In Surat An-Naml, Allaah (Ta’ala) tells us about the great blessings and favors that He bestowed upon two of His servants and Prophets, Dawoud (David) and his son Sulayman (Solomon) (‘Alayhimus-salaam); who were granted power and authority in this world and the position of being Prophets and Messengers. They enjoyed happiness in this world and the Hereafter. Allaah (Ta’ala) says in [27:15]:
وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ عِلْمًا ۖ وَقَالَا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي فَضَّلَنَا عَلَىٰ كَثِيرٍ مِّنْ عِبَادِهِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“And indeed We gave knowledge to Dawoud (David) and Sulayman (Solomon), and they both said: ‘All the praises and thanks be to Allaah, Who has preferred us above many of His believing slaves!’”
Shaikh As-Sa’dee (Rahimahullaah) said: “Allaah (Ta’ala) mentions His favor of abundant and broad knowledge that He bestowed upon Dawoud (‘Alayhis-salaam) and his son Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam). This is indicated by mentioning the word ‘Ilm (knowledge) in the indefinite form. They both thanked Allaah (Ta’ala), their Lord, for this great favor of teaching them, and praised Allaah (Ta’ala) for making them from among His believing servants. Dawoud (‘Alayhis-salaam) and Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) were from the special Messengers, although they were a degree lesser than the five Ulol-Azm (Strong-Willed Messengers). Nevertheless, they praised Allaah (Ta’ala) for attaining this status.
This distinctive quality of gratefulness signifies the happiness of the slave for having been gifted with Allaah’s (Ta’ala) favors; for His worldly and religious blessings. He (the believing servant) understands that all favors are from his Lord and he neither boasts about them nor is he proud of them, rather he perceives that they require abundant gratitude.
When Allaah (Ta’ala) praised them both, He particularized Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) with specific favors, such as granting him a great kingdom, and other incidents that occurred to him which did not occur to his father.” [Tayseer Al-Kareem]
وَوَرِثَ سُلَيْمَانُ دَاوُودَ
“And Sulayman inherited from Dawoud”
Meaning in kingship, knowledge and Prophethood.
Sulayman declared Allaah’s Beneficence and proclaimed the blessings that Allaah (Ta’ala) bestowed upon him by giving him complete authority and power whereby mankind, Jinn, and birds were subjugated to him. In gratitude to Allaah (Ta’ala), Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) said:
وَقَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ عُلِّمْنَا مَنطِقَ الطَّيْرِ
“He said: ‘O mankind! We have been taught the language of birds
He also knew the language of the birds and animals, which is something that had never been given to any other human being. He knew and understood what the hoopoe said and what the ant said, as follows. Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) said:
وَأُوتِينَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْمُبِينُ
and on us have been bestowed all things. This, verily, is an evident grace (from Allaah).’”
Meaning: Allaah (Ta’ala) has given us of blessings and the means of power, authority and subjugation that have never been given to any of the sons of Adam. This is when he invoked Allaah (Ta’ala) in Surat Saad (38:35):
وهَبْ لِي مُلْكًا لَّا يَنبَغِي لِأَحَدٍ مِّن بَعْدِي ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ
“And bestow upon me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any other after me. Verily, You are the Bestower.”
So, Allaah (Ta’ala) subjected the devils to him, working for him as he desired of works that those other than them are incapable of doing, and Allaah (Ta’ala) also subjected the wind; its morning (stride from sunrise till mid noon) was a month’s journey, and its afternoon (stride from the midday decline of the sun to sunset) was a month’s journey (i.e. in one day he could travel the distance of a two months’ journey).
إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ الْفَضْلُ الْمُبِينُ
“This, verily, is an evident grace (from Allaah).”
I.e. this clearly is the blessing of Allaah (Ta’ala) upon us, which He particularized us with.
So, Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) confessed with a perfect confession and acknowledgement of Allaah’s (Ta’ala) blessings.
Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (Rahimahullaah) said:
a) Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) openly declared Allaah’s (Ta’ala) favor upon him to all people.
b) This verse indicates that birds speak and that its speech is known and understood. It is known to itself and unknown by others, except to those whom Allaah (Ta’ala) has
c) Whatever Allaah (Ta’ala) grants of science and understanding is of His grace. [Summarized from Tafseer Surat An-Naml]
و حشر لسليمان جنوده من الجن و الإنس والطير فهم يوزعون
“And there were gathered before Sulayman, his hosts of Jinn and men and birds, and they were all set in battle order.”
Ibn Katheer (Rahimahullaah) said that At-Tabari (Rahimahullaah) said: “All of Sulayman’s (‘Alayhis-salaam) troops of Jinn, men, and birds were gathered together, and he rode with them in a display of might and glory, with people marching behind them, followed by the Jinn, and the birds flying above his head. When it was hot, they would shade him with their wings.
“And they all were set in battle order.”
The first and the last of them were brought together so that none of them would step out of place. Mujaahid said: ‘Officials were appointed to keep each group in order, and to keep the first and last together so that no one would step out of line – just as kings do nowadays.’”
Shaikh As-Sa’dee (Rahimahullaah) said: “All these troops complied with his command, were incapable of disobedience to him and none rebelled against him. [Allaah (Ta’ala) said to Sulayman in Surat Sa’d (38:39)]: “This is Our gift, do spend you or withhold, no account will be asked of you.“ Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) proceeded with this huge troop in one of his journeys.” [Tayseer Al-Kareem]
Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (Rahimahullaah) said: “The word ‘يوزعون’ means that all the men, Jinn, and birds were brought together and driven. This means that they were very organized in their gathering and procession.
Undoubtedly, this maintains efficiency in people’s time and work practices. This is because the greatest thing that causes waste of time and work is untidiness and disorder. The scholars said that the birds were among the hosts of Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) in order to shade him with their wings and to bring him the news of far places as in the story of the hoopoe.” [Tafseer Surat An-Naml]
حتى إذا أوتوا على واد النمل
“Till, when they came to the valley of the ants,
Meaning, when Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam), the soldiers, and the army with him crossed the valley of the ants,
قالت نملة يأيها النمل ادخلوا مساكنكم لا يحطمنكم سليمان و جنوده و هم لا يشعرون
One of the ants said: ‘O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Sulayman and his armies should crush you, while they perceive not.'”
Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (Rahimahullaah) said: “The ant is from among the animals which are prohibited to be killed, as it is reported by Abu Dawoud that ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Abbaas narrated: ‘The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) prohibited the killing of four creatures: ants, bees, hoopoes, and sparrow-hawks.’ [Authenticated by Al-Albaani in Saheeh Abu Dawoud, no. 5267]
Abu Hurairah (Radia-Allaahu ‘anhu) narrated that he heard Allaah’s Messenger (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying: “An ant bit a Prophet from amongst the Prophets, and he ordered that the place of the ants be burnt. So, Allaah inspired him: ‘Is it because one ant bit you that you burnt a nation amongst the nations that glorify Allaah?’” [Al-Bukhaari, no. 3019]
The ant is one of the creatures which knows its Lord, and knows what benefits it and what harms it according to what it is given of guidance (by Allaah). Musa (‘Alayhis-salaam) said to Pharaoh (interpretation of the meaning): ‘Our Lord is He Who gave each thing its form and nature, then guided it aright.’ [Surat Ta-Ha (20:50)]” [Tafseer Surat An-Naml]
Shaikh As-Sa’dee (Rahimahullaah) said: “When Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam), his soldiers and army reached the valley of the ants, one ant, warning its companions from among its species, said:
يأيها النمل ادخلوا مساكنكم لا يحطمنكم سليمان و جنوده و هم لا يشعرون
‘O ants! Enter your dwellings, lest Sulayman and his armies should crush you, while they perceive not.’”
