As-salaam wa-alaikum, brothers and sisters.
Today’s selection is from Surah 27, An-Naml or the Ants, verses 15-44. These verses cover the story of Solomon or Solomon on whom God bestowed much wisdom as well as power over jinns, men, birds, ants and the wind. It tells the story of the hoopoe bird which brought him news of the Queen fo Sheba, the communications between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and her eventual embrace of God.
Tafseer for this Surah contains an explanation of the parable of the Ants and an explanation of the Hoopoe bird.
Bis-millahi ar-rahman, ar-raheem.
In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful.
We bestowed knowledge on Dawõõd (David) and Sulaimãn (Solomon). They both said: “Praise be to Allah Who has exalted us above many of His believing servants.” Solomon succeeded David. He said: “O people! We have been taught the language of birds and given all sort of things. This is indeed a great blessing from Allah.” Solomon gathered an army comprised of Jinns, men and birds; they all were kept under strict discipline. Once in an expedition he was marching with his army when they came across a valley of ants, one of the ants said: “O ants, get into your habitations lest Solomon and his army crush you under their feet without even noticing it.” So Solomon smiled, laughing at its statement, and said: “O Lord! Inspire me to render thanks for Your favors, which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, to do such good deeds that will please You; and admit me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants.” 27:[15-19]
He took a roll call of the birds and said: “I do not see the hoopoe, where is he? How could he be absent? I will certainly punish him severely or even slay him, if he does not offer me a reasonable excuse for his absence.” The hoopoe, who did not take long in coming, said: I have just found out that which you do not know. I have brought you reliable information about the people of Sheba. I found that a woman is ruling over them, she has been given everything and she possesses a magnificent throne. Further I found that she and her people prostrate themselves before the sun instead of Allah. Satan has made their deeds fair-seeming to them and thus turned them away from the Right Way, so that they may not be guided to prostrate themselves before Allah, the One Who brings to light all that is hidden in the heavens and the earth and knows exactly what you hide and what you reveal.  Allah! There is no god but Him. He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.” Solomon said: “Soon we shall find out whether what you say is true or false. Go and deliver to them this letter of mine, then turn aside and wait for their answer.”  The Queen said: “O my chiefs! A very important letter has been delivered to me; it is from Solomon, and it begins with the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. It reads: Do not be arrogant against me and come to me in complete submission (as a Muslim).” 27:[20-31]
Then she asked: “O chiefs! Let me hear your advice, for I make no decision without your counsel.” They replied: “We are a valiant and mighty nation. You are the commander. So we shall be waiting for your command.” The queen said: “When the kings invade a town, they ruin it and debase its honorable people; and thus they always do. Therefore, I shall send them a present and see with what reply my envoys will return.” When the envoys of the queen came to Solomon, he said: “Do you want to provide me wealth? The wealth which Allah has given me is far more than what He has given you. You may very well keep your presents. Go back to your people: if your people do not submit, we will march against them with such an army which they shall never be able to face, and we shall drive them out of their land humbled and disgraced.” 27:[32-37]
Later on when Solomon heard that the Queen of Sheba was coming in submission, he asked: “O my chiefs! Which of you can bring to me her throne before they come to me in submission?” An audacious one from the Jinns said: “I will bring it to you before you adjourn your court; and most surely I have the necessary strength and I am trustworthy.” One person who had knowledge of the Book said: “I can bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye.” As soon as Solomon saw the throne placed before him, he exclaimed: “This is by the grace of my Lord to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful. Any who is grateful, surely his gratitude is a gain for his own soul, and any who is ungrateful should know that surely my Lord is Self-Sufficient, Self-Exalted.” Further he said: “Without any comment to her, set her throne in her sight; let us see whether she recognize it or she is of those who cannot recognize the Truth.” So when the queen arrived, she was asked: “Is your throne like this?” She replied: “It looks as if it is the same; we had come to know that Solomon is not only a king but also a Prophet, therefore we have already become Muslims.” – Other deities whom she worshiped besides Allah had prevented her from believing, for she belonged to an unbelieving folk. – Then she was asked to enter the palace. When she saw its floor, she thought that there was a pool of water, so she tucked up her skirts uncovering her legs. Solomon said. “This is just a glossy paving of this palace.” At this she exclaimed: “O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul, now I submit myself in Islam with Solomon to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.” 27:[38-44]
Concerning the parable of the Ants:
The ant, to outward appearances, is a very small and humble creature. In the great pomp and circumstance of the world, it may be neglected or even trampled on my a people who mean it no harm. Yet, by its wisdom, it carries on its own life within its own sphere unmolested, and makes a useful contribution to the economy of the world. So there is room for the humbles of people in the spiritual world.
The the counterpart to the position of the humble ant is the position of a great king like Solomon. He prays that his power and wisdom and other gifts may be used for righteousness and for the benefit of all around him. The ant being in his thoughts, we may suppose that he means particularly in his prayer that he may not even unwittingly tread on humble beings in his preoccupation with the great things of the world.
The righteousness which pleases the world is often very different from the righteousness which pleases Allah. Solomon prays that he may take Allah’s Will as his standard, rather than the standards of men.
Concerning the Hoopoe bird:
The Hoopoe is a light, graceful creature, with elegant plumage of many colours, and a beautiful yellow crest on his head, which entitles him to be called a royal bird.
This concludes today’s episode of the 17 Verses Podcast. I hope that this selection has helped increase your understanding of the holy Qur’an just a little bit.
Thank you and be well.