One of the more popular sorority interview questions I've heard (after why are you a member, what do you like most about the sisters, etc., and other boring ones) is the following:
If you were an animal, or if you could be an animal... any animal, what would you be?
Oddly enough, it's not a question I've had to think about. I'd be a bird. Why? Birds fly, so naturally, I'd be a bird, as fascinated as I am by flight in general. Taking to the air is a passionate fancy of mine, a special experience I treasure. But I'm not writing this to say I like flying.
The first time I found my affinity for birds developing from my Islam was upon reading this ayah of the Qur'an:
Do they not see the birds held (flying) in the midst of the sky? None holds them but Allah. Verily, in this are clear proofs and signs for people who believe.
It struck me then and... still... the power of this ayah. As someone who had spent some time toiling over exactly how a wing or a body can create lift to stay in the air, I found this a powerful, a moving and beautiful description of flight--being held by Allah.
On whyIslam I had as my signature for a while, the quote, "Oh God, the sky is so big, and my airplane is so small," as well as a transliteration that I can't remember, nor know accurately in Arabic to reproduce here, but meaning "I put my trust in Allah." Being in the air truly impressed on me the necessity of trusting Allah--I was not Muslim then, but I can tell you the feeling of having nothing but an aluminum can and a few thousand feet between you and the ground stirs awe and wonder at more than just the created beauty of the scene. Indeed it reminds us of the glory of the Creator. Subhaanallaah.
Today I came across a particular hadith (incidentally while looking for another one) and it got me thinking about the use of birds as a metaphor in Islam. So let me share this one, and my train of thought.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet saws said: "A group of people (both men and women) whose hearts will be like the hearts of birds, will enter Jannah." (Reported by Muslim.)
What on earth could that mean, the hearts of birds? Well after the hadith (I'm reading this in Riyadh us-Saliheen by the way, it's chapter 7, hadith 77) reads "It has been interpreted that such people are those who put their trust in Allah; another interpretation is that these people are tenderhearted." The commentary includes two notes, specifically.
The first note of commentary says that these are valuable qualities, having trust in Allah and kindness of heart. When I read this, the thought which immediately springs to mind is--this is who I want to be. I have mentioned trust above, but let me say again that trust in Allah is, for me at least, the most rewarding aspect of my faith. Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while has seen on numerous occasions I have nothing to do but to turn to Allah and always things turn better than I expected. Things always work out, and I am not left wanting. So I pray that my trust of Allah increases and that I don't hesitate even an instant before laying my affairs before Him. As for being kind-hearted--I couldn't say such a thing about myself, not without a fear of being proud. Yet I pray too that Allah makes my heart one of kindness. I have been very stubborn at times in my life, but determined. Kindness fell by the wayside I think, but I pray it is something I can acquire, tenderness in my heart for others.
The second note of commentary is more familiar to me--I've heard this line of thought many times in fact. There is a well-known hadith which describes how birds find their provision with Allah. They leave their nests and return with sustenance--Allah has provided for them. Yet they did have to leave the nest to find it. And they do not horde it, but they take only what they need. There's a lesson in that--one, that we might have to leave our comfort zone to find sustenance... yet we can trust in Allah that He will provide for us, and He is the Provider.
So there are lessons in the birds... lessons for me as one who loves to fly, but these are not lessons of flight but lessons in imaan. So I pray for Allah to increase me in imaan, and make my heart like the hearts of the birds.