Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) was wise and keen to perfect work to the extent that he supervised it personally. One day, he came to supervise work and to check the birds but he could not find the hoopoe among them. Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "He inspected the birds, and said: What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees? * I will surely punish him with a severe torment, or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason." [Surat An-Naml: 20 - 21].
Allah (may He be Exalted) said on the tongue of Solomon: "And Sulaimân (Solomon) inherited (the knowledge of) Dâwûd (David). He said: O mankind! We have been taught the language of birds, and on us have been bestowed all things. This, verily, is an evident grace (from Allâh)." [Surat An-Naml: 16] that means that Solomon (peace be upon him) knew the language of birds and used to translate to the people their language.
When the hoopoe came to Solomon to explain the reason of its absence, it said: O Prophet of Allah: "I have grasped (the knowledge of a thing) which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba' (Sheba) with true news. *I found a woman ruling over them: she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth, and she has a great throne. * I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allâh, and Shaitân (Satan) has made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and has barred them from (Allâh's) Way: so they have no guidance." [Surat An-Naml: 23 - 24].
Solomon said: "We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars." [Surat An-Naml: 27].
Then the hoopoe wanted to say: O honorable Prophet, I do not tell lies. However, the silence of Solomon made it fear and keep silent.
Solomon was thinking until he reached a decision. He lifted his head and commanded his servants to bring a paper and a pen to write a quick and short message then he commanded the hoopoe to take the message. He said: "Go you with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them, then draw back from them, and see what (answer) they return." [Surat An-Naml: 28].
The message was as follows: "Verily, it is from Sulaimân (Solomon), and verily, it (reads): In the Name of Allâh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful:" [Surat An-Naml: 30]. The hoopoe took the message and went to Sheba and directly to the Queen to drop the message upon her while she was in the middle of her counselors. When the message fell on her, she opened it and started to read to her ministers and counselors: "She said: O chiefs! Verily, here is delivered to me a noble letter, *Verily, it is from Sulaimân (Solomon), and verily, it (reads): In the Name of Allâh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful: * Be you not exalted against me, but come to me as Muslims (true believers who submit to Allâh with full submission)." [Surat An-Naml: 29 - 31].
She described the message of Solomon with "a noble letter" while she was still unbeliever. The message commanded them to come to Solomon to declare their faith in Allah. The words of the letter were clear, short, and polite.
Then the Queen put up the matter to discussion: "She said: O chiefs! Advise me in (this) case of mine. I decide no case till you are present with me (and give me your opinions)." [Surat An-Naml: 32].
So, what was the response of her chiefs of soldiers and ministers? Because the message was direct and contained a command to them to come to declare their faith, they said in haughtiness and power: "We have great strength, and great ability for war, but it is for you to command: so think over what you will command." [Surat An-Naml: 33]. The chiefs of her people wanted to say: We are ready for war, but the Queen was wiser: The message aroused her thinking rather than provoked her to start war. The Queen thought for a long time about the message of Solomon whom she did not know and did not hear about before. She was ignorant about the power of Solomon and thought that he may be powerful enough to conquer her kingdom. She preferred rationalism to heedlessness and decided to try leniency first by sending a present to Solomon perhaps he was greedy and wanted money when he heard about the wealth of the kingdom. She thought to buy him with money, and in the same time, her spies could enter his kingdom to collect information about his power then she can decide to conquer him or not. Then she told the chiefs of her army that she will scout the real intentions of Solomon by sending a present to him and persuaded them with the idea. Then she said: "But verily, I am going to send him a present, and see with what (answer) the messengers return." [Surat An-Naml: 35].
The present of the queen reached Solomon and the intelligence agency of Solomon told him that the messengers of the Queen of Sheba came with a present. At once Solomon figured out that she sent her spies to collect information about him and his army, therefore Solomon commanded his troops to gather. The messengers of the Queen entered the city and found themselves surrounded by troops everywhere and their kingdom in compare to the kingdom of Solomon was nothing. They belittled the present which they were carrying although it was made of pure gold. They stood waiting for the parade to end and their minds started to count the number of the troops and their arms then they were stunned when they saw an army of lions, tigers, birds, and air carried troops.
Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "So, We subjected to him the wind; it blew gently by his order whithersoever he willed," [Surat Sad: 36], at that time they realized that they were facing an irresistible army.
When the parade ended, the messengers of the Queen were summoned to lunch at the banquet of King Solomon and they found every kind of food from all over the world including their own kinds of food which had special tastes. The plates were made of gold and the servants were wearing gold, and the banquet was full of fried birds, fishes, meats which they could not distinguish.
Solomon did not share the food with them but was eating from a wooden plate and was eating oil with dry bread which was his favorite meal. Solomon ate with them in silence and they felt that he was powerful and revered. When they finished eating, they offered him the present of the Queen in humbleness because it was worthless after they had seen his kingdom.
Solomon looked at the present of the Queen then looked away. Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "So when (the messengers with the present) came to Sulaimân (Solomon), he said: Will you help me in wealth? What Allâh has given me is better than that which He has given you! Nay, you rejoice in your gift!" [Surat An-Naml: 36].
He explained to the messengers that he does not accept to be purchased by money or anything else. "Be you not exalted against me, but come to me as Muslims (true believers who submit to Allâh with full submission)." [Surat An-Naml: 31].
Then he started to speak quietly again: "Go back to them. We verily shall come to them with hosts that they cannot resist, and we shall drive them out from there in disgrace, and they will be abased." [Surat An-Naml: 37]. Then Solomon excused the messengers of the Queen to go back after his threat which was clear and fearful in the same time.
