Prophets (الانبياء)

The Prophet Sulayman – Part 1

Lessons from the Blessed Anbiya’ (`alayhim al-salam)

The Prophet Sulayman (as) – Part 1


  • One of the noble Prophets sent for Bani Isra’il.
  • One of the sons of the Prophet Dawud (as).
  • He had 1000 wives.
  • He was extremely powerful.
  • He was extremely pious.
  • He was given unspeakable miracles.
  • He was most learned in legal judgments and extremely wise.
  • He was intellectually astute.
  • Convinced the Queen of Sheba to accept the Oneness of Allah.

***Section 1***

Below is part one of a brief outline of some of the lessons that can be learnt from the mention of the Prophet Sulayman (as) in the Noble Qur’an. Allah (swt) states in approximate translation of the meanings of the original Arabic:

{And to Dawud We gave Sulayman. How excellent a slave! Verily, he was ever oft returning in repentance [to Us]! When there were displayed before him, in the afternoon, well-trained horses of the highest breed [for jihad in Allah’s cause]. And he said: ‘Alas! I did love the good [i.e. these horses] instead of remembering my Lord [in my `Asr prayer]’ until the time was over and the sun had hidden in the veil of the night. Then he said: ‘Bring them [horses] back to me.’ Then he began to pass his hand over their legs and their necks [till the end of the display]. And indeed We did try Sulayman and We placed on his throne a jasadan but he did return [to his throne and kingdom by the Grace of Allah and he did return] to Allah with obedience and in repentance. He said: ‘My Lord! Forgive me, and bestow upon me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any other after me. Verily, You are the Bestower.’ So, We subjected to him the wind, it blew gently to his order whithersoever he willed, and also the devils from the jinns including every kind of builder and diver, and also other bound in fetters. [Saying of Allah to Sulayman]: ‘This is Our gift, so spend you or withhold, no account will be asked.’ And verily, he enjoyed a near access to Us and a good final return [Paradise]}.[1]

Basic tafsir of the Q. 38:30-40:

v.30: {how excellent a slave…}: i.e. in his deep worship and obedience to Allah (swt).

{…oft returning in repentance…}: repeatedly engaged in repentance and seeking of improvement in any deficiencies or lapses.

Lesson: Correct servitude to Allah is linked to repentance and imploring Allah for improvement and increase in worship of him.

v.31: {displayed before him…}: The reason why the horses were displayed to Sulayman was either because: 1. He wanted to use them for services of jihad against the enemies; 2. They were special horses with wings inhabiting the underworld of the sea; 3. They were his father’s (i.e. Dawud’s) and hence he wanted to inherit them as a favour; 4. They were victorious horses in previous battles. The total number of horses was said to be from 20 – 20,000 in total. Imam Ibn al-Jawzi states:[2]

وفي سبب عرضها عليه أربعة أقوال: أحدها: أنه عَرَضَها لأنه أراد جهاد عدوٍّ له، قاله عليّ بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه. والثاني: أنها كانت من دوابّ البحر. قال الحسن: بلغني أنها كانت خيلاً خرجتْ من البحر لها أجنحة. وقال إبراهيم التيمي: كانت عشرين فرساً ذات أجنحة. وقال ابن زيد: أخرجتْها له الشياطين من البحر. والثالث: أنه وَرِثَها من أبيه داود عليه السلام، فعُرِضَتْ عليه، قاله وهب بن منبّه ومقاتل. والرابع: أنه غزا جيشاً، فظَفِر به وغنمها، فدعا بها فعُرضَتْ عليه، قاله ابن السائب. وفي عددها أربعة أقوال: أحدها: ثلاثة عشر ألفاً، قاله وهب. والثاني: عشرون ألفاً، قاله سعيد بن مسروق. والثالث: ألف فرس، قاله ابن السائب، ومقاتل. والرابع: عشرون فرساً، وقد ذكرناه عن إبراهيم التيمي.

