Surah Naml Ayat 32-58

{32. She said: “O chiefs! Advise me in case of mine. I decide no case till you are present with me.”

33.They said: “We have great strength, and great ability for war, but it is for you to command; so think over what you will command.”

34. She said: “Verily, kings, when they enter a town, they destroy it and make the most honorable among its people the lowest. And thus they do.”

35. “But verily, I am going to send him a present, and see with what (answer) the messengers return.”}

Bilqis consults with Her Chiefs

When she read Sulayman’s letter to them and consulted with them about this news, she said: “O chiefs! Advise me in (this) case of mine. I decide no case till you are present with me.” meaning, ‘until you come together and offer me your advice.’ “They said: “We have great strength, and great ability for war…” They reminded her of their great numbers, preparedness and strength, then they referred the matter to her and said: “but it is for you to command; so think over what you will command.” meaning, ‘we have the power and strength, if you want to go to him and fight him.’ The matter is yours to decide, so instruct us as you see fit and we will obey. Ibn Abbas said: “Bilqis said: “Verily, kings, when they enter a town, they destroy it and make the most honorable amongst its people the lowest.” And Allah said: “And thus they do.” (At-Tabari 19:455) Then she resorted to peaceful means, seeking a truce and trying to placate Sulayman, and said: “But verily, I am going to send him a present, and see with what the messengers return.” meaning, ‘I will send him a gift befitting for one of his status, and will wait and see what his response will be. Perhaps he will accept that and leave us alone, or he will impose a tax which we can pay him every year, so that he will not fight us and wage war against us.’ Qatadah said: “May Allah have mercy on her and be pleased with her – how wise she was as a Muslim and (before that) as an idolator! She understood how gift-giving has a good effect on people.” Ibn Abbas and others said: “She said to her people, if he accepts the gift, he is a king, so fight him; but if he does not accept it, he is a Prophet, so follow him.” (At-Tabari 19:455)

{36. So, when (the messengers with the gift) came to Sulayman, he said: “Will you help me in wealth What Allah has given me is better than that which He has given you! Nay, you rejoice in your gift!”

37.”Go back to them. We verily, shall come to them with armies that they cannot resist, and we shall drive them out from there in disgrace, and they will be abased.”}

The Gift and the Response of Sulayman

More than one of the scholars of Tafsir among the Salaf and others stated that she sent him a huge gift of gold, jewels, pearls and other things. It is apparent that Sulayman, peace be upon him, did not even look at what they brought at all and did not pay any attention to it, but he turned away and said, rebuking them: “Will you help me in wealth?” meaning, ‘are you trying to flatter me with wealth so that I will leave you alone with your Shirk and your kingdom’ “What Allah has given me is better than that which He has given you!” means, “what Allah has given to me of power, wealth and troops, is better than that which you have.” Nay, you rejoice in your gift!” means, ‘you are the ones who are influenced by gifts and presents; we will accept nothing from you except Islam or the sword.’ “Go back to them” means, with their gift, “We verily, shall come to them with armies that they cannot resist,” they have no power to match them or resist them. “and we shall drive them out from there in disgrace,” `we shall drive them out in disgrace from their land.’ “and they will be abased.” means, humiliated and expelled.

When her messengers came back to her with her undelivered gift, and told her what Sulayman said, she and her people paid heed and obeyed him. She came to him with her troops in submission and humility, honoring Sulayman and intending to follow him in Islam. When Sulayman, peace be upon him, realized that they were coming to him, he rejoiced greatly.

{38. He said: “O chiefs! Which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me surrendering themselves in obedience (as Muslims)”

39. An Ifrit from the Jinn said: “I will bring it to you before you rise from your place. And verily, I am indeed strong and trustworthy for such work.”