The messengers of the Queen suggested that the Queen would pay a visit to Solomon to set peace between the two kingdoms. After their arrival, they could not go to their homes for rest but hastened to the Queen to tell her about what they had seen in his kingdom and how powerful his army was. They told her that she has to pay a visit to him to set peace between the two kingdoms. The Queen prepared her procession and started her journey to Solomon. While Solomon was sitting among the chiefs of his people, ministers, counselors, the leaders of his troops, and scholars, he was thinking about the Queen who was on the way out of fear of him.
The intelligence agency of Solomon told him that the most amazing thing in the kingdom of the Queen is her throne which was made of gold and decorated by valuable diamonds and gems. The chamber of the throne and the throne itself were masterpieces and the guards were around the clock. Solomon thought to bring her throne from her chamber to his kingdom to make her sit on it and to amaze her in the same time.
When these thoughts were circulating in the mind of Solomon, he raised his head and looked at his men saying: "He said: O chiefs! Which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me surrendering themselves in obedience?" [Surat An-Naml: 38]. The thoughts of Solomon were about how to convince the sun worshippers to embrace Islam, and the first to answer Solomon was an afreet of jinn whom Allah subjugated to Solomon: "A 'Ifrît (strong one) from the jinn said: I will bring it to you before you rise from your place (council). And verily, I am indeed strong, and trustworthy for such work." [Surat An-Naml: 39]. Solomon used to leave his assembly after one or two hours, and the afreet promised to fetch the throne before he leaves his assembly. The kingdom of Solomon was in Palestine, whereas the throne of the Queen was in Yemen and the distance was thousands of miles, and any powerful jet cannot go and come back that distance during an hour or two.
Solomon did not approve or disapprove the view of the afreet as if he was waiting to hear another view. Solomon looked at a man who was sitting in the shade who said: "One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: "I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!" Then when he [Sulaimân (Solomon)] saw it placed before him, he said: "This is by the Grace of my Lord - to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for (the good of) his ownself; and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his ownself). Certainly, my Lord is Rich (Free of all needs), Bountiful." [Surat An-Naml: 40]. The one who had some knowledge of the book kept repeating the phrase until the throne was brought to Solomon. That process continued for a blink of an eye, and when he closed his eyes and opened it, the throne was present before him.
When Solomon saw the throne present before him, he did not forget to thank Allah and attribute the power to Him. Solomon looked at the throne and commanded his craftsmen to add some modifications to it to test the Queen when she comes and watches the throne: "He said: Disguise her throne for her that we may see whether she will be guided (to recognize her throne), or she will be one of those not guided." [Surat An-Naml: 41]. Solomon commanded his workers to build a palace to receive the Queen therein and chose a wonderful place on the beach and commanded them to make the floor of the palace from a precious and thick glass. The palace was built and due to the pure glass, the palace looked as if it was built on water.
The hoopoe told Solomon that the Queen was about to reach the borders of his kingdom then the Qur'anic context overcame the reception of Solomon to her and jumped into two situations:
* Her stance before the throne when she saw the throne after she had left it home under severe guarding.
* Her stance before the glass floor of the palace underneath fishes were swimming: "So when she came, it was said (to her): Is your throne like this? She said: (It is) as though it were the very same. And [Sulaimân (Solomon) said]: Knowledge was bestowed on us before her, and we were submitted to Allâh (in Islâm as Muslims before her)." [Surat An-Naml: 42].
The Ayah depicts the image of the dialogue between Solomon and the Queen: The Queen looked at her throne and wondered whether that was her throne or not, and if it was not, how could it be duplicated in such perfection? When Solomon saw her looking at the throne, he said: "Is your throne like this?" The Queen said in amazement: "It is as though it were very same."
Solomon said: "Knowledge was bestowed on us before her, and we were submitted to Allâh (in Islâm as Muslims before her)." [Surat An-Naml: 42]. Solomon preceded her to knowledge by Islam, so it became easy for him to precede her in the rest of sciences.
The Queen realized that her throne was brought before Solomon and he added some modifications to it while she was on her way, so what power did that Prophet have? Then the Queen was amazed with the faith of Solomon and his connection with Allah then she was amazed with the advancement, industry, arts, and sciences of his kingdom. She was amazed most with the connection between the faith of Solomon and his wisdom and science: "And that which she used to worship besides Allâh has prevented her (from Islâm), for she was of a disbelieving people." [Surat An-Naml: 43].
The matter was over when she saw that the doctrine of her people fell apart before the power of Solomon and realized that the sun which she was worshipping was just a creature that was created and subjugated by Allah. She did well when she chose the time to declare her faith. Allah (may He be Exalted) says: "It was said to her: "Enter As-Sarh" (a glass surface with water underneath it or a palace): but when she saw it, she thought it was a pool, and she (tucked up her clothes) uncovering her legs. (Sulaimân (Solomon)) said: Verily, it is Sarh (a glass surface with water underneath it or a palace). She said: My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, and I submit in Islâm, together with Sulaimân (Solomon) to Allâh, the Lord of the `Alamîn (mankind, jinn and all that exists)." [Surat An-Naml: 44]. It was said to the Queen: Enter the palace. When she looked into the floor, she could not see the glass but saw the water and she thought that she would cross that sea. Then she uncovered her legs so as not to wet her clothes. Solomon without looking at her said: Do not be afraid, it is not water it is just a pure glass.
The Queen chose that moment to declare her Islam, confessed her oppression to herself, and embraced Islam with Solomon to the Lord of the Worlds and her people followed her after she had realized that she was facing the greatest kings of the world.
The face of Solomon became bright with a wide smile out of satisfaction about the visit of the Queen and the Qur'anic text did not speak about the rest of the story.
Thus, the Queen embraced Islam along with her people with the will of Allah then by the discovery of the hoopoe to her kingdom. "And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed, all of them together." [Surat Yunus: 99].
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