Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Khalifahs/The Marriage of Queen Balkis with King Solomon son of David


The reign of Queen Balkis very nearly coincided with the com- mencement of the Christian era. She was, according to Abu'1-Fedi, the twenty-second sovereign of the family of Kahtin, and the eighteenth in the descent from Himyar the son of Slba, the founder of the Himyarite dynasty. The existence of this princess has given rise to numerous fables, amongst others that she was the Queen of Sheba who was contemporary with and married Solomon. The following account of her marriage with that monarch I translated from a copiously annotated Kurdn belonging to my sheikh. The real name of Balkis was Balkdma or Yalkdma, and Caussin de Perceval states that she was the daughter of Hodhdd, or of el-Israh the son of Zhu-Jaddn, not of Sharahil, as stated in the text. The same author also states that she killed her husband by means of poison.

GOD taught King Solomon, son of David, the lan- guage of all created things. And over all created things He gave him power — men and genii, and the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the water. And the armies of King Solomon


covered three hundred miles of ground. And when he travelled, it was upon a carpet of silk and gold, which had been woven by a jinn. And his throne was placed in the midst of the carpet, and he sat upon the throne. And around him were six hundred thousand chairs of gold and silver. And prophets sat upon the golden chairs, and wise men upon those of silver, whilst others stood around. And genii and devils surrounded the men, and wild beasts surrounded the genii. And the birds hovered in a flock over the carpet, to screen King Solomon from the rays of the Sun. And there was a racecourse on the carpet, and jars of provisions, and each jar was a load for ten camels. And when King Solomon desired to move, a strong wind raised the carpet, and a gentle breeze bore it along, whithersoever he commanded. And he journeyed for a month without pause. Then God said to him, " Verily, I have increased thy dominion, and should any one from afar desire to speak with thee, the wind will bear to thee his words."

And as the King journeyed, he passed over a ploughman, who said, " Of a truth Allih has en- dowed King Solomon with a vast dominion." And the wind brought these words to the King's ears ; and

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he alighted from his carpet, and went to the plough- man, and said, " If I say, * Praise be to God,' and God accepts my praise, verily it is of more value than the whole of my kingdom." Theii he again mounted the carpet and continued his journey. And he passed by el-Medinah, and prophesied, saying, " This is the town of the last of all the prophets ; and they who believe in this prophet> of a truth their place is in Paradise." And when he reached Mekkah, behold ! graven images stood around the Ka'abah, and people were worshipping the graven images. And he passed on in silence. And the Ka'abah wept. And when God saw the Ka'abah weeping, He sent an angel, which said to the Ka'abah, " Why weepest thou } " The Ka'abah replied, " Because a great prophet has passed, and wise men with him, and they have not stopped nor blessed me." And, God said, "Do not weep, for in the latter days I will send to thee much ICj and the last of the prophets shall come from And I will turn the hearts of men to thee as heart of a mother to her son. But the prophet nxi I will send will break in pieces all these loaages."

And when King Solomon had passed by the



Ka'abah, he entered the Valley of Ants, which is near et-Tiyif. And the chief of the Ants said to his fel- lows, " Go into your houses, for fear lest these people should tread on you and kill you." And the wind brought the words to King Solomon, who laughed, and stayed the carpet until all the ants had taicen refuge in their houses. Then he continued his journey. And presently he descried a flowery land, exceeding beautiful, where he desired to stop that he might pray and eat. And when he had descended from the carpet, the Hud-hud * said to himself, " Our master has work to do, and will not miss me. I will fly up and see the length and breadth of the land." So he rose into the air and looked to the right and to the left. Then he perceived in the distance the gardens of Balkis, and longed to go thither. And when he arrived, he met another Hud-hud, who asked, "Whence comest thou, and what seekest thou?" "I have come from Damascus," he replied, "with our lord Solomon, the son of David." " And who is Solomon 1 " asked the other. " He is," replied the Hud-hud, " the king over men, and genii, and devils, and birds, and beasts, and winds. And whence art

  • The Hoopooc.

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thou ? " he asked. " I am of this country," the other made answer. "And who is the ruler thereof?" con- tinued the Hud-hud. "A woman whose name is Balkis," replied the other. " And she is queen of the whole land of el-Y^men, and under her are twelve thousand chiefs, and under command of every chief a hundred thousand horsemen. Dost thou desire to see her kingdom for thyself.^ " he added. The Hud- hud replied, " I fear lest King Solomon should dis- cover my absence, and be wroth with me." " Your lord Solomon would desire that thou shouldst see


this kingdom and tell him about it," said the other. So they set off together, and saw the kingdom, and the Hud-hud remained until the evening.