This ant made the other ants hear him and he advised them, and in this case, Allaah (Ta’ala) could have given the ants a supernatural power of hearing. This is because this warning was for all the ants that filled the valley by way of the voice of one ant; and this is one of the wonders. Or it could be that the ant informed the ants which were around it, and the news spread from one to another, till it reached them all. The ant commanded the other ants to be cautious, and the way for them to do that was to enter their dwellings. Also, this ant knew the state of Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) and his soldiers and his great forces. Therefore, it gave Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) the excuse that if he crushed them, he would not have done that deliberately nor by perceiving them.” [Tayseer Al-Kareem]
Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (Rahimahullaah) said: “The sentence which the ant uttered consists of:
a) A call (announcement)
b) A command
c) A guidance
d) A warning
e) Giving an excuse
1 – In its statement: “يأيها النمل” (O ants!)
is a call; an adjective used in addressing the rest of the ants. The purpose of it was to warn. It did not say: “Yaa Naml”; rather it said: “Yaa Ayyuha an-Naml” – a call for the far (i.e. distant ants). This indicates that it called with a sound that was heard by all.
2 – In its statement: “ادخلوا مساكنكم” (Enter your dwellings!)
is a specification for the dwellings which are their shelters. This is like a siren for people. When its alarm is sounded, people go to shelters and not to roofs. So this ant directed the rest of the ants to go to their dwellings.
3 – In its statement: “لا يحطمنكم سليمان و جنوده” (lest Sulayman and his armies should crush you)
is a warning and guidance. The word “crush” means destroy. This is because if ants are stepped on, they will break into pieces, crushing them.
This sentence is a justification for the command, “Enter your dwellings!” This indicates the eloquence of the ant, which used a sentence in which there is a justification and warning. It did not only say: “Enter your dwellings”; it mentioned the reason and specified what it was warning against.
4 – In addition to that, the word, “crush you” is stronger in warning and greater in intensity than if it is said: “Lest you be perished”. This is because it is a state of warning and quick movement (i.e.) if the ants did not move quickly, they would be crushed.
5 – The style of approach that is used is the style of the speech of rational people.
6 – The expression also indicates that the ants realized the greatness of Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam).
7 – In its statement: ‘و هم لا يشعرون’ (while they perceive not)
is an excuse given to Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) and his soldiers; that they did not deliberately intend to crush them, but could possibly do so whilst they perceived not. This is because the army was large and wide, and the ants were small, so the troops could crush them without realizing it.
These eloquent great sentences uttered by this creature – which is not considered anything in the eyes of the people, and is amongst the smallest of creatures – indicate the greatness of the Creator and that bigger creatures than these creatures are also greater in these matters. If Allaah gave this small creature this gift and guided it to this guidance, then creatures bigger than them are more in need of this guidance and of the knowledge which it has.
This verse indicates that the insects speak and its speech is heard by its species, and Allaah (Ta’ala) may make whoever He wills hear their speech as a sign or miracle, or so forth. [Tafseer Surat An-Naml]
Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) understood what the ant said:
فتبسم ضاحكا من قولها و قال ربي أوزعني أن اشكر نعمتك التي أنعمت علي و على والدي
“So he smiled, amused at its speech and said: ‘My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favors which You have bestowed upon me and on my parents.’…”
Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) smiled and wondered at its eloquence (skill of using expressive language), and its advice. This is the state of all Prophets; their perfect manners are shown in their wonderment at things, and their laughter does not exceed a smile. Like the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) – most of his laughter was smiling; for a guffaw (loud burst of laughter) indicates bad manners and rashness. On the other hand, not smiling and wonderment at what should be wondered at indicates ill-temperament and unsociability, and the Messengers are free of all that.
In thankfulness to Allaah (Ta’ala), Who had made him reach this state, Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) said:
‘O my Lord, inspire to me and guide me
أن أشكر نعمتك التي أنعمت علي وعلى والدي
to be grateful to Your favors that You have bestowed upon me and my parents
This is because a favor bestowed upon parents is a favor upon the son, especially in this story, in which Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) inherited Prophethood from his father Dawoud (‘Alayhis-salaam) and became his successor.
So, Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) asked his Lord to inspire him and guide him to give thanks for the religious and worldly blessings that were bestowed upon him, by teaching him to understand what the birds and animals say, and the blessings that He had bestowed upon his parents by making them Muslims who believe in Him.
