THE STORY OF BILQIS (queen Sheba) AND SULEIMAN (AS)
Analyzing Suratul naml, Qur’an Chapter 27 verse 20-44
This story started when prophet Sulaiman (AS) embarked on a journey. Prophet Suleiman (AS) and his entourage get to a place where they rested and the hoopoe left them when they were resting.
He inspected the birds,
Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr and others narrated from Ibn Abbas and others that the hoopoe was an expert who used to show Suleiman where water was if he was out in open land and needed water.
The hoopoe would look for water for him in the various strata of the earth, just as a man looks at things on the surface of the earth, and he would know just how far below the surface the water was. When the hoopoe showed him where the water was, Suleiman would command the Jinn to dig in that place until they brought water from the depths of the earth.
One day Suleiman went to some open land and checked on the birds, but he could not see the hoopoe.
فَقَالَ مَا لِيَ لَا أَرَى الْهُدْهُدَ أَمْ كَانَ مِنَ الْغَايِبِينَ
and (Suleiman) said:”What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe Or is he among the absentees!”
لَاأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا
I will surely punish him with a severe torment,
Al-A`mash said, narrating from Al-Minhal bin `Amr from Sa`id that Ibn Abbas said:
“He meant, by plucking his feathers.”
Abdullah bin Shaddad said:
“By plucking his feathers and exposing him to the sun.”
or slaughter him,
means, killing him.
أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّي بِسُلْطَانٍ مُّبِينٍ
unless he brings me a clear reason.
i.e., a valid excuse.
Sufyan bin Uyaynah and Abdullah bin Shaddad said:
“When the hoopoe came back, the other birds said to him:”What kept you, Suleiman has vowed to shed your blood.”
The hoopoe said:”Did he make any exception (did he say `unless!’).”
They said, “Yes, he said:
لَاأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا أَوْ لَاأَذْبَحَنَّهُ أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّي بِسُلْطَانٍ مُّبِينٍ
(I will surely punish him with a severe torment or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason).
The hoopoe said, “Then I am saved.
HOW THE HOOPOE CAME BEFORE SULEIMAN (AS) AND TOLD HIM ABOUT SABA’
فَمَكَثَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ
But (the hoopoe) stayed not long,
meaning, he was absent for only a short time.
Then he came and said to Suleiman:
أَحَطتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ
I have grasped which you have not grasped,
meaning, `I have come to know something that you and your troops do not know.’
وَجِيْتُكَ مِن سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ
and I have come to you from Saba’ with true news.
meaning, with true and certain news.
Saba’ (Sheba) refers to Himyar, they were a dynasty in Yemen.
Then the hoopoe said
إِنِّي وَجَدتُّ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ
I found a woman ruling over them,
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said,
“This is Bilqis bint Sharahil, the queen of Saba’.”
وَأُوتِيَتْ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ
she has been given all things,
means, all the conveniences of this world that a powerful monarch could need.
وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ
and she has a great throne.
meaning, a tremendous chair adorned with gold and different kinds of jewels and pearls.
The historians said,
“This throne was in a great, strong palace which was high and firmly constructed. In it there were three hundred and sixty windows on the east side, and a similar number on the west, and it was constructed in such a way that each day when the sun rose it would shine through one window, and when it set it would shine through the opposite window. And the people used to prostrate to the sun morning and evening.”
This is why the hoopoe said
وَجَدتُّهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ
I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them, and has prevented them from the way,
meaning, from the way of truth,
فَهُمْ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ
so they have no guidance.
وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيل
فَهُمْ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ
أَلاَّ يَسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ
and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them, and has prevented them from the way, so they have no guidance, so they do not prostrate themselves before Allah.
They do not know the way of truth, prostrating only before Allah alone and not before anything that He has created, whether heavenly bodies or anything else.
الَّذِي يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالاَْرْضِ
Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth,
Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn Abbas said:
“He knows everything that is hidden in the heavens and on earth.”
This was also the view of Ikrimah, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Qatadah and others.
وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ
and knows what you conceal and what you reveal.
means, He knows what His servants say and do in secret, and what they say and do openly.
اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
Allah, “La ilaha illa Huwa”, the Lord of the Supreme Throne!
means, He is the One to be called upon, Allah, He is the One other than Whom there is no god, the Lord of the Supreme Throne, and there is none greater than Him in all of creation.
Since the hoopoe was calling to what is good, and for people to worship and prostrate to Allah alone, it would have been forbidden to kill him.
Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah recorded that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said that:
the Prophet forbade killing four kinds of animals:
the sparrow hawks.
Its chain of narration is (Sahih).
SULEIMAN’S LETTER TO BILQIS (AS)
Allah tells us what Suleiman said to the hoopoe when he told him about the people of (Saba’) and their queen:
قَالَ سَنَنظُرُ أَصَدَقْتَ أَمْ كُنتَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ
(Suleiman) said:”We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars.”
meaning, `are you telling the truth!’
أَمْ كُنتَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ
(or you are (one) of the liars).
meaning, or are you telling a lie in order to save yourself from the threat I made against you!’
اذْهَب بِّكِتَابِي هَذَا فَأَلْقِهْ إِلَيْهِمْ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا يَرْجِعُونَ
To be continue insha Allaah.
Bashir Habeebullah @ knowislam.com.ng