40. One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture, said: “I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!” Then when he saw it placed before him, he said: “This is by the grace of my Lord – to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for himself; and whoever is ungrateful, certainly my Lord is Rich, Bountiful.”}

How the Throne of Bilqis was brought in an Instant

Muhammad bin Ishaq reported from Yazid bin Ruman: “When the messengers returned with word of what Sulayman said, she said: ‘By Allah, I knew he was more than a king, and that we have no power to match him, and that we can gain nothing by being stubborn with him. So, she sent word to him saying: “I am coming to you with the leaders of my people to see what you will instruct us to do and what you are calling us to of your religion.” Then she issued commands that her throne, which was made of gold and inlaid with rubies, chrysolite and pearls, should be placed in the innermost of seven rooms, one within the other, and all the doors should be locked. Then she told her deputy whom she was leaving in charge, “Take care of my people and my throne, and do not let anyone approach it or see it until I come back to you.” Then she set off to meet Sulayman with twelve thousand of her commanders from the leaders of Yemen, under each of whose command were many thousands of men. Sulayman sent the Jinn to bring him news of her progress and route every day and night, then when she drew near, he gathered together the Jinns and humans who were under his control and said: “O chiefs! Which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me surrendering themselves in obedience (as Muslims)?” (At-Tabari 19:520) An Ifrit from the Jinn said” Mujahid said, “A giant Jinn.” Abu Salih said, “It was as if he was a mountain.” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 6:359) “I will bring it to you before you rise from your place.” Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Before you get up from where you are sitting.” (Al-Baghawi 3:420)

As-Suddi and others said: “He used to sit to pass judgements and rulings over the people, and to eat, from the beginning of the day until noon.” “And verily, I am indeed strong and trustworthy for such work.” Ibn Abbas said: “Strong enough to carry it and trustworthy with the jewels it contains. Sulayman, upon him be peace, said, “I want it faster than that.” (Al-Baghawi 3:420) From this it seems that Sulayman wanted to bring this throne as a demonstration of the greatness of the power and authority that Allah had bestowed upon him and the troops that He had subjugated to him. Power such as had never been given to anyone else, before or since, so that this would furnish proof of his prophethood before Bilqis and her people, because this would be a great and wondrous thing, if he brought her throne as if he were in her country, before they could come to it, although it was hidden and protected by so many locked doors. When Sulayman said, “I want it faster than that, “One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said” Ibn Abbas said, “This was Asif, the scribe of Sulayman.” It was also narrated by Muhammad bin Ishaq from Yazid bin Ruman that he was Asif bin Barkhiya’ and he was a truthful believer who knew the Greatest Name of Allah. (Al-Baghawi 3:420)

Qatadah said: “He was a believer among the humans, and his name was Asif.” “I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!” Meaning, lift your gaze and look as far as you can, and before you get tired and blink, you will find it before you. Then he got up, performed ablution and prayed to Allah, may He be exalted. Mujahid said: “He said, O Owner of majesty and honor.” (At-Tabari 19:466) When Sulayman and his chiefs saw it before them, “he said: “This is by the grace of my Lord…” meaning, ‘this is one of the blessings which Allah has bestowed upon me.’ “to test whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for himself” This is like the Ayat: “Whosoever does righteous good deed, it is for himself; and whosoever does evil, it is against himself.” (41:46) “and whosoever does righteous good deed, then such will prepare a good place for themselves.” (30:44). “and whoever is ungrateful, certainly my Lord is Rich, Bountiful.” He has no need of His servants or their worship. “Bountiful” He is Bountiful in and of Himself, even if no one were to worship Him. His greatness does not depend on anyone. This is like what Musa said: “If you disbelieve, you and all on earth together, then verily, Allah is Rich, Owner of all praise.” (14:8). It is recorded in Sahih Muslim: “Allah, may He be exalted, says: “O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, mankind and Jinn alike, were all to be as pious as the most pious among you, that would not add to My dominion in the slightest. O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, mankind and Jinn alike, were all to be as evil as the most evil one among you, that would not detract from My dominion in the slightest. O My servants, these are deeds which I am recording for you, and I will judge you according to them, so whoever finds something good, let him praise Allah, and whoever finds otherwise, let him blame no one but himself.” (Muslim 4:1994)

{41. He said: “Disguise her throne for her that we may see whether she will be guided, or she will be one of those not guided.”

42. So when she came, it was said, “Is your throne like this?” She said: “As though it were the very same.” And he said, “Knowledge was bestowed on us before her, and we had submitted to Allah (as Muslims).”

43. And Saddaha that which she used to worship besides Allah has prevented her (from Islam), for she was of a disbelieving people.

