29. That is, We have not created anything in the world merely in sport and fun so that it may be without any wisdom and purpose and justice, and there may occur no result from any act, good or bad. This is the conclusion of the preceding discourse as well as an introduction to the following theme. The object of this statement as a conclusion to the discourse is to impress the following truth: Man has not been left to wander about at will in the world, nor is this world a lawless kingdom that one may do here whatever he likes with impunity. As an introduction to the following theme, the sentence is meant to say: The person who does not believe in the meting out of the rewards and punishments, and thinks that both the good and the evil people will ultimately end up in the dust after death and that nobody will be called to account, nor will anyone be rewarded for good or punished for evil, in fact, regards the world as a plaything and its Creator a senseless player, and thinks that by creating the world and man in it, the Creator of the Universe has committed a useless thing. The same thing has been stated in different ways at several places in the Quran, e.g. Did you think that We created you without any purpose, and that you would never be brought back to Us? (Surah Al-Muminun, Ayat 115).
We have not created the heavens and the earth and whatever lies between them merely in sport: We have created them with the truth, but most of them do not know. For the resurrection of them all the appointed time is the Day of Decision. (Surah Ad-Dukhan, Ayat 38-40).
30. That is, do you think it is reasonable and fair that both the pious and the wicked should be treated alike in the end? Do you regard this concept as satisfying that the pious man should not get any reward for his piety and the wrongdoer should not receive any punishment for his sins? Obviously, if there is to be no Hereafter, and there is to be no accountability and no rewards and no punishments for human acts, it negates both Allah’s wisdom and His justice, and the entire order of the Universe becomes a blind order. On this assumption there remains no motive for doing good and no deterrent against evil. God forbid, if the Godhead of God should be such a lawless kingdom, the one who leads a pious life in the face of all kinds of hardships in the world and endeavors to reform the people, would be a foolish person, and the one who gains benefits by committing all kinds of excesses and enjoys sinful pleasures of life, would be a wise man.
31. The Quran has been called a blessed Book in the sense that it is highly useful for man. It gives him the best guidance to improve and reform his life. By following it he has only to gain and nothing to lose.
32. The Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) has been mentioned already at the followings places: (Surah Al- Baqarah, Ayat 102); (Surah Bani-Israil, Ayat 5); (Surah Al- Anbiya, Ayats 78-82); (Surah An-Naml, Ayats 15-44); (Surah Saba, Ayats 12-14).
33. The words as-safinat-ul-jiyad in the original imply the horses, which are very calm and quiet when they stand, and very fast moving when they run.
34. The Arabic word khair in the text is used for abundance of wealth as well as for horses metaphorically. As the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) had kept these horses for fighting in the way of Allah, he called them khair.
35. 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 (peace be upon him) 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 (peace be upon him) 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 said: 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 whatsoever. 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 Quran 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, whereas there is no mention of the sun whatsoever. On the contrary, when one reads the words hatta tawarar bilhijab (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 (peace be upon him) did not simply stroke the shins and necks of the horses with the hand but stroked them with the sword, whereas the Quran does not contain the words mashan-bissaif 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 Quran in other than their normally accepted meaning: (1) Either there should be a pointer to it in the words of the Quran itself; or (2) There should be an allusion to it at some other place in the Quran; 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 Shariah 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 Quran.
One section of the commentators has differed a little from the above 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 (peace be upon him) 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. But 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 (peace be upon him), 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 world 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 Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Ascension (miraj); the sun was also brought back on the occasion of the Battle of the Trench for the Prophet (peace be upon him), and also for Ali, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sleeping with his head in Ali’s lap and his Asr Prayer was lost: then the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 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 Prophet (peace be upon him) was describing what had happened in the Night of Ascension, before the disbelievers of Makkah, they asked for a proof of it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 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 (peace be upon him), 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 Quran, and for the sake of the full meaning, nothing needs to be added to it, which may neither be in the Quran, 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 nim al-abd, innahu awwab (an excellent servant, who turned to His Lord over and over again) for the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him). 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.
36. 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 (peace be upon him) 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 (peace be upon him) high rank and his deep sense of devotion has been mentioned, then it is said that he was also 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 (peace be upon him) 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 Quran, 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 Quran 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. But, 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 Quran, for in this also it has been assumed that the winds and satans were already under the Prophet Solomon’s control, whereas the Quran 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 Abu Harairah from the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 Prophet (peace be upon him), 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 Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 eleven 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 Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 Quran, implied the malformed child. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had narrated this event as a commentary of this verse. Furthermore, though it is understandable why the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) 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 Quran. The Quran 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 (peace be upon him) 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 Quran, 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.
37. For explanation, see (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayat 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 (peace be upon him), it has been described as the strongly blowing wind, but here “it blew by his command gently wherever he intended”. 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-soever he wanted it to blow for his commercial fleets.
38. For explanation, see (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayat 82); (Surah An-Naml, Ayats 17, 39 )and the E.Ns thereof. The satans imply the jinns, and the satans linked 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.
39. This verse can have three meanings: (1) This is Our unlimited gift: You have the authority to give of it freely to 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. (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.
40. 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 (peace be upon them) were blessed with. The prayer that Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) 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 (peace be upon him) and to none else in human history.