و أن أعمل صالحا ترضاه
and that I may do righteous deeds that will please You,
Meaning: deeds that You love which will earn Your pleasure, in compliance to Your command, while being sincere in it, and free from nullifiers and shortcomings.
وأدخلني برحمتك في عبادك الصالحين
and admit me by Your Mercy among Your righteous servants.’”
Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (Rahimahullaah) said: “What made Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) say this Du’aa was his fear of self-conceit and arrogance. So he asked Allaah (Ta’ala) to inspire gratitude in him for this blessing which Allaah (Ta’ala) bestowed upon him and his parents. And he asked Him (Ta’ala) to make him to do righteous deeds which He is pleased with.
This should be the attitude of every person who experiences any goodness or receives any favor; to ask Allaah (Ta’ala) to inspire him to thank Allaah (Ta’ala) for it so that arrogance and self-conceit will not afflict him because of it, whether it is a monetary blessing, a bodily favor, a spiritual or sensible blessing. The blessing could generally be either attainment of a request or salvation from something that one fears.” [Tafseer Surat An-Naml]
Benefits from these verses, as mentioned by Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (Rahimahullaah):
1 – The permissibility of smiling and/ or laughing when a reason exists
This is from the actions of the Prophets, and an action of the Prophets is a proof, even if that Prophet is not our Prophet. With the exception of what our legal law abrogated, it is not considered a law for us. The actions of the Prophets is an evidence (plea) for us. In Surat Al-An’aam [6:90], Allaah (Ta’ala) says:
أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللَّهُ ۖ فَبِهُدَاهُمُ اقْتَدِهْ ۗ
“They are those whom Allaah had guided. So follow their guidance.”
And in Surat Yusuf [12:111]:
لَقَدْ كَانَ فِي قَصَصِهِمْ عِبْرَةٌ لِّأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ ۗ مَا كَانَ حَدِيثًا يُفْتَرَىٰ وَلَٰكِن تَصْدِيقَ الَّذِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَتَفْصِيلَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
“Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding. It (the Qur’an) is not a forged statement, but a confirmation of (Allaah’s existing Books) which were before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel) and other Scriptures of Allaah] and a detailed explanation of everything and a guide and a Mercy for the people who believe.”
2 – The humility and humbleness of Prophet Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam), because arrogance with his great kingdom did not afflict him. Rather, he said:
ربي أوزعني أن اشكر نعمتك
“My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favors.”
3 – Confession and acknowledgement of Allaah’s (Ta’ala) favors is not considered boasting or haughtiness. This is because Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) mentioned the favor of Allaah (Ta’ala) upon him, as Allaah (Ta’ala) commanded our Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in Surat Ad-Duha [93:11]:
وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ
“And proclaim the Grace of your Lord.”
4 – The blessing of Allaah (Ta’ala) that is bestowed upon the parent is a blessing for the son, specifically the blessing of Islam. It is the greatest favor that is bestowed upon the son.
5 – It is from intellect, justice, and the legal law, to attribute the blessing to the True Bestower. This is indicated by the word ‘نعمتك’ (Your favors).
6 – The Prophets, like others, are in need of Allaah’s (Ta’ala) guidance. Without Allaah’s (Ta’ala) guidance, one cannot walk in the way Allaah (Ta’ala) is pleased with.
7 – One will not reach and achieve his goal except by Allaah’s (Ta’ala) Mercy in everything, whether it is Paradise or other than it.
و أدخلني برحمتك في عبادك الصالحين
“And admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants”
Indicates that if Allaah (Ta’ala) does not show mercy to you, you will not attain anything.
8 – The unrighteous deed is useless in one of two ways. If the unrighteous deed is done with knowledge, then one is considered a sinner. If it is done by an ignorant person, one will be safe; however there is no benefit for him in it. It is like a person who offers Salaat (prayer) without Wudu (ablution). If he does that deliberately, he is a sinner, and if he is ignorant it will not benefit him unless he repeats it. As for the reward, he may be rewarded for his intention and the action, however there is no benefit in it for him.
