Sulaiman AS was the son and heir of Daud AS both in prophethood and kingdom. He is one of the few reported Prophets who was wealthy (the others being his father, Daud AS and Ayoub AS).
And Sulaiman inherited David. 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.” (Al Qur’an 27:16)
Many accounts of Sulaiman’s AS life are reported in the Hebrew traditions, however some of these reports have been fabricated and then further mixed up with fables and fokelore. When reading such accounts, one has to be critical. The rule of interpretation is that if the Jewish narratives address an issue that does not contradict Muslim values or reports, then we should neither accept nor deny them. If the Hebrew reports are in line with Muslim reports, then we can accept them (although in such cases, we should just rely on the Muslim reports). If the Jewish reports are in conflict with Muslim reports, then we are to reject the Jewish reports entirely.
For example, Prophets and Messengers are protected by Allah against committing sins. Any report claiming a Prophet or Messenger to be a sinner is to be rejected unconditionally. In the case of Sulaiman AS, some Jewish scriptures claim that Sulaiman AS dabbled in sorcery and black magic. These are huge sins which lead to shirk in Islam, and it is impossible that an appointed Messenger and Prophet of Allah can be involved in such blasphemous activities. Therefore such reports have no credibility and a Muslim should not believe in them.
For the benefit of reader, we are not going to discuss historical details, as many of these are subject to debate by the historians and experts. Our mission is to pass the message or wisdom contained in the story of Sulaiman’s AS life rather than the historical details. The reader is welcome to research the historical accounts deeper, and there are many sources where such information is available.
Sulaiman AS and His Kingdom
Sulaiman AS ruled over a magnificent kingdom, centred in Jerusalem. Not only was he the ruler of the people, but also of the birds and animals, jinn, clouds and even the wind. There has not been such a glorious and magnificent kingdom seen on earth before or since. He was also given the knowledge and science of other things, including the ability to understand the language of the animal kingdom. Yet, unlike ordinary men who are prone to corruption and greed when granted wealth or power, Sulaiman AS never forgot to be a grateful and obedient slave of Allah.
[We said], “Work, O family of Daud, in gratitude.” And few of My servants are grateful. (Al Qur’an 34:13)
And to David We gave Sulaiman. An excellent servant, indeed he was one repeatedly turning back [to Allah]. (Al Qur’an 38:30)
Sulaiman AS was an attentive and just leader, and was beloved by the people. His Kingdom prospered, and its subjects were well taken care of. As we saw from the story of Daud AS, Sulaiman AS was also highly observant and intelligent from a young age. Nothing escaped his attention, and his army (including the jinn) continuously gathered intelligence and fed him with reports of goings on in his kingdom and other kingdoms.
However, despite his status and rank, Sulaiman AS was humble, just and compassionate, not just to the human race but to the most insignificant insect. In the story of The Ant of Sulaiman AS we saw how he diverted his entire army in order to avoid trampling an anthill.
The kingdom of Sulaiman AS loved him and was utterly obedient to his commands.
The Horses of Sulaiman AS
However, Prophets and Messengers are not immune from mistakes. One day, Sulaiman AS was presented with horses of magnificent breed. He loved horses, and was so absorbed with these steeds until sunset that he missed his evening prayer. He did not do this purposely: rather the love of these horses made him forget the remembrance of his Lord. This was a trial for him.
When he missed the evening prayer, he realized that he had made the mistake of allowing the horses to occupy his heart to such a high extent. He immediately repented, and decided to forsake his horses (some reports say that he slaughtered them) so that nothing would distract him from the love of Allah.
Sulaiman AS also made the following supplication:
He said, “My Lord, forgive me and grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me. Indeed, You are the Bestower.” So We subjected to him the wind blowing by his command, gently, wherever he directed. (Al Qur’an 38:35 to 38:36)
Allah accepted his repentance. It is not known conclusively whether the above supplication was as a result of his distraction by the horses or cause by some other form of fitnah that he underwent. In any case, Allah rewarded him something more beautiful. Sulaiman AS loved the speed of the horses and was willing to give them up for the sake of Allah, so Allah SWT subjected the wind to his power, which blew to his order wherever he decided. Some reports speak of a platform or something similar which he sat on when he travelled in this fashion. This was a means of transportation faster than the horses that he gave up, where Allah permitted him to cover a month’s journey in a single morning, and its return journey in a single evening.