The Quran

Commentaries for 38.31

Saad - ص

38.31 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(When there were shown to him at eventide) after the Zuhr (light footed coursers) pure, Arab horses.
38.31 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
When one evening — which is the period after midday — there were displayed before him the prancing steeds (al-sāfināt, ‘horses’, is the plural of sāfina, which denotes [a horse] standing on three legs with the fourth supported on the edge of the hoof, and derives from [the verb] safana, yasfinu sufūnan; al-jiyād is the plural of jawād, which is a ‘racer’; the meaning is that these [horses] are such that when they are halted they stand still and when they run they surpass [others] in speed). One thousand horses were displayed before him after he had performed the midday prayer, for he had wanted to use them in a holy struggle (jihād) against an enemy. But when the display reached the nine-hundredth [horse], the sun set and he had not performed the afternoon prayer. So he was greatly distressed.
38.30-33 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
Sulayman the Son of Dawud
Allah tells us that he gave Sulayman to Dawud as a Prophet, as He says elsewhere:
وَوَرِثَ سُلَيْمَـنُ دَاوُودَ
(And Sulayman inherited Dawud) (27:1). meaning, he inherited prophethood from him. Dawud had other sons besides Sulayman, for he had one hundred free wives.
نِعْمَ الْعَبْدُ إِنَّهُ أَوَّابٌ
(How excellent a servant! Verily, he was ever oft-returning in repentance (to Us)!) This is praise for Sulayman, because he was very much obedient, worshipping Allah much and always turning to Allah in repentance.
إِذْ عُرِضَ عَلَيْهِ بِالْعَشِىِّ الصَّـفِنَـتُ الْجِيَادُ
(When there were displayed before him, in the afternoon, well trained horses of the highest breed.) means, these well trained horses were shown to Sulayman, peace be upon him, in his capacity as king and ruler. Mujahid said, "They were the kind of horses which stand on three legs and raise the fourth, and they were swift horses.'' This was also the view of several others among the Salaf. Abu Dawud recorded that `A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "The Messenger of Allah came back from the campaign of Tabuk or Khaybar, and there was a curtain covering her room. The wind came and lifted the curtain, revealing some toys belonging to `A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her. The Prophet said:
«مَا هَذَا يَا عَائِشَةُ؟»
(What is this, O `A'ishah) She, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "My toys.'' Among them he saw a horse with two wings made of cloth. He said:
«مَا هَذَا الَّذِي أَرَى وَسَطَهُنَّ؟»
(What is this that I see in the midst of them) She, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "A horse.'' The Messenger of Allah said,
«مَا هَذَا الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ؟»
(And what is this on it) She, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "Wings.'' The Messenger of Allah said,
«فَرَسٌ لَهُ جَنَاحَانِ؟»
(A horse with two wings) She, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "Did you not hear that Sulayman, peace be upon him, had a horse that had wings'' She, may Allah be pleased with her, said, "The Messenger of Allah smiled so broadly that I could see his molars.''
فَقَالَ إِنِّى أَحْبَبْتُ حُبَّ الْخَيْرِ عَن ذِكْرِ رَبِى حَتَّى تَوَارَتْ بِالْحِجَابِ
(He said: "I did love the good (i.e., horses) instead of remembering my Lord'' till the time was over, and (the sun) had hidden in the veil (of night)) More than one of the Salaf and scholars of Tafsir mentioned that he was so busy looking at the horses that he missed the time of `Asr prayer. He did not miss it deliberately, but because of forgetfulness, as happened to the Prophet on the day of Khandaq, when he was too busy to pray `Asr and he prayed it after the sun had set. This was recorded in the Two Sahihs with more than one chain of narration, including the report from Jabir, may Allah be pleased with him, who said, "On the day of Khandaq, `Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, came after the sun had set and started cursing the disbelievers of the Quraysh. He said, `O Messenger of Allah, I could not pray `Asr until the sun had almost set.' The Messenger of Allah said,
«وَاللهِ مَا صَلَّيْتُهَا»
(By Allah, I did not pray it either.)'' He (Jabir) said, "So we got up and went to Buthan. Allah's Prophet performed ablution for the prayer and we too performed ablution. He prayed `Asr after the sun had set, then he prayed Maghrib after that.''
