Date : 30-07-2013

Question :

What is the interpretation of Allah's, The Exalted Speech, in His words of His Prophet Suleiman (PBUH), "Bring them back to me." then began he to pass his hand over (their) legs and their necks." [S'ad/38]? And is it true that Suleiman (PBUH) cut the horses legs and beheaded them?

The Answer :

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of The Worlds, and may His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all of his family and companions.

  Allah, The Exalted Said (What means): " To David We gave Solomon (for a son),- How excellent in Our service! Ever did he turn (to Us)![38:31] Behold, there were brought before him, at eventide coursers of the highest breeding, and swift of foot;[38:32] and he said, "Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord,"- until (the sun) was hidden in the veil (of night):[38:33] "Bring them back to me." then began he to pass his hand over (their) legs and their necks. [S'ad/30-33]. The story of Sulieman was mentioned in Surat (S'ad) after a while of mentioning David (PBUH), and what was bestowed upon the latter, so the verses goes on and sheds the lights on the grace of David's offspring; in specific, his son Suleiman.

  Some interpreters adopted the interpretation of the above verse in accordance to a story narrated by the people of the book (Christians and Jews) within their scriptures and its says:" Due to the quantity as well the arresting sight of numerous horses that were shown to Prophet Suleiman, he started to check them up and was occupied of doing so till sunset; as a result, he missed the afternoon prayer. And this what was meant by "Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord,"- until (the sun) was hidden in the veil (of night)" i.e. I have chosen to love horses than reciting the remembrance of Allah (The afternoon prayer) till the sun was hidden in the veil of night (Sunset); As a way to expiate his guilt, he (Prophet Suleiman) gave a command to bring the horses back and started to cut off their legs and heads.

 On the other hand, other scholars held different interpretations as follows: "When horses (of the highest breeding and swift of foot) were brought before Suleiman (Peace be upon him) at eventide, he praised Allah for bestowing this grace as well for their benefits upon the former and said: " Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord," i.e. I loved horses a lot for the purpose of reminding me to thank Allah and to recite the remembrances of Allah, since the preposition " With a view to.." means for the glorification and remembrance of Allah, similar to what Allah, The Exalted Said:" And Abraham prayed for his father’s forgiveness only because of a promise he had made to him." [At-Tawbeh/114]. For a promise Abraham made to his father. Kindly refer to [Mughni Al-Labib vol.1 pp.237].

  The love of horses is reminder as well a mean for reciting the remembrances of Allah by praising and expressing his gratitude to Him for the grace of having the horses. In addition, preparing and taking care of horses, is an image of worship as it is a mean to recite remembrances for Allah, so Suleiman was staring at the running horses in the field till he was unable to see them because they went behind something blocking his view; thus, he commanded "Bring them back to me" to bring them back to him as if there was a mountain or a hill blocking his view and when they brought back before him, he started to pass his hand over their legs and necks " Then began he to pass his hand over their legs and their necks" as a sign by him of showing kindness and care toward horses. Further, the last interpretation of the above verse is the one narrated from Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) as he said:" He began to pass his hands over the manes and legs of the horses". [Tafseer At-Tabari vol. 21 pp. 196]. Whereas (At-Tabari) added, the latter interpretation of Ibn Abbas, is the one we adopted as well as the closest and most logical interpretation given in this regard." Consequently, the latter interpretation is to be the most preponderant one for the following reasons:

First: The first interpretation wasn't based on fundamental verses of established meanings nor confirmed Sunna; rather, it is no more than stories drawn from Christians or/and Jewish sources.

Second: The latter interpretation suits Prophets' traditions, since it is illogical for a prophet to act in this manner(Cutting off legs and necks of innocent horses) in addition of missing an obligatory afternoon prayer.

Third: The latter interpretation is on line with the basics of proper interpretation stated by scholars which are: The Holy Quran and prophetic traditions, proper Arabic language, context and objectives of Quran for which it was revealed to people.

Furthermore, Ar-Razi elaborated on the interpretation of the above verses; whereas, he replied to the people adopting the first interpretation within his book [Mafteeh Al-Ghayeb/Quran interpretation book] by stating that the pronouns " was hidden " and " bring them back" refer to the horses not the sun based on the following evidences:

"First: If we assume that it refers to the sun in " till it was hidden" and that Prophet Suleiman (PBUH) has missed the afternoon prayer, then the interpretation will be contrary to the meaning of the verse preceding it; whereas Allah, The Exalted said, in words of Suleiman, (What means):" Truly do I love the love of good, with a view to the glory of my Lord." As the love was for the remembrances of Allah, then he wouldn't miss the afternoon prayer." [Tafseer Ar-Razi vol.9 pp.390]. As well, he (Ar-Razi) added, replying to whom adopted the first interpretation as stated "then he began to pass his hand over (their) legs and necks" by what follows:"

First: People who adopted the former interpretation of the above verse that reads: " Then he began to cut off their legs and heads" have attributed various kinds of reprehensible acts to Prophet Suleiman (PBUH) such as: Missing the afternoon prayer, being occupied with the love of the worldly life till he missed an obligatory prayer and finally, after committing those acts he didn't repent, rather; he committed another reprehensible act which is cutting off the horses' legs and heads!

Second: The above verses (stories) were stated after the following verse: " Have patience at what they say, and remember our servant David, the man of strength: for he ever turned (to God)." [Sa'd/17] whereas it was revealed in a time at which disbelievers reached the degree of unashamed boldness, so Allah, The Exalted, Said to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to have patience on what disbelievers say and remember the story of David, then the story of Suleiman. Besides, the closest estimated interpretation is that Allah, The Exalted is Saying to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to have patience on what disbelievers say and remember in particular our servant Suleiman. Thus, the most suitable interpretation in accordance to the morals of Prophet Suleiman (PBUH) will be performing virtues deeds, being patient pertaining offering acts of obedience to Allah, abstaining from lusts and pleasures. Therefore, adopting the former one won't suit the context in which virtues of a Prophet are expressed in front of another in a specific context for a definite purpose." [Tafseer Ar-Razi]. And Allah knows best.