Sunday, April 6, 2014

On spider webs

By S N Smith --- April 7, 2014

In Surah al-Ankaboot, the 29th chapter of the Quran verse 41, Allah says, مَثَلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ كَمَثَلِ الْعَنكَبُوتِ اتَّخَذَتْ بَيْتًا ۖ وَإِنَّ أَوْهَنَ الْبُيُوتِ لَبَيْتُ الْعَنكَبُوتِ --- "The parable of those who take protectors other than Allah is that of the spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider's house;- if they but knew."

A parable is short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. It is also a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like. In the above verse, Allah uses the example of a spider to teach us something about those people who take protectors other than Allah. The spider weaves a web in order to protect itself, but, as Allah says, "truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider's house." What Allah is saying here is that those who take for protectors other than Allah are only deluding themselves if they think they are safe. In fact, that which they have constructed is very flimsy and can thus easily be destroyed. 

But consider something else about the spider's web. Where do these webs come from? Spiders make silk using silk glands in their abdomens out of which webs are constructed. In other words, the web originates within the spider. Even so, humans can spin a web of meaning or internal discourse within themselves which convinces them that they are not in need of Allah and that their belief system or philosophy is sufficient for them. I am not, of course, arguing that we should not think, reflect and event philosophize, but what I am saying is that when we spin a web of meaning within ourselves which convinces us that we no longer need to rely on Allah, we are practicing self deception. There is an illusion of strength when that which has been internally constructed is, in fact, just like the spider's web, very flimsy. 

If you have come to the belief that you no longer need Allah's help and protection and that you have adopted another belief system independent of Allah, you may think you are on solid ground, but your belief is as flimsy as a spider's web which can easily be destroyed. 

While writing this, I am also reminded of the story of Kanan, who was the son of Noah. In Surah Hud, the 11th chapter of the Quran verses 42-43, Allah said that Noah told his son, “O my son! embark with us, and be not with the unbelievers!” Kanan told his father “I will resort to a mountain that will protect me from the water.” Noah told his son “Today there shall be no one to protect you from the torture of Allah, except for whomever Allah willed mercy.”  And Allah says, "And the waves came between them, and the son was among those overwhelmed in the Flood."

Kanan embraced the belief that the mountain, due to its great height and immensity, would protect him from the punishment of Allah and that he would be saved from the flooding. He used his rational faculties which led to him to believe that he could seek protection on his own, and that belief utterly destroyed him.

We can take a lesson from the spider's web and the story of Kanan that no matter how clever we think we are, we are always in need of Allah's protection.

S N Smith writes from Ottawa ON.