Story of Prophet Sulaiman AS

The Story of Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ)

prophet sulaiman caligraphy

Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), known as Solomon in Judeo-Christian tradition, was from the 19 sons of Prophet Dawud (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). Prophet Dawud (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was the wise King of Israel and a noble Prophet and Messenger of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ).

So, when Dawud (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) passed away, he was succeeded by Sulaiman, who was chosen by Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) to carry forth the legacy of his dad's prophethood. He was bestowed with many gifts and remained a just and wise ruler over the Israelite nation.

In the Qur'an, it mentions, "And Sulaiman inherited Dawud" (Surah An-Naml, ayah 16) But, keep in mind this does not mean inheritance of wealth or property.

In a narration in Sahih Bukhari 6725, Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said,
'Our property (meaning the material possessions of the prophets) cannot be inherited, and whatever we leave is to be spent in charity."

Rather, what Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) inherited was his father's dominion and knowledge. "Indeed the Ulama (scholars) are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets do not leave behind Dinar or Dirham." (Jami at-Tirmidhi 2682)

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Prophet Sulaiman's Humility:

Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) enjoyed much success and happiness in this world.

He was put in a unique position over other prophets as having authority over an entire empire. This empire was unlike any other in history. He ruled not only over just humans, but also the Jinns and various animals. He was admired and loved by all as their leader. Moreover, Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) mentions in Surah An-Naml verses 15-17, how he bestowed His prophet with special talents,

English Translation:

"Indeed, We granted knowledge to Dawud and Sulaiman. And they said in acknowledgment, “All praise is for Allah Who has privileged us over many of His faithful servants. And Dawud was succeeded by Sulaiman, who said, “O people! We have been taught the language of birds and been given everything we need. This is indeed a great privilege. Solomon’s forces of jinn, humans, and birds were rallied for him, perfectly organized."

Surah An-Naml verses 15-17

While relating all the ways Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was blessed, the way he responds is nothing short of extraordinary. The power and success would corrupt most people in his station.

Yet, this superiority he was granted only increased his humility. Whatever he was given was considered a direct gift from his creator, and so, as the verse tells us, he responded by saying, "Alhamdulillah," All the praises and thanks be to Allah.

Also, while recounting all these graces, the first thing mentioned above all else is the gift of knowledge. Some commentators have suggested this quality shows the eminence of knowledge as being superior to being a ruler over the people and Jinn, as well as speaking the language of birds and other animals.

prophet dawud as writing

Knowledge here is believed to mean that of the worldly life and of understanding prophethood. In the Tafheem ul-Qur'an, the author writes that it refers to

"knowledge of the reality, the knowledge that whatever they have is not theirs but the gift of Allah and whatever rights they have been granted over those things should be used strictly according to Allah’s will. For, they will be held answerable before Allah, the real Owner, for the right and wrong use of those rights. This knowledge is the opposite of the ignorance in which Pharaoh was involved."

The Pharaoh was given dominion and rule, but his ignorance molded him to a different path. Contrast this to Prophet Sulaiman's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), whose character was built on the correct knowledge, leading to a vastly different outcome.

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Prophet Sulaiman's Test:

When Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was asked which people have been tested most severely, he replied,
"They are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man is put to trial according to his religion. If he is firm in his religion, his trials will be more severe. If he is weak in his religion, he is put to trial according to his strength in religion."
— (Jami at-Tirmidhi 2398)

prophet sulaiman responsibility as leader

Although on paper, it seems as though Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) had everything, this was not without adversity or tests. Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) says in the Qur'an that we have tested Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). His wealth and kingdom may seem like a blessing, but really, this is a difficult test from Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ). How many in this position would feel they won the lottery but, on the day of judgment, realize it was the worst thing to happen for their imaan (faith)?

Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) shouldered many responsibilities as both a leader and a prophet. First, and most importantly, being a servant to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), he was constantly engaged in dhikr and remembrance of Allah. The Qur'an praises him, saying, "And We blessed Dawud with Sulaiman. He was an excellent servant. Surely, he was great in turning (to Us, in penitence and praise)"
— (Surah Sad, ayah 30)

One day, as the night was fast approaching, his finest, most well-trained horses were readied for a campaign and were brought to him for a final inspection.

Here, he became enamored with their beauty and his love for them.

The Qur'an gives an account of this event, saying,
“one evening well-trained and running horses of noble breed were brought to him he said: 'Lo! I have come to love these good things on account of the remembrance of my Lord.' until it went behind the veil.”
— (Surah Sad, ayat 30-32).

Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) became momentarily distracted by his love for (ٱلْخَيْرِ) al-khayr which has been translated to mean love of good things, in this case, his horses. The verse continues, "until it went behind the veil," and here, 'it' is understood by commentators to refer to the sun setting beyond the horizon. So, Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) unintentionally missed the time of Asr prayer. It was not deliberate but rather due to forgetfulness.

Also, his expression of love for these things wasn't rooted in vanity. As the verse clarifies, "on the account of the remembrance of my Lord." Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) found the love of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) in all things, just being an observer seeing Allah's glory and greatness in all creation.

The ayah continues,
"'Bring them back to me' - and he started passing his hands over the legs and the necks (of the horses)."
— (Surah Sad, ayah 33)

So, after missing the prayer and the horses were sent away, he began to feel remorseful.

He called back the horses who'd left and rubbed his hands over their necks and legs. Now, there is a difference of opinion here. Some commentators say the Arabic word (مَسْحًۢا) mashan, means to stroke with a sword. It suggested that after Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) neglected the remembrance of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), he imposed a penalty on himself.

He sacrificed the very horses he loved in the name of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and distributed the meat for sadaqah (charity). On the other hand, scholars like Imam Ibn Jarir wrote that he called the horses back to pat them and further show his love. This view holds that it is not of character for a Prophet to punish an animal for one's shortcomings. Both these interpretations are often cited regarding this event.

prophet sulaiman horses

Then Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) says,
"And indeed We tested Sulaiman while We threw on his throne a body after which he turned (to Us)."
— (Surah Sad, ayah 34)

We must be careful regarding explanations of this ayah. There are many Israiliyat narrations (these are narrations originating from Hebrew scriptures).

However, these are often fabricated stories and disrespect the Prophet of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ). With that, it is difficult to discern with certainty what this trial Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) underwent. Our curiosity causes us to want to create an answer, and so it has led to many fanciful fabrications of this event.

Ibn Kathir approach is more suitable, anything the Qur'an has left ambiguous should be left as is, without having to dig into its details. It is better for us not to want more details beyond what Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and His messenger have mentioned. All we can gather is that Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was once again tested, and this caused him to turn to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) with an even greater sense of devotion.

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The Winds and The Jinns

Following this event, Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was recorded to have made the following supplication:

رَبِّ ٱغۡفِرۡ لِي وَهَبۡ لِي مُلۡكٗا لَّا يَنۢبَغِي لِأَحَدٖ مِّنۢ بَعۡدِيٓۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡوَهَّابُ ayah 35

Rabbigh fir lee wa hab lee mulkal laa yambaghee li ahadin min ba’dee innaka Antal Wahhaab (35)

English Translation:

"My Lord, forgive me and grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me. Indeed, You are the Bestower. (35)"
— (Surah Sad Ayah 35)

The aim of any Prophet is not to concern oneself with the material and worldly life. Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) does not ask for a kingdom unlike any other just for power-seeking sake. This is made clear by noticing how he begins the du'a. In his heart and mind, he begins with purifying his soul, asking for forgiveness. His concern is not of this dunya but begins with the akhirah. Furthermore, Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) knows His prophet, He knows Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was free from all selfish desires and wanted these resources to spread goodness in His cause.

prophet sulaiman du'a answered

Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) responded to this call. He bestowed upon Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) dominion over the winds, enabling him to travel the seas swiftly and with ease. Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) could command the wind to steer his ships and set sail in whichever direction pleased him.

Moreover, Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) placed the entire shayateen (the rebellious and evil jinns) under his control. With this power, he could command them as builders and divers, fetching the rarest of resources from the depths of the sea to constructing the largest building for his kingdom.

English Translation:

"Then We subjugated the wind for him that blew smoothly on his command to wherever he wished, and (We subjugated to him) the devils (among Jinns), all builders and divers, and many others held in chains. This is Our gift. So, do favor (to someone) or withhold (it), with no (requirement to give) account."
— (Surah Sad, ayat 36-39)

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The Ants

One day, Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) gathered his army to journey to the country of Askalon. He had various battalions, including jinn, men, birds, and animals of all kinds marching in unison. While they were passing through a valley, one observant ant noticed the army approaching from a distance. It cried out shouting to others, warning them, "O ants, enter your dwellings that you not be crushed by Solomon and his soldiers while they perceive not." (Surah An-Naml, ayah 18)

Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) heard the speech of the ant, and he started to smile and laugh. He was so filled with the love of his creator that he made another du'a, "My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into [the ranks of] Your righteous servants." (Surah An-Naml, ayah 19)

The words he uses show the exemplary character of Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). He is the embodiment of gratitude, always happy and attributing his success to Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) rather than self-glorifying. His thankfulness goes beyond just words; he asks in his du'a, "enable me to be grateful for your favor." This plea reflects his desire to demonstrate his thankfulness, to be shown or instructed ways in which he can demonstrate his gratitude through service and good deeds.

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The Hoopoe Bird.

A quality shown by great leaders is knowing about their companions' well-being. This is something Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was known to do. He would visit his companions if he heard they were sick. If some people were afflicted with troubles, he would try to make an effort to remove it. Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) possessed this quality on a scale we cannot even imagine.

He was inspecting his army and noticed among the hoopoe birds, one was missing.

He said,
"Why do I not see the hoopoe - or is he among the absent?"
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 20)

Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was aware of all his subjects, down to a single bird. Its absence alarmed him and did not go unnoticed,
"I will inflict a severe punishment on him or maybe even slaughter him unless he comes forth with a convincing reason (for his absence)."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 21)

Everything has a role to play, it was said by some commentators that the hoopoe bird previously guided Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) to water. Others have suggested these birds provided shade from the sun. Regardless, the single bird's absence was felt and known. Some leaders would default straight into anger and punishment, seeing the absence as a challenge to their authority. But Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was calm, he said first to find out the reason.

hoopoe bird
hoopoe bird tells about bilqis kingdom

The hoopoe bird then appeared,
"I have encompassed knowledge that which you do not know."

How could this be Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) thought to himself? He had eyes and ears everywhere through his jinn, animals, and people. It was surprising to him that a little bird could bring unknown news. So, he listened closely as the bird continued,
"I have brought to you a sure information from Saba' (Sheba). Indeed, I found [there] a woman ruling them, and she has been given of all things, and she has a great throne. I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allāh, and Satan has made their deeds pleasing to them and averted them from [His] way, so they are not guided, [And] so they do not prostrate to Allāh, who brings forth what is hidden within the heavens and the earth and knows what you conceal and what you declare - Allāh - there is no deity except Him, Lord of the Great Throne."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayat 22-26)

To see if what the hoopoe bird said was true, he told the bird,
"Take this letter of mine and deliver it to them. Then leave them and see what [answer] they will return."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 28)

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The Queen of Sheeba

The Queen of Sheba ruled over what is now known as Yemen, or as the Qur'an mentions, Saba (Sheba). Although the Qur'an does not explicitly mention this, it is believed her name was Bilqis.

Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) says she was given power, authority, and a magnificent throne. Still, her empire did not match the size and grandeur of Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), but it was remarkable in its own right. She possessed everything she needed.

She (the queen) said to her officials after receiving the letter,
“O chieftains, there has been delivered to me an esteemed letter. It is from Sulaiman, and it reads 'With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful. Do not rebel against me, and come to me in submission.'"
— (Surah An-Naml, ayat 29-31)

The Queen became very worried, seeing this letter as hinting towards a war, she summoned her trusted advisors to help consult her,
"O chieftains, let me have your counsel in this matter for I make no firm decision without you."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 32)

They replied,
"We are a people of strength and great military might, but the decision is yours, so decide what you will command."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 33)

She responded to the matter quite realistically,
"Peace and friendship are better and wiser; war only brings humiliation, enslaves people and destroys the good things. I have decided to send gifts to Sulaiman, selected from our most precious treasure. The courtiers who will deliver the gifts will also have an opportunity to learn about Sulaiman and his military mighty"

prophet sulaiman AS kingdom and army

Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) team had brought him the news that Bilqis' messengers were en route with what seemed to be a gift. He intelligently mobilized his army to posture and show his might. He knew they were likely to probe and try to gather intel for Bilqis. When they arrived, they surveyed his army and immediately knew they were standing in front of an irresistible army.

They had never seen such a commandment and domestication of lions, tigers, birds, and soldiers.

They then presented Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) with the gifts, but it did not interest him in the least. His integrity could not be bought with a few gifts. He only had one objective and that was to spread the belief in Tawheed, or the oneness of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ).

bilqis gift

They then presented Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) with the gifts, but it did not interest him in the least. His integrity could not be bought with a few gifts. He only had one objective and that was to spread the belief in Tawheed, or the oneness of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ).

He said,
"Do you provide me with wealth? But what Allah has given me is better than what He has given you. Rather, it is you who rejoice in your gift. Return to them, for we will surely come to them with soldiers that they will be powerless to encounter, and we will surely expel them therefrom in humiliation, and they will be debased."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 36-37)

The envoys then returned to Bilqis with the gift and reported to her the magnificence of Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his kingdom. The queen was impressed by him and decided that she would accept his invitation but wished to speak with him directly. She then prepared herself and set off for the travel to Jerusalem.

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The Throne of Bilqis

Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) strategically wanted to demonstrate his power rather than actually use it. Understanding the Queen's inclination towards embracing Islam, he sought to facilitate a miraculous event to strengthen her faith.

sulaiman asks jinns to capture throne

He challenged his Jinns, as stated in the Qur'an,
"O assembly [of jinn], which of you will bring me her throne before they come to me in submission?"
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 38)

This mission was no easy task: to enter her palace unnoticed, secure the throne, and transport it before the queen's arrival. But completing it, he believed, would help her see Allah's unlimited power and control. He could explain how Allah's enablement, not his own power, made such miracles possible.

