Spider Web Miracle in the Quran

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The Quran says that when a mushrik takes other gods besides Allah as protectors, he is like a spider that takes his web as a house (- both the gods and the web are fragile). Some Islamic apologists say that this is a scientific miracle.

The claim

Adult male spiders do not build webs.

Females are the ones who usually build webs
It is generally accepted in the arachnological literature that adult female spiders build typical webs, while adult males do no web-building other than that required for courtship and sperm induction.
Speeli, Do only female spiders build webs, 2019

Adult male spiders do not build webs, instead they reserve their silk for mating. It is the female spiders that build the webs. This was known recently, however this was portrayed in the Quran 1400 years before it was discovered.

[Quran 29.41] The likeness of those who take to themselves protectors other than Allah is that of the spider. It builds a house. But the most fragile of houses is the spider's house. If they only knew.

"It-takhatha اتَّخَذَ" is for males. "It-takhathat اتَّخَذَتْ" is for females. The Quran used "It-takhathat" for females. Here the female spider builds the web.

How could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have known that it is the females that build webs?

Spiders build their webs to catch prey. But everytime they catch prey the web gets damaged or destroyed and the spider needs to rebuild it again.

Wind and rain damage their structure, while the gluey coating on the spiral thread that ensnares flying insects is rendered ineffective by pollen and dust. As a result the webs are often rebuilt every night - an operation requiring the manufacture of some 20 metres of silk.
Discover Wildlife, 14 incredible spider facts, 2019

It's the only creature whose house gets destroyed everytime it catches food. The web can even be damaged by wind alone. "But the most fragile of houses is the spider's house."

How could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have known who has the weakest house?


Male spiders build webs

Apologists use an article from the website speeli.com, which says:

1. Both male and female spiders can produce silk and create webs.

2. Females are the ones who usually build webs It is generally accepted in the arachnological literature that adult female spiders build typical webs, while adult males do no web-building other than that required for courtship and sperm induction.

...

6. Males build webs for mating Male spiders build webs primarily for mating purposes. Male spiders build webs and pour their semen on it when they want to mate with a female.


So male spiders do build webs, but for different purposes.

Mistranslation

The verse doesn't even talk about building webs:

The example of those who take (اتخذوا, ittakhadhoo) allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes (اتخذت, ittakhadhat) a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew.


Quran 29:41, translation Sahih International

Apologists translate the word اتخذت as "built", but the same word is used for the mushriks. The mushriks are not building the gods, they are taking them as protectors. Just like the spider is taking the web as a house (more on that later), as a protection.

And there are translations which also use the word "built" [1], but that's an interpretation, it's not in the original Arabic text.

"اتخذت is for females"

Apologists claim that the word اتخذت is for females, which is inaccurate. The fact is that the verb is grammatically feminine. That means that the subject "spider" (عنكبوت) is also grammatically feminine. But the word "table" (الطاولة) is also grammatically feminine and it doesn't mean it physically has female gender.

The grammatically feminine form اتخذت could be interpreted in more ways. One is that determining the gender of spiders was below the radar of 7th century Arabs and they just called every spider with the feminine word عنكبوت (ankaboot) - analogically to English which doesn't use "spideress", but calls it just "spider", even if it was female. Or the word is actually masculine (just like words of similar form like لاهوت and تابوت), but the Quran made a grammatical error in the verb by making it feminine. There's a debate about the grammatical gender. Lane's lexicon says:

عَنْكَبُوتٌ; (Ṣ, O, Ḳ;) generally fem., (Ṣ, O,) but sometimes masc.;


Lane's lexicon on عنكبوت

So this issue is not clear and there are many possible interpretations.

Scientific error

Spiders build webs to catch prey, they don't use the web as "a house for protection" as the Quran claims.

See also

References

  1. "The parable of those who take protectors other than Allah is that of the spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider's house;- if they but knew." - Quran 29:41, translated by Yusuf Ali