When the Quran was being revealed, the people of Mecca had a class system.
The rich lived close to al-Kaaba while the less fortunate lived on the hills or even further.
So much so that some of those rich people when they met a branch of a tree on their way, they would break it rather than walk around it.
They were bigger and greater than anything around them. Or so they thought of themselves.
Similarly, in Medina, the people of the scriptures thought of themselves greater in knowledge and favoured by God.
In that world, human beings were disposable.
As to insects, they were just insignificant.
Take for example, their saying:
“أضعف من بعوضة”
It means: “weaker than a mosquito.”
Unfortunately, this is also the opinion of some scholars of the exegesis of the Quran.
Indeed, it is weak from one angle but lethal from another.
Little they knew that this ‘insignificant thing’ called mosquito could cause havoc with people’s lives.
They had no idea that those ‘insignificant things’ were an integral part of the ecosystem.
And that without an ecosystem there would be no life on Earth.
Hence, when the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, recited the verses about the ant, the spider, the bee … they mocked him.
As he entered Medina, the following verses were revealed to him:
“Indeed, Allah is not timid to present an example – that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it.
And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord.
But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this as an example?”
He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby.
And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient,
Who break the covenant of Allah after contracting it and sever that which Allah has ordered to be joined and cause corruption on earth. It is those who are the losers.”
Notice that in the translation, it says “smaller than it”. This is one opinion.
The original Quranic word is “فوقها” which means “bigger than it” for some scholars of the Arabic language.
ِFor others, it meant “smaller than it”.
There are even scholars who said it meant “bigger than it” and also “smaller than it”.
It was easy to see creatures bigger than the mosquito but smaller ones ? That was not easy in that culture and education.
Ibn al-Anbari [Born 271 Hijra / 884 CE in Baghdad and died 328 Hijra / 940 CE in Baghdad] classified “فوق” as a word that could have either meaning.
It all depended on the context.
However, because this context is about a physical thing i.e. mosquito, he was of the strong view that it meant “smaller”.
As I am writing this the world has been brought to its knees by a smaller thing than a mosquito.
Those who truly read the Quran knew that it was true then.
And even more so now.
They know it is true.
There is a meaning to life in that which escapes our senses.
There is a meaning to life in those elderly about to depart away from us.