Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Kingdom of Solomon

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على نبيه الامين
والعاقبة للمتقين
The greatest kingdom in human history, from the perspective of Islam and the pure Abrahamic tradition, was that of the kings David and Solomon (peace be upon them both). These two, father and son, were not merely kings or earthly rulers, but prophets of God, men of extreme piety, justice and wisdom, and their rule serves as a model. The reign of King Solomon in particular was perhaps the closest this world has been to realizing the vision of the “Kingdom of Heaven” on Earth. The great Temple of Solomon was constructed, and the holy city of Jerusalem was at the zenith of its glory and splendour. Both of these great kings ruled for forty years respectively. This is what is meant by the supplication of King Solomon as narrated in the holy Qur’an:

قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَهَبْ لِي مُلْكًا لَّا يَنبَغِي لِأَحَدٍ مِّن بَعْدِي ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْوَهَّابُ
He said: “My Lord, forgive me, and grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me. Indeed, You are the Bestower.”
(Sura 38:35)

History bears witness that the supplication of King Solomon was answered. Immediately after his death that mightly kingdom rapidly deteriorated under the rule of his son, Rehoboam:

فَلَمَّا قَضَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَوْتَ مَا دَلَّهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَوْتِهِ إِلَّا دَابَّةُ الْأَرْضِ تَأْكُلُ مِنسَأَتَهُ
And when We decreed for Solomon death, nothing indicated to the jinn his death except a creature of the earth eating his staff
(Sura 34:14)

I believe this Ayah is referring to the rule of Rehoboam, the “creature of the earth” who metaphorically knawed away at the staff of his great father. There was civil war and division between the North and the South, which became separate kingdoms. After this, the great Davidic monarchy never recovered its lost glory. It came to a traumatic end when the Babylonians sacked the holy city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple under the leadership of the evil Nebuchadnezzar II in the 6th century BCE. The Jews were taken into captivity for an entire generation before they were allowed to return and reconstruct the Temple in the time of Cyrus the Mede. But they remained subjects and clients of the Persian empire, and then the devastating Hellenic rule of Alexander the Macedon and his successors. Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the Hasmonean dynasty was established, but it was no where near the glory and power that had been wielded by King Solomon. Similarly, the Herodian dynasty was responsible for building up Jerusalem and the Second Temple, but it was a client of the oppressive Romans. After a Jewish revolt, the Romans sacked Jerusalem and not only destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE, they also exiled all the Jews from the Holy Land, who remained in exile, often facing terrible persecution, for nearly two millennia.

The promise of a Messiah, who according to Judaism shall restore the rule of the Davidic line, and according to Islamic prophecy shall rule for forty years:

فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الأَرْضِ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً
“He shall remain on the Earth for forty years”
(Sunan Abi Dawud #4324)

like kings Saul, David and Solomon (peace be upon them), who each ruled for forty years, will be remnicient of the golden age under King Solomon, but still not a perfect match. The idea that the Messianic kingdom shall be greater than the rule of King Solomon goes against the Qur’anic supplication of the latter “grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me” (38:35). Even the rule of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam), although unmatched in terms of justice and purity, was not greater in terms of power and dominion in comparison to the rule of King Solomon, as he himself said after he had captured an ifrit (demon), intending to bind it to a pillar of the mosque, but instead released it.

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