اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ بِجَمِیعِ مَحَامِدِه کُلِّهَا عَلَی جَمِیعِ نِعَمِهِ کُلِّهَا… اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ مالِکِ الْمُلْکِ مُجْرِی الْفُلْکِ مُسَخِّرِ الرِّیاحِ فالِقِ الاْصْباحِ دَیّانِ الدّینِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمینَ اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ عَلی حِلْمِهِ بَعْدَ عِلمِهِ وَالْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ عَلی عَفْوِهِ بَعْدَ قُدْرَتِهِ وَالْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ عَلی طُولِ اَناتِهِ فی غَضَبِهِ وَهُوَ قادِرٌ عَلی ما یُریدُ
All praise be to Allah with full gratitude for all His bounties. … All praise be to Allah: the master of the sovereignty, Who allows arks to flow [on seas], Who controls the winds, Who causes the day to break, Who administers the authority, and Who is the Lord of the worlds. All praise be to Allah for His forbearance despite His full knowledge. All praise be to Allah for His amnesty despite His full power. All praise be to Allah for the length of His respite during His wrath, while He is able to do whatever He wills.
و نشهد أن لا اله الا الله وحده لا شریک له، و أَنَّ محمداً عبده و رسوله ارسله بالهدی و دین الحق لیظهره علی الدین کله و لو کره المشرکون
We bear witness that there is no god but Allah. He is one and has no partners. We bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He may make it prevail over all religions, though the polytheists should be averse.
اوصیکم عبادالله و نفسی بتقوی الله و اتباع امره و نهیه، و اخوفکم من عقابه
I enjoin you, servants of Allah and myself, to have fear of God and comply with His commands and forbiddances, and warn you against His retribution.
Prophet Solomon and the Hoopoe
An immensely enlightening story in the life and teachings of Prophet Solomon, as depicted in the Quran, is the captivating narrative involving the hoopoe. The Quran eloquently states:
وَتَفَقَّدَ الطَّيْرَ فَقَالَ: مَا لِيَ لَا أَرَى الْهُدْهُدَ؟ أَمْ كَانَ مِنَ الْغَائِبِينَ
[One day] he reviewed the birds, and said, ‘Why do I not see the hoopoe? Or is he absent?’ (Al-Nam, 20)
As per these verses, upon discovering the hoopoe’s absence, Solomon actively seeks out its whereabouts.
- This showcases the hoopoe’s role as a trusted member of Solomon’s administration, entrusted with a specific responsibility. Furthermore, it highlights Solomon’s meticulous attention to the affairs of his kingdom and the effectiveness of his appointed agents. Rumi, in his Mathnawi, suggests that the hoopoe was assigned the task of locating water for Solomon’s army:
Solomon’s tent was put up by his men
And all his birds came back to him again,
The birds talked of their secrets as plain facts
About their skills, their knowledge, and their acts:
They shared them, one by one, with Solomon,
To gain his gifts they talked up what they’d done!
The hoopoe first explained his worthiness
By speaking of his skills and thoughtfulness:
‘Although this talent seems inferior
To speak concisely is superior.’
Solomon said, ‘By all means, go ahead!’
‘When from the zenith I look down,’ she said,
‘I see with accuracy, like my own hand,
The water lying deep beneath the land:
Its depth, its colour, where to dig a well,
The nature of its source too I can tell––
If on a camping-place you must decide
Keep this perceptive hoopoe by your side!’ (Jawid Mojaddedi’s translation, 1:76-77)
- When Solomon knew about the absence of this agent, as a penalty for his absence from work and this lack of discipline at work, he said:
لَأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا، أَوْ لَأَذْبَحَنَّهُ، أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّي بِسُلْطَانٍ مُبِينٍ
‘I will punish him with a severe punishment, or I will behead him, unless he brings me a credible excuse.’ (Al-Naml, 21)
Through this significant penalty imposed upon the hoopoe, Prophet Solomon imparts a valuable lesson to his other agents. He admonishes them to exercise greater caution in their actions and demonstrate unwavering dedication to regulations and laws, surpassing the expectations placed upon ordinary individuals. Solomon emphasizes that their proximity to the king and their esteemed governmental positions should not grant them the freedom to act contrary to the laws or exempt them from societal obligations.
Instead of awaiting the return of the hoopoe and subsequently punishing it, Solomon chose not to delay imparting this code of conduct to others within his administration. He recognized the importance of promptly educating his agents about the proper protocols and expectations, without hesitation.
- An additional lesson to glean from this story is Solomon’s commitment to justice when determining the penalty for the hoopoe’s absence. Prophet Solomon establishes that the severe penalty is contingent upon the absence being unjustified. By doing so, he affords the hoopoe the opportunity to present a valid defense in the court of law, allowing it to justify its absence with a legitimate excuse.
This demonstrates that Solomon did not succumb to the issue that plagues many individuals: biased or prejudiced judgment. His approach of allowing the hoopoe to present a justified excuse exemplifies his commitment to impartiality and fairness.
Prophet Muhammad taught that prejudice or bias is a vice that can lead one away from truly practicing their religion (al-Kāfī, 2:308). He also warned that those with even a slight degree of prejudice in their hearts will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment among the ignorant Bedouins (al-Jaʿfariyyāt al-Ashʿathiyyāt, 163). Imam al-Sajjād, the fourth Shiite Imam, further explains this vice by stating that “the type of prejudice that is sinful is when a person considers the vicious among their own people to be better than the virtuous among others” (al-Kāfī, 2:309).
- This verse highlights an important aspect of divine governance – individuals are not expected to blindly follow their rulers. This is made evident by Solomon granting the hoopoe the opportunity to explain its absence and make its case. The Quran says the following about the prophets:
مَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَنْ يُؤْتِيَهُ اللَّهُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحُكْمَ وَالنُّبُوَّةَ ثُمَّ يَقُولَ لِلنَّاسِ كُونُوا عِبَادًا لِي مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ، وَلَكِنْ كُونُوا رَبَّانِيِّينَ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تُعَلِّمُونَ الْكِتَابَ وَبِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَدْرُسُونَ
It does not behoove any human that Allah should give him the Book, judgement and prophethood, and then he should say to the people, ‘Be my servants instead of Allah.’ Rather [he would say], ‘Be a godly people, because of your teaching the Book and because of your studying it.’ (Al ʿImran, 79)
Servitude consists in unquestioning blind obedience. In fact, it involves a voluntary submission of one’s will to that of a higher power or authority, with a willingness to relinquish personal desires in order to obey and serve.
The verse in Surah Al ʿImran refers specifically to the “resolute” (ulū l-ʿazm) prophets who were given divine scriptures and tasked with bringing new religions to guide their people.
The Quranic verses that prohibit the request of servitude from people are actually prohibiting the expectation of unquestioning blind obedience from them.
In Islamic tradition, obedience to prophets, Imams, and religious authorities is expected to be based on knowledge. When selecting a religious authority to follow for religious guidance, one should make an informed decision based on research and investigation. It is important to understand who is being followed to ensure that this obedience does not become subservience to a human being rather than to God, and that it remains in line with the divine path.