The Camel - The Ship of the Desert
The camel is a domestic animal that has been used by man for thousands of years. Allaah created it with excellent abilities that enable it to walk for long distances over sandy desert hills where there is neither water nor vegetation, and where strong winds and dust storms are frequent. That is why it is called the "Ship of the Desert".
Allaah, the Almighty, enjoined us in the Quran to contemplate on the creation of the camel and ponder over the Omnipotence and Greatness of Allaah in creating this marvelous animal which has amazingly to adapt itself to life in the desert. Allaah Says (which means):
“Do they not look at the camels, how they are created?” (Quran 88: 17)
The first thing that draws our attention when we look at the camel is its strong build, high stature, and the length of its neck. Yet, if we look at it more closely, we will find other wonderful and amazing characteristics.
The camel has a strong, heavy body and it weighs between 450 and 650 kilograms, and it may even be heavier. It is usually about 2 meters high or even more.
This heavy body is carried by four strong, long legs which keep the body away from the heat of the desert sand. Its legs also help the camel to have a wide pace and agile movement.
Each leg ends with a broad pad of fats and flexible fibers coated with a thick layer of hide.
It looks like the sole of a shoe and it is called a "sole pad". This sole pad helps the camel move easily over the desert sand without his legs sinking into the sand, because the sole pad is amazingly wide when the camel walks. The camel can also painlessly and tirelessly walk over extremely hot solid rocks by virtue of this thick sole pad which is almost completely insensitive to the outside environment.
The camel has an almost rectangular, middle-sized head. It has wide eyes which have good visibility during the day and night. Its eyes are shielded by very long and thick eyelashes which protect the eyes from flying dust and the scorching heat of the sun.
The camel has small ears covered with thick hair from all sides to protect them from flying desert dust. The camel has a very strong sense of hearing.
Its nose, in the forepart of its head, consists of two thin cleaved sides surrounded by thick hair that prevents flying sand and dust from reaching its windpipe, but at the same time, it does not block the air itself. They are also encircled by strong muscles that allow the camel to close or open its nostrils whenever it wants. When there is a dust storm, the camel closes its eyes, bends its ears to the back, closes its nostrils, and moves forward without being affected by the storm. Because of the heavy build of the camel and its height, Allaah created a long neck for it that enables it to easily reach the short plants scattered on the ground or bite off the leaves of high trees. The camel's body is covered with a thick hairy hide which protects it from the heat of the sun and sand storms (projectiles).
The camel's hump is its most distinctive feature. It is a store of fat with a pyramid-like shape on its back. The camel's hump is very beneficial. When the camel is very hungry or thirsty, the fat in the hump is converted into food and water.
This enables the camel to survive without food or water for several days. The hump also protects the camel against the sun's rays as it blocks them and so they do not directly affect the rest of its body.
Just like any grazing mammals, the camel lives on grass, tree leaves, mellow bushes, grains, and fruits as well as other plants. A camel can eat thorny plants and dry grass which many animals are not able to. Allaah created it with strong teeth especially the lower jaw and it has a coated mouth that withstands these thorny plants while it chews them. As well as this, it has strong thick lips, especially the upper cleft one, which enable it to effectively pick up dry thorns. The camel is a ruminant animal which regurgitates and chews its food after swallowing it. This makes digestion an easy process.
Ability to Endure Thirst
The camel has an amazing ability to endure thirst, in fact, it is the best example in enduring thirst. During winter and spring, a camel can live for a long time; ranging from two to four months without drinking any water. For it, green plants, rich in water, are sufficient. Whereas in the hot summer, the camel can endure thirst for six to ten days. It may even endure thirst for two or more weeks. This is attributed to several factors that are peculiar to the camel. It can efficiently maintain water in its body and it loses only a small percentage of it. The camel never breathes from its mouth and it never pants however hot it may be. Thus, it avoids the evaporation of large quantities of water from its body through the mouth. Its kidneys also play a significant role in its amazing economy of water in its body, as they produce small amounts of urine. The most amazing thing about the camel is that it has very little perspiration. It does not perspire except when the temperature of its body exceeds about 41°c. This is a great advantage that enables the camel to retain water in its body for the longest possible periods of time.
Types of Camels
There are two types of camels. The first is the dromedary, or Arabian camel, which has one hump and is found in the Arabian Peninsula and northern Africa. Large numbers of Arabian camels have been transported to live in India, Australia, North America, and several other countries.
The second type is the Bactrian camel which lives in central Asia, especially Mongolia, northern China, southern Russia, and other countries.
This type has two humps. It is heavier and stronger than the dromedary but it has shorter legs and is slower than the Arabian camel. Also most of its body is covered with hair that is heavier than the Arabian camel, especially on the nose, shoulders, and the two humps.
In South America, there are other types of the family Camelidae.. They are camel-like animals such as llama, alpaca, and vicuna. They are closely related to camels but are smaller in size, less in weight, and do not have a hump.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
The camel is a mammal that gives birth and breastfeeds its offsprings. A she-camel remains pregnant for twelve or thirteen months and gives birth to one baby camel and on rare occasions it delivers two. A new-born camel weighs at the time of its birth between 25 and 50 kilograms and is 90 centimeters high. It stands up two or more hours after birth. Its mother breastfeeds it for a year and then it starts to eat food. The average life span of the camel is about 30 years but it may live up to 40 years.
The Benefits of the Camel
The camel is an extremely beneficial animal for man. It is utilized in performing many difficult tasks. Man rides it and uses it for carrying baggage from one place to another. A riding camel can walk tirelessly at ten kilometers per hour, and for 100 kilometers per day. A camel can carry from 150 to 300 kilograms. Camels are still used in some army and police forces. Quick and agile camels are also used in camel races.
The camel is one of the most special animals which benefit man. Man makes use of its flesh, milk, hair, and hide. Camel milk is high quality, sweet-tasting, and easy-to-digest. It is low in fat, rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals, especially calcium. It contains anti-poison and anti-bacteria elements. Also, its elements strengthen the immunity system. The milk is used in treating many illnesses especially abdominal and liver diseases. Some people complained to the Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, about an abdominal disease. The Prophet, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, ordered them to drink camel milk mixed with urine. When they did, they recovered by the Grace of Allaah.
Camel hair is used in making clothes, bed sheets, and tents. Camel hide is used in making leather clothes, shoes, and bags. It is a durable, thick, and high quality hide.
Facts and Interesting Information About the Camel
v An-Naaqah is the Arabic term which refers to a she-camel.
v Ibil, (Camels) is a term which refers to both he and she camels.
v The Arabic word Ba'eer refers to riding and carrying camels, the term is used for both sexes.
v As-Saleel, is an Arabic term which refers to the new-born camel at the time of its birth.
v Al-Hiwaar, is an Arabic term which refers to the young camel when it is still at the breastfeeding period (i.e. before it starts eating food).
v Camels, in general, are mentioned twice in the Quran, and the she-camel is mentioned seven times, carrying camels are mentioned three times, riding camels are mentioned twice, and the he-camel is mentioned once.
v The camel walks in a different way than other animals. It moves the two right side legs together and follows this with the two left side legs. This leads to the noticeable swinging of its rider.
v A thirsty camel can drink more than 100 litres of water at one time without causing it any harm. Such water does not stay in its intestines but immediately flows into the body tissues.
v The camel is very economical when it comes to water. It loses less than one litre per day or in more than one day through urination.
v A healthy camel has a fat, straight hump. A sick or starved camel has a thin hump and it may even vanish completely.
v The digestive system of the camel does not have a gall bladder.
v The she-camel gives birth while she is standing.