Regarding the following chapter and Hadith in Sunan Abi Dawud, what is the difference between ذر and نملة?

باب فى قتل الذر

عن أبي هريرة:رضي الله عنه أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: نزَل نبيٌّ مِن الأنبياءِ تحت شجَرةٍ فلدغَتْهُ نملةٌ، فأمَر بجَهازِهِ فأُخرِجَ مِن تَحتِها، ثمَّ أمَر فأُحرِقَتْ، فأوحى اللهُ إليه: فهلّا نَملةً واحدةً؟!

(Sunan Abi Dawud, Hadith: 5223)



According to the ‘Ulama, the word نملة (plural: نمل), meaning ant, can be in reference to any species of ants. On the contrary, the word ذرة (plural: ذر) refers to a specific type/species of ant. In other words, every ذرة is a نملة but not every نملة is a ذرة.


The ‘Ulama have mentioned this particular ant, the ذرة, to be small in size (i.e. smaller than the bigger and even average sized ants) and red in color.


Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) has mentioned a simile comparing these ants to hornets. He has mentioned: the species of the ذر ant as compared to the other species of ants is like the species of the زنبور bee (i.e. which is actually a hornet) compared to the other species of bees. [These ants could also be considered more harmful to Humans]


It is very possible Imam Abu Dawud (rahimahullah) was alluding that this particular type of ant was a ذرة and therefore titled the subheading accordingly. (Tarjamah Sharihah).

(References for all of the above: An-Nihayah, Letters: ذ ر ر and ن م ل, Hayatul Hayawan, pgs. 65, 160, 78, and Fathul Bari, Hadith: 3319; Also see: Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya Al-Kandehlawi’s footnotes on Badhlul Majhud before Hadith: 5265)


And Allah Ta’ala knows best.


Answered by: Moulana Farhan Shariff


Approved by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar