The Shaheen falcon (Falco peregrinus peregrinator) belongs to the family Falconidae. It is a subspecies of the Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) which is known to hunt down its prey at a whopping speed of over 320 km/h (approximately 200 mph). Mainly found in the Indian subcontinent, the Shaheen falcon is also known as the black Shaheen or Indian peregrine falcon. To catch its prey, it flies high then dives down at a very high speed- a characteristic feature that distinguishes falcons from eagles and vultures. Shaheen falcons live on high cliff edges and mountain ranges. “The air pressure from such a dive could possibly damage a bird’s lungs, but small bony tubercles on falcon’s nostrils are theorized to guide the powerful airflow away from the nostrils, enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving by reducing the change in air pressure.” Their wings are strong and somewhat pointed in shape. Falcons do not build their nests; they scrape soil or vegetation on mountains and cliffs to lay their eggs. They usually feed on small birds and sometimes on rodents and reptiles. They themselves fall prey to larger birds and animals at times but have also been known to scare away the birds from their eggs.
Falcons remind me of the jet planes that are used for air shows during military parades or celebratory occasions in which the plane glides and swoops in the air and leaves behind a white, or coloured, trail. One has to be a master of aeronautical engineering to know how to manufacture jet planes. So, how do jet planes work?
Jet planes have engines that pass air through a sequence of steps where it is first compressed then ignited by a spark and finally ejected. This whole process is designed to produce a high pressure exhaust that is expelled out the back of the engine, resulting in thrust. This allows the plane to be propelled forward. Millions of dollars are spent every year to design and manufacture fighter jet planes, making jet planes one of the most expensive commodities of a nation. “The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest jet aircraft in the world, reaching speeds of Mach 3.3 – that’s more than 3500 kph (2,100 mph).”
The huge jet aircrafts instil in us a sense of achievement and pride, and they also tell us about their craftsmen- the engineers, manufacturers, etc. A massive team effort coupled with an exorbitant amount of money and high-tech machinery is required to make one jet plane. Just as a jet plane has a maker, does it not make it reasonable to say that falcons must have a Maker too? The master plan of a jet plane was designed quite early but it was not until the 20thcentury that it came into fruition with the help of ever-advancing technology. The minute details that go into the making of an aircraft speak of the designer’s knowledge. Then, does it not make us wonder what kind of knowledge is needed to create a falcon that is far more complex and delicately designed than a plane in the sense that it is a living creature with multiple contributions to the ecosystem? Who could have possibly taught the falcon the art of gliding high in the air? Who has designed it to overcome the air pressure it experiences when it dives down to hunt its food? The falcon has to have an exact perception of the time and distance from its prey in order to avoid missing the mark. Who could have designed falcons with such exceptional detail? Is it not sensible to say that the Creator of the falcons must be the One who has complete knowledge of everything, and who is Wise enough to design the falcons in a way that best meets their needs?
The scientific study of a falcon actually strips open the underlying hidden meanings behind its existence- the esoteric meanings. The falcon is actually reflecting- like a mirror- the Divine Attributes. Its existence is pointing to the One who is All- Powerful and Extremely Wise. These questions clearly indicate that the Maker of these wonderful creatures is One- the Almighty. The falcon’s Creator must be the Most Knowledgeable, the Most Merciful and The Beneficent. The fact that all things in the universe are interconnected i.e. the Maker of one thing is the Maker of all things, indicates His Unity and Unicity. By reigning the skies with their efficient wings, the falcons are manifesting the reflection of the King of all the kings who is the Best of Fashioners.
We have a lot of moral lessons to learn from the falcons. The greatest of these lessons is the fact that falcons are a constant reminder of God Almighty whose signs they manifest. It is through the realization of the Most Powerful that we release our ego and become kind and compassionate towards our fellow creatures. A falcon teaches us to dream big and fly high. It teaches us to be persistent towards our goal in life. A falcon can only be found in high altitudes and does not build a nest using twigs or leaves. This teaches us not to get too attached to the transient, finite world but rather embrace the struggles of life and work our way towards our final abode. It also teaches us to stay outside our comfort zone and work hard.
Muhammad Iqbal, one of the greatest poets and an Islamic revivalist of the 20th century Indian subcontinent was so fascinated with these intelligent birds that he penned an entire ghazal on them titled “Shaheen” which is a part of his book Bāl- e Jibrīl (Gabriel’s Wing). Iqbal has likened falcons to the youths of the country in a bid to boost up their morale. Below is a couplet from his ghazal “sitāron se āgey jahān aur bhī hain” taken from his book “Bāl- e Jibrīl:
تو شاہيں ہے پرواز ہے کام تيرا
تيرے سامنے آسماں اور بھی ہيں
You are a falcon, flight is your mission,
There are many skies laid out before you (to conquer).
 “Peregrine falcon”. Wikipedia. Retrieved Sept 19, 2021, from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peregrine_falcon
 “The Fastest Jet Aircraft on the World”. Retrieved Sept 19, 2021 from https://artsandculture.google.com