44. It was said to her: “Enter As-Sarh,” but when she saw it, she thought it was a pool, and she (tucked up her clothes) uncovering her legs. Sulayman said: “Verily, it is a Sarh Mumarrad of Qawarir.” She said: “My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, and I submit, together with Sulayman to Allah, the Lord of all that exits.”}

 

The Test of Bilqis

When Sulayman brought the throne of Bilqis before she and her people arrived, he issued orders that some of its features should be altered, so that he could test her and see whether she recognized it and how composed she would be when she saw it. Would she hasten to say either that it was her throne or that it was not So he said: “Disguise her throne for her that we may see whether she will be guided, or she will be one of those not guided.” Ibn Abbas said: “Remove some of its adornments and parts.” (At-Tabari 19:469) Mujahid said: “He issued orders that it should be changed, so whatever was red should be made yellow and vice versa, and whatever was green should be made red, so everything was altered.” `Ikrimah said, “They added some things and took some things away.” Qatadah said, “It was turned upside down and back to front, and some things were added and some things were taken away.” (At-Tabari 19:469)  “So when she came, it was said: “Is your throne like this?” Her throne, which had been altered and disguised, with some things added and others taken away, was shown to her. She was wise and steadfast, intelligent and strong-willed. She did not hasten to say that this was her throne, because it was far away from her. Neither did she hasten to say that it was not her throne, when she saw that some things had been altered and changed. She said, “(It is) as though it were the very same.” This is the ultimate in intelligence and strong resolve.

“Knowledge was bestowed on us before her, and we had submitted to Allah.” Mujahid said, “This was spoken by Sulayman.” (At-Tabari 19:471) “And Saddaha that which she used to worship besides Allah has prevented her, for she was of a disbelieving people.” This is a continuation of the words of Sulayman – according to the opinion of Mujahid and Said bin Jubayr, may Allah be pleased with them both – i.e., Sulayman said: “Knowledge was bestowed on us before her, and we had submitted to Allah.” and what stopped her from worshipping Allah alone was “that which she used to worship besides Allah, for she was of a disbelieving people.” What Mujahid and Said said is good; it was also the view of Ibn Jarir. (At-Tabari 19:472) Then Ibn Jarir said, “It could be that the subject of the verb. “And Saddaha” refers to Sulayman or to Allah, so that the phrase now means: “She would not worship anything over than Allah.” “for she was of a disbelieving people.” I say: the opinion of Mujahid is supported by the fact that she declared her Islam after she entered the Sarh, as we shall see below. “It was said to her: “Enter As-Sarh” but when she saw it, she thought it was a pool, and she (tucked up her clothes) uncovering her legs.” Sulayman had commanded the Shayatin to build for her a huge palace of glass beneath which water was flowing. Anyone who did not know the nature of the building would think that it was water, but in fact there was a layer of glass between a person walking and the water.

Verily, it is a Sarh Mumarrad of Qawarir
Sarh means a palace or any lofty construction. Allah says of Firawn – may Allah curse him — that he said to his minister Haman: “Build me a Sarh that I may arrive at the ways.” (40:36-37) Sarh is also used to refer to the high constructed palaces in Yemen. Mumarrad means sturdily constructed and smooth. “of Qawarir” means, made of glass, i.e., it was built with smooth surfaces. Marid is a fortress in Dawmat Al-Jandal. What is meant here is that Sulayman built a huge, lofty palace of glass for this queen, in order to show her the greatness of his authority and power. When she saw for herself what Allah had given him and how majestic his position was, she submitted to the command of Allah and acknowledged that he was a noble Prophet, so she submitted to Allah and said: “My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself,” meaning, by her previous disbelief and Shirk and by the fact that she and her people had worshipped the sun instead of Allah. “and I submit, together with Sulayman to Allah, the Lord of all that exists.” meaning, following the religion of Sulayman, worshipping Allah alone with no partner or associate, Who created everything and measured it exactly according to its due measurements.

{45. And indeed We sent to Thamud their brother Salih, (saying): “Worship Allah.” Then look! They became two parties quarreling with each other.

