In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
There is no other god beside GOD

The Camel

camels with riders in sunset

Why do they not reflect on the camels and how they are created? (88:17)

I think it’s interesting that of all the animals mentioned in the Quran—dogs, horses, birds, locusts, etc—God picked the camel as the one we should reflect upon. It’s not the most beautiful animal in the world; it’s not the fastest or the strongest; it’s not the most loyal or the most wild. But it’s a little bit of all of those things, and that gives it its character and its worth. God combined all of these traits, and many more, to create an animal perfectly suited to fill its niche in the world, and when we reflect just on that, it can teach us a lot about submitting to God’s will, and accepting our own place in the world with more grace and tolerance.

The camel is absolutely perfect for what it needs to do and where it needs to survive. Without camels, travel in the deserts would be extremely difficult. For centuries, man was only able to cross the vast deserts of Arabia and Africa with the help of this sturdy beast. Even today, the camel is still used daily to make travel in these areas possible.

And He created the livestock for you, to…provide you with luxury during your leisure, and when you travel. And they carry your loads to lands that you could not reach without a great hardship. (16:5-7)

camel, dromedaryThere are two types of camels: the dromedary with a single hump and the Bactrian with two humps. The Bactrian lives primarily in Mongolia and Central Asia. It is shorter and stockier and more adapted to rocky terrain and cooler temperatures. Its endurance and strength are legendary. Up to 1000 pounds can be carried by the Bactrian camel and it can travel nearly 30 miles a day with that load.

The dromedary is found in the desert regions of Arabia and Africa. They are now a totally domesticated animal and they rely on their owners to provide their foods of choice: dates, good grass, and grains such as wheat and oats. But they are able to make do when food is scarce on whatever they can find: thorny bushes, dried leaves, old seeds, even nibbling on their owners’ tents!

All of the camel is practical for its survival and for its service to man. A camel’s feet, although hoofed, have large pads that spread out in the soft sand to keep the animal from sinking in. Its face is designed as protection from sun and sand. The thick eyebrows, heavy eyelids and thick lashes all keep out sand, and there’s even a third eyelid that can close in heavy storms. The slit nostrils have special muscles which can close them against blowing sand. The ears have thick hair inside as well as outside to prevent dirt and sand from getting down inside the ear, and possibly causing infection.

A camel’s hump is a lump of fat. This is used as a source of energy when food is scarce. The hump may actually shrink when no food is available, and the camel can live off it for many days. It will then reform perfectly when food is again available. Because food is so scarce, the camel has been designed to be able to eat anything. The lining of the mouth is very tough so that the camel can bite and chew thorny cactus plants without harm to its mouth. This opens up a whole food source not available to other pack animals.

Most incredible is how the camel deals with heat and lack of water. First of all, camels have a low metabolic rate, so energy is used slowly. The body temperature has a wide range of normal. It may start the day at 94 and hit 105 in the heat of the afternoon. Our normal temperature is 98 and at 101, we’re sick. This adaptation allows the camel to function normally even in extreme heat.

The camel is one of few animals that can sweat. Sweating is a more efficient cooling system than panting and less precious fluid is lost. With its coarse body hair providing protection against the direct sun, the camel doesn’t have to sweat until its body temperature is near the top of its range. This helps conserve every precious drop of water.

No other creature can process water in the same way. The camel doesn’t lose water from blood, only from the tissue. Thus the blood stays properly thin enough to circulate and remove body heat. This is one of the problems for humans. When we become seriously dehydrated, our blood may become too thick to circulate properly.

The camel will only drink when needed and only replace what’s lost. If it lost five gallons over the last two days, it will drink five gallons and walk away. It may not drink at all in winter. In fact, if its regular diet contains good, moisture-rich grass, then the camel will need very little water year round. And, most amazing, if the camel has been without water for some time, it can quickly replace all the water it lost. It can drink 25 gallons in a few minutes. Other mammals drinking too fast can become sick or even die from a condition called water intoxication.
So camels are truly remarkable animals. All of these adaptations that they have, plus their pre-disposition to domestication, have made them a wonderful partner for man. Camel’s milk is rich in potassium, iron and vitamin C and lower in fat and lactose than cow’s milk. The meat is hearty and, although a little tough, has a good flavor. The hide is used for leather, and the long hair, which is shed every summer, is made into rope, used to make fine brushes and can be woven into a light yet warm cloth. The Bedouin name for the camel is “Ata Allah”: gift of God.

When we reflect on their creation, as God instructs us to do in 88:17, when we look at all the remarkable modifications God has given the camel, we can’t help but marvel at the ways He made them fit perfectly into their niche. May God help each of us to fill our own niche as well.

camel, bactrian


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