an ant tunnel, hundreds of ants cling to it, forming a delicious meal for the anteater.

It is an aspect of Allah's Wisdom that is manifest in His creation that the anteater has thick skin to protect it from the ants' stings. Another interesting phenomenon is that the anteater mixes the insects with dust, sand and dry herbs, which help to digest the insects.

The anteater can abstain from food for a period that may exceed a whole month without it having the least effect on its vitality. Lack of food does not weaken it. The secret behind this may be that the anteater eats greedily, filling its body with extra fat that burdens it. When food decreases due to an increase in their numbers or during their migration, anteater's involuntarily fast. Hence they lose extra weight and restore their activity. This is one of the manifestations of Allah's Power and Wisdom in His Creation.

Fasting of Plover

Plover is one of wading and migrating birds. Canada is its homeland and it usually emigrates from Canada to America doing a long and arduous journey. Actually, flocks of plover cover this journey incessantly; the thing which makes this journey of more than 3000 miles more difficult, in addition to passing through the Pacific Ocean; this makes the journey more arduous. Naturally, men or animals, when traveling long distances, are obliged to take a rest and get their breath back. Moreover, they can have some food and drink or light meals fitting to such circumstances. In contrast to that, we find these birds enter some kind of obligatory and incessant fasting by Day and Night, for they have no way but continuing the journey incessantly along with fasting. This reminds us of the saying of a Muslim leader to his soldiers when they got in confrontation with the enemy: "The enemy is before you and the sea is behind you (meaning that they have no way but to confront the enemy seriously until they achieve victory; otherwise they will be defeated or drowned in the sea to the last man)."

Likewise, these birds have no way but to gird their loins for continuing the journey because if they intend to take rest they will inevitably perish in the Ocean's water. So, we see these birds beseeching Allah's help to grant them success to continue the journey as if they look at their images on the surface of water from the horizon thinking that they are birds overtaken by drowning. Accordingly, they think that their case is better off and are motivated by this scene to fly higher than the surface of water. Actually, they continue fasting and flying for thirteen days which means that they observe non-stop fasting. Thus, although Allah, Most High, has predestined this arduous journey on these birds, He provides them with the necessary energy that will enable them to carry out this hard mission.

No doubt, these birds' form of fasting gives us great indications on the Omnipotence of Allah, Exalted and Glorified be He. It, moreover, adds another dimension of the forms of fasting adopted by people and living species. In another location we have previously mentioned that eels observe fasting for two or three years whether it be the first fasting which is the fasting of the young or the latter fasting which is the fasting of the old. Likewise, plover observes fasting but while flying in the sky. The moment it reaches its resting location, it reposes for some time and then proceeds to have food delightfully in larger amounts than its needs to save some food in the form of fatty substances, taking into consideration the returning journey in the same road.

Fasting of Penguins

Penguin is one of the sea birds that live in the cold regions. In fact, there are 17 species of these birds in the entire world. Only one of these species inhabits the North Pole territories while the remaining species are distributed widely in the Southern Hemisphere, extending along South Australia, Africa and America.

These species differ totally in their way of laying and hatching eggs. As for those living in the Southern Hemisphere, they spend the winter therein. With the coming of spring, they return in groups to their native land in the North Pole, covering (a distance of) hundreds of miles until they reach their destination and proper location for reproduction. Upon arriving there, they start immediately building their nests out of stone pieces. Following three weeks from their arrival, they will have completed building these nests and the process of procreation. In the usual course of things, the female lays two white eggs mixed with blue color. The male penguin undertakes the task of brooding eggs instead of the female penguin, which is engrossed in seeking food in the deep-water seas. On the other hand, the male penguin goes on in a state of fasting for two weeks until the chicks (the young penguins) develop. When this happens, the male penguin rushes at maximum speed into the sea to drink some of the seawater and to eat from Allah's provisions. It eats this food in a state of merriment whereas the female penguin (the mother) comes back in order to feed the flourishing young penguins.

Unlike all species of penguins, there is another kind called "the Emperor" which does not build nests for the young. Actually, it spends winter in the North Frozen Zone wherein it lays its eggs; the mother lays the eggs, not on snow, but on its hind feet. Sometimes, the male penguin (the father) may relieve her and they remain in a state of fasting throughout the winter season.

With the advent of spring, the ice melts and the eggs are incubated reproducing those young penguins. The secret behind this strict kind of fasting is that the (penguin's) eggs require this specific degree of coldness. Practically, when the young penguins grow up, they start observing fasting through abstaining from food until their down falls out and their bodies are covered with feathers. At this very moment, they rush into water declaring the end of this fasting through having food and drink.

