Monday, January 02, 2012

Bilqis: The Story of the Queen of Sheba.

Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal
01 Feb. 2012
Sheba was the South Arabian kingdom of Saba, centered around the oasis of Marib, in present-day Yemen. It was quite known in the classical world, and its country was called Arabia Felix. Around the middle of the first millennium BCE, there were Sabaeans also in the Horn of Africa, in the area that later became the realm of Aksum.

Some Jewish account says that the Queen of Sheba informed of the knowledge and wisdom of King Solomon. So she came "to prove him with hard questions". And she asked Solomon three (Targ. Sheni to Esther 1:3) or, according to the Midrash (Prov. ii. 6; Yalḳ. ii., 1085, Midrash ha-Hefez), more riddles to test his wisdom.

When Solomon answered her satisfactory then they exchanged gifts. It is said, that the queen came to Jerusalem "with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones" (I Kings 10:2). "Never again came such an abundance of spices" (10:10; II Chron. 9:1–9) and those she brought as a gift for Solomon. Later she returned to her land.

Many points of the Quranic tradition still we find in the Jewish account despite the course of time. And the above information contains a little truth. She was threatened to submission herself to the king and she came to quench her curiosity. She collected information about Solomon through a Yemeni merchant Tamrin, who told her about the wisdom and generosity of King Solomon.
According to the Qur'an, Solomon commanded the Queen to come to him as a subject, whereupon she appeared before him. al-Tabari, al-Zamakhshari, al-Baydawi added some information such as her name was Bilqis. According to some, Solomon then married the Queen, while other traditions assert that he gave her in marriage to a Tubba of Hamdan. According to al-Hamdani, the queen of Sheba was the daughter of Ilsharah Yahdib, the Himyarite king of Najran.

Qur'an says that a hoopoe [Hudhud] informed Solomon that the kingdom of Sheba was the only kingdom on earth not subject to him and that its queen was a sun worshiper. He thereupon sent her in the land of Sheba with a letter attached to its wing commanding its queen to come to him as a subject. Then Solomon send her a letter, commanding her to appear before him as a subject. Bilqis was then sent him valuable gifts and waiting for the answer. But Solomon sent back her gifts and threatened her. So she consulted with her advisors, who, however, said, that they will do whatever they commanded but, they said, "Decision is yours." She thereupon sent him precious gifts and a letter with a information that she would come to visit him sooner.

And before she arrived, Solomon moved her throne to his place with the help of a jinn. And when she arrived, she asked to take her sit. And she recognized the throne, it was hers but disguised with a slight change. And later when she invited to the palace, she lifted the hem of her dress, uncovering her legs, thinking that the glass floor was a pool of water. And Solomon informed of her mistakes. Finally, she accepted Islam, the faith of Solomon. The story according to Qur'an as follows-

Among the many gifts that God bestowed upon Solomon were the understanding of the speech of birds and knowledge of every kind. He was the lord of men, genii, and birds. When he traveled through the air on his magical carpet of green silk, which was borne aloft by the wind according to the King's direction, the men stood on the right of it, and the Jinns-the spirited creature on the left, and the army of birds of kept flying over the carpet to protect its occupants from the heat of the sun. 

One day Men, Jinn’s, and birds- all were gathered in a place for accompanied Solomon in one of his Journey. Qur’an Says- 

And gathered for Solomon were his soldiers of the jinn and men and birds, and they were (marching) in rows. Until, when they came upon the valley of the ants, (Solomon heard) an ant said, "O ants, enter your dwellings that you not be crushed by Solomon and his soldiers while they perceive not." (27:17-18)

Queen of Sheba
Solomon surprised to hear this. An ant- a very small species, yet they aware of him! He stopped and noticed all the ants were in rush to enter their dwellings. Then he met the Queen of Ant. Qur’an Says- 

So (he) smiled, amused at her speech, and said, "My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to do righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy into (the ranks of) Your righteous servants."(27:19)

Solomon expressed his gratitude looking towards sky. The birds were making shade over his head. Suddenly he noticed that a bird is absent in this journey. The bird that absent was a hoopoe, -a small bird. However, Solomon was angered not to see him. Qur’an Says- 

And he took attendance of the birds and said, "Why do I not see the Hoopoe - or is he among the absent? I will surely punish him with a severe punishment or slaughter him unless he brings me clear authorization."

