the common language from the elevated tongue of the prophethood, the metaphor was transformed and given a literal meaning, and they took on the form of a truly enormous bull and awesome fish.
Just as the Qur’an contains allegories and comparisons, and with them teaches profound matters to the ordinary people; so do Hadiths contain comparisons and allegories; they express profound truths by means of familiar comparisons. For example, as we have described in two other places, one time in the presence of the Prophet (UWBP) a deep rumbling was heard. He said: “It is the sound of a rock which has been rolling downhill for seventy years and has now hit the bottom of Hell.”1 A few minutes later someone arrived and reported that a famous seventy-year-old dissembler had died, thus proclaiming the true meaning of the Noble Messenger’s (Upon whom be blessings and peace) highly eloquent comparison.
For now, three ‘aspects’ will be explained in reply to your question:
T h e F i r s t : Almighty God appointed four angels – called the Eagle (Nasr – Aquila) and the Bull (Thawr – Taurus)2 – as bearers of the divine throne and the heavens, to supervise His dominical sovereignty. He also appointed two angels as supervisors and bearers of the earth, which is the small brother of the heavens and companion of the planets. One of them was called the Bull and the other, the Fish. The reason for His giving these names is this:
There are two parts to the earth, one is water and the other is land. Fish inhabit the part that is water, while agriculture, the support of human life, is practised with bulls and oxen, which inhabit the part of the earth that is land; agriculture rests on the shoulders of oxen. Since the two angels appointed to the earth are both commanders and supervisors, they surely have some sort of relationship with the bovine and piscine species. Indeed, “And the knowledge is with God,” the angels are represented in the Worlds of the Inner Dimensions of Things and of Similitudes in the forms of a bull and a fish.3 Thus, alluding to their relationship and supervision and those
See, Muslim, Janna, 12; Musnad, iii, 315, 341, 346.
Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman, 433; Dhahabi, Mizan al-I‘tidal, iv, 352; al-Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, i, 329.
The globe of the earth is a dominical ship ploughing through the oceans of space, and according to a Hadith, is the tillage of the hereafter, that is, an arable field and nursery. How fitting, then, are the name of Fish for the angel who commands that huge lifeless and unconscious ship and makes it swim through those seas at the divine command in regular, purposeful fashion, and the name of Bull for the angel who with divine permission supervises that arable field.