Overview - Surah 16: an-Nahl (The Bee )

Surah Introduction

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The Surah speaks about Allah's creative power. Everything in the universe points to Allah. There is coherence and balance in Allah's creation.


  1. The whole creation points to Allah.
  2. The truth is that there is only One God.
  3. The reward of the righteous and the disgrace of the wicked.
  4. Allah's message has come. Man is a creature of Allah, but he argues a lot.
  5. Mushrikin's argument and the answer
  6. Prophets were human beings. The mission of the last Prophet. Warnings to non-believers.
  7. Prohibition against shirk. Arabs used to call angels the daughters of Allah but they themselves did not like to have daughters.
  8. Allah gives time to people to repent and turn to him.
  9. Consider the bounties of Allah. Some more signs mentioned.
  10. The comparison between the faithful and the unfaithful.
  11. Warnings about the Last Hour. Allah's favors to humankind.
  12. Prophet Muhammad is a witness over all witnesses.
  13. Justice, benevolence, care of the kith and kin are Allah's commands. He forbids shameful deeds, evil and aggression.
  14. Qur'an is sent by Allah; even the Prophet cannot make any changes in it.
  15. Every soul will be paid in full what it has earned. Halal and Haram are the authority of Allah.
  16. The ideal faith of Prophet Ibrahim. The best way of giving da'wah.

The surah takes its name from Ayat no. 68, “And your Lord inspired to the bee, "Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct.” It is also refered to as the surah of blessings as it contains many of the blessings of Allah upon mankind.

There are 128 Ayat in this Surah.


Total Ayat128
Total Words *1844
Root Words *365
Unique Root Words *11
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 70th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 10th year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1, 2nd Migration to Abyssinia, Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda., Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
1st Pledge of Aqabah,2nd Pledge of Aqabah,,Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah,Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr,Battle of Uhud,,Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah,Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers,,Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain,Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk,Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation
Names of Prophets Mentioned
Surah Index
Abraham, Abrogation, Adversity (patience during) , Ageing, God (ability to do anything) , God (false daughters of) , God (will create things of which you have no knowledge) , Angels, Angels (sent to inspire) , Apostasy, Apostasy (under duress) , Arguments/Attacks (respond in kind) , Arguments/Attacks (respond in kind) (being patient is far better), Armour, Astronomy (celestial mechanics) (moon), Astronomy (celestial mechanics) (sun), Astronomy (celestial navigation) , Bees, Behaviour (argue in a kindly manner with those given earlier revelation) , Behaviour (each group given a law and way of life) , Behaviour (each group given a law and way of life) (and a prophet), Behaviour (each group given a law and way of life) (God could have made them one community), Birds, Cattle, Charity (towards slaves) , Children, Children (baby daughters wrongly thought an evil sign) , Children (ignorant at time of birth) , Clothing, Commandments (general religious) , Death, Death (those communities who have no revelation will not be destroyed) , Disbelievers, Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Donkeys, Earth, Earthquake, Food, Food (forbidden) , Gabriel, Health rules (food) , Hell, Honey, Horses, Housing, Humankind (creation of) (from a drop of sperm), Humankind (mates of your own kind) , Hydrology, Iblis, Intoxicants, Jews, Judgement (Day) , Knowledge (obligation upon man to obtain and impart) , Knowledge (study nature to acquire) , Kufr, Life (good things made lawful) , Materialism (envy forbidden) , Milk, Mineralogy, Mountains, Mules, Necessity (dire circumstances may repeal ordinances forbidding something) , Oaths, Prayer (prostration) , Prophet (only mortal human) , Prophet (prophecy in language of target population) , Qur’an, Qur’an (revealed in Arabic) , Religion (false ideas upon things allowed and forbidden) , Resurrection, Resurrection (Day) , Resurrection (of humans) , Resurrection (of soul) , Revelation, Sabbath, Sea, Sexes (equality of) , Ships, Slaves, Weather (rain) , Wools

Central Theme

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Theme 1: The countless blessings of God (the root word N-AYN-M (blessings) occur the most in this Surah compared to any other Surah - see section "Important key words")

All the topics of the Surah revolve around different aspects of the Message i.e. refutation of polytheism (Shirk), proof of Monotheism (Tawhid) and warning of the consequences of the rejection, opposition or antagonism to the Message. With a quiet, soft beat, it nonetheless tackles several main topics within its broad framework. It makes use of several sound effects and  emphatic connotations to heighten its impact. Like all surahs revealed in Makkah, it discusses the main topics of faith, such as God’s oneness, revelation and resurrection. But it also refers to a number of secondary topics, such as the essential unity between Abraham’s faith and the faith preached by Muhammad (peace be upon them both).

