What is the story of prophet solomon? Who is the propohet solomon?
The Prophet who Kept a World of Wealth and Power out of His Heart Solomon -peace be upon him-
Solomon (as) was born in Gaza. He was around 12 or 13 years of age, when his father David (as) passed away. Like his father, he first became a prophet and later a king. He built the Holy Temple, or Bayt Al-Maqdis, in seven years. He married Bilqis. the queen of Sheba, and later passed away in Jerusalem.
From his early childhood, Solomon (as) showed signs of great prudence and intellect, about which the Prophet (saw) relays the following incident:
“Once, two women were travelling together with their two sons. On the way, a wolf came and snatched one of the kids. The women then began quarrelling with each other over the other kid, both claiming him as their own.
‘That child is mine’, said one.
‘No, he is my son’, said the other.
They eventually went to David (as) and asked him to settle their dispute. David (as) ruled that the child belonged to the elder woman. But the women then took the matter to Solomon (as). They told him about his father’s judgment. Solomon (as) then said:
‘Bring me a knife so I can divide the kid between these two women.’
This time the younger of the two women pleaded, ‘Please don’t! God have mercy on you! I am not the mother, she is!’
It was then that Solomon (as) knew that the younger woman was, in fact, the child’s real mother.” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 40)
That is because a mother cannot endure seeing her child being killed.
Below is another incident highlighting Solomon’s (as) foresight:
A flock of sheep had once entered a field one night and destroyed all the crops. The owners of the field lodged a complaint with David (as), asking for compensation. The damage to the field was just about the same as the value of the sheep. So, David (as) ruled that the sheep be given to the farmers. Solomon (as) was also there; and despite being a child, he suggested:
“There is another way, father! Let the farmers have the flock only temporarily. In that time, they can cover their loss by making use of the sheep’s milk and fur. At the same, they can cultivate their farm and turn it to the way it was. Once they get things back on track, they can then return the sheep to their owner!”
David (as) was delighted with the offer and decided accordingly. The Qur’an says:
“And recall David and Solomon when they gave judgement concerning the tillage when the sheep of some people strayed into it by night. We were witness to their judgement.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 78)
“We gave understanding to Solomon, and to each We gave judgement and knowledge. And We disposed the mountains and the birds to glorify Us with David. We have been the doer of such things.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 79)
Solomon’s (as) exceptional foresight and devotion to the Lord convinced David (as) to pick him from among his 19 sons, as his heir. However, the Israelites protested:
“Solomon is still a kid! There are others who are older and wiser!” they said.
Thus, in line with a divine command, David (as) held a test in the presence of scholars. He asked Solomon (as):
“What is that whose goodness makes all other parts good and whose badness corrupts all other parts?”
Solomon (as) replied:
“It is the heart!”
They all liked he answer.
David (as) wrote the names of all candidates on sticks, which he then locked up inside a room. After a while, it was found that only Solomon’s (as) staff had branched out leaves. David (as) thanked the Lord, and the Israelites accepted Solomon (as) as caliph.
With the help of Allah (jj), this dispute was now settled; so David (as) now turned to his son to give him some advice:
“Son! Avoid making jokes for they have little benefit and cause regret. Avoid getting angry, for it makes a person a simple. Embrace piety, for it wins in all circumstances.
Do not expect favors from people! This is true wealth, right there!
It is poverty for you to covet things the Almighty has given others but not you!
Avoid words and behavior that will require you to apologize!
Get your soul and tongue accustomed to the truth!
Work to make today better than yesterday!
Pray like a person offering his final prayer!
Do not mingle with base and vulgar people!
If you do get angry, just walk away!
Always retain hope in the mercy of Allah (jj)! For His mercy encompasses everything!” (Salabi, Arais, p. 323)
After David (as) passed away, Solomon (as) became king.
“And to David We gave Solomon. What an excellent servant! He was indeed penitent.” (Sad, 38: 30)
Solomon (as) was given many blessings and powers:
“Certainly We gave David and Solomon knowledge, and they said, ‘All praise belongs to Allah, who granted us an advantage over many of His faithful servants.” (Al-Naml, 27: 15)
Solomon (as) could understand the language and prayers of birds:
“Solomon inherited from David, and he said, ‘O people! We have been taught the speech of the birds, and we have been given out of everything. This, indeed, is a clear advantage.” (Al-Naml, 27: 16)
Humans, jinn, animals and the wind were all under his command:
“And for Solomon We disposed the turbulent wind which blew by his command toward the land We have blessed. We have knowledge of all things.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 81)
“And to Solomon, We gave the wind. Its morning course was a month’s journey and its evening course was a month’s journey. We made a fount of copper flow for him, and We placed at his service some of the jinn who would work for him by the permission of his Lord. And if any of them swerved from Our command, We would make him taste the punishment of the blaze.” (Saba, 34: 12)
“They built for him as many temples as he wished, and figures, basins like cisterns, and caldrons fixed in the ground. O House of David, give thanks; for few of My servants are grateful.” (Saba, 34: 13)
The word the Qur’an uses for ‘figures’ is ’tamasil’, which scholars have interpreted as portraits and paintings of living and non-living things alike, as well as their statues made of made of mud, copper or glass. The word itself indicates that the term includes paintings of both living and non-living entities.
