Issue 62 / March - April 2008
From the Spider's Web
Hello dear humankind,
Many of you are frightened of us. You have even invented a disease called âArachnophobiaâ (fear of spider). On the contrary, I do not inflict any harm on you, but rather help tidy up nature by catching harmful insects in my web. Particularly, when I remember the honorable task one of my ancestors took part in, my eyes get misty with emotion: In order to save the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the Pride of the Universe and Humanity, from his enemies, our Lord commanded one of our ancestors to quickly make a web over the entrance of the cave they were hiding in, and this made the infidels stop searching for him there. This honor is enough for us until the Day of Judgment. And please, at least, remember this historical event and stop killing us wherever you see us.
Many of you mistake us for insects. We, the spiders, are different from the insects. The easiest way to differentiate us is to count the number of legs and the parts of our bodies. Insects have six legs, whereas we have eight; their bodies are made of three main parts, while our bodies consist of two parts, one being the head. Moreover, we are different with respect to the sizes and numbers of our eyes. The insects usually have two large compound eyes, whereas we have eight small simple eyes (the simplicity here does not mean ordinary, or lacking in art, it means uncomplicated, plain!).
Those who-in order to reject our Lord-seek a way out through the dead ends of the theory of evolution are stunned when they see the delicate embroidery art in my body and the trap strategy in my magnificent webs. Since they know that we do not have intelligence or conscience, they, helplessly, take refuge in a term called instinct. You can resemble these thinkers to the flies that fall into my trap; the more they struggle through reasoning, basing their theories on nature, or causality, or coincidence, the more entangled they become. In order to deny God, they give credit to some imaginative alternatives for the artwork that has been bestowed upon spiders and thus deceive themselves.
We can live in all continents, except Antarctica, and can survive in many climatic conditions, from deserts to rainforests. The reason that we are more common on oceanic islands than on continents is the special threads we use in our nets. We can use this thread like a parachute and can travel on the wind to far away lands.
One of our most important attributes, the merit of which is so valuable that it is mentioned in the Qurâan, is our silk thread gland that produces thread in various qualities. We use this silk-like substance, which is discharged from conical nipples on our abdomen, for numerous purposes. Most of us are granted with at least two kinds of silk glands, with different structures and secretions. And we are given the knowledge to use these threads for different tasks appropriate to their chemical composition. Since the flexibility, durability, thickness and adhesiveness of each type of thread is different, we use the right type for each task. We use some types of thread to build a web to trap prey, others for furnishing inside our homes, and still others to protect our egg or sperm sacks.
Although everyone knows about our thread, the bio-chemical process that takes place during its production is yet to be completely understood. Our thread, despite being thinner than one thousandth of a millimeter, is five times stronger than a steel string of the same thickness. And it can be stretched up to four times its length. Moreover, it is so light that, despite the great length required to go around the world, such a thread would only weigh 320 grams. My web occupies a large space in comparison to my size; but this appearance is deceptive. My real home is a small spot in the middle; the rest is a trap set up for flies. Now, despite being such a wonderful material, the Holy Qurâan, in the chapter named after me, states that â The parable of those who take to them other than God for guardians is like a spider: it has made for itself a house, and surely the frailest of houses is the spiderâs house. If they only knew this!â (Ankabut 29:41). Have you ever wonder about the inner meaning of this verse? If you have, you can see that it describes my house as being feeble and flimsy, but not the thread that made the house. That means, no matter how excellent is the material you have, if you do not use it in the right place, it is useless. My thread and my house that I build are adequate for me, working as traps for my prey. You might waste the highest quality materials if you use them to construct a building with poor foundations. That is to say, if a human being, equipped with the most wonderful qualities, chooses an invalid fallacious god for themselves, they waste the equipment bestowed upon them, such as intelligence, comprehension and conscience. What is worse, when they adopt a deity other than God, whatever they accomplish in terms of excellent scientific studies, discoveries, or inventions will all be wasted. The arguments of those who deny God might seem sound, but in reality they are fallacies, causing those who are not using their innate capabilities to fall into their traps. Of course, a miraculous book like the Qurâan can be read and understood from the perspectives of other sciences and thus can be understood in a variety of ways. Mine is just one. â¦
The production of my silk, which is stronger than either synthetic or natural fiber, is similar in part to the production process carried out in factories that manufacture thread. The protein called keratin that I use in silk production is a very common substance, found in human fingernails and hair, as well as in bird feathers, in horn, and in the scales of snakes. Even though the same amino acid is used by these creatures, our Lord, the Creator of all, has the knowledge and the omnipotence to turn the same protein found in your fingernail into silk in my glands.
The liquid silk material, discharged like a protein soup, passes through the ducts of a gland where the liquid is absorbed very rapidly and is then turned into acid by other cells via hydrogen atoms before being spurted out as silk. Once the densified proteins enter the acid pool they form links with one another and turn into thread. The bio-chemical reactions that take place in this process, which I have only explained very basically, vary, depending on the types of thread produced in the different glands; by using different processes different types of thread are produced.