It outlines the true nature of God’s will, an mentions the human will with regard to accepting or denying the true faith, following divine guidance or going astray. It explains the mission of God’s messengers and His law that applies to those who deny them and their messages. It discusses the question of who may forbid things or leave them lawful, and the false concepts of pagan ideologies in this regard. It speaks of leaving one’s community to migrate for God’s sake, the persecution Muslims may suffer at the hands of unbelievers, the rejection of faith after having accepted it and what punishment any of these situations may incur. It then adds some discussion on human dealings, such as maintaining justice, ensuring kindly treatment, giving money for good purposes and the fulfilment of promises and pledges, as well as other practices that observe the principles of faith. Thus we see how the surah weaves together its interrelated subject matter.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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The Surah begins with the command to have Taqwah [God-consciousness] and the Surah ends mentioning the result of those who have Taqwah, and that is that Allah with them.

  • يُنَزِّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةَ بِالرُّوحِ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَىٰ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ أَنْ أَنذِرُوا أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاتَّقُونِ "He sends down the angels, with the inspiration of His command, upon whom He wills of His servants, [telling them], "Warn that there is no deity except Me; so fear Me." (16:2)
  • إِنَّ اللَّـهَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوا وَّالَّذِينَ هُم مُّحْسِنُونَ "Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are doers of good." (16:128) 

Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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The last Ayat of Surah al-Hijr is “And worship your Lord until there comes to you the certainty (death). “ and the beginning of an-Nahl is “The command of Allah is coming......” – explained as Day of Qiyamah is coming.

At the end of Surah an-Nahl is “Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are Muhsineen.” And this is demonstrated in the very beginning of the next surah which is about the Isra wal Mi’raj – where at the height of the troubles, pain and loss [of his beloved wife and uncle] the Prophet is taken on a miraculous journey to speak to God Himself.

The Virtues of the Surah

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Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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  • Words derived from N-AYN-M (blessings) occur 13 times in Surah an-Nahl, the highest frequency compared to any other Surah.
Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) = 11*

Unique Root Words to this Surah only

11 unique root words that do not appear in any other Surah *

Top 10 Most Frequent Root Words used in this Surah

Root Word Frequency
in Surah
in Qur'an
أ ل ه 89 2851
ٱلَّذِى 46 1464
ك و ن 35 1390
ع ل م 28 854
ر ب ب 20 980
ش ي أ 19 519
إِلَىٰ 18 742
ق و م 17 660
ق و ل 17 1722
ب ي ن 14 523

Period of Revelation

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The following internal evidence shows that this Surah was revealed during the last Makkan stage of Prophethood:

1.         V. 41 clearly shows that persecution had forced some Muslims to emigrate to Abyssinia before the revelation of this Surah.

2.         It is evident from v. 106 that at that time the persecution of the Muslims was at its height and a problem had arisen where Muslims under persecution were being forced to utter words of blasphemy.

3.         V. 112-114 clearly refer to the end of a seven year famine that had struck Makkah some years after the beginning of Prophethood.

Background Reasons for Revelation

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Relevant Hadith

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  • Surah Ibrahim, Hijr and an-Nahl – are revealed at a time of great trials upon the Prophet and the Muslims – which all then lead to the point of Isra wal-Mi’raj – where the Loved meets The Beloved….
  • If one attempted to count the blessings of God, one could never complete this task (16:18)
  • The innumerable blessings of Allah upon his creation in this world and the after-life, with the most important of them being the blessing of Revelation.
  • Proof of Tawhid and refutation of shirk [polytheism].
  • Allah mentions how Ibrahim was grateful for the blessings upon Him and the cosnequence of this was him being chosen and guided.
  • The mountains have been set on the earth to stabilize its balance.
  • Allah orders Adl and Ihsan - i.e. justice and to do that which is best.
  • Allah has sent the Rasools to warn against the unbeliever's excuse: "If Allah wanted we would have not worshipped anyone else."
  • Allah's promise to provide a good abode for those who migrate for His sake.
  • If Allah were to punish people for their wrong doings, He would not have left even an animal around them.
  • As water gives life to dead land so The Qur'an does to the human soul.
  • Allah has provided signs in the lives of the bees, birds and animals.
  • Allah commands to do justice, be good to others, and give to near relatives; and He forbids indecency, wickedness, and rebellion.
  • Seek Allah's protection against Shaitan before starting to recite The Qur'an.
  • Halal (lawful) and Haram (unlawful) are only from Allah.
  • Ibrahim was a nation in himself.
  • Call towards the Way of Allah with wisdom; advise and reason in a courteous manner.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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Surah an-Nahl is Surah no. 16 - Bees have a different number of chromosomes. Females, workers and queens have 32, 16 are contributed by the queen's eggs and 16 come from the drones sperm. Since drones hatch from unfertilized eggs, they only have the 16 chromosomes that were in the egg. Drones are haploid because they only have one set of chromosomes.

Bees are flying insects known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.

Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees feed on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae.

Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimetres (0.08 in) long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimetres (1.54 in). The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.