History of the Prophets

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Solomon

Solomon was not only heir to David’s kingdom (The Holy Quran, 27:16), but further widened it by conquests. Here, too, it may be mentioned at the very outset that the Holy Quran rejects the charge of idol-worship against Solomon, which the Bible prefers in plain words, by asserting that the wives of Solomon

“turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).

The Quran disposes of this charge in very few words:

“And Solomon disbelieved not but the devils disbelieved” (The Holy Quran, 2:102).

The Rev. T.K. Cheyne shows in the Encyclopaedia Biblica that the Bible statement is incorrect:

“That Solomon had a number of wives, both Israelite and non-Israelite, is probable enough, but he did not make altars for all of them, nor did he himself combine the worship of his wives’ gods with that of Yahwe.”

The Quran, however, goes further than this, for it says that the Queen of Sheba did turn a believer in God:

“She said: My Lord, surely I have wronged myself, and I submit with Solomon to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (The Holy Quran, 27:44)

The longest notice of Solomon is that connected with his conquest of Sheba. It starts with a description of the immense resources of his kingdom:

“O men! we have been taught the speech of birds, and we have been granted of all things. Surely this is manifest grace. And his hosts of the jinn and the men and the birds were gathered to Solomon, and they were formed into groups.” (The Holy Quran, 27:16–17)

The use of birds in conveying messages made the birds a necessary adjunct to a military expedition, and the jinn were no doubt the hardy non-Israelite tribes subjugated to the Israelites. Elsewhere they are spoken of as

“those who worked before him by the command of his Lord” (The Holy Quran, 34:12),

and

“made for him what he pleased, of synagogues and images” (The Holy Quran, 34:13).

Clearly these were the foreigners whom Solomon employed to build the Temple, men skilled in architecture, for the Arabs, as Tabrezi, in his commentary on Himasa, remarks,

“speak of the jinn frequently likening a man who is clever in executing affairs to the jinni the shaitan or the devil.”

And men employed by Solomon in this and similar services are elsewhere spoken of as devils:

“And the devils, every builder and diver, and others fettered in chains” (The Holy Quran, 38:37–38).

The latter seem to be those who were forced into service or they may have been the prisoners of war.

After Solomon sets out for the conquest of Sheba, he passes the valley of the Naml, which should not be translated as the valley of the ants, for Naml, though meaning ants, is here used as a proper name, and vad al-Naml, or the valley of the Naml, is, according to the Taj al-‘Arus

“situated between Jibrin and Asqalan.”

And the Namla are plainly spoken of as a tribe in the Qamus, which says:

“Abriqa is of the waters of Namla.”

This tribe, which very likely intervened between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and formed like a buffer state, submitted to Solomon, and hence we find Solomon giving thanks to God:

“My Lord, grant me that I may be grateful for Thy favour which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents.” (The Holy Quran, 27:19)

A similar mistake is made in connection with Hudhud, who undoubtedly is mentioned as an officer of Solomon, but the word is misunderstood as meaning the lapwing. A similar name is Ben-hadad, a king of Syria (1 Kings 20:1), and the Arab writers speak of a king of Himyar as Hudad. The mistake arises from the fact that his name is mentioned in connection with the review of birds (The Holy Quran, 27:20), but the reason of this seems to be that the man so named was some officer of the intelligence department of Solomon’s army. All that is related of him in the ten verses that follow shows him clearly to be a man and not a bird, for he brings to Solomon news about the Queen of Sheba, whom he finds along with her people

“adoring the sun instead of Allah” (The Holy Quran, 27:24),

and doing many unrighteous things:

“And the devil has made their deeds fairseeming to them and thus turned them from the way.”

Only a man could judge what a false belief or a wicked deed was. It is beyond the ken of a bird.

The Queen of Sheba at first sends a present to Solomon, which he considers as an affront and threatens to attack her territory. She submits to Solomon and comes to him, and is asked to “enter the palace,” which shows that she became his wife. In the palace, water ran under glass which the queen mistook for water itself. Thus did Solomon make her realize her error in worshipping the sun which was only an outward object, while the real source of life and power was God, Whose hand, unseen by man, worked in these objects. It is then that the Queen believes in God and gives up the worship of other objects.

Solomon is again mentioned in connection with the destruction of the city of Saba’ in chapter 34 [of the Holy Quran]. Here we are told that the wind was made subservient to Solomon

“it made a month’s journey in the morning and a month’s journey in the evening” (The Holy Quran, 34:12).

In 21:81 the words are:

“And to Solomon (We subdued) the wind blowing violent, pursuing its course by His command to the land which We had blessed.”

The reference in both places is to Solomon’s fleet which ran between the gulf of Aqaba and Ophir on the eastern coast of the Arabian peninsula, and brought him

“fabulous amounts of gold and tropical products”

according to the Jewish Encyclopaedia, giving him

“unlimited means for increasing the glory of his capital city and palace.”

This is referred to in what follows in 34:12 and 13, the making to flow of

“a fountain of molten brass,”

and the making of

“fortresses and images and bowls… and cooking pots.”

But with all this glory Solomon’s death was also the death-knell of his kingdom, and his successor was only

“a creature of the earth that ate away his staff” (The Holy Quran, 34:14),

the reference being to the life of ease and luxury which Rehoboam led, the eating away of the staff indicating the disruption of his kingdom. Elsewhere we are told that Solomon’s heir was

“a mere body” (38:34).

When Solomon saw this, “he turned to God” and prayed for a kingdom which should not be in danger of being wasted by others—the spiritual kingdom.

We are also told that Solomon had at heart no attraction for the wealth and good things of this life. The incident mentioned in this connection has been sometimes misinterpreted:

“And We gave to David Solomon. Most excellent the servant! Surely he ever turned (to Allah). When well-bred swift horses were brought to him at evening, so he said, I love the good things on account of the remembrance of my Lord—until they were hidden behind the veil,” (He said): “Bring them back to me. So he began to stroke (their) legs and necks.” (The Holy Quran, 38:30–33)

The incident is related to show that Solomon was a good horseman and that a prophet can also be a good horseman, but under Jewish influence in all probability, some commentators have turned it into a puerile story that Solomon was so occupied with the horses that he forgot to say prayers before sunset and then began to cut off the legs and necks of the horses. There is no mention at all of any of these things in the Holy Quran.


References mentioned above:

“And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.” (1 Kings 20:1)

“And he reviewed the birds, then said: How is it I see not Hudhud, or is it that he is one of the absentees?” (The Holy Quran, 27:20)

“And (We made) the wind (subservient) to Solomon; it made a month’s journey in the morning and a month’s journey in the evening; and We made a fountain of molten brass to flow for him. And of the jinn there were those who worked before him by the command of his Lord. And whoever turned aside from Our command from among them, We made him taste of the chastisement of burning.

They made for him what he pleased, of synagogues and images, and bowls (large) as watering-troughs and fixed cooking-pots. Give thanks, O people of David! And very few of My servants are grateful.” (The Holy Quran, 34:12–13)

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