46. He said: “O my people! Why do you seek to hasten the evil before the good Why seek you not the forgiveness of Allah, that you may receive mercy”

47.They said: “We augur an omen from you and those with you.” He said: “Your omen is of Allah; nay, but you are a people that are being tested.”}

Salih and Thamud

Allah tells us about Thamud and how they responded to their Prophet Salih, when Allah sent him to call them to worship Allah alone, with no partner or associate. “Then look! They became two parties quarreling with each other.” Mujahid said, “These were believers and disbelievers.” (At-Tabari 19:475) This is like the Ayah, “The leaders of those who were arrogant among his people said to those who were counted weak — to such of them as believed: “Know you that Salih is one sent from his Lord.” They said: “We indeed believe in that with which he has been sent.” Those who were arrogant said: “Verily, we disbelieve in that which you believe in.” (7:75-76) “He said: “O my people! Why do you seek to hasten the evil before the good” meaning, ‘why are you praying for the punishment to come, and not asking Allah for His mercy’ Then he said: “Why seek you not the forgiveness of Allah, that you may receive mercy” They said: “We augur an omen from you and those with you.” This means: “We do not see any good in your face and the faces of those who are following you.” Since they were doomed, whenever anything bad happened to any of them they would say, “This is because of Salih and his companions.” Mujahid said, “They regarded them as bad omens.” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 6:369) This is similar to what Allah said about the people of Firawn: “But whenever good came to them, they said: “Ours is this.” And if evil afflicted them, they saw it as an omen about Musa and those with him” (7:131). And Allah says: “And if some good reaches them, they say, “This is from Allah,” but if some evil befalls them, they say, “This is from you.” Say: “All things are from Allah.” (4:78) i.e., by virtue of His will and decree. And Allah tells us about the dwellers of the town, when the Messengers came to them: “They (people) said: “For us, we see an omen from you; if you cease not, we will surely stone you, and a painful torment will touch you from us.” They (Messengers) said: “Your omens are with yourselves!” (36:18) And these people [Thamud] said: “We augur an omen from you and those with you.” He said: “Your omen is of Allah” meaning, Allah will punish you for that. “Nay, but you are a people that are being tested.” Qatadah said: “You are being tested to see whether you will obey or disobey.” (Ad-Durr Al-Manthur 6:369) The apparent meaning of the phrase “are being tested” is: you will be left to get carried away in your state of misguidance.

{48. And there were in the city nine Rahtin, who made mischief in the land, and would not reform.

49.They said: “Swear one to another by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household, and thereafter we will surely say to his near relatives: `We witnessed not the destruction of his household, and verily, we are telling the truth.”’

50. So, they plotted a plot, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not.

51. Then see how was the end of their plot! Verily, We destroyed them and their nation all together.

52. These are their houses in utter ruin, for they did wrong. Verily, in this is indeed an Ayah for people who know.

53. And We saved those who believed, and had Taqwa of Allah.}

 

The Plot of the Mischief-Makers and the End of the People of Thamud

Allah tells us about the evildoers of Thamud and their leaders who used to call their people to misguidance and disbelief, and to deny Salih. Eventually they killed the she-camel and were about to kill Salih too. They plotted to let him sleep with his family at night, then they would assassinate him and tell his relatives that they knew nothing about what happened to him, and that they were telling the truth because none of them had seen anything. Allah says: “And there were in the city” meaning, in the city of Thamud, “nine Raht” meaning, nine people, “who made mischief in the land, and would not reform.” They forced their opinions on the people of Thamud, because they were the leaders and chiefs. Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn Abbas said: “These were the people who killed the she-camel,” (At-Tabari 19:477) Meaning, that happened upon their instigation, may Allah curse them. Allah says: “But they called their comrade and he took (a sword) and killed (the she-camel).” (54:29) “When the most wicked man among them went forth (to kill the she-camel).” (91:12) Abdur-Razzaq said that Yahya bin Rabiah As-Sanani told them, “I heard Ata’ – i.e. Ibn Abi Rabah – say: “And there were in the city nine Raht, who made mischief in the land, and would not reform.” ‘They used to break silver coins.”’ (Abdur-Razzaq 3:83) They would break off pieces from them, as if they used to trade with them in terms of numbers ﴿as opposed to weight﴾, as the Arabs used to do.

