The case of those who take helpers beside Allah is like unto the case of the spider, who makes for herself a house; and surely the frailest of all houses is the house of the spider, if they but knew! [29:42]
This verse is from Surah Al-Ankabut, chapter 29 of the Holy Qur’an. The word ‘Ankabut’ is Arabic for ‘Spider,’ and a predominant theme of the Chapter is striving hard in life, despite the persecutions or personal troubles that may befall you. I find this particular verse especially beautiful – it compares lives of the disbelievers to the web of a spider. Spiders weave magnificent webs. They are of all different patterns and shapes, and the silk which they use to construct their webs are extraordinary. Spider silk is amongst the strongest fibre on earth, more durable and elastic than any natural or synthetic fibre. It is up to six times stronger than high-grade steel per weight, more elastic even than Kevlar, which is used to make bulletproof vests. It is so complex and strong that even humans have been unable to artificially replicate it.
As I read about spider’s silk I realised better the lesson that this Qur’anic verse was alluding to. Each of us, like a spider, creates and possesses our own webs of life of actions and people and stories. And as we create these webs we think them to be strong and firm. We take care of our webs, we take every precaution to ensure that every part of our web is sustained, that nothing can ruin or damage it. We work hard for exams, thinking that if we work then success is guaranteed – that the professional-life section of the web will remain intact. We make friends and spend time with family, taking care of one another, finding it hard to envisage the personal-life section of the web falling apart. We take care to see a doctor when we’re unwell and get treated when needed, maintaining the ‘health’ section of our web intact.
But this Qur’anic verse reminds us, and reminded me, that all this is not enough. Just as a spider takes great care to construct its web, we as human beings take care in constructing ours. Both spiders and humans construct our webs with firm material, the strongest of material- the spider uses the best silk, we try to use the best people to help us with things or the best resources to pass our exams or the best treatments to save us from disease. But the Power of God to destroy our webs, if He so pleases, is stronger than our Power to sustain them. Ultimately the Qur’anic verse tells us that even though the spider’s web is made from the strongest stuff, its house is the frailest of all houses. The lesson is that without praying and seeking the help of Allah, worldly strength or mighty provisions that one takes can be destroyed in an instant if He so wills, just as we can destroy the web of a spider. The verse reminded me, therefore, to always pray to Allah and seek His pleasure, never thinking that I, by myself or with the help of worldly things, can accomplish anything alone. Let our webs not be like those of spiders – superficially strong but in reality extremely frail. Let our webs be built and fortified by the help of God, by which even if one aspect of the web gets damaged, He reconstructs it with something better.
As the Qur’an tells us in another place, ‘Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the Lord of the Great Throne? They will say, ‘They are Allah’s.’ Say, ‘Will you not then take Him as your Protector? Say, ‘In whose hand is the dominion over all things and Who protects, but against Whom there is not protection, if you know?’ (23:89).
In our hands lie the fate of the spider’s strong web, and in God’s hand lies the fate of our own.
By Damir Rafi