The Miracle of Honey

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"The Miracle of Honey" is a document by The Islamic Bulletin that purports to show that the Qur'an contains scientific foreknowledge when it "predicted" that worker bees are female.[1]

The following is a side-by-side rebuttal.


"The Miracle of Honey", The Islamic BulletinRationalWiki response:

Allah says in the Qur[']an, [ "And thy Lord inspired the bee, saying: Choose thou habitations in the hills and in the trees and in that which they thatch; Then eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of thy Lord, made smooth (for thee). There cometh forth from their bellies a drink divers of hues, wherein is healing for mankind. Lo! herein is indeed a portent for people who reflect," (Qur'an 16:68-69). ]Aside from using a feminine form for its nouns and verbs in Arabic, this verse is pretty much unremarkable.
Some have noted that the verse apparently mistakenly states that bees eat fruit. While bees do eat fruit,[2][3] it is correct to say that the verse offers bad advice for bees -- instead of eating fruits, they should be gathering nectar.

The imperative "build" above is the translation of the Arabic word "attakhithi", which is the feminine form (Arabic grammar[,] unlike English, differentiates between the sexes). The feminine form is used when all of those it refers to are female, whereas the masculine is used when a group consists of at least 1 male. Therefore the Qur[']an is in fact saying "build, you female bees." A swarm of bees, which collect honey and build the hive, are female only. Thus, the phrasing of this command is in agreement with the scientific fact that male bees do not partake in the construction of the hive.First, this entire claim is based on the idea that Muhammad's use of a feminine noun and feminine verbs is intentional and for the purposes of letting us know that worker bees are female. However, the word for "bee" in Arabic is "النّحلة", or "nahla", and is inherently feminine.[4][5][6] (Unlike English, Arabic has gendered nouns.) The fact that Muhammad used a feminine word, when no other word was available, is extremely weak evidence that he wanted to tell us that worker bees are female. If Muhammad wanted to tell us that worker bees are female, why not just explicitly say, "Worker bees are female"? Second, Isaiah 7:18 uses the feminine word "וְלַדְּבוֹרָה", which comes from the feminine root "דבורה" ("dvorá"), for "bee".[7] This suggests that prior knowledge (detailed below) existed about the purported gender of worker bees. But if we reject any evidence of prior knowledge, then we must accept the grammatically-based Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge claim and simultaneously accept the grammatically-based Biblical scientific foreknowledge claim, even though the two are mutually exclusive. Lovely.

Microscopes were not invented until 1610, when Galileo invented one of the first microscopes almost a thousand years after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).Even before microscopes were invented, people speculated about bees. For example, in 350 BCE, Aristotle wrote: "Others, again, assert that these insects copulate, and that the drones are male and the [worker] bees female. .... [Worker b]ees are provided with a sting, but the drones are not so provided."[8] Aristotle mistakenly misidentifies the Queen bee as being a King bee; but aside from that, he was correct about their gender. It is not at all impossible that Muhammad, or one of his advisers, had read or had learned about Aristotle's views on the matter.


Summary of claim: The Qur'an accurately states the gender of worker bees through its use of feminine verbs and nouns., which would have been unknowable to contemporary science.
Does this statement meet all criteria necessary for Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge?

  1. Is it correct? Yes. Worker bees are female.
  2. Is it in the Qur'an? No. Unless Allah is communicating through grammar, the Qur'an does not mention that bees are female.
  3. Is it unambiguous? No. It's entirely possible that Muhammad was just using the available nouns, rather than providing stupendous insight.
  4. Was it outside of contemporary knowledge? No. Aristotle and other Greek philosophers speculated on the gender of bees.
  5. Was it outside of contemporary technology? Yes and no. Some level of magnification is essential for truly determining the gender of a bee. However, it was not impossible to inspect bee hives and make an educated guess, like Aristotle and the Greeks.

Thus, this statement is not an example of Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Other sources:
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