But the hoopoe stayed not long and said, "I have encompassed (in knowledge) that which you have not encompassed, and I have come to you from Sheba with certain news. Indeed, I found (there) a woman ruling them, and she has been given of all things, and she has a great throne. I found her and her people prostrating to the sun instead of Allah, and Satan has made their deeds pleasing to them and averted them from (His) way, so they are not guided, (And) so they do not prostrate to Allah, who brings forth what is hidden within the heavens and the earth and knows what you conceal and what you declare -Allah - there is no deity except Him, Lord of the Great Throne."

(Solomon) 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."(27:20-28) The hoopoe flew to Sheba with the letter of Solomon.

People could not understand why they were stayed in the valley. Then he addressed them as Qur'an says- He said, "O people, we have been taught the language of birds, and we have been given from all things. Indeed, this is evident bounty."-(27:16) And then Solomon moved on his way.

The hoopoe with the letter of Solomon, reached the Queens Palace at Sheba. Then through a window he entered into the bedroom of the queen. She was sleeping at that time. The hoopoe placed the letter on her chest silently and then sat on a ventilator of a window and waiting there to know that he certainly acknowledged the letter of its receiver.

Then when queen Bilqis awakened from her sleep, and saw a sealed letter fallen on her chest, she was surprised, a letter on her bed, when no one entitled to enter into the room without her permission! She took the letter and sited from her lying. And then she looked around the room cautiously. And her eyes fixed on the hoopoe that was sitted on a ventilator. The bird stared at her without blinking the eyes. And that time the bird made a sound of its own and flew away through the window.

The Queen now unfold the letter and made her attentive. It was a letter from King Solomon. She acknowledged his name earlier for his wisdom. But a letter from him through a little wild bird! She was thrilled and feared too. So she called her advisors on an emergency conference to discuss on the matter and advicing her there on.

On the conference, she addressed her advisors as Qur'an says- She said, "O eminent ones, indeed, to me has been delivered a noble letter. Indeed, it is from Solomon, and indeed, it reads: 'In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, Be not haughty with me but come to me in submission (as Muslims). "(27:29-31) Bilqis goes on-

Then she said, "O eminent ones, advise me in my affair. I would not decide a matter until you witness (for) me."
They said, "We are men of strength and of great military might, but the command is yours, so see what you will command."
She said, "Indeed kings - when they enter a city, they ruin it and render the honored of its people humbled. And thus do they do. But indeed, I will send to them a gift and see with what (reply) the messengers will return." (27:33-35) The advisory panel supported the plan.

The messengers of the Queen Bilqis was proud with their precious gift. But when they reached to the entry gate of the palace, they found that the path descended from the palace to the gate is entirely well decorated with the square block of gold and silver. And different type’s animals were spending their idle time standing serially on both sides of that path. Some of which has left excreta on that decorated path. Seeing all of this, they were surprised and ashamed for the gifts they brought with them considering the valuation.

The messengers entered into the Assemble room of the King. And the king accepted them with a smile. Then they submitted their gifts to the king. Among the gifts, there were some lump of Gold piece and some Diamond; and a hundred male and a hundred maid servants which they brought altering their dresses ie. male as maid and vice versa. And Solomon was dissatisfied with their gifts. He spoke slantingly of the Queen's gifts and sent the embassy back, bidding them tell their mistress that he would send invincible troops against her city, and that they would capture it and expel its inhabitants in disgrace.  Qur’an says- 

So when they came to Solomon, he said, "Do you provide me with wealth? But what Allah has given me is better than what He has given you. Rather, it is you who rejoice in your gift. Return to them, for we will surely come to them with soldiers that they will be powerless to encounter, and we will surely expel them therefrom in humiliation, and they will be debased." (27:36-37) The messengers left Jerusalem for Sheba with Solomon’s answer.

