Prophets of Allah – Solomon: A most excellent servant of God

Jalees Ahmad, Al Hakam
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Prophet Solomonas, also known as Sulayman [سليمان], was a Prophet of Allah and the son of Prophet Davidas. He was the heir of Davidas and was bestowed special knowledge and, as all prophets, was favoured by Allah the Almighty. His people carried trade on sailing boats (Surah al-Anbiya’, Ch.21: V.82) and he, Solomonas,  is known famously for the palace (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.45) which shall be discussed further in the article. Like all Prophets, Solomanas was diligent in turning to Allah and was bestowed a high rank.

Prophet Solomonas, who was an excellent servant of God and would often turn to Him, is a well-known and prominent figure mentioned in the Holy Quran. He is considered one of the four great world-rulers in Arab history; renowned for his wisdom and justice. Like all prophets, his knowledge was vast and deep, and even at an early age, he excelled in administering justice with the “[right] understanding” of matters (Surah al-Anbiya, Ch.21: V. 80). When his father, Prophet Davidas, passed away, Solomonas was chosen as his successor due to his admirable qualities and esoteric knowledge granted to him by God. (​​The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Leiden E.J. Brill, 1986, Vol. 9, p. 822)

When we remember Prophet Solomonas, one thing which directly comes to mind is his vast empire which spanned from northern Syria to the Persian Gulf; he also commanded a powerful navy. Solomon’sas reign marked the zenith of Israelite wealth, power, and prestige. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, pp. 2603-2604)

Winds were subjected for Prophet Solomon

Prophet ​​Solomonas was said to possess the ability to understand the speech of birds (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.17), the true purport of which has been discussed already in the article about his father, Prophet Davidas.  

He was also believed to have command over a strong wind, which blew for a month in the morning and a month in the evening. (​​The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Leiden E.J. Brill, 1986, Vol. 9, p. 822) The verse presented for this is as follows:

“And We subjected to Solomon the violent wind. It blew, at his bidding, toward the land which We had blessed. And We have knowledge of all things.” (Surah al-Anbiya, Ch.21: V.82)

Upon studying this verse, it should not be understood that Solomonas, at his own will and command, had control over the wind. Alluding to the word الرّيْح (wind), used in the verse quoted above, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira has explained that this probably refers to Prophet Solomon’sas vessels which sailed under his command. (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan [2005], Vol. 3, p. 133) It implies that his people carried on trade in sailing boats. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states that “Hazrat Solomon’sas vessels used to come down with goods from the upper region of Syria; that is, towards Palestine.” (Tafsir-e-Saghir, p. 417)

Further, it seems that Prophet Solomon’sas vessels navigated through the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, facilitating regular trade between Palestine and the surrounding countries located around the Persian Gulf and these two seas. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2104)

In Surah Sad, Ch.38: V.37, we read:

“So We subjected to him the wind, blowing gently by his command whithersoever he desired to go,” (Surah Sad, Ch.38: V.37)

In light of this, the Five Volume Commentary explains, “الریح means, (1) wind, (2) a good and pure thing, (3) mercy, (4) aid against an enemy, (5) victory or conquest, (6) predominance and power, (7) a turn of good fortune, etc.” And thus, in this verse, the words فَسَخّرۡنَا لَہُ الرّیۡح (“So We subjected to him the wind”) have been used, which means:

“1. God granted to Solomonas good and pure things of the world; 2. He aided Solomonas against his enemies; 3. He was merciful to Solomonas; 4. Solomonas made great conquests and won victories over his enemies; 5. Solomonas possessed great power, prestige and predominance. 6. The words also signify that Solomonas possessed a large and powerful navy.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, p. 2726)

“Jinn and men and birds”: Three divisions of Solomon’sas army

“And there were gathered together unto Solomon his hosts of Jinn and men and birds, and they were formed into [separate] divisions,” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: Ch.18)

This verse clearly highlights that Soloman was preparing his army in rows.

