Only a couple of centuries ago man came to know that honey comes from the belly of the bee. This fact was mentioned in the Qur’aan 1,400 years ago in the following verse:Response:
“There issues From within their bodies A drink of varying colours,
Wherein is healing for men.” [Al-Qur’aan 16:69]
We are now aware that honey has a healing property and also a mild
antiseptic property. The Russians used honey to cover their wounds in World War II.
The wound would retain moisture and would leave very little scar tissue.
Thus the knowledge contained in the Qur’aan regarding honey, its origin and properties, was far ahead of the time it was revealed.
What we see here are two main claims:
- The Qur’an was revolutionary in claiming that honey comes from the belly of bees;
- The Qur’an was revolutionary in suggesting a medicinal use for honey.
Thus, the Qur’an was inspired by Allah as these scientific miracles, 1400 years before their time, are testament to.
This claim would be impressive, yet still logically unsound, if it was true. But as with Islamic attempts at proselytisation – it is mere conjecture. A deception employed by Muslims in order to gain converts and raise the prominence of their religion and the Qur'an.
Firstly, I will cover point number one regarding the claim that “only a couple of centuries ago man came to know that honey comes from the belly of the bee.” Secondly, I will cover point two regarding the documented historical use of honey as a medicine prior to the advent of Islam and conception of the Qu’ran. Thirdly, I will challenge the claim that this is proof of the divine origins of the Qur’an.
I. Honey from the Belly of the BeeThe claim, as above, is that the Qur’an prior to the scientific endeavor of any man stated that honey comes from the ‘belly of the bee’. The Qur’anic verse of Surah An-Nahl (16) goes:
And suck from all fruits and flit about the unrestricted paths of their Lord. A drink of various hues comes out of their bellies which contains medicine for men. In this is a sign for those who reflect.
Surah 16:69 (Ahmed Ali)
Here we can see that the claim is found in the Qur’an. However, what are the sources of this claim. By no means was the Qur’an the first to make (or repeat) this claim. Without going into any exegesis for the original source of transmission or the introduction of this idea to the Arab peninsula I will simply quote a prominent work predating the Qur’an by almost a millenium:
“but honey is a liquid that cometh from the stomach and belly of the bee”
The Works of Aristotle by Aristotle (384-322BC)
Aristotle made mention of this fact in passing as it was a well known theory at the time that honey came from the stomach or ‘belly’ of the bee. Hence, the uniqueness of this claim being one in the Qur’an has no factual basis as it is simply in harmony with Greek science from almost a millennium earlier.
II. Medicinal Properties of Honey
The claim that the Qur’an, in harmony with science, attributes healing properties to honey is not usually in doubt:
And suck from all fruits and flit about the unrestricted paths of their Lord. A drink of various hues comes out of their bellies which contains medicine for men. In this is a sign for those who reflect
Surah 16:69 (Ahmed Ali)
Note, the general rendering of “feehi shifaon lilnnasi” in English is “having/containing healing properties for men/mankind.”
However, in the historical and geographical context of Muhammad and the Qur’an there is nothing special, unique or revolutionary about this claim. We could turn back to Aristotle of the 4th Century BC Greece and his works outlining multiple medical uses of honey and its effect on the healing process. However, we can also go further back into the past.
For 4000 years writes have described medicinal, pharmaceutical and health-giving properties attributed to honey. Traditional medicine used honey for treating many disorders… (Komolfare, 1995 cited in ‘The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting', Eva Crane)
Records of people covering wounds with honey stretch back to ancient Egypt and as Dioscorides reported in 50 AD, honey is “good for all rotten and hollow ulcers”. (‘Wound-healing Properties of Honey – more than 4,500 years of results’)
Famous ancient physicians who used honey include Aristotle (384-322 BC), who mentions pale honey "good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds", and Dioscorides (c.50 AD) who mentions it for ulcers. (‘The History of Honey as Medicine’)
As is evident, within the ancient world the use of honey for medicinal purposes was by no means a new science. For thousands of years prior to Muhammad making mention of this in the Qur’an, we have documented evidence of the medical use of honey in healing. Thus, the claim of the Qur’an revolutionizing the field of medicine in advance of scientific discovery is truly false.
III. Evidence for Divine Origin
As is evident, there was nothing unique of the claim that honey comes from the ‘belly’ of the bee or that honey can be used for heeling properties. Both of these facts were well known facts. However, if the Muslim insists in favour of their assertion, they must also accept Aristotle's work, among others, as being from Allah.
The Healing Hand: Man and Wound in the Ancient World by Guide Marjno, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1975
‘The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting’ by Eva Crane, 1999
The Works of Aristotle by Aristotle, Project Guttenberg