رُدُّوهَا عَلَىَّ فَطَفِقَ مَسْحاً بِالسُّوقِ وَالاٌّعْنَاقِ
(Then he said: "Bring them (horses) back to me.'' Then he began to pass his hand over their legs and their necks.) Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "He said, `No, by Allah, you will not keep me from worshipping my Lord again,' then he ordered that they should be slaughtered.'' This was also the view of Qatadah. As-Suddi said, "Their necks and hamstrings were struck with swords.'' `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, "He began patting the horses' heads and legs out of love for them.'' This is the view that was favored by Ibn Jarir. He said, "Because he would not punish an animal by cutting its hamstrings or destroy his own wealth for no other reason than that he had been distracted from his prayer by looking at it, and it was not the animals' fault. '' This view which Ibn Jarir thought more correct is subject to further review, because such action may have been permissible according to their law, especially since he got angry for the sake of Allah for being distracted by these horses until the time for prayer had lapsed. Then, since he dispensed with them for the sake of Allah, Allah compensated him with something better, the wind which blew gently by his order wherever he willed. Its morning lasted a month's (journey), and its afternoon lasted a month's (journey). This was faster and better than horses. Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Qatadah and Abu Ad-Dahma', who traveled a lot to the Ka`bah, said, "We met a man from among the bedouins who said to us: `The Messenger of Allah took my hand and started teaching me some of that which Allah had taught him. He said,
«إِنَّكَ لَا تَدَعُ شَيْئًا اتِّقَاءَ اللهِ تَعَالَى إِلَّا أَعْطَاكَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ خَيْرًا مِنْه»
(You do not give up anything for the sake of Allah, but Allah will give you something better than it.)'''
38.30-40 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The Prophet Solomon has been mentioned already at the followings places: AI-Baqarah: 102, Bani Isra'il: 5, AI-Anbiya': 78-82, An-Naml: 15-44, Saba: 12-14.
The words as-sefinat-ul- jiyad in the original imply the horses, which are very calm and quiet when they stand, and very fast-moving when they run.
The Arabic word khair in the Text is used for abundance of wealth as well as for horses metaphorically. As the Prophet Solomon had kept these horses for fighting in the way of Allah, he called them "khair".
There is a difference of opinion among the commentators about the translation and commentary of these verses.
One section of them interprets them as follows:
The Prophet Solomon became so absorbed in reviewing the horses and watching their races, that he forgot to offer his 'Asr Prayer, or according to some others, to perform certain devotions that he used to perform before the sunset. Then when the sun went down, he commanded that the horses be brought back, and when they came back, the Prophet Solomon started slashing them with the sword, or in other words, slaughtering them as a sacrifice to Allah, because they had caused him to become heedless of the remembrance of Allah. Accordingly, the verses have been translated thus: "And he :aid: I so preferred the love of this wealth that I became heedless of the remembrance (the 'Asr Prayer, or the special devotions) of my Lord till (the sun) went down (behind the veil of the west). (Then he commanded : ) bring them back, (and when the horses came back) he began to stroke their shanks and necks (with the sword)." Although this commentary has been given by some major commentators, it is not plausible for the reason that in this the commentator has to add three things from himself, which have no basis whatever. In the first place, he has to assume that the Prophet Solomon's 'Asr Prayer was lost in the occupation, or some special devotions that he used to perform at that time, whereas the words of the Qur'an are only to the effect: "I so preferred this wealth that I became heedless of the remembrance of my Lord. " In these there is no ground for taking any word for the `Asr Prayer or the special devotions. Secondly, he also assumes that the sun set where as there is no mention of the sun whatever. On the contrary, when one reads the words hatta tawarar bil-hijab (when they disappeared from sight) one's mind automatically turns to as-safinat ul jiyad (well-bred horses) which have been mentioned in the preceding verse. Thirdly, he also has to assume that the Prophet Solomon did not simply stroke the shins and necks of the horses with the hand but stroked them with the sword, whereas the Qur'an does not contain the words mashan-bis-saif or any other pointer from which stroking may be taken to mean stroking with the sword. We have a fundamental difference with this kind of the commentary. In our opinion, only in four cases it would be right to interpret the words of the Qur'an in other than their normally accepted meaning: (1) Either there should be a pointer to it in the words of the Qur'an itself; or (2) there should be an allusion to it at some other place in the Qur'an; or (3) an explanation of it should be afforded by some authentic Hadith; or (4) it should have some other reliable source, e.g., if it pertains to history, there should be an historical evidence to support it; if it pertains to the manifestations of the universe, there should be authentic scientific knowledge to substantiate it; and if it pertains to the Shari'ah values, the sources of Islamic law should explain it. In the absence of any of these, we do not think it is right to invent a story on the basis of one's own imagination and add it to the words of the Qur'an.