This verse appears to be referring to the military personnel of Solomon’sas army. The three words used – جن (jinn), انس (men), and طیر (birds) – may represent three different departments within his army. It seems that Prophet Solomonas, through his might, was able to conquer and subjugate some wild tribes, which formed an important part of his army responsible for carrying out various difficult tasks for him. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2398)

After reading the word “Jinn”, it should not be inferred that Prophet Solomanas possessed some extraordinary creatures. For a better understanding of the verse, we must have an overview of the teachings of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophetsa and see what we learn about “Jinn”. With regards to the Holy Prophetsa, we read:

“And [remember] when We turned towards thee a party of the Jinn who wished to hear the Qur’an and, when they were present at its [recitation], they said [to one another], ‘Be silent [and listen],’ and, when it was finished, they went back to their people, warning [them].” (Surah al-Ahqaf, Ch.46:V.30)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira has stated that the “party of the Jinn” probably refers to mountainous Jewish residents of Nusaybin. (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan [2005], Vol.3, p. 579)

It seems this group was concerned about the Meccans’ resistance and thus met Allah’s Messengersa secretly at night. After hearing the recitation of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet’ssa speech, they embraced Islam and conveyed the message to their people who also accepted it willingly. These men went back to their people and said, “‘O our people, we have heard a Book, which has been sent down after Moses.” (Surah al-Ahqaf, Ch.46: V.31) This verse confirms their Jewish identity. It also suggests that they were influential among their community. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.5, p. 2913)

Further, we read:

“And to Solomon [We subjected] the wind; its morning course was a month’s [journey], and its evening course was a month’s [journey] too. And We caused a fount of molten copper to flow for him. And of the Jinn were some who worked under him, by the command of his Lord. And [We had told them that] if any of them turned away from Our command, We would make him taste the punishment of burning fire.” (Surah Saba, Ch.34: V.13)

The verse reflects the vastness of Prophet Solomon’sas empire and its peace and prosperity. It spanned from northern Syria to the Persian Gulf and boasted a powerful navy. Solomon’sas reign marked the zenith of Israelite wealth, power, and prestige. “The expression. ‘And of the jinn were some who worked under him’ shows that Solomonas had conquered and pressed into service wild and rebellious mountain tribes who worked for him day and night. Incidentally, the verse shows that Solomon’sas rule was firm and strong.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, pp. 2603-2604)

Further, we read in the Bible that Prophet Solomonas built ships in Eziongeber on the Red Sea shore in Edom, and Hiram sent his skilled shipmen to join Solomon’sas servants on the fleet. (1 Kings 9:‌26-28)

The Holy Quran states: 

“They made for him what he desired; palaces and statues, and basins like reservoirs, and large cooking vessels fixed in their places: ‘Work ye, O House of David gratefully;’ but few of My servants are grateful.” (Surah Saba’, Ch.34: V.14)

In Surah al-Anbiya’ we read:

“And [We subjected to him] deep divers who dived for him, and did other work beside that; and it was We Who guarded them.” (Surah Surah al-Anbiya’, Ch.21: V.83)

Here, in this verse, the word الشَّیٰطِیۡنِ has been used for deep divers. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra, explaining this, said, “In the Quran, the word Satan is used for rebels and recalcitrant people. The same is meant here. The rebellious people living on the shores of the Persian Gulf were engaged in his service, extracting pearls for him, which are largely produced from Bahrain and the region of Muscat.” (Tafsir-e-Saghir, p. 418)

And thus, according to these verses, Prophet Solomonas was able to conquer and control mountain tribes who were resistant and wild. He made them work for him and forced them into his service.

Did Prophet Solomonas understand the language of ants?

After we read about the three divisions of Solomon’sas army, the Quran states:

“Until when they came to the Valley of An-Naml, a Namlite said, ‘O ye Naml, enter your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you, while they know not.’

“Thereupon he smiled, laughing at her words, and said, ‘My Lord, grant me [the will and power] to be grateful for Thy favour which Thou hast bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to do [such] good works as would please Thee, and admit me, by Thy mercy, among Thy righteous servants.’” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27:V.19-20)

Before reaching the Valley of an-Naml, a Namlite warned his fellow people to return to their homes to avoid being crushed by Prophet Solomonas and his army unknowingly. The Namlite’s words made Solomonas smile, and he prayed to God, asking for the ability to be grateful for the blessings bestowed upon him and his parents, and to do good deeds that would please God. He also prayed for His mercy and to be among the righteous servants.