As for the old penguins, they also observe fasting for another period that is sufficient to replace their old feathers with another which is more glowing and flourishing. They throw themselves into the sea merrily as if they imitate the human beings when they wear new clothes on the coming of the Eid that comes after fasting in Ramadan or as if the human beings imitate these wondrous creatures. More accurately, we can say, "It is a recurring Sunnah in Allah's creation."

Fasting Insects on Peaks of Mountains

Wonderfully, in the world of insects beetles tend to spend the winter season on peaks of mountains, with their freezing temperature. As soon as they feel the coldness of air and the approach of the winter season, they hasten to peaks of mountains as if they call their species to swim against the current.

It is well known that peaks of mountains and lofty locations in the European countries are very cold to the extent that they are covered with snow and consequently the (degree of) temperature lowers to thirty degrees centigrade below zero. No doubt, such a freezing temperature will have effect on these insects, in the sense of making them in dire need of extra amount of energy, though their bodies are filled with fatty substances on which they can depend throughout the hibernation and fasting period; that extra energy will provide them with warmness, especially in the latter days of the winter season, when alimentary canal normally runs out of its reserves. A question arises here: What about those insects whose time of breaking fast isn't due yet? Do they give in to such critical condition or Allah Almighty grants them a proper means to overcome it?

Of course, Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, Who has fashioned all His creatures in a very beautiful manner and perfection, has bestowed on each creature the proper means to lead a satisfied life. So, Allah does not let these insects or other creatures down. Actually, an important process happens within bodies of these insects during their migration to mountains' peaks. During this period, they eat voraciously and store the extra amounts in the form of fats.

At the same time, they abstain from drinking water. Hence, the ratio of water diminishes in their bodies and the free water existing in their bodies takes another form, i.e. bounded water. This kind of water dissolves some alimentary ingredients and turns them into a high-condensed shape of water. This process is of paramount importance for these insects which, thereby, gain the ability to endure the low degrees of temperature. Consequently, water in their bodies does not freeze when (the degree of) temperature becomes below zero.

If the temperature diminishes severely to an unprecedented degree that cannot be endured, Allah's mercy with these creatures provides them with another important characteristic, which enables them to get a wondrous thermal energy through the water reserved in their bodies, and it's normally within the inherent temperature of water. If the air temperature lowers to thirty degrees centigrade below zero, the insects will release water's energy and thus the temperature of their bodies will rise to zero.

Fasting of Silkworms

The world of insects introduces us patterns of fasting that indicate Allah's Omnipotence and Wonder in His creation. Although it is well known that food is among the factors of growth for living organisms, silkworms prove that fasting and abstaining absolutely from food and drink do not impair the body. Rather, it reforms these creatures in a captivating and wondrous way. In order to grasp the secrets of this fasting, firstly we should delve into some facts about the lifecycle of this creature; this can be shown as follows:

In the beginning of spring, the eggs incubate small gluttonous larvae. The newly hatched larvae do not take long before they feed on mulberry leaves for five days. Their bodies, thereby, grow up too quickly to the extent that their skin cannot bear this rapid development and thus be replaced by another spacious one. Thus, they are obliged to observe fasting for one or two days until their bodies are physiologically adapted to cast away the old skin. This process recurs five times during the earliest stage before the completion of this metamorphosis in a period amounting to thirty days. Eventually, they will have completed the stage of development and reached a remarkable bulk.

When the larva reaches this bulk, it inevitably enters into another kind of fasting that extends for about six days. Thus, it takes shelter in a quiet location to spin a covering for their pupae stage. Truly speaking, it's very captivating to know that the larva spins only one thread of fine, strong, lustrous fiber whose length ranges from 400 to 1200 meters. This covering is called cocoons, which are the source of commercial silk that souls yearn to wear garments made of it but for Allah, Most High, has prohibited it (silky clothes) to men and made it lawful for women. At this very moment, we can say that the worm has entered into the no-feeding stage (between the larva and adult in the metamorphosis of holometabolous insects), during which the larva typically undergoes complete transformation within a protective cocoon. The pupae stage needs complete quietness for it is not actually one of the stages of development or hibernation however it seems as such. Rather, it resembles an important stage in the life of this wondrous insect, which is subject to various kinds of sequent and rapid transformations. This stage prepares these insects to transform and reshape into another following stage.

Eventually, the dormant fasting worm turns into a rebellious giant that destroys fetters to get out into the spacious world. It secretes a caustic liquid that dissolves a part of this cocoon to raise the covering, producing a beautiful organism called the silkworm moth, which lays its eggs after fertilization. It spends the remaining five days of its life in a state of fasting after it lays its fertilized eggs, which will be hatched in the coming spring to restart the cycle once again. Glory be to Allah, the Originator, the Restorer!

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