Solomon, the king of Israel sent back the gifts. Due to this, Queen Bilqis called an emergency conference. Then she informed the advisors what the messengers told her. Later she inform them of her plan to visit Solomon. She was actually excited of the wonderful things his messengers had seen in Jerusalem, and of Solomon's wisdom and generosity and she made up her mind.

Queen Bilqis prepared herself and soon made her journey to Jerusalem. With her, she took some precious stone and a plenty of spices and essence as a gift for Solomon.

When Solomon came to know that the convoy of the Queen reaches to the territory of Jerusalem, he reminds of her great throne. So addressing his assembly he said, "O assembly (of jinn), which of you will bring me her Throne before they come to me in submission?"
A powerful one from among the Jinn said, "I will bring it to you before you rise from your place, and indeed, I am for this (task) strong and trustworthy."
Said one who had knowledge from the Scripture, "I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you." (27:38-40) And it was brought to him.

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)

Solomon observed the throne attentively for sometime, then he said, "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)

Queen Bilqis entered into the assemble hall. She was warmly welcomed. Then she was asked to take her seat. This time she noticed that her own throne was placed there for her sit. She was surprised. How is it presented here before her arrival? She was dam sure that it was done by an unnatural power. Because it doesn’t fulfills general laws and the wisdom totally defeated here. A man with the divine power can only make it possible. When she was thoughtful, it was said (to her), "Is your throne like this?" (27:42)

This time she marked the change of her throne. She was really curious to know all. However with that question, she understands that Solomon is examining her intuition and knowledge. So, she smiles to him and answered wisely. She said, "(It is) as though it was it." (27:42)

With this answer she cleverly means both "yes" and "no". As it was her throne, yet it made to her appeared with a little changed. And she finished herself as "And we were given knowledge before, and we have been Muslims (in submission to Allah).” (27:42)

Qur’an says-And that which she was worshiping other than Allah had averted her (from submission to Him). Indeed, she was from a disbelieving people. (27:43)

Later the Queen was invited to the palace of king Solomon. It was made in such a way that from the outside, it seems that the whole Palace stands on clean water. So when Bilqis reached to the entry, she stopped. Yet she was asked to enter. So she pulled her garments to her knee.

Qur’an says- She was told, "Enter the palace."
But when she saw it, 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)

Later the King Solomon and the Queen Bilqis took farewell of each other, and she set out with her retinue to go to her own country, surrounded by the peace of God.

The End.
Not Yet Verified.

# Some one says,  "She thought it was a body of water and uncovered her shins." -How could a Book of God mention this, will you pl explain?

@ I said, "The King had informed from a reliable source, that one of the feet of the Queen was the foot of a goat. So he planned a cunning plan in his wisdom, whereby he might be able to see her foot without asking [her to show it to him]. ha ha ha!!.
"Do you know about The KEBRA NAGAST?. It is a book of Myth of the Myths." 

Yosef Tobi (2007), "QUEEN OF SHEBA", Encyclopaedia Judaica, 16 (2nd ed.), Gale, p. 765
A. F. L. Beeston (1995), "SABAʾ", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 8 (2nd ed.), Brill, pp. 663–665
E. Ullendorff (1991), "BILḲĪS", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2 (2nd ed.), Brill, pp. 1219–1220
"SOLOMON", Encyclopaedia Judaica, 18 (2nd ed.), Gale, pp. 755–763
Ludwig Blau (1905), "SHEBA, QUEEN OF", Jewish Encyclopedia, 11, Funk and Wagnall, pp. 235‒236
Joseph Jacobs (1906), "RIDDLE", in Isidore Singer; et al., Jewish Encyclopedia, 10, p. 408b–409a
A. Jamme (2003), "SABA (SHEBA)", New Catholic Encyclopedia, 12 (2nd ed.), Gale, pp. 450–451

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