{well-trained horses…}: “al-safinat” = ‘horses’, ‘those horses that stand on three legs with the fourth raised high’, ‘strong steeds of war’; “al-jiyad” = swift-moving horses prepared for battle in Allah’s cause.

vv.32-33: {‘Alas’…till the end of the display}: {I loved…}: ‘I was influenced by’, ‘I was preoccupied by’, ‘I was kept busied by’.

{the good..}: 1. ‘The horses’ (al-khayl = khayr according to the Arabs); 2. Meaning the bounties of Allah; 3. The good of the world. Ibn al-Jawzi states:

} حُبَّ الخَيْرِ} وفيه قولان: أحدهما: أنه المال، قاله سعيد بن جبير، والضحاك. والثاني: حُبُّ الخيل، قاله قتادة، والسدي. والقولان يرجعان إلى معنى واحد، لأنه أراد بالخير الخيلَ، وهي مال. وقال الفراء: العرب تسمِّي الخيل: الخير. قال الزجاج: وقد سمَّى رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم زَيْدَ الخيل: زَيْدَ الخير، ومعنى ” أَحَبْبْتُ ” آثرتُ حُبَّ الخَيْر على ذِكْر ربِّي؛ وكذلك قال غير الزجاج. عن بمعنى على

“{Love of the good} has two understandings: the first is that it refers to mal (goods, property and wealth). This was the opinion of Sa`id b. Jubayr and al-Dahhak. The second is that it refers to hubb al-khayl (‘love of horses’). This was the opinion of Qatada and al-Suddi. Both understandings mean the same thing because by ‘khayl’ is meant ‘khayr’ which is the same thing as mal. al-Farra’ said: the Arabs call horses ‘goods’ […] and the meaning of {I loved} is ‘I was overcome by love of the horses than remembering my Lord’…”[3]

{…remembering my Lord…}: Can refer to: 1. Salat al-`Asr; 2. An optional prayer; 3. A time Sulayman used to remember Allah; 4. A prescribed act of devotion from the shari`a of Sulayman.

Lesson: inspection of the horses led Sulayman (as) to forget the `Asr Prayer for the Sun had gone down and he made immediate repentance to Allah for it – an illusion to the earlier verse of his habit in doing this action. We must do the same. We often do not even care about being distracted from the remembrance of Allah and give little thought to it. Living in a capitalist society that emphasises material possession, sensual gratification, love of entertainment and all things pleasurable, the concern for remembering Allah and indeed the Hereafter is totally circumvented.

v.33: {Then he began to pass his hand over their legs…}: Meaning: 1. He fondly stroked and caressed the horses out of his love for them; 2. He slaughtered the horses; 3. The neck and legs were hamstrung; 4. He patted the horses on their neck and legs.

v.34: {We tried Sulayman…} meaning: ‘we tested him’, ‘we put him under an examination’.

{jasadan} – Which can refer to: 1. A dead and lifeless body; 2. a devil (shaytan).

Lesson: If Prophets, who are the best strata of Allah’s creation, are tested by Allah, then the ordinary believer will no doubt be tested too and Allah assures of this. The benefits of trials, tests and tribulations (fitan/ibtila’/imtihan) are many such as:

  1. It makes one realise Allah’s majesty, power, greatness and grandeur.
  2. It is a means to purge a person of any failings and shortcomings.
  3. It is a means of soul-building, i.e. augmenting a person to make them better believers.
  4. It is a means of having sins wiped away.
  5. It is means of acquiring traits and characteristics necessary for a complete and fortified individual to be formed for da`wa and life’s difficulties (e.g. patience, forbearance, steadfastness, humility, etc.).[4]

{…not belong to any other after me}: i.e. grant me a kingdom the likes of which will never be given to anyone after me or a kingdom that no one can ever take from me or usurp.