The word tamasil, as used in the above verse, carries a broad meaning. It may, therefore, indicate that in the law of Solomon (as), it was permissible to depict all beings, living and non-living, in paintings and statues. Yet, not all interpreters of the Qur’an agree this may have been the case:
- Some scholars say that Solomon’s (as) law did not allow paintings and statues of living things, based on the fact he followed the law of Moses (as), where depicting living beings is explicitly banned. According to this view, the word tamasil refers only to images of non-living things; and at the same time, complies with the similar ban in Islam. It may also be the case that Solomon’s (as) law allowed paintings and statues, only because there was no fear they would lead people of that particular time to paganism.
- Other scholars have said that Solomon’s (as) law did in fact allow painting and sculpting images of living beings. Yet, this leads to the question whether the same is the case in Islam, seeing as it is the Qur’an telling us this. Muslim jurists and scholars have ruled that painting only non-living things, like a scenery, forests and mountains is permissible, as on many occasions, the Prophet (saw) has prohibited the depiction of living things. This is explained by the many hadith about drawing pictures.
“Whoever makes a drawing of a living being on earth, will be forced on judgment day to bring it to life…but he will never be able to.” (Bukhari, Libas, 97; Ta’bir, 45; Muslim, Libas, 100)
Ibn Abbas (ra) narrates that on the day the Prophet (saw) took Mecca from the pagans, he saw many images on the inner walls of the Kaaba. He did not step inside, until he had all of them removed. One painting depicted Abraham (as) and Ismail (as) holding gambling arrows.
“May Allah take the souls of those who painted these!” he said. “Never did they seek their fortune in arrows!” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 8; Hajj, 54, Maghazi, 48)
Consequently, even if it Solomon’s (as) law permitted paintings and statues, Islam clearly does not.
Ibn Masud (ra) narrates the Prophet (saw) once told them that the fiercest punishment in the hereafter will be for those who drew images of living beings. (Bukhari, Libas, 89; Muslim, Libas, 96) That is mainly because the exaggerated respect people have shown for paintings and statues have, in history, led them to paganism.
Aisha (ra) relays another incident:
Jibril (as) had once promised the Prophet (as) he would come to see him at a specific time. Yet, the time had come but he had not arrived. The Prophet (saw) threw the stick he was holding to the ground, and said:
‘Neither Allah nor His messengers turn back on their word!’
He then started to look around, only to find a puppy under the sofa! He called to me, saying:
‘When did this puppy enter the room, Aisha?’
‘I assure you, I have no idea!’ I said.
So, he had the puppy taken out of the room; and Jibril (as) arrived immediately.
‘You promised me you would come. So, I waited but you did not turn up!’ the Prophet (saw) said.
‘What kept me out was the dog inside your home’, Jibril (as) explained. ‘We angels do not enter home that has a dog or an image inside.’” (Muslim, Libas, 81, 82. Also see, Bukhari, Badu’l-Khalq, 7; Libas, 94; Ibn Majah, Libas, 44)
The images mentioned alongside dogs in the above hadith, should not be understood simply as paintings. They also include embossed or engraved depictions of living beings, as well as their statues. A painting is like a shadow; it has no mass. With that said, if the word ‘images’ is construed as encompassing all forms of depictions of a living thing, it could also mean that the ban was in place, only because this was a time when the danger of paganism was still very real.
It goes without saying that today, paintings and photography have a broader presence in everyday life and are, at times, a necessity. As Islam has a dynamic nature, it has determined a legitimate scope for their use, allowing people to make use of photography, which has now become unavoidable.
While on the subject, another point worth emphasizing is how the hadith stresses that angels do not enter places that contain not only images but also dogs. This points to a fine truth. Islam has banned having dogs as pets inside homes. According to Islamic law, both the breath and saliva of a dog is dirty. Medical science has today proven how a dog’s saliva, fur and even breath can lead to many contagious diseases. Yet, these findings are merely what science has been able to reach as of today. Who knows how many finer points Islam’s regulations on the matter have.
As indicated above, Jibril (as) did not enter the home of the Prophet (saw) because of a dog that had only accidentally made its way inside. One must spare a thought for the situation of those who willingly keep dogs in their homes as pets! The fact that the Prophet (saw) asks Aisha (ra):
“How did this puppy get here?” and the manner in which she responds, assuring him she had no idea about it, suggests that it is unacceptable for a Muslim to have a dog as a pet. This incident did not occur for no reason. It allowed the ruling on the matter to come to light.
A cat is a domestic animal. There is no harm in having a cat inside the home. The same, however, does not hold for a dog. A person can keep a dog only for hunting, shepherding and guarding a farm or field; as these all serve a purpose.
The Almighty has indeed put dogs under the command of man; and, different to most other animals, He has given them a sense of loyalty to their owners. He has also endowed them with exceptional qualities beyond even the power of technological devices. Today, dogs are in fact used in searching for narcotics or detecting the locations of people trapped under rubble. Along with protecting properties and farms, dogs are also employed in search and rescue operations, as well as by medical response teams.
With the splintering of families and the rise of individualism especially in the Western world, people who live alone tend to keep dogs as household pets for protection from burglars and other dangers. In some Western countries, people are even legally obliged to insure their dogs. Yet, the same people who are utmost generous in providing for their dogs, whether it be their insurance or feeding costs, are not often as generous towards the poor and underprivileged of their own society. In time, going through all the trouble and costs to keep a dog inside a home transforms not only the dog’s nature but also that of its owner. The excessive devotion towards the dog has now gotten to the point where it is seen as a member of the family. At times, even a person’s own children are seen as second class. The most alarming consequence is that it even makes the ego channel its natural love for children towards the dog and prevent a person from having children of his own. In fact, the populations of many Western countries are on the wane, when they really should be increasing.
