What is the incident meant by the verse “And We did try Solomon...”?

The Details of the Question

- The Chapter of Sad, verse 34:
 ”And We did try Solomon: We placed on his throne a body (without life); but he did turn (to Us in true devotion).”
- What is the incident that is mentioned in the verse above?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Dead Body Placed on the Throne of the Prophet Sulayman (Solomon):

“And We did try Solomon: We placed on his throne a body (without life); but he did turn (to Us in true devotion).” (Sad, 38/34)

Our classical tafsir books include several narrations without a chain of narrators related to the verse above.  It is also remarkable that they also try to associate the narration in Sahih Muslim about the incident of Satan, who wanted to throw a shihab (flame, meteorite) of fire on the Prophet’s (pbuh) face, with the incident of the corpse placed on the throne of the Prophet Solomon (pbuh). (For information, see: Sahih Muslim/Masajid: 40- Nasai/Sahw: 19):

It is reported that a demon among devils, who haunted the Prophet Solomon (pbuh), eventually took his seal and sat on his throne. Undoubtedly, these narrations and interpretations and similar ones have no scientific value. Most of them are quoted from the chapter 1 Kings of the Torah. Unfortunately, in various places in the distorted Torah, it is stated that prophets behaved and acted very inappropriately, in a way to deny the «attribute of ismah (innocence, infallibility)». As a matter of fact, in the aforementioned chapter of Kings, the claim that the Prophet Solomon (pbuh) had idols built when he was old, obeying the wishes of his pagan wives, is also like those interpretations.

On the other hand, there is another narration with a strange claim: The Prophet Solomon (pbuh) swore that he would have sexual intercourse with one hundred or ninety or seventy of his wives in one night and that they would all get pregnant and each would give birth to a mujahid but he did not say «inshaallah»; therefore, only one wife became pregnant and she gave birth to a half-paralyzed child. The dead body that was put on the throne of Solomon (pbuh) belonged to that child.

The narration above, like the others, cannot lead us to a healthy result because it is very difficult to reconcile three different narrations reported in the four hadith books with common sense and the science that finds the truth. In this respect, only the soundness of the chain of narrators of the hadith is not enough for the hadith to be sound. Besides, it is not possible for us to determine why the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) mentioned that incident. Therefore, we hold the view that it will not be appropriate for us to interpret the verse based on the hadith we have mentioned. Allah knows better. (For information, see: Bukhari, Jihad: 23, Nikah: 119, Anbiya: 40, Ayman: 3; Muslim, Ayman: 23, 25; Nasai, Ayman; 40, 43; Tirmidhi, Nudhur: 7; Ahmad: 2/ 229, 279, 506)

In that case, the issue of the corpse placed on the throne of Solomon (pbuh) is a matter of metaphor and necessitates interpretation:

a) Solomon (pbuh), who ruled over large lands from Palestine to Egypt, from Syria to Iraq, had many internal enemies, especially his brothers. It may be possible that they prepared a gang of revolutions and seized the throne for a short time; thus, Solomon (pbuh) may have been captured and left motionless like a dead body and he may have been deprived of his power.

b) The son of Solomon (pbuh), who enabled Sons of Israel to live their golden age, did not have the ability to govern this vast land. As a matter of fact, after the death of Solomon (pbuh), his son, like a walking dead, could not protect the throne and the bright period of the country ended in a short time. As a matter of fact, we see that this issue is dealt with a lot in the Torah. (For information, see: the Torah, I Kings: 9/1-14 and 11/1-21)

c) It is said that the Prophet Solomon (pbuh) caught a serious illness for a while and became unable to move like a dead body. As a matter of fact, tafsir scholar al-Maraghi focuses on this interpretation more in his tafsir. Asking Allah’s forgiveness after the illness indicates that he could not do better and more productive deeds during his illness.

All these interpretations include some true aspects but the interpretation in [b)] is more appropriate in terms of the context (siyaq and sibaq) of the Qur’an. Allah knows better. (see Celal Yıldırım, İlmin Işığında Asrın Kur’an Tefsiri, Anadolu Yayınları: 10/5167-5168)

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