***Section 2***

{And indeed We gave knowledge to Dawud and Sulayman and they both said: ‘All praise be to Allah, Who has preferred us above many of His believing servants!’ And Sulayman inherited from Dawud. He said: ‘O mankind! We have been taught the language of birds and we have been given everything. This indeed is an evident grace.’ And there were gathered before Sulayman his hosts of Jinn and men as well as birds and they all were set in battle order [marching forward]. Then, when they came to the valley of the ants, one of the ants said: ‘O ants! Enter your dwellings in case Sulayman and his armies should crush you because they are not aware. So he [Sulayman] smiled, amused at her speech and said: ‘My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favours which You have bestowed on me and on my parents and that I may do righteous deeds that will please You and admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants’}.[5]

Basic tafsir of the Q. 27:15-19:

v.15: {And we gave knowledge to Dawud…}: Here “`ilm” refers to: 1. Knowledge of judgments, decisions, settling disputes (al-qada’); 2. Language of birds (kalam al-tayr); 3. Language of animals (al-dawwab).

{All praise be to Allah Who has preferred us…}: 1. Dawud and Sulayman were given preference in terms of Prophethood (nabuwwa); 2. Preference was shown in terms of the ability to mould iron (in the case of Dawud), i.e. miracles; 3. Preference in terms of subjugating the shayatin (devils, evil forces) category of creation; 4. Subjugation of Jinns and 5. Subjugation of human beings. This was not given to any other Prophet before him.

Lesson: The Prophets have the highest level of humility and recognition of their their true status before Allah. From Sulayman (as) we learn:

1. We have a duty to express our utmost gratitude to Allah for any favours He grants us;

2. humble acknowledgment that from Allah comes all sustenance, bounty and goodness.

3. To be aware that any good, joy and greatness we achieve or are granted is purely from Allah’s contingent decision to grant it.

v.16: {And Sulayman inherited from Dawud…}: “waritha” = (‘inherited’) – The inheritance he was honoured with was in the Prophethood and ruling (i.e. power and dominion) and not wealth. Imam Ibn al-Jawzi writes:

قوله تعالى: { وَورِث سليمانُ داودَ } أي: ورث نبوَّته وعِلْمه ومُلْكه، وكان لداود تسعة عشر ذكراً، فخصّ سليمان بذلك، ولو كانت وراثة مال لكان جميع أولاده فيها سواء.

“And Allah’s statement: {Sulayman inherited from Dawud} means: he inherited the Prophethood and the authority and power. Dawud had nineteen sons but it was Sulayman who was specifically granted this inheritance. If it were to be an inheritance in wealth, then all of [Dawud’s] sons would have had a share of the inheritance.”[6] And the Prophets do not leave behind inheritance of wealth:

فإن الأنبياء لا تورث أموالهم؛ كما أخبر بذلك رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في قولهنحن معاشر الأنبياء لا نورث، ما تركناه فهو صدقة ” 

“The Prophets do not leave behind wealth for inheritance as the Messenger of Allah (saw) informed us when he said: ‘We are a family of Prophets and we do not leave behind inheritance. Anything we leave behind is charity’…”[7]

Lesson: We as an ummah have been blessed with inheriting from the Prophets and this great inheritance is not money, property, wealth or riches but that of ‘knowledge’ (`ilm) so we should know what `ilm is, understand it, seek it and put it into practice in all aspects of our lives.

{We have been taught the language of the birds…}: “mantiq al-tayr” = (‘language of the birds’) meaning: 1. The words they speak (kalam); 2. Comprehension, i.e. the power to fully understand what they say; 3. The language or communicative method birds use.