From another standpoint, one really does not protect a dog by detaining it inside his home. Much rather, he forces the animal to live under conditions that contradict its nature.
As the pacesetter of all ages, Islam allows dogs to be kept only outside of homes and under special circumstances. The contrary of approach in Western societies really does nothing but corrupt human nature and undermine the family. It is unfortunate that, of late, dogs have also made their way into many Muslim households, which is only one detrimental example of blindly imitating the West.
However, Islam’s ban on keeping dogs inside homes does not entail a negative attitude towards them. It does not imply that dogs should not be fed; and it certainly does not mean they should be mistreated. Islam teaches mercy for all creation. It also commands us to protect the lives of dogs, and like all other being, treat them with mercy and compassion.
A hadith in fact speaks of a sinful woman who will enter paradise solely on account of giving water to a dog that was about to die of thirst.
Our own history is famous for institutionalizing feelings compassion in a variety of waqfs, or charity foundations, whose hands of mercy have reached out even to animals in need.
The important thing is to observe the boundaries Islam has set on the matter.
Solomon’s (as) Love of Horses
“When one evening, prancing steeds were displayed before him, he said, ‘I have preferred the love of these niceties due to the remembrance of my Lord. The horses then disappeared behind the veil. ‘Bring them back to me!’ he said. He then began to wipe legs and necks.” (Sad, 38: 31-33)
Some interpreters of the Qur’an suggest that what Solomon (as) meant was:
“I love horses only because they help me remember my Lord!”
In other words, it did not make him delay his prayer and worship. The horses eventually disappeared behind a ‘veil’. They were now either back in their stables or had galloped so far that they were no longer in sight. That was when Solomon (as) completed his ritual prayer (salat).
He told his men to, “Bring them back to me!”
He began massaging their legs, necks; and groomed them with great care.
Fakhruddin Razi writes that just like in Islam, Solomon’s (as) law also advised breeding and training horses for war. It is said that one day, Solomon (as) had inspected the horses; and upon seeing the steeds standing with one foot up and the rest on the ground, he remarked:
“I only love the wealth of the world to remember my Lord’s name, to gain His pleasure and spread His word. I never want anything for myself!”
Afterwards, he commanded the stablemen to take out the horses for a run, and watched them until they galloped out of sight. He then ordered the horses back, and caressed them affectionately, all the while gazing at a beautiful manifestation of the Lord’s power and art.
From the verse, it is understood that in the beauty of both their posture and pace, horses are an expression of divine power.
Horses have turned men into heroes, and, throughout history, have been symbols victory and nobility.
Horses are among those unique beings, in whose name Allah (jj) swears by in the Qur’an:
“By the snorting chargers, by the strikers of sparks, by the raiders at dawn, raising therein a trail of dust, and cleaving therein a host!” (Al-Adiyat, 100: 1-5)
The Prophet (saw) has said the following about horses:
“Until the Day of Judgment, the good –that is rewards and spoils- have been knotted into the foreheads of horses.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 43; Muslim, Imarah, 96-99)
“Whoever keeps a horse with genuine belief in Allah and His promise and with the intention of fighting on His path, what the horse eats, drinks and discharges, will be listed among his rewards in the hereafter.” (Bukhari, Jihad, 45; Nasai, Khayl, 11).
Among all animals, horses are spiritually the closest to human beings. Before going into battle, a cavalryman choses a horse he feels is most akin to his temperament. That is because during battle, a horse feels the same excitement as its rider. A horse is also a manifestation of power. Its body possesses another kind of symmetry and beauty.
Solomon’s (as) Trial
One day, the Almighty tested Solomon (as) by taking away all his power at once. The Qur’an says:
“Certainly, We tried Solomon, and cast a lifeless body on his throne. Thereupon, he was penitent.” (Sad, 38: 34)
In an instant, Solomon (as) was dispossessed of everything he had, and was left with nothing.
There are a few reports regarding the nature of this trial:
Among the artisans employed to work in the construction of the Temple (Baytu’l-Maqdis) were a number of devils. They well versed in the craft of deception and staged a coup. As a result, Solomon (as) was briefly separated from his throne, or remained on it without any authority, no different than a corpse. It could also mean he was removed from his throne and replaced with a puppet ruler.
Another report suggest that Solomon (as) wished for all his wives to bear sons, so that they could go to battle in the way of Allah (jj). Yet, he neglected saying insha’Allah, if Allah wishes. Consequently, only one of his wives gave birth to a son; and he was born disabled. (Bukhari, Anbiya, 40; Ayman, 3; Muslim, Ayman, 23/1654)
Similarly, when the Prophet (saw) was asked for information about the Spirit, the Sleepers of the Cave and Dhul-Qarnayn (as), he said:
“I will tell you about them tomorrow”, without saying insha’Allah. Consequently, he did not receive revelation for some time. The Almighty declares:
“Do not say about anything, ‘I will indeed do it tomorrow’ without adding, ‘if Allah wishes.’ And when you forget, remember your Lord, and say, ‘Maybe my Lord will guide me to something more right.” (Al-Kahf, 18: 23-24)
According to another report, Solomon (as) was tested with a severe illness, which reduced him to a ‘corpse on a throne.’
Another report says the Almighty sent fear into Solomon (as); and the anxiety that something bad might happen, turned him figuratively into a corpse.
With the grace of Allah (jj), Solomon (as) returned to his former state. He then repented:
“He said, ‘My Lord! Forgive me, and grant me a kingdom no one will attain to after me. Indeed, You are the All-munificent.” (Sad, 38: 35)
It was not for the purpose of bragging that Solomon (as) prayed to be given powers no one else had. He wanted power to subdue the tyrant kings of his time, who were swimming in pride and conceit.