One section of the commentators has differed a little from the about translation and commentary. They say that the pronoun in both hatta tawarat bil-hijab and ruddu-ha 'alayya turns only to the sun. That Is, when the `Asr Prayer was lost and the sun went down behind the veil of the west, the Prophet Solomon said to the workers of destiny: "Turn the sun back so that the `Asr time comes back for me to offer the Prayer." So, the sun retreated and he performed his Prayer. Hut this commentary is even more unacceptable than the previously mentioned one not because Allah is powerless to bring the sun back, but because Allah has made no mention of it anywhere. On the contrary, if such a wonderful miracle had actually been worked for the sake of the Prophet Solomon, it would certainly be worthy of mention. Moreover, if the extraordinary event of the returning of the sun after having set had actually taken place; the history of the would would never be without it. In support of this commentary these commentators _present some Ahadith also in order to prove that the returning of the sun after having set is not a rare event that happened only once, but it has happened several times. There is the mention of bringing the sun back in connection with the Holy Prophet's Ascension (mi'raj); the sun was also brought back on the occasion of the Battle of the Trench for the Holy Prophet, and also for Hadrat `Ali, when the Holy Prophet was sleeping with his head in Hadrat Ali's lap and his 'Asr Prayer was lost: then the Holy Prophet had prayed for the return of the sun and it had returned. But the reasoning from these traditions is even weaker than the commentary in support of which they have been presented. Ibn Taimiyyah has proved as fabricated the tradition about Hadrat `Ali after a detailed discussion of its chains and transmitters. Imam Ahmad says it has no basis, and Ibn Jauzi says that it is without any doubt a forged tradition. The tradition of the sun's being brought back on the occasion of the Battle of the Trench also is weak according to some traditionalists and fabricated according to others. As far as the tradition regarding the event of the Ascension is concerned, the truth about it is that when, the Holy Prophet was describing what had happened in the Night of Ascension, before the disbelievers of Makkah, they asked for a proof of it. The Holy Prophet replied that on the way from Jerusalem he had seen a caravan at such and such a place, which had met with such and such an accident. When asked as to when that caravan would reach Makkah, the Holy Prophet named the day. When the day came, the people of the Quraish waited for the caravan all day till the sun began to set. On this occasion the Holy Prophet prayed that the sun should not set till the caravan had arrived. So, the caravan actually arrived before the sunset. Some reporters even have stated that the day on that occasion had been enhanced by an hour, and the sun had stood still for that long. The question is: Are such traditions sufficient evidence for the proof of such an extraordinary event? As we have said above, the returning of the sun, or its standing still for an hour, is no ordinary event. Had such an event actually taken place, it would have become well known the world over. Its mention and narration could not remain restricted to only a few reporters.
The third section of the commentators interprets these verses as any unbiased person would interpret them from these words. According to this commentary, what actually happened was this: When a squadron of fine, well bred horses was presented before the Prophet Solomon, he said: "I love this wealth not for the sake of personal glory or desire but for the cause of raising the Word of my Lord." Then he ordered that the horses run a race, and they disappeared from sight. Then he ordered that they be brought back, and when they were brought back, according to Ibn `Abbas: "He started passing his hand on their necks and shanks with love." This same commentary is correct in our opinion, because it corresponds to the words of the Qur'an, and for the sake of the full meaning, nothing needs to be added to it, which may neither be in the Qur'an, nor in any authentic Hadith, nor in the Israelite history.
Besides, one should also note that Allah has narrated this event immediately after using epithets like ni'm al-'abd, inna-hu awwab (an excellent servant, who turned to His Lord over and over again) for the Prophet Solomon. This clearly shows that the object is to relate this message: Behold, what a good servant of Ours he was! He loved the means of kingly pomp and glory not for the sake of the world but for Our sake! After watching - and reviewing his grand cavalry he did not boast of his power and grandeur like the worldly rulers but even at that time he remembered only Us.
In view of the contest, the real object here is to relate this event; the preceding verses are an introduction to it. Just as above this, first the Prophet David was praised, then the event narrated by which he was put to temptation, then it was said that Allah Almighty does not spare even such a beloved servant from accountability, then about his noble nature it was said that as soon as he was warned of the temptation, he repented and bowed before Allah and withheld himself from the act, so also here the sequence is like this: First, the Prophet Solomon's high rank and his deep sense of devotion has been mentioned, then it is said that he also was put to the test, then it has been stated that when a mere body was placed on his throne, he immediately felt warned on his error, and pleading the forgiveness of his Lord, withdrew from the act, because of which he was involved in the temptation. In other words, Allah by means of these two stories wants to impress two things upon the reader simultaneously: (1) Not to speak of the common men, even high-ranking Prophets were not spared from His strict accountability; and (2) the right attitude for man is not to brag and feel proud after committing an error, but to bow down humbly before his Lord as soon as he realizes his sin. It was the result of this attitude that Allah not only forgave the mistakes of those illustrious men but blessed them with still more favors and kindness.
