The Seal of the Wisdom of Mercy in the Word of Sulayman (Solomon)

Bilqis said,1 "It (the letter) is from Sulayman and it says 'In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, Most Merciful.'" Some people criticise the fact that the name of Sulayman comes before the name of Allah. That is not the case, and in saying this they say something that does not befit the gnosis which Sulayman, peace be upon him, had of his Lord. How could what they say be connected to him when Bilqis said of it, "a noble letter had been delivered to me," that is, a letter which honoured her. In this they were influenced by the story of how Chosroes tore up the letter of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.2 He did not tear it up until he had read all of it and knew what it contained. It was the same with Bilqis. Had she not accepted what was established, respect for its author would not have prevented her from tearing up the letter, whether his name, peace be upon him, had been mentioned before or after the name of Allah.

Sulayman mentioned the two mercies: the mercy of graciousness and the mercy of obligation, and they are ar-Rahman ar-Rahim. So Allah freely dispenses His bounty by the Rahman, and it is incumbent on Him by the Rahim. This obligation comes from graciousness, so Rahim is contained in Rahman. Allah "has prescribed mercy for Himself," glory be to Him! in order that the slave might have what Allah spoke about of the deeds which this slave brings, expecting his due from Allah who has required Himself to have this mercy for them, the mercy of obligation. When one of the slaves is like this, he knows that He is the author of the deed.

The deed is divided according to the eight organs of man. Allah informed us that He is the He-ness of each organ. So the author of the action is none other than Allah while the form is that of the slave. He-ness is embodied in him, i.e. only in his name because Allah is the source of what is manifested and which is called "creation". Because of this, the names of the Manifest and the Last belong to the slave since he was not and then was. By the fact that his manifestation depends on Him and action issues from Him, there is the name the Hidden and the First. Thus, when you see creation, you see the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden.

This recognition was not hidden from Sulayman, peace be upon him. Indeed, it is a part of a kingdom which "belonged to no one after him,"3 in terms of its manifestation in the visible world. Muhammad, peace be upon him, was given what Sulayman was given, but he did not manifest it. Allah gave him the power to vanquish the 'ifrit 4 who came in the night to attack him.5 When the Prophet wanted to take the 'ifrit and tie him to the one of the columns of the mosque until morning so that the children of Madina could play with him, he remembered the prayer of Sulayman, and so Allah made him drive the 'ifrit off in disgrace.

The Prophet did not manifest his power as Sulayman had done. He spoke of "a kingdom" which is not universal, and we know that he meant a particular kingdom. We see that the Prophet shared in every part of the Kingdom which Allah had given him and so we know by this that he is privileged with the whole kingdom. In the story of the 'ifrit, he was only given the manifestation while Sulayman might have been given the whole and the manifestation. If the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had not said in the story of the 'ifrit, "and Allah gave me power over him," we would have said that when he wanted to seize the 'ifrit, Allah reminded him of Sulayman's prayer so that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, would know that Allah had not given him power to seize him. He then made him send off the 'ifrit off in disgrace.

When he said, "Allah gave me power over him," we knew that Allah had given him freedom of action in that. Then Allah reminded him and he remembered Sulayman's prayer and showed adab towards him. We know from this that that no creature after Sulayman had the general manifestation of that kingdom.

Our goal in this question is only discussion and instruction about the two mercies which Sulayman mentioned in the two names which are expressed in Arabic as ar-Rahman ar-Rahim.6 Allah stipulated the mercy of obligation 7 and made the application of the mercy of graciousness universal when He said, "My mercy extends to all things," (7:156) even the Divine Names, which are the realities of ascriptions. He was gracious to us in them. We are the result of the mercy of graciousness by the Divine Names and divine ascriptions of lordship. Then He prescribed mercy for Himself by our own manifestation. He informed us that He is our He-ness, that we might know that He obliged mercy on Himself only for Himself. Mercy never departs from Him. Who could be gracious to you when there is only Him?

There must be a principle for clarifying differences in merit – this is in relation to what is manifested of the differences in merit that creatures have in knowledge, so that it might be said that this person knows more than that person, even though the source is but one. This means the shortcoming connected to the will (irada), apart from the connection of knowledge. This difference in merit exists in the divine attributes. 8 The connection and merit of will and its increase is connected to power. In the same way, hearing, sight and all the divine names are arranged in ranks, some having more merit than others. Similarly what is manifested in creation differs in ranks of merit, so that it can be said that this person knows more than that person even though the source is the same.

