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.
The Queen of Sheba’s Dialogue with Her Advisors about Solomon’s Correspondence
The Quran reports that, upon receiving Solomon’s letter, the Queen of Sheba engaged in a discussion with her advisors. They reassured her, stating that there was no need to fear Solomon, as their kingdom possessed a formidable military force capable of prevailing in any conflict against him. However, they ultimately entrusted the final decision and responsibility to the Queen.
قَالُوا: نَحْنُ أُولُو قُوَّةٍ وَأُولُو بَأْسٍ شَدِيدٍ، وَالْأَمْرُ إِلَيْكِ، فَانْظُرِي مَاذَا تَأْمُرِينَ
They said, ‘We are powerful and possess a great might. But it is up to you to command. So consider what orders you will give.’ (Al-Naml, 33)
The Queen of Sheba, renowned for her prudence and wisdom, harbored no inclination to engage in warfare. She carefully contemplated the potential consequences that her country and people would face in the event of a defeat against Solomon. The Quran cites a thought-provoking instructive statement made by Bilqis, which the scripture appears to endorse:
قَالَتْ: إِنَّ الْمُلُوكَ إِذَا دَخَلُوا قَرْيَةً أَفْسَدُوهَا وَجَعَلُوا أَعِزَّةَ أَهْلِهَا أَذِلَّةً، وَكَذَلِكَ يَفْعَلُونَ
She said, ‘Indeed when kings enter a town, they devastate it, and make the mightiest of its people the weakest. That is how they act. (Al-Naml, 34)
This verse addresses the pervasive corruption that arises from the unchecked dominion of rulers over territories. The two phrases in the verse are used in an unqualified, unconstrained form: “kings” and “town.” Consequently, the corruption described in this verse extends to any kingdom under any ruler, illustrating that the inherent nature of power, when unrestrained and unchecked, engenders corruption regardless of time or place.
Quranic commentators have presented two interpretations of the concluding phrase in the verse: “That is how they act.” One perspective posits that it is an extension of the Queen of Sheba’s statement, reinforcing her own remark. Another viewpoint suggests that it is God’s confirmation of the Queen’s assertion. Regardless, God endorses the essence of the point being made.
Furthermore, other Quranic verses suggest that the corruptive nature of power is not confined solely to governmental authority, but rather extends to any form of power when it remains unregulated and unchecked. The Quran elucidates this notion with the following verses:
كَلَّا إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَيَطْغَى؛ أَنْ رَآهُ اسْتَغْنَى
Indeed man becomes rebellious when he considers himself without need. (ʿAlaq, 6-7)
This verse highlights a moral trait shared by all human beings. It illustrates that human nature tends to exhibit a tendency towards rebellion when one perceives oneself as self-sufficient and devoid of needs.
The unrestricted usage of the term “al-insān” (human) in this verse confirms its inclusivity towards all individuals, while the unqualified nature of the term “istaghnā” (without need) confirms its applicability to all forms of needs. Consequently, it implies that when any human perceives themselves as devoid of any kind of need, they tend to manifest rebellion in that aspect.
As expressed by Imam ʿAlī, the Commander of the Faithful, when an individual witnesses their commands being followed and obeyed by others, there is a tendency for corruption to arise in both their actions and beliefs:
لَا تَقُولَنَّ إِنِّي مُؤَمَّرٌ آمُرُ فَأُطَاعُ فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ إِدْغَالٌ فِي الْقَلْبِ وَ مَنْهَكَةٌ لِلدِّينِ وَ تَقَرُّبٌ مِنَ الْغِيَر
Do not say: “I have been given authority, I should be obeyed when I order,” because it engenders confusion in the heart, weakens the religion and takes one near ruin. (Letter 53)
This principle applies to anyone entrusted with power and authority, signifying that power has an inherent tendency to corrupt one’s heart and undermine one’s religious convictions. When one’s commands are blindly adhered to by subordinates, it ultimately results in misery both in this life and the hereafter. This broad statement encompasses all individuals universally.
Hence, it is imperative for individuals wielding power in any domain to establish mechanisms that regulate and constrain their authority to prevent succumbing to corruption. This control should encompass both internal measures rooted in God-wariness or piety, as well as external checks, as human beings are susceptible to self-deception at times.
The tale of King Mahmud of Ghazni and Ayaz serves as a valuable lesson in this context. Ayaz, a young impoverished man of African descent, earned the trust of Sultan Mahmud through his wisdom. He rose from being a humble shepherd to holding prominent governmental positions. According to Rumi, there were rumors that Ayaz had a secret chamber where he would spend several hours each day. These rumors led the king to suspect that Ayaz had illicitly hoarded gold and wealth from the treasury:
They said to the King, “He has a chamber,
and in it there is gold and silver and a jar of treasure.
He admits no one into it:
he always keeps the door locked.”
The king dispatched his agents to unlock and thoroughly investigate Ayaz’s concealed chamber in hopes of revealing the rumored gold, silver, and wealth he was said to have stored within. As the door swung open, they were met with a surprising sight—Ayaz had preserved his humble shepherd attire and garments from his impoverished past. It became apparent that he devoted hours of his day within this room, deliberately immersing himself in the reminder of his former destitution. By doing so, he sought to safeguard his spirit from the corrupting influence of power.
Impelled by sagacity,
Ayaz hung up his sheepskin jacket and rustic shoes.
Every day he would go into the private chamber,
“These are your shoes: do not regard your eminence.”
The Queen’s Response to Her Advisors
To gain deeper insights into Solomon, the Queen of Sheba devised a plan to assess his intentions, whether he sought to exploit the wealth of Sheba or harbored a different purpose altogether. To achieve this, she chose to dispatch him a collection of precious and extravagant gifts. The Quran recounts her words as follows:
وَإِنِّي مُرْسِلَةٌ إِلَيْهِمْ بِهَدِيَّةٍ، فَنَاظِرَةٌ بِمَ يَرْجِعُ الْمُرْسَلُونَ
I will send them a gift, and see what the envoys bring back.’ (Al-Nam, 35)