And when King Solomon had descended from his carpet in the flowery land which he had espied, and the hour of prayer had arrived, behold there was no water for his ablutions. So he asked of men and genii and devils, " Where is water to be found } " But not one of them could inform him. Then he sent for the Hud-hud, and was told, "'He is not here."

Now it was the business of the Hud-hud to dis- cover water for his master; for with him was the


power to perceive water as in a basin, even though it lay many feet below the surface of the ground.

So King Solomon called for the Eagle who was chief over the birds, and asked him where the Hud- hud was. The Eagle replied, " I know not." Then was the King angry, and cried, " When he returns I will certainly punish him, or cut his throat And thou must bring him immediately."

Then the Eagle soared heavenward until the world appeared unto him as a plate. And he looked to the right and to the left, and beheld the Hud-hud re- turning from the land of el-Y6men. Then he sought to seize him, but the Hud-hud exclaimed, " By the truth of AllAh ! leave me alone, for I have done no wrong." "Thou wretch!" cried the Eagle; "verily the Prophet of AllAh intends to kill or to punish thee unless thou hast an excuse."

Then they flew down together to King Solomon, who was seated upon his throne. And the Eagle said, " Lo ! I have brought him." And the Hud- hud settled on the ground, and raised his head and drooped his wings and] tail to salute King Solomon. And the King asked him, "Where wert thou.^ for verily I intend to punish thee." The Hud-hud re-



plied, " O ! Prophet of Alldh ! at the Day of Judg- ment thou wilt stand before AUAh, as I now stand before thee : therefore have mercy upon me." And when King Solomon heard these words, he trembled, and pardoned him. Then he asked again, " Where wert thou ? *' The Hud-hud replied, " I have brought news of things which thou knowest not." And the Most High taught the Hud-hud these words in order that the King might not grow boastful. " I went to the land of Sdba," said the Hud-hud, " and found the ruler thereof a woman."

(Now this woman was Balkts, the daughter of Sharahil, who was a mighty king, and the ruler over the whole of el- Yemen. And he said 'to the other kings of the world., " I am greater than you ; I can- not marry from among your daughters." So he chose a woman from among the genii whose name was Rihinah, and he married her. And of her was born Balkis, and they had no other child. And when her father was dead, Balkis desired the kingdom. So she assembled the people and asked their consent. And some of them consented, and some of them refused- And the latter chose for themselves a king, and the land of el-Ydmen was divided. But the king whom


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they had chosen oppressed them ; and in his tyranny he took the wives of his subjects, and brought them into his hartm, and made them his wives. And then the people wished to take from him the kingdom, but they could not. And Balkts saw his tyranny. So she wrote a letter to him offering him marriage. And he consented, and said, " Verily of a long ^hile have I desired this thing, but I feared to ask it lest thou shouldst refuse frie.'* So they were married. But the same night she made him drunk with wine, and when he was unconscious she cut off his head, and returned to her own house. And when day dawned the people found the King killed, and his head hang* ing before the door of the palace of Balkis. So they understood that she had offered him marriage through craft, and in order to compass his death. And they all assembled before her and said, *' The whole king- dom is thine of right." So she became Queen of the entire country of el- Yemen.)

And the Hud-hud continued : " And she has great possessions, and a bed whereof the length is eighty yards, and the breadth forty yards, and the height thirty yards. And it is formed entirely of gold and silver, encrusted with jewels : and it is placed within

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seven doors. And she and her people are worshippers of the Sun."

Then said King Solomon, " I shall inquire, and find out whether thou hast spoken truth or falsehood/' And he added, " Take this letter and go with it to her. And when thou hast delivered it, retire to a short distance, and listen to what she and her people say."

