The Cow that Spoke to the Man who Rode it and the Wolf that Spoke to the Shepherd
The Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) is the truthful and believed (as-sādiq al-masdooq) who did not speak from his desires, rather it was Allah who inspired him with Revelation. He sometimes spoke of extraordinary affairs that were contrary to what is experienced by people in their normal everyday lives.
For example, he spoke about a cow that admonished a man who attempted to ride it as if it was a horse or camel. He also mentioned a wolf who spoke to a shepherd who snatched back from it a sheep that it had captured. It is obligatory upon all Muslims to believe in these narrations because they were reported to us by way of the Revelation that the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) was inspired with, even though the Muslims did not see these events with their eyes. Those who believe in the unseen are praised by Allah:
الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
“Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them.” (Al-Baqarah 2:3)
The intent of belief in the unseen matters is to believe in whatever Allah conveyed to His Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) that the people, in general, have not witnessed themselves whether in the past, present or future; or from those affairs that Allah has concealed from the creation till the Day of Resurrection.
Imām Al-Bukhari reported the following authentic hadeeth:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ صَلَّى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم صَلاَةَ الصُّبْحِ، ثُمَّ أَقْبَلَ عَلَى النَّاسِ، فَقَالَ ” بَيْنَا رَجُلٌ يَسُوقُ بَقَرَةً إِذْ رَكِبَهَا فَضَرَبَهَا فَقَالَتْ إِنَّا لَمْ نُخْلَقْ لِهَذَا، إِنَّمَا خُلِقْنَا لِلْحَرْثِ ”. فَقَالَ النَّاسُ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ بَقَرَةٌ تَكَلَّمُ. فَقَالَ ” فَإِنِّي أُومِنُ بِهَذَا أَنَا وَأَبُو بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرُ ـ وَمَا هُمَا ثَمَّ ـ وَبَيْنَمَا رَجُلٌ فِي غَنَمِهِ إِذْ عَدَا الذِّئْبُ فَذَهَبَ مِنْهَا بِشَاةٍ، فَطَلَبَ حَتَّى كَأَنَّهُ اسْتَنْقَذَهَا مِنْهُ، فَقَالَ لَهُ الذِّئْبُ هَذَا اسْتَنْقَذْتَهَا مِنِّي فَمَنْ لَهَا يَوْمَ السَّبُعِ، يَوْمَ لاَ رَاعِيَ لَهَا غَيْرِي ”. فَقَالَ النَّاسُ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ ذِئْبٌ يَتَكَلَّمُ. قَالَ ” فَإِنِّي أُومِنُ بِهَذَا أَنَا وَأَبُو بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرُ ”. وَمَا هُمَا ثَمَّ. وَحَدَّثَنَا عَلِيٌّ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ مِسْعَرٍ، عَنْ سَعْدِ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بِمِثْلِهِ.
Abu Hurairah said: Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) offered the Fajr prayer, then faced the people and said, “While a man was driving forward his cow, he climbed onto its back to ride it, and then started to beat it. The cow said, “We have not been created for this, but we have been created for ploughing.” The people said in astonishment, “Glorified be Allah! A cow that speaks!”
The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “I believe this, and so do Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.” Although neither of them was present.
The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) continued: “While a man was among his sheep, a wolf attacked and took one of them. The man chased the wolf until he saved his sheep from the wolf, whereupon the wolf said, ‘You have saved it from me; but who will guard it on the day of the wild beasts of prey, wherein there will be no shepherd to guard them except [the likes of] me?'” The people said in surprise, “Glorified be Allah! A wolf speaks!” The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Indeed I believe this, and so do Abu Bakr and Umar.” Although neither of them was present. 
The Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) informed us regarding these amazing and rare events that actually took place: a man that rode on the back of cow just as one rides a donkey, camel or horse — and then he whipped the cow, and so the cow spoke to him in the language of humans in order to rebuke and admonish him; and to inform him that he has contradicted the Sunnah of Allah because the cows were not created for riding; rather they were created for cultivation and as cattle. It was as if the cow was saying to him: “You have oppressed me by riding me and then beating me because you have used me for a purpose I was not created for by Allah.” And oppression (dhulm) is to put something in other than its rightful place. So, it is oppression and injustice upon this creature to ride it when it was not created for that purpose.
The Companions (radiyallāhu ‘anhum) responded in astonishment and said, “Subhānallāh! A cow that speaks!” But this astonishment was not due to disbelief or denial as they would never disbelieve in anything the Messenger reported to them. Indeed the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) informed them of affairs that were even more amazing than this and they believed in them, such as Paradise, Hell, the events in the grave and the Barzakh, the bridge over Hell, the palaces in Paradise, a tree in Jannah whose trunk is made of pure gold, and rivers of wine and honey that flow in Paradise, and so on.
So, their astonishment was due to the fact that someone had experienced a matter that was unusual and outside of the normal human experience. The Prophet reinforced this news that he had received through Revelation by stating that he believed in it, and so did Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) even though neither of them was present in the Masjid with him. So, he affirmed their belief in the Revelation in their absence due to his knowledge of their affirmation and strong belief in the truth of Revelation from their Lord; and their firmly established certainty and īmān in the ability of Allah over every affair — and from that is that He (the Most High) granted a cow the ability of speech.
