God says: Have they not looked to the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them? Naught upholds them save the All-Merciful. He is Seer of all things. (Qur’an 67:19)
It is a blessing in these times that even though we find ourselves so cut off from the natural world, there are few of us who do not have the opportunity at least to witness the simple lives of some of God’s other creatures. Although we may go months and years without seeing such formerly ever-present companions to human life as horses, sheep, and cows, we have not yet contrived to deprive ourselves of close contact with the Kingdom of the Birds. Even from the highest of high-rise buildings, we can observe these fellow servants of God, and gain lessons for ourselves from their simple lives.
Birds are early risers. They begin their day with song, which apart from its value to them as a territorial marker (at least as far as we can surmise), has the welcome benefit to us of being endowed with great beauty. The sound of a solitary bird’s singing has a sweetness that is at once fragile, melancholy and yet joyful, and somehow mysterious, as though it were from another world. Indeed, in a sense it is, for the Paradise of the next world is a garden, and what garden would be complete without birdsong?
The Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said: ‘The souls of the martyrs are in green birds, clinging to the fruits of the Garden of Paradise.’
A chorus of birds singing together creates a sound full of the majesty that is only found in Sacred Music. Anyone who has spent time in a city populated by starlings will be familiar with the quiet murmurings that begin to stir in the trees in late afternoon, building to a magnificent crescendo just at the moment when the call of the sunset prayer is sounded.
God says: The seven heavens and the earth and everything that is within them extol Him, and there is not a thing but hymns His praise; yet ye comprehend not their praises. (Qur’an 17:44)
Birds begin and end their days with song, praising God, their Creator. In between these prayers, they go out and seek God’s favour in the earth, and feed themselves and their offspring. They take sustenance from wherever they find it, trusting in their Lord to provide for them.
The Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said: ‘If you trusted in God as He should be trusted, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds: they go out in the morning hungry, and return home in the evening full.’
Yet birds do not simply eat, drink, procreate, and sleep. They take time to seek repose and enjoyment in this world in ways that we cannot hope to fully understand. Magpies search for trinkets with which to line their nests, for no apparent reason other than it pleases them to look upon objects of beauty. Albatrosses spread their wings and allow oceans winds to carry them for hundreds of miles, for no apparent reason other than it pleases them to soar for hours on end, looking down upon God’s earth. At summer’s end, usually recluse loons gather on Appalachian lakes to swim together for a few hours, for no apparent reason other than that they want a little company before making their solitary journeys back to the North Atlantic.
Birds rise early and praise God, then go out and seek their God-granted provision. They feed themselves and their families on whatever they happen to find. They are content with their lot, and they seek comfort both in solitude and in the company of their own kind. When the day is over, they praise God in song, and settle down to sleep. Their routine is simple, but they stick to it. They live in balance and harmony with their environment, and take no more than they need. They waste nothing. They keep themselves clean, achieving this by means of dust if no water is available. They are gentle, and cautious. They trust in their Lord.
God says: There is not an animal walking upon the earth, nor a bird flying on its two wings, except that they are communities like unto you. We have left nothing out of the Book. Then, unto their Lord shall they be gathered. (Qur’an 6:38)