Attach to strength rather than frailty [29:41]

blog Apr 16, 2023

Here is today's reflection from the Quran:

In Sura Ankabut [The Spider] verse 41, Allah says: The parable of those who take guardians besides Allah is as the parable of the spider that makes for itself a house; and most surely the frailest of the houses is the spider's house did they but know. [Holy Quran 29:41]

In this verse, Allah warns us of taking guardians other than Allah. He uses the parable of a spider's web to explain how fragile these security systems are.

There are several rather interesting features about the web built by the spider:

It affords no protection: Although the construction of the web is a remarkable feat of architecture, and looks beautiful, it does not fulfil a basic need of a house which is protection. The spider's web doesn't protect it from elements at all. Wind, fire, water all penetrate through it.

The mere brush from a broom or a hand can destroy it. How frail is this house!

It is build from within: Whist other animals use materials from nature to construct their houses, the spider spins the web from a substance within itself.

It is a trap: Although the web provides no protection to the spider, it serves as a trap for other insects. Despite its frailty, flies and other insects are caught in the house. Its main function is to provide for the animal its biological continuance by capturing other insects for food.

There is no security for family: Some of the female species of spiders actually eat the male once they have mated. In other words, the web provides no security for family attachments.

The spider keeps spinning: When the web gets destroyed, as it easily does, the spider leaves the torn web behind and spins another one with little trouble.

And what lessons can we learn from these features of the spider's web?

What are some of our structures of security or 'webs' that we spin?

Are they:

  1. Money or bank balances
  2. Family and friendship connections
  3. Degrees and education
  4. Health and bodily strength (beauty)
  5. Belief systems (these can be 'negative' in the sense that if I tell myself I cannot do anything about a situation, then I may be escaping responsibility)

We need to reflect on whether these webs are, in fact, as temporal and fragile as the 'bayt ul ankabut' - the house of the spider. We can explore how despite looking pretty and complicated, these so called securities do not actually provide us with any security at all.

The verse in the Quran is inviting us to reflect how attachments of human beings, our security systems, our habits, the "spinnings of our mental process, are all as fragile as the house of the spider and they will be blown away one day.

We need to recognize that the ultimate refuge, in fact the only refuge, is with Allah. We can find refuge in Allah, with Allah, if we pursue the knowledge of Reality: the realization that everything other than Allah and timeless principles is relative and unsatisfactory. When the rain comes, or the wind blows, or the going gets tough, the webs that we have built become heavy, break apart or are swept away.

Sometimes, we are jolted to this reality after our webs have already been broken, when what we consider secure turns out not to be so. When we have been leaning on something that is no more.

And when these security systems fail us, we recognize that the ultimate refuge, in fact the only refuge, is with Allah.

Of course, we do not need to wait unless our webs are swept away to wake up to this reality. We can take heed from the Quran and attach ourselves to the strength of timeless principles and to Divinity rather than to the frailty of worldly webs of our own spinning.


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