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Migration of the Birds

Allah, Most High, says:
“Do they not see the birds held (flying) in the midst of the sky? None holds them but Allah (none gave them the ability to fly but Allah). Verily, in this are clear Aayat for people who believe (in the Oneness of Allah).” (Soorah Al-Nahl, 16:79)
“Do they not see the birds above them, spreading out their wings and folding them in? None upholds them except the Most Gracious (Allah). Verily, He is the AllSeer of everything.” (Soorah Al-Mulk, 67:19)
How are we to understand these Verses? Do they not encourage us to ponder the heavens and the Earth? Do they not encourage us to ponder the phenomenon of birds in the sky? Are there not in this signs which Allah, the Exalted, has chosen to be an indication of His greatness?
Since man first came to know birds, he has seen them disappear in the autumn and reappear in the spring. Scientists say that there are tens of thousands of millions of birds that migrate every year, especially from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern, and especially to South America and South Africa from North America, Europe and Asia. Scientific encyclopedias discuss how these facts were discovered.
During the course of a past study, there were more than four million birds on whose legs metal rings were placed to identify them and show their movements; another group of three million, and a group of thirteen million on whose legs rings were placed when they were small and still in their nests, so that their movements from North to South could be followed by research stations scattered from North to South across the globe.
It was discovered that there is a bird that during its migration crosses a distance of 10,000 kilometers, and others that travel 16,000 kilometers, but the longest journey taken by a flock of birds covered 22,000 kilometers from the Arctic to South Africa. The speed of these birds varied from 40 to 100 kilometers per hour, and sometimes it reached 360 kilometers per hour in the case of falcons when diving. There are recorded instances of some birds flying more than 2,700 kilometers in twenty hours without stopping at all, and they may soar to heights of more than 900 meters, which is nearly a kilometer. Some of them soar to heights of 1,500 meters, and some to heights of 4,200 meters, and some to heights of 6,000 meters, i.e., six kilometers. Modern planes fly at a height of twelve kilometers.
Scientists estimate that there must be some kind of an internal clock in birds, because birds migrate at the same time every year. What is it that tells the bird that the time has come? Scientists also marvel that birds have an extraordinary ability to cover the distances that they do. There is no creature on the face of the Earth that is more capable than birds of covering huge distances, for some reason that Allah, the Almighty, has decreed. When it comes to every physical attribute that man possesses, there is an animal that surpasses him in it, but Allah has honored man with reason, and with knowledge and faith, and with these attributes man surpasses all other animals.
It is remarkable that the birds which prepare to cover these long distances of more than 20,000 kilometers store up fat in their bodies before they set out. Hence, the weight of each bird increases because of the fat stored in its body, to be used as fuel for the long, difficult journey. Earlier, some scientists thought that birds navigate by geographical features, such as rivers, seas, coastlines and mountains, but this theory has been proven false, because birds fly throughout the night and on cloudy days when they cannot see anything, but they do not lose their way despite that.
Some scientists postulated that perhaps birds have a keen sense of smell which helps them navigate, but science has proved the opposite.
Others guessed that they navigate by assessing the position of the sun. But experiments were conducted in which birds were shielded from the rays of the sun, but they still flew in the right direction.
Yet others said that they navigate by the canopy of the sky, so they isolated birds from the open sky, but they still flew in the usual direction.
Yet others alleged that birds record the twists and turns of the journey in their mind as they travel. In order to test this, they put birds on a rotating disk to make them lose the way, but they did not succeed.
Some modern scientists have discovered that in the bird’s head there is a tissue no bigger than half a square millimeter that is affected by the Earth’s magnetism. When they installed some coils to reverse the electrical current, the bird turned back and reversed its direction of flight. What is this tissue, located between the bird’s eye and brain, which detects the Earth’s magnetic field?
Scientists have also suggested another theory, and that is the bird navigates by the stars. There are only two theories left in this field, one of which is that birds navigate by the stars in the sky, but how? We do not know. Which stars are they? We do not know. The second theory is that in the bird there is a tissue that is affected by the Earth’s magnetic field, so that it is able to cover this huge distance without losing its way, because if it deviates by just one degree it will end up far away from its goal (one thousand kilometers). It is still a mystery, and this is the meaning of the Words of Allah, the Exalted:
“Do they not see the birds above them, spreading out their wings and folding them in? None upholds them except the Most Gracious (Allah). Verily, He is the AllSeer of everything.” (Soorah Al-Mulk, 67:19)
It is worth pointing out that tracking rings were placed on the legs of small, newly-hatched birds and they set out on their journey in the right direction, without any teaching by older birds. Who is it that has instilled in these small birds this amazing ability to find their way to their destination? Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Fir‘awn said: ‘Who then, O Moosa, is the Lord of you two?’ Moosa said: ‘Our Lord is He Who gave to each thing its form and nature, then guided it aright’.” (Soorah Ta-Ha, 20:49-50)
It is remarkable that the birds’ routes are not straightforward. How is it that at a certain distance an ordinary plane will change its direction by a certain angle, and there is a pilot and a co-pilot, and there are radar and maps and signals from the ground and ongoing communication with the ground so that this plane will remain on course; but the routes traveled by birds are not straightforward, with routes that have twists and turns, as if there is someone who drew up these routes and inspired the birds to follow them.
Some scientists say: If the bird deviates from its goal by one degree, at the end of its journey it will reach a destination that is far from its goal, no less than a distance of a thousand kilometers. Who determines this goal? Scientists are still puzzled about this power that directs the birds during their flight.
A bird was placed in an airplane and taken five thousand kilometers away from its home, toward the East, West or North. It traveled in a cage, unable to see outside, but it returned to its home ten days later!
Hence, Allah, the Exalted, says:
“Do they not see the birds held (flying) in the midst of the sky? None holds them but Allah (none gave them the ability to fly but Allah). Verily, in this are clear Aayat for people who believe (in the Oneness of Allah).” (Soorah Al-Nahl, 16:79)
This, in addition to many other cosmic signs, should strengthen our faith.
Allah says:
“These are the Aayat (proofs, evidences, Verses, lessons and revelations, etc.) of Allah, which We recite to you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) with truth. Then in which speech after Allah and His Aayat will they believe?” (Soorah Al-Jathiyah, 45:6)
Al-‘Ijaz Al-‘Ilmi by Dr. An-Nabulsi

[from “Scientific Miracles in the Oceans & Animals” by “Yusuf Al-Hajj Ahmad”, published by Darussalam, 2010]

#Darussalam #Migration

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