Did the Prophet Solomon Literally Hear an Ant Speak?

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Does “qaalat” in Quran 27:18 with regards to ants imply that the communication of ants took place through the uttering of “words”?

Answer: In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful,

As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this reaches you in the best of deen and health.  Thank you for this interesting question. It shows that you are pondering and reflecting on the meanings of the Quran.

Allah Most High tells us:

“Until when they [Solomon’s army] came across a valley of ants, one ant said, ‘O ants!  Enter into your dwellings, so Solomon and his soldiers do not trample you without realizing!’ And so he [Solomon, peace be upon him] smiled at its words…” [Qur’an 27:18]

Many scholars of Quranic commentary held that the ant actually spoke. Some indicated that its “speech” was in its own form of audible communication. Allah gave the prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) the ability to hear and understand this. [Tafsir al-Razi, Hashiya al-Jamal, Tafsir Ibn al-Jawzi]

The Arabic word “qawl” is used in different ways in different contexts. The most apparent usage indicating a combination of letters spoken as either a single word or a sentence.

It can also refer to speech in one’s heart, a belief, an indication towards something, a genuine concern, or meanings imparted through divine inspiration.  [Raghib, Mufradat al-Quran]

The Ant Speaks

Here, it is clear that the ant “spoke” audibly, because its speech was heard.  This entails that speech is not only using human language, as the Quran clearly refers to other species, such as birds, having their own language [Quran 27:16].  Rather, as Ibn al-Jawzi said, “Once the sound [that the ant made] was understood [by Solomon, peace be upon him], it was referred to as speech.” [Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Musir]

Science has also made recent discoveries that ants do “talk” to each other by making sounds to communicate. Something which was previously unknown. Thus, the Quran’s miraculous wisdom and veracity is continuously unfolding itself, if only we are patient and have firm belief.


Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani