The Story of Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH)
Sulaiman was the son of Prophet Dawud (David). Dawud was the wise King of Israel and a noble Prophet of Allah (SWT). Sulaiman learnt from his father’s vast knowledge and judgement and often joined his father during hearings. He was an observer and learned from him and occasionally contributed to the discussion.
One day Prophet Dawud called his 19 sons in front of the chiefs and academic scholars of his kingdom. He then put forth the following questions:
1. Which thing is closest (nearest) to man?
2. Which is the farthest thing?
3. Which two things are attached to each other?
4. Which is the most awe-creating thing?
5. Which two things remain unchanged?
6. Which two things are always different?
7. Which two things are opposed to each other?
8. What is the action the result of which is good?
9. What is that action the result of which is bad?
The sons of Prophet Dawud became flustered and couldn’t answer these questions. The youngest of the sons, Sulaiman stood up and gave the following answers:
1. The nearest things to a man is the hereafter (Life and Death – as one may die any moment);
2. The farthest things is the time which has passed away (which is not to come again);
3. The two things that are attached to each other is man’s body with the soul;
4. The most awe-creating is the man’s body (dead) without soul;
5. The two things which remain the same are the sky and the earth;
6. The two things which are different are the day and night;
7. The two things which are opposed to each other are life and death;
8. The action – the end of which is good – is patience and forbearance at the time of anger;
9. The action – the end of which is bad is haste at the time of anger.
Impressed by these answers Prophet Dawud appointed his son Sulaiman to take charge following his death. So, with the passing of time Sulaiman inherited the kingdom of Israel and was elected by Allah to continue his Prophethood. He beseeched his Lord for a kingdom that would occur to none after him. Allah granted Sulaiman his wish and bestowed upon him many miracles, like the ability to control the wind which he used to travel at incredible speeds; the jinns which were under his command and a copper mine with which he used to make weaponry. He was even blessed with the ability to communicate with animals. The Quran makes mention of this:
In his mission as a Prophet of Allah, Sulaiman built a prominent place of worship—the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. From there Sulaiman and his followers made pilgrimage to Makkah. On completion of their Hajj, they travelled to Yemen where Sulaiman witnessed the Yemeni’s incredible water channeling mechanism. He desired to replicate this system in his own land, but knew that they had insufficient springs. Determined to find a way, Sulaiman set about looking for the Hoopoe bird, which had the ability to detect water underground. But the bird was nowhere in sight. Sulaiman who grew increasingly impatient exclaimed, “Why do I not see the Hoopoe bird– or is he among the absent? I will surely punish him with a severe torment, or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason!
Prophet Sulaiman said, “We will see whether you were truthful or were of the liars. Take this letter of mine and deliver it to them. Then leave them and see what [answer] they will return.” Surah Naml Ayat 27-28
The Hoopoe bird flew back to Bilkis’s palace and dropped Sulaiman’s letter before her. He soon hid and watched what happened. Having noticed the letter, Bilkis began reading it, “Verily! It is from Solomon. It reads: ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful; be you not exalted against me, but come to me as Muslims.”
Bilkis immediately summoned her chiefs and sought their advice. They replied, “We have great strength, and great ability for war, but it is for you to command; so think over what you will command.” Bilkis, however, was not in favour of war as they were unaware of the size of Sulaiman’s army. She answered, “Verily! Kings, when they enter a town, they despoil it, and make the most honourable amongst its people low.” She decided, as a token of friendship, to send Sulaiman some valuable gifts through her messengers, who could also bring back information about Sulaiman’s army.
Sulaiman immediately learnt of Bilkis’s response through the Hoopoe. He decided to display the might of his army to her messengers. When the messengers arrived, all of Sulaiman’s army complete with animals, such as lions and tigers, birds, men and jinn, gathered before them. Bilkis’s messengers were indeed stunned by the size and variety of Sulaiman’s battalion. His incomparable strength was eminent.
Bilkis decided to meet Sulaiman in person, together with her officials. On receiving this news, Sulaiman decided to show Bilkis and her officials the power of the miracles bestowed to him by Allah. He asked his army, “Which of you can bring me Bilkis’s throne before they come to me, surrendering themselves in obedience?” Ifrit, one of the powerful jinns, immediately responded to Prophet Sulaiman, “I will bring it to you before you rise from your place. And verily, I am indeed strong and trustworthy for such work.” (27:30)
But Sulaiman remained silent, awaiting a better offer. Another jinn with knowledge of the scriptures spoke up, “I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you.” And when [Solomon] saw it placed before him, he said, “This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous.” (27:40)
“I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!” And in a split second the throne of Bilkis was brought from across 2,000 miles to Prophet Sulaiman. Sulaiman himself was amazed by the miracle Allah had given him and praised his Lord immensely. Sulaiman then instructed the jinn, “Disguise for her her throne; we will see whether she will be guided [to truth] or will be of those who is not guided.” (27:41) He then ordered the jinns to build a palace with floors made of thin but solid glass, underneath through which rivers flowed.
When Bilkis arrived, her throne immediately caught her attention. Having noticed Bilkis’s reaction to the throne, Sulaiman asked, “is your throne like this?” Bilkis was thoroughly confused. She wondered if her throne actually got here or if it was possible that someone replicated it. She replied cautiously, “it is as though it was the very same.” Sulaiman judged her to be intelligent and diplomatic so he then invited her to his palace. When Bilkis was about to enter she mistook the glass floor for water and lifted her skirts. In the Quran it says, “she thought it was a body of water and uncovered her shins [to wade through]. He said, “Indeed, it is a palace [whose floor is] made smooth with glass.” She said, “My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, and I submit with Solomon to Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (27:44)
Bilkis realized that Sulaiman’s kingdom was indeed unlike any palace she had seen before. She witnessed his wisdom and humility along with his mighty power and accepted him as the messenger of Allah. She repented and embraced Islam along with her nation.
Prophet Sulaiman’s Death
Prophet Sulaiman lived and reigned in glory. Much of his public work was performed by the jinns as a punishment for making people believe that jinns had knowledge of the unseen. Sulaiman taught his people that Allah alone had such knowledge. Even Prophet Sulaiman’s death was a lesson in this regard.
The future is not known neither by the jinns nor by the prophets, but by Allah alone.
Sulaiman was seated, holding his staff, while he oversee some jinns working in a mine. The jinns, who were terrified of Sulaiman, were heavily focused on the building when Allah decided to take Sulaiman’s life.
No one was aware of his death, until days later, a hungry ant began nibbling on his wooden staff. As it ate on, the staff broke and Prophet Sulaiman’s body that was leaning on it fell to the floor. People ran to their Prophet, and soon realized that he had died long ago. Thus everyone learned that had the jinns possessed the knowledge of the unseen, they wouldn’t have tormented themselves working hard, thinking Sulaiman was watching them. The life and death of Sulaiman is indeed full of miracles from which mankind can derive incredible lessons.
“And when We decreed for Solomon death, nothing indicated to the jinn his death except a creature of the earth eating his staff. But when he fell, it became clear to the jinn that if they had known the unseen, they would not have remained in humiliating punishment.” (34:14)