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GREEN MUSLIM SERIES: Lessons of Tawheed, Sabr, Tawakkul and Shukr from the Incredible Butterfly

Sep 07, 2021

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Kind
Lessons of Tawheed, Sabr, Tawakkul and Shukr from the Incredible Butterfly

Allah SWT has created everything with a beautiful purpose and meaning. Butterflies are alluring and inspirational creatures. Apart from the important role that butterflies play in pollinating food crops and flowers, these captivating creatures bring lessons for those who ponder on the creation of Allah SWT.

Artwork: The Metamorphosis of the Cairns Birdwing Butterfly in Watercolour, by Dr Rashieda Davids

Four remarkable lessons that we can learn from butterflies are belief in the oneness of Allah (tawheed),  patience (sabr), trust in the decree of Allah (tawakul) and gratitude (shukr). Learning and implementing these concepts as believers can strengthen our Imaan (faith), boost our self-confidence, and help us overcome tests and trials by the Will of Allah.

The Triumphant Transformation of the Terrific Butterfly

Allah SWT created beautiful butterflies to develop through a process called metamorphosis, which means transformation or change in shape. SubhanAllah! During metamorphosis, the transformation journey moves through four stages: from a tiny egg to a walking caterpillar, to a stationary chrysalis and finally, to a flying butterfly!

  1. La ilaha illallah لا إله إلا الله — The Dependant Egg 

The tiny egg is laid on plants by the female butterfly. The laying of the egg itself could never occur without the Will of Allah. Tiny and exposed, Allah SWT protects the egg and provides it with the energy it needs to grow.

La ilaha illallah — There is no God but Allah. Through this kalimah, we believe and understand that no creature comes into being, no growth can occur, no act can take place, good or bad, without the Will of Allah! When we say Laa (No), we negate anything other than Allah — nothing and no-one can do, provide, or help us with anything — ilaha illallah — except Allah SWT.

Allah SWT says in the Holy Quran: ‘Without doubt, Allah is the Sustainer, the Possessor of Absolute Power. Strong.” (Dhaariyaat, 51:58). Allah SWT reminds us that He provides people with their sustenance, that Allah does not need His creation, but we are most definitely in need of Him.

Allah is Al-Ghaniy — The Rich, The Independent. The egg does not control how it will grow, but it is fully dependent on Allah SWT. Our lesson from the butterfly egg is that even without any effort, Allah SWT takes complete care of us. Allah SWT will provide for our existence, as He is Al Khaliq, The Creator, and He is always in ultimate control.

  1. Sabr صبر — The Patient Caterpillar 

The caterpillar spends much of its energy and time eating and growing, up to 100 times larger. The caterpillar patiently carries on its duty to eat and grow. Without any need to move far away, its food is provided from the plant its egg was laid on. It grows and sheds its skin multiple times. All the while, the cells of the adult butterfly are kept dormant inside the caterpillar’s body. Allah SWT knows exactly when the right time will come to allow those special cells to develop into the adult butterfly body parts.

Sabr means to have patience. There are different ways we practice sabr. It doesn’t only mean that we must not be in a hurry; it has a deeper meaning to do with our character and our actions. Sabr also means being obedient to Allah SWT by worshipping Allah alone and striving for His pleasure, as he has ordered us to do. Having sabr also requires us to constrain ourselves to avoid prohibitions or haram deeds.

Allah SWT says in the Quran Kareem, “Oh you who have Imaan! Seek help by means of sabr (patience) and salaah (prayer). Verily, Allah is with those who exercise sabr” (Al Baqarah, 2: 153).

Hadith: Some Ansari persons asked for (something) from Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) (p.b.u.h), and he gave them. They again asked him for (something), and he again gave them. And then they asked him, and he gave them again till all that was with him was finished. And Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “If I had anything. I would not keep it away from you. (Remember) Whoever abstains from asking others, Allah will make him contented, and whoever tries to make himself self-sufficient, Allah will make him self-sufficient. And whoever remains patient, Allah will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari).

The lesson from the caterpillar is that it patiently and self-sufficiently continues to strive to do its duty — to eat and to grow. According to Allah’s decree, the reward for its striving is what will come into its final stage of development.

  1. Tawakkul توكل — The Trusting Chrysalis 

When the caterpillar stops eating and enters the transition stage, it transforms into a chrysalis. The chrysalis is suspended from a branch or leaf or hidden underground. During this stage, the special cells lying dormant inside the caterpillar miraculously start to grow into eyes, wings, legs, and other parts of the soon-to-emerge adult butterfly.

When the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis, it submits to the Will of Allah SWT and endures all the changes happening to its form. Its entire shape changes completely. It embraces the change with full trust that this is what it needs to do. It trusts the process and endures, leaving everything to Allah alone to take place as per Allah’s perfect plan. The lesson here is tawakkul.

Tawakkul is to have full faith and trust in Allah SWT and His decree. It means to depend on completely, and believe in, the undeniable and indisputable help of Allah SWT, with wholehearted conviction. To have total reliance on Allah alone and believe that Allah alone can provide all we need. To know, without doubt, that Allah SWT knows what is best for us and that whatever is happening to us is good for us, no matter what the circumstances may seem like. To have tawakkul means to rest in the comfort that Allah SWT has knowledge over all things and that He always does what is best for us.

Allah SWT says: “… Allah shall create an escape (from difficulties) for the one who fears Allah (one who has Taqwa).  And shall provide for him from sources which he never expected. Allah is sufficient for the one who trusts in Him (who is convinced that only Allah can assist him)…” (At Talāq 65:2-3)

Taqwa refers to the consciousness of Allah or piety that drives a person to carry out Allah’s commands and to stay away from prohibitions.

  1. Shukr شكر — The Grateful Beautiful Butterfly

When the time is right, the captivating adult butterfly gracefully emerges from the chrysalis, stretches out its bright new wings and soars into the sky, flying!  It patiently and trustfully endured all the changes in its phase as a caterpillar and chrysalis. By the  Mercy of Allah SWT, it transitioned from only being able to walk and eat leaves as a caterpillar to fly free with colourful wings and enjoy sweet nectar! The transformation was indeed worth all the changes it went through. The beautiful butterfly has so much to be grateful for!

The beautiful adult butterfly then does its duty to reproduce and lay eggs for the butterfly life cycle. Allah hu Akbar! Through laa illaaha illalaa, belief in One Allah, it lays its eggs and flies away, leaving everything under Allah’s protection to take place once more, perfectly, by the Will of Allah!

Allah SWT says: “…And if you are grateful (for all He gives you and worship only Him), then this is what He likes for you…” (Az Zumar, 39:7).

Alhamdulillah (all praise be to Allah)! When one is grateful, it increases our faith and belief and increases the favour upon us from our Rabb.

Allah says, “If you are grateful, I will surely add more (favours) unto you” (Qur’an 14:7)

May Allah SWT grant us to benefit from the lessons of the miraculous metamorphosis of the butterfly, increase our Imaan through La ilaha illallah, grant us sabr in times of hardship and ease, grant us full tawakkul in Him alone to take care of all our affairs and grant us to shukr or everything, so that He may increase His favours upon us, Ameen.

Allah knows Best

Author: Dr Rashieda Davids

References:

  1. Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias, 2015 (First Edition 2010). Quran Made Easy. Arabic Text with English Translation. ISBN: 81-7231-699-2
  2. Discover Wildlife. How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly? https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/insects-invertebrates/how-does-a-caterpillar-turn-into-a-butterfly/
  3. The Academy of Natural Sciences. Butterfly Life Cycle. https://ansp.org/exhibits/online-exhibits/butterflies/lifecycle/

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