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The Story of Solomon

Solomon was the youngest son of David; he succeeded his father, according to some traditions, in 965 BC, almost a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. Like his father before him, Solomon was chosen as God's messenger. The Lord granted him knowledge of the speech of birds and many other bounties, as well as an [Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim] 'abundance of wealth'. He could harness the winds at his bidding; he could summon up demons and those fettered in chains. His army consisted of men, jinn and birds. As he told his people:

[Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim] We have been taught the speech of birds and on us God has bestowed knowledge of all things in this world. Indeed, He has been most gracious to us. [27:16]

One day, while Solomon was passing through the Valley of Ants, one of the ants, seeing Solomon and his army, cried: [Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim] 'Get into your anthills, all you ants, lest you be crushed unwittingly.' As Solomon knew their language, he smiled and prayed to God that he might be guided right, as were his parents. He should be prevented from committing any wrong and be ever mindful of doing good, so that God might be pleased with him and take him into the ranks of [Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim] 'His righteous servants'.

While inspecting his army of birds once, Solomon found the hoopoe missing. He was upset and said he would punish the hoopoe unless it gave good reason for its absence. The hoopoe did not take long to return. On arrival, it informed Solomon that it had seen a prosperous kingdom called Sheba, which was ruled by a powerful queen who possessed a magnificent throne. But neither she nor her people were rightly guided: they worshipped the sun and not God, the Lord of the universe.

Solomon promptly dispatched the hoopoe with a letter, calling upon the Queen to take to the true faith and to give up the worship of everything else except the Creator of all beings. On receiving the letter, the Queen consulted her council of advisors. The asked them to give their considered view so that she might take a correct decision. They told her she was powerful enough not to bow before anyone, and further that they were prepared at her behest to fight against Solomon. She pondered for a while: wars, she said, only resulted in destruction. She would therefore resort to a peaceful method: she would send a precious gift to the King as a gesture of goodwill and await his reaction.

Her envoys took the gift to Solomon, who was very angry. [Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim] 'Do you want to bribe me with this wealth?' he asked. 'God has given me much more than what your Queen possesses. She will now have to face our armies and her people will suffer an ignoble defeat.'

Solomon asked his nobles which of them would be the first to bring the Queen's throne to him. One from among the jinn assured Solomon that before he rose from his seat, the throne would be at his feet. And within the twinkling of an eye, the throne was brought and placed before him. Solomon bowed his head in gratitude to God for the esoteric power with which he was blessed.

Meanwhile, the Queen decided to see Solomon personally. When she came, Solomon asked her whether the throne that she saw in his palace was hers. The queen was dumbfounded, for it did indeed look like hers. Solomon then asked her to enter the palace. At the entrance, there seemed to be a lake. The queen lifted her skirt and bared her legs in an attempt to cross it. But Solomon stopped her, saying that it was no lake: the way was paved with glass, and hence what looked like something was really not. It was a mere reflection in the glass.

Likewise, there was only one reality and that was God. Everything else was an illusion. Hence the Queen should give up the worship of the sun and worship the One who created everything. She understood the significance of Solomon's message and at once embraced the new faith. Such was Solomon's power of persuasion:

[Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim] He enjoyed a nearness to God, for which he has been granted a beautiful abode in the Hereafter. [38:40]

[Sadaqa allahu alazim]

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