Allah Most High says:
أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ ۖ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ
Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each [of them] has known his [means of] prayer and exalting [Him], and Allah is Knowing of what they do.
In a previous post, we explored the reality of the meaning of certain animals mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Continuing on that theme, the meaning of “birds” in the Holy Qur’an too has a deeper and profound reality. The Verse quoted above explicitly states that “birds” are those who possess knowledge of their Salaat and and their Tasbih. These are terms associated with sentient, intelligent beings, namely, Angels and human beings (“whomever is within the heavens and the earth”). Elsewhere, the Holy Qur’an states that “birds” are an Ummah “like you” (6:38). The act of making Tasbih (glorification) of Allah is again an act associated with the “birds” in Sura 21:79, 34:10, and 38:19. The Qur’an mentions that “birds” were included among King Solomon’s forces (27:17). These anthropomorphic descriptions of the “birds” points to a gnostic reality that “birds” are in fact the name for that category of pious human Believers who are constant in their prayers and excessive in their glorification and exaltation of Allah. Furthermore, “Birds” have a particular “Language”, or Mantiq al-Tair which Allah taught to Solomon (27:16). This is a highly spiritualized language, which explains why the Sufi mystic and poet, Farid Uddin Attar (d. 1220 C.E), named one of his mystical poems with the title Mantiq al-Tair.
One of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) companions and relatives, Ja’far b. Abi Talib, was given the title Al-Tayyâr (“a flying bird”), as the Prophet once had a vision concerning him:
رَأَيْتُ جَعْفَرًا يَطِيرُ فِي الْجَنَّةِ مَعَ الْمَلَائِكَةِ
“I saw Ja’far flying in Paradise with the Angels”
In fact, the people of Paradise and martyrs in particular are “birds”. Sayyidina Ja’far (Allah be pleased with him) was martyred during the Battle of Mo’tah in 629 C.E. Similarly, he possessed the title Zul Janahin (“the owner of wings”). Well known Ahadith from the Prophet (peace be upon him) characterize the martyrs as being alive in Paradise in the sense that their souls are placed inside green birds which fly about. Similarly, a Hadith described the Believers in general as “birds”:
إِنَّمَا نَسَمَةُ الْمُؤْمِنِ طَائِرٌ فِي شَجَرِ الْجَنَّةِ ، حَتَّى يَبْعَثَهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ إِلَى جَسَدِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
“The soul of the believer is a Bird (nested) in a tree of Paradise, until Allah Azza wa Jall raises it up into its body on the Day of Resurrection.” (Nasa’i)