The Death of Solomon

Question and answer details
Mohiuddin Ahmed Mohi
As we know from the Qur'an, after the death of Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him), the fact was unknown to his community including jinns for long time. His death was disclosed only when a little hungry worm consumed his staff after a long time. He was a king and had his own family also. He was absent from daily official and family activities during this time.Within this long period why none of them had come to him or could notice this major event?
Shahul Hameed

Salam Mohiuddin,

Thank you for your question.

The stories of the prophets are narrated in the noble Qur'an with a view to instilling into readers some important moral lessons for humans who live on earth.

Among such stories, the story of Solomon (in Arabic, Sulaiman, peace be upon him) is unique; particularly because he was a prophet-king who could command not only human beings, but also non-human beings. He knew the language of birds and animals, and he could communicate with the Jinn and control them.

Solomon's Knowledge and Powers

Prophet Solomon was the youngest son of Prophet David (in Arabic, Dawud, peace be upon him). After the death of his father, Solomon ascended the throne of Judea, by the grace of Allah Almighty.

And soon he became well known for his sagacity and extraordinary power of judgment as king, and later through the scriptures and traditions for his unfaltering faith and spiritual insight as prophet. 

The Qur'an says what means:

*{And Solomon was David's heir. He said, "O you people! We have been taught the speech of birds, and on us has been bestowed a little of all things: This is indeed grace manifest from Allah."} (An-Naml 27:16)

Apart from this knowledge of the language of birds, he had power over natural forces like winds as well as the non-human creation of Allah called the Jinns:

*{And to Solomon We made the Wind obedient: Its early morning stride was a month's journey, and its evening stride was a month's journey; and We made a Font of molten brass to flow for him; and there were Jinns that worked in front of him, by the leave of his Lord, and if any of them turned aside from Our command, We made them taste of the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.}* (Saba' 34:12)

And again,

*{And before Solomon were marshaled his hosts — of jinns and men and birds, and they were all in order and ranks.}* (An-Naml 27:17)

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

It is narrated that Prophet Solomon heard of the Queen of Sheba (in Arabic, Saba') from a hoopoe bird, and he sent a letter to the queen with the bird. The hoopoe dropped the letter in front of the Queen:

*{The queen said, "Chiefs! Here is delivered to me a letter worthy of respect. It is from Solomon and is as follows: "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Be you not arrogant against me, but come to me in submission to the true religion." She said, "Chiefs! Advise me in this my affair: No affair have I decided except in your presence.}* (An-Naml 27:29-32)

The queen was very prudent, and she did not want to wage a wasteful war. She had a different idea. She sent precious gifts to King Solomon, desiring cordial relations with him.

But Solomon did not care for rich gifts and sent a word to the effect that he would invade the land of Sheba if she was not prepared to submit to Allah and follow His religion of truth.

After this, Solomon led an army through a valley of ants on his way to the Kingdom of Sheba:

*{At length, when they came to a lowly valley of ants, one of the ants said, "O you ants! Get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you under foot without knowing it." So Solomon smiled, amused at her speech, and he said, "O my Lord! So order me that I may be grateful for Your favors that You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may work the righteousness that will please You. And admit me, by Your grace, to the ranks of Your righteous servants.}* (An-Naml 27:18-19)

Prophet Solomon did not proceed further, and the Queen on hearing the news of the intended invasion of Solomon wished for peace, and to this end she set out to meet him.

The king got the news of the queen's departure to meet him and had one of the jinns bring the magnificent throne of the Queen to his palace, "within the twinkling of an eye."

When the queen arrived, the king led her to the throne that she immediately recognized as her own. He then invited her into the great hall, the floor of which was laid in glittering glass over a pool of water. Thinking it was water, she lifted her skirt above her heels, for fear of wetting it. Solomon pointed out to her that the floor was made of solid glass.

She was amazed. She had never seen such things before, and she realized that this king was no ordinary man but was a chosen one, indeed a mighty prophet of the Almighty.

She immediately repented and was convinced of the truth of the religion of Solomon. She prayed to Allah:

*{O my Lord! I have indeed wronged myself; I do submit with Solomon to the Lord of the Worlds.}* (An-Naml  27:44)

The Death of the Wise King

Prophet Solomon ruled for 30 years, and his public work was largely carried out by the jinns. This was a punishment for their sins of making people believe that they were all-powerful, knew the unseen, and could foresee the future. As a prophet, Solomon had the duty to remove such false beliefs from them.

And then the time destined by Allah Almighty came for the death of Solomon. Like his life, his death too was unusual; and Allah devised it as a means to teach the people that the domain of the world of the unseen including the future is known to Allah alone. Thus, even the death of Solomon served an important purpose.

Solomon was sitting holding his staff, overseeing the jinns at work in a mine. He died sitting in this position.

For a long time, no one was aware of his death, for he was seen sitting erect. (The explanations of the story of Solomon were adapted from the exegesis of the Qur'an by the Islamic scholar, Ibn Kathir).

The jinns continued with their toil, thinking that the king was watching over them. Days passed, and the king's death became known only when his supporting stick, eaten by termites gave way and the body fell to the ground:

*{They worked for him as he desired, making arches, images, basins as large as reservoirs, and cooking cauldrons fixed in their places: "Work you, sons of David, with thanks! But few of My servants are grateful.

Then, when We decreed Solomon's death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth that kept slowly gnawing away at his staff: So when he fell down, the jinns saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating penalty of their task.}* (Saba' 34:13-14)

Why a Death Unnoticed?

I understand brother Mohiuddin that you are convinced of the events narrated in the Qur'an — of the story of Solomon up to the point of his death.

But after his death, your question is why was it that for many days, nobody noticed that he had actually died?

In answer, I would request you to closely read again Allah Almighty's words about Solomon's death and pose for some inspiration:

*{Then, when We decreed Solomon's death, nothing showed them his death except a little worm of the earth that kept slowly gnawing away at his staff: So when he fell down, the jinns saw plainly that if they had known the unseen, they would not have tarried in the humiliating penalty of their task.}* (Saba' 34:14)

That is to say, Allah Almighty decreed that nobody should know about the king's death until his body would fall down. My dear brother, don't you see that something that Allah decreed for a purpose would happen exactly as He willed?

Of course, we have no means of making an investigation of the event by questioning the people who lived in the palace about why they didn't inquire about the king's lack of movement, nor do we have a detailed record of what happened.

But we can imagine: Maybe Solomon had given very strict instructions to the effect that when he was seated on the throne; no one was to disturb him, whatever the reason. And remember he was a powerful king.

Maybe it was so; maybe there was some other reason. But the fact was that no one knew of his death until Allah Almighty wanted them to know.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


Useful Links:

The Nature of Prophethood

Prophethood: Its Nature and Necessity

Stories of the Prophets in the Qur'an

What Should We Know About the Jinn?