This verse should not be understood that the Namlites were actually ants. Nor should it be taken to mean that Prophet Solomanas was able to speak and understand the language of ants. Here, the term Naml refers to a specific tribe and is a proper noun. Therefore, “The Valley of Naml” does not mean “the valley of ants,” as it is often misinterpreted, but rather it is the valley where the Naml tribe resided. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2399)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Ira gives the example from the dictionary, al-Qamus, in which, under the entry for برق, it states: الابرقة من میاہ النملة, which means that Abraqah is a spring in Namlah. (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan[2005], Vol.3, p. 285; for further detail, see: Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol.7, p. 368)

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states:

“The Valley of Naml is a real valley on the coast opposite Jerusalem from Damascus towards the Hijaz, metaphorically called the Valley of Naml.” (Tafsir-e-Saghir, p.486)

Just like how Mazin, which literally means “the eggs of ants,” is the name of an Arab tribe, Naml is also the name of a tribe. It was a norm in Arabia for tribes to be named after animals and beasts, such as Banu Asad, Banu Taghlab, Banu Kalb, and Banu Naml. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2399)

Thus, with this information, it is clear that the verse is referring to people and not ants in its literal sense.

Hudhud and the incident with Bilqis, the Queen of Saba’

To understand Prophet Solomon’sas journey to Sheba and back and the matters dealt with and mentioned about it in the Quran, it will be incomplete without the mention of Hudhud, the commander of Solomon’sas forces (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.21).

When one misunderstanding leads to another, various tales and fables are concocted to merely paint a picture, even if the picture is untrue. After misunderstanding the word “bird”, “naml”, and various others that have already been discussed above and in the article about Prophet David, some commentators have once again misunderstood the story and the reality of Hudhud. As Hudhud is also a name of a type of bird, they say that Hudhud was a bird under Solomon’sas command who he employed as a message bearer. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol.7, p. 370)  

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Ruins of the Temple of Awwam at Ma’rib, the former capital of Saba’

Studying the verses collectively, we begin to see the true image. The Holy Quran states:

“‘How is it that I do not see Hudhud? Is he among the absentees? I will surely punish him with a severe punishment or I will slay him, unless he bring me a clear reason [for his absence].’ And he did not tarry long [before Hudhud came] and said, ‘I have comprehended that which thou hast not comprehended; and I have come to thee from Saba’ with sure tidings.” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V21-23)

The verses suggest that the Prophet Solomonas is wondering why he cannot find Hudhud and speculating that he may be absent. He then threatens to punish or kill him unless he can provide a valid excuse for his absence. However, Hudhud appears quickly and explains that he has information that Prophet Solomonas does not possess, having travelled from Saba to share this knowledge.

It is false to say that the great ruler and Prophet, Solomonas, would have been angry with a bird. Further, Huhhud, also known as the hoopoe, is not a bird that can fly great distances. Hence, it is inconceivable that such a bird would be employed for such a mission if it be the case.

Thus, with this, it is apparent that Hudhud was not a bird, but rather a man. He held an important political role as a trusted officer of the state who was assigned a mission by Solomonas to visit the Queen of Sheba. “The practice of exchange of envoys seems to be quite popular in Solomon’sas time. It is also a known fact that men are named after birds and animals. ‘Hudhud’ appears to be a very popular name among Solomon’sas people. The word seems to be the Arabicised form of Hadad, a Biblical name. It appears to have been the name of several Edomite kings who ruled immediately before the first Israelite king and who defeated Midian. One of the courtiers of Solomonas was also named Hudhud. A son of Ishmael, too, bore this name. Similarly, an Edomite prince who fled to Egypt for fear of Jacob’s massacre was known by this name (1 Kings 11:14).” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol.4, p. 2401)

Thus, there should remain no room for error to suggest that Hudhud was a bird Prophet Solomonas used as a message bearer. He was, in fact, a commander of Soloman’sas forces (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.21) who was absent at that time.

As Hudhud arrived, he reported to Solomonas saying “I have come to thee from Saba’ with sure tidings. I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given everything and she has a mighty throne.” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V23-24)

Saba’, or Sheba, was a city in Yemen. The Queen of Sheba was given might and a high degree of civilization. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2402)

Hudhud’s absence at the time when Prophet Solomonas was checking his army tells us that he was at Saba’ collecting information so as to report to Prophet Solomonas

Hudhud then goes on to provide details about the location that Prophet Solomonas was headed to. The phrase “she has been given everything” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.24) indicates that the Queen of Sheba was in charge of a highly prosperous and civilised society. As a powerful monarch, she possessed all the necessary resources to maintain her reign.