Fakhruddin Razi has also interpreted Solomon’s (as) prayer as:
“My Lord! Give me so glorious a kingdom that after I die, people will say, ‘If the wealth of the world was to benefit anyone, it would have benefited Solomon’; and through this, curb their love and ambition for the world!”
Judging by that, Solomon (as) was not after the riches of the world but the riches of the hereafter.
The Qur’an states:
“Whoever desires the tillage of the hereafter, We will enhance for him his tillage, and whoever desires the tillage of the world, We will give it to him, but he will have no share in the hereafter.” (Al-Shura, 42: 20)
The Qur’an indicates that Allah (jj) accepted Solomon’s (as) prayer:
“So We disposed the wind for him, blowing softly by his command wherever he intended. And the devils, every builder and diver, and others bound together in chains.” (Sad, 38: 36-38)
As understood from the verses, the Almighty had placed devils (jinn) under Solomon’s (as) command, as builders and divers. With Solomon’s (as) order, some of these devils constructed grand buildings, mosques, palaces; and made paintings, dug out pools and crafted immovable cauldrons beyond human capacity. Others dived into the seas to bring out many things including precious gems and objects hidden deep beneath.
As for the expression ‘bound together in chains’, scholars have offered two interpretations:
- Some scholars have said these were the slaves and captives of Solomon (as). It is narrated that Solomon (as) would tie them together when they worked, so that they would not escape.
- According to other scholars, Solomon (as) had punished some demons for rebelling against his order, by binding them together in chains and consigning them to heavy labor. This is the more preferred interpretation.
Ibn Kathir has holds that view, saying that the devils bound in chains were the stubborn, rebellious ones that either refused to work or did so halfheartedly.
On top of such power and splendor, the Almighty had also given Solomon (as) a great authority. The Qur’an states:
“This is Our bounty. Give away or withhold, without any reckoning! Indeed Solomon has nearness with Us and a good destination.” (Sad, 38: 39-40)
Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrates that the Prophet (saw) once explained:
“Last night, a demon (ifrit) from among the jinn lunged at me to disrupt my prayer. Allah (jj) gave me the opportunity and I grabbed and stopped him in his tracks. I even wanted to tie him to one of the poles inside the mosque, so you could all see him in the morning. But then I remembered the prayer of my brother Solomon (as): ‘My Lord! Forgive me, and grant me a kingdom no one will attain to after me.’ (Sad, 38: 35). Allah (jj) then banished him, vile and despicable.” (Bukhari, Salat, 75; Anbiya, 40; Muslim, Masajid, 39/541)
Despite receiving a glorious wealth and kingdom, Solomon (as) knew how to lead a life of servanthood with humility, focus and passion; and he kept his heart removed from the world. It has been said:
“In spite of the kingdom and power he was granted, Solomon (as) never for one looked up into the sky until the day he died, out of reverence for Allah (jj).” (Ibn Abi Shaybah, Musannaf, v. VIII, p. 118)
The Construction of the Holy Temple
On the order of the Almighty, David (as) had begun constructing the Temple but he passed away before it was completed. Thereupon, Solomon (as) gathered all the jinn, and had them build the rest. He also established a city around it, consisting of twelve neighborhoods. (967 or 953 BCE)
The Temple, first called Bayt Al-Maqdis, or the Sacred House, later became known as Masjid Al-Aqsa. After the Kaaba and the Prophet’s Mosque, it is the third holiest site of worship.
Also inside the Temple was the Ark of the Covenant, containing holy relics and the tablets of the Torah.
After the death of Solomon (as), the Temple was destroyed a number of times. In around 586 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar entered Jerusalem with his army and torched the city. He also pillaged the gems of the Temple and took them back with him to Babylon. For long years, the Temple remained in rubble. After the Persians defeated the Babylonians and allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem, the Temple was built for a second time, around the year 515 BCE. In the year 70 CE, however, the Temple was razed once again; this time by the Romans. For a long time, its spot remained vacant, though people still acknowledged the area as a place of worship and protected its remains. It is narrated that in 637, Umar (ra) had a mosque built on that spot. In 691, the Umayyad caliph Abd Al-Malik had the Dome of the Rock built over the rock the Prophet (saw) used as a stepping stone during the Miraj. Right beside it, he began the construction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was completed during the reign of his son Walid I. The Al-Aqsa Mosque has since undergone a number of repairs and renovations.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque has a special place in Islam. It is the first qibla. Until the 16th month into the Hegira, it was the direction Muslims faced during ritual prayer. At the same time, it was the point where the Prophet’s (saw) Night Journey (Isra) ended, and his ascension to the heavens (Miraj) began.
The Prophet (saw) has said:
“One may travel to visit only three mosques: the Kaaba, my mosque here (Medina) and Al-Aqsa.” (Bukhari, Fadailu’s-Salat, 6; Muslim, Hajj, 288/827)
In another hadith, he explains:
“Once Solomon built the Sacred Mosque, he asked Allah (jj) for three privileges:
The ability to judge in line with divine command, which he was given,
A kingdom no-one else could attain to after him, which he was also given,
And for people who came just to pray at the mosque to be forgiven of their sins the moment they stepped out, just like the day they were born…and that wish, was also accepted.” (Nasai, Masajid, 6; Ibn Majah, Iqamatu’s-Salat, 196/1408)
Solomon (as) and the Ants
The Almighty states:
“And gathered for Solomon were his soldiers of jinn, men and birds, and they were marching in rows. When they came to the Valley of Ants, an ant said, ‘O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Solomon and his army should trample on you while they are unaware.” (Al-Naml, 27: 17-18)
The ant warned, “Solomon’s (as) kingdom is tremendous. You will be crushed! Get back inside your nests!”
