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 Queen of Sheba
A story narrated in the Quran revolves around Prophet Solomon and his encounter with the Queen of Sheba. This tale encompasses their initial communication, their meeting, and the consequential dialogue. While the story is also mentioned in two sections of the Bible (2 Chronicles 9:1-12; 1 Kings 10:1-13), it is worth noting that, unlike other cases, the Quranic version provides a more detailed account compared to its biblical counterpart.
As per the account in the Quran, upon returning to Solomon, the hoopoe was questioned about the reason for its absence. In response, the hoopoe conveyed that it had witnessed a prosperous nation governed by a woman, with abundant resources and amenities.
فَمَكَثَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ فَقَالَ: أَحَطْتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ وَجِئْتُكَ مِنْ سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ؛ إِنِّي وَجَدْتُ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ
He did not stay for long [before he turned up] and said, ‘I have alighted on something which you have not alighted on, and I have brought you from Sheba a definite report. (Al-Naml, 22-23)
The Queen of Sheba
While the Quran and the Bible do not explicitly mention the name of the Queen of Sheba, many scholars and historians believe her name to be Bilqis or Bilqays. This name is referenced in various hadiths within Islamic tradition. According to certain sources, Bilqis is believed to be a descendant of Sam, the son of Noah, and she held a prominent and prosperous reign over Sheba, which corresponds to present-day Yemen. The city of Marib served as the central hub of her governance. Notably, it is mentioned by Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī that the Queen of Sheba constructed the ʿArim dam, which was later destroyed during the flood of ʿArim (al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-jinān, 16:61).
The Creed of the Queen of Sheba and Her People
According to the Quranic account, the hoopoe revealed to Solomon that the Queen of Sheba and her people had veered off the path of true religious belief. They had been led astray by the influence of evil, resulting in the worship of the sun instead of God:
وَجَدْتُهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ فَهُمْ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ؛ أَلَّا يَسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ؛ اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allah, and Satan has made their deeds seem decorous to them—thus he has barred them from the way [of Allah], so they are not guided—so that they do not prostrate themselves to Allah, who brings forth the hidden in the heavens and the earth, and He knows whatever you hide and whatever you disclose. Allah—there is no god except Him—is the Lord of the Great Throne.’ (Al-Naml, 24-26)
The hoopoe’s statement encompasses two key points:
- Admiration for the Queen of Sheba’s remarkable power and authority in governing her realm.
- The religious deviation of the Queen and her unfortunate deception by Satan.
The first point is of utmost importance. The Quran explicitly quotes the hoopoe’s words, praising the Queen’s exceptional governance abilities. Interestingly, the Quran does not express any negative judgment regarding this praise. It is noteworthy that historically, the notion of a woman ruling over a society was not widely accepted until the twentieth century, even in advanced countries in Europe and the US. Even today, there remains a scarcity of women among global political leaders. However, these Quranic verses shed light on the Islamic perspective on women, emphasizing that one’s capacity in governance is what truly matters, rather than their gender.
The Queen of Sheba’s Presence in Solomon’s Palace: Invited or Uninvited?
The story of the Queen of Sheba and her meeting with Solomon is recounted in two sections of the Bible. Both accounts affirm that upon hearing about Solomon’s wisdom, the Queen voluntarily journeyed to meet him. Hence, the meeting took place without an explicit invitation from Solomon:
When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions. Arriving with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all she had on her mind. (2 Chronicles 9:1-2; 1 Kings 10:1-2)
In contrast, according to the Quranic narrative, Prophet Solomon took steps to corroborate the information provided by the hoopoe and the two points it had conveyed. He sent a letter to the Queen of Sheba, inviting her to embrace his religion. The Quran states that when the hoopoe relayed the news about the Queen of Sheba, Solomon responded by saying:
قَالَ: سَنَنْظُرُ أَصَدَقْتَ أَمْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ؛ اذْهَبْ بِكِتَابِي هَذَا فَأَلْقِهْ إِلَيْهِمْ، ثُمَّ تَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا يَرْجِعُونَ
He said, ‘We shall see whether you are truthful, or if you are one of the liars. Take this letter of mine and deliver it to them. Then draw away from them and observe what [response] they return.’ (Al-Naml, 27-28)
The Quran succinctly summarizes Solomon’s letter to the Queen of Sheba in two statements, conveying his primary invitation to embrace the divine religion. In response, the Queen of Sheba gathered the leaders of her people for a council and proceeded to read Solomon’s letter to them:
قَالَتْ: يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ إِنِّي أُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ؛ إِنَّهُ مِنْ سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ؛ أَلَّا تَعْلُوا عَلَيَّ وَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ
She said, ‘O [members of the] elite! Indeed a noble letter has been delivered to me. It is from Solomon, and it begins in the name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful. [It states,] ‘‘Do not defy me, and come to me in submission.’’’ (Al-Naml, 29-31)
Bilqis’s response to Solomon’s letter differed from the Persian king’s encounter with Prophet Muhammad’s letter. Her wise and measured reaction serves as a testament to her wisdom, rationality, and astute governance displayed in her character. As Rumi says:
May Belqis, Queen of Sheba, now be blest!
A thousand intellects this Queen possessed!
From Solomon a hoopoe brought a message,
A sealed note with inside it a key passage;
She read those pithy words which were so wise,
Chose then the messenger not to despise:
She’d seen a hoopoe form with phoenix soul,
Her eyes saw foam, her heart seas as a whole.
(Mathnawi, translated by Jawid Mojaddedi, Book 2, 1605)