Hudhud further reported:

“I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah; and Satan has made their works [look] beautiful to them.” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V25)

Be it known, “The Sabaeans worshipped the sun and the stars, a creed which in all likelihood had been imported into Yemen from Iraq with which the people of Yemen were in close contact by way of the sea and the Persian Gulf.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2403)

Solomonas replied:

“‘We shall see whether thou hast spoken the truth or whether thou art one of those who lie.’” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.28)

It is an understood fact that birds are not capable of speaking in the way that humans do, and they do not possess the cognitive abilities required to understand the concept of truth or lies; hence, another verse that emphatically proves Hudhud was not a bird. Solomonas then handed a letter to him and said to take it to the Queen. The letter was concise yet held a powerful warning against revolt and an invitation to the Queen to submit to him to avoid bloodshed. (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V32) It also encourages her to embrace the true faith and abandon idolatry.

The Queen read the letter before the chiefs and sought their advice on the matter. She further explains, “‘Surely, kings, when they enter a country, despoil it, and turn the highest of its people into the lowest. And thus will they do.” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V35)

The Queen, Bilqis, then opted to send an ambassador with a gift for Solomonas. (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.37)

It is clear that Solomonas disliked the Queen’s doing of sending him presents that appeared to include a throne. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2406)

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra explained that in the olden days, it was common for kings or queens, when faced with more powerful rulers, would persuade them by bribery. When the gifts of Bilqis reached Prophet Solomonas, he understood that she had declared him to be of such bad character that he would accept bribes. Hence, he expressed his displeasure at this act. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol.7, p. 392)

Solomanas responded, “We shall surely come to them with hosts against which they will have no power,” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V38) and asked his men, “‘O nobles, which of you will bring me a throne for her before they come to me, submitting?’” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.39)

The throne, here, symbolises the one built by Prophet Solomonas for the Queen as per the customs of that era. During those times, it was common practice for a ruler to have a throne constructed for welcoming a visiting monarch. Solomonas had a throne built specifically for the Queen’s arrival, hence it is referred to as “a throne for her” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V39) This implies that the throne was designed exclusively for her use. (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2407)

In response, a stalwart from among the Jinn said, “‘I will bring it to thee before thou rise from thy camp; and indeed I possess power therefore and I am trustworthy.’” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.40)

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Before we continue with this particular incident, it will not be out of place to mention Ifrit.

The original verse, of which the translation has been quoted above, is as follows:

قَالَ عِفۡرِیۡتٌ مِّنَ الۡجِنِّ اَنَا اٰتِیۡکَ بِہٖ قَبۡلَ اَنۡ تَقُوۡمَ مِنۡ مَّقَامِکَ ۚ وَاِنِّیۡ عَلَیۡہِ لَقَوِیٌّ اَمِیۡنٌ

In the Five Volume Commentary, in light of Ifrit, we read:

“عفریت (stalwart) is derived from عفر. They say عفرہ i.e. he covered him with dust; he threw him on the ground. عفرہ (‘affara) means, he humbled or abased him. عفریت is a word which is used for men, the jinn and the devils and means, (1) strong and powerful; (2) sharp, vigorous and effective in an affair, exceeding ordinary bounds therein with intelligence and sagacity; (3) a chief; (4) evil in disposition and malignant; (5) insolent and audacious in pride, and in acts of rebellion and (6) one who rolls his adversary in the dust (Lane & Aqrab).” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2407)

Regarding ‘Ifrit, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa states:

“[…] To accomplish the diverse tasks of Hazrat Sulaiman’sas kingdom, Allah made several nations subservient to him, for whom the Holy Quran has used various words. In Surah Saba, verses 13–15, the term ‘jinn’ is used for such people, while in Surah Saad, verses 38–39, as well as in Surah al-Anbiya verse 83, the term ‘shayatin’ is used. In fact, these terms refer to the wicked and corrupt nations that Hazrat Sulaimanas defeated with Allah’s help and support and appointed to carry out various tasks for his empire. Among them, ‘Ifrit was also one of the leaders of a similar nation who held a high rank during the reign of Hazrat Sulaimanas.” (For further details, see: Answers to Everyday Issues: What does the term ‘ifrit mean?, Al Hakam, Issue 265, pp, 6-7.)

Following on with the incident, Prophet Solomonas ordered to “‘Make her throne unrecognisable to her’”, (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.42). The wisdom behind this was to make it far grander than her own throne which she was very proud of. “Solomonas did so in order that she might realize that he was God’s favourite and had been endowed with material and spiritual gifts in far greater abundance than those given to her.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2410)

As she arrived, she was asked if her throne was similar. She replied that it was as if it were the same (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.43). Then, she entered the palace and thought it to be a “great expanse of water” and so bore her shanks (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.45). Seeing this, Solomonas said that it was just a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass.