A powerful one from among the jinn spoke,
"I will bring it to you before you rise from your place, and indeed, I am for this [task] strong and trustworthy."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 39)

Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) did not respond to this Jinn. Then another Jinn, who was said to have knowledge of the book, said he could bring it even faster than that. Before Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) could even blink, the magnificent throne that the hoopoe bird spoke of was placed in front of him.

jinn brings throne

He was once again amazed at the blessing of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) and immediately turned to supplication,
"This is by the grace of my Lord, so that He may test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful. Whoever is grateful is grateful for his own benefit, and whoever is ungrateful, then my Lord is Need-Free, Bountiful"
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 40)

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The Queen Arrives.

When Bilqis arrived at Prophet Sulaiman's palace, she was greeted with a ceremony. Earlier, Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) had asked to disguise the throne slightly to test her reaction.

bilqis throne moved

He said to her,
"Is your throne like this one?"

She was wise and patient. She did not hasten to reject this claim as most people would, seeing it would be inconceivable that the throne she just left was now in her presence. Instead, she kept looking at it, assessing all the details and noticing the striking resemblance.

She replied,
"It seems to be the same."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 42)

From this simple interaction, Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) was impressed to see that she was very diplomatic in her approach.

She then continued saying,
"We have been made to recognize the truth even before this, and we have already submitted."

As Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) led the Queen through his palace, he brought her into a grand hall that was constructed by the jinn. The floor was crafted from a thick layer of transparent glass, and underneath it flowed water. Mistaking the floor for a pool of water, the Queen lifted her garment to keep it dry. Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) clarified, "Indeed, it is a palace [whose floor is] made smooth with glass."
— (Surah An-Naml, ayah 44)

bilqis walks on glass

In her heart, she had already been drawn to Islam, but this experience made her realize something more - outward appearances can deceive the understanding of people. She began to connect the lessons from Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and saw how worshipping the sun and moon because of their prominence was foolish.

This is the visible reality, but truly, only Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) could make their appearance prominent. At that moment, she renounced the religion of polytheism and embraced Islam, saying, "My Lord, I had surely wronged myself, and now I submit, along with Sulaiman, to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds." (Surah An-Naml, ayah 44)

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Jinns and Their Magic.

Before Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) had gained dominion over the jinns, some of them strayed from the right path and spent time deceiving people with their books of magic.

They falsely claimed abilities to tell the future and see the unseen, leading many to misguided beliefs. With the support of Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ), Prophet Sulaiman put an end to this practice. He subdued the jinns, thereby protecting the people from false worship. For their punishment, the jinns were made to be public servants helping carry out any tasks Prophet Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) had.

The Qur'an mentions this part of the story in verses 12-13 of Surah Saba,

English Translation:

"And to Solomon [We subjected] the wind - its morning [journey was that of] a month - and its afternoon [journey was that of] a month, and We made flow for him a spring of [liquid] copper. And among the jinn were those who worked for him by the permission of his Lord. And whoever deviated among them from Our command - We will make him taste of the punishment of the Blaze. They made for him what he willed of elevated chambers, statues, bowls like reservoirs, and stationary kettles. [We said], "Work, O family of David, in gratitude." And few of My servants are grateful."

Surah Saba, ayat 12-13

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Prophet Sulaiman's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) Death.

prophet sulaiman death

As the time drew near for Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) to call His faithful servant back to Him, Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) made a final request. He asked if the Angel of Death could take his soul while he remained seated, upright, supported by his staff. Allah (سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ) granted his request. As Sulaiman (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) watched the jinns laboring away, the Angel quietly came and took his soul. His body remained propped, showing no sign of departure from this world.

Oblivious to the Prophet's passing, the jinn continued to work tirelessly day in and day out. It wasn't until some termites came and ate through his staff that Prophet Sulaiman's (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) body fell to the floor.

Only then did the people come to know of his passing. They gathered around and questioned how long he had been like this.

They wondered how the Jinns remained clueless about his passing. This event served as a powerful demonstration to show his people that the evil Jinns are truly incapable of seeing the unseen and knowing the future. Had they been aware of the Prophet's passing, they would've abandoned their stations and stopped working immediately.

The Qur'an captures this moment, stating,
"So, when We decided (that) death (should come) upon him, nothing gave them any indication of his death, except a creature of the earth that had eaten up his sceptre. So, when he fell down, the Jinns came to know that if they had the knowledge of the Unseen, they would not have stayed (so long) in the humiliating punishment."
— (Surah Saba, ayah 14)

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