So the Hud-hud took the letter, and went to Balkis. And he found her at a place called Ma'arab, between which and the capital of el-Yemen was three days' journey. And Balkts was in her palace, and all the doors were locked : for when she would sleep she locked the doors and placed the keys beneath her pillow. And the window was so made that when the Sun rose his first ray might fall upon the Queen. But the Hud-hud settled upon the window and shaded it with his wings. So the Sun rose, but did not as usual enter the room. And when Balkis awoke, she mar- velled at not seeing the Sun ; and she arose and went to the window to discover the cause. Then the Hud- hud threw the letter down before her. And she took it, and when she saw the seal she trembled, and be- came weak, and knew that he who had sent the letter


was greater than she. Then the Hud-hud retired to a little distance, and Balkis read the letter. After which she seated herself upon her throne, and assem- bled her councillors — a hundred thousand wazirs. And when they were seated she said to them, "Verily a letter has come tp me from King Solomon. In it he says — You must profess el-Isldm. Now, therefore, what shall we do } " They replied, " We have wealth, and men, and great courage in war. If thou bid us fight, we will fight." But she informed them that it was of no avail to fight against King Solomon. " It is better," said she, ** that we send him a present. If he accept it, he is but a king like myself, and then we will make war with him. But if he refuse it, he is a prophet, and will be content with nothing save our religion." So they prepared a gift — a hundred Mamhik slaves and two hundred slave-girls, all clad alike ; four bricks of pure gold, wrapt in silken hand- kerchiefs ; a jewelled crown ; musk and ambergris ; and a casket of priceless jewels unpierced. There were also other precious stones which were pierced, but they were pierced crooked. Then she summoned the noblest of her subjects, whose name was Mundzir, and placed wise men under his command. And she


wrote a letter by them, enumerating the presents, and saying, " If thou art indeed a prophet, declare which among the slaves are youths, and which are girls; and without opening the casket make known its contents, and pierce the jewels, and thread the stones without the help of men or of genii." And she said to the Mamliiks, ** If King Solomon speak to you, answer him gently like women." And she commanded the women to speak like men. Then she said to Mundztr, " If King Solomon receive you with anger, fear not, for then he is but a man, and I am as strong as he. But if he receive you graciously, he is a prophet, and you must hearken to his words."

So Mundzir set forth with the gift, and the Hud- hud flew swiftly to King Solomon and told him all that had taken place.

Then King Solomon ordered genii to make bricks of gold and silver, and to pave a road with them for t)venty-seven miles from where he was, and to build a wall on either side of the road, having the upper part and the edge of gold and silver. Then he inquired of his people, ** Where are the most extra- ordinary crez^tures to be found } " They replied, *^ In such and such a sea there are fish spotted with divers


colours, and possessed of wings and crests." He said, " Bring them at once." So they brought them. And he commanded, saying, " Place them on either side of the road, and put their food before them on the gold and silver." Then he said to the genii, " Bring your children." And they brought many. And he ordered them to be ranged on the right hand and on the left on either side of the road. Then King Solomon seated himself on his throne in the midst of his councillors. And around him were chairs — four thousand on his right and four thousand on his left. Then he said to the genii, " Place yourselves in array, and let each row be three miles long." And he ordered men the same, and beasts and wild beasts the same.

Then Mundzir arrived. And when he saw the road, and strange animals which he had never before beheld, eating off the ground and soiling the gold and silver, he grew little in his own sight. Then he observed four empty spaces left amongst the golden bricks of the road ; so he placed therein the four golden bricks from Balkis. And when he beheld the genii, he was afraid. But they said to him, " Fear not ; proceed." So he passed between them until he reached King Solomon,

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who looked upon him kindly, and said to him, " What wilt thou ? '* So Mundztr informed him the reason wherefore he had come, and presented to him the letter from Balkis. And King Solomen read the letter, and asked, "Where is the casket?" and he took it from Mundztr and shook it. Then the angel Gabriel came to him and told him what it contained. And he said to Mundztr, "This casket contains precious stones unpierced, and other stones pierced crooked." " Thou art right," said Mundztr ; " but thou must pierce the jewels, and string the other stones upon a thread." So King Solomon de- manded of men and of genii, ** Who knows how to pierce these jewels } " But not one among them could tell him. Then he asked the devils. And they answered, " Send to the worm called 'Iradah. So he sent, and the Tradah came, and took a hair in its mouth, and worked through each jewel until it came out on the other side. Then King Solomon asked the worm, "What thing dost thou desire?" " To live always in trees," it replied. " Thy wish is granted," said the King (and the tree-worm lives unto this day). Then he asked, "Who can thread these stones ? " A white maggot answered, " I will pass the


