Then, when they reached the Valley of the Ants, an ant said: “Ants! Enter your dwellings, so that Sulayman and his troops do not crush you unwittingly.” (Qur’an, 27:18)The “Valley of the Ants” refers to a special place and special ants. In addition, the fact that Prophet Sulayman (as) could hear the ants talking among themselves may contain striking references to future developments in computer technology. The present-day term “Silicon Valley” refers to the centre of the world of technology. It is most significant that a “valley of the ants” appears in the account of Prophet Sulayman’s (as) life. Allah may be drawing our attention to the advanced technology of the future.
Furthermore, ants and other insect species are widely used in advanced technology as models in robot projects and are intended to serve in a wide range of areas, from the defence industry to technology. The verse may also be referring to these developments.
Latest Developments in Miniature Technology: Army-Ant Robots
The best known project using ants as a model are the “Army-Ant Robot” projects being carried out independently in several countries. One study being carried out by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Virginia State University seeks to develop small, inexpensive, and simple physically identical robots that can be used as a robot army. Project officials explain these robots’ functionality in the following terms: “The way they behave as a group, in a coordinated manner, perform a series of physical actions, and take joint decisions.” These robot armies’ mechanical and electrical designs have been based on the behaviour of an ant community. They are called the “army-ant” robots because of their similarities to their insect counterparts.
The “army-ant” robot system was originally designed as a “material-carrying system.” According to this scenario, several small robots would be charged with jointly lifting and carrying objects. It was later decided that they could be used for other tasks. One report describes other tasks to which they might be assigned in the future:
Nuclear and hazardous waste cleanup with robotic “swarms,” mining (including material removal and search-and-rescue), mine sweeping (both land and water), surveillance and sentry, planetary surface exploration and excavation.197
In a report by Israel A. Wagner, an expert on ant robot technology, the ant robot projects were described in these terms:
Ant-robots are simple physical or virtual creatures designed to cooperate in order to achieve a common goal. They are assumed to have very limited resources of energy, sensing and computing, and to communicate via traces left in the workspace or on the ground, like many insects naturally do…
The distribution of work among multiple a(ge)nts can be made by either a central controller who sends orders to the agents, or by an a-priori agreement on a certain partitioning that, if obeyed by the agents, eventually leads to a completion of the given mission. A third way, used throughout the current work, is to design the behavior of individuals such that cooperation will naturally emerge in the course of their work, without making a-priori decisions on the structure of the cooperation. The specific application that we address is covering, which is also known as exploring or searching. This variety of names hints to the many applications this problem might have: from cleaning the floor of a house to mapping an unknown planet or demining a mine field.198
As can be seen in these examples, an ant’s social lifestyle forms the basis of many projects, and the various ant-based robot technologies are providing benefits for human beings. That is why it is so important that ants and their valley are referred to in the Qur’anic account of Prophet Sulayman’s (as) life. The term “ants” in the verse may refer to an army consisting of robots, future developments in robot technology, and how robots will play an important role in human life. For example, they may perform many arduous tasks and thus make people’s lives more comfortable. (Allah knows best.)
197. John S. Bay, “Design of the ‘Army Ant’ Cooperative Lifting Robot,” http://armyant.ee.vt.edu/paper/robo_mag.html.
198. Israel A. Wagner, “My Travels With my A(u)nts: Distributed Ant Robotics,” http://www.cs.technion.ac.il/~wagner/pub/thesis_abs_eng.html.
And We made a fount of molten copper flow out for him. (Qur’an, 34:12)
One of Allah’s great blessings to Prophet Sulayman (as) was “a fount of molten copper.” This can be understood in several senses. By the use of melted copper, it may be referring to the existence, at his time, of an advanced technology that employed electricity. We know that copper is one of the best metals for conducting electricity and heat, and thus constitutes the basis of the electrical industry, which uses much of the copper produced in the world. The expression “flow out” may indicate that electricity can be used in many fields. (Allah knows best.)
He who possessed knowledge of the Book said: “I will bring it [the Queen of Saba's throne] to you before your glance returns to you.” And when he [Sulayman] saw it standing firmly in his presence, he said: “This is part of my Lord’s favour, to test me to see if I will give thanks or show ingratitude.” (Qur’an, 27:40)
[He is] the Originator of the heavens and earth. When He decides on something,
He just says to it, “Be!” and it is.
