Bees in the Qur’an

The honey bee exhibits a combination of individual traits and social co-operation which is unparalleled in the animal kingdom. A glimpse into the nest makes it apparent why honey bees have fascinated us from the earliest days of scientific observations. The infrastructure of the nest and the perfectly uniform and functional comb, is composed of beeswax. It is constructed into a repeating series of almost perfect hexagonal cells. The comb is the hub for all activity of the colony and is used for almost everything imaginable – from larval nursery to pantry to message centre.

Photograph by David Blaikie

At the individual level, honey bees have three types of colony members: queens, drones and workers. Each member has its own specialization and place in their honey bee society. The queen reigns over the nest, surrounded by attendants and is fed the rich food she requires to perform her few but crucial tasks for the colony. The queen produces powerful pheromones, chemical signals for the recipient workers which control much of their behaviour and provide part of the ‘social glue’ that holds honey bee life together. A highly organized social structure exists within the colony and elaborate ‘dances’ are used to communicate the location of food sources.

The products of the hive are important to the modern agricultural system. Not only do honey bees provide us with honey, wax, propolis, royal jelly and pollen but they also pollinate a good portion of our crops, including such diverse agricultural plants as fruit trees, oilseeds, small berries and forage crops.

Honey is a remarkable viscous liquid, prepared by the bees from the nectars of various plants. It has occupied a prominent place in traditional medicines throughout world history. The ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans used honey to heal wounds and diseases of the gut. When the Children of Israel were in Egypt or journeying through the desert, their promised goal was a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’.

Both the holy Quran and Hadith refer to honey as a healer of disease.

‘And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in (men’s) habitations….. there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for mankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.’
[Quran 16:68-69]

In addition, the Prophet (PBUH) said:

‘Honey is a remedy for every illness and the Quran is a remedy for all illness of the mind, therefore I recommend to you both remedies, the Quran and honey.’

The reader may be surprised to learn that the above quotation from the Quran is mentioned in a well known encyclopedia on honey (reference 3).

In recent years, scientific support is beginning to emerge confirming the beneficial effects of honey for certain medical and surgical conditions. These effects may be summarized as follows:

Antifungal & Antibacterial Properties:

These properties of honey are well established. Undiluted honey inhibits the growth of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, certain gut pathogens and fungi such as Candida albicans. At a concentration of 30-50%, honey has been shown to be superior to certain conventional antibiotics in treating urinary tract infections. The exact mechanism of the anti-microbial effect of honey remains obscure. Low pH, osmotic disruption of pathogens and the presence of bactericidal substances, collectively called inhibine may all play a part.

Anti-diarrheal Properties:

At a concentration of 40%, honey has a bactericidal effect on various gut bacteria known to cause diarrhea and dysentery such as Salmonella, Shigella, enteropathogenic E. coli and Vibrio cholera. In one study, honey given with oral rehydration fluid was shown to reduce the duration of bacterial diarrhea in infants and children.

Wound Healing & Anti-inflammatory Properties:

Honey is of value in treating burns, infected surgical wounds and decubitus ulcers. Honey is very viscous, enabling it to absorb water from surrounding inflamed tissue. For example, where conventional treatment had failed, a study in West Africa showed that skin grafting, surgical debridement and even amputation were avoided when local application of honey to a wound promoted healing.
In another study, wound healing was accelerated by application of honey in women who had undergone radical vulvectomy for vulval cancer. Furthermore, it has been suggested that honey may be useful in the treatment of chronic, foul smelling ulcers found in leprosy.

And your Lord inspired the bee: build homes in mountains and trees,
and in (the hives) they build for you.

Then eat from all the fruits, following the design of your Lord, precisely.
From their bellies comes a drink of different colors, wherein there is healing for the people.
This should be (sufficient) proof for people who reflect.

[Quran 16:68-69]

Anti-tussive & Expectorant Properties:

These anti-cough properties of honey are related to its capacity to dilute bronchial secretions and improve the function of the bronchial epithelium.

Nutritional Properties:

Uncontaminated honey is a healthy, easily digestible, natural and energy rich food. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, enzymes and vitamins. One tablespoon of honey provides 60 calories and contains 11g of carbohydrates, 1mg of calcium, 0.2mg of iron, 0.lmg of vitamin B and 1mg of vitamin C.

Honey is widely available in most communities but its medical potential remains grossly underutilized. Its mode of action remains incompletely understood and the healing properties of honey in other clinical and laboratory situations require further evaluation. The miraculous beneficial properties of honey, so beautifully expressed in the holy Quran and Sunnah 14 centuries ago exposes the reluctance of modern science to accept and exploit this ‘traditional remedy’.

Selected References:

  1. Ali A.T.M.M. (1989) The Pharmacological Characterization and the Scientific Basis of the Hidden Miracles of Honey; Saudi Medical Journal 10(3):177-179
  2. 2. Zumla A. and Lulat A. (1989) Honey- a remedy rediscovered; J Royal Soc Med 82:384-385
  3. 3. Crane E. (1975) Honey: a comprehensive survey;London, Heineman
  4. 4. Winston M.L. (1987) The Biology of the Honey Bee;London, Harvard University Press

Article taken from
Edited by Book of Signs Foundation

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