My Lord, Whose mercy is endless, Who gave me all the things that I need to survive down to the smallest detail, has granted me six different manufacturing chambers. In each chamber the chemical substances, prepared as different formulas, are mixed in different proportions to suit my needs; in addition, the caliber of the orifices from which they are spurted and the pressure of the pumps are adjusted to the most appropriate levels to produce thread with different characteristics. Neither my knowledge, nor my ability is enough to comprehend the settings in the silk producing nipples located in my stomach. Nevertheless, the threads that I use for hunting are sticky, while others, by which I return to my home with my prey, are stronger and more flexible. Moreover, the other kinds of thread which I use to wrap my prey are straight and have the quality of becoming harder when movement occurs, while the other threads that I use for my egg sacks have an antibiotic to protect against germs, the ones that I use to go up and down are slippery, and finally the ones I use to lay the foundation of my house are thicker while the ones that I place within the nest are thinner. With graceful leg motions I bring all these threads to the right place and secure them there. I straighten some thread with a comb in my foot. The threads are coated with a liquid substance that protects against fractions in case of exposure to pressure.
A creature that is as small and helpless as I am would need to understand the order of the protein atom used, as well as the properties of pressure in order to protect against fractions, and comprehend the structure of the coating material and many other physio-chemical principles in order to produce these threads that have such excellent qualities. Since that is not the case (I do not have any such knowledge) and as the creation cannot be explained via some unconscious terms such as evolution, mutation, or natural selection, my Creator, the creator of all that I do, is Allah. Plastic surgeons have just started to use some types of spider threads in delicate operations on tendons and joints.
Although I do not have any architectural or engineering training that would help me to calculate where I have to secure my threads or to understand the angles between them, with Divine Guidance I am able to perform these tasks properly. Since I live mostly on insects, I am a very useful animal for you; by catching and destroying many insects I play an important role in the ecological balance. Otherwise, these insects would be overwhelming, not to mention the harm they cause to crops. In addition to this there are some interesting species of ours, which live on fish or even bird.
There are approximately thirty-five thousand species of spiders; of this only five hundred can be considered to be dangerous to humans. Even though all of us have poison glands, if we bite a human in general this only causes an itch. We do not deliberately come and bite humans. Even the most poisonous of us all, the black widow (Latrodectus mactans) is rarely fatal for human beings. This species, which builds a large web with a conical center, can hide around 250-750 eggs, wrapping them up with a silk cover. The females are three centimeters in size, while the males are only about one-fourth the size of the females. Once the females receive the sperm, they eat their males instantly before they can escape. Unlike many of us, the Tarantula (Lycosa tarentula), a spider that measures 2.5 centimeters and which belongs to the wolf spider family that is found in Europe, does not make webs; rather they catch their prey by chasing. They have strong venom as well, but contrary to the common exaggeration, this venom is not fatal. There is another species of tarantula in South America, but this spider belongs to a totally different family, the Theraphosa. The size of the main body of this spider is about 9-10 centimeters, and the distance between the legs is 25-30 centimeters. This large and hairy kind of spider is active at night. Some of them live in holes they have dug in the ground, while others build nests on trees. Even though they can be classified as harmless, their bites hurt. They kill small frogs, lizards, and even birds.
Most spiders live alone. A few of us make houses next to each other, and hunt together. Our hunting techniques are various. The Bolas spider (Cladomelea longipes) has incredible techniques for preparing and throwing bolas. Even though their sense of sight is poor, this species can feel the vibration of flying pigeons and they diffuse a special odor to attract their prey; once the prey has come close, the spider catches it with a sudden attack, paralyzing it with its poisonous bite and then wrapping it in special silk. This special silk has a quality that allows it to keep the wrapped prey fresh; thus, the food, which cannot be consumed in one meal, can be safely stored.
Species that live in the desert dig tunnels in the sand to protect themselves from the dreadful heat, and discharge a special excretion to stick the sand together. They also insulate the interior of the tunnel with silk threads to protect themselves from the heat outside. They make a special silk lid to the entrance of the tunnel and camouflage it with some sand. Then, by stretching their thin thread between some rocks and sticks nearby, they wait for their food. Since the daytime is so hot, they prey at night, waiting for insects to vibrate the threads they have placed.
There are other species, for example, the water spiders (Argyroneta aquatica). This species lives in the water and makes their nests in an air bubble on the water, from time to time traveling up to the surface and restocking the air under their stomach to pump it into their home underwater. Another species, called Dolomedes fimbriatus has legs that enables them to walk on the water and to live on fish. As it is the case with all kinds of Arthropoda (exoskeletal animals), we need to change our skins when we grow. Once the outer skeleton, made of ketone becomes hard, it impedes our growth. Because of that, from time to time, we shed this skin, and grow rapidly while our new skin is soft. Moreover, the legs, which are cut off due to various reasons, are renewed with the grace of God.
I could tell a lot more about my friends, but I think this is enough. I hope that from now on no one will attribute our artful of creation and behavior to evolution or coincidence. In fact, I do not expect such a thing from human beings, who have intelligence, conscience, and comprehension.