Solomon (as) heard these words and said:
“No, my kingdom is fleeting, and my life on earth is bound to end! But the joy the word of God brings, is eternal!”
The Qur’an says:
“He thereupon smiled, amused at its words, and said, ‘My Lord! Inspire me to give thanks for the blessing with which You have blessed me and my parents, and that I may do righteous deeds which may please You. And admit me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants.” (Al-Naml, 27: 19)
The verse makes it clear that the splendor of his kingdom did not drag Solomon (as) away from being aware of his servanthood, as he humbly asks for both himself and his parents to be forgiven.
The Prophet (saw) relays an advice Solomon (as) received from his mother:
“Son, do not sleep too much at night, for too much sleep is poverty in the afterlife!” (Ibn Majah, Iqamatu’s-Salat, 174/1332)
Hence, to avoid the poverty of the hereafter, one must not be fooled by the comfort of the world, and keep striving on the path of serving the Lord.
Solomon (as), the Hoopoe and Bilqis
With the Holy Temple now complete, Solomon (as) led his army of winds, jinn, humans, birds and other wild animals on an expedition towards Mecca. He informed them that Mecca will be the town from which the Final Prophet (saw) will hail. Solomon (as) then lead the army south to Sanaa. There, he saw a nice valley and wanted to pray. At that point, the Hoopoe took flight, wishing to inspect the region and come back by the time they finished their prayers. It flew with the other birds of the area and was amazed by the things it saw. The other birds took it on a trip through the gardens of the palace of Bilqis.
Right then, Solomon (as) needed to perform wudu and looked around for the Hoopoe, so it could find some water. That was the Hoopoe’s main duty: to detect places with water for ablution. Yet, the bird was nowhere to be seen. The Qur’an recounts:
“He then inspected the birds, and said, ‘Why do I not see the Hoopoe? Or is he absent?” (Al-Naml, 27: 20)
At first, Solomon (as) looked around for the Hoopoe with sympathy; but when he realized it had left without permission, he spoke more firmly, in line with the discipline he demanded from his soldiers:
“I will surely punish him with a severe punishment, or I will surely behead him, unless he brings a clear-cut excuse!” (Al-Naml, 27: 21)
“It turned up before long and said, ‘I have found out about something about which you have no information. I have brought you, from Sheba, certain news!’” (Al-Naml, 27: 22)
Sheba was a tribe in Yemen named after their forefathers. It was also the name of the capital of the kingdom ruled by Queen Bilqis. The Qur’an says:
“There was certainly a sign for Sheba in their land: two gardens, to the right and to the left. ‘Eat of the provision of your Lord and give Him thanks!’ What a good land and what an all-forgiving Lord!” (Saba, 34: 15)
The Hoopoe continued explaining to Solomon (as) the things it saw:
“I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given everything, and she has a great throne!” (Al-Naml, 27: 23)
“I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allah, and Satan has made their deeds seem dazzling to them. He has barred them from the way, so they are not guided!” (Al-Naml, 27: 24)
“They do not prostrate to Allah, who brings out the hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows whatever you hide and whatever you disclose. Allah…there is no god except Him! He is the Lord of the Great Throne!” (Al-Naml, 27: 25-26)
“Solomon said, ‘We shall see whether you are truthful, or if you are lying.” (Al-Naml, 27: 27)
Solomon (as) had a seal in the shape of a ring. When he put that ring on his finger, all beings would submit to him. It is narrated that the seal read, ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammed is His messenger.”
Solomon (as) wrote a letter that began with the words ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate’. He then stamped the letter with his famous seal and gave it to the Hoopoe. He added:
“Take this letter of mine and deliver it to them. Then draw away from them and observe their response.” (Al-Naml, 27: 28)
The Hoopoe flew out with the letter in the dark of night and left it on Bilqis’ throne. It then moved aside and waited to see what would unfold.
Bilqis woke up in the morning to find a letter on her throne. She wondered who may have left it, as all the doors had been tightly shut.
“Who brought this letter?” she asked the guards.
“We stood by this door all night”, they said. “No one could have entered!”
A stunned Bilqis proceeded to open the letter. She was left astounded by what she read. She immediately summoned her council and said:
“She said, ‘Members of the elite! A noble letter has been delivered to me. It is from Solomon, and it begins in the name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.” (Al-Naml, 27: 29-30)
Some scholars suggest that Bilqis ended up being guided onto the right path for no other reason than her respect for the letter and its contents.
In fact, the Pharaoh’s magicians had also shown Moses (as) respect, when they offered him to go first in their showdown. At the end, they were also guided.
In contrast, the Persian ruler, Khosrow II tore up and the threw away the Prophet’s (saw) letter of guidance, and hurled insults. As a result, his kingdom was shattered and he met a miserable end in the throes of disbelief.
Saint Bishr Al-Hafi (the Barefoot) once saw a piece of paper with the word ‘Allah’ on it, lying in the street. He picked the paper up from the ground, cleaned it, put fragrances on it and hung it on a nice corner of his house. Due to his reverence, the Almighty graced him with great rewards and placed him alongside the righteous.
