I was reading the story of Solomon (pbuh) and the Queen of Sheba, and was not able to fully grasp the meaning of Surah 27 (Al-Naml) verses 36-44. The king and queen make this huge deal about a throne…
Could you please provide an explication of these verses?
When the Queen repents (verse 44), is she repenting for all her wrongdoing in ignorance (i.e. sun-worshipping) or specifically for showing her legs?
In the referred part of Surah Al-Namal (15 – 44), the Qur’an has given the example of David (pbuh) and Solomon (pbuh) to contrast the character of the pious from that of the rejecters1.
These verses begin with informing us that Solomon (pbuh) was granted extra-ordinary blessings of the Almighty (15 – 21). These blessings combined with the fact that Solomon (pbuh) was a prophet of God had established his influence over the other small kingdoms around his territory. Nevertheless, neither these extra-ordinary blessings nor the great influence that Solomon’s kingdom had over the others could incite Solomon into arrogance and injustice.
It is in this context that some parts of the incident of Solomon’s meeting with the Queen of Sheba are narrated. Some of the important points, which serve as the background of the incident are:
The people of Sheba enjoyed reasonable power and material well being in and around their land;
The people of Sheba worshiped the celestial bodies;
The people of Sheba held their throne of rule in great esteem;
Predictably, these elements must have given the people and rulers of Sheba the confidence that their gods were helping them in their endeavors and must have increased their adherence to their false beliefs.
Keeping the stated points as the background of the incident, it should now be easy to comprehend the importance and relevance of the various aspects which the Qur’an has highlighted in this narrative. Some of these points are explained below:
When the hoopoe informed Solomon (pbuh) about the material wellbeing of the people of Sheba and their being involved in the worship of the celestial bodies, Solomon (pbuh) sent the Queen of Sheba a message, calling her to submit to him and, thereby, to submit to the worship of One God only;
Even though the Queen seems to have been aware of Solomon’s adherence to the worship of the One God, his justice and powers, yet she tried to buy Solomon (pbuh) out of his warning of aggression, by sending him invaluable gifts, which were to serve as symbols of friendship between the two rules;
Solomon (pbuh) turned down these gifts and, thereby, refused friendship between the two rules. While doing so, Solomon (pbuh) was aware of the fact that the Queen would not risk Solomon’s attack on her kingdom and would, subsequently, come to him to avoid facing his attack;
Using the extra-ordinary powers at his disposal, Solomon (pbuh) arranged to get the esteemed throne of Sheba – which was the symbol of their material wellbeing – in his palace. This was done to show the Queen that the material wellbeing of her people was not because of any of the blessings of their false deities;
When the Queen arrived and observed the extra-ordinary blessings that Solomon (pbuh) was bestowed with, she realized her mistake in ascribing the material wellbeing of her kingdom to false deities and, subsequently, submitted herself to the worship of One God only.
It should also be kept in mind that one of the biggest hindrances that the polytheists of Arabia faced in accepting the call of Muhammad (pbuh) was the fear that their renunciation of their deities may render them a target of their wrath, resulting in losing the material wellbeing that they had enjoyed since centuries. The referred incident presents the character of Solomon (pbuh), the Queen of Sheba and compares it with that of the Pharaoh, so that the Arabs should see for themselves which of the two examples are they following and what results should they expect as a consequence of their behavior.
I hope this helps.
October 29, 2001
- The rejection of Pharaoh is referred in the immediately preceding verses and it is mentioned in the rejection of Pharaoh and his people that the cause of their rejection was their injustice and arrogance. The injustice and arrogance of one king – Pharaoh – is now compared to the justice and submission of another – Solomon (pbuh). [↩]