Translation & Commentary of Verses from Surah 27, Al-Naml [44 – 47]

[44] She was told, ‘Enter the palace.’ But when she saw it, she thought it was a vast pool of water62 and bared her shanks. He said, ‘It is indeed a palace paved smooth with glass.’63 She said, ‘O my Lord, I have indeed wronged myself, and now submit myself with Sulayman to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.’64

Commentary

62. The textual lujji is for a vast amount of water.

63. Majid quotes from several Jewish sources. One is as follows: “`In the Second Targum on the Book of Esther we read that Solomon received the queen seated on a throne upon a floor of glass. She thought he was sitting in the midst of water.’ (Farros, Solomon: His Life and Times, p. 135)”

64. After her throne had been found with Sulayman, this glass construction was the second proof to Bilqis of Sulayman’s extraordinary powers which were certainly not human, but supernatural, those that only the Lord God of the worlds could have bestowed on him. Consequently, Bilqis announced, “I submit myself together with Sulayman to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (Sayyid)

We may present in sum and substance the commentaries of Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir and others: There are a number of reports, perhaps of Jewish origin, why Sulayman got a palace constructed out of glass. But the most plausible one is that it was to impress upon Bilqis that in comparison to her own kingdom, that of Sulayman’s was materially much more advanced and that those under his control, men, Jinn and animals, were capable of performing miraculous feats: the palace was one example. Its floor was paved with glass.

Water flowed below it in currents as in a stream, complete with fish and other sea animals swimming around. The work was so exquisitely done that Bilqis thought she would be stepping into water. The efficient artwork convinced her of Sulayman’s special powers, and that he could have only got it done with the help of supernatural powers. And, since he was apparently a man of high moral integrity too, his claim that he was a Prophet stood its test. Accordingly, she declared her belief in Allah who had raised him as a Prophet.

Shawkani points out that the stories of Sulayman (asws) ultimately marrying Bilqis are of Jewish origin and not trustworthy. That is true also of several other fibs that have been narrated in the context of this Qur’anic passage. As to the Jewish origin, Majid confirms by quoting: “‘Every legitimate regusonnegust, or king of kings, traces his descent from the union of king Solomon with the Queen of Sheba. The substance of the claim is supported by the presence today of some 70,000 Jews in the southern provinces of Abyssinia.’”  (UHW, VI. p. 3404)

Before moving on, we might point out to the sceptics that if there was any thoroughgoing editor and redactor of the Bible, it was perhaps Prophet Muhammad (saws). There isn’t a story, not merely in the Bible, but also in Talmud (ever out of print since before the Prophet’s times), or a few other ancient Rabbinical literature, that the Prophet doesn’t seem to have known, mastered and then presented a wonderfully edited version that stands above any reproach or criticism. How could he have done it? Or, is it Revelation? (Au.)

Mawdudi, and before him Majid, quote profusely from Jewish sources for comparison. To pick up a passage from Mawdudi: “A major difference is that in Rabbinical traditions we find no reference to Solomon’s Tawhid and God-consciousness and the worst detraction is the allegation that Solomon slept with the Queen of Sheba and begot an illegitimate child and that it was in this illegitimate lineage that Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, who would destroy Jerusalem, was born. (See The Jewish Encyclopaedia, Vol. XI, p. 443)

“The truth is,” Mawdudi continues, “that a group of Jewish scholars have harboured enmity towards Solomon (peace be on him). They have accused him of violating the Commandment of the Torah, of his arrogance on account of his kingdom, of pride in his wisdom, of being a hen-pecked husband, of a luxuriant life-style and even of polytheism and idol-worship (see The Jewish Encyclopaedia,Vol. XI, pp. 439-41). Because of such propaganda, the Bible presents Solomon (asws) as a king rather than as a Prophet and that too as a king who, in violation of God’s commands, loved several polytheistic women, and whose heart turned to other gods. (See Kings 11: 1-11).”

See also Majid’s note in this connection in Surah al-Baqarah, no. 206.

[45] Aforetime We sent to Thamud65 their brother Saleh that, ‘Worship Allah.’66But at once they were two parties disputing (with one another).67

Commentary

65. The story of Bilqis – of the south – that portrayed her humbleness before the truth and submission to it when it dawned upon her, is now contrasted with two stiff-necked nations of the north (with a point from Asad).

66. “Saleh’s mission is summarized at this point in a few words. This is the message that has been the central part of any message that was ever sent down from the heavens to the earth: a single message, sent to every nation, in every epoch, and through every Messenger. This, despite the fact that everything that there is around man in this universe, and everything that their selves conceal within themselves, cries loudly this, one reality. Humanity has moved on, generations after generations, through epochs after epochs, encountering this reality, but has been rejecting it, denying it, if not sometimes mocking it. It remains evading this eternal truth to this day, inclined to any other path, except the path of its Lord, One God.” (Sayyid)

67. That is, Mujahid said, they divided themselves into believers and unbelievers. (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir)

[46] He said, ‘O my people! Why do you seek to hasten on the evil before good?68 If only you sought Allah’s forgiveness; haply so you may be shown mercy.’

Commentary

68. That is, Mujahid said, ‘Why do you ask chastisement to be brought down instead of seeking Allah’s mercy?’ (Ibn Jarir)

Zamakhshari explains what it means to ask for evil before good. Saleh’s people used to say, in their ignorance, that ‘we shall repent to God if the chastisement that Saleh promises comes to pass. We shall seek forgiveness as it arrives and shall be forgiven.’ They assumed that repentance at such a time would ward off the punishment. They also thought that, ‘if the chastisement does not come, we shall remain on what we are.’ So, Saleh spoke to them following their suppositions and ended by suggesting that they should seek forgiveness before evil comes: “haply you will be shown mercy.”

[47] They said, ‘We augur ill omen of you and those that are with you.’69 He said, ‘Your ill omen is with Allah.70 But rather you are a people who will be tested.’71

Commentary

69. That is, “Your luck, your future, and your destiny are all in Allah’s hands.” (Sayyid)

It seems that any problem or calamity Saleh’s people faced after his advent, was attributed to him and his mission. He became to them a symbol of bad omen.(Au.)

For explanation of “tiyarah” see al-A`raf, n. 180-182. Sayyid adds here, “To this day we can observe among such people as who reject belief in Allah and refuse to place their trust in Him, falling into the same foolish error, despite their advancement in every discipline of knowledge. You will see them drawing ill omen from number thirteen, or from a black cat cutting across their path, and so on.”

70. Saleh’s people alleged that the troubles that they faced in life, or were likely to face, were because of him and his followers. He reminded them that their real troubles were with Allah. Chastisement could descend upon them if they did not mend their ways.(Au.)

71. The words, “But rather you are a people being tested” could also mean, writes Zamakhshari, that seeking of omen are of those acts by means of which Satan puts them to troubles and tribulations.

(To be continued)