Bilqis continued reading the letter out loud:
“It states, ‘Do not defy me, and come to me in submission!’” (Al-Naml, 27: 31)
Through the ‘basmala’ in the letter, Solomon (as) had implied to Bilqis that Allah (jj) alone deserved to be worshipped. After expressing the true faith, he called on her and her people to take a good spiritual look at themselves, by saying ‘do not react with arrogance; instead come to me as Muslims.’ With those words, he suggested that all happiness was in Islam.
“She said, ‘Members of the elite! Give me your opinion concerning my issue. I do not decide on any matter until you are present.’
They said, ‘We are powerful and possess great might. But the decision is yours. So, see what you decide.’” (Al-Naml, 27: 32-33)
“She said, ‘When kings enter a town, they devastate it, and reduce the mightiest of its people to the most abased. That is how they act. I will send them a gift, and see what the envoys bring back.” (Al-Naml, 27: 34-35)
After receiving Solomon’s (as) letter advising her not to defy him and to come to him along with her people, Bilqis consulted the matter with her statesmen. In the end, she decided to send envoy to Solomon (as) with lavish gifts, to ensure they would be safe from harm.
Once the envoy arrived, Solomon (as) noticed that these were people who relied on their wealth. He construed the gifts as a sort of bribe, and sent them back:
“So when he arrived, Solomon said, ‘Are you trying to help me with wealth? What Allah has given me is better than what He has given you. But you seem to exult over the gift you have brought!” (Al-Naml, 27: 36)
“Go back to them, for we will come at them with armies which they cannot face, and we will expel them from the land, abased and degraded.” (Al-Naml, 27: 37)
The envoys returned and informed Bilqis what Solomon (as) told them.
“He must have read our intentions”, she exclaimed. “I am starting to believe that this man is not an ordinary king…and we do not stand a chance against him!” She then sent another envoy to Solomon (as), this time with just one message:
“My dignitaries and I will come to your presence to see your power and the religion to which you invite us!”
Bilqis stored her illustrious throne away in the safest chamber of the palace and had its doors locked tight. Then, accompanied by a grand entourage, she set out.
In the meantime, Solomon (as) asked for Bilqis’ throne in Sanaa to be brought. Scholars have suggested a few reasons:
To show Bilqis a miracle and yet another proof to demonstrate the might of Allah (jj) and confirm his prophethood
To test Bilqis’ intelligence by transforming the throne and seeing if she could recognize it.
Since a throne is a symbol of kingship, Solomon (as) wished to see the state of Bilqis’ kingdom before she arrived. (Fakhruddin Razi, Tafsir, v. XXIV, p. 169)
“He said, ‘Members of the elite! Which of you will bring me her throne before they come to me in submission?’
An Ifrit from among the jinn said, ‘I will bring it to you before you rise from your place. I indeed have the power to do it and I am to be trusted.” (Al-Naml, 27: 38-39)
Solomon (as) would sit on his throne in the morning and deal with state affairs until the afternoon. Accordingly, Ifrit pledged that he could bring the throne within that period of time.
“The one who had knowledge of the Book said, ‘I will bring it to you in the blink of an eye.’
So, when Solomon saw the throne next to him, he said, ‘This is by the grace of my Lord, to test me if I will give thanks or be ungrateful. And whoever gives thanks, gives thanks only for his own sake. And whoever is ungrateful should know that my Lord is indeed all-sufficient, all-generous.” (Al-Naml, 27: 40)
The strong view is that the wise man who brought the throne in the blink of an eye was Solomon’s (as) vizier, Asaf ibn Barhiya.
These are supernatural feats that take place through saints. They are of two types:
- Knowledge about Allah’s (jj) essence, attributes and action. This is also called spiritual insight or kashf. These are impossible to grasp through reason and reflection. Only Allah (jj) grants this knowledge to whom He wills.
- Supernatural events that occur in the physical world. Again, to perform these, Allah (jj) choses whom He wills.
People generally esteem the second kind of karamah. Yet, the first kind is superior.
Imam Shafii says:
“Having my prayers accepted by the grave of Imam Musa Kadhim has become something like an obsession. I have experienced it so many times.”
Imam Ghazzali says:
“A person who inspires in life also inspires after death, as a means for wishes to be accepted (tawassul).”
Ma’ruf Karhi and Abdulqadir Jilani are among saints, famous for being given spiritual disposal by the Almighty even after their death.
Time and again, karamah also occurred among the companions of the Prophet (saw).
During a battle between Muslims and Persians on the 23rd year of Hegira, Umar (ra) was on the pulpit inside the Medina Mosque, when he suddenly exclaimed:
“To the mountains, Sariyah, to the mountains!” The commander Sariyah, as well as the Muslim army heard the warning all the way in the battlefield. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, II, 3)
Anas (ra) narrates:
“Two companions (Usayd ibn Hudary and Abbad ibn Bashir) left the Prophet’s (saw) presence in a dark night. Two flame-like lights appeared in front of them and lit up their way until they both reached home.” (Bukhari, Salat, 79; Manaqibu’l-Ansar, 13)
Imam Ali Ridha was once sitting beneath a wall, when a bird appeared and started chirping. He said to those around him:
“The bird is telling us that a snake is approaching its nest and its crying for help to save its hatchlings!”
They then went to the nest and indeed saw a snake slithering its way up. They immediately killed the snake and saved the hatchlings.
The fact that Bilqis’s throne was brought not through Solomon’s (as) miracle but through the karamah of Asaf ibn Barhiya points to the spiritual greatness of Solomon (as), as Asaf was his vizier.
