November 3, 2010

A description of the locust

The locust has six legs, with two arms set in its chest, two legs in its middle and two at its rear. Both of its hind legs end in a saw. It is one of those animals that follow a leader, for it is organized in military fashion: after the first of them takes flight or makes a landing, all the others do the same. Its saliva acts on plants as a slow poison. Every plant it lands on is destroyed.

On the authority of Abu Hurayra, al-Bukhari relates that the Prophet, God's blessings and peace be upon him, said: "The prophet Job, God's blessings and peace be upon him, was bathing nude when he was showered by a flock of locusts all of gold, and began gathering them into his robe. Then God, be He exalted, called to him: 'Have I not kept you free of need for what you see?' 'Yes, my Lord,' said Job, 'and yet I still have need of your blessings.'" On this hadith, al-Shafi'i commented: "It is right that honest wealth should go to honest worshipers."

Al-Tabarani and al-Bayhaqi relate on the authority of Shu'ba that Abu Zuhayr al-Namiri said: "Do not kill locusts, for they are God's most numerous jund."* I say: If authentic, this hadith only applies when crops and the like are not exposed to ruin. Otherwise it is lawful to attack them. A jund is a "troop" (pl. ajnād and junūd), as in the hadith: "Souls are junūd mujannada," i.e. troops collected together, [a redoubled phrase] which is like ulūf mu'allafa ["thousands upon thousands"] or qanātir muqantara ["heaped-up riches"].

To Ibn 'Umar (may God be pleased with him and his father) is attributed the hadith in which a locust landed in the hands of the Prophet, God's blessings and peace be upon him. On its wings was an inscription in Hebrew, reading: "We are God's largest troop, laying 99 eggs, and if we were to lay 100 we would devour the whole world and everything in it." The Prophet, God's blessings and peace be upon him, said: "Dear God! destroy the locust. Kill the old ones, bring death to the little ones, and cause their eggs to miscarry. Avert their mouths from the crops and livelihoods of Muslims, You who hear my prayer." At this, Gabriel appeared and said: "Your prayer has been answered, but only in part." This hadith is also related by al-Hakim in The History of Nishapur.**

Al-Tabarani also relates that Hasan the son of 'Ali (may God be pleased with them both) said: "I was eating at a table with Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya and my cousins 'Abd Allah, Qatham and al-Fadl (the sons of my uncle 'Abbas), when a locust landed on the table. 'Abd Allah seized it and said: 'What is written on this creature?' I said: 'I asked the father of the Commander of the Faithful about that, and he said, "When I asked the Prophet about it, God's blessings and peace be upon him, he said: 'This is what is written on it: "I am God, there is no God but I: Lord of the locust and its provider. I send them to people as a provision and as a plague as it is My will." ' " ' " The commentary of Ibn 'Abbas: "This is hidden science."***

Editor's notes (by Ahmad 'Abd al-Basit Hamid):
*In his Assembly of Unique Narrations, al-Haythami says: "This hadith's chain of transmission includes Muhammad ibn Isma'il ibn 'Ayyash, who is a weak narrator."

**As related by al-Bayhaqi in The Branches of Faith, this hadith's chain of transmission includes one Muhammad ibn 'Uthman al-Qaysi. "This man is unknown," says al-Bayhaqi, "and the hadith is denied, though God knows best."

***This hadith appears in The Branches of Faith and in The Scattered Pearls of al-Suyuti, but in the three collections of al-Tabarani it cannot be found.

From Attainment of what is wished for in the field of locust lore
by 'Ali ibn Muhammad al-Mallah (ca. 1603 AD)