Here, the question again arises as to what was the temptation in which the Prophet Solomon was involved; what is the meaning of placing a mere body on his throne, and what was the nature of the warning on the occurrence of which he repented? In reply to this the commentators have adopted four different points of view:
One section of them has related a long story whose details are disputed, but their resume is this: The error committed by the Prophet Solomon was either that one of his wives continued to worship the idols in the palace for forty days and he remained unaware of it, or that he remained confined to his residence for a few days and did not attend to redressing of the oppressed people's grievances. For this he was punished as follows: A satan somehow made away with his ring by which he ruled over the jinns, men and wind. As soon as he lost the ring he was deprived of his powers and he remained wandering from place to place for forty days; in the interval the satan continued to rule in the guise of Solomon. The placing of a mere body on Solomon's throne implied this very satan, who had sat on his -throne. Some people have gone to the extent to say that during that period even the chastity of the women in the royal household did not remain safe from the satan. At last from his conduct the ministers and the chiefs and the scholars of the court began to doubt that he was not Solomon. Therefore, when they opened the Torah before him, he fled. On the way the ring fell from his hand in the sea, or he cast it into the sea himself, and a fish swallowed it. Then, somehow the Prophet Solomon came by the fish. When in order to cook it, he cut open its belly he found his ring in it. Then, no sooner did he get the ring than the jinns and men presented themselves humbly before him.--This whole story, from the beginning to the end, is nonsensical and absurd, which the converts from among the Jews and Christians took from the Talmud and other Israelite traditions and spread it among the Muslims. It is strange that some of our well known scholars took these traditions as authentic and cited them as the explanation of the allusions of the Qur'an, whereas neither is there any truth in Solomon's ring, nor could his glorious works be attributed to any ring, nor had the satans been given the power that they might disguise themselves as Prophets and mislead the people, nor can it be imagined about Allah that He would punish a Prophet for an error in such a manner as to enable a satan to corrupt and destroy a whole community, disguised as a prophet. The Qur'an itself repudiates this commentary. In the verses that follow Allah says: When Solomon met with the trial, and he asked Our forgiveness for it, then We subdued the wind and the satans to him. Hut, on the contrary, according to the above commentary, the satans were already under his control by virtue of the ring. It is strange that the scholars who have made this commentary did not care to consider what the subsequent verses say.
The second section of them says that a son was born to the Prophet Solomon after twenty years. The satans feared that if he became king after Solomon, they would continue to remain slaves as they were under him. Therefore, they plotted to kill him. When Solomon came to know of this plot, he hid the child in the clouds so that he was brought up there. This was the temptation in which he was involved: he placed reliance on the protection of the clouds instead of having trust in Allah. For this he was punished in this way that the child died and fell on his throne as a mere body.... This tale also is baseless and is expressly against the Qur`an, for in this also it has been assumed that the winds and satans were already under the Prophet Solomon's control, whereas the Qur'an in clear words has stated their subjection to be an event that took place after the trial.
The third section says that the Prophet Solomon one day swore that he would go in to his 70 wives that night, and from each a warrior would be born, who would fight in the cause of Allah, but while he said this he did not say: Insha Allah: if Allah so wills. Consequently, only one wife conceived and from her also a defective child was born, whom the midwife brought and placed on his throne. This Hadith has been reported by Hadrat Abu Harairah from the Holy Prophet and it has been related by Bukhari and Muslim and other traditionists in several ways. In Bukhari itself this tradition has been related at different places in different ways. At one place the number of the wives has been stated as 60 and at others 70 or 90 or 99 or 100. As far as the chains of the transmitters are concerned, most of the traditions have strong chains, and their authenticity cannot be disputed from the point of view of the principles of reporting. But the subject-matter of the Hadith is patently against reason, and proclaims aloud that such a thing could not have been said by the Holy Prophet, as reported. But, on the contrary, he might have probably mentioned it as an example of the foolish and nonsensical tale-telling of the Jews, and the hearer might have misunderstood that the Holy Prophet himself had stated it as an event. To force the people to accept such traditions only on the strength of their chains of transmitters would be making religion a matter of mockery and jest. Everyone can calculate for himself that even in the longest night of winter the interval between the `Isha` and the Fajr Prayers cannot be of more than ten to cloven hours. If the minimum number of the wives be 60, it would mean that the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) went on having intercourse with them continuously for 10 to 11 hours that night at the rate of six wives per hour, without having a moment's rest. Is it practically possible? And can it be expected that the Holy Prophet might have related it as an event? Then in the Hadith nowhere has it been said that the body that had been placed on Solomon's throne, as stated in the Qur'an, implied the malformed child. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that the Holy Prophet had narrated this event as a commentary of this verse. Furthermore, though it is understandable why the Prophet Solomon asked for Allah's forgiveness on the birth of the child, one fails to understand why, along with the prayer for forgiveness, he prayed: "My Lord, grant me a kingdom as may belong to no one else after me. "
Another commentary which Imam Razi has preferred is this: The Prophet Solomon was afflicted with a serious disease, or on account of an impending danger his body had been reduced to a mere skeleton. But this commentary also does not conform to the words of the Qur'an. The Qur'an says: "We put Solomon to the test and placed a mere body on his throne. Then he turned (to Allah). " From these words no one can understand that the mere body implied the body of the Prophet Solomon himself. They clearly show that putting to the test implied some error that. he happened to commit. On this, the way he was given the warning was that a mere body was placed on his throne, and when he realized his error he turned to Allah.