Imam Malik narrated from Yahya bin Said that Said bin Al-Musayyib said: “Cutting gold and silver (coins) is part of spreading corruption on earth.” What is meant is that the nature of these evil disbelievers was to spread corruption on earth by every means possible, one of which was that mentioned by these Imams. “They said: “Swear one to another by Allah that we shall make a secret night attack on him and his household…” They took a mutual oath, pledging that during the night, whoever met the Allah’s Prophet Salih, peace be upon him, he would assassinate him. But Allah planned against them and caused their plot to backfire. Mujahid said, “They took a mutual oath pledging to kill him, but before they could reach him, they and their people were all destroyed.” (At-Tabari 19:478)

Abdur-Rahman bin Abi Hatim [That is Abdur Rahman bin Zayd. This narration is recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim no. 16485] said: “When they killed the she-camel, Salih said to them: “Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days. This is a promise (i.e., a threat) that will not be belied.” (11:65). They said: ‘Salih claims that he will finish with us in three days, but we will finish him and his family before the three days are over.’ Salih had a place of worship in a rocky tract in a valley, where he used to pray. So they set out to go to a cave there one night, and said, ‘When he comes to pray, we will kill him, then we will return. When we have finished him off, we will go to his family and finish them off too.’ Then Allah sent down a rock upon them from the mountains round about; they feared that it would crush them, so they ran into the cave and the rock covered the mouth of the cave while they were inside. Their people did not know where they were or what had happened to them. So Allah punished some of them here, and some of them there, and He saved Salih and the people who were with him. Then he recited: “So, they plotted a plot, and We planned a plan, while they perceived not. Then see how was the end of their plot! Verily, We destroyed them and their nation, all together. These are their houses in utter ruin,” i.e., deserted.’ “for they did wrong. Verily, in this is indeed an Ayah for people who know. And We saved those who believed, and had Taqwa of Allah.”

{54. And (remember) Lut! When he said to his people: “Do you commit immoral sins while you see”

55.”Do you practice your lusts on men instead of women Nay, but you are a people who behave senselessly.”

56. There was no other answer given by his people except that they said: “Drive out the family of Lut from your city. Verily, these are men who want to be clean and pure!”

57. So, We saved him and his family, except his wife. We destined her to be of those who remained behind.

58. And We rained down on them a rain. So, evil was the rain of those who were warned.}

Lut and His People

Allah tells us about His servant and Messenger Lut, peace be upon him, and how he warned his people of Allah’s punishment for committing an act of immorality which no human ever committed before them — intercourse with males instead of females. This is a major sin, whereby men are satisfied with men and women are with women (i.e., homosexuality). Lut said: “Do you commit immoral sins while you see?” meaning, ‘while you see one another, and you practice every kind of evil in your meetings.’ “Do you practice your lusts on men instead of women Nay, but you are a people who behave senselessly.” means, ‘you do not know anything of what is natural or what is prescribed by Allah.’ This is like the Ayah: “Go you in unto the males of mankind, and leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your wives Nay, you are a trespassing people!” (26:165-166) “There was no other answer given by his people except that they said: “Drive out the family of Lut from your city. Verily, these are men who want to be clean and pure!” means, ‘they feel embarrassed because of the deeds you are doing, and because you approve of your actions, so expel them from among yourselves, for they are not fit to live among you in your city.’ So, the people resolved to do that, and Allah destroyed them, and a similar end awaits the disbelievers. Allah says: “So, We saved him and his family, except his wife. We destined her to be of those who remained behind.” meaning, she was one of those who were destroyed, with her people, because she was a helper to what they did and she approved of their evil deeds. She told them about the guests of Lut so that they could come to them. She did not do the evil deeds herself, which was because of the honor of the Lut and not because of any honor on her part. “And We rained down on them a rain.” means; stones of Sijjil, in a well-arranged manner one after another. Marked from your Lord; and they are not ever far from the evildoers. Allah said: “So, evil was the rain of those who were warned.” meaning, those against whom proof was established and whom the warning reached, but they went against the Messenger and denied him, and resolved to drive him out from among them.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 7 Pages 319-338

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