“Solomon said, ‘Disguise her throne for her, so that we may see whether she is perceptive or not.” (Al-Naml, 27: 41)
The throne had arrived in an instant, in the time it takes to blink an eye. Yet, it was brought from a distance of three days (from Sheba to Sanaa) according to one view, while two months according to another (from Sheba to Damascus or Jerusalem). This was an extraordinary feat that could have taken place only through karamah.
“So when she came, she was asked, ‘Is your throne like this one?’
She said, ‘It seems to be the same, and we were informed before it, and we became Muslim.’
She had previously been barred from the way by what she used to worship besides Allah, for she belonged to a faithless people.” (Al-Naml, 27: 42-43)
“It was said to her, ‘Enter the palace.’
So when she saw it, she thought it to be a pool of water, and she bared her shanks.
Solomon said, ‘It is a palace paved with crystal.’
She said, ‘My Lord! Indeed I have wronged myself, and I submit with Solomon to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.” (Al-Naml, 27: 44)
It is narrated that ahead of Bilqis’s arrival, Solomon (as) had a palace built. Its courtyard, including the surface, was made of crystal. There was water flowing underneath with fish swimming inside. Bilqis did not realize that the surface was of a transparent substance and slightly lifted her dress, as she thought she would be walking through water. All the things she saw shook her trust in her own judgment and prepared her heart to accept the divine call. She knew that these were no human feats. She saw divine glory with her own eyes and became Muslim.
The Passing Away of Solomon (as)
At the time of his death, Solomon (as) was leaning on his staff. As he was left standing, those around him did not realize he had passed away, until a worm ate away at his staff and Solomon (as) collapsed to the ground. The Qur’an says:
“And when We decreed death for him, nothing informed them of his death except a worm which gnawed away at his staff. And when he fell down, the jinn realized that had they known the unseen, they would not have remained in such humiliating torment.” (Saba, 34: 14)
It is understood that after Solomon (as) died, his corpse stood upright against his staff for a long time. The term ‘humiliating torment’ refers to the hard labor the jinn were forced to do. As they did not become aware that Solomon (as) had passed away, they continued working. This shows that jinn have no insight into the unseen (ghayb).
Just like his life, Solomon’s (as) death also symbolized a struggle in the way of tawhid. The way he died conveyed the fact that only Allah (jj) knows the unseen and no other being can have insight into it unless informed by Allah (jj) himself. As if to mock the jinn who claimed they knew the unseen, the Almighty brought Solomon’s (as) death to light by the weakest of all creatures and reminded them they could know nothing without His permission.
On the other hand, there is also plenty of wisdom in how a prophet of great power and kingdom died standing. The words, lives and experiences of all prophets offer subtle lessons.
The end of Solomon’s (as) glorious kingship is also an example of how fleeting the world is and how all things inescapably meet an end. In his Terkib-i Bend, Ziya Pasha says:
On the wind, it’s said, sailed Solomon’s throne
And with the wind that throne is now gone
Another famous poem by Yunus Emre reads:
Owner of riches, owner of wealth
Where has the first owner gone to?
Riches are a lie, so is wealth
Mess around a bit until you’re through
Kingship and Modesty
Solomon (as) was a very humble man. In the mornings, he would go and sit with the poor and weak, and say:
“A poor man must hang out with his kind.”
It is reported that Solomon (as) had the following exchange with a sparrow:
Solomon (as) had once reprimanded a sparrow (or the Hoopoe). The sparrow then threatened Solomon (as).
“I will destroy your palace and kingdom”, it warned.
“How can you possibly destroy my palace with such a small frame?” he asked.
“I will wet my wings and dip into the soil of a donated land (waqf)”, it replied. “Then I will carry the soil stuck on my wings to the roof of your palace…and that soil will be enough to make the roof collapse!”
This is a lesson that underlines the importance of religious endowments or waqfs, and the need to be sensitive towards them. Elders have said, “Beware of things that begin with the letter waw”, referring to swearing in God’s name in vain (wallahi), becoming a governor (wali) lacking sensitivity and awareness, a custodian (wasi) incompetent in fulfilling his duty and betraying the property of a waqf.
What is meant by ‘being wary’ in relation to waqfs is that those who work for these charity institutions need to be utmost careful in observing justice. It is forbidden to make personal use of anything that belongs to a waqf. A waqf is a moveable or immoveable asset whose owner is Allah (jj) and which has been donated for the benefit of all Muslims.
Some reports say Solomon (as) will enter paradise 500 years after all other prophets. The reason is that it will take that long for Solomon (as) to give account for the kingdom and wealth he was given. The Qur’an does indeed reveal that prophets will also be called into account:
“We will surely question those to whom the prophets were sent, and We will surely question the prophets.” (Al-Araf, 7: 6)
After Solomon (as)
Following Solomon (as), the Israelites split into two. Of its twelve tribes, ten formed the Kingdom of Israel, while the remaining two founded the Kingdom of Judah.
The Assyrians put an end to the Kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE, while the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed in 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. Nebuchadnezzar also set fire to Jerusalem and killed most of its inhabitants. He was a tyrant king, who became the second nonbeliever to rule the world after Nimrod. He rebuilt Babylon and made the city the capital of his empire. He defeated all rivals, east and west. He therefore yielded to pride and ended up declaring himself god. Eventually, Nebuchadnezzar became insane, where he began to believe he was an ox. He roamed the forests for seven years, during which his wife ruled in his place. It is said that he regained his sanity but died only a year later.