Prophet Solomonas, as all prophets do, desired people to abandon idol worshipping. He, owing to his noble judgement and character, aimed to convert the Queen to the true faith by adopting wise means. He prepared a grand throne for her that was more beautiful and superior to her own, highlighting his greater power and material and spiritual gifts from God.

“The entrance to the palace was paved with slabs of glass, below which ran a stream of crystal clear water. When the Queen entered the palace she mistook the transparent glass for water and uncovered her shanks, which in view of the Arabic expression کشفت عن ساقیھا signifies that the sight of the water perplexed her and she did not know what to do.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, pp. 2410-2411)

The palace’s entrance was also designed to show the queen’s error of her ways, as she mistook glass slabs for water, emphasising that the sun and celestial bodies she worshipped were not the true sources of light. (Haqaiq-ul-Furqan [2005], Vol. 3, p. 294) Through these methods, Prophet Solomonas succeeded in his goal, as the Queen renounced her idol worship and became a devout follower of the One True God.  She said, “‘My Lord, have I indeed wronged my soul; and I submit myself with Solomon to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’” (Surah an-Naml, Ch.27: V.45)

‘I love the love of horses because they remind me of my Lord’

Prophet Solomonas, naturally, being a commander of force with capable men, also took a liking to horses “of noblest breed and swift of foot” (Surah Sad, Ch.38: V.32)

Solomonas, as mentioned throughout the article,  was blessed with power and wealth from God, allowing him to rule over a vast kingdom. To safeguard his God-given and far-reaching empire, he maintained a strong army, with a formidable cavalry forming a crucial part of it. Given the significance of these horses, he developed a great fondness for horses of good breed. However, this was not merely a passion for racing or breeding. Instead, it stemmed from his love for God, as he recognised the importance of horses in fighting for righteousness and truth. The Quran records him saying, “‘I love the love of horses because they remind me of my Lord.’” (Surah Sad, Ch.38: V.33)

Prophet Solomon’sas vision

Prophet Solomonas saw in a vision an incapable son as his successor.

“And We did try Solomon and We placed on his throne a mere body.” (Surah Sad, Ch.38: V.35)

Hazrat Mulseh-e-Maudra has explained that a lifeless body means that the heir will be a son bereft of heavenly enlightenment (Tafsir-e-Saghir, p. 600). In another verse, the words, “a worm of the earth that ate away his staff” have been used. (Surah Saba, Ch.34: V.15)

In light of this verse, the Five Volume Commentary explains:

“The reference in the words ‘a worm of the earth’ is to Solomon’sas worthless son and successor, Rehoboam, under whose weak rule the great and mighty kingdom of Solomonas fell to pieces. Besides leading a life of ease and luxury, he was surrounded by foolish and selfish counsellors whose bad advice led him to pursue a policy which brought about the ruin and downfall of the kingdom which had been reared on firm and sound footing by his great father. The wild mountain tribes realizing that the strong hand which had held them under subjection was no more, rebelled and revolted, with the result that disorder and chaos followed and Solomon’sas mighty kingdom cracked and crumbled.” (Five Volume Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 2606)

Prophet Solomon’sas prayer

In a hadith narrated by Abdullahra ibn Amr, we read that Allah’s Messengersa said that when Prophet Solomonsa, – the words used by the Holy Prophet for Prophet Solomonas are: أَنَّ سُلَيْمَانَ بْنَ دَاوُدَ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَمَّا بَنَى بَيْتَ الْمَقْدِسِ – son of David, constructed the Sacred House, he prayed to Allah Almighty for three things. Firstly, Solomonas requested that his judgement aligns with Allah’s judgement, which was granted. Secondly, he sought a kingdom that no one else would possess after him, and he was granted that too. Lastly, upon completing the foundations of the Mosque, Solomonas beseeched Allah Almighty to grant that whoever came to the Mosque with the sole intention of praying, would have their sins erased, similar to the day they were born from their mother, and Allah granted this as well. (Sunan an-Nasa’i, Kitab al-masajid, Hadith 693)

Harut and Marut

During the reign of Solomonas, we read about Harut and Marut – ​​both of which are descriptive names. (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.103)

This verse has been surrounded by numerous unwarranted legends that are not supported by the Quran or the Hadith, and some of them even contradict these sources. Therefore, it would be unreasonable to interpret this verse based on such myths. Readers are requested to stay tuned for an upcoming article in the near future, which will, God-willing, delve into a comprehensive and detailed explanation of Harut and Marut. This topic is extensive enough to warrant its own dedicated piece.

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