“He who possessed knowledge of the Book” told Prophet Sulayman (as) that he could bring the Queen of Saba’s throne to him very quickly. This is a possible reference to the transmission of images with present-day advanced technology. Another verse on the subject reads:
A demon of the jinn said: “I will bring it to you before you get up from your seat. I am strong and trustworthy enough to do it.” (Qur’an, 27:39)
In our day, text, pictures, and films can be sent anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds, thanks to the Internet and advances in computer technology. For instance, carrying the Queen’s throne to Prophet Sulayman’s (as) court very quickly may well refer to the fact that it will be possible to send a three-dimensional picture or image in the blink of an eye over the Internet.
According to scientists, the teleportation of atoms and molecules, as well as larger bodies, may become possible in the near future. By this method, the item’s material characteristics are removed from one location and transferred in every detail and atomic sequence to another location, where they are reconstructed. If this technology becomes operational one day, time and space will no longer represent an obstacle to travel and objects will be able to be transported anywhere in a single moment without traversing any physical distance.184
In 1998, physicists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) working with two European groups transported a photon. The scientists formed a copy of the photon by reading its atomic structure and then transmitted that information a distance of 1 metre. In another recent teleportation experiment, Ping Koy Lam of the Australian National University (ANU) and other researchers transmitted a laser ray a short distance.185
Indeed, according to a CNN report on 17 July 2002, a group of physicists from the National Australian University in Canberra split a laser ray and “transmitted” it several metres. Ping Koy Lam, the team’s head, stated that they had not yet succeeded in transmitting matter in its atomic state, but that such a thing was not impossible and may become a reality in the future.
According to a study published in the science journal Nature, Eugene Polzik of Denmark’s University of Aarhus, and his colleagues performed successful experiments on a large number of atoms, using laser rays and quantum physics.186 In his analyses of teleportation’s potential, published in the journal Scientific American, Australian physicist Anton Zeilinger states that far more complex systems could be teleported without violating the laws of physics.187
As the Qur’an reveals in “We will show them Our Signs on the horizon and within themselves until it is clear to them that it is the truth” (Qur’an, 41:53), these scientific advances may represent a part of the technologies indicated in the Qur’an, all of which reveal its miraculous aspects.
184. Anil Ananthaswamy, “Teleporting larger objects becomes real possibility,” New Scientist, 6 February 2002.
185. Dr. David Whitehouse, BBC News Online, 17 June 2002.
186. Atom Experiment Brings Teleportation a Step Closer,” Reuters, 26 September 2001, http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/quantum_teleportation_010926.html.
187. James Schultz, “Teleporting, the Quantum Way,” Space News, 12 October 2000.
And horses, mules, and donkeys both to ride and for adornment. And He creates other things you do not know. (Qur’an, 16:8)
The above verse indicates that in addition to the animals mentioned here, people will have various unknown (to them) means of transport. The following verse points to the fact that there will be such mass modes of transport as ships:
A Sign for them is that We carried their families in the laden ship. And We have created for them the like of it, in which they sail. (Qur’an, 36:41-42)
Humanity’s exploration of space was accelerated with the Soviet satellite Sputnik on 4 October 1957, which carried aloft the first man to ever leave Earth’s atmosphere: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On 20 July 1969, the American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being ever to set foot on the Moon.In fact, the Qur’an revealed that such developments and achievements would one day be realised. For instance, Allah draws our attention to this in the following verse:
O company of jinn and human beings. If you are able to pierce through the confines of the heavens and Earth, pierce through them. You will not pierce through, except with a clear authority. (Qur’an, 55:33)
The Arabic word sultan, translated here as “a clear authority,” has other meanings as well: force, power, sovereignty, dominion, law, path, permission, give leave, justify, and proof.
Careful examination reveals that the above verse emphasizes that humanity will be able to move into the depths of Earth and sky, but only with a superior power. In all likelihood, this superior power is the superior technology employed in the twentieth century, for it enabled scientists to achieve this great feat.