He also informed them of another story and that is of the wolf that addressed a man. This wolf snatched a sheep from a shepherd and fled, but the shepherd was strong and brave so he chased the wolf until he caught up with him and took back the sheep before the wolf could kill it. And the wolf said to him, “You have saved it from me; but who will guard it on the day of the wild beasts of prey when there will be no shepherd to guard them except [the likes of] me?” So, the wolf knew a time would come before the Hour is established when cattle and livestock would be abandoned and left to roam in a time of severe tribulation (fitan). So just as the Sahābah were astonished at the cow that spoke, they were also astonished at the wolf that spoke with the language of humans. The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) responded to them in the same manner, “Indeed I believe this, and so do Abu Bakr and Umar.”
The opposite of this is also known, and that is humans who understood the language of animals. The Prophet Sulaymān (‘alaihis-salām) understood the language of birds and animals. Allah has informed about the army of Sulaymān (‘alaihis-salām) when it entered a valley where ants lived. Allah, the Most High, said:
حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَتَوْا عَلَىٰ وَادِ النَّمْلِ قَالَتْ نَمْلَةٌ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّمْلُ ادْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَكُمْ لَا يَحْطِمَنَّكُمْ سُلَيْمَانُ وَجُنُودُهُ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ – 27:18
“Until, when they came upon the valley of the ants, an ant said, ‘O ants, enter your dwellings that you not be crushed by Solomon and his soldiers while they perceive not.'”
فَتَبَسَّمَ ضَاحِكًا مِّن قَوْلِهَا وَقَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ – 27:19
“So, he (Sulayman) smiled, amused at its speech and said: ‘My Lord! Inspire and bestow upon me ability that I may be grateful for Your Favours which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You, and admit me by Your Mercy among Your righteous slaves.”
He had birds that were gathered in his army and on an occasion he could not find the hud-hud (hoopoe) bird that was from his army. So he promised he would kill it if it did make itself apparent. So it returned and stood in front of Sulaymān (‘alaihis-salām) and spoke to him saying:
أَحَطتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ وَجِئْتُكَ مِن سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ – 27:22
“I have come to you from Sheba with news that is certain.”
إِنِّي وَجَدتُّ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ – 27:23
“I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth, and she has a great throne.”
So, the hoopoe (pronounced: hoopoo) came to him with information about the queen of Sheba and her people and what forms of polytheism they practised. So, Sulaymān entrusted him to take his letter to her and to bring back her response.
It is also known that some animals spoke to the Prophet Muhammad (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam). A camel complained to the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) that its owners over-worked it, tired it out and let it go hungry.
There occurs in a narration from Abu Nu’aym in Dalā’il An-Nubuwwah what occurred to a Companion by the name of Ahbān Ibn Aws (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) when a wolf snatched one his sheep and starting to drag it away. Ahbān shouted at it loudly so the wolf stopped and sat on its tail and spoke to the Ahbān saying, “Who will protect it on a day that you will be busy elsewhere? Do you forbid me from the food that Allah, the Most High, has provided for me?” Ahbān said: I clapped my hands and said, “By Allah, I have never seen a thing more astonishing than this.” [Ahbān said], this incident occurred after the sending of Allah’s Messenger as a Prophet. So, the wolf replied, “There is something even more astonishing. A Messenger who is among the palm trees calling to Allah.” So Ahbān came to the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam), informed him of what had taken place, embraced Islam and became a Muslim.
Furthermore, it is stated by Allah that even the limbs will speak on the Day of Resurrection:
وَقَالُوا لِجُلُودِهِمْ لِمَ شَهِدتُّمْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ قَالُوا أَنطَقَنَا اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَنطَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ خَلَقَكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ – 41:21
“And they will say to their skins, ‘Why do you testify against us?’ They will say: ‘Allah has caused us to speak, as He causes all things to speak, and He created you the first time, and to Him, you are made to return.'” (Fussilat: 21)
In this hadeeth, there are numerous benefits such as:
- The permissibility of addressing the people with an admonition after the prayer.
- The obligation of believing in everything that is reported authentically from the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) and that which Allah has spoken with, in the Qur’ān. In this regard, Ahlus-Sunnah make no distinction between the hadeeth which is mutawātir and the hadeeth which is āhād. As for fabricated and weak stories then it is not permitted to ascribe them to Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam).
- It is not permitted to utilise an animal for other than the purpose for which Allah created it.
- The virtue and excellence of the two Companions, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) due to their immense faith in the Revelation, their certainty in affirming the matters of the unseen and their strong and certain belief in the ability of Allah.
- The fact that the two of them were absent from the gathering after Fajr was most probably due to the fact they were away from Madinah on an expedition or an errand for Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) — that is because it is not known that they were ever absent from the congregational Prayers.
 Al-Bukhāri, nos. 3471, 2663, 2324, 3690.