Bismillahir rahmanir raheem
Ever heard someone say “who does she think she is, the Queen of Sheba?!” I have, many times, but never stopped to think subhanAllah, this women played a part in both islam and the Bible. As a Christian, it’s all too easy to concentrate on the New Testament and forget the messages the Old. Alhamdulillah, there isn’t such a divide with the Qur’an.
There are many commonalities between the Bible and the Qur’an when it comes to the great Queen of Sheba but there are also many misconceptionss. Not only was she a queen and ruler in her own right across the expanse of Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen, she lead a flourishing kindgom full of gold, spices and other extravagencies. She is known not just in Christianity and Islam but also Rastafarianism as well.
Behold! The country is ruled by a Queen who has been given everything and she has a tremendous throne. – Surah An-Naml 27:23
So in the Bible we find the Queen of Sheba as just that, a mighty queen, who was curious about Solomon (Sulayman (as)) and his claims to be a prophet of God. As she was an intelligent woman, the took the opportunity visit and question him. By the grace of God, he answers all of her probing questions and off the back of that she professes his greatness and praises the Lord. They exchange a number of flambuoyant gifts and Sheba goes on her way back to continue ruling [1 Kings 10: 1-13].
In the Qur’an we find the very same thing in Surah An-Naml. A woman, strong and actively ruling over her people but a little bird called the hoopoe informes Sulaymen (as) that her people were ‘worshipping the sun instead of Allah’ and being decieved by Shaytaan into believing their deeds were fair.
Sulaymen (as) then sends a letter to Bilquis telling her to not work against him but to come to him as ‘true believers’. As any great, wise leader would do, Bilquis turned to her advisors to guide her who see Sulayman’s letter as a call to arms. She calmly dismisses the idea of war and instead sends him a present which he rejects.
Sulayman (as) then instructs one of the strongest jinn (Al’ Ifrit), we must remember Sulayman (as) had the great gift bestowed upon him of a kingdom like no other that included the jinn, to bring her throne to him before Bilquis arrived.
When she arrives at Sulayman’s (as) kingdom, the throne was disguised which she recognised to be like her own. Sulayman (as) then asks her to step onto As-Sarh (a glass surface with water underneath). She tucks up her clothes in amazement, revealing her legs, to step in and Sulayman (as) informs her that it is not truly a pool of water. Then something amazing happens, subhanallah, Bilquis turns to Islam!
“My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, and I submit [in Islam, together with Sulayman (Solomon)] to Allah, the Lord of the `Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists) – Surah An-Naml 20:44
From both accounts, we can see many similarities but importantly one big difference, Bilquis embracing Islam at the end of this verse in Surah An-Naml. But while we’re here, let’s clear up some misconceptiosn about Bilquis, Queen of Sheba.
- Bilquis was neither denounced, nor commanded by Allah swt to give up her throne – so this puts to bed the whole ‘women shouldn’t be rulers’ thing especially fi they are of right moral character… just saying
- She was not fair skinned with light hair, she was dark skinned and dark haired. So don’t beleve the pictures you see
- There is no mention in either narration in our Islamic tradition that Bilquis and Sheba had a son or any child for that matter. If they did, they would have had to get married which there is no strong hadith for that I’ve read myself. Allah swt has not made this clear to us so we shouldn’t speculate
- There are many hadith floating around as to the lineage of Bilquis, some mention her mother was from the jinn. To my knowledge, they are all daef (weak) and, in my humble opinion, an attempt to defame her character as a woman
May Allah swt reveal the truth to us as He did Bilquis, and may He strengthen us to be great female leaders in Islam, where that’s in the home, the classroom or in our communities, Ameen.