وَلَقَدْ ءَاتَيْنَا دَاوُدَ وَسُلَيْمَـانَ عِلْماً وَقَالاَ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي فَضَّلَنَا عَلَي كَثِيرٍ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
15. “And certainly We gave David and Solomon knowledge and they both said: ‘Praise belongs to Allah, Who has favoured us above many of His believing servants’.”
The knowledge which has been given to David and Solomon may be the knowledge of Judgment; its reference is the verse which says:
and also with reference to the verse which says:
And it may be the knowledge of speaking with the birds, with reference to the verse which says:
or it may be the knowledge of making the coat of mail, as the Qur’an says:
But it is better to render the Qur’anic word /‘ilm/ in a general sense, that is the knowledge of administration of the country.
However, this verse speaks about two other great Divine prophets: David and Solomon. Of course, there is only a hint to David but Solomon is explained more.
Mentioning a part of the life story of these two prophets next to the story of Moses (as) is for the sake that these two prophets were from among the prophets of the Children of Israel, too.
The difference between their history and the history of other prophets is that these were more successful to establish a great government because of mental and social receptivity of the atmosphere of the Children of Israel, and they could expand the Divine religion by the help of their governmental power.
Therefore, the style of explanation of the life story of other prophets, who encountered the severe opposition of their nations and sometimes they were expelled from their home and city, is not seen here, and the explanations are totally different. This clearly shows to what extend the difficulties may be solved and the path can become level if the Divine callers succeed to form a government.
However, here the words are about knowledge, ability, power, and dignity. It speaks about the submission of the birds and other creatures and, finally, about the severe struggle against idolatry through the way of logical invitation and, then, enjoying the power of government. And these things are the qualities that separate the life story of these two prophets from that of other prophets.
It is interesting that the Holy Qur’an here has begun the statement with the issue of the ‘merit of knowledge’ which is the foundation of a righteous and powerful government.
A great deal of commentators have tried very much to find out what kind of knowledge it is that Allah bestowed on David and Solomon, and it is stated here ambiguously and not definitely, and as it was precisely said at the beginning of the commentary of the verse, some commentators, relying on some other verses of the Qur’an, have considered it ‘the knowledge of judgment’:
And some commentators also with frame of reference to the verses under discussion, which speak of ‘the language of the birds’ have counted this knowledge as the knowledge of speaking with birds, while some others, with frame of reference to the verses that talk of the knowledge of ‘making the coat mail’, have specified this knowledge to it.
However, it is clear that ‘knowledge’, hare, has a vast meaning which includes the knowledge of monotheism, religious belief, religious laws, knowledge of judgment, and all knowledge and information which have been necessary for the formation of such extensive and powerful government.
Its reason is that the establishment of a divine government basing on justice which is an equipped and free government, is not possible without enjoying a complete knowledge. Thus, the Qur’an specifies the rank of knowledge in the human society and in establishment of government as the first stone of the foundation of this building.
And next to this sentence, from the tongue of David and Solomon, it continues saying:
It is interesting that immediately after stating the great merit of ‘knowledge’ it speaks of ‘thanksgiving’ in order to make it clear that there is a thanksgiving for every blessing, and the reality of thanksgiving is that every blessing should be used in the same way that it has been created for; and these two great prophets did their best from their knowledge in formation of a Divine government.
By the way, they introduced the criterion of their own superiority to others by having ‘knowledge’, not by having power and government, and they also applied thanksgiving for having knowledge not for other merits, because all values belong to ‘knowledge’ and all powers originate from ‘knowledge’.
This point is also noteworthy that they did thank for governing over a faithful people, since governing over a corrupted group, who are disbelievers, is not an honour.
There arises a question here that why did they say in their thanksgiving that ‘He had favoured them above many of His believing servants’ and they did not say over all believing people, though they were prophets who were above all the people of their time?
Using this kind of meaning may be for observing the principles of discipline and humility that one, in any rank, must not think of oneself above all.
Or it is for the sake that they did not consider only a particular part of time but they considered the whole times, and we know that there have been some greater prophets than them during the history of man.
وَوَرِثَ سُلَيْمَـانُ دَاوُدَ وَقَالَ يَآ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ عُلّـِمْنَا مَنطِقَ الطَّيْرِ وَاُوتِينَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ إِنَّ هَذَا لَهُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْمُبِينُ
16. “And Solomon inherited David and he said: ‘O people! We have been taught the language of the birds, and we have been granted of everything; verily this is the manifest favour’.”
The purpose of the Arabic word /waria/ in this verse is to inherit both wealth and government, not the knowledge and prophethood, because prophethood is not something to be inherited, and the knowledge of prophets is not heritable either since it is not something to be acquired.
In this verse, at first it points to inheriting Solomon from his father David.
Here, commentators have some different ideas as for the meaning of heritage and that what that is:
Some believe that it is only the heritage of knowledge because, according to their own thought, prophets do not leave any heritage of their own properties.
Some others have mentioned inheritance is confined to property and government, because this word recalls that concept to the mind, before anything else.
And same commentators have rendered it into the language of speaking with the birds.
But regarding to the fact that the verse is general and, in the later Qur’anic sentences the words are also about both knowledge and all other merits, there is no reason to limit the concept of the verse.
Thus, Solomon had been the heir of all merits of his father.
The traditions narrated from Ahl-ul-Bayt (as) have reasoned to this verse before those who said that prophets do not leave any heritage and laid emphasis on the tradition which says:
“We prophets do not leave any heritage”.
They have reasoned that since the said tradition contrasts to the Book of Allah, it is invalid.
We read in a tradition narrated from Ahl-ul-Bayt (as) that when ’Abubakr decided to take Fadak from Fatimah (as) she (as) heard of that decision and came to ’Abubakr and said:
“Is there any thing in the Book of Allah that you inherit from your father but I do not inherit from my father? This is a wonderful thing!
