One day, Amar was reading one of his favorite stories, “The Hare and the Tortoise.” He laughed at what happened to the hare and learned from the tortoise how important it is to use one’s head and that cleverness is more than a match for physical superiority. While he was thinking about these things, he suddenly realized that the tortoise in the book had come alive on the page and had started talking to him:
The tortoise began by saying: “Hi Amar! It’s great that you are so young and clever enough to learn a lesson from the story about the hare and me.”
Amar asked “How old are you?”
The tortoise replied: “I’m not as young as I look; I am actually 45 years old. Tortoises live for about 60 years; and there’s even one kind of tortoise called the ‘Testudo’ that can live as long as 189 years.”
Everything in the heavens and everything in the Earth belongs to Him. Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy. (Surat al-Hajj: 64)
What’s your favorite season?” asked Amar.
The tortoise replied: “Warm weather is very important for our survival. Our body temperature changes with the temperature of the air around us and is usually between 32.2 and 32.4 Fahrenheit (0.1 and 0.2 degrees Celcius) lower than that of the air. Our digestive system speeds up as the temperature becomes hotter. When Allah created us, He gave us this characteristic to make it easier for us to survive when it is very hot. We need all the gifts that Allah gives us, but He is Rich Beyond Need.”
Amar then wondered: “What’s your favorite food?”
We love yellow squash. Our eyes are very sharp, and they see yellows best. That means we can easily find our favorite food,” responded the tortoise.
Amar had another question for the tortoise: “Do you hibernate in winter?”
The tortoise explained: “Yes. When the weather gets colder, from October on, and food becomes harder to find, our bodies slow down and we protect ourselves by going to sleep for several months. Our heartbeat and our breathing slow down. We hibernate between October and March. Because Allah created us in this way, we don’t have to stay awake in winter with nothing to eat, which would be fatal to us. Allah has protected us for generations by sending us to sleep at just the right time.”
Amar had more to ask: “I know you live on dry land, but I also think some of you live in the water. Can you tell me about them?”
The tortoise smiled: “You’re right, Amar. There are tortoises, fresh water turtles and sea turtles among us. I live on dry land, for example. I prefer fields, soft soil and grapevines. Fresh water turtles, the kind you keep in aquariums, like lakes and river banks. Sea turtles live in the warm seas and come onto land to lay their eggs. Let me tell you something interesting about the Caretta sea turtle:
Caretta go to warm beaches to lay their eggs. Allah inspires the young turtles that hatch from the eggs to head toward the light reflected off the sea, in other words, to go straight toward where they will live. How do these baby turtles know that the sea is the best place for them to live in? It must be because our Lord inspires that knowledge in them.”
Amar said: “You’re right. Everyone with a mind to think with must know that the world is full of Allah’s wonders. We must always remember that you and I, all animals and trees and everything else are a sign of Him. It was nice to talk to you. Thanks for telling me so much. Bye-bye.”
“Good-bye, you clever boy,” said the tortoise.