  • Sulayman (as) was also given the power to harness the forces of nature as well as the power to mould copper. Allah mentions this in the Qur’an: {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}.[8]

{We have been given everything…}: i.e. everything required to carry out the functions of Prophethood and ruling (mimma yahtaju ilayhi ’l-mulk) such as an army, weapons, tools, power, etc.[9]

v.17: {And there were gathered before Sulayman his hosts of Jinn and men…}: 1. Gathered in rows; 2. Aligned in strict order; 3. Configured much like in a royal procession. 4. Arranged in battle lines. Imam Ibn Kathir writes:

وقوله تعالى: { وَحُشِرَ لِسْلَيْمَـٰنَ جُنُودُهُ مِنَ ٱلْجِنِّ وَٱلإِنْس وَٱلطَّيْرِ فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ } أي: وجمع لسليمان جنوده من الجن والإنس والطير، يعني: ركب فيهم في أبهة وعظمة كبيرة في الإنس، وكانوا هم الذين يلونه، والجن وهم بعدهم في المنزلة، والطير، ومنزلتها فوق رأسه، فإن كان حر، أظلته منه بأجنحتها. وقوله: { فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ } أي: يكف أولهم على آخرهم؛ لئلا يتقدم أحد عن منزلته التي هي مرتبة له. قال مجاهد: جعل على كل صنف وزعة، يردون أولاها على أخراها؛ لئلا يتقدموا في المسير؛ كما يفعل الملوك اليوم.

“And Allah saying: {And there were gathered before Sulayman his hosts of Jinn and men as well as birds and they all were set in battle order [marching forward]} means all the armies of the Jinn, human beings and birds were all gathered together for Sulayman riding with him in a majestic display with human beings following behind him, then the Jinn in their rank, then the birds in their rank above hovering their heads and if it was hot, the birds would shade him with their wings. Allah saying: {and they were all set in battle order} means the first and the last were set in order so that each would not step out of line with the other. Mujahid said: Officials were appointed by Sulayman in order to straighten the ranks so that they all proceed in a single line much like how the kings enact nowadays…”[10]

v.18: {…one of the ants said…}: “namla” = one female ant; the queen ant or a leader of the ant colony. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim makes an astute observation on the linguistic power of the ant’s statement. He comments:

فتكلمت بعشرة انواع من الخطاب في هذه النصيحة النداء والتنبيه والتسمية والامر والنص والتحذير والتخصيص والتفهيم والتعميم والاعتذار فاشتملت نصيحتها مع الاختصار على هذه الانواع العشرة ولذلك اعجب سلميان قولها وتبسم ضاحكا منه وسال الله ان يوزعه شكر نعمته عليه لما سمع كلامها

“The ant’s advice to the other colony displays ten aspects of linguistic communication: [1] invocation (nida’); [2] warning (al-tanbih); [3] designation/naming (al-tasmiyya); [4] commanding/imperative (al-amr); [5] stating clearly (al-nass); [6] admonition (al-tahdhir); [7] specification (al-takhsis); [8] discerning (al-tafhim); [9] generalisation (al-ta`mim) and [10] excusing (al-i`tidhar). The statement incorporates in brief form all these ten aspects and that is why Sulayman smiled and asked Allah to enable him to be thankful for the bounty and gift of being able to understand the ant’s speech…”[11]

{‘My Lord, grant me the power…’} – Lesson: Sulayman (as) teaches us many lessons in this supplication:

1. Gratitude to Allah for everything He gives or does not give;

2. Humility towards Allah which results from knowing one’s own helplessness and powerlessness;

3. Supplicating to Allah for Parents;

4. To request Allah for ability to do good actions;

5. To implore good company.



Peace and Blessings upon our Master Muhammad,

His Family, Companions and all who follow them.



[1] Q. 38:30-40.

[2] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 7:133.

[3] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 7:133-134.

[4] For more, refer to Trials and Tribulations: Wisdom and Benefits by Imam `Izz Ibn `Abd al-Salam, pp.8-24 (English trans. by Abu Rumaysah).

[5] Q. 27:15-19.

[6] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 6:158.

[7] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 6:183.

[8] Q. 34:12-13.

[9] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 6:183-184.

[10] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 6:184.

[11] Ibn al-Qayyim, Miftah Dar al-Sa`ada, 1:459-460.

One thought on “The Prophet Sulayman – Part 1

  1. Pingback: A Tafsir of Surat al-Baqara Verse 102 | دار نيـقـوسـيــا

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