Have you forgotten the Book of Allah and put it behind you when it says:
Then the Qur’an in this verse adds:
Some claim that the application of ‘language and speaking’ for non-human beings is not correct save as metaphor; but if a non-human being also utters some sounds and words which are meaningful and indicate some matters, there is no evidence not to call it ‘speaking’, since ‘speech’ is often any words that communicate a truth and a concept.
Of course, we do not want to say that those special sounds that sometimes some animals produce because of anger, wrath, or pleasure and consent, or as the result of pain, or as a sign of affection unto their children are called language.
No, these are some sounds that they bring forth out of their mouth at the time of a special mood. But, as we see in the verses of the Qur’an, Solomon communicates some matters with hoopoe and he (as) sends a message by the hoopoe and then he asks its answer from this bird.
This shows that besides the sounds that they produce because of their moods, animals can speak in some particular conditions by the command of Allah. Another clear example is the explanation about the speech of the ant which will be mentioned later concerning the future verses of this Surah.
Of course, the vast concept of /nutq/ (speech) has been used in the Qur’an which, indeed, states the spirit and conclusion of it, and it is ‘the statement of what is in mind’, whether it is done by means of words and speech; or through other means, like the verse which says:
But we do not need to render the word /nutq/ in connection with the speech of Solomon and the birds into this sense; because according to the apparent of the above verses, Solomon was able to understand the special words that birds used for transferring their matters and he could speak with them.
Contrast to the limitations that some commentators have cited for the Qur’anic sentence:
it has a vast meaning and it concludes all physical and spiritual means which were necessary for the formation of that Divine government and, basically, without it this statement will be imperfect.
By the way, Allah has given some special knowledge to some particular persons and He has mentioned them in the Qur’an:
1- Adam had the knowledge of all things:
2- Khidr knew the inward knowledge and interpretation (so that Moses could be his student:
3- Yusuf was taught the knowledge of interpretation of dreams:
4- David was taught by Allah the knowledge of making the coat of mail:
5- Solomon knew the language of birds:
6- ’Asif Burkhiya (Solomon’s assistant) had the knowledge by which he could bring the royal throne (of the Queen of Sheba) from one country to another country:
7- Talut knew the knowledge of army:
8- The holy Prophet (S) and other prophets had the knowledge of Unseen:
It is for this reason that it has been said that the prophets’ knowledge is ‘an intuitive knowledge’ and it is bestowed on them through inspiration by Allah.
Contrast to what some short sighted persons think, religion is not only a collection of advice or affairs concerning to the private and personal life. Religion is a collection of some general and common laws of life and common programs which conclude the whole life of men and social issues in particular.
The appointment of prophets to their missions is for the settlement of justice and equity.17
Religion is for breaking the chains of captivity of men and providing the freedom of human beings.18
Religion is the cause of securing the oppressed from the grips of oppressors and tyrants, and putting an end to the course of their sovereignty.
Finally, religion is a collection of education, and training men along the path of purification and making them complete.19
It is evident that earning these great aims without having a government is impossible. Who can establish justice with mere ethical recommendations so that he stops the domination of the oppressors over the oppressed?
Who can break and take the chains of captivity from the hands and feet of those who are afflicted in it without being supported by a power?
In a society where the means of spreading culture and propagation are in the hands of the vicious and mischief-makers, who can settle the correct principles of education, and foster the morals in the hearts?
That is why we say that ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ are two inseparable elements. If religion separates from politics it totally loses its arm of execution, and if politics separates from religion it will be changed into a destructive element which moves along the path of its interests.
If the Prophet of Islam (S) succeeded to spread this Divine religion quickly in the world, it was because, at the first opportunity, he started to form a government and by means of the Islamic government he pursued the divine aims.
Some other divine prophets who could do like that and succeeded, were able to spread the Divine call better, while some others of them who were in difficulties and the conditions did not let them to form a government, did not succeed to progress very much.
It is interesting that in the life story of Solomon and David we clearly see that they succeeded to quickly root out the effects of polytheism and idolatry and to establish a government whose main means, according to the concerning verses, was knowledge and awareness in various fields.
It was a system that Allah’s Name was at the top of its programs. This system used to apply all the eligible powers and used even the ability of a bird for reaching its aims.
It was a system that could control all devils and dominated over the oppressors.
And, finally, it was a system which had both enough military force and elements of information, and some persons who had sufficient awareness and skill in different fields, and it had gathered all of these elements under the camp of belief and Monotheism.
In the above verse and the verses which will come later in the story of hoopoe and Solomon, the birds’ speech and the kind of their sense and understanding are referred to explicitly.
No doubt that birds, like other animals, in different circumstances make some various sounds that, with careful observation, we can recognize their states and situations by the kind of that sound and say which sound indicates to their anger, which one to their content, which sound is the reason of their hunger, and which one shows their whining.
We can understand with which sound the animal calls its children and with which sound it warns them of coming a horrible event. This part of the birds’ sound contains no doubt and all of us are, more or less, acquainted with it.
But the holy verses of this Surah apparently intend to say something beyond this matter. They talk about a kind of animal speaking in a secret way which carries some more minute subjects in it. They talk about understanding and a debate between birds and a human being.
This meaning is surprising for some persons, but regarding to the various matters that the scientists have written in their books and the personal observation, and experiences that some other persons had concerning birds, it is not so surprising.
We know some matters even more surprising than this in relation with the talent of animals, and birds in particular.
Some of them are so skilful in making houses and nests for them that they exceed our engineers.
Some of birds possess so much exact information about their future offspring and their needs and difficulties and they act so minutely concerning their salvation that is surprising for all of us.
