Why did the Prophet Sulayman (Solomon) ask about Hudhud (Hoopoe)?

The Details of the Question

- Is there any wisdom behind Allah’s mentioning the name of the bird (hudhud) in the chapter of an-Naml?
- Allah ﷻ could have said “bird” without specifying what species it was.

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Why the Name Hudhud?

First of all, we should state that this incident happened at the time of inspection of birds:

“And he (Solomon) took a muster of the Birds; and he said: "Why is it I see not the Hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees? I will certainly punish him with a severe penalty, or execute him, unless he brings me a clear reason (for absence).” (an-Naml, 27/20-21)

“Hudhud” is the name of a bird called hoopoe that sings with its own unique tunes. It is understood that the hudhud mentioned in the verse was a special creature put under the Prophet Solomon’s command.

Tafsir scholars state that the Prophet Solomon employed the hudhud to find water, especially in deserts.

It is not wise to call a person “human” in a place where there are a lot of human beings; it is necessary to mention his name; similarly, it is not appropriate to ask where a bird is in a place where there are a lot of birds. therefore, it is necessary to say the name of that bird in order to know which bird it is.  

So, in order to find out where the hudhud bird, which is in charge of finding water, is and to question why it is not there, it is necessary to ask about it by its name.

The Prophet Solomon’s Asking about Hudhud

Scholars made the following different explanations as to why the Prophet Solomon asked about Hudhud:

- According to Wahb b. Munabbih, The Prophet Solomon asked about Hudhud because it violated the guard watch.

- Solomon (pbuh) looked for Hudhud because it had water scales and finders, and because hudhud could know the water that was near and that was far away. Solomon (pbuh) asked about it because he needed.

- Hudhud used to shade Solomon (pbuh) against the sun. When Hudhud disappeared, Solomon asked about it. (Razi, Mafatih, the interpretation of the verse in question)

While mentioning Solomon (pbuh), the Holy Quran states that he was taught the language of birds, that he ruled over jinn, humans and birds, and that he had armies composed of them, along with his other qualities.

It is possible to summarize the information given in the verses regarding the issue as follows:

When Solomon (pbuh) arrived at the valley of ants with his armies, he checked the birds and realized that hudhud was not there. He asked why and stated that if it had an excuse, it would have to prove it and that otherwise he would harm it or cut off its head. Soon, hudhud arrived and said to Solomon that it brought some news from the country of Sheba, which he did not know, that a woman ruled that country, and gave him some information about their religious beliefs. Thereupon, Solomon (pbuh) gave a letter to hudhud, asked it to take it to Sheba and learn what decision the rulers there would make. After reading the letter, the Queen of Sheba consulted with her leading men, and then decided to send some gifts to Solomon (pbuh)... (an-Naml, 27/18-35)

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