As each Divine Name which I have set forth is implied by all the Names and described by them, similarly that which creation manifests accepts all of that which is subject to differences of merit. Each part of the universe is from all the universe, i.e. it is a vessel for all the separate realities of the universe. Our statement that Zayd is inferior to 'Amr in knowledge does not contradict the fact that the He-ness of Allah is the source of both Zayd and 'Amr, but it is more perfect and knowing in 'Amr than in Zayd, even as the Names differ in merit. They are not other-than-Allah. Allah, inasmuch as He is Knowing, has a more encompassing connection than Allah as the Transformer, the All-Powerful. But He is still He and not other-than-Him.

O my friend! do not then know Him in one aspect and be ignorant of Him in another! Do not negate Him here and affirm Him there, unless You affirm Him by an aspect through which He affirms Himself and negate Him by an aspect through which He negates Himself, as in the ayat which combines affirmation and negation in respect to Him when He said, "Nothing is like Him," negating, "and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing," (42:11) and so He affirmed an attribute which is general to every hearing and seeing living being. Nothing exists but that it is alive, although this is hidden in the world from the perception of some people. It will appear to all people in the Next World, for it is the Abode of the Living (ad-Dar al-Hayawan). Similarly, the life of this world is only veiled from some of the slaves so that election and difference of merit might be manifested among the slaves of Allah according to what they perceive of Him from the realities of the universe.

In one whose attainment is more comprehensive, Allah is in principle more manifest in him than in someone who does not have this comprehensiveness. So do not be veiled by the difference in merit and say that it is not correct to say that creation is the He-ness of Allah after we have shown you the different in merit in the Divine Names. You have no doubt about them being Allah, and what is designated by them is not other than Allah.

How then could Sulayman place his name before the name of Allah as they allege? He is part of the whole which the mercy of graciousness brought into existence. The name, ar-Rahman ar-Rahim, must come first for the dependence of the one receiving this mercy to be valid. Advancing the one who should come afterwards and delaying the one who should come before in the place he merits is contrary to the realities.

Part of the wisdom of Bilqis and the sublimity of her knowledge lies in the fact that she did not mention who cast the letter to her. She only did that so that her companions would know that she had communications on matters whose means they did not know. This is part of divine management in ruling because when the means of communication reaching the ruler are unknown, the people of the government fear for themselves in their actions. Therefore they only act with prudence in a matter because that will reach their ruler, and they are guarding themselves from the potential danger of that action. If they knew precisely by whom information reached their ruler, they would have tried to flatter him and bribe him so that they could do whatever they wanted without their ruler hearing about it. Therefore the Queen said, "a noble letter has been delivered to me," without naming the one who cast it. That was an act of policy on her part would would insure respect for her among the people of her kingdom and the nobles under her rule. By this, she merited her superiority over them.

As regards the superiority of the human man of knowledge over the man of knowledge of the jinn in the secrets of the disposal of things and the special properties of thing, that is known by the amount of time, for the movement of the eye in perceiving what it perceives is quicker than the movement of the body when it moves.9 The moment in which the eye moves is the same moment which it connects to the object, in spite of the distance between the viewer and the object. The moment that the eyes open is the moment in which they are connected to the heaven of the fixed stars. The moment when its glance returns is the same moment that its perception is absent.

Rising from one's place is not like that. It does not possess this speed. Asaf ibn Barkhiya 10 was more perfect in the deed than the jinn was. What Asaf ibn Barkhiya said is the same as the action in the same moment. Sulayman, peace be upon him, at the same moment saw Bilqis' throne "settled before him" so one must not imagine that he perceived it while it was in its original place without being moved. We do not think that the displacement takes place in one and the same moment, but that it involves going into non-existence and returning to existence inasmuch as the only one who is aware of that is the one who has recognition of it. This is what Allah said, "Yet they are dubious about the new creation." (50:15) Not a moment passes them but that they see what they saw. Since it is like this, the time of its non-existence (the absence of the throne from its place) is the same as the time of its existence with Sulayman because of the renewal of creation with the "breaths". No one knows this power, or rather, man is not aware with regard to himself that he ceases to exist in each breath and then is again.

Do not think that "this" (thumma) implies a delay. That is not true. However, it demands a high rank of knowledge in Arabic, as when the poet says:

As he brandished the straight Rudayni,11 it quivered.

There is no doubt that the moment of brandishing the spear is without a doubt the same as the moment of quivering of the thing which is brandished. It happened without delay. It is the same with the renewal of creation with breaths. The time of non-existence coincides with the time of the existence of its like. It is similar to the renewal of accidents in the theory of the Ash'arites [tajrîd al-a'râd].

The question involving the moving of Bilqis' throne is one of the most difficult problems, except for someone who has recognition of what we have mentioned in its story. Asaf did not have any merit except for acquiring renewal in the assembly of Sulayman, peace be upon him. The throne was not moved across place nor did it rise above the earth nor break the laws of space for the one who understands what we mentioned. That was done by one of the companions of Sulayman in order to elevate Sulayman's honour in the selves of those who were present with Bilqis and her suite. The reason for that was that Sulayman was Allah's gift to Da'ud as He said, "We gave Sulayman to Da'ud," (38:30) so the gift is the giving of the donor by providing a blessing, not by means of fitting recompense or merit. So he is the abundant blessing, the decisive word and the cutting sword.