Their foresight about the circumstance of weather, even from some months before, their awareness of earthquakes before they occur and even before that our seismographs record the slightest quakes are well known.
The training with which some animals are trained in our time, and the extraordinary jobs they do and many people have seen them in many circuses all denote to their wonderful intelligence. The marvelous acts of ‘ants’ and their wonderful civilization; the marvels of the life of bees and their amazing finding the traces are famous.
The recognition of the emigrating birds, which sometimes pave the distance between North Pole and South Pole, and their awareness of the circumstances of the ways along this extraordinary long traveling are wonderful.
The amazing information about Salmon-trout, when they emigrate in groups in deep sees, are generally some subjects that scientifically are certain and are reasons for the existence of an important stage of apprehension, or instinct, or whatever we may call, in these animals.
The existence of some extraordinary senses in animals, such as the system of radar in a bat, very strong sense of smell in some insects, the extraordinary extensive power of sight in some birds, and so on, are also some other evidences for the fact that they are not weaker than us in anything.
Keeping these things in mind, it does not seem wonderful that they have a special speech, too, and can speak with the person who is aware of the method of their talking.
In the verses of the Qur’an, there are also some different points which refer to this meaning.
For example, Surah Al-’An‘am, No. 6, verse 38 says:
In Islamic narrations there are a lot of traditions which refer to the animals’ speech and that of the birds, and even for each of them there have been cited some popular statements whose explanation is very long.
Imam Sadiq (as) in a narration said that Imam Amir-ul-Mu’minin Ali (as) once told Ibn-‘Abbas:
“Verily Allah taught us the birds’ speech as He taught Solomon, son of David, as well as the speech of every living creature in the land and sea.”20
There has been recorded a tradition in some different books of Sunnites from the Prophet of Islam (S) which denotes:
“We prophets do not leave any heritage, and whatever we leave must be used as alms (in the way of Allah).”
Sometimes this very tradition has been cited in a form that its first sentence is omitted, like this:
“Whatever we leave must be used as alms (in the way of Allah).”
The document of this tradition in those books is often ended to Abubakr who took the rein of Muslims’ affairs after the Prophet (S), and when Hadrat Fatimah (as) or some other wives of the Prophet (S) demanded Abubakr their inheritance, relying upon this narration, he did not give them any inheritance.
This tradition is recorded by ‘Muslim’ in his Sahih, Vol. 3, P. 13790, by Bukhari, in Kitab-ul-Fara’id, chapter 8, P. 185, and some others have recorded it in their own books.
It is worthy to note that in the latter document, through a tradition narrated by ‘Ayishah, we read as follows:
“(After the death of the Prophet (S)), Fatimah and ‘Abbas came to ’Abubakr and demanded their heritage remained from the Prophet (S). At that time they demanded their land in ‘Fadak’ and their share ‘remained from Kheybar’.
‘I heard from the Messenger of Allah who said:
‘We do not leave any heritage, and whatever we leave is alms’.’
When Fatimah heard this statement she angrily left ’Abubakr and she never spoke with him, even for one word, until the end of her life.”21
This tradition, of course, from different dimensions is objectionable and can be investigated, but what can be said in short here is as follows:
1- This tradition is not consistent with the verses of the text of the Qur’an, and according to the laws and principles we have, every tradition which does not adapt to ‘the Book of Allah’ is invalid and it cannot be taken as the tradition originated from the Prophet (S) or other immaculate ones (as).
In the above-mentioned holy verse, we read that Solomon inheritance David, and the apparent of the verse is general and it concludes properties, too.
Concerning Yahya and Zechariah we read in the Qur’an:
Especially in respect to Zechariah, many commentators have emphasized on financial aspects.
Moreover, the apparent of the verses about inheritance in the Qur’an is general and envelops all. Maybe, it was for the same reason that Qurtabi, the famous Sunnite Commentator, had to take the tradition as the strong verb and the most, not as a general one.
He has said that: this is like the sentence that Arabs say:
“We community of Arabs are the most hospital ones among people, (while it is not a general ordinance).”23
But it is clear that this statement nullifies the value of this tradition, because if we take this excuse for the case of Solomon and Yahya, other aspects that are concluded in it are not certain either.
2- The above mentioned tradition is in contrast with other narrations which show that ’Abubakr decided to return Fadak to Fatimah, but some others hindered it, as it is cited in Sirah Halabi:
“Fatimah, the Prophet’s daughter, came to ’Abubakr while he was on the pulpit.
“O ’Abubakr! Is the matter in the Book of Allah that your daughter inherits from you but I do not inherit from my father?”
’Abubakr wept and shed tears. Then he came down of the pulpit, and wrote a later indicating that Fadak was turned back to Fatimah (as).
At this time ‘Umar entered and said:
“What is this?”
“I wrote a letter to return the inheritance of Fatimah from her father to her.’
“If you do this, where from do you obtain the expenditure of the fight with the enemies, now that Arabs have stood against you?”
Then ‘Umar caught the letter and tore it.”24
How could there be an explicit prohibition issued by the Prophet (S) and Abubakr would dare to oppose it? And why did ‘Umar rely upon the needs of fight and did not rely on Prophet’s tradition?
Careful studying the above-mentioned narration shows that the Prophet’s prohibition was not in contemplation, the important thing, here, was the political issues of the time.
These are the things that remind one the statement of Ibn-’Abil-Hadid Mu‘tazily who said:
“I asked my teacher, Ali-ibn-Fariqi,
‘Was Fatimah (as) right in her claim?’
‘Why did not ’Abubakr give Fadak to her while he counted her a truthful one?’
My teacher smiled with a very meaningful smile and expressed a beautiful smooth statement, though he did not customarily joke.