Nebuchadnezzar plundered Jerusalem several times. He burnt all copies of both the Torah and the Psalms. Naturally, most of the Torah’s content was soon forgotten. By the time people began rewriting the parts they remembered, the Torah had lost its original form, replaced with many conflicting tracts. Ezra (Uzayr), who lived around 500 BCE, compiled all these tracts of the Torah. He was also present during the second construction of the Temple. According to Judaism, the Torah was entirely lost; and God inspired Ezra to rewrite it.
When the Persian king Cyrus defeated the Babylonians, he allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. In 515 BCE, they repaired and rebuilt the Temple. They lived under the rule of Persians, and after them, Macedonians. At 63 CE, Romans seized full control of Jerusalem, sending Jews into exile for the second time. The Temple of Solomon was once again, demolished.
The Israelites underwent these tribulations because of their own mischief. They had transgressed so much that they changed the Torah and the Psalms to serve their personal interests, and by doing so, corrupted the true religion. They even killed prophets like Zechariah and John (as) for simply trying to prevent them.
The Story of Harut and Marut
Magic was widespread among Jews. Hence, they believed that Solomon (as) was a great magician, who had achieved his kingdom and command over jinn and animals through sorcery. When the Qur’an presented Solomon (as) as a prophet, they remarked:
“Muhammed thinks Solomon is a prophet even though he was nothing but a magician!”
It was then that the below verse was revealed:
“And they followed what the devils pursued during Solomon’s reign. Solomon did not turn faithless, but faithless were the devils who taught the people magic, and what was sent down to the two angels at Babylon, Harut and Marut. Yet, they would not teach anyone without telling them, ‘We are only a test, so do not become faithless.’ But they still learned from the two the craft to split man from his wife. But they could not harm anyone with it except with Allah’s permission. And they learned that which would only bring them harm and no benefit, knowing that anyone who buys it has no share in the Hereafter. They only sold their souls to evil, if only they knew!” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 102)
Scholar Fakhruddin Razi explains the reasons as to why angels Harut and Marut were sent to earth:
At the time, magicians had flourished. Some of them had exposed aspects of the craft previously unknown and staked claim to being prophets. They therefore posed a challenge to humans. For that reason, the Almighty sent these two angels to teach people magic, so they would be able to recognize these imposters.
Knowing the difference between miracle and magic depends on knowing what they are. Back then, people did not know what magic was. It was therefore impossible for them to recognize a miracle. The Almighty thus sent the two angels to explain to the people the reality behind magic so they could discern the truth behind a miracle.
According to another view, magic, which sowed division among the enemies of Allah (jj) and love among His friends was permissible at the time. The Almighty therefore sent the two angels to teach people magic strictly in line with these aims. Yet, the people later began utilizing magic to its opposite end: to sow enmity among God’s beloved servants and love among His foes.
Since magic is forbidden, it has to be of a nature that human beings can know and grasp. Otherwise, what cannot be grasped cannot be banned.
It is also possible that the jinn knew kinds of magic that humans could not perform; and that the Almighty sent these two angels to teach humans things to protect themselves against the jinn.
This could also be conceived as a trial that adds to the burden of servanthood. Once man learns a way to obtain worldly pleasures, it becomes harder for him to keep away from it. And the harder the trial is, the greater are the rewards. By keeping away from something he knows how to get, man can therefore reap far greater rewards.
This is similar to how, on a hot summer day, the Almighty tested Saul’s army with a river; and Saul declared:
“Allah is about to test you with a river. Whoever drinks from it is not of me. Whoever does not, is indeed of me, excepting those who drink a bit of it from their hands.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 249)
All these explanations suggest numerous wisdoms behind the Almighty sending two angels down on earth to teach magic. Allah (jj) is undoubtedly wise in all His affairs and knows all things the best.
The Prophet’s (saw) Superiority to Solomon (as)
The winds were placed under Solomon’s (as) command. All angels, great and small, were in the service of the Prophet (saw).
Solomon (as) could travel a distance of two months in a single day. On the Night of Miraj, the Prophet (saw) rose to the Throne in an instant.
Birds used to shade Solomon (as), whereas a cloud would shade the Prophet (saw).
All creatures had gathered under Solomon’s (as) seal to serve him. On the Day of Judgment, all prophets, saints, martyrs and the righteous will gather under the Prophet’s (saw) flag, Liwau’l-Hamd.
Solomon (as) was given a throne. The Prophet (saw), on the other hand, was given Ayat al-Kursi, the Verse of the Throne. It is from among the treasures of paradise, which sends fear into all devils.
. The Hoopoe is a bird the Qur’an refers to as al-Hudhud.
. Ibn Abbas (ra) reports that the Hoopoe knew and informed Solomon (as) where to find water. It also knew how near or far the water was. It would peck at the spot and the jinn would come and dig the water out. Ibn Abbas (ra) was told:
“Despite having this ability, if a child was to lay a trap and cover it with dust, the Hoopoe would step on it unaware and become ensnared. This is strange, considering it could spot water, way deeper, beneath the earth!”
He replied, “Once destiny arrives, the eyes are blinded and the mind flies away.”
. According to imams Abu Hanifah, Malik and Ibn Hanbal, the basmalas at start of each surah or chapter of the Qur’an, serve to separate the chapters. Imam Shafii, however, regards them as separate verses.
. Ifrit refers to an immensely strong, capable type; a go-getter and livewire. It also implies mastery in evil and devilry. As this expression is also used for humans, the verse makes it clear the person mentioned was an ‘ifrit from among the jinn.’
. See, Qurtubi, Tafsîr, XV, 20.