thread through them, O Messenger of All^h ! " And it took the thread in its mouth, and went into the stones, and worked through them until it came out on the other side. Then King Solomon asked, "What is thy wish?" "To live always in fruit," replied the maggot. " Thy wish is granted," said King Solomon (and the maggot lives in fruit unto this day). Then he called for the slaves, and ordered them to wash their hands and their faces. And the women took the water first in one hand and then in the other, and rubbed it over their faces ; but the men took the water in both hands at once and dashed it into their faces. And the women washed their arms from the elbow down to the wrist, while the men washed theirs from the wrist up to the elbow. And thus did King Solomon distinguish the men from the women. Then he refused to accept what had been sent him, and said, " I do not demand worldly wealth or gifts — I desire the true faith. And God has created me a prophet, and has given me dominions which are greater than this gift. To you He has given worldly goods without religion, but to me He has given both. And because you are without the true faith, worldly possessions please you, but they do not satisfy me.*'

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Then he said to Mundzir, " Take away your gift, and when you have departed I shall send an army to make war upon you, and to seize your people and your country.^

Then when her messengers returned unto Balkis, she said unto them, *' By AU^h ! I knew of a truth that he was more than a king — even a prophet — and we can do nought against him." So she sent a message to King Solomon, saying, " I am coming to thee, I and my people, to see what this thing is that thou desirest." Then she took her jewelled bed, and placed it within seven rooms, and outside the seven rooms were seven palaces. And she locked the doors, and pi aced a guard at every door. Then she said to one whom she nominated captain over them, "Guard the bed, and rule the kingdom, until my return.'* Then she wrote a proclamation for the people who were to journey with her, saying, " Prepare for a journey." And twelve thousand Wazirs travelled with her, and under each Waztr were thousands of people.

And King Solomon sat upon his throne amid his councillors, and he beheld people approaching, and asked, " What is this r They replied, *' It is Balkts."


And at three miles' distance she descended from her animal and approached on foot. And King Solomon said to his soldiers, "Who will bring me her bed before she has arrived here and professed el-Isldm ? " (And this he said, because after that she had pro- fessed el-Isldm he could not seize her possessions, and also that he might show her his miraculous power.) Then said an 'Afrit,* " I will bring it to thee, O King ! ere thou hast risen from council " (now the council sat from dawn until noon) ; " and I am courageous and faithful." " It must be sooner than that," said King Solomon. Then said el-'Astf, the King's scribe, " I will bring it before thou canst close thine eyes." And he added, " Look towards el- Yemen." So the King turned his head in that direction, and el-Asif inwardly prayed to Allah, and Alldh sent an angel who brought the bed through the ground in an instant. And the ground sank in front of King Solomon, and lo! the bed rose therefrom. And when he saw that it was the bed, he said to his people, " Change the position of

  • The term \AfrU is generally used ,to designate an evil or

malicious jinn. But the ghosts of dead persons are also called 'AfrUs. ,

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the jewels in it, that I may test her intellect as she did mine, and also because a jinn has brought me iv report that her mind is weak, and that her feet are like the feet of a donkey." (For the genii knew of the beauty of Balkls, and were aware that when King Solomon should see her he would desire her for his wife. And as the mother of Balkis was a jinn, and King Solomon possessed power over the gcuii, they feared lest his children should for ever lord it over the children of genii ; therefore the jinn bruvight him this false report.) So when Balkis 4vriYcd, King Solomon asked her, saying, "Is thy bcvl like this one ?" And she recognized her bed, uiul said neither "no" nor "yes," but said, "It is it." l Uen King Solomon commanded to make a house with a floor of glass, and to put water under the glass, and in the water fish and frogs. And he sat c»i\ his throne at the end of the house, and called to Bvilkis to come in. And when she saw the water ami the fish and the frogs, she knew not of the glass, aiul drew up her garments and exposed her feet; aiitl the King saw that the jinn had lied. Then he ^.oiamaiKlcd her to renounce the worship of the Sun, and invited her to profess Islam. And she did so, she and her people. Then King Solomon married her. And he loved her exceedingly, and made her Queen again over the land of el-Y6men. And he commanded the genii to build for her three fortresses to protect the kingdom. And every month until the day of his death he visited her, and remained with her three days.

And when King Solomon was dead, there came a jinn into the midst of the land of el-Yemen, and cried with a loud voice, " O nation of genii, verily King Solomon is dead ; fear nothing any longer." So the genii all departed from el-Y^men, and since that time have become invisible.