“If today he gave Fadak to her, she would come the following day and claimed the caliphate for her husband, and she would unsettle him of his position, and he had neither any excuse to say nor any thing to agree with.”25
3- A Famous Tradition from the Prophet (S)
In many books of great sects of Islam, there is recorded a famous tradition which says:
“The scholars are the heirs of the prophets.”26
It is also narrated from the Prophet (S) who said:
“Verily the prophets did not leave any Dinar nor Dirham (drachma) as heritage.”27
It seems from these two traditions that the main aim has been to make it clear that the capital and the honour of the Divine prophets had been their knowledge.
The most important thing that they left behind was the issue of guidance, and those who earned some larger share from this knowledge are the essential heirs of prophets, without that they seek for the properties remained from the prophets.
Later this tradition has been paraphrased and has been misused by corruption in transmission, and probably the Arabic phrase /mataraknahu sadaqatun/ (whatever we leave must be used as alms (in the way of Allah)), which had been understood from some narrations, has been added to it.
To shorten our discussion, we conclude this statement with an explanation from Fakhr-i-Razi, the famous commentator of Sunnites, who has cited about Surah An-Nisa’, No. 4, verse 11.
He says that one of the allotments that has been set for this verse (the verse of children’s heritage) is what is the majority of the jurisprudents of Sunnites believe and it indicates that prophets (as) do not leave any thing as heritage, while Shi‘ite have (generally) opposed this matter.
It has been narrated that when Fatimah (as) demanded her heritage, they deprived her from it attaching to the Prophet’s tradition which says:
“We prophets do not leave any heritage, and whatever we leave must he used as alms (in the way of Allah)”
At this time Fatimah (as) reasoned to the generality of the above mentioned verse (the verse of children’s heritage) as if she wanted to point to this fact that the whole Qur’an cannot be appropriated with a single narration.”
Then, Fakhr-i-Razi adds:
“Shi‘ites say that supposing that allotment of the Qur’an be permissible with a single narration, it is not permissible here because of following three reasons:
1. This contrasts the explicit text of the Qur’an which says that Zechariah asked Allah to give him a child who could inherit from him and the posterity of Jacob. And also the Qur’an says that Solomon inherited from David.
These verses cannot be rendered into the heritage of ‘knowledge’ and ‘religion’, since this is a kind of figurative heredity and these prophets taught knowledge and religion to their children, not that they took it from themselves and transferred it to them. The real heritage is considered only in wealth (that it be taken from one and be given to another).
2. Another matter is that how is it possible that ’Abubakr could be aware of this subject, which he did not need, but Fatimah (as), Abbas, and Ali (as), who were of the greatest virtuous and knowledgeable ones and were dealing with the issue of the Prophet’s heritage, were not aware of it?
How could it be possible that the Prophet (S) taught this tradition to the one who did not need it and restrained it from the one who needed it?
3. The Arabic phrase /ma taraknahu sadaqah/ (whatever we leave must be used as alms (in the way of Allah) is next to the Arabic phrase /la nuwarri/ which means: the properties we have set apart for the purpose of alms do not come inside the circle of heritage, not other than that…”
Then, Fakhr-i-Razi gives a short answer to the above-mentioned known reasoning and says:
“After speaking with Abubakr, Fatimah (as) became content with that speaking. Besides, the consensus has reached to this that the word of Abubakr is right.”28
But it is clear that the answer of Fakhr-i-Razi is not sufficient for the abovementioned reasoning, because, as was narrated from the Sunnite famous sources, Fatimah (as) not only was not contented but she was so angry that she did not speak even for a word with Abubakr until the end of her life.
Moreover, how could there be a consensus upon this subject while Ali, Fatimah (as) and Abbas, who had been trained in the center of revelation, had opposed it?
وَحُشِرَ لِسُلَيْمَـانَ جُنُودُهُ مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنسِ وَالطَّيْرِ فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ
17. “And gathered together unto Solomon his hosts of jinn and men and birds and they were kept in order and ranks.”
In different occasions the Qur’an has talked about jinn and one of the suras of the Qur’an is also called Jinn.
Now, here, it refers to some of their qualities:
Jinn is a creature which has sensation and has been addressed by Allah, where the Qur’an says:
Some of Jinn are believers while some others of them are disbelievers. They are male and female and naturally they have venereal desire.
Some of them worked for Solomon as builders and divers, as the Qur’an says:
It is understood from the verses of the current Surah and those of Surah Saba’, No. 34, that the government of Solomon had not an ordinary circumstance but it was formed by some extraordinary events and various miracles, some of which are mentioned in this Surah (like Solomon’s governing over Jinn and birds), recognition of the talk of ants, and speaking with ‘Hoopoe’, and another part of it has been mentioned in Surah Saba’, No. 34.
In fact, Allah showed His Might in making appear this great government and the forces it possessed; and we know that, from the view point of a monotheist, these affairs are easy, simple and untroubled for Allah, the Mighty.
By this verse, the Qur’an says:
The number of his forces was so large that, in order to regulate the army, it was ordered that the primary rows of forces should stop until when the last rows could move and reach others.
The verse continues saying:
The Qur’anic word /yuza‘un/ is derived from /waza‘a/ in the sense of ‘to restrain, to hold back’. When this word is used in respect to army it means that the first part of the army should be stopped until the ending part of it joins, and they would not be divided.
The Arabic word /waza‘/ is also applied in the sense of ‘avarice, and intensive interest’ so that it hinders man from other affairs.
It is understood from this application that the forces of Solomon were both abundant and they worked under a special order.
The Qur’anic word /hušira/ is derived from /hašr/ which means: ‘bringing out the crowd of army from the resting place’, and causing them to start toward the battle-field, and the like. It is understood from both this meaning and the meaning used in the next verse that Solomon had led an army to a place, but it is not quite clear that which one it is among Solomon’s military expeditions.