As for the knowledge of Sulayman, Allah said of him, "We gave Sulayman understanding of it  (in spite of his opposite judgement to that of Da'ud), and Allah "gave each of them judgement and knowledge." (21:79) Da'ud's knowledge was knowledge given by Allah, and Sulayman's knowledge was the knowledge of Allah in the matter inasmuch as He is the Judge without intermediary. So Sulayman is the interpreter of Allah in the seat of sincerity.12 It is like the man who is striving to hit on the judgement of Allah by which Allah would judge the question. If he were to find it by himself or by what was revealed to His Messenger, then he would have two rewards. The one who errs in this particular judgement has one reward as well as its being knowledge and judgement. The community of Muhammad was given the rank of Sulayman in judgement 13 and the rank of Da'ud in wisdom, 14 so there is no better community than it.

When Bilqis saw her throne, and she knew how great the distance was and the impossibility of moving it in that space of time, she said, "It seems the same." (28:42, lit. "it is as if it were.") She spoke the truth according to what we mentioned regarding the renewal of creation by similarity. It was it. The matter is true, as you are the same at the time of renewal as you were in past time.

Part of the perfection of Sulayman's knowledge was in the instruction he gave regarding the pavilion when he told Bilqis, "Enter the courtyard." 15 The courtyard was very smooth without any curvature in its glass. When Bilqis saw it, she thought that it was water and had depth, so she bared her legs so as not to let the water dampen her clothes. By that, Sulayman informed her that the throne which she saw was of this sort. This is the utmost fairness. He informed her that she had hit the mark when she said, "It seems the same." At that point, she said, "My Lord, I have wronged myself but I have submitted with Sulayman to the Lord of all the worlds."

So she did not submit to Sulayman, but to the Lord of the worlds, and Sulayman was part of the worlds. She did not restrict her submission as the Messengers do not restrict their belief in Allah, contrary to Pharoah who said, "to the Lord of Musa and Harun." (26:48) Although this submission is related to Bilqis' submission in a certain respect, it does not have the same force. She had more discernment than Pharaoh in submission to Allah. Furthermore, Pharaoh was governed by the principle of the moment when he said, "I believe in the One in whom the Children of Israel believe." (10:90) He specified, but he also specified when the saw the sorcerers articulate their belief in the "Lord of Musa and Harun." The Islam of Bilqis was the Islam of Sulayman since she said, "with Sulayman." She followed him in all that he adhered to in the way of beliefs.

This is how we are on the straight path which the Lord is on, for our forelocks are in His hand,16 and it is impossible for us to separate from Him. We are with Him implicitly, and He is with us by open declaration. Allah said, "He is with you wherever you are," (57:4) and we are with Him as He takes us by our forelocks. He. may He be exalted! is with Himself wherever He goes with us on His path. So everyone in the world is on a straight path, and it is the path of the Lord. It is this that Bilqis learned from Sulayman, so she said, "To Allah, the Lord of all the worlds," without referring to a particular world.

As for the subjection which was the privilege of Sulayman, peace be upon him, and by which he was distinguished fom others, and the kingdom which Allah gave him which none after him would have, it is from his command when He said, "We gave him the fiercely blowing wind, speeding at his command." (21:81) It was not subjection in itself, for Allah said in respect of each of us without exception, "He has made everything in the heavens and everything on the earth subservient to you." (45:13) He also mentioned the subjection of the winds, stars and other things,17 but that is not by our command. It is from the command of Allah.

If you reflect with your intellect, Sulayman was privileged by this command neither by mental concentration nor by aspiration (himma) – rather, it was by nothing more than the command itself. We said that because we recognise that the physical bodies of the world can be affected by the himma of the self when someone is in the station of concentration. We have seen such things happen in this Path. Sulayman only had to articulate the command in whatever he wished to subject without either concentration or himma.

Know, may Allah support us and you by a spirit from Him, that when any slave receives a gift like this, that does not detract from his portion of the kingdom of the Next World, nor is he called to account for it. That was true of Sulayman. Although he sought it from his Lord, the tasting (dhawq) of the Path 18 demands that it was advanced to him from what was stored up for others, and He will call him to account for it when he wants it in the Next World. Allah told him. "This is Our gift (and He did not say "to you: or to anyone else); bestow or withhold without reckoning." (38:39) We knew by the tasting of the Path that his request was from the command of his Lord. Thus the request was from the divine command, and the one who requested it received full recompense for his request.

