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Chapter 3

Being Inspired

Diverse ideas about what bees are deeply inform the practicalities of their management. Global discussions of collapsing colonies and endangered bees often portray bees as “master pollinators” and present their importance in terms of human food supplies and the profitability of agri-business. Bee lovers and activists devoted to saving the bees, for the most part, take the pollination role as obviously vital and rely on modern science, though not without ambivalence, to define the nature of bees and the best course of action for protecting them and the ecologies they service and depend on. And yet, many commentaries on bees also aspire to communicate what they name a “something more” about bees, and what they are, and what their nature is, a quality which makes both their endangerment and flourishing of key concern to our species, but not only for pragmatic or ecological reasons.  “Being Inspired” conveys the ways in which local beekeepers, imams, and Sufis, as well as the Islamic sources they read and cite, characterize bees as beings that are divinely inspired.

What are the implications of conceiving bees as knowledgeable beings, the subjects of Divine Revelation? How does this idea affect both how they are valued and  how they are practically approached—appealed to--attracted—called up—called to collaboration?
In turn, what do these local, folk and Islamically-informed ideas about the nature of bees say about human knowledge? The story of this chapter is wrapped around the strange figure of al-Dajjāl, an eschatological false prophet in the Islamic tradition, and the pals that support him, and his fabulous technologies of mobility and of control: over weather and wealth, life and death. From what bees are to who and what can know, “Being Inspired” scrutinizes the various forms of reductive knowledge that shape not just contemporary ecological practices but also medical ones.