Taking the content of the next verse in mind, which speaks about reaching Solomon to the land of ants, some say that it had been a region near Ta’if, while some others have said it had been a land near Syria.
However, since the statement of this matter had not any effect from the point of ethical and educational aspects, it has not been spoken of.
By the way, some commentators have discussed whether the whole human beings, jinn, and birds were the army of Solomon, or a part of them formed his army. This discussion seems rather needless, because undoubtedly Solomon did not govern the whole earth and the realm of his government was Syria, Jerusalem, and probably some other lands around there.
It is also understood from the later verses that Solomon had not any dominion over Yemen at that time, and he gained his authority over there after the event of ‘hoopoe’ and the submission of the Queen of Sheba.
The Qur’anic phrase /tafaqqad-at-tayr/, mentioned in the coming verses, shows that among the birds, which were in the obedience of Solomon, there was a hoopoe that when Solomon did not see it over there he asked about it. If all birds were included and there were thousands of hoopoes among them, this meaning could not be correct. (Be careful)
حَتَّي إِذَآ أَتَوْا عَلَي وَادِ الَّنمْلِ قَالَتْ نَمْلَةٌ يَآ أَيُّهَا النَّـمْلُ ادْخُلُوا مَسَاكِنَكُمْ لاَ يَحْطِمَنَّكُمْ سُلَيْمَـانُ وَجُنُودُهُ وَهُمْ لاَيَشْعُرُونَ
18. “Until when they came to the Valley of Ants, an ant said: ‘O you ants! Get into your habitations, so that Solomon and his hosts may not crush you, being unaware’.”
The Arabic word /naml/ philologically means ‘creeping with small feet’. The Qur’anic word /namlatun/, because of its Arabic nunnation, can be meant ‘a big ant which is a commander’. In this case, there is commandership and administrationship in the life of ants.
This nunnation can be meant as the sign of uncertainty of the ant. In this case, the message of the verse is that if an undefined one gives a sympathetic warning that warning must be attended to.
However, Solomon with this great army started and went until they reached the valley of ants. Here, an ant, addressing other ants, said that they should go into their dwellings, so that Solomon and his army might not crush them while they are unaware.
The verse says:
There are some explanations to say that how this ant became aware of the presence of Solomon and his hosts in that land, and how it announced this happening to other ants, which will be referred to later.
By the way, it is understood from this sentence that the justice of Solomon was made manifest to even the ants because the sentence implicitly means if the hosts are aware of the existence of the ants they will not tread that weak animal, then if they tread the ants it is because they do not know it.
فَتَبَسَّمَ ضَاحِكاً مِن قَوْلِهَا وَقَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَي وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحاً تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ
19. “Then he smiled, laughing at its words, and said: ‘My Lord! Dispose me that I may be thankful for Your bounty, which You have bestowed on me and my parents, and that I may do righteousness such as You are pleased with, and admit me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants’.”
One of the principles and conditions of leadership and administration is tolerance. Solomon (as) heard that the ant said about him and his troops that they were unaware, but he (as) did not show it and he only smiled.
Criticism and a right speech must be heard from any one and it must be received, because accepting criticism is a value. Solomon admired the word of the ant and smiled. Commentators are divided as for what was the cause of Solomon’s smile.
It appears that the self of this event was a wonderful matter that an ant called other ants to beware of the great army of Solomon and that it attributed that army of being unaware.
This amazing affair caused Solomon’s laugh, as the verse says:
Some of commentators have said that this smile was a smile of joy, because Solomon understood that even ants confessed to the justice of Solomon and his troops and accepted their piety.
Some others have said that his joy was for the reason that Allah had given him such a power that at the time of the great anxiety and excitement of the army he was not neglectful of the sound of an ant either.
However, here Solomon turned to the presence of Allah and asked a few things as follows:
Solomon asked Allah to teach him how he could thank for the great bounties that He had granted him and his parents to be able to use them in the way that He had commanded and was the cause of His pleasure so that he would not deviate from the right path, since being thankful for those abundant favours is not possible save with His succour and aid.
The next thing he asked for was as follows:
This statement points to this matter that what was important for Solomon was not the remaining of that great army and his government with those vast organizations, it was important for him to do such righteous deeds that caused His pleasure.
And in view of the fact that the Arabic word /’a‘mala/ is a verb in present tense, which is used in that language for the continuation of the action, it is an evidence that he asked Allah for the continuation of this succour.
Finally, the third thing he asked was that he said:
وَتَفَقَّدَ الطَّيْرَ فَقَالَ مَالِيَ لآ أَرَي الْهُدْهُدَ أَمْ كَانَ مِنَ الْغَآئِبِينَ
لاُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَاباً شَدِيداً أَوْ لاَذبَحَنَّهُ أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنّـِي بِسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ
فَمَكَثَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ فَقَالَ أَحَطتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ وَجِئْتُكَ مِن سَبإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ
20. “And he reviewed the birds; then he said: ‘How is it with me that I do not see the hoopoe? Or is it that he is of the absentees?’”
21. “Certainly will I chastise him with a terrible chastisement, or will I slaughter him, or he brings me a clear reason (for his absence).”
22. “But the hoopoe tarried not long, then he (came and) said: ‘I have comprehended that which you have not comprehended, and I have come to you from Sheba with a sure tiding’.”
Through this group of verses, the Qur’an has pointed to another height of the amazing life of Solomon, and reiterates the event of hoopoe, and the Queen of Sheba. At first it speaks about Solomon (as) and hoopoe, whom he (as) sought after but he did not see it.
The verse says:
This phrase clearly indicates that Solomon (as) was carefully observing the circumstances of the country and his government in a manner that even the absence of a bird was not concealed before his eyes.
