In addition, Allah made the jinn (shaitan) kingdom subject to his rule. Any jinn who disobeyed him was immediately punished by Allah by being burnt. The jinn therefore was terrified of him and worked in abject obedience and humiliation to serve him day and night. They performed various activities and jobs for him, from mining, to building magnificent structures, to diving in the ocean and collect its bounties from there. The jinn constructed whatever Sulaiman AS ordered, including arches, basins, large wells, cauldrons and many other amazing objects.
And to Sulaiman [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. (Al Qur'an 34:12)
The army of Sulaiman AS was highly disciplined in observing their ranks. Imagine how intimidating the army looked when they gathered, from large beasts, ferocious predators, jinn and the clouds when marching in their perfect and orderly formation at his behest. No other army that was capable of standing against his mighty forces.
Sulaiman and the Queen of Sheba
One day, Sulaiman AS gathered his army. All the humans, beasts, jinn, clouds and wind attended. Despite such a large gathering, Sulaiman's AS sharp eyes noticed that one bird was missing – a hoopoe (hud-hud). The hoopoe is a magnificent bird, with beautiful feathers and its distinguishing feature was the plumage on its head that resembled a crown. It was valuable for its ability to search for water sources while the army was out on expeditions.
And he took attendance of the birds and said, "Why do I not see the hoopoe - or is he among the absent? (Al Qur'an 27:20)
The hoopoe's absence was unacceptable and the penalty for going missing in action without a cause was high. It required stern disciplinary action, as was customary in any army. Yet, being a just man, Sulaiman AS did not immediately pass sentence. Instead, he gave the hoopoe a chance to explain his absence, saying:
"I will surely punish him with a severe punishment or slaughter him unless he brings me clear authorization. " (Al Qur'an 27:21)
The hoopoe soon returned to Sulaiman AS with an astonishing report. He 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." (Al Qur'an 27:22 – 27:23).
The hoopoe was referring to the Queen of Sheba (now called Yemen) whose name was Balqis. She was of royal lineage, and reigned over a prosperous kingdom. Her magnificent throne was a symbol of her power. However, the hoopoe continued, they did not worship and prostrate to Allah, but rather:
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. (Al Qur'an 27:24)
It shocked pained the hoopoe that any people or community would be so spiritually lost and deny the worship of Allah. This was the most crucial description that the hoopoe had of her kingdom, rather than the fineries it contained.
Sulaiman AS wanted to verify whether the hoopoe was telling the truth or was spinning some fiction to save itself from punishment. Also, it would be unjust to take any action against Balqis without establishing the facts. He instructed the little bird to fly the entire distance to Sheba:
"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." (Al Qur'an 27:27 – 27:28)
Lessons to be learnt
Trial by Wealth
Sulaiman AS was a devout slave to Allah, continuously grateful to his Lord for all the favours bestowed upon him. His life was filled with righteous deeds, and his justice and compassion illuminated his kingdom. Allah praised Sulaiman AS unreservedly in the Qur'an stating his penitent nature even though he had a magnificent kingdom never seen before or since. Compare him to other powerful leaders in history whose own kingdoms could not match Sulaiman's AS: such as Pharaoh and Nimrod. In the case of such disbelievers, not only did their kingdoms make them tyrants and oppressors, but they became so power-crazy that they even claimed Godhood. Sulaiman AS, however, remained humble to his Lord.
This should be a time for self reflection, because often, human beings, once given a slice of dunia, be it wealth or authority, become exceedingly arrogant over others and with Allah. This is a repeated pattern of human behaviour which we can readily witness in society, amongst our leaders and the affluent. Sulaiman's AS life demonstrates the self awareness that all forms of wealth and power originate from Allah, and therefore should be attributed to Him by way of constant thanks, gratitude and humility.
A fundamental principle of leadership espoused in Islam is justice and compassion. While Sulaiman AS had an entire army composed of man, beast and the elements at his disposal, he used his army to spread justice. He was also mindful of all his subjects, and did not overlook the weaker ones under his rule. His leadership was underpinned by fairness and justice, which is what attracted his subjects to be loyal to him.
Compare that against today's leader, where the militia is utilised to oppress the people and spread tyranny and fear, and where the needs of the powerful are taken care of at the expense of the rights of the weak and needy.
Loving others above Allah
This world and what it contains is a constant trial for us, and many of what is contained in this world supplies us with enjoyment and entertainment which distracts us from our main purpose of our creation, which is to worship Allah. The story of Sulaiman AS shows how even prophets can be diverted, but this is not an endorsement of such actions. When Sulaiman AS was so preoccupied by his horses that it made him forget his duty to worship Allah, he not only ceased such behaviour, but also got rid of the source of distraction, thus eliminating the things that occupied his heart above the remembrance of Allah.
All the things of amusement given to us in our lives, if not put in its correct priority, will deviate us from our purpose in life. It can be material possessions – fast cars, for example, a hobby that occupies too much of our time or attention, or even our own children if we are too engrossed in serving and worshipping them that it becomes an obsession rather than a duty of parenthood. The Qur'an repeatedly warns us that this dunia is just a temporary decoration, and that we should not revolve our thinking, love and goals in life around it.