9 – The goal which all the Prophets and those who follow them seek is the pleasure of Allaah (Ta’ala), as Allaah (Ta’ala) says:
و أن أعمل صالحا ترضاه
“And that I may do righteous deeds that will please You”
This is because the goal that one hopes to attain is the pleasure of Allaah (Ta’ala) which is above all things. Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat at-Tawbah [9:72]:
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا وَمَسَاكِنَ طَيِّبَةً فِي جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ ۚ وَرِضْوَانٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
“Allaah has promised the believers -men and women, – Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of ‘Adn (Eden Paradise). But the greatest bliss is the Good Pleasure of Allaah. That is the supreme success.”
10 – The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) implored Allaah (Ta’ala) through legal means, and Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) implored Allaah (Ta’ala) by His Mercy. This indicates the permissibility of imploring Allaah (Ta’ala) by His Attributes.
11 – Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) said:
وأدخلني برحمتك في عبادك الصالحين
“And admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants”
Although the rank of Prophethood is higher than the status of righteousness, as Allaah (Ta’ala) says in Surat an-Nisaa’ [4:69]:
وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ ۚ وَحَسُنَ أُولَٰئِكَ رَفِيقًا
“And whoso obeys Allaah and the Messenger [Muhammad (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)], then they will be in the company of those on whom Allaah has bestowed His Grace, of the Prophets, the Siddiqun (those followers of the Prophets who were first and foremost to believe in them, like Abu Bakr as-Siddiq), the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent these companions are!”
Question: How can Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) ask Allaah (Ta’ala) to admit him among His righteous servants although he is a Prophet and greater in rank than the rank of righteousness?
We (the Shaikh) say: “Righteousness here means absolute righteousness, and absolute righteousness is the highest rank. Yusuf (‘Alayhis-salaam) said in Surat Yusuf [12:101]:
تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ
“Cause me to die as a Muslim (the one submitting to Your Will), and join me with the righteous.”
And Allaah (Ta’ala) said about Ibraheem (‘Alayhis-salaam) in Surat al-‘Ankabut [29:27]:
وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَجَعَلْنَا فِي ذُرِّيَّتِهِ النُّبُوَّةَ وَالْكِتَابَ وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَجْرَهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ
“And We bestowed on him [Ibraheem (Abraham)], Ishaque (Isaac) and Ya’qoub (Jacob), and ordained among his offspring, Prophethood and the Book [i.e. the Taurat (Torah) (to Musa – Moses), the Injeel (Gospel) (to ‘Eesa – Jesus), the Qur’an (to Muhammad), all from the offspring of Ibraheem (Abraham)], and We granted him his reward in this world, and verily, in the Hereafter he is indeed among the righteous.”
So, righteousness here means absolute righteousness, not the rank of righteousness which is less than the rank of Prophethood.”
12 – ‘Ebadah (worship and servitude) is a great noble rank which even the Prophets ask, as in Allaah’s (Ta’ala) Statement:
في عبادك الصالحين
“Among Your righteous servants”
Therefore, Allaah (Ta’ala) mentions the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with the attribute of servitude in its highest rank – at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, at the time of defending him, etc.
13 – Gratitude for a blessing is a blessing. If Allaah (Ta’ala) guides His servant to give thanks, it is a favor which he should thank Allaah (Ta’ala) for.
Read part 2 of this series: The Story of Sulayman (‘Alayhis-salaam) with the Hoopoe
📚 Tayseer Al-Kareem by Shaikh As-Sa’dee (Rahimahullaah)
📚 Tafseer Ibn Al-Katheer
📚 Tafseer Surat An-Naml by Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (Rahimahullaah)
Check out these related posts:
- The Attributes of the Successful with evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah
- Truthfulness (Part 5) : The Categories of As-Sidq (Truthfulness)
- Truthfulness (Part 4) : The Categories of As-Sidq (Truthfulness)
- Truthfulness (Part 3) : The Merits of Truthfulness
- Truthfulness (Part 2) : The Importance of Truthfulness
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