No doubt that the purpose of the bird, here, is the hoopoe, since in the continuation of the statement the Qur’an adds:
Concerning the fact that how Solomon recognized that hoopoe was not present among the gathering of birds, some commentators have said: that it was for the sake that, at the time of his traveling, birds did cast a shadow over his head and, because of the existence of an opening (hole) in that vast canopy, he found out the absence of the hoopoe.
Some others have considered a mission for the hoopoe in his organizations and they have said that the hoopoe was commissioned to find the places where there was water and when the bird had gone to search for water, he (as) found it absent.
However, this statement that at first he said:
and then he added
may point to this matter that whether the hoopoe is absent without having a plausible excuse or it has been absent with a plausible excuse.
An way, an organized, ordered, and powerful government has to put all movements, activities, and actions and reactions that happen in its country and realm under consideration; and it must not neglect even the presence and absence of a bird, an ordinary agent, and this is a great lesson.
Finally, some other commentators have said that the objective of hoopoe, here, is a particular ‘Hoopoe’. Their reference is the existence of Alif and Lam at the beginning of the Arabic word, ‘Al-Hudhud’, as well as the hoopoe’s power of anthropology and its theological ability. The explanation of this meaning will be offered later.31
Once Abuhanifah asked Imam Sadiq (as):
“Why did Solomon ask only about hoopoe among all birds?”
The Imam (as) said:
“Its reason is for the fact that a hoopoe sees the existence of water inside the earth, the same as we see oil in a crystal container.”32
As for the punishment of the hoopoe, some commentators have mentioned a few examples; including separating it from its fellow, pulling off its feathers, putting it under sunshine, banishing it from Solomon’s court, or putting it in the same cage with an enemy.33
One point, however, must be noted that reviewing and being kind to inferiors, visiting their work, and asking about their affairs are among the Islamic, ethical, social, educational, and administrative principles.
Then, in order not to judge in its absence, and in the mean-while the absence of the hoopoe does not affect other birds, still less the persons who undertook some sensitive and important jobs, Solomon added:
The purpose of the Arabic word /sultan/, here, is a reason which causes one’s authority and ability to prove one’s mind, and the Arabic word /mubin/ is an emphasis on the matter that this faulty one must certainly bring a clear reason for his own fault.
Solomon (as), in fact, without judging in its absence, threatened the offender by the necessary chastisement if the fault is proved. He even considered two stages for his threat in order that it could be proportional to the kind of the sin: the stage of punishment without execution, and the stage of execution.
By the way, he showed that he surrendered to proof and logic even in front of a weak bird and he would never rely on his power and abilities.
The hoopoe returned and, addressing Solomon, said that it had known something which he (as) did not know and it was an assured news from the land of Sheba.
The verse says:
As if the hoopoe has seen the signs of anger in Solomon’s face. Then, in order to remove his distress, the bird shortly and closely announced of an important matter that Solomon, even with his whole knowledge, was not aware of it. Then, when the anger of Solomon was lightened, Hoopoe began explaining it, which will be described through later verses.
It is worthy nothing that Solomon’s troops, and even the birds that obeyed him, had felt such a freedom, security, and daring in Solomon’s justice that, without any fear Hoopoe frankly and explicitly says:
The Hoopoe’s treatment with Solomon was not like the treatment of the flattering men of courts with the tyrannical kings, who, for communicating a fact at first flatter and make themselves so low before them as an insignificant atom.
Then they humbly state their aim inside many sorts of flatteries and never try to deliver a definite statement; so they always use some delicate allusions lest the king’s feeling be a little injured.
Yes, the hoopoe clearly said that its absence was not unreasonable and he had brought Solomon some news that he was not aware of it.
By the way, this meaning is a great lesson for all human beings that there may be a small creature, like hoopoe, which knows a matter that the most knowledgeable man of the people of the time is unaware of it; and no one should be proud of his knowledge even he is Solomon with that vast knowledge of prophecy.
إِنّـِي وَجَدتُّ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ
وَجَدتُّهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ فَهُمْ لاَيَهْتَدُونَ
23. “Verily I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given of everything, and she possesses a magnificent throne.”
24. “I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allah, and Satan has made their deeds fair-seeming to them and he has barred them from the (right) way, so they are not guided aright.”
However, Hoopoe explained the event of going to the land of Sheba and its Queen under the name of Bilqiys, as follows:
By these three short sentences, the hoopoe told Solomon nearly all qualifications of the country of Sheba and that how it was governed. First of all, it said that it was a habitable country with all kinds of merits and potentialities.
The next matter was that a woman was ruling over there who had a very glorious court, perhaps even more glorious than the organizations of Solomon, since though the hoopoe had certainly seen Solomon’s throne it mentioned that of the Queen as ‘a magnificent throne’.
By this speech, the hoopoe made Solomon understand that he should not think that the entire world was in the realm of his government and that the great throne and magnificence was allocated only to him.
By hearing this news, Solomon began contemplating, but the hoopoe did not give him time and added another amazing matter, when it said:
The Hoopoe explains that Satan has dominated over them and has so ornamented their deeds to them that they boast of worshipping the sun, and thus Satan has hindered them from the right way and they have so engaged in idolatry that I do not believe they return easily from that way.
The verse continues saying:
In this way, the hoopoe made clear the spiritual and religious situation of those people and announced that they had earnestly fallen in idolatry, and their government encouraged them to adorring the sun, so people usually follow the religion of their kings.
Their idol temples and their other circumstances show that they insist on paving this wrong way: they like it and they boast of it. In the conditions that both the whole people and government are wrongly on one line, their guidance is very improbable.
