قَالَ نَكِّرُوا لَهَا عَرْشَهَا نَنظُرْ أَتَهْتَدِي أَمْ تَكُونُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَهْتَدُونَ
Solomon said: “Disguise her throne, and let us see whether she (the Queen of Sheba) is able to recognize it, or remains one of those who cannot recognize.” (An-Naml 27:41)
While the Queen of Sheba was on her way to visit Prophet Solomon in Jerusalem, her throne was brought to Solomon’s court miraculously “in the twinkling of an eye.” Prophet Solomon, peace be upon him, then said: “Disguise her throne, and let us see whether she is able to recognize it, or remains one of those who cannot recognize.” Many interpreters have interpreted this verse as: “Let us see whether she is able to find guidance or remains one of those who are not guided.” This meaning can be considered, but according to me, it does not seem to be in conformity with the verses following it. Therefore, the verse would be better interpreted as: “Make her throne unrecognizable, and let us see whether she is able to recognize it, or not.”
However, the original of the word translated as “recognize” is ihtadā, related to guidance. Therefore, in addition to recognition, it also suggests guidance. The context of the verse also corroborates this. The matter may not have only been Solomon’s testing the Sheban Queen’s discernment by making her throne unrecognizable. As a Prophet, his aim must have been her guidance as well. Therefore, we should approach the verse from the following point of view:
The Queen was worshipping the sun, so there may have been the figures affiliated with her religion engraved on her throne. Prophet Solomon may have made changes on this throne and engraved other figures which were associated with his faith. The Qur’ān does not tell us that he made additions to it or reductions from it. It only tells that he ordered his men to make changes on it to see whether she would be able to recognize her throne. Therefore, it is highly likely that such figures were engraved and such shapes were made on the throne so that when the Queen saw it, she would have some glimpses of Solomon’s faith and understand the source of his supreme rule.
The Queen of Sheba, whose name some sources relate as Balqis, was an intelligent and shrewd woman. Despite her intelligence, shrewdness, insightfulness, and good nature, she had not been able to find guidance as she was brought up among a people who worshipped the sun. She was also a powerful queen over a powerful state. Prophet Solomon first asked her throne to be brought from Yemen to his capital while the Queen was on the way to him. The transportation of the throne from Yemen to Jerusalem “in the twinkling of an eye” was a miracle of Prophet Solomon and wonder-working on the part of the scholarly man who brought it. This may have been enough for someone’s guidance or accepting Solomon’s faith—the Divine Religion.
However, a sound belief is based upon sound reasoning, reflective thought, contemplation on the outer and human inner worlds, using the free-will properly, and upon the Divine will. For this reason, Solomon took a further step and replaced the pagan figures on the throne with those associated with the Divine Religion. As a step before the final one, this opened the door of guidance for the Queen. Indeed, the very door to guidance or the way of embracing belief is through using one’s sound reasoning and free will as well as through contemplation of the outer world and the inner world of the human, and it is certainly realized through the Will of God.
O God! Bestow blessings and peace on the one whom You sent as a mercy for all the worlds, and on his brothers from among the Messengers and Prophets, and on his Family, Companions, and followers, all of them.