If the Creator wishes, He grants his need in what he seeks from Him, and if He wishes, He withholds it. The slave has fulfilled what Allah demanded of him – to obey His command – in what he asked of his Lord. If he had asked that from himself without his Lord commanding him to do that, then he would be held to account for it.

That is true in all that Allah is asked for, as He said to His Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, "Say: 'O Lord, increase me in knowledge!'" He obeyed his Lord's command and sought increase in knowledge to such an extent that each time he was given milk, he interpreted it to be knowledge even as he interpreted it as knowledge in a dream in which he received a glass of milk. In the dream, he drank the milk, and gave the rest of it to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab. The people asked, "What is its interpretation?" He replied, "Knowledge." Similarly, when Allah took him on his Night Journey, the angel gave him a vessel which contained milk and a vessel which contained wine. The Prophet drank the milk, and the angel said, "You have chosen the true nature (fitra). Allah has bestowed you on your community!" When milk appeared, it was the form of knowledge. Therefore it is knowledge taking on the form as milk, just as Jibril came to Maryam in the form of "a handsome, well-built man." (19:16)

When the Prophet said, "People are asleep and when they die, they wake up," he meant that everything that man sees in the life of this world is in the rank of the dreams of someone who is asleep, so it must be interpreted. Phenomenal being is imagination (khayal), but it is Allah in reality.19 Whoever understands this has received the secrets of the Path. When the Prophet was offered milk, he would say, "O Allah, bless us in it and increase us in it" because he saw it as the form of knowledge, and he had been commanded to seek increase in knowledge. When he was offered something other than milk, he would say, "O Allah, bless us in it and give us better than it."

When Allah gives something to someone, and He gives it to him by a request which arises from a divine command, He does not take him to account for it in the Next Abode. When Allah gives something to someone, and He gives it by a request which is not by a divine command, the business in it is up to Allah. If He wishes, He will take him to account for it, and if He wishes, He will not take him to account for it. I hope for knowledge from Allah in particular for which He will not call one to account, for He commanded the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, to seek increase of knowledge, and it is the same command which is addressed to the Prophetıs community. Allah said, "You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah," (33:21) and what greater model is there than this model who is a source of solace 20 to the one who possesses understanding from Allah?

Had we discussed the station of Sulayman in its entirety, you would have seen a matter whose revelation would have struck you with terror. Most of the men of knowledge of this Path have no knowledge of the state and rank of Sulayman. The business is not as they claim.21

1. In Qur'an 27:30. The story in found in Sura 27. When Sulayman hears of the kingdom of Queen Bilqis in Sheba', he sends the hoopoe to take a letter to her.

2. When the Prophet sent Chosroes or Khosrau a letter inviting him to Islam, he tore it up after it was read to him.

3. Ref. Qur'an 38:35, where Sulayman says, "My Lord, forgive me, and give me a kingdom the like of which will never be granted to anyone after me."

4. Type of malicious jinn.

5. Hadith. "Yesterday Shaytan rushed up suddenly to stop my prayer. Allah gave me power over him and I seized him. I wanted to tie him to one of the pillars of the mosque so that all of you could look at him, but then I remembered the supplication of my brother Sulayman, 'O Lord, forgive me and give me a kingdom the like of which will never be granted to anyone after me.' (38:35) Allah turned him away in humiliation." via Abu Hurayra in al-Bukhari and Muslim.

6. The All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.

7. When He said, "I will write (mercy) for those who are godfearing...." (Qur'an 7:156)

8. i.e. Knowledge is more perfect than will.

9. Sulayman asked his council, "'O Council, who among you will bring me her throne before they come to me in submission?' An 'ifrit of the jinn said, 'I will bring it to you before you get up from your seat...' He who possessed knowledge of the Book said, 'I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you.'" (27:38-40)

10. The name of the man of knowledge in Sulayman's council.

11. Rudayna was a woman who was famous for straightening spear shafts which were tested by shaking.

12. See Qur'an 54:55.

13. i.e. by the Qur'an and hadith.

14. By ijtihad.

15. This is in the same sura (27), ayat 44.

16. Qur'an Ref. 11:56, "I have believed in Allah, my Lord and your Lord. There is no creature He does not hold by the forelock. My Lord is on a straight path."

17. Various places in the Qur'an: 14:32, 16:12, 22:65, 31:20.

18. One variant has "reality" instead of Path (Tariq).

19. Inasmuch as phenomenal being is a divine shadow.

20. Uswa is model, or a person to be imitated and through whose emulation one gains consolation. The source of solace is the verbal noun from Form V of this verb, ta'assa, which means to become consoled by the example of another who had suffered in a similar fashion and been patient in it.

21. His kingdom does not decrease what he has in the Next world.

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