That marvellous story indicates that some animals possess a high understanding, such as hoopoe who understood and realized some concepts, like: man and woman, crown and throne, government and ownership, monotheism and idolatry, sun and prostration, Satan and his ornamentations, right and wrong, guidance and misguidance.
أَلاَّ يَسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالاَرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ
اللَّهُ لآ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
25. “So that they prostrate not themselves to Allah, Who brings forth what is hidden in the heavens and the earth and knows what you hide and what you reveal.”
26. “Allah, there is no god but He! Is the Lord of ‘Arsh, the Mighty (throne of Supreme Authority).”
The Arabic word /xab’/ means ‘concealed and hidden’.
Ali (as) Says:
“(The value of) man is hidden under his tongue.”34
The growth of plants, as well as falling rains, are the clear examples of bringing forth those which are hidden in the heavens and the earth.
The ears (of corn) are hidden inside a corn and the Might of Allah brings it forth from inside of it. All the things that alter from potentiality to actuality are the extensions of this very verse.
However, it says:
The Qur’anic word /xab’/, which means anything hidden and concealed, here points to the omnipotence of Allah’s knowledge due to the unseen of heavens and earth.
Thus, the verse means why they do not prostrate themselves to the Lord Who knows the unseen of the heavens and the earth and the secrets hidden in them.
Some commentators have rendered it to rain (respecting the heavens) and plants (respecting the earth), this in fact, is from the kind of statement of a clear extension.
Alike them are those commentators who have commented this phrase upon ‘bringing out the creatures from the unseen of nonexistence into existence’.
It is interesting that the holy verse firstly speaks of the knowledge of Allah unto ‘the secrets hidden in the heavens and the earth’, and then it refers to the secrets concealed in the hearts of people.
Why the hoopoe, among all attributes of Allah (s.w.t.), emphasized on the issue of His knowledge due to unseen and seen in the macrocosm and microcosm, it may be in relation to the fact that Solomon, with all his abilities and knowledge, was not aware of the country of Sheba and its qualities, and it says that we must seek the grace of the Lord for Whom nothing is concealed.
Or it is in relation to the known matter which is said that hoopoe has a special sense by which it can understand the existence of water inside the land that contains it. Then it speaks of Allah Who is aware of all the things which are concealed in the world of existence.
At last, the hoopoe concludes his saying with the following statement:
Thus, the hoopoe emphasized on ‘unity of worship’ and ‘Unity of Lordship’ of Allah and the negation of any polytheism, and then put an end to his speech.
By the way, what is cited in this part of the verse contains a lot of points which can be effective in the life of all human beings and in the process of all governments.
1- The chief of a government, or an administrator, must be so careful and aware of the order of his organizations that he recognizes and realizes even the absence of an ordinary and insignificant member, and pursues its affairs.
2- He must be careful of the offence of a single member and, in order not to affect others, he must apply the necessary precautions.
3- No one should be judged in his absence, or to pass a judgment by default. The one should be allowed to defend himself if possible.
4- The amount of forfeit must proportionate to the crime. So, for every crime a suitable punishment must be decided, and hierarchy should be observed, too.
5- Everybody, even the greatest powers of the society, must submit to reason and logic though the reason is uttered by a very insignificant person.
6- There must exist so much freedom and explicitness in the atmosphere of the society that, at the necessary time, even an ordinary person can tell the chief of the government:
7- Sometimes some ordinary persons or the smallest ones get information of something that the greatest scientists and the most powerful ones are unaware of it, and we must never be proud of our knowledge.
8- In the society of human beings, the reciprocal needs are so much so that sometimes some great men, such as Solomon, are dependant on a bird.
9- Though there are many eligibilities in women, and even this very story shows that the Queen of Sheba possessed an extraordinary understanding and perspicacity, the leadership of a government is not consistent with the situation of their spirit and body; so the hoopoe also surprised of it and said:
10- People often have the same religion that their rulers have.
Therefore, we read in this story that the hoopoe says:
(The words are first about the prostration of the Queen and then that of the people.)
﴿27﴾ قَالَ سَنَنظُرُ أَصَدَقْتَ أَمْ كُنتَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبـِينَ
﴿28﴾ اذْهَب بِكِتَابِي هَذَا فَاَلْقِهْ إِلَيْهِمْ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا يَرْجِعُونَ
27. “(Solomon, after hearing hoopoe’s information,) said: ‘Soon we will see whether you have told the truth or whether you are of the liars.”
28. “Go you with this letter of mine, and throw it down unto them, then turn away from them, and (wait to) see what (answer) they return.”
The Divine prophets’ communication and writing letters to disbelievers and polytheists has a long background, and the Prophet of Islam (S) did it, too. He (S) wrote some letters to the rulers of several countries, such as Iran and Byzantine.
In order to reach to some leading and cultural aims, sending messages, advisors, cultural counselors, officers, and taking the lead in these affairs had been the conduct of the divine prophets.
Of course, when confronting some complicated systems and governments, we cannot encounter them simply, and, thus, recognizing them secretly and far from the eyes is the deepest kind of cognitions.
Therefore, Solomon carefully listened to the words of the hoopoe and began thinking. Solomon might mostly thought that that news was right, and there was no reason for it to be a lie so great.
But since it was not a simple issue and it related to the fate of a country and a great nation, he should not suffice only to the statement of a single informer, and he ought to investigate more about this sensitive subject.
Thus, the Qur’an announces:
This statement clearly proves that for important matters, which relate to the fate of people, one must pay attention to the information received from a simple member and soon it must be sufficiently researched about.
Solomon did neither accuse nor condemn hoopoe, nor did he verify its speech without any proof, but he took it as the cause of a research.
قَالَتْ يَآ أَيُّهَا الْمَلَؤُا إِنّـِي اُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ
إِنَّهُ مِن سُلَيْمَـانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
أَلاَّ تَعْلُوا عَلَيَّ وَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ
29. “(When the Queen of Sheba received the letter,) she said: ‘O chiefs! Verily there has been thrown unto me a noble letter.”