As a matter of fact, this is one of the most difficult places of the Qur'an, and we do not find any indisputable ground for giving a definite and absolute commentary of it. But if the words of the Prophet Solomon's prayer: "My Lord, forgive me, and grant me a kingdom as may belong to no one else after me," are read in the light of the Israelite history, it appears that probably he cherished in his heart the desire that his son should succeed him on the throne so that His kingdom and sovereignty should continue in his own race after him. This same thing has been called a "temptation" for him by Allah, and he realized this when his heir Rehoboam grew up into an unworthy young man, whose ugly manners clearly foretold that he would not be able to sustain the mighty kingdom of the Prophets David and Solomon (peace be upon them) even for a few days. ¦Placing a mere body on his throne" probably means that the son whom he wanted to succeed him on the throne, was an unworthy person. Therefore, he restrained his desire, asked for Allah's forgiveness and prayed that the kingdom should end with him, and he would curb his desire to have it continued in his dynasty. The Israelite history also shows the same thing. The Prophet Solomon did not make any will about his successor, nor made it binding for the people to obey a particular person. After him his ministers put Rehoboam on the throne, but not long afterwards ten tribes of Israel took northern Palestine and broke away, and only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the throne of Jerusalem.
For explanation, see Surah Al-Anbiya`: 81 and E.N. 74 thereof. However, there is one thing which requires further explanation here. In Surah Al Anbiya` where mention has been made of subjecting the wind for the Prophet Solomon, it has been described as `the strongly blowing wind, but here "which blew gently at his bidding". This means that the wind in itself was strong and violent as is needed for moving the sailing-ships but it had been made gentle for the Prophet Solomon in the sense that it blew whither-so-ever he wanted it to blow for his commercial fleets.
For explanation, see Al-Anbiya': 82, An-Naml: 17, 39 and the E.N.'s thereof. "The satans" imply the jinns, and "the satans bound in chains" imply the serving satans, who were fettered and imprisoned as a punishment for making mischief. It is not necessary that the fetters and chains in which those satans were bound might be made of iron and they might appear as bound in them like the human prisoners. In any case, they were imprisoned in a manner that they could neither escape nor were able to commit further mischief.
This verse can have three meanings: (1) "This is Our unlimited gift: you have the authority to give of it freely w whomsoever you like and keep it from whomsoever you like;" (2) "this is Our gift: you may give of it to whomsoever you like and keep it from whomsoever you like: you will not be called to account for giving it or keeping it from the people;" and (3) Another meaning of it given by some commentators is: The satans have been placed entirely under your control: you may set free whomsoever you like and restrain whomsoever you like: you will not be held accountable for this."
Here, the object is to tell that just as a servant's arrogance causes Allah's displeasure and wrath, so does his humility earns Allah's pleasure and approval for him. If a servant commits an error and becomes even more arrogant when warned, he is led to the same fate as is being mentioned in connection with the story of Adam and Satan below. Contrary to this, if a servant happens to commit an error and he repents and bows down before his Lord humbly, he is blessed with such bounties as the Prophets David and Solomon were blessed with. The prayer that Solomon had made after seeking Allah's forgiveness, was literally fulfilled and Allah actually granted him a kingdom as had neither been granted to anyone before him nor bestowed on anyone after him. Having control over the winds and the jinns is an extraordinary power, which has been granted only to the Prophet Solomon and to none else in human history.