30. “Verily, it is from Solomon; and verily it is: ‘In the Name of Allah. The Beneficent, the Merciful’.”
31. “Exalt not yourselves against me, and come to me in submission.”
Guidance and preaching must be delivered kindly and mercifully; beginning with the holy phrase:
Solomon (as) wrote a very short and comprehensive letter and, giving it to the hoopoe, he told the bird to throw it down unto them and then return and wait in a corner to see what reaction they would have.
It is understood from the Qur’anic phrase “Throw it down unto them” that the hoopoe should throw it down when the Queen of Sheba was sitting in the gathering among her people so that there would remain no room for forsaking and denying it.
This also makes it clear that there is no proof for the commentary of some commentators who have said the hoopoe entered the castle of the Queen of Sheba and her room and threw the letter on her chest or her throat, though it is not so inconsistent with the sentence mentioned in the next verse which says:
The Queen of Sheba opened the letter and was informed of its content. Since she had formerly heard of the fame of Solomon and the content of the letter indicated that he had taken a severe decision about the country of Sheba, she fell into a deep thought; and since she used to consult with the chiefs of her entourage, she invited them.
As the Qur’an says:
Had the Queen of Sheba truly not seen the bringer of the letter? But, with the content of the letter, she felt the nobility of the letter and she never thought that it might be a fabricated letter.
Or she saw the letter with her own eyes, and its surprising circumstance proved that there was a reality over there and it was not an ordinary thing. Whatever it was, she relied on the letter with certainty.
The matter that the Queen says that the letter is a noble and worthy one, may be for the magnificent content of it, or for its beginning which began with the name of Allah, and its ending was correctly signed and sealed;37 or its sender had been a noble person, each of which has been guessed by the commentators.
Or all of them may be found in this consistent concept, because there is no contradictory between them.
It is true that they were sun-worshippers, but we know that many of the idolaters believed in Allah, too, and called Him as the Lord of lords. They counted His respect and glorification important.
Then, the Queen of Sheba referred to the content of the letter when she said:
It is not probable that Solomon had written the letter with these very Arabic phrases; therefore the above-mentioned phrases can be paraphrased, or they are the summary of Solomon’s letter that the Queen of Sheba reiterated for her people.
It is interesting that the content of this letter was indeed not more than three sentences: one sentence was the name of Allah, and the statement of His attributes of mercifulness and compassionateness.
The second sentence was a recommendation for controlling the low desire and abundance of self-superiority, which is the origin of many personal and social corruptions.
And the third one was to submit to the truth. And if we carefully notice them, there was nothing more which was necessary to be mentioned.
- 1. Surah Sad, No. 38, verse 20
- 2. Surah Al-’Anbiya’, No. 21, verse 79
- 3. The Current Surah, verse 16
- 4. Surah Al-’Anbiya’, No. 21, verse 80
- 5. Surah Sad, No. 38, verse 20
- 6. Surah Al-’Anbiya’, No. 21, verse 79
- 7. ’Ihtijaj by Tabarsi, Vol. 4, P. 75
- 8. Surah Al-Jathiyah, No. 45, verse 29
- 9. Surah Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 31
- 10. Surah Al-Kahf, No. 18, verse 66
- 11. Surah Yusuf, No. 12, verse 37
- 12. Surah Al-’Anbiya’, No. 21, verse 80
- 13. Surah An-Naml, No. 27, verse 16
- 14. Surah An-Naml, No. 27, verse 40
- 15. Surah Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 247
- 16. Surah Al-Jinn, No. 72, verses 26-27
- 17. Surah Al-Hadid, No. 57, verse 25
- 18. Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 157
- 19. Surah Al-Jumu‘ah, No. 62, verse 2
- 20. The commentaries of As-Safi, and Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, the explanation of the verse
- 21. Sahih Bukhari, Part 8, P. 185
- 22. Surah Maryam, No. 19, verse 6
- 23. Tafsir Qurtabi, Vol. 7, P. 4880
- 24. Sirah Halabi, Vol. 3, P. 301
- 25. The explanation of Nahj-ul-Balaqah, by ’Ibn-’Abil-Hadid, Vol. 16, P. 284
- 26. Sahih Tarmathi, Chapter knowledge, Tradition No. 19; and Sunan Ibn-i-Majih, the introductory to tradition No. 17
- 27. ’Usul-i-Kafi, Vol. 1 Chapter: ‘The Attribute of knowledge’, tradition No. 9
- 28. The Commentary of Fakhr-i-Razi, Vol. 9, P. 210
- 29. Surah Al-’An‘am, No. 6, verse 130, and Surah Ar-Rahman, No. 55, verse 33
- 30. Surah Sad, No. 38, verse 37
- 31. the commentary of Furqan, and Fi-Zilal
- 32. Majma‘-ul-Bayan, the Commentary
- 33. The commentaries of Ruh-ul-Bayan and Kanz-ud-Daqa’iq
- 34. Nahj-ul-Baqalah, saying No. 148
- 35. Current Surah, verse 22
- 36. Current Surah, verse 23
- 37. An Islamic tradition denotes that the seal of a letter shows its nobility. (The Qur’anic commentaries of Majma‘-ul-Bayan, Al-Miza, and Qurtubi) Another tradition indicates when the Prophet of Islam (S) decided to write a letter to the king of Iran, he was told that they did not accept any letter without sealing. Then the holy Prophet (S) ordered that a ring should be made and on its bezel had to be carved “La ’ilaha ’illallah, Muhammad Rasul-ul-lah”. Then he sealed the letter with it. (Qurtubi, the explanation of the verse)